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[Fiction] Night Surfer

by M. Golda Turner

Surfers peel off wetsuits by their parked cars on a cliffside road. I carry my board toward them, knowing that these stragglers, diehards themselves, must imagine I’m crazy to arrive past sundown. Narrowed eyes peruse my body. I’m wearing a pink-flowered bikini top and black shorts that show off my pale skin. I almost smile.

An old, gray-haired dude, wiping sand off his gear, joins the stare fest. I catch his glance by mistake. His head tilts, and a pained look crosses his face, the way my dad used to look at cringe report cards.

“A little late to storm the beach,” he says.

Strange, his smug tone annoys me. Not enough for my fangs to come out. 

“You’re right,” I say. My voice sounds gooey, like a flirting Southern belle. “I guess I’ll just enjoy the scenery.” I’m closer now, and he doesn’t take his eyes off me. Not like he has a clue that I lied or that my pretty white canines could tear his throat out. More like he’s mesmerized. I pull my gaze and continue past him, toward an oceanfront motel. It’s called the Sea Drifter but looks more like a Sea Casa with its tile roof. Moving fast without looking at any more warmbloods, I reach the top of a long concrete stairway that leads down to the beach.

The sweeping off-white sands have grown gray. Breaking waves call me from across the vacant dunes. But I wait. I scan the horizon. A blazing strip of orange ignites a soft ache in my chest, for my lost sun. I’ve grown tired these past months of pitch-black evenings, though the ocean glimmers remind me that tonight carries a full moon.

I jog down rough steps bordered by ice plant. I cross the sand, sinking in at each stride until I reach the wet, firm shoreline. The rhythmic crash of water intensifies, and despite changes I’ve undergone, it soothes a part of me. My skin no longer feels the bite when I wade into the cold Pacific. At waist-deep, I release my board onto the tide and lie on top of it. The movement surprises me with a memory of Jason pulling me onto his warm body. Though I have no use for warmth anymore.


The day I began to live in the dark was a workday at the grill. The cook, who was my work BFF, tossed two baskets under a heat lamp. “Katie, my surfer lady, your order’s up.”

“’Bout time, Rudy.” I gave him a mean smile and grabbed the burger combos.

“Harsh,” he said, laughing. “I thought I was killin’ it back here.”

I served my last customers and, after the end-of-shift wipe downs, snagged my purse from the back. Rudy and I fist-bumped as I sailed through the kitchen.

“Later,” he said. He was still on the clock.

Outside of work, my life in an abalone shell consisted of hanging with friends, awesome sex with Jason, and surfing. I had no other big aspirations. I was living in paradise, and things were pretty much exactly how I wanted them. The only worry in my chill world that night was whether to hook up with Jason or lounge around my apartment, but neither felt quite right.

When I’d been with Jason the day before, he’d done the clingy thing. He wanted to spend day and night together. I didn’t mind being exclusive, but I needed my space too. He’d taken me off guard when we first met at the beach volleyball nets. All the Jasons I’d met before him were hopeless jerks. When he introduced himself, I thought, Another Jason, here we go

“How about some two against two?” he’d asked, tossing a ball from hand to hand. “My buddy Matt’s either late or a no-show. We can be a team.”

He seemed okay, so I shrugged and said, “Sure, let’s do this.” His messy blond hair and muscle-toned bod didn’t stop me either. If I’m honest, it wasn’t just his looks. There were a lot of us out there, but he cruised right over to me, like I was the only person for him.

“Do you want to serve first?” he asked.

A lot of guys I played with assumed they’d serve first, so his offer impressed me. But I remained skeptical. “Actually, can you? I’m not warmed up and I’ll probably tank it.”

After a few volleys, we fell into high-fiving each other after every point, win or lose. I liked his vibe.

We won a couple of games, and he said, “Dang it all, Katie, we make a good team! Any chance you wanna get some lunch?” 

I’d grown to love that about Jason in the few months since we met, how he’d throw out a goofy phrase. But as good as we were together, I wanted to keep us in the friends-with-benefits zone. The idea of marriage and kids seemed lame, and Jason’s recent clinginess made me feel like that’s what he had in mind. I’d just barely started to do my own thing after eighteen years of parental interference. I decided not to call him. It would be better to meet up with him later in the week so he didn’t get the wrong idea about us. 

