Floater

grey waves

Terry’s biggest fear was pain. He had a particularly low threshold for it, and so the thought of his limbs bashing against the rocks had brought a clammy sweat to his palms.

Turns out, he was worried about nothing.

After the initial crunch of what used to be his left knee cap, the free rotation of his leg really didn’t hurt. Rather, it was more of a surreal distraction.

What actually bothered Terry was the unquenchable cold, as wave after wave of grey water sponged the heat from his flailing limbs.

Winter had come early to the Scarborough bluffs, and despite being well into April, showed no signs of releasing its crystalline grip on the world. More than one chunk of ice from the nearby shore added insult to stony injury as Terry rolled with the currents, thrown tantalizingly close to the pebbled beach only to be unceremoniously tugged back to the depths.

(Photo property of Gail Shotlander Photography)

(Photo property of Gail Shotlander Photography)

To all outward appearance, Terry was as lifeless as the shredded plastic bags that clung to his limbs as their paths crossed. Even the gulls had stopped their surveillance, his constant mobility keeping them from determining his potential as food.

Terry didn’t thrash. Nor did he scream.

What his lost will to live couldn’t achieve, the water completed as his body involuntarily pulled muscle-activating blood from his extremities, its focus completely on preserving his heart and mind. Ironically, these were the two things that first failed Terry.

In the grey waters under a grey sky, tumbling mindlessly with wave and wind, Terry knew his death was just a matter of time.

And oddly, for the first time in his life, Terry had all the time in the world.

Final Exam

stock-photo-21365991-large-group-of-college-students-at-lecture-hall

The lecture hall drained of students as though a giant plug had been pulled, chattering bodies sluicing through a doorway meant for half as many people. The dwindling echoes of students bounced off walls of silence as the doors hissed shut.

“Is there something you need, Miss Pepper?” Professor Kawai asked as he wiped the blue and red notes from a board that had long ago ceased to be white.

Jess stared intently at the open chemistry book before her, willing the sticks and letters to form the words she sought.

Kawai cradled the eraser onto the ledge and packed his belongings into an ancient valise. Stopping another moment to examine the lone tableau figure before him, he snapped his bag shut, the click reverberating off the walls.

As his hand depressed the door handle, he felt more than heard the words directed at him.

“You said something, Miss Pepper.”

Without moving, the words fell out of Jess’s mouth and into her book. “I studied.”

“Apparently, the wrong chapters,” Kawai responded without emotion, as though reciting a number from a phone directory.

The indifference drew Jess to face Kawai, her eyes registering something between shock and incomprehension.

“Perhaps you’ll do better on the final,” Kawai added, as if by rote.

“I won’t be writing the final,” Jess responded, slowly pulling her bag to the next seat and closing her text.

Kawai sighed and turned back to the door. “Then maybe next—“

Kawai was unable to finish his though, his focus drawn by the loud noise and the searing pain as two ribs shattered from his back to his chest, splattering the door with blood.

Kawai’s cheek slammed against the door, his knees buckling below him and he slid down the slick door.

As Kawai’s body flopped sideways and his head struck the floor, the lecture chamber filled with another explosion.

Other than the odd drop of blood, Jess’s mid-term exam paper remained largely unscathed, the purple “84%” clearly emblazoned in the upper right-hand corner.

Jess’s parents had sacrificed so much for her to succeed at school. Her failure in chemistry would be unacceptable.

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