There isn’t the terror in his eyes that I was expecting. It’s more pathetic than that, like he can’t decide whether to plead for my help or ask why I pushed him in the first place. It might even be a resigned acceptance of his fate, an inner peace at finally paying for his wrongs, but that’s a far more unpalatable prospect.
I don’t jump in, of course. That would be self-defeating. Instead I dangle my legs over the edge of the creaking boardwalk – a turn-of-the-century finger out to sea – as the Pacific breaks and swirls around its stout stumps, mulling its next move, chewing the stones on the shaken bed. The pelicans, normally standing sentry, are gone. A couple of seagulls swirl above in the flamingo sky, looking for one final feed before fleeing what is to come. The warm breeze whistles lazily through the gaps between the pastel-coloured beach huts, the unintentional final, feeble line of defence between ocean and land.
His heavy coat is dragging him under. I hate that coat. He wears it, wore it, all the time. I’m having a few problems with my tenses as he bobs up from the surface again, arms flailing, hovering briefly between life and death. He wore it like a badge of honour. He found a disgusting, noble pride in our reduced existence.
His struggle doesn’t last long. Sorry big brother, but I get these few minutes. I’ll be with you soon enough. But I get these few minutes.
This is a sort of companion piece to The Wave. Although there are obviously inconsistencies between the two stories, they exist in the same universe. I’ll write it all as a proper short story at some point.