I zipped home from work in my hand-me-down, dinged-up Civic. When I flipped on the lights, my compact studio reminded me I’d been inside all day. I tossed my waitress uniform into a laundry basket and changed into a tee, jeans, and a thick sweater jacket, ready for an icy evening breeze. I felt like a seagull taking flight as I headed out the door.

The Pismo Beach Pier, lit with dots of light from its lampposts, was one of my fav detours not far from my place. I pushed into the brisk, briny wind and trekked to its foggy end. Far from shore, I rested against a splintery rail, watching the sea’s obsidian surface roll and splash against the pilings below.

From behind, a melodic baritone voice cut through the crash of waves. “How are you enjoying the evening, milady?” 

He sounded foreign and strange, but there was something soothing in his voice. I turned calmly as if I’d run into a trusted friend. I made out a man and woman standing a few feet away through strands of hair blowing over my eyes. He had long, black hair that rippled over his shoulders while her coppery ringlets bounced around her neck. They wore all black, a color that blended with the night sky rather than the casual beach community. He sported an unusual canvas vest with a pointed collar over his long-sleeved shirt. Her plunging top was laced tight at the waist. But below, her loose skirt billowed in the breeze. They seemed dressed for a Renaissance fair rather than a venture out into the evening chill. Entranced, I fixed on her bright green eyes, which seemed to glow in the lamplight. 

“Your tan skin and blond highlights are lovely,” she said, and then turned to the man. “We’ve met a sun goddess.” Unlike me, the man and woman shared chalky complexions.

She looked back at me and stepped closer. “May I touch your hair?”

The word “yes” fell out of my mouth as if this were a perfectly normal request.

She wove her fingers through pieces that flew around my neck. I almost yawned, and my shoulders fell into a natural, relaxed slump. I turned to the man, locking my line of sight onto his golden-brown eyes as though magnets held my stare.

He glided forward in slow motion and swept back my hair. I let him ease in and place his soft lips on mine. He moved away and I wobbled, taking a step back. The woman smiled, and sharp lights glinted from the edges of her mouth. A flicker of fear brushed through the haze that had crept into my mind, but it disappeared when I started to fall backwards. He caught me and leaned toward my neck this time. Another divine kiss, until it stung like a swarm of bees.

I woke up groggy and propped against my front door. Confused over events on the pier, I wondered if the bizarre couple had somehow roofied me. A tingling on my skin seemed to coincide with stars fading overhead. The more the sky lightened, the more intense it got, until my exposed flesh burned as if on fire. I jumped up, unlocked the door, and rushed inside the cool apartment. 

After slamming the door, I fingered my neck, finding no blood or injury where I’d been pricked. I went to the antique mirror over the couch, but my reflection did not appear, no face, no clothes. I grabbed a throw pillow and waved it around. According to the mirror, it floated in the air. I wanted to scream. But instead, I dropped my head and looked down on the pair of deathly pale hands that held the pillow and wore the exact shade of blue nail polish I’d put on yesterday. 

I began to shake. My skin looked almost identical to that of the strange woman on the pier. Suddenly, an urge to hide from a flood of sunlight coming through the windows distracted me. I ran to close the blinds and curtains, then burrowed into my bed, covers over my head. I touched my face, searching for tears, a frown, or some other evidence I’d suffered a trauma, but felt nothing. Safe from the light, my mind still thrashed like a hooked perch on the deck of a fishing boat. I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen, and then I must have passed out.


Midday, I woke up to a fading siren. I called work and, in an odd, commanding tone, told the manager, “I can only work the night shift from now on.”

With the clank of dishes and voices in the background, he said, “That’ll work. Amy wants days and early evenings, so I’ll switch you two around. Be here at eight tomorrow.”

Starving after my nap, I ravaged the fridge. But nothing took the emptiness away. It was as though my stomach only functioned as a black hole.

I retreated to the couch, noticing that the sun had set, and hugged my knees into my chest. I had been so obsessed with being independent. And now, I only had myself to blame for taking that stupid walk. I replayed how it could have been different until a few minutes later, when three firm raps interrupted my self-loathing binge. 

