The Ship

Reads: 352  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
When Karl and Melissa set sail on the cruise of a lifetime things take an disturbing twist.

Submitted: February 10, 2014

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 10, 2014

A A A

A A A


Welcome on board, Mr and Mrs Connolly. We hope you will enjoy your trip on the Summertime.’

Karl thanked the guy in his dapper white ships uniform. As Connolly and his wife Melissa made their way down the corridor he gripped her around the waist.

‘Can you believe this?’ he beamed.

‘I know and to think I was just looking forward to two weeks off work.’

‘Here we are, this is our cabin.’

Karl pushed the key card into the slot on the door, pushed the handle down and went in. As his wife flopped on the bed with a sigh, Karl checked out the mini bar. Happy holidays.

They had had the time booked off work for ages. Unsure of where they wanted to spend the fortnight they had not booked anything, deciding on getting a last minute deal. They had planned to walk into a Trafford Centre travel agent and tell the girl behind the desk to ‘send us somewhere nice’. Their plans had changed when Melissa spotted a small advert in the free local newspaper. She had plonked the paper in Karl’s lap asking if he fancied going on a cruise.

The price was a bargain. Karl had jerked a thumb, telling her to get it booked up.

And now they were about to set sail.

 

That night, with the other passengers, they sipped complimentary champagne on the top deck. This was what the cruise director announced was the Sail Away Party. The breeze tugged at their clothing and their hair as the ship headed off into the ocean. Karl and Melissa clinked glasses. They stared into the night as the lights of Palma Mallorca slid away from them. The sound of the waves as the ship made its way was so calming. Karl breathed in. Took a lungful of air. This was what he needed. Be nice to literally leave everything, all his normal life, behind. No worries or stress. Him and his wife sailing around the Med on this fabulous ship. And it was an impressive vessel. From what he read in the newsletter in their cabin the ship had it all. It had sun decks and swimming pools, shops, bars, restaurants, there was even a casino and a spa. He had heard that some people went on cruises and never left the ship. Before coming on board he had thought that to be an awful waste. Why come to these places if you weren’t going to get off and see them? But now he was on the Summertime he could really see the attraction of spending your entire holiday on board.

He was looking forward to the ports of call. He wanted to try pizza and coffee in Florence and Rome, wanted to see the football ground in Barcelona. He couldn't’it remember the rest of the stops but it was a long list. And from what he could recall the first stop was the day after tomorrow. Somewhere in Italy if he recalled the itinerary correctly.

After a couple too many glasses of fizzy champagne it was time for bed. As he lay in bed he felt the gentle sway of the ship. He smiled to himself in the dark cabin. His wife slept soundly beside him. Still smiling he let the lull of the waves send him off to sleep.

 

The following morning Karl woke. Stretched. Flicked on his bedside light. Checked the time on his watch. Nine thirty. Nice to wake up without the horrid buzzing of the alarm clock. He gave Melissa a nudge with his elbow. She opened one eye, grinned. She mumbled morning into her pillow.

After showering and slapping on layers of sun cream they left their cabin. They trudged up the stairs to the restaurant. There was the clutter of cutlery and crockery, the sizzle of breakfast being fried, the hushed morning chatter of diners. They grabbed plastic trays, cutlery, and plates, and joined the snaking queue as it filed slowly along the breakfast buffet. Karl’s mouth watered as he piled his plate high. There was everything you could possibly wish for, from cooked items to fruit, cereals, yoghurt and croissants. He gave Melissa a wink. Told her to fill her boots because nothing has any calories on your holidays. I wish, she replied.

After breakfast they walked along the decks. They leaned on the high wooden railings and stared out to sea. Nothing but miles of rolling ocean as far as the eye could see. Deep blue sea swept past under cloudless skies.

They spent the day flaked out under the baking sun on loungers by the pool. Summertime by Louis Armstrong played over the speakers. Other crooners followed. Even a bit of Dean Martin, Karl’s favourite. During the afternoon they munched beef burgers and drank lager shandy. And they could eat and drink as much as they wanted. Karl said his two favourite words in the English language were All Inclusive. He gave his wife a grin, finished his pint and ordered two more. The smiling waitress brought the drinks on a large tray. Karl signed the receipt and thanked her. Still smiling the waitress nodded and left to serve other guests.

