Storm Warning

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Sea storms wash mysteries up from the unknown deep...…..

Submitted: September 30, 2018

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Submitted: September 30, 2018

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The titanic cruise ship rocked on the heaving storm swells.  There was a typhoon in the Pacific.  Even though the low-pressure center of the tropical cyclone was nearly two hundred miles distant, the immense storm was churning the ocean waves dangerously high.  The marine forecast didn’t look good, even for an ocean liner.  The seas were thirteen feet with another six feet on top of that.  They continued to rise higher.  After the latest warning issued by the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, the cabin crawl had been canceled.  The atmosphere onboard was eerily quiet.  The normally festive mood was subdued, somber, grave.  Worried expressions wrought deep lines into anxious faces.  

Seasickness induced by the pitching rolling ship spawned a rash of green complexions and projectile vomiting.  Passengers were drinking more heavily than usual.  Dramamine was at a premium, the few who had it were hording.  The dispensary was running low on sleeping pills.

Alone in his cabin, Tweed Becker, immune to the unsettling effects of the stormy ocean, was deep in thought arranging the notes of his visit to the Doldrums archipelago which he had recorded in his disheveled Moleskine; his silent laptop lay closed on the bed behind him.  The aviation magazine he wrote for had sent him on assignment to the South Seas.  They wanted an investigative report detailing his observations of the mysterious Muai-Muai.  Little was known about the enigmatic islanders.  Tweed’s editor demanded interviews with the obscure natives as part and parcel to a thoroughly researched four thousand word feature article that would shed light on how a small population of primitives could prevent the United States government from using the Muai-Muai home island as a test site for the increasingly powerful early generation nuclear weapons.  

The Doldrums archipelago, due to the extreme remoteness of its location in the middle of the vast southern Pacific, had been the testing ground of choice, yet after meeting with the chief elders of the Muai-Muai, during which a strange encounter is rumored to have occurred - the exact nature of which has not been disclosed to the public and remains a heavily guarded top secret to this very day - military commanders left the Doldrums never to return, opting instead for their second choice, the Bikini atoll in the Marshall Islands, ill-rumored site of the ominous Castle Bravo, the March 1, 1954 detonation of a 15 megaton hydrogen bomb, a high-yield thermonuclear device a thousand times more devastating than the apocalyptic explosion that leveled Hiroshima.

Tweed was having difficulty focusing on his organizational task.  He was an emotional wreck.  A tempest of tragedy raged uncontrollably deep in the hollows of his abandoned heart; a violent storm as deadly to the mental stability of a man as a typhoon was to a passenger-laden cruise ship.

It wasn’t the middle-aged divorcée in the Member’s Only concierge lounge on the Tropicana deck who had tried to coax Tweed into accompanying her to her cabin that shredded his harried spirit.  She wasn’t a bad looking woman and he could tell by her smoky voice and seductive attire that her promise of showing him paradise would in all probability have been erotically fulfilled, and then some.

The grievous ache that haunted Tweed Becker was from a much deeper, much older hurt.  So mindlessly lost in the gloom of his anguished thoughts was the lugubrious investigative journalist that he fairly jumped when a sudden loud knock assailed the door of his cabin.  He required a moment to recover his composure, then, “Who is it?”

Silence was the grim reply.  His spine tightened as a cold chill crawled up it.

Who could be hammering on his door aboard a cruise ship during a storm at this late hour?  Wariness battled weariness.  He quietly raised himself up from the miniature writing desk and stealthily made his way across the little room.  Cautiously, he unlocked the door and opened it just a crack.

A curious white-haired elderly gentleman, short and stout, clad in nondescript casual attire whispered urgently, “Mr. Becker, may I please come in?”

The old chap was obviously terribly disturbed about something, for he incessantly cast quick sidelong glances up and down the gangway.

With Tweed’s mind in complete disarray, he at first did not know who beseeched him so imploringly for aid, but after a second glance he recognized the Nobel Prize-winning scholar with whom he had dined the previous evening at the Captain’s Table.

“Of course, Professor Wimpeel,” Tweed’s voice was soft and supportive as he stood aside.  No sooner was the way clear than the professor rushed into the cabin and turned whispering hoarsely, “Close the door!”

Tweed’s attention was now fully alert.  Easy it was to perceive that the aging scholar’s cloak-and-dagger antics were forced upon him by the looming threat of some sinister hidden danger.  Professor Wimpeel was a badly frightened man.  A stalking malice was very close at hand.

“Mr. Becker, I desperately need your help.”

“Whatever I can do, Professor Wimpeel.”

“This is dangerous.”

Tweed hesitated.  He did not need danger in his life right now.  At a crestfallen forty years of age he was getting too old for danger.  He wanted a private bungalow on a lone stretch of beach somewhere remote so he could retire from the worries of the modern world to mend his broken heart.  The old gentleman’s pleading eyes begged a pity that was difficult to refuse.

“Come now, Professor, this is a big ship.  We’re only 24 hours from port.  We’re not going to be sent down to Davy Jones’ Locker by a typhoon.”

“It’s not the storm I’m afraid of, Mr. Becker.”

“Well, what seems to be the trouble?”

“They’re hunting me!”

Now this was really too much.  The old guy obviously had been to the concierge lounge and had one-too-many brandies.