The man loomed at my doorstep. All but his glowing face blended with the dark. I felt neither the vulnerability of last night nor the hopelessness of a few minutes before. I asked myself, Could he offer a solution to this insanity? When he put out a hand, I grabbed it with a shrewdness that shocked me. 

“Where is your friend?” I asked.

“She’s had some close calls around people. We’re not as insurmountable as we might seem. Come, let’s take a walk.”

We made our way down Pomeroy Avenue, to a hub of restaurants, cafés, and touristy shops, most of them already closed for the night. We were walking through Pier Plaza with its picnic tables and benches when we passed another couple. I breathed in a salty fragrance—not the sea—that stabbed at my hungry core. I began to picture what would relieve the cravings.

“Celeste and I,” he began, “are only passing through this charming village. But I see that the lights and establishments enhance the nightfall here. How fortunate for you.” He waved an arm as though introducing me to my own city. 

Fortunate! I fumed inside, but my face stayed still. 

“Tell me, Katie, do you know what we are?”

“I have a guess,” I said. “But I’d like to know why you chose me.” 

He laughed deeply, as I imagined a devil would. “That’s a bold question for the one who spared you. But I will answer. We’ve made it a rule, only one meal at a time.”

“So, the meal was all alone with no witnesses around, and you saw your moment.” Some venom slipped out in my tone.

“Most of those who nourish us don’t survive.” He glared and then his eyes relaxed again. “But Celeste and I had a soft spot for you. I guess because you are her own age. She will always be twenty, you see. And now, so will you.”

I stopped cold. “I don’t want to always be twenty and never step foot in the daylight again.”

 “Two hundred years ago, I wished I hadn’t drunk myself senseless and wandered down an alley. But that, my dear, was quickly forgotten.”

“My question is, how do we undo this? I can’t live this way forever.” My eyes begged for an answer.

He started walking again, and I followed. “The only thing I can do is give you some advice on how to survive.”

Survive? No, I want to be me! I wanted to scream. 

“I had to change my life completely,” he went on. “My days of sailing the sea under skull and crossbones were done.” 

Not a pickup line, but it reeked like one. I clamped my teeth together.

“I suppose I was a bit lonely until I traveled north to Charleston. That’s where I found Celeste strolling outside a restaurant.”

 Ravenous pangs began to grow inside me at each step. He kept talking while we walked across wooden planks with the ocean breaking below. I couldn’t listen to the rambling man anymore and found myself only wanting to tear him to shreds. His droning had not given me a single answer that would help me.

When we reached the pier’s end, twenty-five feet above water, I squeezed his hand tightly. It seemed to incite a sensual-looking half smile on his face. He clearly didn’t have a clue about my intentions. Without hesitation, I hurled him over the guardrail and watched him bounce like a skipping rock over the water. After a final tumble, a winged version of him soared to shore, then out of sight. A wicked laugh escaped from me, and the sound of it made me laugh even louder.

I wandered to my car, slumped over after my moment of delirium. After sitting a while, I rose and drove to the nearest grocery store. Squinting at the bright lights inside, my nose took me straight to the meat department. I bought a raw steak and barely got to the car before I felt pain in my mouth followed by two of my upper teeth growing over my bottom lip. Inside the vehicle, I sank my canines into the plastic cover, sucking out the minuscule amount of blood in the meat and at the bottom of the Styrofoam tray. 

I coveted a few lonely shoppers, licking my lips and my new teeth. But I couldn’t do it. One of them looked like my favorite high school English teacher. After a Google search, I flung the drained cutlet onto the ground and mapped my way to a local slaughterhouse. It seemed too flagrant to try to purchase blood somewhere. With the image of blood, my body heaved forward, as though all of me suffered a starvation cramp. I struggled to straighten myself and sped off, desperate to find relief.

The pain tortured me the entire drive. Lucky for the employees at the slaughterhouse, they were already gone when I arrived. I hated to imagine the frenzy that might have ensued. I threw my car door open and rushed to the building. Leaning on a window, I sniffed around its edges like an animal. I moved to a side door and tugged it open, causing a loud metallic screech. An alarm went off, but my nose got me to what I needed right away, allowing me to steal blood, gallons of it.


