The Judgement of Samuel Ashon
As I walked on a mostly enclosed section of the docks while exploring on my own, I’d heard a loud cracking sound coming from one of the cabin doors on my left. My heart began pounding in my ribs, and I could feel the perspiration beginning to build on my palms. I consoled myself, thinking it was just an auditory hallucination from the cannabis I smoked earlier. Another crack whipped through the air much louder with an undeniable presence. I jumped back, nearly toppling right off the edge of the dock. Luckily, my balance was regained with an unsteady gyration of the arms.
“Whew, not this time, Satan,” I whispered to myself jokingly, then chuckled.
Once I felt entirely at ease with my body being as still and vertical as humanly possible in conjunction with the very uneven planks, I began my slow, hunched gait towards where I heard the noise. My heart continued pumping harder and harder, pounding vigorously behind my forehead. My blood pressure must’ve been through the roof, as it beat through my toes along with every other appendage, as well. The portion I was presently placing my footfalls lightly over creaked every step or so.
I peered ahead to see three cabin doors towards the end of the dock, laid out in a semicircular pattern. I acknowledged that there was no way I could know, unequivocally, which door the explosively loud noise could be behind without checking behind all of them.
Around halfway to the doors lined up at the end of the dock, I whispered to myself, “Caribbean Getaway, huh? I’m about to get away from this fucking situation. They can keep their ‘vacation’ and give it to the next sorry twat.” Performing air quotes with both my hands for an invisible audience.
The second I turned my anxious body a smooth 180 degrees, another even louder crack broke through the dead air, followed by a slight ripple in the surrounding water. This time, instead of coming from behind a door, it originated from beneath my feet. I could feel the Earth shifting around me as I tilted off the adjoined planks sideways and found myself treading in ice cold water. While moving my eyes to identify what had just occurred, I spotted a large section of dock bobbing loosely just a few short feet away. My limbs stiffened up at the exact moment that I felt the body of water rush over and encompass me entirely.
I struggled to obtain a grasp on a less rotted section of wood still attached to the broken dock I knew to be directly in front of me. It was difficult to form a coherent thought while my face got saltwater splashed into it by my flailing limbs, not to mention the stress of a steadily emerging full-blown panic attack.
Suddenly I felt the presence of what I could only describe as a branch-like vice grip around my right ankle. It pulled me under the surface ceaselessly, totally submerging my head and stretched out, whirling hands. As I gasped for a breath, I began to taste the cool, salty water filling up my lungs. This is it: the last thought I’ll ever have. I suppose my death is long overdue by now, I thought; I’ve been nothing but a freeloading hippy for most of my pathetic life with nothing notable to show for it. An overwhelming sense of calm washed over me in addition to the literal liquid. With the now slowed, ineffective flailing of my arms and legs, I must’ve managed to kick whatever clamped onto me with my opposite foot. The rigid grasp upon my ankle released, and I floated back to the surface after what felt like a lifetime of struggling.
Upon approaching the surface once more, I gasped for air. I reached out a shaky hand out to grab the dock, utilizing the other to eradicate the saltwater from my eyes, kicking sporadically to remain afloat. I coughed and gasped concurrently, then finally got a decent grip of the shredded timber with my right palm. I eventually gained an unsteady grasp with both hands and pulled myself upward with all my strength, but around the halfway mark, when I started to put more weight on it, a sharp pain shot through my index finger. I released a waterlogged shriek with what little oxygen I had left in my reserve—goddamned splinters. The excruciating pain, coupled with my already fatigued state, sent me plummeting, and I plunged back into the icy depths. Here we go again.
This time it’s really over, I mused. The paralysis set in while the unknown death grip was most likely coming back for me. And it wasn’t going to let me off with a warning this time. I continued to kick my legs just in case. Maybe I could land a lucky strike on it again. I approached the edge of the jagged wood and felt the tight grip, but this time it was clenched around both petrified ankles. This fucking thing had me, and down we went. It was a ride I didn’t want to go on twice, or once for that matter, but me escaping the first time was just a fluke, anyhow. Fate always came back to collect its debt.