As they basked in the sunshine people across the deck did the same. They drank cold drinks, all inclusive of course, rubbing varying factors of sun cream into burning flesh, some even rotated their sun loungers to allow for the arc of the sun.

 

Later that afternoon a voice came over the tannoy. The chirpy voice introduced himself as the Cruise Director. He hoped that everyone was enjoying their time on board. He advised the passengers to be sure to take advantage of the all inclusive package. Let your hair down, folks, you’re on your holidays after all. He announced that in the lounge bar that evening the resident pianist would be playing some smooth classics, while in the showcase theatre the ship band would be laying down some Easy Listening tracks. He gave a purring ciao for now before going off the speakers. Karl nodded to his wife. Sounds good. She gave a thumbs up then continued to work on her tan. That was the evening sorted. Live music, a few relaxed drinks and a meal in one of the many restaurants. It really was bliss. You really couldn’t want for anything more. He was certain that even the most nit-picking amongst his friends and family would struggle to find fault.

The evening’s show lived up to expectations. Having showered and changed they joined the other passengers in the theatre. The four singers in dinner jackets belted out Rat Pack classics. The audience clapped, cheered and sang along. And sipped their all inclusive drinks.

That night as Karl went to sleep the cabin rocked, partly from the sway of the ship and partly because of the beer he’d consumed.

 

The next few days went by with the same routine. They would breakfast, then dollop on thick sun cream, look out at the vast expanse of ocean, no sign of land, then they would hit the sun loungers to bake in the heat. During the afternoons they would eat fast food and sip cold drinks. The evenings would be spent watching the entertainment.

 

One evening as they staggered and swayed down the long deck corridor back to their cabin Karl turned to his wife.

‘Are we due at port tomorrow?’

‘Must be, mustn’t we? Been sailing for long enough. About time we got to our first stop.’

‘Should be good. I think it’s Italy somewhere. Have to have a slice of pizza.’

‘And a drop of vino!’

 

After breakfast the next morning they went out on deck. The bright sun stunned their eyes. They both put their sunglasses on. With their eyes shaded they took in the horizon before them. Nothing but ocean. Blue horizon stretched all around them. Karl scratched his head. Looked out at the vast ocean. Now this was puzzling. Surely they should be in port by now. But there wasn’t even a glimpse of land on the horizon.

‘Can you remember the itinerary?’ he asked.

Melissa shook her head.

‘Have we got anything back in the cabin?’

‘We’ll have a look later.’

They soaked up the sun for a couple of hours, downed a few drinks.

Back in their cabin Melissa went through what she could find. They had very little documentation and nothing about where they were going and when they would get there.

‘That’s weird, isn’t it? You’d think they’d have something telling us where we’re going and the days we get there.’ Karl said.

‘They must know what they’re doing, love.’

‘Aye, but still, I mean, we’ve been on this ship now for-for.. actually how many days has it been?’

‘Well, it’s been-erm. We sailed out on a Saturday. It’s now- what is it? Could be Tuesday. Possibly Wednesday or Thursday.’

Their words were drowned out by the tannoy system. The Cruise Director announced that he was delighted to reveal that customers could enjoy the mammoth sale in the ship’s store. He went on to reel off a list of watches, aftershaves, perfumes, and luxury items, whatever they were.

 

That night as they ate French cuisine and drank wine in one of the many restaurants, neither of them mentioned the niggling concern that each of them had about when they would arrive at port. Karl hoped that when they stepped out on deck the next morning instead of the ocean they would be looking out upon a picturesque European port. Nevermind picturesque. Any port would do. He would even welcome Salford Quays, just wanted to get somewhere. He sighed. Anyway. That was tomorrow. For now they just had to enjoy their evening. Besides, he thought, there were worse things to be worried about, there was worse positions to be in. Oh, the hardship, they were on a luxury ship enjoying the finest food, drink and entertainment, and all under the baking sun. They should be soaking it all up, not mothering about the details. He reached for a chunk of garlic bread and took a large bite.