Over the following weeks and months, Jason texted, called, and even banged on my door on occasion, but I didn’t answer. I felt at odds with myself. There was Katie and then there was the new me.

The last time he knocked, he said, “Katie, please, just talk to me a minute.”

The tone of his voice made me imagine him broken, his arm and head collapsed against the door. Katie cried and mumbled about missing him. She didn’t want to lose him.

I told her what would happen if I let him in.

“You can’t. Not my family or friends either,” she pleaded.

“We won’t make it on animal blood alone.”

“Don’t touch any of them.”

“Who then?” I asked. 

“Shut up,” she said. “We only get blood from the slaughterhouse. Nowhere else.”

Despite her words, the truth hung between us. Soon, Jason’s footsteps faded down the walkway.

Finally, Katie made me call the fool. 

“If you don’t,” she said, “I’ll tell him what we are.”

I let her have the battle and the false confidence that she still had a say over what we did.

In a silky voice, I said, “Hey, Jason, sorry I haven’t been around. I have some things to sort out, and I don’t want to hold you back.”

“You’re breaking up with me?” There was disbelief in his voice.

“It’s better for both of us, isn’t it?” I asked him.

“I guess you’re right. Okay, thanks for calling.” 

Katie seemed sad he took it so well. But I knew he hadn’t. Right after the call, he’d probably asked himself why he acted like everything was alright.


I learned weird things about the new me over time. I could see myself in the bathroom mirror. According to online lore, it’s because of their modern aluminum backs instead of silver. And, though I didn’t plan on having any guests, I put the antique mirror in my closet so it would never reveal my lack of a reflection. The sun-bleached ends of my hair grew out, so I snipped them off when a few inches of brown appeared. My eyes lightened and had a fiery ice-blue look, like a soulless version of moonshine, surrounded by dark lashes.

Then one quiet Wednesday, just when I had a routine of working and surfing at night and hibernating during the day, a dishwasher at the grill gashed his hand with a knife. I drank in the aroma as he slipped past me on his way to get stitches. My gums throbbed, and I rushed to the one-person bathroom.

I closed the door hard behind me. The haunting beauty of my fangs against dark parted lips faced me in the mirror. I indulged in the surge of power that went through me, marveling at myself. After a while, I sat, waiting for my long teeth to retract. My phone vibrated, a photo of my brother appearing on the screen. As though a plan had already been simmering inside of me, I visualized it in an instant.

“Hello, Tyler.”

“Hey, Katie. You answered. I haven’t seen you in months, since spring break. And you never respond to text anymore. What’s with the ghosting?”

“I’m glad you called. Sorry I’ve been a loser. It’s not you. Can you come over Friday for dinner, just you and me? We’ll catch up.”

“No!” Katie screamed.

A hunger pang stabbed at us like never before. I bent over, an arm pressing across my stomach.

“It’s done,” I told her. My breath was panting, and I waited for the pain to soften. Like the instant she knew she could throw the man off the pier, Katie and I both knew we’d run out of options to survive. We had to feed soon.

The animal blood in my fridge started to smell rancid after setting the date with Tyler. I could barely get it down anymore. Besides relishing the idea of drinking Tyler, others came to mind. My mother, my father, friends, co-workers, even Jason. It would be so easy to feed off them, to enjoy a satisfying meal with no witnesses. They trusted me. And I hated those gallon containers. I wiped drool off my chin. 

The scheme to feed on my brother made me ask myself whether I was Katie at all anymore, though I had her memories. Like the ones about Tyler. He lived at our parents’ home and went to Cal Poly. A year and a half apart, we shared a room until I was eight. Buddies in many ways, we rode bikes and surfed together through high school. My first trips to Disneyland were with him, sprinting from Space Mountain to the Haunted Mansion to the next ride.

It was more than fun, though. He’d watch out for his big sis, too. Tyler let our German shepherd out one day when he saw a bully chasing me down our street. It was Katie’s favorite story in the history of Tyler saves. My mouth flickered up for an instant.

But now, those things meant nothing. He was only a meal at a steakhouse to someone on the verge of death by starvation. It wasn’t like I wanted it to be him. It was more like I didn’t care. And he was the one who was willing to appear at the dinner hour.