The only thing I had to look forward to was a wonderful and natural death trip. I was hoping it was as good as some of my buddies who tried DMT made it out to be. Maybe it’s even better when you’re actually dying. Or it could just be a significant ripoff, and I’d spend my last thought missing the sweet, sweet breath I’d always taken for granted. Time was commencing at around ten percent of its natural speed. All I could think about was that subtle, involuntary function; there were billions of people out there this very moment, just taking air for granted. An unbearably tight pressure was introduced around my chest and continued to tighten in a suffocating hold. In an idiotic attempt to expedite the drowning process, I gulped down some extra water deliberately. I sensed my heartbeat slowing down, which was a relief compared to the speeding pulse I had just experienced, which I believed may be akin to a heart attack.
Judging by the amount of time I’d been submerged in my frozen state, I must’ve descended a mile down at that point. A slimy hand grabbed an outreached wrist and pulled from directly above. Great, I thought, now I can have the pleasure of being dismembered in a medieval fashion: limb from limb. What more could a guy ask for?
I could feel myself slowly drifting into the afterlife—accompanied by a beautiful array of geometric hallucinations under my closed eyelids. Another hand was placed further down the same arm and pulled me up higher yet; their fingernails sliced clean into my wet flesh. The southern grip ceased, and my ankles were freed. I was hefted up above the body of water with the glorious tug from above and free to use my opposite arm to assist in yanking the rest of my limp body up with the fleeting strength I still possessed.
Finally, I cracked open my burning eyelids and made out a slim figure. After most of my torso was lifted onto the frayed edge, avoiding another splinter at any cost, I summoned every last bit of energy left within my sopping legs to gain additional support from the lower 2x4s that were still intact.
Back on a relatively solid surface, I flipped into a supine position like a fish making its last desperate attempt to survive after its capture and excised any water I could from my lungs with the aid of a violent coughing fit.
“Dude, what the hell were you doing down there? Searching for the Loch Ness monster?” Kate inquired playfully.
“I thought you we—” I lapsed back into more excruciating hacking. “I thought—” Another wave hit me like a chain-smoking emphysemic. “Never mind.”
“Save your breath, Scuba Steve, I’m only messing with you,” she spoke solemnly. “Seriously though, what the hell were you doing down there? I heard a loud crash over here, and all I could see was water splashing. You really shouldn’t scare me like that.”
“I think I got caught on some seriously coarse seaweed or something because I got stuck in it good, and it felt like it was pulling me under.”
“The only weeds you were caught in weren’t of the sea variety, man.” Kate said. “The guy who brought me out here told me that this water is like 7,000 feet deep or something. I’m no sea expert, but I’m pretty sure seaweed doesn’t grow that high.” Her condescending tone was getting under my skin.
— — —
We decided to light up before going back to the others. Kate suggested smoking, and I didn’t oppose after what I just went through. I peered back at the busted section of wood—a newly orphaned chunk of flotsam up on its side, mesmerizingly smacking against the faces of the cabins with each minute ripple of water. I shuddered at the thought of how close I came to becoming chum for whatever famished aquatic life may be dwelling in this area.
“Sammy, you gonna come hit this? Or do I have to smoke the whole by jay myself?” she asked while exhaling a mother of a smoke cloud.
I completely and wholeheartedly, with every single atom of my existence, despised my name. My dad must’ve thought it a fantastic idea at birth to name me after him. My guess is my mom was too out of it, even back then, to protest the decision. I was so young when he left that I didn’t really have any memories of the guy. I strolled up to Kate, getting close enough to pinch the joint out of her pallid, outstretched hand.