 

After dining they went through to one of the bars. They stretched out on comfortable sofas, drank exotic cocktails with names like Electric Lemonade and Mai Tai, which always came out as My Tie when Karl ordered.

The band on stage performed what Karl could have sworn was an early Beatles track. Karl and Melissa cuddled together, sung along, even screeching ooooh. He was sure it was a Lennon and McCartney track but couldn’t put his finger on it. Not like him to be vague on music knowledge. He shrugged. Must be the cocktails.

The next morning they went out on deck. Again the view was simply the ocean. Karl pulled his sunglasses down. Craned his neck left and right. No land, nothing. He scratched his head. Melissa had her hands on her hips and a puzzled look on her fave.

‘Maybe tomorrow?’ she said.

Karl shrugged. A man with sunburn and a Manchester United shirt walked past.

‘Hey mate.’ Karl said. ‘D’you know when we’re due to stop somewhere?’

The guy stopped. He placed a hand on his chin as he thought for a moment. Stared out to sea. Then sighed.

‘Dunno, pal. Can’t think.’

‘No probs. Bit worrying though, isn’t it?’

‘Not really thought about it. It’ll be reet. Don’t worry. Do not think too much. Get a full English breakfast down you and cheer up. Have you tried the hash browns? They’re well nice.’

Karl laughed. ‘Maybe you’re right.’

 

They took the guy’s advice and opted for the full English breakfast from the buffet bar. They sat out on deck in the morning sun, drinking tea and coffee, munching eggs, bacon, sausage, hash brown, toast and baked beans. The guy was right. The breakfast was lovely, and as the man had said, they did feel better about things.

They joined the other passengers on the decks, flaked out in the hot sun on white plastic loungers. Karl lay back, felt the warm rays, closed his eyes. The glow of the sun made orange swirls on the inside of his eyelids. There couldn’t be anything wrong with all this, could there? Nobody else seemed concerned. The other passengers seemed to be enjoying the holiday. Maybe the guy in the football shirt had been right. Maybe they were thinking too much. He stretched in the sun. He opened one eye. Beside him Melissa shifted, made herself comfortable. He said the word chill slowly to himself. Nobody else was worrying about the ship’s apparent lack of direction. They were stretched out enjoying the glorious sunshine.

 

They spent the afternoon working on their suntan. Beats the nine to five in the rainy North West, Karl thought. A waitress in a smart burgundy uniform asked if they would like a drink. Karl sat up.

‘Nothing to drink, but can you tell me when we are due to arrive somewhere?’

Karl thought he saw the waitress’s gleaming smile slip for a second.

‘You’ll have to ask at reception, sir.’

She clutched her tray tightly as she scuttled away to take more drinks orders.

‘I’m gonna ask at reception. We don’t even know what day it is now. We cannot get a signal on our mobile phones, the display is just blank. It’s as though we’ve dropped off the edge of the world or something.’

‘Come on, I’ll come with you.’

 

They plodded down the staircases to the reception desk on deck eight. The desk was littered with leaflets promoting the forthcoming entertainment, the new menus that would be coming soon to the restaurants. The woman behind the counter wore the white ship’s uniform. She smiled as they approached.

‘Good afternoon.’

‘Afternoon. We were just wondering when we would get somewhere. Have you got a list of the ports we will be visiting?’

‘I see. And what is your cabin number?’

Karl told her as the woman tapped the computer keys.

‘And is your cabin to your satisfaction?’

‘Yes, it’s lovely, but-’

‘And the food?’

‘Well, it’s delicious. But we were-’

‘How about the entertainment?’

‘First rate. Look, everything is wonderful. But this ship doesn’t actually seem to be getting anywhere. When will we arrive somewhere?’

‘If you have any questions other than the on board ship services then you will have to fill in a form.’

She slid a thick blue form across the counter.

‘But we just want to know when well be able to get off the ship. Surely that isn’t-’

‘The form.’

‘What date is it today?’

‘The form!’

