Michael and his wife love their holidays. In particular, both Michael and his wife love cruise holidays. Michael, however, does not love his wife. He had often thought how much more enjoyable a holiday might be on his own or with another person that he really wanted to be with. In fact, Michael was sure that life would be much more fun if his wife were not around altogether. Michael had a plan.
Michael’s plan had come to him in his own ‘Eureka’ moment. He had almost congratulated himself that his discovery was nearly as significant as the Archimedes one. Michael had also been lying in the bath when the thought came to him. ‘Genius’, he wanted to proclaim. Archimedes discovery had involved his body and the displacement of water. Michael’s moment was just the same. His idea would also work. Yes, exactly as the old Philosopher had discovered over two thousand years ago. The principle was still the same. It would still involve a body and the displacement of water. The only difference being it would not be his body.
Like the Greek, Michael wanted to jump out of the bath and run around the streets naked. Even though he lived in the City of Brighton in southern England, which was probably more cosmopolitan and understanding than any other in the country, and he lived less than half a mile from a nudist beach, he realised his excitement had to be curtailed. Nevertheless, there was one person that he wanted to share it with. One person he hoped would be as enthusiastic as he was. He looked towards his mobile phone on the three tier glass upright storage unit, on which various colours of Egyptian towels sat immaculately folded. He wanted to call her and tell her how easy it would be. Did she realise just how many people a year fell off, died, or went missing, on cruise ships? He was astounded. No wonder the cruise companies did not publicise it. It was truly amazing, and it seemed almost too easy. He remembered the chart he had found earlier on the Internet that detailed exactly how many people from each cruise line had actually died or fallen off last year. He couldn’t remember the number exactly, but he recalled that over twenty passengers or crew had gone overboard, and that was only taking into account about sixteen of the cruise lines. Many of the incidents had probably been suspicious circumstances, but whatever the way, accident or suicide, medical or murder, all had ended up the same way. Dead.
It gave cruising a whole new dimension. No wonder it was the fastest growing holiday sector. It was a different world that was promised when you booked, but they didn’t tell you what the odds were of you ending up in a different world before your cruise was complete.
Michael continued to sit in the bath for a little while longer. The water had gone cold, but his body tingled with excitement. Michael was actually a shower man. Normally it was a quick in and out of the shower. A bath took too long. The bathroom was really his wife’s domain. Sharon loved to spend hours in there pampering herself and talking and laughing with her friends on the telephone. Well she would not be laughing much longer. She would laugh at him no more. Yes, it almost seemed a cliché, but he would have the last laugh.
Michael raised himself up from the bath and found himself looking at his reflection in the large mirror on the opposite side of the wall to the corner bath. Sometimes he recognised the man staring back at him. Other times he did not. In some respects the past fifty six years had not been that unkind. His weight and the trimness of his body had not changed much from his younger days. He liked to keep himself fit and running was his chosen method. It was a solitary pursuit and it also provided him with a challenge. Not a challenge against anyone else, but just against himself. It was him against the clock. Michael always liked to measure everything that he did, and for him a run was no different. Just him and his smart phone recording the time and distance with a constant feedback on how he was doing through his expensive sports earphones. How he loved the run along Brighton seafront, especially in the summer evenings. He would jog from the Marina along to the rusting and neglected West Pier and back again. Sometimes, he would pass runners considerably younger than he was, and he would allow himself a smile. Life was good. Life was great. However, life could get even better, and with running he had much time to think, and much time to plan.
Michael glanced down at his chest in the mirror. He was thankful that he did not have a very hairy chest, but he noticed that quite a number of the hairs that nestled there had turned grey. He then moved his hand to his head. That was the problem. Michael did not feel his age. He did not think he actually looked his age, but losing his hair was one of his biggest disappointments. Yes, he realised that lots of men lost their hair years before they reached his age, but that did not help. Perhaps he did not want to take the crowning glory of his new romantic youth through to middle age, but it would have been nice to have had some hair to style or even colour. Now he kept it cropped in a trendy, sort of modern stubbly way, but it was a tribute rather than a triumph. He also wore a small, fashionable and neatly trimmed beard. He knew that if he dressed well he didn’t look ancient, but nevertheless he would have still liked to have retained his hair. Of course, he knew his wife didn’t help. She had recently taken to nicknaming him, ‘Hedgehog,’ to some of her friends. She would laugh, and pat his stubbled head fondly in front of them as they stood at a bar. ‘Yes,’ she would say, ‘Michael’s my own little hedgehog.’ Her manicured hand would pat him twice on top of his head like some kind of ritual, and then she would announce to all that she had once studied French. ‘Yes, he is my own little Erinaceous. He is of the hedgehog family, and he can also be a bit of a prick sometimes.’
Everybody would laugh. Michael would pretend to laugh, but he could not wait for that day when she would laugh no more.
Michael walked across the bathroom floor picked up a luxurious towel and rubbed himself down. His heart was racing, but he knew he also had to dampen down his growing excitement. His hand reached for his mobile smart phone. Oh how he loved that phone. Oh how it could be so useful. He went to tap in the four digit code that protected any other person from picking it up and gathering any information from it. Then he thought better of it. From now on everything would have to be thought out carefully. They had been married for over thirty years. Thirty years. Like two life sentences running consecutively. He did not want to serve life. He wanted to live life. Another few months would not matter. Another few months and he would be free. He could not afford to slip up. He would not slip up. It would be her that would slip. Slip quietly and gently into the sea. Michael finished drying himself and stepped into his striped leisure suit trousers, and a plain white T shirt. It was time to think. It was time to plan.