Fiction Friendship Science Fiction

The frosty amber liquid glistens through raised glasses in the ethereal light. We all gather outside to toast our final moments as the sun bids farewell to summer. It had been a season that would never come again.

               I flick the curls of my auburn fringe to clear my vision and ask my three companions, ‘Are there any better type of beers than summer beers?’

               ‘You can’t beat them, Mike,’ Dean agrees, who is mesmerised by the frothy contents of his pint.

               Sam and Rachel tilt their heads slightly in alignment with the sentiment. We all turn to look out towards the endless ocean. Warmth flushes our faces in a way that could only be balanced with another swig of beer and the occasional whistling sea breeze creeping up the cliff face. There is a silent euphoria shared between us. For a moment, we can ignore the bittersweetness of the ending befalling us.

               ‘Mike, this house is fucking sick,’ Rachel says with a snap of her fingers. ‘Still can’t believe you scored it for today of all days.’

               My glass freezes right before my open mouth. I place it back on the coffee-coloured balcony railing and say, ‘Well, the owners were literally falling over themselves to let us have it. Not like they needed it for anything.’

               ‘Man, if I had an ocean mansion like this, I wouldn’t leave until summer was done.’ Dean interjects. The colourful patterns adorning his arm contorted as he raises his glass for another precious sip. I could not help but stare at how his biceps popped out of the rolled-up sleeves on his flannel shirt.

               ‘Guess they had better places to be, isn’t that right, Mike?’ Sam’s dulcet tones drift across from the far end of the balcony. I failed to notice him staring into my soul with his sky-blue eyes. If a look could convey a message, this would be to change the topic.

               ‘Well, drink up everyone. It is the end of summer; we have plenty of cold beer in the esky and a beautiful sunset to share.’ I exclaim, raising my glass to raise everyone’s spirits.  

               ‘Man, let's put on some fucking tunes.’ Rachel says as she dances a jig around Dean, flapping her tattooed arms like wings around his head. Dean winks and resumes absorbing every second of the moment.

               ‘Rach,’ I pause. Wondering if what I had to say next should have been obvious. ‘There’s no electricity, babe.’ Sam still glares at me down the barrel of his pint glass.

               ‘Oh yeah.’ Rachel deflates before perking up again and saying, ‘Aww shit, I got a Bluetooth speaker in the car y’all.’ The final mouthfuls of her beer didn’t stand a chance in her rush to obtain the fabled audio device.

               We top up our glasses, and music floods our ears. The deep base causes my teeth to chatter involuntarily, and I subtly sway despite not understanding a word of the lyrics. Rachel finally has Dean trapped in her dancing web. Her silky black hair whips rhythmically through the air. Sam sidles beside me and firmly grabs my shoulder with his free hand.

               ‘It is going to be ok, Mike. Just let them enjoy a final summer evening.’ He whispers in my ear. Something is caught in my throat, and I feel a sudden disconnect between the joy of my dancing friends and the reality of just how different this summer had been.

               ‘I just hope they don’t look too far over the edge.’ I reply, craning my neck to look down the cliff face.

               ‘Just forget about it.’ Sam’s tone is final. ‘What does it even matter? Just drink your beer and go dance with Dean. Summer is ending, Mike. You won’t get this chance again.’

               ‘How long until sunset do you think?’ I ask my vertically gifted friend. He swirls the last drops of his beverage before chugging it down. We all know what is supposed to happen at sunset, but we are here to try and forget about it.

               ‘Who gives a fuck Mike? It will happen when it happens.’ He peels off his form-fitting black tank top and joins the dance party, beckoning me to follow with his body language. I felt inadequate when Sam or Dean got shirtless, which wasn’t fair. I don’t think either of them ever stepped foot in a gym, yet they had physiques that turned every head.

               Fuck it, I think to myself, and I dive in.

               Primal instincts take over. Spurred on by the beer working its magic, mindless music washing over us, and the luminous rays drenching the balcony. Shirts disappear, and so do our inhibitions. Our bodies all move as one, and we become intoxicated with each other’s presence. It is not sexual, just four people sharing a transcendent connection. I close my eyes, and my consciousness slips into the sublime. Only to be brought back into the present by a tickle on my nose and the scent of beer dominating my senses.

               ‘Thanks again, Mike.’ Dean is well inside my personal space. My shock causes a distance to open between us, giving me a view of Sam over Dean’s shoulder. Who winks at me as if to say, go for it. So, I do.

               The afternoon is defying all expectations. We shake off the shit show that had been this summer and create space for joy again. The four of us had always shared a bond that could not be described, and we are now cementing our link into eternity. Indulging in what I never dared to indulge in was just the cherry on top.

               The dancing lasts a bit longer until the music clicks out of existence. We all look around as if trying to figure out where it went. None of us need to acknowledge that the speaker had run out of power verbally. We also don’t feel the need to put our shirts back on; why should any part of our bodies miss out on the sun’s gifts?

               ‘Fuck guys, I think it is happening.’ Rachel said, her chest still heaving. Her arm and finger stretch out toward the horizon, but none of us want to look yet.

               ‘More beer?’ Sam asks rhetorically.

               Dean pulls up turquoise striped deckchairs for everyone. We all sink into their deep recesses and allow breath to return to our bodies. The sun has almost entirely retreated to its hiding place beyond the sea. Its brightness floods my retina so much that I almost miss the streak of crimson ash across the twilight sky.

               One look at the others, and I can tell they have not noticed it. Probably for the best, they should enjoy the moment. I wish I had not seen it, but there it was. It chases the sun as it vanishes for the last time, letting out a concluding scream of light.

               My sight readjusts from the sudden deprivation, and I refuse to let any breath out. What happens now?

               ‘Is the sun coming back up?’ Dean asks. ‘Is that how it was supposed to happen?’

               We all remain silent as the sun radiates outwards from where it had just set. Only it was doing more than just rising again. It ravenously consumes the skyline, bringing a blast against our skin that no cold drinks or refreshing breezes would save.

               I am glad I got to be here with my friends for this. I am equally pleased that none of them looked down the cliff. Seeing those two bodies down there would have killed the vibe.           

September 07, 2023 21:13

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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