Karl shook his head. Snatched the form. Back at the cabin, pen in hand, he attempted to complete the boxes on the form. He filled in their cabin number, their name, but after that he found he struggled. He couldn’t think straight. He really had trouble concentrating. He handed the form to Melissa. He always said that she was the brains of the outfit. Her forehead was a creased frown as she tried to complete the form. She clearly also had difficulty focusing. Karl swore. He took the form, tore it into quarters and tossed the pieces towards the ceiling.

‘What do we do now?’ she asked.

‘Back to the sun loungers?’

‘But-’

‘What else can we do?’

As they trudged back to the sun deck Karl heard a song he recognised playing across the tannoy. Summertime. He hummed along with the tune. He could not explain it but the music seemed calming, almost hypnotic.

By the time the reached the top deck they both felt strangely calm and relaxed. Karl felt better about everything. He shrugged to Melissa. It looked like they had no option but to lie back and enjoy the cruise. He ordered sweet bright cocktails from the waitress. They raised a toast.

 

As they showered off the sun cream and sweat and got themselves ready for their evening there came a bing bong from the tannoy. The Cruise Director ran through the evening’s entertainment. The resident swing band would be playing in the lounge bar. Karl slouched on the end of the bed. Rubbed his neck with both hands. Melissa flopped down beside him. As the voice chimed off with a syrupy ciao for now she smiled.

‘That band sounds good, doesn’t it?’

‘It does but I’m still bothered by this ship.’

‘But look, Karl, look around. It’s perfect. What could possibly be wrong?’

Karl sighed.

 

The next morning as they stood out on deck looking out at the ocean Karl felt sick. This was getting disturbing. He felt like screaming. He chewed on his thumbnail. Melissa rubbed his back.

‘Come on, love. Cheer up.’

‘Cheer up? Don’t you find it weird?’

‘Let’s go get some breakfast. It looks like it’s going to be a lovely day.’

He still had the sick feeling knotting his stomach as they headed for breakfast.

 

Later that day Karl headed back to the cabin to get his MP3 player. He hoped that some music would help clear his head. He went down six flights of stairs to deck five. Turned into the corridor. Then stopped. His heart pounded in his chest. Staring halfway down the corridor was a little girl. She had pigtails in her hair and must have been no more than seven years old. She looked upset. There was concern on her pale face. He walked towards her, the uneasy feeling growing all the time. He was about to ask her if she was lost when she pointed a finger at him.

‘What is it?’ he whispered.

The girl turned away from him. Her tiny shoulders heaved up and down as sobs shook her thin frame. Karl told her everything was going to be okay. He reached out a hand to pat her on the shoulder.

But before he touched her she vanished. Just disappeared. One second she was there, upset, sobbing, the next she was gone. He gasped. His hand passed through the space where she had just been standing. He looked up and down the narrow corridor. He was alone. He leaned a hand on the wall. Took deep breaths in and out. The unsettling feeling that had been niggling and nagging at him was now sweeping over him in waves.

On trembling legs and with a knot in his stomach he managed to climb the stairs back to where Melissa basked in the sun.

He dropped down on the sun lounger next to his wife. He was shaking. Melissa sat up, concern on her face.

‘What is it, love?’

He told her about the girl in the corridor, how she had been upset, pointed a finger, then vanished.

Melissa patted his leg.

‘I think you’re tired, hon. You’re not sleeping right. Maybe it’s the movement of the ship or something.’

‘I know what I saw.’

‘Karl, just relax and enjoy the cruise. Enjoy the ship.’

He felt himself panic. He struggled to catch his breath. The ship was the problem, not the solution.

‘I have to get off.’

‘What?’

‘This ship. I’ve got to get off.’

He got to his feet. Rushed to the railing. Stared out at the expanse of ocean. Looked down at the drop to the surface. Melissa raced to him. Put a hand on his arm.

A man appeared on his other side. He wore a sharp suit and had slicked back dark hair. Gold jewellery dripped from his wrists and fingers.

‘Hi Karl. I’m the Cruise Director.’

Karl recognised the smarmy voice from the speaker announcements. Karl was in no mood for the schmooze.

