Before Elizabeth knew it, her life was over. Childhood sped by with high-pitched laughter, high school slogged on with groans of discomfort, college passed in a whirlwind of essays, exams, and far too much caffeine. Her 20s were electric and passionate, culminating in marriage to a sleek-looking banker; her 30s were milder and motherly, spanning the birth and early years of two wide-eyed children; her 40s were full of existential dread and parental anxiety; her 50s were a hiatus amidst the melee of life. By 60, she’d fallen out of love with her husband—though whether she was ever really in love with him had been a long unanswered question. Despite the loveless partnership, fear of social judgment kept Elizabeth by his side; divorce was an option reserved for untethered younger generations.
She spent her 70th birthday at a little beach in the Pacific Northwest with her children, their children, one golden retriever, and her husband. The party sat on the beach for her birthday dinner, spreading out checkered blankets and admiring the pre-dusk light dancing upon the waves. The waves. Elizabeth stared at the waves, feeling a sort of bittersweet nostalgia. The ocean waved at her, beckoning, calling, and Elizabeth wanted to wave back. She stood up, and her body groaned. Her bones were weary, far too weary, and her muscles were tired, far too tired. Elizabeth couldn’t believe she was only 70, and she couldn’t believe she was already 70. Time had passed.
Monsters are real, Elizabeth thought. Not the fantastic beasts from the bedtime stories her mother once read, not the ghouls and ghosts from the horror stories her friends once told, not some intangible and incorporeal entity with fangs and claws and glowing red eyes. No, the real monster was time. Time passed relentlessly, carrying Elizabeth along with it, forcing her to age, bringing her ever closer to death.
Elizabeth forced her weary body forward. She couldn’t hear her family anymore, couldn’t turn her eyes away from the waves. Her bare feet sunk into the sand with every step. A clean breeze brushed against her cheek, smelling of salt and memory, and Elizabeth felt a sense of peace as she stepped into the ocean.