by Seven Ink
Liam's best friend invites him on an unexpected adventure
|"What r u doing after work?" the message pinged in Liam's visual heads-up display.
"Nothing, why? You have something in mind?" Liam's reply appeared as he thought the response.
"Yea. I'll meet u at ur place." Liam's best friend Brian responded.
"Cool. See you there." Liam sent back before dismissing the messages from his vision and turning his attention back to his work. He was both grateful it was a slow day, so he didn't have to leave Brian hanging waiting on a response, but he thought he might start chewing on the back of his chair out of boredom.
The rest of his shift passed without much activity save for one or two dispatch requests. He popped to his feet when the clock on his work panel turned over to 3 pm, signaling the end of his workday. He clocked out and left his cubicle, bidding the sleepy-looking receptionist a good day as he departed.
"Ugh hotter than balls," Liam groaned to himself as he squinted and raised a hand to shield his eyes from the glare of the sun. Reaching his car he unlocked it, hissing as he fumbled with the scorching buckle of the seatbelt. Once it clicked into place he pressed the button to fire the engine and selected the address for home, then sat back to leave the autonomous car to do the work.
"On my way home." he sent to Brian, who sent a thumbs-up emoji in return. Dismissing the text thread he leaned his head back, busying himself scrolling random videos until he felt the engine of the car turn off, signaling that he'd arrived at his destination. He nodded the video screen away to find Brian grinning in at him through his side window.
"Wassup man!" Brian clapped him on the shoulder excitedly, "I have the coolest thing to show you. You're not gonna believe it."
"Oh yeah? What is it?" Liam raised a brow, "Your surprises are always a gamble."
"It's not a surprise if I tell you, dude." Brian scolded playfully.
"Yeah, yeah." Liam rolled his eyes, "So, are we staying here or going somewhere else?"
"Somewhere else. Get your riding gear on and your bike out." Brian said, "If you hurry the ride will be super scenic."
"Ok, I'm going as fast as I can," Liam said, clearly not going as physically fast as he could. When he emerged from the house once more wheeling his motorcycle out of the garage he'd donned a leather jacket, boots, and chaps.
"Ayyy there we go, alright let's get moving. You're not gonna believe this." Brian grinned as he sat down astride his motorcycle.
"What's the address?" Liam asked as he pulled his helmet on and swung his leg up and over the seat.
"8612 Occam Road, New Madeira. The zip code should fill in from there, there's only one." Brian said as he typed the address into his vehicle.
"Got it. Alright, let's move." Liam nodded, firing up his motorcycle. Though the motorcycles were autonomous like a car, Liam always felt a bit freer when he could feel the wind whipping against his body.
"That's a hell of a drive. You're lucky tomorrow's my day off." Liam sent a message to Brian as they pulled out onto the road and began their adventure.
"I sure am." Brian sent back with a winking emote.
Liam rolled his eyes again before turning them to the road ahead. The visor of his helmet shielding his eyes from the sunlight that blazed between the oak trees, reflecting off his mirrors.
"Arjun, play 'road tunes' playlist on shuffle," Liam said aloud, and music kicked on in his helmet. He soon found himself bopping his head along to the beat of his tunes. Palm trees joined them on each side as they left the surface roads and joined the highway. Liam didn't particularly like palm trees, preferring the shade of oaks to the wispy fronds of the palms.
Whether he liked them or not, the palms were a popular staple of his home state and the snowbirds that came down every winter would be disappointed if everything wasn't plastered with palm trees. Liam liked their tourists even less than the palms, considering the palms didn't complain.
The sun dipped low as the drive wore on, casting the sky in shades worthy of Bob Ross's brushstrokes. The water of the gulf Liam caught glimpses of here and there reflecting the orange, pink, and violet hues. Liam let the sensations wash over him. The hum of the motorcycle engine, the drag as the wind curved around his vehicle and body, the distant high rises silhouetted against the sunset, and the glow of the sun that had gone from intense to something mystical in his mirrors. He took it all in.