The evening of our Friday plans, my cell phone rang.

“Hey,” Tyler said, “you’re not going to believe this. My car broke down. I’m getting it towed right now.”

“No worries,” I said. “Do you want me to pick you up?” My voice came out like velvet.

Quiet for a moment, he answered, “It’s tempting, but I gotta take care of my ride. My buddy thinks he can fix it. I’m getting towed there. Rain check?” 

So close. I fled to the refrigerator and guzzled the tangy vermin blood, already planning the rain check.


So, that is the tsunami that crashed into and washed away my universe. Tonight, my board and I float beyond the ocean’s breakers under a full moon. The sea rocks us gently with stars overhead, radiating into the night sky. I’ve made a friend out here during these past few months, and I look for her. In the first weeks after my transformation, I wanted her to make dinner out of me and this spew of a life. But when we happen to meet, the great white shark only circles me with empty eyes, like mine, even when I get off my board and swim beside her. I read that sharks are less likely to attack other predators. And, after all this time, I believe she knows what I am.

The waves are bigger now, so I forget about her, the other monster. The sea on the rise, my arms quickly stroke through the water until I’m pacing speed with its surge. Standing in a heartbeat, I relax my knees and raise my arms to steady the ride. I zigzag my board in harmony with the forces of nature around me—water, wind, and gravity. A rush courses through me. Moonlight sparkles off the foam and spray that crest over deep navy-blue waters. I cut back when the wave slows and paddle to where I can catch another one. I keep at it, over a stretch of good swells. 

When the sea calms again, I drift. It occurs to me that surfing seems to be the only thing I have left to bring me a measure of joy. I obviously can’t count drinking cow blood. Although my diet may soon change. A family of otters appears and treads the water nearby, occasionally diving for abalone and lying on their backs to crack them open. I watch the creatures, furry and whiskered, rolling around like children on a playground. Two of them are smaller, pups. Maybe they’re siblings. And I remember my brother is coming for dinner tomorrow. 

Tonight, as every night, has been sleepless. When I’m not surfing, images of the fanged man and Celeste haunt me like a recurring nightmare. I’ve taken to calling him Dimitri. Perhaps I should have listened to more of what he had to say before tossing him aside. Would he have given me other options? My childishness and other things gnaw at me. I imagine her smile, the glint that should have warned me. I picture them living human lives all over the country and the world when it can’t possibly be so. I have no answer for this obsession I have with them as I float on the Pacific. I know they live in the dark, like me. Yet I can’t stop these useless fantasies from bouncing around in my head, as though they could bring sanity to my life. As though they could save Tyler.

The faint glow of the coming sun brightens the colors beneath the otters to a blue green. It’s time for me to leave before the sun, my mortal enemy now, rises. A large fin appears in the distance, sculling in my direction. Close, only several yards before she reaches me, her massive gray nose over a smile of deadly white razors breaks the surface. For a moment, I imagine my end. But instead, my empty-eyed friend snatches a blur of wet fur, one of the small pups. With a splash and a shrill scream from the dying otter, they descend to a place I can’t see. I feel Katie crying out too.

The gloomy hours to end soon, I paddle east, on route to the shore. One of the otters emerges in line with my course. It bobs in the water, watching me. Coasting now, I imagine the satin mammal to be the lost one’s mother. I sit up on my board, maintaining eye contact while a few minutes pass and the ocean sloshes us. I look to the rolling green hills beyond the beach and town, my feet dangling in the slow current. The sky illuminates to a hazy blue. 

I picture my brother and hear a voice, Katie’s voice. “It’s a good day to watch the sunrise.” Her voice is strong and unwavering. I realize Katie has picked her moment, much like Celeste and Dimitri had picked theirs. As the minutes slip away, I surrender to her trap. And soon, I am set free by a shiny sliver of the sun breaking over the hills.

M. Golda Turner lawyered for years as a public defender in Northern California. Now she lives and writes in San Luis Obispo County. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in One Universe to the LeftVision and Verse, and The NightWriter Review. She was the winner of the 2023 Golden Quill Writing Contest for poetry.


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