The Genius of the Sea

A rare attempt at non-horror fiction (not trad horror, anyway). Short and to the point(less). Enjoy.


He triple-layered his clothing and walked into the surf. His plan had been to swim out as far as he could until fatigue and the sodden fabric pulled him under for good. What never occurred to him was how strongly he swam, for as he stroked and kicked, his leather shoes occasionally smacking against one another and reminding him he was in the water fully clothed, he kept wondering when he’d start feeling tired and was surprised to find that fatigue seemed rather far away.

After perhaps 45 minutes of swimming and occasional floating, he craned his head up and looked forward instead of side to side and nearly screamed as he saw something massive rising out of the water in front of him. He juddered to a halt while salt water rivuleted down his face and into his open mouth, his breath rapid from exertion. It was a concrete bridge piling. As his salt-stung eyes adjusted to the dusky light, he blinked and wondered how this could possibly make sense: how would an ocean have a bridge? But then he glanced the shore, and he realized that he’d inadvertently veered left into a part of the intracoastal waterway even though he’d intended to swim straight out to sea. I can’t even fucking kill myself properly, he thought and snorted a cold laugh.

As he treaded water and looked around (he was still not tired), he thought about what he was doing. I just want to go, he’d taken to telling himself, as though this was the end of the discussion. He knew how good he had it – a wife he loved, a job he didn’t hate – but he also had a stain inside that blossomed and consumed him at regular intervals despite the therapy and pills. And it didn’t consume him like movies and pharma ads showed; he didn’t mope around the house in sweatpants, sighing and unshaven and looking at the poor dog who just wanted to be walked. No, he was good at functioning. He went to work, he socialized, he was attentive to his wife, but he was often aware that as he looked around in all these settings he saw nothing, and he eventually realized that the nothingness stemmed from looking inward, which is when he first truly started thinking about leaving.

Thoughts about procedure came easily but academically, something held at a comfortable distance, and he reassured himself that he wasn’t really suicidal, just curious and escapist, wishing away his feelings with the idea of a painless, uncomplicated exit, as though he could physically dissolve at will and cohere somewhere else, far away from people. These thoughts gradually became more concrete – he imagined several different methods, all clich├ęd (wrist-slitting in the bath, gunshot to the head or jugular, stepping off a tall building) but quickly dismissed these as too messy, for he didn’t want to inconvenience anyone with a crime-scene grotesquerie. He just wanted to disappear. His first instinct had been to walk into a forest and keep walking, but this wasn’t finite enough – no outdoorsman, he might walk out of the woods at any moment into more suburbia, or, if successful at a forest death, his remains might be found by someone (hunter, logger), thus violating his commitment to convenience for those left behind. It was then he thought of the sea.

When he began turning these ideas over in his head again as he treaded water, he’d felt a twinge of worry that he might chicken out, but this turned out to be unfounded – he felt as calmly resolved there in the cold ocean as he’d felt when he woke up in bed that morning. So he elongated himself in the water preparing to swim out of the waterway and head out to sea as planned. He had just begun kicking and rotating his right arm when something crashed down upon him from above. The impact drove him about 20 feet under the surface but not before it broke his back, severing his spinal column and ejecting all his oxygen in a miasmic plume that was bloody from his hopelessly damaged organs. He gasped involuntarily and swallowed an immense amount of seawater, the crushing pain in his flooded lungs somehow overshadowing the agony of his catastrophically ruined spine and ribs. Within a minute he lost consciousness and slowly began to sink.

The jumper, meanwhile, had died first and died instantly, his entire body essentially gelatinized when he hit both the water and the swimmer feet first at nearly 80 mph. He sunk too, slowly, just a few feet above the swimmer.