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Bright As The Sun

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Zak Avalon is a pre-med student at the University of Miami. With his sun-bleached hair and piercing blue eyes, he’s looks like a typical ladies-man. But he doesn’t act like one. He barely speaks and his awkwardness is unparalleled. He doesn’t belong here, and he knows it. Intent upon flying under the radar, Zak is surprised when he meets and falls in love with a student named Heather Morgan. Zak and Heather possess a connection stronger than any explanation. The first time they look into one another’s eyes they have an instant sense of trust and familiarity, but neither know why. As their relationship progresses Zak falls more madly in love than he ever knew possible, as does Heather. And they begin to communicate in a new way, one that no one thought possible. Just as their relationship is becoming its strongest, people start to go missing. Zak, Heather and their two friends, Gina and Josh all begin to panic and try to figure out what is going on. Then the worst-case scenario happens, and the foursome is sure they will never be the same again.

Fantasy / Romance
Age Rating:

Chapter 1: Zak

The beach isn’t crowded on a day like this, one of the hottest days in years. It feels like there are three suns in the sky directing all of their rays straight onto this section of the beach. Most people come and go quickly, only lingering long enough to scorch their feet in the sand and get a bit sunburnt. To most it’s a grueling day, too hot to be outside. To Zak it’s the perfect day. He loves the heat, the water, and the emptiness.

He has been body surfing the waves for over an hour without noticing the passing of time. This is his routine, to come to the beach alone and spend part of his morning swimming. Zak has loved the ocean and the feeling of his body moving through the water ever since he was a child. Anyone who looks at him can see that he has a gift for this. The way he positions himself before every wave and springs into action at the exact perfect moment to propel his body forward and glide along the crest. His technique is perfect every time.

This type of exertion keeps him in prime physical shape. He stands tall at 6’3” with broad shoulders and a slim waist. His arms, chest and back are toned from the repetitive strokes of swimming. His legs are naturally muscular. As he emerges from the water, the heads around him turn to look. At first they stare at his perfectly sculpted body. But then they see his hair. It’s bleach blonde from the amount of time he spends in the sun. Onlookers marvel at the contrast of the brilliantly bright hair and the deeply tanned skin. Zak does not notice the glances.

Walking back to his towel in the sand he is not in any particular hurry. The sand is scorching hot on a day like this but Zak’s feet are conditioned not to burn. He mechanically picks up his belongings and strides toward the bus stop to make his way back to campus. Zak is a junior at the University of Miami. He transferred just this year and is still acclimating to University life. As he boards the bus he thinks about his home, and how he misses it dearly. But I am here now. This is what I have been working toward. I will do my duty and then return home. The self-pep talk offers only momentary comfort. So, he makes the daily trek to Key Biscayne Beach. The ocean is the one place that reminds him of home, of his family. It’s a solace. And a fringe bonus, it’s also a much-needed escape from his particularly loquacious roommate.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When Zak walks in the door Josh begins talking immediately, “Hey my man, been at the beach again? How were the babes today?” Zak says nothing as he stands in the living room looking at his roommate. Within the few hours Zak has been gone, Josh has implemented an elaborate set up of technological equipment in one corner of the living room. A three-foot-long desk is fully equipped with laptop docking station, wireless keyboard, a mouse resting on a University of Miami mousepad, and two giant screen monitors. Josh is a techy, and loves to call himself that.

Undeterred by his questions going unanswered, he keeps talking, “Zak, come look at this, man. Another major corporation’s infrastructure was just hacked.” Josh constantly jokes about the tech engineers in the workforce having no skills. According to him, every major corporation will be lining up to hire him as soon as he graduates. “Every day there’s another information security breach, like what are these guys doing out there? I can build a firewall so big that no one will be able to penetrate it. Seriously dawg, whatever hospital you end up working in as chief of staff, give me a call if you want your patients to sleep soundly at night, minus the ailments they have and all that. I’m just sayin’, it wouldn’t be a fear of someone stealing all their personal medical information keeping them awake.” Zak is fascinated by how much his roommate can talk and end up saying so little.

Josh asks, “Do you have a class this afternoon, man? Can’t believe it’s already the first week of classes this year. I’m addicted to Destiny 2 and now I’ll have to spend all my time studying.” Zak nods as he continues to stand in the living room. He can tell that Josh is waiting for him to say something. “Are you gonna tell me what class you have or do I have to guess?” He taps a pen to his temple. “You’re pre-med so I’m gonna take a shot in the dark here and say Biology.” Zak remains rigidly standing and gives a quick nod, wondering when this will end.