“You know I hate when you call me that. You also might wanna pull your feet off the edge of that dock, Kay,” I warned before taking a relatively small hit and reviving my hacking fit. I supposed there still must’ve been a little something left in there preventing me from a full toke.
“Fine, Ash. Don’t be a pussy,” she giggled, leaning back to snatch the damp joint out of my trembling fingers. “Hey, you ruined my jay, bro!” She put it to her lips and attempted to siphon whatever smoke she could through its wet end. “Fuck it.”
Kate then tossed the joint remnants into the sapphire sea before us with a smooth underhand throw. There was a brief sizzle as the lit end made contact with the water, and I watched it float on, sinuously away from us. I knew she was upset, but I also knew that she had the better part of two ounces of the shit back in her cabin. It was no actual loss for Kate in the grand scheme of things.
“Let’s get back to the others, Ash. I’m positive they’re wondering what we’re up to.” Her eyes locked onto mine with her familiar sideways glance.
“I couldn’t give a fuck less about what they’re wondering back there. If I had it my way, I would’ve just brought you on this trip, honestly,” I said.
I helped Kate regain her footing as she elevated herself and stood up. I was well aware that she didn’t need my help, but I wasn’t taking any chances.
“That would be a lot better for sure. They’re a bunch of assholes.”
“Tell me about it,” I agreed.
I stole a glimpse at her squinted eyes, leaving just the slightest view of her irides which perfectly complimented the picturesque seascape.
— — —
The walk back was lengthy and discombobulating, but I didn’t mind entirely. At least I wasn’t alone anymore. Many turns made up the walking path, and it seemed as though we were just going around in wide square-shaped circles. The only sound was the infinitesimal waves repeatedly crashing into the wooden supports below. I believed hollowed plastic barrels kept it afloat based on what I observed with the broken section. I only thought about this shit while I was high. I began to contemplate as to how this was structurally sound at all. I thought of mentioning my theories to Kate, but as soon as I opened my lips, I decided against it. There was no point in tripping us both out. Also, she was much better than me at keeping her shit together.
“Whoa, are we ever going to get to the end of this?” Kate asked, sounding a mite worried.
“Hmm, I’m not certain, but I think we could be stuck in this psychotic maze for—”
“Come check this out, Ash!” she blurted out ever so rudely.
I figured it wouldn’t hurt to humor her while we were out here on our own. I cautiously tip-toed to the edge, which she was currently perched off of. I glanced down to see an array of brightly lit jellyfish. It was the most glorious thing I’d ever seen. Their bodies weaved in and out of one another without missing a single beat. The surrounding light-bluish liquid coalesced to produce a visual symphony for my retinas to behold. My body whooshed toward the Jellies, and a tug around my neck pulled me back, causing me to crash down upon my bony ass.
“Saved your life!” quipped an obnoxious voice.
Fucking Tucker. I should have known that this douchebag was going to pull something like this, I thought. I didn’t even have to look up at his stupid face to know he was the assmonkey behind the unclever shenanigans.
“Come on, guys. Let’s head back to the rest of the party. It was gettin’ boring without y’all,” he announced.
I’m sure it seemed horrible talking about one of my oldest friends in this particular fashion, but this guy lived to see his friends burn. The worst part about all of it was that I was the only one that saw through any of it. Everyone I knew thought this dude was the fucking cat’s pajamas; meanwhile, I just sat back and watched the ashes fall from the burning rubble which he’d ignited. He always seemed to successfully pawn off his wrongdoings on something or someone else.
“All right then, Tucker. Lead the way,” I said with a hint of animosity.
“Yeah, lead the way, Smucker,” snarled Kate.
I lied before. Kate also saw behind his facade. We hadn’t known each other half as long as I knew Tucker, but we were much closer. She called him ‘Smucker’ because of his hideous red mustache, which looked like someone smeared strawberry Smucker’s jam above his lip.
“Do you even remember which way you took to get here?” I inquired.
