The sea, which had been glassy only an hour before, now raged with an unholy vengeance, threatening to overturn the world. Ed’s hands gripped the arms of the chair, his eyes pressed closed, as he struggled to breath. The violence of the storm was overwhelming, a raging inferno that threatened to obliterate everything.
Sweat bonding his shirt to his back Ed struggled to keep the nausea from rising. Yet he knew he couldn’t prolong this any longer, taking a breath Ed reopened his eyes.
The job centre assessment office was still staring at him, her face seemingly unmoved by Ed’s panic attack. Dabbing a handkerchief at the corners of his mouth, Ed raised his other hand in apology. She barely acknowledged it, shuffling pieces of paper impatiently, Ed’s life apparently, before returning her attention back to him. He now understood how a butterfly on a pin must feel.
‘Once again Mr Clarke, it is not my intention to ‘flummox you intentionally’ as you put it, my role is to get you working, to help you contribute to society.’
Ed nodded tentatively, the taste of brine in his mouth making him wince.
‘So to repeat the point I have already made, your benefits are to be put on hold due to the fact that we have deemed you capable of working. ‘
‘But my cancer … ’
‘Is not a factor in our assessment, Mr Clarke I’m sure you are more than aware that there are others out there right now working with far more debilitating conditions than your ailment. Now I have an interview opportunity here, zero-contract, in a supermarket, stacking shelves etc.’
She pushed across a piece of paper, Ed squinted, his eyes refusing to co-operate.
‘Uh, I don’t think I can, my treatment … the weakness …’
Her displeasure was evident in the way she snatched the paper back, returning it to the drawer under her desk. She clapped her hands together, brushing them against each other as if she had caught something from him.
‘Then I’m sorry to say it Mr Clarke, I have to deem that you are refusing our assistance, therefore you’ve left me no option but to sanction your remaining benefits. I hereby officially advise you that you will receive no payments for the next six weeks. You of course have the right to appeal.’
She was already turning, the red number above her desk turning to green. Ed was dismissed. The storm was roaring back into life, waves crashing backwards and forwards within his skull. How was he to live? He had no money. No food.
The storm raged now, yet Ed had to focus. His fingers flexed around the old service revolver in his coat pocket. Lifting it out it surprised Ed how alien it felt, disconnected.
Her eyes opposite him shone with panic as he pressed the gun to his temple. Yet Ed was lost within the storm, barely able to discern the screaming over the waves.
Then the thunder roared.