The Boy West
By Ruby Faith Hentoff
Kym finds herself at a mysterious beach in her dreams. There’s a boy there, too; one she’s certain she’s seen before…
During her third attempt, Kym nearly got massacred by a wave. She was standing by the shore, eyes shut tight in concentration. It wasn’t until she felt the drizzle of fresh salt water on her cheek when her eyes flew open, and she noticed the fifteen-footer approaching. She scurried back, foam and sand spraying her face and clouding her hazy vision.
Kym growled and brushed off her loose-hanging T-shirt. She stood and scanned the beach. She was still East; she could tell by the commotion on her right. Vacationers swarmed around tents and tour shops, holding tiki drinks in neon cups, laughing with each other.
She considered her options. She could do more exploring East, but that might get her lost. It might even wake her up. But no. She was still dead set on finding the boy West.
Night after night, Kym tried to control her dreams. Her habits were unpredictable, and she’d often end up in different places. But this beach was distinctive. She’d been here enough times to know it was important. Something connected to reality.
While East had a lot of activity, West was the polar opposite. Not a single person played in the sand. The shell-dotted area was more elevated and closer to the dunes than East. However, this was the most precarious part of the beach—whenever Kym started to cross West, she could feel her consciousness arising. From there, she had no idea how many days it would take to reappear.
Kym had seen the boy West once. Last week, she had spotted a figure by the dunes while roaming. He was slender and tall, with flaxen blond hair and a pale complexion. He wore a flannel top and jeans torn at the knee. Although he remained completely silent, his hands were in continuous motion. As Kym looked closer, she noticed what he was doing—crafting paper origami stars at the speed of sound.
No one on the beach dared to near him. The first time Kym advanced, remaining twenty yards away, he scowled at her with his icy cobalt eyes, flashing a handful of paper stars menacingly.
Kym quickly retreated.
Most mornings, every moment of last night’s dream would drain out of her mind the minute she woke. She forced her eyes closed, trying to hold onto every remnant possible, but by the time sunlight lined her curtain, her thoughts morphed into liquid slipping from her grasp.
Every now and then, however, Kym would remember a specific person or two. She could still envision his shaggy blond hair, red and blue paper stars in hand. She knew that she had something in common with him. She only had to figure out what.
She had to find him again.
Tonight, she appeared East, which wasn’t much of an advantage. After nearly getting drenched by a wave, Kym knew she had to try harder to control her space. She had to go West and search for the boy. But she could only see the other side. One wrong turn and she might step into oblivion for the rest of the night.
After several minutes of searching, Kym found a small, isolated spot by the beach. She split her mind in two—half of her focus directed on the horizon; the line far out where the current was smooth and touched the sky. She then envisioned herself West, West, West.
Taking Root: The Girls Write Now 2022 Anthology
For more than two years, our young writers have weathered an adolescence shaped by an ongoing global pandemic. But a harsh climate can also produce work of rare depth, complexity, nuance and humor. The Girls Write Now mentees in this collection have found new ways to build community and take root. This anthology is a catalog of seeds—each young writer cultivating a shimmering, emergent voice. In short stories, personal essays, poetry, and more, they reflect on life-altering topics like heartbreak, self-care and friendship. The result is a stunning book with global relevance of all this generation has endured and transformed.
There was no sound whatsoever except for foam gently licking the tide. When she turned around, the boy West was hunched over in the dunes, his mop of shaggy hair shielding his eyes, hands in vigorous motion as usual.
To stabilize her position, she knelt down and picked up a shiny, almost translucent coin-sized oyster shell, like the ones she used to make jewelry from as a kid. When the boy West finally spotted her, he was glaring intensely. She jumped, and he flashed three paper stars in his left hand. She had the feeling that if he threw them like frisbees, three of her fingers would go missing. Her mind instantly screamed, RUN!
But it was too late to make a decision. She clutched the oyster desperately, its sharp edges digging into her palm. Kym could feel her consciousness dissolving into reality. She stared at the boy West, trying not to wake up, but the blue and gray of the beach was soon painted bright gold and her eyes fluttered open.
Now awake, Kym cussed to herself and sat up groggily, running her hand through her tangled obsidian hair. She opened her palm, wishing that the oyster was there, but all that remained were memories.
A smile tingled on her lips. She’d done it! She’d made it West! For the first time, her strategy didn’t slip away.
Kym didn’t know when she would next see the boy West. But she was positive that she would find him again.
One winter night, I experienced a particularly lucid dream. The minute I woke up, I copied down everything I could remember—the busy swarm of tourists, the mist over the horizon, the oyster I held, and most importantly, the slender, shaggy-haired boy curled up in the dunes. Everything about it felt symbolic. I wrote it out that morning in the form of a short story. Here’s what happened when my conscious state of mind completed the dream.
Ruby Faith Hentoff is a passionate fiction writer and junior in high school. When she’s not writing short stories, screenplays and songs, you can find her drawing, baking or listening to Broadway musicals. One of her missions in writing is to spread epilepsy awareness and connect to those who suffer from seizures. She lives in Manhattan, New York.