‘When are we getting off?’

‘How are you guys finding the cruise?’

‘Don’t cruise ships normally go somewhere?’

‘Wonderful ship, isn’t it? Have you tried the afternoon tea? It’s out of this world.’

‘What day is it? When will we get somewhere? Nevermind that, just tell me how long we’ve been on this ship.’

The Cruise Director’s white grin didn’t falter.

‘Doesn’t it feel like you’ve always been here? Relax and enjoy the cruise. Don’t worry about leaving. Enjoy yourselves. Holiday like you’ll be here forever.’

He gave Karl a wink, then purred ciao for now. Summertime played over the speakers. Karl felt sick. They returned to the sunloungers. Karl could not let this go. It felt as though his sanity, his very soul, was hanging by a thread.

‘Okay, forget what I saw or didn’t see. What about the other things?’

‘Like what?’

‘Like what? If we are on this ship for too long then I will be in trouble with work.. My boss will be livid.’

He tried to picture his manager in his head. He couldn’t even think of the guy’s name. He rubbed his forehead. C’mon. He worked there for over ten years. What was his boss’s name? No idea. He closed his eyes. Tried to focus but the harder he thought the further the name slipped from his mind.

He lay back on the plastic lounger, hands over his face. His wife rubbed another layer of suncream into her arms.

The Cruise Director’s voice came over the tannoy. He said that it gave him great pleasure to announce that in the show lounge that night the entertainment team would be performing tunes from the 1940s and 1950s. Karl heard a couple to his left say that the show sounded wonderful. All a bit old hat if you asked him though. What about something more recent? After all it was- it was… what year was it? Two thousand and something wasn’t it? It felt like his head was full of cotton wool.

He turned to his wife, leaned over.

‘What year is it?’ he whispered.

‘What?’

‘Come on. What year?’

‘It’s, well, it’s- Karl, what’s with all the questions?’

He sat up. Clutched his stomach. Managed to mumble that he was going to be sick. He dashed across the deck, hand over his mouth. He made it to the toilet. He spilled his guts in the cubicle.

As he washed his face he took deep breaths. He glanced in the mirror. It was not his own face that looked back. A figure in a green surgical mask stared at him. He gasped. Then in the next second he was looking at his own terrified features.

 

Sometime later he walked back on deck. He reached their sun loungers. Melissa was not in her usual position. Just as he was wondering where she had got to he saw her on the far side of the deck. He went over.

As he reached her he noticed that she was not wearing the swimsuit she used for sunbathing. It looked like she was wearing a waitress uniform. Yes, she was. She was dressed like the bar staff. She carried a tray of brightly coloured drinks.

‘Why are you dressed like that? You don’t work on this ship.’

‘I’m not sure I understand. We are both waiters on the ship.’

She pointed at his chest. He looked down. He was dressed in a crisp white shirt and burgundy waistcoat. His bowtie pinched the skin in his neck. He was dressed like every waiter on the ship. He looked at Melissa.

‘What’s happening?’ he whispered.

‘You’ve always been the waiter here.’

‘No. No. This is wrong.’

He ran to the rail. He looked out at the ocean. Melissa appeared at his side, still wearing her uniform. He peered down.

‘I have to get off this ship.’

‘No. Don’t.’ Melissa said.

‘I’m going to jump. Come on. Let’s do this together. Come with me.’

She shook her head, tears in her eyes.

‘I’m sorry. I have to go.’ he said.

He climbed the rail. The sea breeze tugged at his hair. He jumped.

He was falling, falling. He dropped through the air. Down and down. Nearer and nearer the perfect blue ocean.

 

He sat up with a start. Gasping for air, he looked around. He was in bed in a white room surrounded by medical equipment. Hospital? A nurse approached him. Karl pulled the oxygen mask from his face.

‘Where am I? What happened?’

‘There was an accident.’

What? No. I was on a cruise ship.’

‘You never reached the ship. You were in an accident on the way to the airport.’

‘And Melissa?’

‘She hasn’t woken up yet.’


© Copyright 2019 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

More Horror Short Stories