The soft, sodium streetlights of Shoreshire twinkled, far across the lake, as the tired Sun fell from the powder blue sky and slid behind the mountains.
Dusk settled in the valley and, drifting in his kayak on the undulating, blackening expanse, Wally wept in frustration. He gazed at the horizon with tear-filled eyes, his heart heavy. It was such a long way to the warmth of home.
A panic gripped him.
“Lord!” he shouted, looking skyward. “Lord, help me!”
He waited, expectantly, scanning the darkening sky for signs of divine intervention, snot dribbling from his nose.
A minute passed, and still there was no sign of God.
“Lord? Why hath thou forsaken me? Why? If it’s because I haven’t been to church for the past thirty years, I think that’s very petty indeed, considering your position!”
“Jesus, then?” he asked, after a while. “Or are you all in it together?”
Wally sniffed and let out a whine, his face contorting, reflecting the desolation he felt in his heart.
“Allah?” he said, in a whisper, so not to alert his main brand of God to his two-timing.
Silence, except for the slapping and splashing of small waves against his kayak. The wind was picking up and the water becoming choppy.
His shoulders rocked as the sobbing became a convulsion. It was hopeless. He was going to die, he felt sure, and the pike would probably eat his remains. His wife (if he’d had one) would have probably stood on the shore each morning and night, singing laments to his loss, vowing never to marry again and forever wondering: "Where's Wally?"
A flash of inspiration struck him, and he let go of his paddle with one hand to reach into his jacket pocket, for his mobile phone. With a cold finger, he stabbed ‘999’ then swore loudly when he realised, in his haste while leaving the house earlier in the day, that he’d accidentally picked up his television remote, rather than the phone.
He flung it into the lake, with a closely-followed yell of “Bastard!”
Abandoned by two or possibly three gods, and without the ability to call for a helicopter rescue, he resigned himself to his inevitable, early death, hoping that the process of drowning wasn’t too distressing, and also that he drowned before the pike started to eat him.
Then, there was a shrill cry in the air. He looked up and saw a white figure hovering over him. He squinted.
Could it be?
In answer, a slithery turd slopped against his forehead, splashing over his face, with a bit of it going in his mouth. The rather large seagull – as it turned out – gave a mocking cackle as it beat its wings and, to add insult to injury, made its way straight towards Shoreshire.
But it gave him an idea, and he shouted out: “Archangel Michael? Please? I’m begging you – take me home on angel’s wings!”
Again, he waited, staring into the sky with hope and anticipation…
… again, nothing happened.
“Angel… ina Jolie? Will you adopt me?”
He realised that was a long-shot and was unsurprised when she failed to materialise. It was worth a try, though.
“Rrrraarrrr!” he roared, losing his temper. “What is the point of you all, anyway, if you won’t help people when they need it?”
He scanned the waters and looked about the kayak, hoping for, perhaps, a friendly dolphin or even a mermaid to tow him to shore, but it was becoming so dark that he couldn’t have seen them even if they were there.
Then he looked again to the lights of Shoreshire, a pang of sadness in his heart. Families would be sitting down to their evening meals, laughing and basking in the joy of not being out in the middle of a stupid lake, destined to die, like he was. He wasn’t even 40-years-old.
He lowered his head, tears welling again, and pondered the double-bladed paddle he held in his hands.
He looked up once more to the glow of his village.
Slowly, he lifted the paddle and sliced one of the blades into the water, pulling hard.
The kayak moved forward.
He repeated the effort with the opposite blade and his vessel lurched.
Pumping his arms, he kept going, heaving and panting, putting all the effort he could into reaching the shores of Shoreshire.
Within minutes, he could clearly see the village pub and the floodlit jetty. He was getting closer! His chest throbbed with breathlessness and exhilaration, and he began to feel like – barring a last minute pike attack – he was actually going to make it back to dry land.
He laughed, longer and louder than he’d ever laughed before, still pounding and pulling the water past him, and before long, the hull of the kayak scraped over gravel and he slid onto the shore.
Jumping out of the boat, he danced on the solid ground, punching the air and cheering himself.
“And THAT’S why I’m becoming an atheist, you wankers!” he declared to the sky, before tramping to his beachside house.
* * * * *
With the gas fire turned on full and a welcome heat beginning to fill the room and warm his bones, Wally collapsed into his armchair and breathed a loud sigh of satisfaction. He picked up his mobile phone from the coffee table and tried to turn on the television.
“Bollocks!” he said, his brow creasing.
After long minutes of staring blankly at the lifeless screen in the corner of the room, his lower lip trembled and a tear ran down his cheek. A terrifying thought struck him: would he ever see Downton Abbey again?
He looked up to the ceiling and pleaded, with a sob: “Buddha? Can you hear me?”
* * * * *
In the darkness, King Bitey – the largest and lord of all pike – watched the light of Wally’s window from the cold water and seethed bubbles through the too-many teeth in his oversized mouth.
“Next time, human… next time…” he vowed, before slinking back to the black depths of the lake.