In a part of the universe that is so visible to the human eye, the dawn started early with a pink glow and soon the half-disc of an ancient star emerged on a light-blue surface that was still partially covered with the darkness of a hot subtropical night. The shine mirrored on the calm depth of the inky water. Laziness was in the air. The star lazily clambered the sky. The darkness lazily yielded to the light. The creatures of the sea swam lazily straight into open nets. The view was so peaceful, so quiet that even the rippling waves stayed as mute as a humble servant that is bound not to disturb the sleeping master, yet stay by his side until eventide.
In the silence, like in an invisible shed, a strange man was hiding.
It was the first time for Karol to sleep on a beach. He was not a person of this kind, not at all. When a terrible headache finally woke him up, at first he could not believe his eyes. A crystal clear sea spread up to the horizon. The sun shone with all his strength, high in the sky. Around him there was just white sand, not much different than snow, even its warmth seemed cold at first touch. And in the back there was a forest of tall palm trees tempting with a shadowy shelter from the heat.
“What on earth…?!” he murmured to himself in disbelief.
He didn’t know how he got here, not at all. The last thing he remembered was the goodbye-party at the hotel bar. It happened quickly, as always. Stupid Portuguese and their wine. Unfortunately, his mind preserved some unwanted images, a figure of a young, blond hostess that smiled at him at the back of the smoking room, and then some other dirty secrets that followed, as for example that her underwear was pink. He could recall the smell of her cheap yet nice perfume that soaked deeply into the structure of her curls. So many details, so many stories… But as for how he got here, none.
While checking his pockets, the man noticed that his greyish tuxedo, worth probably more than his own life, was entirely ruined, all covered with a thick layer of dry sea salt. With both sleeves ripped off, tattered legs and only one shoe on he must have looked like a savage or a castaway or a madman and a drunkard, and except for the last one, of which he wasn’t sure, he would never call himself any of those names.
He took off the blazer, or at least what was left of it, just to discover some small blood stains on his once white shirt. His chest was fine, though, so he soon deduced that the blood must have dropped from his face. When he touched his upper lip, he found it swollen and itchy and covered with scab. As for the pockets, they were empty as in brand new. No clues whatsoever. He lost his ID, his keys, his wallet, not only with a credit card inside but also with some serious cash.
But did he remember who he was? Oh, of course he did. Mr. Karol Brzozowsky, age 39, son of Barbara and Zbigniew, husband of Phoebe, father of two. Working at OpenAll Industries, currently on a business trip to Porto. A trip of paramount importance for his future carrier.Apparently, it was all shattered now. But no, he won’t panic. Not yet.
Now he remembered,a security worker yelled at him that it’s a private party when he tried to enter the bar through the back door. His ID was lost already then. Before any of his colleagues noticed his absence, let alone the inconvenient situation he got in, the bodyguard had kicked him out of the bar. Maybe that’s when he got wounded? But he did not remember being hit. That must have happened later.
After being thrown out of the party he definitely wanted to get in by the front entrance. But when he entered the hotel’s atrium, another bodyguard asked him for his ID. Karol tried to show him keys to his apartment but no, the keys were already gone as well. So was the rest of his belongings. It all seemed clear now.The pretty hostess was a sneaky little thief.
Cleaned out of all his documents, deprived of any contact with his co-workers, he saw a last ray of hope in the person of the receptionist. He rushed to the desk and gasped out:
“You! You must remember me, my dear! Could you please tell this gentleman here that I’m a guest at your hotel? Oh, please! I can give you the name. Just check it. Karol Brzozowsky. Number 305.”
The bodyguard grabbed his arm and gave the receptionist an expectant look. The woman, a young Portuguese with full lips of the color of blood, lingered her eyes on Karol with an expression of fake puzzlement. Indeed, she remembered him very well. It’s hard to forget a man who starts to offer you suggestions the exact same moment he enters the room. She saw how he treated the luggage boy when he dropped one of his packages. Finally, she witnessed a conversation between two women that arrived at the hotel with him and his other co-workers. What she heard didn’t put the man in a positive light, obviously.
“Ekhm, I’m sorry, sir.” she replied with a slight accent.“We have so many guests, I’m afraid I can’t remember them all. Could you repeat your name, please?”
She was a vengeful creature, he knew it. A fierce southern girl. Just the kind he likes. Now he regretted it. He repeated his name slowly, feeling first signs of irritation, but still smiling as if nothing happened.
“Hm, let me see…” mumbled the Portuguese while pretending she’s checking something in the register. “Oh! I’m afraid there is no one of that name, sir. You must have mistaken the hotels,” she said with pity in her voice.
“Okay, I will spell it for you.” Karol started to lose his patience.“B-R-Z-O…”
“That’s enough.” snapped the bodyguard. “You sir are drunk”.
