by Jordan Pennells
Today had been a miracle out on the open ocean. Not a cloud could spoil the seamless transition between water and sky on the horizon. Sitting on his surfboard behind the break, Max ran his hands back and forth through the water in time with the oscillating current. The cold water gripped his fingertips, but this day there had been a connection much deeper than this. The surf seemed to have sensed Max’s proficiency, his presence in the water, and tailored the waves for him perfectly. Likewise, he could sense which waves were a dud, which waves were conspiring to dump him, as intuitively as any professional surfer could. And when a dorsal fin threatened in his peripheral vision, he was oddly calm as it approached. Coming menacingly close, it had actually been a dolphin, amicably bopping him on the leg with an ultrasonic laugh.
Max walked up the path to his front door, his salt-parched mouth satiated by a free tub of ice cream that had been given away at the right place, at the right time. Through the front door and before he had a chance to look up, Jack had started at him.
“Are you sure you had nothing to do with this, Max?’
“I don’t even know what’s happened. I was at the beach until ten minutes ago.”
“And you’ve touched nothing?”
“Not since I left, no, I just got back.”
“But isn’t that your wallet there on the table. Didn’t you take it with you?”
“I… I must have forgotten it.”
“So nothing to eat, nothing to drink all morning, not even an ice cream on such a hot day, while surfing for hours and hours…”
“Look whatever you’ve got to say—”
“I’ll say. Max, you killed her. She’s in the bathroom. And the stash, that gone. How much did you get for it all?”
‘What?… and… put that gun away, Jack, what are you doing?”
“Only what you deserve.”
Time slowed down as Max’s vision tunnelled in to Jack’s shaking hands with a finger over the trigger, depressing it slowly. Max instinctively shifted his weight a fraction to the left, milliseconds before there was a simultaneous clap of gunpowder and a rush of air against his right cheek. An applause of steel-on-steel followed unexpectedly as the bullet ricocheted around the room, before Jack slumped to the ground, motionless. Max’s body was momentarily paralysed, eyes locked wide open, as the sheer luck of the incident sunk in.
After a minute, he stepped forward and began to descend towards his friend, hesitated for a moment, then continued forward, stepping over Jack’s body. As Jack had correctly identified, the stash had been taken, and it was now sitting safely in Max’s back pocket. Taking the stairs three at a time, Max flung open the bathroom door to reveal a scene that wrenched at his gut, tore it out of his body and threw it against the tiled floor below. The surface was covered in a sheen of pink water, with blood pooling in the dint that Sherry’s head had made in the ceramic floor. Not helping the issue at foot, tears spilled out of Max’s eyes against his control, adding a minute amount more liquid to the already slippery floor. His mind swirled like the blood perfusing through the water below, simultaneously trying to digest his guilt and the personal consequences that this episode destined for himself.
Jack was right. The side effects when you ceased taking the stash were real and very severe. What had started out as a Chemist’s pipe-dream to create a luck-bringing pill was quickly turning into a nightmare. There was a month’s worth of the stash remaining, a deadline on which to perfect the recipe, and on Max’s life. Intense motivation sparked within him. He knew he couldn’t die wondering.
*This post is the next installment in my attempt at doing a Creative Writing course throughout an Engineering degree 😂