“Don’t worry, Ash, I’ve got it covered.” He flashed a genuine smile at me and winked.
Tucker gestured towards the direction from which he came and said: “Come on, it’s this way.”
Kate and I walked side by side in tow of Tucker. He appeared perplexed, looking back and forth as if he were still debating where to turn. The layout seemed to be connected similarly to a labyrinth, with a cabin door at each respective dock end. As the three of us trudged on, our bodies slowly shifted upon the floating platform. We came to a fork in the path, and Tucker glanced back at us.
“I’m pretty sure I came from over that way.” He turned to face us now, pointing with his left hand down the right path.
Tucker sported a pale blue V-neck t-shirt and slim-straight blue jeans—Levi’s, I believed. I’d always thought he looked unfashionable with those shirts and the stray curl of blossoming chest hair right above the cut at the top, making him look all the creepier.
We continued following his lead, but just as we walked further, there was a tremendous: “KURSNAP!” followed by a splash of water as Tucker dropped down vertically three feet. Kate and I chortled so hard she fell into me with her shoulder, almost knocking me overboard. Tucker’s arms vibrated incessantly as he attempted to pull his left leg out of the crevice it was wedged in. His opposite leg contorted backward, performing some wild version of the splits.
“Guys, fucking help me up!” He squealed, “I think my fucking leg is broken!” His voice cracked, devolving into a whiny tone.
“Do you even lift, bro?” I blurted out, proceeding with gut-splitting laughter.
Kate laughed equally hard with bent knees and used a hand to steady herself on me, her other covering her mouth as the tears streamed down atop it. My aching lungs were depleted of all oxygen, and pressure inside my cranium was building up to an explosion.
“STOP LAUGHING AND FUCKING HELP ME!” he shouted at the top of his lungs, fists drumming onto the surface around him.
I rolled my eyes and pointed down to the temporary midget in front of us, then Kate’s laughter tapered off. I led the way as we dawdled up to him. I grabbed one of Tucker’s arms, and Kate went for the other, both lifting intensely. His leg began its gradual ascent from the narrow hole, and I realized he was wincing in pain. He’d been raised about four inches before a pop emanated from one of his shoulders. Kate’s side shifted back down.
“Be careful of my tendonitis.” He flashed her a look of disdain.
“What does ringing ears have anything to do with it, dude?” Kate feigned concern in her voice as she let go of his arm, then grinned at me.
“I believe the man said ‘Tuberculosis,’” I said, making my best impression of a British accent.
“Oh my God. Stop it, Ash,” chuckled Kate. “My ribs can’t take any more.”
Tucker threw both arms down in unison, huffing and muttering something under his breath. I could tell he’d given up, so I decided to be a good sport and put some effort into my assistance. I walked around the hole, securing both of my forearms under the front of his chest. His odor in that proximity was that of an Axe Body Spray-clad frat boy. I wasn’t sure if I was more off-put by the strong B.O. or the pungent fragrance poorly attempting to cover it. Breathing out of my mouth, I pulled up with as much strength as I could muster, lower back radiating pain up my spine. Once Tucker was up to the point where most of his body was above the hole, we fell forward with a crash. I rolled onto my back, and he mirrored me. My back and legs were in total agony as we lay there to collect ourselves.
“Thanks, Ash. Sorry for being a dick,” he let out apologetically, rubbing his thigh then recoiling in pain.
I leaned up slightly to get a better look at his wound and began to feel like a complete asshole. His pants were shredded open just south of his groin area where his gaping wound bled profusely—effectively ruining his jeans.
“I was under the impression those pants were indestructible,” I joked.
Tucker let out a low laugh. “Not when I wear them, evidently,” he added.
“Let’s hurry back to the bar. I think I saw a First Aid kit in there.”
“Good lookin’ out.” He gently punched my shoulder.
Kate and I cooperatively hefted him into an upright position. He slung his arms around us both, using only his good leg as we commenced our trek back to our party.