As the sun dipped beneath the horizon and the sky began to turn shades of indigo Brian and Liam pulled off the interstate. Shops around the overpass were bustling but within a few miles, it was just them and a few other vehicles.
"We gotta be getting close right? I'm getting hungry." Liam sent a message to Brian.
"Trust me. This is way more interesting than food, and I'll buy dinner after. Fair?" Brian messaged back.
"Fair enough I suppose," Liam responded, then let the conversation trail off. The GPS led them to a narrow road with one lane going in each direction. Liam only saw one or two cars passing, and then none when they finally reached their destination.
"What the heck is this? It looks like some kinda hiking path or a dead end. I am NOT hiking through the swamp." Liam protested as he took his helmet off.
"It's not the swamp! Trust me, dude, c'mon!" Brian insisted as he hung his helmet from the handlebar of his bike and pocketed the keys.
"If I get eaten by some kind of saltwater crocodile on steroids or death spider I'm going to personally haunt you," Liam said, trying to sound begrudging but the laughter bled through.
"Well if I had to be haunted better you than some rando, right?" Brian chuckled. Liam followed as Brian led the way down the path between the trees. He could smell the gulf, and his olfactory sense was confirmed when Brian finally cleared the other side of the trees and led him out onto what looked like a natural beach.
"Huh, this place looks like it doesn't get much traffic," Liam said, looking along the shoreline.
"Yeah, it doesn't. That wasn't what I was gonna show you though. C'mere." Brian gestured to him to continue following.
"It better not be a dead body." Liam snorted, heading down the beach with him. For a moment he thought Brian might just be leading him on a wild goose chase for shits and giggles, but then what Brian had led him here to see came into view.
"Wh... What the heck is that?" Liam asked as they approached a glowing patch of sand.
"It's easier to show you. I don't really know how to explain it." Brian said, "Just watch."
Liam watched as Brian hastily began to peel off his clothes, then his friend touched the glowing sand and took off toward the water.
"Wha-?" Liam stammered as Brian's body was enveloped in a similar glow to that of the sand, and then he watched his best friend's body change, and in the next moment, Brian was a dolphin.
Liam stared, his mouth hanging agape as he watched Brian swim in the warm gulf waters. Brian paused in his aquatic frolicking to look back at Liam expectantly.
Setting his reservations aside, Liam stripped down to his bare skin and leaned down, placing his palm upon the sand as Brian had. Then he understood why Brian had run, his legs were moving before he fully registered that he was bolting for the water. The pull to the water was almost magnetic, and he dove in without hesitation. His skin tingled as his body changed shape, arms and feet becoming fins.
Then he was surging forward, his powerful muscles propelling him through the water. He heard and understood Brian, and swam toward him, joining him further out in the deep water.
Brian clicked something along the lines of, "I told you this was cool."
Liam agreed, certain this was the coolest thing that had ever happened to him. They swam fast, darting here and there. The pair dove low and then surged upward, leaping out of the water in graceful arcs. He wasn't sure how many hours passed as they swam and hunted fish, but finally, they returned to the shore. The light returned them to their human forms, and Liam took a minute to sit down on the edge of where the surf met sand, grounding himself in the fact this was real.
"What is that?" Liam finally broke the silence, noting that Brian, now dressed again, was watching him expectantly.
"I don't know what it is, but not everyone can see it. Some other people were at the beach when I first noticed that glowing spot but nobody I asked could see it." Brian explained.
"Huh... That's weird and mildly unsettling... what it did was really amazing though. Maybe we're meant to see it?" Liam suggested as he dressed.
"That's what I thought. That's why I wanted you to come out here with me." Brian nodded.
"Well then, it'll be our secret glowing transformation sand or whatever the heck it is." Liam laughed.
"A secret it is. Shake on it?" Brian extended a hand.
"You got a deal." Liam clasped his hand, hoping this was just a weird phenomenon and not the beginning of something big.
Word Count: 1,622 words