Mercury Beach (Flash Fiction)

Surely, the shark brought Glen the angel. It wasn’t something he normally would have eaten, but there, in the Yoshi Steakhouse, Glen decided to feast on a flank of the world’s oldest predator.

That night, lying down to sleep between handmade silk sheets, he closed his sake-weighted eyes and slept the greatest sleep of his life.

In his dream, he walked upon a pristine, white beach. The wet sand slid slick between his toes. The crisp blue of the clear sky lit against his eyes, so bright he had to squint to see the ocean.

There, amongst the waves, the angel walked, unlike any woman Glen had ever seen. Her feet slid over the water, unsinking. She rose and fell with the surf. Her naked skin radiated pale white, like a sun-soaked cloud on a summer day. The surf sat her gently down upon the beach, light as the ocean breeze.

Her sunrise-gold hairs floated in the breeze, her eyes were deep blue whirlpools, pulling Glen into their depths and drowning him. Every detail was a masterwork. She smiled. Glen’s soul wept.

“Swim with me,” the angel said, not a request or command, but a truth. Every moment in his life had built to a single dip in the ocean.

The angel’s beauty rendered Glen mute. She turned, swaying silently back to the ocean, her movements calm as the slow swell of the seas. He followed.

Glen woke. His wife had moved in the bed. Glen made a desperate attempt to fall back to sleep, to go back to that dream. But his sleep was just sleep. He dreamt meaningless fantasies and nonsense. Truth had passed. Only the lie he had known for a lifetime remained.

In the morning, Glen’s wife, Alice, made him coffee.

“This ought to wake you up,” Alice said. “Get you back to the land of the living.”

Glen smiled politely. He resented Alice and her coffee. He despised the waking world, desiring only the angel and the dream.

Alice ate poached eggs and toast while reading the latest Cosmopolitan. Glen was shamed by her ordinary nature. Her demeanor was so pedestrian, so human. Certainly, many men would call her beautiful, but Alice could not compare to the angel.

Glen went to the beach to remember, but it was trashy and used up by tourists. The water was dirty and polluted, the skies filled with smog.

Alice didn’t complain much about the shark steaks he brought home that night.

“That restaurant must have made an impression. Who knew you would like shark?” she joked. Glen had eaten three of the shark steaks at Yoshi’s for lunch, gorging himself long after his stomach had its fill.

She didn’t complain when he excused himself for bed at seven that evening. Glen gave Alice a slight peck on the cheek before rushing to bed without even brushing his teeth. But when he brought home shark steaks the next night, then the one after that, and then each night the next week, she became concerned.

There had been arguments ranging from disapproval to all out accusations of insanity. Glen made no attempt to defend himself. His failure to return to the angel was too damning.

Glen had never slept more in his life, but he felt so tired, so disconnected. The angel was his El Dorado. He searched, knowing in his heart that his city of gold must exist, somewhere deep between REM cycles.

Glen barely noticed when Alice left. Her sister screamed insults to Glen as she helped remove Alice’s belongings from the house. He sat at the table, blank-faced, eating shark and drinking sake, longing for them to leave so the house would be quiet by bedtime.

Weeks of sleep passed. Glen couldn’t find the energy to work, the disappointment was too great. He felt sluggish. His hair fell out in the shower. It pulled away from his head in strands.

The next week, he lost a tooth, a molar came lose. He nearly swallowed it along with the shark before feeling its crunch beneath the fish. Someone came by, some work friend. Glen couldn’t recall his name. Every time he thought he remembered, it fled like a scared animal.

The guy spoke in concerned tones, but none of the words made sense. When Glen tried to respond, his words slurred over a slow, swollen tongue, or lost their way from brain to lips.

Nothing held Glen’s interest. Faded, fuzzy images swirled incoherently from his big screen. He shut off the television, but muffled whispers still sought him. They warned him the shadows were not right, that demons knocked at the door. Nothing could come between Glen, the shark, and sleep.

Glen finished the steak in spite of angry, incomprehensible voices, and then stumbled to bed, unable to hold a straight line. He slept, but he did not see the beach. The angel did not come for him.

Glen awoke in the night. He could not move. Glen’s heart was unsteady, a sluggish beat from a broken metronome. It rushed, then slowed, unable to hold a tempo.

Glen’s eyes were closed, yet still, he saw light in the distance, a pin prick in black paper, slowly growing, tearing to let more light through. Brightness surrounded Glen, a radiant blinding bright that could only be his beach. The rushing sound in his ears must be the waves caressing the shore.

Glen could not breathe. He knew he must have found the ocean. He sunk below the surface. His lungs burned.  He swam, drowning in desire. He would find his angel.

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at

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