Point of No Return: Part Four

Submitted by Christopher Wright on
Unknown, Tropical Climate

David Bernard struggles to open his eyes as he is suddenly inundated with the cold sting of ocean water rolling over his face.

He chokes, gagging as he tries to simultaneous expel the water he just inhaled and draw fresh air into his lungs. He panics for a moment as his body can’t seem to organize itself to do first one, then the other, but then he coughs, retches, and streams of ocean water come out of his mouth and nose. A moment later he breathes in—the air is sharp, and burns, but it’s a relief.

He looks down at his hands. They’re covered in white sand. He hears the roar of surf. He’s on a beach.

A wave of dizziness overtakes him, and he falls to one shoulder just as another wave breaks, covering his face. He just manages to avoid inhaling, and scrambles to his feet before the next wave rolls in.

He’s dressed in BDUs. He’s armed: an automatic pistol is locked in a shoulder holster, and a combat knife is sheathed on his left hip. He’s also wearing a life jacket and a parachute harness.

No parachute. Harness, but no parachute. The secondary chute is still packed.

Must have landed in water.

Another wave of dizziness overtakes him. He staggers, automatically bringing his hand up to his forehead, and draws it back when he feels something wet and sticky. There’s blood—he has a cut on his forehead.

He waits a minute, steadying himself, then looks up and down the beach. He’s not exactly dressed like he was in his military days, but it’s hard not to compare this to an airborne deployment. Since that’s the only thing that makes any sense right now, that’s what he goes with. If he parachuted in… did he do it alone? It seems unlikely. Who did he come in with?

He tries to remember. He panics as realizes he can’t remember much of anything at all. The last memory he has is in the Suit, responding to a call downtown. Something about a metahuman going crazy, tearing up real estate…

The bus smashes into him harder than anything he’s ever felt in his life, he barely notices when he goes through the cinderblock wall—

The dizziness returns, and he has to sink to his hands and knees to get it under control. He’s hurt, probably suffering from a concussion, though the thought that’s not possible, they fixed that before we left comes unbidden into his mind. There’s no context for it, but apparently he feels very indignant that it didn’t turn out to be true.

He gets back to his feet and tries to collect his thoughts. He’s on a beach. He stops for a moment and takes it in: it’s hot and humid, the water is a very distinctive shade of blue, the sand is very white—he’s somewhere in the tropics. He’ll have to find a map to learn more.

He frowns, and starts checking his pockets. Does he have a map?

He should have a map. If he were going to agree to parachute in to an unknown destination, for whatever reason, he would demand a map. And a lot of other things.


His pockets aren’t empty, but they aren’t exactly informative: he has a rolled up boonie hat, six extra magazines in his tactical vest, as well as a silencer of dubious quality and a small first aid kit. The right inside vest pocket holds a few food bars, a waterproof compass, and a small LED flashlight. A small metal canteen hangs off his belt. The left inside vest pocket is a Rite-in-the-Rain water resistant notepad and a Fisher Space Pen.

He travels further up the beach, putting himself out of the reach of the waves, as he glances at the notepad. His hands are shaking so badly it’s difficult to read—he doubts he’s going to want to use his gun any time soon—but he recognizes his own handwriting. It’s a fresh pad, and only the first page has anything written on it.

The date at the top makes him pause. Assuming the date is correct, he can’t remember the last two months.

The rest of what he wrote is suitably cryptic:

Pt Libertad

No avail map

Compass useless???

Not here (OMs fault?)

He frowns at the notepad. It looks like he was about to write something else, but it’s just an interrupted scrawl.

No avail map. That explains why he doesn’t have a map, but “Pt Libertad…” Libertad meant “liberty” in… Latin? Spanish? He couldn’t remember. Spanish would be likely if he were in the Bahamas, but without a map (no avail map) it’s impossible to tell. He takes out his compass. The needle wobbles for a moment, then slowly begins to rotate, first clockwise, then counter-clockwise, then clockwise again. It keeps switching direction after each rotation. He stares at it for a full minute, waiting for it to settle. It doesn’t.

“Compass useless,” indeed…

He puts the compass back in its pocket and stares at the last line of the notebook. He has no idea who or what OM is. He doesn’t know anyone with those initials. A country, maybe? A political party? A corporation?

He looks up and down the length of the beach. He doesn’t see anyone, but he suddenly feels exposed. He supposes if he actually parachuted in here on some sort of mission—which doesn’t really make any sense, but nothing else does, either—that it’s probably a good idea to stay out of sight. There’s a forest beyond the beach. He puts the notepad back in its pocket and heads in that direction, walking briskly, trying to remain level to avoid making himself dizzy again.

David brushes his hand across his forehead. He’s still bleeding—he needs to take care of that soon. That’s his plan so far: stop bleeding, stay out of sight.

It’s not a great plan, but it’s the only plan he has.

The mid-morning sun beats down on his neck as he trudges toward the forest, asking himself the same questions over and over again:

Where is he?

Why is he here?


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Fixed! Thanks Andy.

Fixed! Thanks Andy.

Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

I just screamed through the

I just screamed through the archives after having been brought here by the information from the Pen and Cape choice story. Man, what a ride - I am hooked... and now depressed (in the non-clinical sense) that there isn't any more here.

My only negative comment is that I was disappointed in the magic angle for two reasons. First, my preference is for one power source per universe. So, one reason for powers, whatever they are. I give tech a partial waiver on that, because any modern storyline could have at least some good tech in it, especially if the source of powers allows gadgeteers/thinkers/mad geniuses/etc. But my complaint about multiple power sources is actually secondary to my larger concern about the introduction of magic - it was introduced very late in the story. I usually expect something that looks like it will have a major affect on the storyline to be at least solidly hinted at early on. Later on, I will re-read the archives more thoroughly and see if there was introductory information about magic that I missed, but I can't think of anything like that at the moment.

Still, a very good story - the points about magic are a minor issue when compared to the overall writing quality.

Hi, Unmaker! Thanks for

Hi, Unmaker! Thanks for reading, and thanks for your comments. The good news is Issue 17 should up pretty soon, hopefully within the week, next week at the latest.

I can understand your preferences (though obviously I land on that point a little differently, since my world actually has SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT four different sources of power, if you include high tech gadgetry, although high tech gadgetry takes a kind of weird place in my mythos because it's actual position is a bit recursive). I purposely held back any mention of magic until Issue 12, which was supposed to be the end-of-the-year, huge double issue because I thought it would be a great reveal, but I can see the other side of that argument.

In the rough draft that I created before I even decided to serialize Curveball there wasn't any magic in it at all, but when I decided to serialize it and go the "prose comic route" I started working through all the plot break points I wanted and by then I'd mostly settled on what magic was and how it worked, and by Issue 4 or 5 I'd figured out that Issue 12 was when I wanted it to show its face, so that was all planned, but there were a lot of unseen consequences that I didn't expect until after Issue 13, when suddenly it occurred to me "oh... right... and this means that" which is one of the more exciting parts (for me) of Me Writing Things.

All that said, yeah, I can see how it's not everyone's cup of tea. Hopefully there's enough good tea in the mix to make it drinkable. :-)

Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.