Recent storms, the latest more intense than the rest, had ripped the kelp from the seabed and washed piles of the greasy brown stuff onto the beach to rot in the sun. Sandflies rose like cinder-filled smoke as Faric wove his way between the fetid berms down to the waterline.
He stripped to his shorts, carelessly tossing his clothes behind him, and waded into the mild surf. The storms had churned cold water up from the depths. His breath caught as a tall wave soaked his crotch. With his arms outstretched like a crane’s wings, he stepped deeper until forced to commit. Another wave lifted him from the sand. Further out, the dark shadows of rocks appeared as a drop off, but Faric knew of the illusion. He breast-stroked above the shaded water. When a slithery caress flickered across his thigh he gasped and swiped his hand down. He brought up a tangled blade of kelp which he flung away in disgust.
His purpose was simple, swim from shore until he couldn’t. Out he stroked.
The hills shrank behind him. Further on, the city, the house and Denise, their hooks embedded in his soul, struggled feebly to restrain him. With each breath, each glide through the ocean’s embrace, the hooks fell away. All but one. The one that drove him on.
After some time he stopped and tread water. He rotated about, gauging the distance he’d come. He felt good, strong. Even at his age he knew he could swim miles.
The ocean buoyed him up, he floated on his back for a spell. A staggered line of pelicans skimmed by, the last, just over his head. He could see the dirty color of their feathers, the flaccid skin of their throats wavering as they flew.
By his estimate, three miles from shore, he sensed weakness. The kick in his legs grew sluggish, the finned swish of his hands harder and harder to push through the water. At this distance, the water had lost its algae fog. He put his face down and opened his eyes. Beautiful stripes of sunlight shot down around him. The undulation of heavy waves lulled him in their folds. His ears submerged, he heard only silence.
The sound of a motor confused him.
He bobbed, turned and caught sight of a fishing boat motoring west of him.
Had the seas been rougher he’d have been missed. Had the waves hid the grey of his hair the ruddy color of his face he’d have gone unnoticed. The sound of the motor shifted and the boat whipped in a tight turn.
“I seen ya, now,” the captain of the vessel shouted. “No way I can just leave ya out here to drown.”