By Hu and Emil
He stretched out on the bench, his face turned to the sun, hands tucked behind his head. Eyes closed, he was the perfect picture of weekend indolence. He craned his neck, filtering out the sound of distant passing traffic, tuning his ears to the laughter and the merry tinkling of the ice cream van that the wind carried to him. It was, in his honest opinion, a good day to be alive.
Miles away, the city, he imagined, was still drowsing from the holiday season, yet to wake up. The beach was only beginning to fill up with people, the shops and businesses that lined the harbor sporting only a handful of customers. Children sat on the sidewalk, eating ice cream cones, while couples walked hand-in-hand along the beach, enjoying the sun. If he turned to the left he could see an almost uninterrupted stretch of blue sea. The little blue waves were rolling over the rocks, crashing merrily on the shore, sending up fine mists of water. If he was up to it, he'd go for a swim. But not now.
He felt his eyelids growing heavy with sleep. Yawning, he stretched again and looked at the time. It was only half past ten. He had plenty of time to kill.
He cast a desultory glance at the shops, half of which were yet to open. He could waste an hour or two browsing racks of ridiculously expensive souvenirs then stroll over to the nearest café for lunch. Or he could stay right here, and enjoy the sun.
Yeah, he decided. That was exactly was he was going to do.
So he wiggled into a more comfortable position. Vendors streamed past, flashing their wares at him, mistaking him for a tourist. He flashed them his most winning smile, turned out the insides of his pockets, and shrugged. 'No money,' he mouthed, hoping that they would get the hint. They did.
Grumbling, they carried on, but not before one of them managed to sell the morning newspaper to him. Well, at least he could do something productive while killing his time.
He glanced at the headlinesinflation, political unrest, a forest fire that had nearly been the cause of national worry. It was nothing that interested him, so he merely skimmed through the news. He saw which movies were playing at the theatre. He thought about buying a ticket for a play that seemed interesting.
A particularly flashy red car roared by. He looked up and saw one of those customized affairs. A young woman, dressed casually, hair whipping around her face, was driving. The music blared. She had a cell phone to her ear, and when the car coasted to a stop at the signal she looked. Half her face was covered with a pair of large 60's-style sunglasses, but her prettily-outlined mouth cracked into a smile when she caught him staring at her. He smiled back, and waved. She waved back with her free hand, the lights turned from red to green, and she was off. The music melted away in the traffic.
He was still smiling when he folded up his newspaper and uncrossed his legs. What now? He wondered.
It was a short-lived wondering. Far in the eastern sky, a tiny pinprick appeared, and steadily grew into a large black dot. A roar gradually became audible, which pretty soon was like a continuous streak of deafening thunders. His heart was racing in panic and he thought to hold onto his bench as the object came nearer and nearer. The sun was blotted out. A moment ago, he was a very successful businessman come out to the beach for a vacation. And now, he was just another face in the crowd, forced to accept an imminent fact. Nobody said anything out aloud… It was like the movies, but it wasn't the movies. This was real life. Everybody knew what was going on.
The thundering never stopped, nor did the trembling of the earth. That somehow made it slightly better, and a whole lot pretentious. The deadly shell appeared to gain speed as it sped through the crisp summer air. The shell was filled with 300 kilograms of High Explosives. The sea was the last thing he saw, and the last thing he heard was strangely the crashing of a car. And then there was nothingness.