You can almost feel the neon street lights twinkling behind you, teasing you with the possibility of a wild night back where the city is still alive, but your eyes stay focused ahead, on the dark strip of the town, the abandoned sprawl that lies on the way to the new shore.
You’re ready to get away from downtown because lately, it seems you can’t even hear your own thoughts anymore. On the path in front of you, maybe you’ll figure out who or what is blocking you from listening to your inner voice. Maybe not.
All around you, sand and silt infiltrates the parking lots and the ground floors of otherwise sound buildings, stale bogs. The fine mud sticks to the soles of your shoes, suctioning the pull of each step.
It’s difficult to tell for certain, but the pools of water that interrupt your progress might be releasing faint light. Your eyes are only human, anyway. As you get closer to the shore, whatever hints of brightness you think you might be seeing in the puddles is drowned out by the brilliant intensity you’re here to witness, the view that can wipe everything away, the glowing surf.
The edge is quieter than you remember. Liquids fill the nooks and dips of the land without noise and in no rush. In some places the broth mixes its colors, though they somehow resist becoming a dark, dull tar. In another place, a vibrating stream of pink forms a ribbon through electric yellow goop, refusing to assimilate.
The surf seems to both suffer from and be invigorated by a uniform phosphorescence. Likely the remnants of some tritium disaster from not too long ago, not too far away. The countless other isotopes saturating the gulf are unseen, but you are well aware that the radiation has left real marks on the DNA of the creatures that cling to life below the surface.
A small crab rolls into an old soup can, neon markings on its belly like alien glyphs, its arms seeking something in an uncoordinated way. It’s choking on a thin, glitter-purple sheath of synthetic bacteria. You remember reading in the logs about these bacteria, designed illegally in some basement of the city a decade ago. A desperate bid to help clean up some of the mess.
Trash floats between broken parking blocks and twisted railing and many items keep their form. You recognize the outlines of beer bottles, a soccer ball and a refrigerator door. All of them painted over in bright streaks of buzzing color.
A newspaper leaf clings to your boot. It’s an antique. The surf works its best magic on paper, fortifying the cellulose with heavy metals and keeping the text and images preserved. It’s a bleeding page advertisement, pristine except for the color. A woman holding a toothbrush smiles up at you with lime green lips, a shock of tangerine hair and electric blue skin.
You realize how shallow your breaths have been up to this point and let the salty breeze inside your lungs with the rapidity its been asking for.
What would your father think of this scene? If he were still around.
And that’s it. You feel you have your thoughts back. You exhale and advance into the glowing surf.
Now you’re ankle-deep and you bend over to scoop up a conch shell that’s the size of your fist. You push your hair aside and put it up to your ear.
No hollow wind, no airy breath of the sea. Silence. Almost like a glitch…
You use a keychain LED to help you to see inside of the conch shell. There’s a wire… something that you might be able to jack into your system.
You search the inside of the pockets on your vest hoping you’re carrying the right adapter. It’s there, and just before you’re ready to plug into the conch shell, a loose collection of documents floats by.
The immediate future is up to you: