The Last Resort would seem a rather morbid name for a beautiful beachfront retreat, to the casual observer at least, but there was a very particular reason behind its unusual handle and it had everything to do with marketing. Most of the little tourist towns on the island, and across the rest of the world for that matter, either kept their local names for that authentically quaint, traditional 'feel', or chose to forge new futures with insipidly saccharine slogans that looked good in holiday brochures. The Last Resort was one of the latter; its local name meant nothing special and the place had been nothing unduly remarkable in bygone years; it had always been just another little fishing village on the most western point of a small island in a vast ocean. However, the modern age had thrust this little speck of land into the limelight; just off the west coast a great, invisible line had been drawn in the submerged sands by some distant academic. It was scrawled boldly on every world map. It was the International Date Line.
In classrooms across the globe there were rectangular maps decorated with stretched and distorted continents, all carved up with political boundaries into falsely colour-coded ownership. On their far left edge, clinging like a near-forgotten afterthought to the margin of existence, was a remote little island. Technically, in the flat world of cartography that had nothing to do with the continuous sphere of reality, The Last Resort saw the last sunset of every day. It was billed in the booklets as the edge of the world, an idyllic, tropical retreat as far from the hustle and bustle of busy city lives as it was possible to get. It was the land of the setting sun, the laid-back place that was the last to go to bed and the last to get up in the morning. The Last Resort was, well, literally the last resort.
The peak of the summer vacation season was long over now. Those sun-drenched months where thronging masses of big-spending tourists descended on the isle in a bid to escape from their crowded homelands had passed, leaving the resort peacefully quiet at last. Now the bar staff and waiters, chauffeurs and masseuses became gardeners, plumbers, electricians and builders to fix and then prepare the town for next time.
Sebastian was no different. His lean and brightly-coloured, lemon-yellow body was an exotic one, whilst being a seahorse fitted with the beach bar's themed decor. During the summer he joined the ranks of the slim and pretty waitstaff bedecked in impractical grass skirts and garish fake-flower garlands. His task was to ferry neon cocktails in ungainly tall glasses or round and roll-prone coconut shells to customers. His shifts included cutting pointless wedges of perfectly good fruit to decorate drinks with and retrieve thoughtlessly discarded glassware from the sand. Even weeks later he was still finding sharp little paper umbrellas everywhere but still, it was a living that paid well while the season lasted, even if the tourists became a little over-friendly at times. Now that it was over, Seb swapped his lei for overalls and became part of the maintenance crew.
It was whilst Seb was fighting to fold parasols away in anticipation of the coming rough weather that he saw a small band of foreigners venture out from beneath the swaying palms, joining him on the beach. There were three of them; all of them male, muscular, dressed in uniformly dark wetsuits and each carrying a board.
These were storm surfers. Touring adrenaline junkies that were a breed apart from the sun-seeking beach-bums. These surfers didn't pose on the sand in loud, hibiscus-print swim-shorts or sunglasses. They wore wetsuits to stave off hypothermia in cold storm-surge swells as they hunted for the next giant wave. It just so happened that the Last Resort was on the frontline when the storms rode in from the west, and the frothing monsters tearing at the coast attracted their own kind of tourist.
Seb watched them march onto the beach, their grave attention fixed on the roaring sea with deadly focus. The sky was the overcast grey of a gull's back, the sand a dull, damp drown and their black suits gave the scene an air of funerary seriousness. Even the splashes of colour on their boards failed to cheer the scene, as impotent as bunches of flowers on a tombstone. They were an otter, an orca and an axolotl, and they all stopped in the swirling tide line that pulsed between bare sand and ankle-deep foam, discussing deeply. There were hand gestures, fingers were pointed toward the wind direction and the angle of wave attack. Then they turned, possibly indicating towards the high tide mark, but it was hard to read rhyme or reason into these suicidal surfers.
Whatever the purpose, they noticed Seb watching them. The redheaded axolotl gave an awkward, almost guilty looking, pale-palmed wave and Seb returned it out of politeness before the black-clad trio ventured out into the dark, heaving sea. Within mere seconds he lost sight of them between the crashing breakers, shook his head and continued wrapping parasols for storage. He knew he wouldn't be caught dead out there in such rough seas.