“I really should be going Maya. My mother and the doctor will be wondering where I’ve gone.”
“You can’t go now. Vek has got everything ready for you. Do your surf lesson, and we’ll all head out together tonight. It’s magical out there beneath the moon and the stars. You’ll love it.”
I look down the beach. A few metres from the water I can see Vek putting a wetsuit on the sand, next to a bright blue surfboard. He catches my gaze and gives me a cheery wave. I wave back.
“Anyway Kevin, I really like you, so you should stay.”
I give out a little laugh that somehow only seems to pass through my nose. Maya lights a cigarette.
“Seriously. I really like you.”
“Sure you do Maya. What about Vek there?”
“He’s just a friend. An amazing friend, but a friend nonetheless.”
With that Maya turned my face towards hers and landed an enormous wet and passionate kiss on my lips. Smoke and lip-balm.
“Stay here Kevin. I want you to stay.”
We kiss again.
Smoke, lip-balm and tongue.
“You’re quite weak aren’t you boy?”
Vek and myself had paddled out quite far from the shore on our surfboards.
“The further out we go, the easier it’ll be for you to practice standing on the board.”
The effort of paddling against the waves had left me completely out of breath, and the salt water caused me to gag a few times. I hate the sea. I tell myself I’m only doing this so I can kiss Maya again. And who knows, after dark we might take things further? My mother and the doctor would understand. They’ve been saying for a long time that I need a girlfriend. I can imagine the doctor adjusting his glasses and looking Maya up and down as though she were a freshly stacked bookshelf, while my mother meticulously fussed in the kitchen, offering cup of tea after cup of tea. I managed a smile, whilst keeping my mouth firmly shut against the onslaught of water.
Vek had stopped paddling and waited for me to catch up.
“You should get out more. Stop staying in bed and sulking.”
I didn’t want to argue back. I was too exhausted for that. I’d grown tired of explaining that it was depression and not laziness that kept me in bed. Everything that Vek was saying, I’d heard before, and I’d developed a way of blocking it out, but he suddenly said something that caught my attention.
“I’ve been here all day. I’ve not left this beach. It’s become my home, my spiritual sanctuary. It’s where I’m happiest. I walk and run everywhere, and I spend most of my time in the sea, surfing and being one with everything.”
“You walk and run everywhere do you?”
“Yeah. I have no time in my life for engines. Your heart and lungs are the best engines out there.”
I look at the skull tattoo on his right calf to make sure I’m right.
“Wow, I can’t believe you’ve been here all day. Where did you stay?”
“I’ve been camping here on the beach. I’m staying here for the whole summer.”
“Don’t you get bored, just staying here all the time?”
“Nah. I have all I want here. There’s no need to go anywhere else. It’s good for the soul to stay in one place for a while. I keep telling Maya to get rid of that camper van of hers, and just stay here with me. There’s a great deal of beauty in remaining in one place, but she insists on moving around, constantly looking for the next big adventure.”
“You like to be stationary, as though in the belly of a whale?”
I was beginning to catch my breath back.
“Exactly. That’s my idea of heaven. You’re kinda smart for a couch potato.”
Again, I double check the tattoo. Vek sure does sound convincing, but there’s no denying it, it’s the same skull I saw on the moped rider earlier. I think about what I’m going to say. I think carefully. Like a magician moving a coin between his fingers, the thoughts rise and fall in my mind, build up momentum and then burst into the open.
“Why don’t you cut the crap Vek? You’re full of shit. Heart and lungs being the only engine you need? Bullshit. I saw you drive past on a moped earlier. I recognise that tattoo on your calf.”
Saying this made my head rush. It was like the first ever puff on a cigarette. I felt weightless but somehow incredibly strong.
“Say what couch potato?”
“I saw you pass us earlier on a moped. You sped past. Must have been late for your date with nature. Why are you lying to me Vek?”
Vek sat there in silence. Slowly bobbing up and down on the waves. Sensing the beginnings of danger, I pulled myself up into a sitting position on the surfboard, and checked my surroundings, calculating the distance to the shore. It was then that Vek hit me in the face. A good, strong punch to the side of my skull. I somehow managed to stay on my board and braced myself for another punch to the face. Vek was bright red with anger.
“This is your father’s fault. He tried to kill all hope and magic. Well then Kevin, now I must kill you.”
I took another punch to the face and tumbled off the surfboard, into the sea. Swallowing water and tasting blood, I caught a glimpse of Vek leaping from his board with a knife in his hand. He pounced on me, and with every punch to the face I sank beneath the waves, and became heavier and heavier. My dad’s line returned to me about it being better to be eaten alive than to sit in the belly of a beast.
Blood and salt water coming together inside me. Soon there’ll be no way of telling me and the sea apart.
Couch potato sinking like a stone.
I waited for the knife when I suddenly thought about Maya, and the sun on her thighs.
Vek was shouting between punches.
“We were going to do this at night, when nobody was around.”
I spit some blood out.
“We were going to show you how your father’s theories had destroyed heaven, and we were going to give you a choice…” FIRST SENSATION OF THE BLADE ON MY SKIN… “We were going to give you the choice of either joining us, or joining the dead.”
Vek was really angry now, and the knife worked around me like a small and curious, sliver fish, but all I could think about was Maya and her tanned thighs. All I could feel was her kiss on my lips. Maya. Smoke, lip-balm and tongue.
The silver fish bit me in the back, and Maya vanished from my mind. It was time to fight back. I dodged the blade, and landed a punch on Vek’s throat.
“You little shit. Couch potatoes don’t fight back.”
I kept hitting Vek, and got close enough to bite a chunk of skin from his cheek, and his eyelid. He momentarily went beneath the water and I scrambled for my surfboard. Using all my strength I pulled myself up. Vek surfaced with the knife between his teeth. His eyes scanned the water for me, but I was too fast. I paddled towards him and wrapped the chord from my surfboard around his neck. In an attempt to get some air he opened his mouth wide and the knife fell into the water. I quickly grabbed it and slammed the blade into the back of his neck.
“Fuck you Vek.”
I pushed the blade deeper and deeper into his neck. Blood poured out and made the water around us pink, like a tender Nebula. Vek’s dead body bobbed at one end, while I moved away to the other end on my bright blue surfboard. Before Vek sank below the water he said that “Maya will have to kill you now.” He disappeared, and the pink nebula followed him to the depths.
I paddled towards the shore, with the blood soaked blade in my hand, and thought about something I’d learnt in school about Maya being the goddess of illusion.
Anger had returned to me and I felt alive. If this was a movie you’d have seen a burning house, with the bully twins trapped inside, reflected in my bloodshot eyes. This isn’t a movie though. This is real, and it’ll have to do for me to tell you that I was thinking about the terrible things I’d done in the past. You’ll have to believe me when I say that I felt excited to find out that they were happening again.
Reaching the shore, there was no sign of the camper van or Maya. Was she really going to kill me? If she did, there was no way I was willing to die in this wetsuit. My clothes were rolled up in a towel behind a rock. Getting changed I put the knife in my pocket and walk towards the road, without once turning around to look at the sea.
“Kevin!!! Kevin!!! Get off the road!!!”
Turning to my left I notice a girl running down the road towards me.
“It’s Sophie. Kevin, watch out. Maya is coming for you.”
I turn the other way, just in time to see the camper van speeding towards me. The last thing I see before impact is a cluster of Feynman diagrams. Multiple universes: multiple ways to die.
(To be continued…)