Tom opened the door of the cottage and was met with fifty people holding picket signs. He recognised many of the surfers amongst them. The one at the front had his fist outstretched, about to knock on the cottage door.

“Can I help you?” said Tom.

“Uh, we’ve come to protest the, uh, shoreline. Uh, and the fact you won’t let us surf here, man.” said the surfer. “It’s, like, really unfair.”

Tom looked at the crowd that had turned from what looked like an organised lynch mob to an embarrassed shuffling mass of swimming trunks who were looking around as if they weren’t quite sure what they were doing.

The only person who hadn’t backed down was the surfer at the front, with his puffed-up chest and bright, staring eyes.

The blustering winds whipped at his hair and as Tom stepped out onto his doormat, he realised just how this young man looked like him. Perhaps the surfer recognised part of himself in Tom, too.

In the light of the lantern on the side of the house, every wrinkle of Tom’s face was silhouetted as he stepped forward. His eyes, brown speckled with black, the pockmarks on his cheeks. Somehow, the light accentuated his age as the circle of surfers broke, spreading out as he moved forward.

“You can surf down by the bay.” he said. “But on one condition.”

He stepped forward, revealing the gleaming surfboard tucked under his arm.

“I get to go first.”

There was a warm laugh that rose up from many of the surfers around him.

“No offence, old man, but it’s ten at night.” said the heavyset black surfer with dreads. “And you’re what, 69?”

Tom considered for a while.

“And the tide’s at its highest. You’ll never make it.”

Tom nodded.

“I’m actually seventy.” he said, picking up his surfboard. “Excuse me, gents.”

The surfers parted, their faces incredulous.


As Tom walked across the sands, he took one brief look back and could see them still looking at him. As he moved towards the sea, he tossed the board into the spray and grinned. Despite his fear, despite everything at stake, he felt like someone greeting an old friend. He walked into the sea, feeling the sting of the icy water raise the hackles on his legs

He hoped he still knew how to do it.

His hope was ill-founded. As he hooked a leg around the board, it all came surging back to him in an instant. He leaned forward and began to paddle, his arms drawing long and stretching half-circles into the water. He moved further out to sea.

The first real waves were rising up and he ducked straight through them, pushing the neck of the board down and diving straight into the base of the wave. Knowing exactly how to get under them was key. If he misplaced himself, he was likely to bail and get pushed back to shore by the next wave before he could right himself.

The waves themselves got bigger and bigger. He could hear shouting from the shore and noticed that some of the surfers had come to the edge of the water in the hopes of getting him back to dry land.

Several of the men dipped their feet in the water, shook their heads and bunched their arms.

“Sissies,” Tom muttered to himself, a smirk growing on his mouth. It was killed immediately by a large wave that rose up out of the water that he barrel-rolled under at the last second.

He came up gasping for air as the next wave surged into him and he reacted in a split second. Diving under and pushing himself through the water, he looked up and saw the foam of the wave as it passed over him and the shadow it cast over his submerged body.

He broke water and breathed deeply.

On the horizon, he saw a brief sparkle. As it distracted him, a wave almost tore the surfboard out of his hands. He clenched the side of the board and his fingers turned white as he paddled frantically in the open water.

He kept paddling. Looking back to shore, the people on the shoreline had become ants. But he needed to go further. Further out until they disappeared.


The Midnight Wave was a fable, a story made up by a coastguard once upon a time to stop people from riding the waves at night and risking their necks on jagged rocks that couldn’t be seen. At least, it had become a fable. Old Man Roy claimed that the Midnight Wave was a legend attributed to a time before the invention of surfboards. The Midnight Wave was a rip in the sea itself, a place where you left the part of planet Earth that made sense. Of course, Old Man Ray was one of the oldest lifeguards and the most notorious village drunk that Tom had ever come across.

The waves were getting higher still and Tom felt the energy sap from his body as he saw just how high the waves were getting. These were invincible and towering, building up into great arching crescendos.

He dove through and kept swimming. He knew when he’d find the Midnight Wave.

The Midnight Wave itself was a sheet of ice water that rose from the depths of the sea. There were those who’d claim to have ridden it, but they were fools. Nobody rode the Midnight Wave and lived, because it wasn’t just water and wind. It was a living, horrifying wave that existed to kill. It had a mind. It was aware. Tom checked his watch. It had stopped working. In fact, not only had it stopped working, it was running backwards. But that wasn’t the strangest thing.

Tom looked around. The waves had stopped.

He kept treading water in the still waters. He couldn’t see the shore at all. All he could see was a thin silvery line on the horizon, and he was filled with an indescribable terror.

It got closer, rising and rising further. Tom turned his shaking hands away from it. He squinted, hoping to see the shore, but there was nothing by sea.

He could feel the board begin to rise and gripped as he saw the wave underneath him begin to build. It lifted him higher and higher and higher until Tom was aware that he was just a speck, just a single mote, in something so big and so dense that it couldn’t be described. There was no limit to the sky. There was no bottom to the ocean underneath.

He could hear the roaring in his ear as he gripped the board and gingerly raised one knee, his right leg shaking. He lifted his leg and put the ball of his foot onto the board, following it with his other foot. He was suddenly aware that if he fell, he was most likely dead. The wave had to be hitting speeds of forty miles an hour. The trough of the wave was beginning to foam and Tom winced as the top crest of the wave hung over his head. He leaned on his board, surfing away from the break of the monstrous wave, but there was no need.

Gravity had simply stopped working. The physics of the world had simply left. The foam and silver spit hung in front of his face, lapping and splashing at the air. Instead of rushing forward, the wave had simply hung.

