daftneophyte: What’s up with this email?
cheydostudio: Exactly what it says.
Pay up, Chewbacca.
Curled up in his armchair, the television going ignored across the room, Wen narrowed his eyes at his laptop screen. He hadn’t really thought about anything when he’d read the email. He had figured it was a joke, but he had to give Delia a hard time. It was part of being friends.
He had only been kidding about her range of past-times. But her comment about video games made him feel a bit guilty.
A knock at the door prompted him to beg leave and turn on his auto-responder. He wasn’t expecting any packages or visitors, but this neighbourhood attracted solicitors like flies to overripe fruit. Although he turned away every knife salesman that tried his door, he couldn’t help but entertain the various people tossing reams of religious literature.
It wasn’t that he got a perverse enjoyment out of it, or that he was seeking religion. He had a perfectly good one.
No, it was just that they were all so smiley.
He suspected that it was pathetic, but it was better than the awkwardness that deluged him at work. Whether religious solicitors were as bad as salesman, or genuinely amicably inclined towards the entire world, he didn’t much care.
He opened the door and greeted an elderly couple with his own best attempt. They responded as though there was nothing remotely strange about him.
Delia set her computer aside. It wasn’t a very good computer. Not for games, at any rate. She’d gotten it from her parents for their first trip to the Veldt. It was solar powered, and generated its own internet signal via a crank. It was also covered in adhesive photos, thanks to another gift, a special type of camera.
Her parents were great at gift-giving. It was the other things that they let slide.
Sunset was forthcoming. Normally, night couldn’t fall fast enough for her. But her moonlit beach romps had been significantly curtailed by the strange calm that had settled over the island. She walked over to the glass-less window and leaned out over the wooden pane.
The horizon seemed to stare balefully back at her. Its usual dusk palette of oranges and pinks was oddly oppressive. Sickly and bloated.
She lifted a leg over the side and hopped out of her room onto the sand. It wouldn’t do to be afraid forever. Premonition or not. “Just a quick swim,” she said to herself, running barefoot over the beach.
Her muscles eased upon first contact with the water. Wet sand squished between her toes as she continued plunging into the water until there was nothing else beneath her feet. The ocean swallowed her up in its welcoming embrace. One deep breath, and she opened herself up to that embrace.
On the island and around it, the fauna were so accustomed to her that her presence didn’t even raise notice anymore. Tiny fish swam through her hair, perfectly careless of her. She stayed below the waterline until her lungs burned.
As she burst through the surface, she met with that awful quiet again. She shivered despite the warmth of the water, and swam back to shore.