The Far Shore

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: TreeMan

A young man vacationing at a remote lake sees a man waving desperately to him from the other side. He feels that he has to go and investigate.

Submitted: November 07, 2017

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Submitted: November 07, 2017



The Far Shore


“What’s that?” exclaimed Brian, “over there across the water.”

James removed the book resting on his face and groaned as he stood up. His swimming trunks had ridden up his bottom and he wrenched them from the crack between the buttocks. Ambling to the pebbled shore of the lake he shielded his eyes from the early afternoon sun.

Across the lake, about two kilometres away to his eye, a tiny figure was waving its arms, dwarfed by cliffs and forested hills. 

“Some drunken fart doing exercises,” grunted James, “leave him in peace.”

He strolled back to the grass above the beach, the sun’s rays imparting pleasant warmth to his bare torso as he inhaled the sun cream on his muscular shoulders. The crazy tourist irritated him. He needed a peaceful summer’s break at the remote lake after starting work as an accountant.

He remembered the poem “Not Waving but Drowning” from stultifying high school English classes and the muscles in his bare shoulders tensed. The aftertaste of the lager the brothers had downed at lunch was bitter in his mouth. But what if the man was really in trouble he thought. As the eldest brother he had to act responsibly.

“He’s still going,” said Brian, “waving at us like an idiot.”

James groaned again and tossed his book onto the grass. It wasn’t very interesting in the final analysis and smelled of mothballs. He knew he had no choice. They had no boat. There was no one around for miles. He would have to swim over to the far shore to see if something was wrong.


“I’ll go see what he wants.”

James stood up and cleared his throat.

“You’ve never swum that far before,” murmured Brian glancing quizzically at youngest brother Ben as he punted the scuffed football at him.

“I’ve got no choice, say there’s something wrong? All the times we’ve come here I haven’t seen arsing around like that.”

Brian shrugged his shoulders and hoofed the football back at Ben.

James waded out into the water. It was arse-cold. His feet scratched against the stones on the bottom. A school of tiny, silvery fish nibbled at the white flesh of his feet.

He had the impression he was doing something foolhardy. He waded out further against the water’s cold resistance and holding his breath he dived into the water immersing his body fully beneath the surface. The blood beat like a waterfall in his ears.

He swam out vigorously beyond the yellow buoys at the furthest extent of their normal swimming area. Then he slowed and adopting a slow breaststroke looked up towards the far shore.

It seemed further than anticipated. Some water and a piece of green plant entered his mouth and he spluttered. He flipped over onto his back and gazed up into the distant, cloudless blue sky. He could feel his body arching in the water, his descending head and legs pushing up the middle of his torso towards the sun. Briefly he wondered what it would feel like to be adrift like that on a limitless ocean.

He blew the water out of his lungs high into the blue sky. He could hear the wheeze of his breathing, as though it was very distant, deep inside his head, removed from their surroundings.

He drifted a little further then turned over again onto his stomach and swam breaststroke, gliding with the gentle current across the slight swells moving over the surface of the lake. He was extremely tired and much wearier than he thought he would be. His shoulders ached. It occurred to him that he was not strong enough to reach the far shore. He felt a nameless dread of the water that he had not known in the shallower reaches. He imagined a dark, prehistoric monster drifting in the murky, invisible water of the depths.

He slowly tread water. A sharp pain afflicted his legs. He could not move them normally and continued to drift. He regained a sense of calm, but knew that he could not drift indefinitely.



After a while he noticed something afloat in the water. His initial reaction was fear as he imagined that the object was somehow related to the monster he had imagined within the lake. He allowed himself to float towards it. After some time he smiled. He realised that it was a log. He reached out gratefully and rested a while. The sun began to warm his naked torso once again.

Another object was also clearly floating nearby. Still clinging to the log which was depressed within the water beneath his weight, he watched the object drift towards him. His lower body was frozen in the water, he could barely feel his legs.

“Oh, my God,” he breathed in sharply. He could not believe his eyes. His teeth chattered.

The new object was the body of a man. As it drifted closer he realised it was a corpse floating on its back. The whites of the eyes stared up towards the sky and a green section of weed hung from a long grey moustache. The forehead bore a huge red gash, as though it had been struck by a blunt object. The man must have died very recently. He looked up in consternation towards the shore, where the object of his good intentions was still standing on the beach, looking at him.

In his terror, James released the log and struck out for the shore. He was aware that he may have been mistaken in considering the waving man as a victim requiring assistance. In reality, he himself was probably in greater difficulties faced with the prospect of encountering a killer. He tried to put as much distance as possible between himself and the corpse man. His arms felt like leather and his head ached. Water entered his nostrils and choked him. Terror rather than physical strength was inching him towards the far shore.

At a distance of some twenty metres from the shore, beneath the sheer cliff-face, he looked again at the man on the beach. To his horror he realised that the figure was picking up a long rifle from the sand at his feet.


James in his terror knew that he would be unable to remain in the water much longer. He could not swim back to his brothers. His arms were aching and his legs seemed non-existent. The idea of the monster in the depths resurfaced.

He knew that he would have to take his chances with the man holding the rifle. As he swum the last few tortuous, agonising strokes towards the shore, he thought to himself that he was in the right. He had made the crossing in good faith and whatever happened on the far shore his conscience was clear.

He tried to formulate a plan for confronting the man when he emerged from the water. But he was in too much physical discomfort to think clearly. He wondered what his two younger brothers would have done. He had shown them an example. Would they have been more effective, less governed by useless moral imperatives?

He felt the ground beneath his feet, filled with stones like the more familiar side. His bare feet cut against the sharp edges. He anticipated the tiny mouths of fish gnawing at his flesh.

He emerged from the water breathing deeply. He held up his hands. His tongue moved but he was panting too much to produce any sound. He tried to regain composure. The man approached across the beach towards the water’s edge, holding the weapon like a guerrilla. James stood stock still.

The man raised the rifle to his eye socket, looked down the sights and took aim. James waited for him to pull the trigger.

“I… I …,” stuttered James, “I wanted to make sure that everything was alright. My brother saw you waving from the other shore. There are no boats, no people, we thought…”

The man lowered the rifle slowly.

“Thank you my friend,” he grunted, “I didn’t think they made them like you anymore.”

James stood on the pebbled beach. Above him the cliffs rose into the blue sky and a slight breeze blew down soothing his aching muscles.

“He nearly had me, the bastard. Just don’t follow me, I’m warning you.”

The man slung the rifle over his shoulder and walked slowly away into the wooded slope beneath the cliffs.

James stood for a long while resting his limbs on the empty beach in the bright sunshine, looking back towards the shoreline from which he had swum. He could make out the tiny figures of his brothers punting the football. He did not dare to look round and seek out the man with the gun.

Then, very slowly, he lifted his arms and began to wave at his brothers on the far shore. He felt like he had come full circle. He was not waving but drowning.

© Copyright 2018 percival vladislav smith. All rights reserved.

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