By Christopher M. Drew

This boy, he stands on the cliff edge looking out to sea. In the distance the water is calm and still. Eighty feet below, the tide comes in fiercely and smashes against the scree.

‘Come on,’ says another boy behind him. ‘You gonna jump or what?’

The wind picks up and a flock of seagulls takes off from the cliff face.

This boy, he pitches forward as the gulls lift off and scatter. His arms pinwheel through the air and he staggers back and falls on his butt. The other boys laugh and the gulls circle down to the water and skim over the rolling whitecaps.

‘Pu-ssy, pu-ssy,’ chant the gang of boys. They all wear board shorts and have bare, muscled torsos that shine in the sunlight.

This boy, he gets to his feet and takes a couple of steps back. The gang moves closer to lob Skittles and soda cans at him. An open can of soda hits him in the crotch and stains his white trunks. He doubles over and Skittles bounce off his head and his arms and his pale narrow chest. The other boys laugh and take videos on their cell phones.

‘Fag-got, fag-got,’ they chant.

That’s when he changes, this boy. Something inside him cracks. It’s subtle, like the gentle pop of ice on a frozen lake, but it’s there. You can see it in the way he moves, in his blank eyes. There’s a clarity there. An absence.

This boy, he shifts his weight onto his back foot and his muscles tense and in one fluid movement he powers toward the cliff edge and leaps out and for an instant his body is framed by the sun, knees tucked into his chest, arms spread wide.

This beautiful boy, he curls into a ball and drops out of sight and when he is gone the gulls rise from the water and the waves surge in and crash against the rocks and shatter.

The gang of boys hurdle the railing and howl over the cliff edge and the tide hits the scree and pulls back.

There is a moment of silence with the gulls wheeling overhead and this boy, he bursts from the water and draws a deep breath and the gang jeers and empties the rest of their Skittles down after him.

When they are gone the sun is low in the sky and cuts a bright golden path through the water.

This boy, he climbs the last few steps up from the shingle beach. He’s limping awkwardly and has a large bruise on one leg and a shallow graze across his chest that is red but not bleeding. He carefully towels his body and pulls on a clean t-shirt and a fresh pair of shorts. After packing his bag, he makes to leave.

‘Hey,’ I say. ‘Why the hell would you do something like that?’

The seagulls land in a torrent of wings between us, squabbling violently over remnants of take-out spilling from open Styrofoam trays.

This boy, he says something but I can’t make it out and the low sun glances off the water and illuminates his face and he smiles and the gulls take off and soar above us in a loud chorus and this boy, this beloved boy, his hand opens and I can’t tell if he’s reaching out or pushing me away but he doesn’t move so I stand close beside him and we look out at the water until

the sun vanishes

and, for the briefest moment,

lights up the whole world.

Christopher M Drew is a writer from Sheffield, UK. He has published over 50 flash fiction stories in both national and international journals and anthologies, a selection of which is available on his website. Most recently, his work was selected for Best Microfiction 2021, and he was Guest Editor for the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2022. He has a novella-in-flash, Essence, forthcoming from Ad Hoc Fiction in 2023. You can connect with Chris on social media via Twitter (@cmdrew81) and Instagram (cmdrew81).

Artwork by Lesley C. Weston (Pen, ink, watercolor, with digital finish.)

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