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Jack Campbell, Jr.
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mercury.jpg
Art by Kevin Duncan 2015

Mercury Beach

 

By

 

Jack Campbell, Jr.

 

 

The shark brought Glen the angel. It wasn’t something he normally would have eaten, but there, in the Yoshi Steakhouse, Glen decided to feast on a flank of the world’s oldest predator.

          That night, lying down to sleep between handmade silk sheets, he closed his sake-weighted eyes and slept the greatest sleep of his life.

          In his dream, he strolled along a pristine, white beach, the wet sand slick between his toes. The crisp blue sky lit against his eyes, so bright he had to squint to see the ocean.

          There, amongst the waves, the angel walked, unlike any woman Glen had ever seen. Her feet slid over the water, without sinking. She rose and fell with the surf. Her naked skin radiated pale white, like a sun-soaked cloud on a summer day. The surf sat her gently down upon the beach, light as the ocean breeze.

          Her sunrise-gold hair floated in the breeze, her eyes were deep blue whirlpools, pulling Glen into their depths and drowning him. Every detail of her body was a masterwork. She smiled. Glen’s soul wept.

          “Swim with me,” the angel said, not a request or command, but a simple truth. Every moment in his life led to a single dip in the ocean.

          The angel’s beauty rendered Glen mute. She turned, swaying silently back to the ocean, her movements calm as the slow swell of the seas. He followed.

          Glen jerked awake. His wife had moved in the bed. Glen made a desperate attempt to fall back to sleep, to go back to that dream, but his sleep remained simple sleep. He dreamt meaningless fantasies and nonsense. Truth had passed. Only the lie he had known for a lifetime remained.

          In the morning, Glen’s wife, Alice, made him coffee.

          “This ought to wake you up,” Alice said. “Get you back to the land of the living.”

          Glen smiled politely. He resented Alice and her coffee. He despised the waking world, desiring only the angel and the dream.

          Alice ate poached eggs and toast while reading the latest Cosmopolitan. Glen was shamed by her ordinary nature. Her demeanor was so pedestrian, so human. Certainly, many men would call her beautiful, but Alice could not compare to the angel.

          Glen went to the beach to remember. It’s dirty expanse stretched before him, trashy and used up by tourists. Cloudy, polluted water flowed beneath a smog-filled sky.

          Alice didn’t complain much about the shark steaks he brought home for dinner that night.

          “That restaurant must have made an impression. Who knew you would like shark?” she joked. Glen gorged himself on three of the shark steaks at Yoshi’s for lunch.

          She didn’t complain when he excused himself for bed at seven that evening. Glen gave Alice a light peck on the cheek before he rushed to bed without even brushing his teeth. But when he brought home shark steaks the next night, then the one after that, and then each night the next week, she worried.

          After a week of nothing but shark steaks, there had been arguments ranging from disapproval to all out accusations of insanity. Glen made no attempt to defend himself. His failure to return to the angel was too damning.

          Glen had never slept more in his life, but he felt so tired, so disconnected. The angel was his El Dorado. He searched, knowing in his heart that his city of gold must exist somewhere deep between REM cycles.

          Glen barely noticed when Alice left. Her sister screamed insults at Glen as she helped remove Alice’s belongings from the house. Glen sat at the table, blank-faced, eating shark and drinking sake, hoping they would leave soon so that the house would be quiet by bedtime.

          Weeks of sleep passed. Glen couldn’t find the energy to work, the disappointment was too great. He felt sluggish. He stopped showering when handfuls of hair fell out. He pulled the soapy hair away from his scalp in strands. What remained on his head was patchy and thin, with an unhealthy texture.

          A week after his hair came out, Glen lost a tooth. His molar wiggled lose. He nearly swallowed it along with the shark before feeling its crunch beneath the fish, like a foul rock hidden beneath the firm flesh of his dinner. Brushing his teeth that night, Glen pulled out an incisor, then a canine. He grinned in the mirror, his smile full of gaping holes. His remaining teeth wiggled in their sockets. Glen wondered if he could eat shark with bare gums.

Someone came by, some work friend. Glen couldn’t recall his name. Every time he thought he remembered, it fled like a scared animal. The guy spoke in concerned tones, but none of the words made sense. When Glen tried to respond, his words slurred over a slow, swollen tongue or got lost on their way from brain to lips.

          Nothing held Glen’s interest. Faded, fuzzy images swirled incoherently from his big screen. He shut off the television, but muffled whispers still sought him. They warned him the shadows were not right, that demons knocked at the door. Nothing could come between Glen, the shark, and sleep.

          Glen finished the steak in spite of angry, incomprehensible voices and the pain radiating from every remaining tooth. He stumbled to bed, unable to hold a straight line. He slept, but he did not see the beach. The angel did not come for him.

          Glen awoke in the night to pain wracking his body. He could not move. Glen’s heart was unsteady, a sluggish beat from a broken metronome. It rushed, then slowed, unable to hold a tempo.

          Glen’s eyes were closed, yet still, he saw light in the distance, a pin prick in a sheet of black paper, slowly growing, tearing to let more light through. Brightness surrounded Glen, a radiant blinding bright that could only be his beach. The rushing sound in his ears could only be the waves caressing the shore.

          Glen could not breathe. He must have found the ocean. He must have sunk below the surface. His lungs burned.  He swam towards the light, drowning in desire, hoping to find his angel.






Jack Campbell’s short stories have appeared in around a dozen different venues, including Bete Noire, Hungur, and Dark Eclipse. He is a contributor to the Confabulator Cafe and a member of the Horror Writer's Association.

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