“What? Stop! Don’t touch me! My agent will know about this!”
And before he moved his finger, he felt the thick, night air bursting into his nostrils. The door closed with a loud clunk. He spat on the ground angrily.
Still not discouraged, actually even more motivated than before, Karol jumped out of the short staircase and turned straight to the bar’s door. He was almost sure that someone from his delegation will see him and tell the security worker to let him in.
“Tu outra vez não!” shouted the tall man as soon as he saw him approaching.
“I’m sorry friend. You’re doing your job, I know. But hey, just ask anybody. Hey! HEY! George? Hey, Walter? Is that you?” Karol started calling out down the corridor but no one responded, it was too loud. Finally he saw a woman in the hall.
“Thank God I see you here, Miranda!”
Actually, he wasn’t so glad. The black-haired beauty that turned her head to his voice was the last person he hoped to see. It was the second year he was promising her he’s divorcing Phoebe. Before it could happen, Miranda dumped him because she caught him kissing their boss’s secretary in the storeroom… The wound was still fresh. He called her name at the top of his lungs but she just glared at him in response and vanished in the darkness of the corridor.
That was enough.
Karol gave the bodyguard a hard elbow and ran down the hall straight to the sound-proof door. He grabbed the handle, pulled it and jumped inside the bar. The loud music, the sudden warmth and the smell of sweat hit him as a wall.
And that was all, that was all he remembered.
And so, lost in his thoughts, he never noticed the other man that was with him on the beach, lying in a hammock of ruffled cords that was attached to two palm trees. Not until the man himself decided to give away his presence by a hoarse chuckle.
Karol jumped on his legs, scared of the sudden laughter that came seemingly out of nowhere. He looked around twice and finally noticed a darkskinned Jamaican with long dreadlocks and milky-white teeth that shined in a smile. The man wasn’t looking at him. His warm eyes were fixed on the view, on the sun and the ocean.
“I’m sorry,” stuttered Karol. “You scared me to death.”
“Nah, ya seem quite alive to meh,” replied the man and turned his head. “But ya kinda lucky in that aspect, ya know, Mr…?”
“Brzozowsky. Why am I lucky?”
“Dats a weird name. Whereya from?”
“From Poland. Why am I lucky?” Karol was impatient to know. He got a feeling that the man can give him answers he needed. But the Jamaican suddenly started speaking Russian.
“I said Poland, not Russia.”
“Ganz egal. Yo just ay white man from Europe fo me. For ya I’m just a n*gger, anyway.”
Karol wanted to object but after a while he just shrugged his arms. The truth has been spoken and he had no time for arguing.
“So, what about the lucky stuff.”
The Jamaican said nothing. He grabbed a rolled newspaper and threw it to Karol’s chest. The title on the front page said:
Plane Catastrophe on Atlantic Ocean. No Survivors Found.
Even though there was unbearable heat in the air, he felt as if his blood turned to ice. Shivers went down his spine as he learnt more details about the accident. An American company’s private plane back from a delegation in Porto. No survivors found. No survivors found.
“Me. I’m a survivor,” Karol said to himself in low voice then turned to the strange man. “It was you. You saved me.”
The Jamaican laughed even louder than before.
“Stupid white man,” he said slowly and carefully, serious as a hangman.“It ain’t me who saved ya. It was the ocean.” And again he set his eyes on the blue.
After a long period of silence and shock, suddenly Karol’s mouth opened and he started laughing uncontrollably. Now he was them all: a savage, a castaway, a madman and a drunkard. With tears in his eyes he started recalling his life, every woman he had hurt, his children he never cared about, his parents he hadn’t seen in years, all his clients he deceived, every stupid mistake he did after binge drinking for days. How stupid he was never to see it before! And now? Look at all the possibilities! He must have died on that plane and get resurrected as a new man.
And to the Jamaican’s amusement, Karol stood up, grinned triumphantly and cried out:
“Oh I never wanted to f*ck this much as now in my whole life! Show me the way to the nearest town, my friend. I could use a bottle of rum as well. A new life,” he laughed maniacally. “Oh yes, I can leave all of that behind. My stupid family, I’m sure they’re so happy right now that they’ll finally put their hands on my insurance. And that bloody job of mine, those fools will DIE without me, oh no, haha, they are already dead!”
And as he hobbled into the forest, his laughter got quieter and quieter until you couldn’t tell it apart from the tender swoosh of the waves, the calm rustle of the trees and the creaking of the hammock.
“Sum people don’t deserve ay second chance, ya know,” said the strange man.
The ocean responded by breathing out another warm tide, gently covering the shore.The planet turned slowly at its own cosmic pace. The darkness of the night was about to visit this part of the globe again.