“We’re on a cruise ship, Professor.  Who could possibly be hunting you?  Did you forget to tip the cabin boy, again?”

“This is no time for flippancy, Mr. Becker.  We must make this transaction quickly, before they have time to track me.  They think I’m in the men’s room on the Tropicana Deck.  I only have a few minutes.  Now, please, listen and do exactly as I say!”

From inside his bland turtleneck sweater, the trembling scholar removed a suspicious parcel.  Wrapped in plain brown paper, the puzzling bundle was neatly secured with a crisscrossing length hemp string.

“I went to the lounge for an aperitif, when I returned to my stateroom, it had been ransacked.  Mattress and sofa cushions sliced open, desk drawers yanked out onto the floor, my entire wardrobe thrown from the closet - it’s all the proof I need to realize they know I have it.  There was no safety for me alone, so I made my way back to the lounge.  Rounding a corner, I saw one of them.  I was careful not to make recognition of my pursuer’s lethal designs obvious.  I made it easy for him to follow me back to the lounge, then I ducked into the restroom.  I gave the towel boy a C-note to smuggle me out in a laundry cart, but those who hunt me aren’t fools.  They’ll soon detect that I’ve given them the slip, but all will be well as long as I’m out of here before they track me to your cabin.  So, please, Mr. Becker, follow my instructions precisely and when I leave, lock your door and under no circumstances whatsoever answer to anyone!  Remain here in your cabin until we reach port and dock, then request a security escort for protection as you disembark the ship!”

“Professor Wimpeel, I don’t know what the trouble is but, honestly, if we just--”

“Silence!” the old man shouted.  Tweed was utterly taken aback, yet he obeyed the unexpected injunction.  There was a purposeful force of command in the professor’s panic-stricken, emotionally-charged state.

Handing the mysterious parcel to Tweed, the professor spoke curtly in nearly breathless syllables, “It is of the utmost importance that you deliver this package to Estelle Gardner, professor of archeology at the San Diego Institute of Maritime Antiquities.  Repeat the name so I’ll know you have it.”

“Dr. Estelle Gardner in San Diego.”

“Right!  Good!  Now then, the contents of this package are old, Mr. Becker, very old.  You know what prophecy is?”

Tweed nodded.

“The arcane contents of this parcel are prophecy - powerful, ancient, prophecy.  This little brown bundle holds the future of humanity in its shrouded secrets!  Place it directly into Dr. Gardner’s hands only!  Under no circumstances whatsoever allow anyone else to come into possession!  Promise me, please, give me your word, your solemn oath!”

Tweed struggled hard to hide his growing skepticism under a thin veneer of humble supplication, “Yeah, sure, Professor, I understand the seriousness, the urgency.  I’ll be sure to give the parcel to Dr. Gardner.”

“Only Dr. Gardner!”

“Yes, only Dr. Estelle Gardner in San Diego.  What is it?”

“I’m afraid I can’t explain and I must insist that you not look inside.  Your very life may depend on your ignorance of this deadly thing’s lethal contents.”

The professor extended a corpulent right hand.  Tweed shook it, still not believing the reality of the ludicrous situation.

“I must bid you farewell, for now, Mr. Becker.  Best of luck to you and remember, that parcel holds the keys to life and death.”

After this final warning, the white-haired scholar moved to the door.  With the caution of a government spy, he peaked through the peephole.  Softly, he unlocked the door, cast furtive glances up and down the corridor, then quickly stepped out into the hallway pulling the door closed behind him.  That was the last time Tweed Becker would ever see archaeology professor and Nobel laureate, Dr. Mortimer Wimpeel.

For some reason he could not put his finger on, Tweed’s cabin now seemed eerily quiet.  There were thousands of people aboard the colossal vessel, yet he felt isolated - utterly cut off. Spurred by impish subliminal cognitive association, Tweed’s mind instantly bolted back to the concierge lounge.  What was it the seductive woman at the bar had said?  She was a psychic, Madame Luscious.  She said her clairvoyant sixth sense, her woman’s intuition, was telling her that the typhoon was no accident.  She said there was something on board that had invoked the storm and was leading it to the ship - something old, something dangerous.  There was a wicked unseen presence aboard the cruise liner, and Tweed Becker had the uncanny dread that he held in his hands its corporeal manifestation in the mysterious brown parcel.  In revulsion, he dropped the hideous thing onto the bed.  It could rest there until the ship docked at Mazatlan.  There would be no sleep for him tonight.  How did he get himself into these accursed situations?

Tweed’s anxious thoughts were disturbed by an eerie sound strangely incongruous with his surroundings.  A faint noise similar to metal cans clanking seemed to be echoing from the hallway.  The haunting commotion grew louder as it apparently moved closer to his cabin door.  It was as if someone had several empty aluminum cans tied to a string that was being dragged along the floor of the gangway.  Clankity-clank, clankity-clank; the vexing racket was sinister - threatening.  Louder it grew, closer and closer, until the torturous calamity was right outside the cabin.  Bracing himself against horror unknown, Tweed cautiously approached the door and with one eye leered pensively through the peep-hole.

An unidentified stalker whose face was covered with a sadistic threatening mask of the Muai-Muai Death Cult was poised for attack right outside Tweed’s door.


© Copyright 2018 Sean Terrence Best. All rights reserved.

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