Featured Fiction
// Scott Moraes

He woke from a painful slumber to bleak surroundings: the dark black sea, with its poor reflections and meaningless sounds. No other soul in sight, or anything discernible for that matter, except for a few empty bottles of hard liquor in the boat and a bitter stench no person could ever come to terms with.

Terror and hopelessness overtook him, and all his feelings converged in the unmistakable apprehension of death. He waited for the definitive sign, the memories which would pop up from the dark recesses of his mind to bid their adieu. Nothing happened for what seemed like quite a long stretch of time, so he forced the task upon himself. It seemed the best alternative to remedy his mood. He had perfected (so he believed) a method of escapism for such extreme situations of vulnerability.

He conjured up scenes from his childhood: unromantic episodes of ingested snot, snow fights, bicycle accidents, and successful malingering. Friends and family were vague, blurred images. Enticing young ladies came in much more detail and in abundant numbers, but were quickly dismissed, at times with kind words, but mostly with ferocious hostility. The growth of bones, the facial hair. The first of everything, the best of everything, the worst of everything ... the last of everything?

From the quiet life of the French countryside to the wild unpredictable settings of the Amazon. From the brutal sleepless nights of the urban jungle to the idyllic nothingness of the somewhere elses. The years of monogamy and repressed desires, the years of savage freedom, and the joy and regrets that came with both. All the false and the real dilemmas, the false and real pleasures. The incessant moves across the political spectrum ... A friend once told him straight, “You know that your political stance is a reflection of your personality? That makes you mentally unstable.” An argument he could never counter.

In the dynamism of the exercise, he found himself shamelessly adulterating and fabricating memories. Questions of morality quickly arose and got put to rest. If I am to die, he thought, I might as well award myself the luxury. Perhaps also a choice of method of termination?

He felt his stomach roar and writhe. The eventual need for physiological relief had not yet occurred to him. It broke the chain of freely associated memory pieces and replaced the dreamy clouds with thunderous terror. He was afraid to stand up – it might tip the boat over – and yet his pride was too strict to allow for the childish alternative. Why is it that the most glorious of lives must end in the most humiliating fashion?

He now focused his efforts on delaying the inevitable discharge and trying to remember the immediate causes for this bad fix. No success, as usual. In a frenzy, he stripped, started up, tipped the boat over and fell into the water. He gasped and yelled and then found a last blast of hope. He looked around and started a vigorous swim into the darkness. He knew he would exhaust himself in just a few minutes – and that would shorten the agony. As his breath was running out and his lungs contracted from the cold, he grew dizzier and more desperate. And then, his feet touched bottom, and he swam to shore in what felt like a fragment of a second.

His wife, who had awoken in the night to his absence, had come to shore and realized he'd taken the boat into the lake, and had also forgotten his glasses. She could see him lit by the moon and attempted continuously to shout his name. Demented old men, she lamented, have to be kept under watch at all times; his resentment of such an arrangement was the cause of all their fights, but she'd once made some sort of promise to love him through sickness and all the bad bits. Before he collapsed onto the sand, he saw her and groaned: “Banana leaf.” She thought this was a compliment and giggled in relief.

//By Scott Moraes

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