The Beach

I’m not totally sure how to use this blog yet. Having recently had some stuff published people kept telling me it was a good idea to have an authors blog, and I agree, but I don’t have a lot to say about the process of writing, so this blog will largely be about other things.

That said, I have a lot of things sitting around not doing anything, so I thought I’d put some of them up periodically. What follows is a piece of flash fiction I wrote for an open mic night a few years back. I always liked it, and I hope you do too.

He sat on the beach holding the bottle like a talisman. At noon the sound of the waves was relaxing, a balm for the day to day stress of life. Here at 3am the sound was something different. Everything else was quiet so there was nothing to filter out the raw chaos and malevolence of the ocean. The lights from the hotel didn’t reach down to the waterline and the night was overcast, so a menacing blackness covered the ocean and reached out into eternity.  Through the haze of the gin he could feel the cheshire grin and the lack of pity of whatever intelligence ruled the ocean calling out to him. It wanted him to walk about into it’s embrace and to succumb to its bleak desire, and if he was honest with himself, he was almost ready to go.

He had been sitting here for an hour, after wandering out of the room and away from the party.  He had put up with ferocity of the music and vicious need of the revelers for as long as he could. After a while it had begun to close in on him like a vice, so he grabbed a bottle and fled. The fact that the party was in his honor meant as little to him as it did to most of the people who had wandered in.  The irony that the party was meant as an escape wasn’t lost on him as he had felt more and more trapped.

His friends had meant well. They always did, and they were always misguided. They always mistook his tendency towards solitude as depression. He loved them for their efforts but deeply wished they would stop. The unending series of blind dates, parties, dinners, holiday invites, and ‘surprise’ drop-ins wore him thin. He felt like rubber band that kept getting stretched out and was starting to lose its elasticity. It had only grown worse since he’d published his novel.

He loved writing. He loved sitting in a dark room with some music playing and no one around. He loved the internal tension between the voice telling him his writing was terrible and the voice telling him he was the next Hemingway. That grim war that all writers fight on a daily basis was what got him out of bed in the morning. Every day might have been a battle but by the end his righteous exhaustion allowed him to sleep the sleep of the just and get up to fight another day. Each word felt like a bullet fired on some imaginary battlefield, torn to mud from years of war. In his head be pictured his novel like the field at Verdun, befouled by the sins of man but also made pure by stripping away all of our illusions of civilization.

He tried explaining that to his agent once. She had stared at him over her glasses for a long time before stating that she might rethink some of the tv appearances the publisher was going to  schedule on his book tour. He noticed she stopped asking him about his writing process after that.

The book sold well enough that they had asked him to write another. He had been working on it for a while now without a lot of progress, which led to the party back at the hotel. The publisher had some requests and some thoughts on the topic for this novel. He had smiled and said ‘sure I can do that’. He knew he was too agreeable but he’d long since discovered that the easiest way to get people to leave him alone was to smile, nod, and tell them whatever they wanted to hear. He would finish the book, and it would be good enough to sell, but not good enough to make him the ‘next whomever’. He was fine with it. He wasn’t after success. He was chasing something else.

Maybe it was a muse. Maybe it was a spirit. Maybe he’d just listened to too many Smiths records as a kid and they’d damaged him in some weird way. It didn’t matter.

Down here, on the beach, in the crushing blackness, with the ocean’s preternatural and baleful song ringing in his ear he felt at home.

He stood up, took a long swig on on the bottle of gin, swishing the stinging floral liquid around in his mouth before swallowing and grinned.

He made his decision and took a step.

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