At that same time, a break in the wave appeared, a dark hole opened, and something very strange moved through it. It was the nose of a surfboard, but it seemed to be made of a thick black stone. As the nose followed through, he saw the feet of the rider and his breath left him.

The skeletal remains of Jake Hathaway rode through. There was nothing left of his skin, just a grinning skeleton. His head was wreathed with seaweed and barnacles had crusted in his left eye socket. There appeared to be netting wrapped around his body in the loose fashion of clothes, riddled with fish hooks and the bones of small fish.

He turned his head to Tom and there was an audible crackling as he smiled widely. Tom was speechless with fear and as the skeleton pointed out across the ocean, Tom felt his neck turn.

Under a starless night sky, the wave had picked up speed and Tom felt his own board being pulled into the undertow, felt himself being dragged back by the sheer velocity of the wave. Tom turned back to his eldest son and noticed that he was ignoring him and had begun to pull harshly back into the wave as it began to speed up even further.

The break of the wave hung further and further over Tom as the wave sped up. There was almost nothing to see through the wave. No stars, no land, not even any sea. Nothing. The pulsing and spitting waves that roared almost deafeningly in his ears suddenly silenced. The skeleton seemed to smile and once again pointed forward.

It was quite simple.

Jake wanted to race.

The cresting wave pulled back as the wave seemed to almost reverse and the sound of the sea ran back into Tom’s ears. It was as if leaving a waking dream; the coast swam gently back into view and the Midnight Wave seemed to settle into a slower speed, seeming less rock solid and more temporal.

Tom found himself enjoying the experience. Maybe the horror had simply broken his mind, but he was enjoying surfing after spending so long out of the water.

And then it happened: Jake did an alley-oop.

Cutting back across the swell, his board rode up the wave, flipped 180° across Tom, and landed the other side.

Tom laughed, all thoughts of this strange hellish demon leaving his body and his only thoughts being of what surf tricks he still knew.

He settled on a blow the tail, whipping the board into turn, the swing of it turning him back out. He looked back at Jake, smiling like a loon.

Jake followed up with a rodeo flip, grabbing the neck of his board and front-flipping over, his seaweed hair lashing against the board with a wet smacking sound as he did it.

As the sands closed in, Tom threw out a layback snap and kicked against the wave, bouncing off it. He came out of it laughing, looking for Jake.

He had disappeared.


The wave slowly melted down into a thin ripple and Tom gently rode the surfboard to the shoreline. He stepped off of the board and into the waist-deep sea.

Waddling out of the water, he looked up and noticed a throng of people congregating at the shoreline. Some held candles, others held torches. Tom checked his watch. It was one in the morning.

He clambered out of the sea, almost falling over as he did so, and made his way back to the cottage, the sand patting and squelching lightly against his feet.


Tom turned back and walked back towards the sea. Amongst the throngs of young surfers, the old man pulled out the picket sign he’d made which loosened with a wet squish and a pop.

Turning it over in his hands, he looked at the illustration, the markings of a desperate man wanting to stop nature from doing what it would do anyway.

Part of him wanted to hurl it into the sea, but he felt that somehow that wouldn’t be quite right. He loosened his grip and the sign slowly sifted through his limp hand and hit the sand.

“Be free.”

Tom turned back towards his cottage. The walk back seemed to last an age, but was probably closer to a matter of minutes. He heard cheering and revelry coming from the strand.

He let himself into his cottage and traipsed up the stairs.

As he got into bed, he felt his eyes close. There was no more of the hot current of anger and salt in his bloodstream. The rage, the sadness, confusion and grief had all washed away.

It had all been replaced with a gentle ebb which thrummed within him.

Acceptance? It was that.

That, and no more.

Four Years Later

“Dad, can you pass the mustard?” said David. There was a clink as Tom passed the mustard pot. David took it and began to coat his beef with it.

“Easy there, champ.” said Tom, laughing. “You might wanna save some for the rest of us.”

David sheepishly handed back the pot, a light pink rising on his face.

“Na, is this wholegrain?” said the heavyset black surfer with dreads. He looked like an oversized figure in a doll’s house and took up almost two chairs as he held his cutlery like two cocktail sticks in his oversized hands.

“Sure is!” said Tom, munching on a stem of asparagus.

“Ah, I’m gluten intolerant.” said the giant man.

“Pssh. You ain’t intolerant, Stix.” said the black-haired female surfer, with the blond-haired surfer nodding in agreement.

“Am too!” he said. “Whenever I have anything with bread I end up going to the toilet, like, three times a—“

“Dude, dinner table.” said the black-haired surfer. But Tom and David were smiling.

After dinner, the guests said their goodbyes and thanked Tom and David for the Sunday Dinner, dropping a few handfuls of coins into a red bucket marked “Grub After Surf Donations” in black Sharpie. The coins hit the bottom with a hollow clunk. Tom considered emptying it. With so many surfers in recent days, it was getting quite heavy.

Tom stood on the doorstep with his arm around David. They smiled widely and waved at their new friends as they walked back up the cobbles to their homes, waving back at them and grinning.

Behind them was the mural on the side of the cottage, made up of the surfboards that Tom had broken.

In the cracked and fragmented surfboards, coloured pieces of wood, kevlar and epoxy resin, brands of Wavestorm, Firewire, and Wegener, a teenage boy was depicted surfing a giant wave made up of clear plastic bottles and navy-coloured detritus that Tom and David had found whilst beach-combing.

Jake was smiling, too.


For all installments of “Riding the Midnight Wave,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1