Zenith | Short Story

The app notification took the edge off the vista, but it was nothing really. Tim shifted the vibration in his pocket to the back of his mind. It was important to stay in the moment, and what a moment it had been.

Tim had felt the seawater slapping against the wooden pier underneath his feet. He had smelled drying seaweed and salt and gritty sunscreen. The low-throttled thrum of a water-ski in the distance had mingled with the babble of his children playing in the sand, arguing softly about who was in charge of building the sandcastle. A wisp of cloud trailed across the sky, its presence only serving to illustrate the expanse of blue above it.

The buzzing in Tim’s pocket had brought him out of his reverie. Dazzle from the dappled water forced him to shade his eyes as he looked at the screen of his mobile phone. It was a notification from an app called ‘Zenith’. One of those downloads that is installed and then instantly forgotten, Zenith claimed to be able to predict the highpoint of a person’s life. Tim had scrolled through the pseudoscience that claimed to cross-reference life expectancy, horoscope, heartrate, family medical history, economic forecasts, and frequency of ablution in order to predict when a person will be happiest in their life. Nonsense, of course, but a bit of fun. At least it had been fun until the little icon had popped up on his screen to inform Tim that that moment, the most blissful in his life, was right now at this pier on this beach on this day. If true, that would mean that life never got better than this; it was all downhill from here. And who knew how far downhill? Chronic pain? Drug addiction? Murder? Incarceration? What about the kids? Was it really such a thing to know your best moments? To have everything to scale?

Bickering proper had broken out amongst the children. A wind was picking up over the bay. Tim turned and looked at his kids, freshly quietened by their other and with downturned, studious faces fixed upon their granular ramparts and dirty-brown moats.

He deleted the notification. If this was the best it got, then it really wasn’t so bad.

*Thanks for reading, folks. Previous short stories of mine include ‘Besieged‘ and ‘A Storm-Topped Sky‘ and Image courtesy of Pickpic.*


Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flashback Fiction, Cafelit, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.

Not necessarily in that order.

23 thoughts on “Zenith | Short Story

  1. Oh, I love this. It combines a future reality so well–what could have easily been devastating to learn (the highpoint of your life is happening now and it won’t get better than that), you have made it soothing in what to learn from it. Almost a comfort, really. There’s also that ambiguity that I love in sci-fi such as anything that directly impacts the human mental state and a person’s individual outlook. There is a bittersweet ending in this, but at that, it seems to have taken the route of peace and acceptance. A brilliant story!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great uplifting twist to that dreaded mid-life crisis & the realisation whether life can ever get any better; love your positive take on it & how the character chooses to appreciate the small pleasures.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So many separate strands woven into this seaweed reverie. As I try to practice mindfulness meditation—emphasis on THIS moment—and have also been dabbling in research about the multiple impacts of all this technology on us, your brief story struck me powerfully. But then, in one way or another, your stories always do that.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve read this a second time, Matthew: the first for the plot, the second for the detail, the little observations that give the tale authenticity; a really good narrative which provokes thought, like that other question: do we really want to know when we’re going to die

    Liked by 1 person

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