By Neil Lade
Adam was lying on some smooth, flat rocks on the “wrong” side of the river – well away from the safe, sandy, family side and the squabbles of people and parents shouting at their children.
He loved this spot where few people came. Dangerous currents, wooden snags and sharp rocks made it hard to access. But Adam loved the challenge – and the feeling of triumph when he dragged himself on to the rocks, his lungs heaving and shoulders and muscles aching. And the eerie solitude soothed.
But, today, a small dog had spoiled this peace. Its sharp yapping had snapped him out of his snoozing. He looked up and saw this little dark animal being swept down the white water towards an outcrop of rocks. So Adam dived in to rescue it.
The dog was slippery and squirmy with sharp claws scratching. But he managed to grab the dog and swim to shore – to the safe side. And then suddenly people were all about him. Adam was surrounded and felt like some sort of sideshow freak. They were telling him he was a hero and slapping him on the back. He was stuck in the middle of their adulation. Distorted, blurring faces burrowed into his vision.
He couldn’t escape, but didn’t really want to. Which was strange because he’d always been a loner. Now he was being taken over. They were closing in, smirking and victorious. He was in their power, loved, gazed on in awe.
He was dazzled and dazed – all over a drowning little thing that had clawed at his skin, scratched him, drawn blood, and which was now the prize in his arms.
And then Diana appeared. The girl of his dreams, of lust and desire. She was pushing through the crowds, smiling, looking slightly anxious. She wanted him, too. She almost launched herself at him, and when she was hugging him, she felt so soft and soothing. She kissed him on his lips and it was all hot softness. Her whispering words licked lightly in his ears.
He didn’t even mind when Diana wanted photos taken and beckoned a few of her friends to join them. All these girls in wet swimsuits were jostling to get close or take pictures. The flashlights were splitting his eyes like a thousand mirrors with bursting shafts of exploding white light.
Then something metallic flashed close to his face. One girl had a pair of scissors and was cutting off a long strand of his hair.
Adam screamed at her through the heat and glare. The girl recoiled, and then she was screaming, sobbing, and blood was dripping into her eye from a gash on her forehead. Adam hadn’t hit her – he’d just moved too quickly and the scissors had gone flying into her head.
Then someone crunched Adam with short, sharp punch. He fell down and he felt powerful kicks going into ribs. And someone spat at him and said, “Some fuckin’ hero you are, mate.”