Josh seems to be pleased with himself and shouts, “Bingo! Damn, I’m good! Okay, listen. There is a major party at the Ratt tonight.” Zak raises an eyebrow. “You know the Rathskeller Grill across campus? We gotta go. It’s a chance to meet all the new babes on campus. Plus, there will be free beer until midnight.” Zak simply shrugs. He usually prefers to spend his time alone. But Josh is not deterred by his noncommittal attitude and says, “Great! At least you didn’t say no. And coming from you, I consider that almost a yes. I gotta get to class. I’ll meet you back here tonight. Later.”

As Josh leaves, Zak exhales deeply and releases the tension from his shoulders. He thinks Josh seems like a nice guy, but he is not used to such incessant talking. Thankfully the apartment has two bedrooms, so it’s not such close quarters. The living room is spacious and fits the couch, coffee table, and flat screen TV that Josh brought. Not to mention all his video game consoles and equipment that are just lying around the room. There are also 2 large windows that make the room feel open, almost...free.

Zak walks into his bedroom to shower. Each bedroom has its own bathroom. He is still sticky from the beach and needs to get ready for class. He opens his closet and takes out one of the five shirts that he has hanging there, and pulls out a pair of shorts from a half empty drawer. There’s not much else in Zak’s room, besides his backpack he uses for school.

He steps out of the shower and gets dressed, running his hand through his hair one time as it dries. He has some time before he has to leave for class so he turns the TV on and immediately mutes the volume. He flips to a news channel and reads the scrolling text on the bottom of the screen. Florida man drives speeding airboat down the I-75 in Ft. Pierce, FL. Highway Patrol in pursuit. / Gator in the Everglades invades golf course, frightening golfers. Zak turns the TV off and instead sits on the couch in silence before leaving for his class. This all seems like nonsense to him anyway.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When he returns from his classes, Josh and two of his friends are playing video games and passing around a two-foot-tall glass bottle shaped like a dragon with an irregularly long neck. Josh asks Zak if he wants to hit the bong. Zak is stunned, and opens his mouth to ask what that means, when Josh interrupts him. “Dudes, this is my roommate, Zak. He’s from Hawaii. I’ve been meaning to ask you, man, the surfing over there must be sick. And the hula girls must be hot in those coconut bras and grass skirts.” Zak says nothing, he wants to correct his roommate but decides against it. Josh and his two friends, Carlos and Derek, carry on the conversation without even noticing Zak’s lack of response. Derek says “Yeah, must be nice sittin’ on the beach drinking mai tais.” Carlos waves his hand in the air, “Sitting on the beach here drinking Bahama Mamas is just fine with me.” Josh is tapping the lighter to his temple when he holds out the bong to Zak again, “You sure you don’t wanna hit this, man? We’re pregaming.” Zak shakes his head no and looks quizzically at Josh who says “We’re getting ready for the party. Remember? At the Ratt?” Zak turns his attention to the window. Everything is shaded. It is dusk. It’s too late. Luckily he didn’t want to go to the party anyway so he says, “I am not going.” and walks into his room. As the others finish their game and get up to leave, Zak hears someone say, “Josh, man, your roommate is weird. What’s wrong with him?” Zak hears Josh say something in his defense as they walk out the door.

As soon as they leave Zak turns on the fan and opens the living room windows to air out the smoke. He pours himself some juice and turns the TV on to watch the news on mute. As the time passes he tries to ignore his internal thoughts, but something about what Josh’s friend said makes him uncomfortable. It’s probably a good idea to meet people, and be… social. He gets up and steps outside before he loses his nerve. It’s a warm evening and Zak looks up to find the crescent moon through the swaying palm fronds. He can hear music and voices coming from the student grill, The Rathskeller, across campus. He pauses for a moment and then steps back into his apartment and closes the door. He can’t go to the party tonight. Instead he goes into his room and opens his computer. There is a file open, and Zak begins to type the following:

Joshua Fuller

Age – 20

No disease present

Lungs slightly compromised

Physical Activity – minimal

Drug use – yes

Alcohol use - yes

Overall health **

He then leans into the computer and adds a photo of his roommate.

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