“I’m okay. I’m fine. Seriously … no rush,” the man on the stretcher claimed, his arterial blood staining the pandemic-proof material.
Mór Ríoghain, her pale Irish skin shining with sunscreen, watched idly as an amateur longboarder with horrific gashes from a curious bull shark was carted up the beach on at considerable speed by two bemused paramedics. She noted the care they took not to shake anything off the stretcher despite their haste.
“He flat-lined,” she heard one protest.
“Eh?” The man had to be restrained from sitting up.
“Say nothing, just hurry,” the other responded as they passed so close, that she had to shield herself from the sand kicked up with a copy of Vogue.
She waited until the ambulance’s wail was eclipsed by the liquid respiration of the sea, before nudging Arawn on the double beach towel beside her. The Welsh-Gaelic god’s SPF50 sunscreen stuck to her elbow.
“It’s Siesta Key and a delightful eighty four degrees – give me a break.”
“You didn’t even look.”
“Sharks aren’t supposed to like shallow water,” he grumbled.
“You reading the tourist brochures? These buggers swim into ornamental canals in gardens and swimming pools, never mind shallows, or haven’t you been paying attention.”
“They creep me out. I leave that side of the business to–”
“To whom? Me??”
“Ummm…,” Arawn voiced uncertainly, the pitch of his tone rising and falling in tune with the breakers.
“Not to mention the backlog.”
“Do you need Céibhfhionn as a phone-a-friend?”
Arawn peeled off the sunglasses and rolled onto one elbow to bestow a withering glare. “The last thing I need on holiday is the Gaelic goddess of inspiration with her ‘there … see … doesn’t that cloud just look like a shamrock … don’t the waves sound like…’ and on and on and on. She’s a pain. I just want one … one day of relaxation where I can just escape my eternal responsibilities and just chill. Is that too much to ask?”
“That glare is just terrifying,” Mór Ríoghain yawned, wiping the unwanted sunscreen from her elbow with an absorbent pad, and reapplying her own. “It’s a wonder you don’t slip down the beach into the sea: you’ve that much of the stuff on you.”
“We redheads have to be extra careful,” Arawn advised. He leaned back and slipped the shades back on. “You’re the goddess of death. Why don’t you sort the poor bugger out?”
“He’s Welsh … your branch of the business,” she quipped.
Arawn mumbled something.
“I thought you were enjoying this time away together. I thought we made a connection.”
Mór Ríoghain rolled her eyes behind the Versaces. “Of course we did. We just need to be aware–”
“Look, who believes in us nowadays anyway?” he interrupted. “Most of them are Christians.”
There was a … silence. Even the rollers were dumb. Only the combers whispered their apprehension.
“Arawn … Treoir chun Báis … Reaper …. Angel of Death,” Mór Ríoghain began sternly.
Beachgoers halted their speculation about the victim’s chances of survival to gape at the storm clouds which had suddenly appeared overhead. A bikinied forward missed a spike as the beach ball was whipped from under her by a vicious gust. Gulls lifted into the air as great black crows swooped out of nowhere.
“You have become too wrapped up in mortal perception. We are who we are, no matter what labels they assign us. I escort the victims of conflict. You do the misadventure stuff. Don’t forget the last hassle with a guardian who lost himself in his own desires.”
She hoped Arawn remembered. He’d just about missed that particular cut, saved only by his naivety and sincere repentance.
He grimaced and sat up. “Right … okay … stupid of me! I get so caught up in human rituals that I forget myself.” He looked longingly at the sea and the sun which warmed his alabaster skin. “I was just so looking forward to… Hold on, there must be someone dying from conflict-based injuries somewhere. How come you’re not moving?”
The strange manifestations and uncharacteristic winds vanished as if they had never happened. Mór Ríoghain eased back on the blanket and let her grin spread beneath the floppy wide-brimmed sun-hat. “I’m a woman. I can multi-task.”
Irish poet and writer, Perry McDaid, lives in Derry. His diverse creative writing – including more than 1000 poems and 300 short stories appears internationally in the like of Anak Sastra; Amsterdam Quarterly; Aurora Wolf Literary Magazine; Red Fez; Brilliant Flash Fiction, Alfie Dog and Bookends Review and his latest novel Pixels, The Cause and the Cloud Cuckoo is available for order online.
You can find more of Perry’s work here on Ink Pantry.