When he broke the surface he was surprised. Coughing and snorting as he cleared his throat and lungs of water, the last thing he expected was to be alive. He clearly recalled the last day of his life and he clearly remembered pulling the trigger of the shotgun. He remembered the day when the oncologist, a very attractive and competent young woman in Los Angeles, gave him the bad news: His lung cancer had metastasized and was inoperable. There were experimental chemo and radiation therapies but with no guarantees for positive outcomes. She delivered his prognosis as gently as she could and when she finished, he chuckled and said, “Check please.”
He flew back to Managua and returned to San Juan del Sur where he distributed the funds from his various bank accounts, finalized his will and took care of the step-son, the boy, his niece and nephews with still more money coming in from royalties, investments and such. With all his affairs in order, he waited until his seventy-seventh birthday before he pulled the trigger. Drinks, food and loving embraces were free at Jim Bob’s Fine Foods on the night before he took the small boat out in the deep blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. The Romero family, his business partners for over six years, would inherit the boats and Jim Bob’s and he truly felt sorry to take his leave of them. Years before when he sailed his 42 foot Horstman trimaran to Nicaragua, he'd arrived as a stranger in a strange land. After some introductions and a few days of discussion with several rounds of beer, they shook hands on their agreement to build Jim Bob’s Fine Foods and Eco Resort and the Romeros seamlessly took him into the family: “Good Food, Good People, Good Times - The door swings both ways so if you’ve got an attitude, don’t let it hit you in the butt on the way out.”
He woke up near dawn in his hammock on the deck of the Horstman and was grateful for the prescription pain killers that were the one good thing about having cancer – no hangover. He went below to retrieve a box of cigars, his half full bottle of Macallan Sherry Oak Single Malt Whiskey and the Mossberg 500 that they used to shoot trap from the stern. He loaded the Mossberg, wrapped everything in a cast net and then lowered the cigars, whiskey and shotgun onto the rear deck of the Catalina 22. He then stepped over the rail and climbed down onto sloop. With everything safely stored in the cabin, he untied the small boat, fired up the outboard and steered out of the bay to pick up the morning breeze.
He spent the day tacking into the wind making his way west into the deep water and by sunset he was six miles offshore and - between his pain medication and the single malt scotch - nearly three sheets to the wind. He retrieved two weight belts and the shotgun from the cabin, turned on the one-touch distress call on the Garmin VHF and returned to the stern to finish his cigar and the last of the Macallan. The powers that be granted his last wish and there were great orange and purple canyons of clouds from the squall lines on the western horizon. He soaked in every sensation until the twilight was in its last thrall, then he buckled the weight belts around his waist, tossed the empty scotch bottle overboard, pumped a round into the Mossberg and blasted it into sparkling shards. He pumped a fresh round into the chamber, took a deep breath and slipped off the stern into the dark blue water. He felt his ears pop as the water temperature changed and he descended to what he reckoned to be six fathoms before he placed the muzzle of the shotgun under his jaw, tilted the barrel at a slight angle from his throat and pulled the trigger.
All of these explicit recollections filtered through his mind as he recovered on the surface of the water then he took a deep breath and was further surprised. The water was a vivid purple and his eyesight was incredibly sharp with everything in full focus across a field of view of 180 degrees. He raised his arms and saw that that his hands and forearms were encased bluish orange shell. He chuckled as he speculated that he’d been reincarnated as the Lobster Man from Mars.
Actually he was much, much more. He turned in the violet water to see where he was and to his even further surprise his body surged backwards in a semicircle revealing a city on the verdant cliffs of an island that looked to be several miles distant. Remembering the weakness of his age and the pain from his arthritis he wondered if he could summon the strength to swim to that shore and he was surprised once more: the same muscular surge that had turned his body in the water lifted him high through the surface and the carapace on his back separated as he was lifted from the water by two large wings. He could fly. Apparently he’d come back as a mutant water beetle lobster man from Mars.
The flight was short and as he approached the shore line he focused on the structures of the highest hill of the city and recognized William Blake’s cherubs of what looked to be the western gate to the castle and cathedral that held Los’s forge. He flew higher and from above the moat of fire confirmed his suspicions:
Built on the lesser hills that surrounded the castle and cathedral was a haphazard jumble of neighborhood architectures ranging from Venice to Berlin to London to Lyon to Boston with a twist of Tokyo, Shanghai and Tangier at various points in time. He circled the city to see a slice of modern Athens situated above a parkland split by an erupting volcanic rift.
Hard against the brick wall that separated it from 19th Century Harvard Square was a tiny slice of Center Street from the classic 20th Century small town of Manchester, Connecticut, where he saw a curly haired fellow dressed in black reading a book on the steps of the public library building. He thought he recognized the face and came to a landing on the sidewalk. “Emmerling,” he asked, and the only mildly astonished fellow pushed back his pork pie hat to reply, “I’m your man, and may I ask from what drug induced alternate universe have you arrived?”
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