When the Wendig issues a challenge, I am man enough to accept. I chose four words from a list of eight: Cape, Senator, Motel, Funeral.
Senator Harris heard his aide speak, but stood firm on the beach as the sun crested above the horizon, ignoring the Scourge that drifted over the Atlantic Ocean.
“Y’know, O’Brian, as a kid, my family vacationed here every summer. Edge of the world as far as I was concerned.”
The Senator kicked off one of his loafers, looked at it for a moment, and then kicked off the other one. A wave peaked close to the shore, and then spilled a blanket of gray water and sea foam toward his feet.
“I lost so many things at this beach. Pails, change, cheap sunglasses. When I was eight, I lost my 99 cent flip-flops. My step dad acted like it was okay. But on our drive home, he stopped by the road, reached over the seat and spanked me. Whippings really smart when you have a sandy ass…”
He picked up the loafers with two fingers. “He went about how hard it was to earn a dollar and how ungrateful I was. Well…” He winded up and tossed the loafers into another oncoming wave. They split off and fell into the water in two alternating splashes. “$200.00 loafers, Clyde.”
The Scourge seemed to thunder in response. “Senator, we must go. The Scourge will be here in three hours. The chopper is leaving in thirty,” O’Brian said.
The Senator squatted down, and then dropped his bottom onto the sand. “Go.”
“Sir, the shelter’s HoloArk has thousands recordings of parks, beaches and monuments. Maybe Cape Hatteras is in the library.”
“It’s not. I was on the committee that approved the HoloArk. It got outvoted by Senator Voller. Know what he approved?” He looked at O’Brian for understanding. “A mall. For some reason he wanted this mini mall in Phoenix. He said it was ‘one of civilization’s finest examples of Free Enterprise in Middle America’.”
He pounded the sand with his fist. “A Subway and a head shop is the pinnacle of civilization. And Guggenheim Museum was left out.”
“Sir, I will have to leave without you.”
He tossed off his jacket. “I ‘m taking a walk. If I’m not at the car in ten minutes, then I’m not coming.”
“I can’t leave without…”
“Bullshit! You’re going to save your own sorry ass. Go ahead. You’ve taken good care of me. Go.”
O’Brian stepped backward, and then turned and ran toward the car.
The Senator walked down the shore, letting the waves wet his pants’ hem.
He passed a square building with plate glass windows, now boarded up. He sniggered at the fact that it was boarded up, as if there was a chance it would still be there in 10 years. “Yep, I remember that,” he said to no one. “That was the shell shop that was owned by this grouchy old lady. She hated kids. She wouldn’t let us in unless we were with our parents. She about had a stroke when I broke one of the legs off a starfish. I don’t know how she stayed in business.”
A gust of wind whipped sand onto the bare parts of his face, arms and feet. He turned his back to the gale and walked at an angle. He glanced over to the Scourge. It had finished with Europe and Africa and crept toward the Americas, a solar storm promising Death. Nothing on land would live and even the aquatic life towards the surface had an odd-even chance of survival.
In lone compartment of his mind, a clock ticked away as the last minutes of human civilization. He was about as aware of it as his own heartbeat or the storm sirens howling warnings to the few humans left on the surface. The Senator took it like a suggestion from one of his constituents, and became lost in the wash of sound. Waves. Wind. Seagulls.
He approached a three story motel with a flat roof. “The Castaway Inn. We stayed at that motel. I think it was 1978 or 79’?” Once it was painted a pustular shade of yellow, then coral, and finally sky sky blue. He found a path between the sea oats and walked the cobbles to the rear lobby entrance. He pulled the door, expecting it to be locked, but it gave away.
Inside, a few wicker chairs were set around a glass coffee table, shaded by a fake palm tree with shiny, obviously plastic fronds. The walls were painted light yellow. He noticed that the lights were on. He walked toward the brochure stand and noticed an elderly hotel clerk stood at the check-in desk.
“Room, sir?” the clerk said.
“Still open?” the Senator asked. He recalled when the clerk was younger, but wore the same blue vest.
“You’re not the only one. Got a few old farts like us here. I guess it beats a funeral home. Personally, I always thought this place was a dump.”
“Is 212 available?”
“Yes, but it’s got a terrible view. I got three 3rd floor suites available.”
“My family stayed at that room every summer. I’ll take it.”
The gestured toward a hallway. “I turned off the keycards. Just walk-in. Ice machines are down.” He presented two blue pills. “Want a Safe Passage?”
The Senator shook his head “Naw. I hear the Scourge don’t hurt much. You just…stop.”
The room was exactly as he remembered. Two full size beds with nauseating green rainforest print covers lounged under coral walls. A white wicker dresser and desk lay against the wall. The only change was that a flat screen TV replaced the old tube TV.
He sat on one of the beds. “Hated this place. Hated vacations.”
He fell back on the bed, closed his eyes. He picked one good memory from the heap of drunken fights, the police visits, and mother’s bruises. The white blonde streaks in Ian’s hair. How they shone in the sun. Then, he wondered where those flip-flops were now.