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Choiceless Beach by Anna Reith


4.00 out of 5 based on 1 customer rating
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An artist, his model, and the ceaseless call of the sea: a short story about vision, identity, and perception.



Jordan is an artist, drawn over and over again to the ocean. Its currents run through his life and his art, dragging him dangerously close to obsession. His interest is absorbed by Meera, his model, but the call of the tide obscures many things…


This title first appeared in the anthology “The Sea”, published formerly by Dark Continents Publishing, and then Crossroad Press.

It will also be available in the forthcoming short story collection “A Magnificent Witch and other stories”, to be released in ebook and print editions.


Additional information


Anna Reith



Kindle ASIN



6657 words (24 .pdf pages)

Cover design

Anna Reith

Available formats

.pdf format, .epub format (provided as a .zip file)

Read an excerpt


© Anna Reith. All rights reserved.

The brush spun in pirouettes like a dancer, every turn and arc described across the canvas as a series of steps, each faultlessly complex and yet designed to dazzle with the lie of simplicity. Its bristles, matted with stiff globs of oils in muddled greys and greens, alternately swept and stuck on the painting’s surface; here gliding across some smooth wash, there jabbed with vicious force into a ridge of texture.

Meera propped her chin on her palm as she watched him work. Some days, she was certain Jordan entirely forgot she was there. He could be like that. Ten minutes, he’d said. He just wanted to finish this one thing, just this one part before he lost the image from his head. Ten minutes, and he’d be ready for her.

She didn’t really mind. It wasn’t as if she had anywhere better to be. So, she stayed silent and watched him moulding shapes and adding detail, eking false reality out of a ten-inch square of his work, sketching out the rise and swell of waves across a canvas approximately two feet by four. Propped across two large easels, it took up most of the attic studio, which was not a large room or, rather, was not a large room once Jordan’s clutter had been piled into it. Shelves filled the wall behind him, laden mostly with books and pieces of driftwood, stones or whatever other detritus that washed onto the shore in time for one of his morning walks, and he had decided was more treasure than discard. Strands of shells hung near the window like strings of clean-picked teeth, bleached by the sun and rattling faintly in the salt-stained breeze.

If you leaned far enough out of the window, you could see past the garden—with its overgrown hedges, rambling shrubs, and pervasive odour of cat pee and lavender—and past the concrete hinterlands of the other houses that fringed the new extensions to the village, spilling out past the old boundaries like the slow leach of rising damp. You could see past all of the bricks, the stones, the little human hives… all the way to the glimpse of the sea, in its vast and changeful intensity, ever shifting and yet entirely without care for that which it touched.

One day it would eat away the cliffs, lick the sandstone rises down to nubs, and subsume all of this. England was an island, after all, and the nature of islands could never be more than a transient whisper in the geological life of land and sea. They were born, they rose, and they fell. Volcanic landmasses erupted from the oceans and, in time, the oceans claimed them again, swallowing up low-lying land the way they ate up ships.

Boundaries were illusions. The sea rose, the sea fell; ultimately, it was constant, if not entirely changeless. It had its moods, its alterations… but it stayed true to itself. Besides, Meera reflected, as a rule, most changes were usually less dramatic than they seemed. Life was full of patterns, and even the most unusual things fitted into some wider rhythm. All that was truly new was the motion of time: the unyielding surge against which all change was plotted, the wave carrying all those patterns forward, like the lace of foam upon the surf.

The future was encroaching onto this place, for what good it would do it.

Jordan had once told her that there used to be a tradition of walking the bounds of the village. Every year, parishioners gathered at the church, and a procession would move along the edges of the land as demarcated upon the verger’s yellowing maps, pacing out ownership and identity against a cold winter’s night. Cider would be drunk, old ways would be discussed, and the people who partook would feel quietly smug and proud of themselves for rescuing and perpetuating a grand old tradition. He had gone along a few times, soon after he moved here, perhaps out of some sense of obligation to belong. He never had been good at that.

Of course, as was the way of old traditions, those who attempted to uphold them grasped their meaning poorly. The roots of walking the boundaries were in legal bureaucracy. Back in those happy, halcyon mists of time, knowing how the boundaries ran, without dispute, meant the difference between whipping vagrants out of your parish and into the next, and being stuck with feeding them yourself.

The past, whatever people wished to think, was not compassionate, and took little care for its own quaintness. Jordan had been typically surprised to find that the villagers, the verger, and the vicar, who also chaired the local history society, had either not known the roots of the custom, or been annoyed at him for unearthing what they had so carefully buried.

That was how he saw things, though. He didn’t judge history, or the people in it, much as he failed to place his own expectations on the present. He simply existed, and immersed himself in that existence, following every bead of it through like a dog on an aniseed trail, inquisitive and eager to the point of blotting out all other perceptions.

Meera exhaled, letting a long breath seep from her body as quietly and unobtrusively as possible, and stretched her shoulders, rolling her neck from side to side. The room was dreadfully quiet. Jordan barely even seemed to breathe when he was concentrating. You couldn’t hear the sea from here, either, though on clear days you could make out the edge of the narrow, hazy band glimmering on the horizon, beyond the bounds of the village and its hinterlands. Sometimes, the sounds of ships’ horns might drift up on the breeze, and the tiny dots of skiffs and light yachts might prick the distant blue, dancing in the gold-specked light like motes of dust.

No waves, though. No gentle crash of surf.

She missed that.

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1 review for Choiceless Beach by Anna Reith

  1. Rated 4 out of 5

    Short but sweet. An interesting story i’d like to have seen more of, but mysterious and beautifully written!

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