A Few Days on the Sea

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man trapped on a boat with a growing madness.

Submitted: August 28, 2009

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Submitted: August 28, 2009

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A gentle music played across the deck to cover the slow, haunting sound of gray wave upon wave crashing upon port side. With every resinous hum of sickly sweet melody, the speakers creaked and groaned, adding a low crackling bass to the wordless songs.

Behind them, Boston had become little more than a ghost. With each passing minute, the city became more and more swallowed by the thick mist that beset the more exposed coastal cities. On the ship, mothers held their young children by one hand and encouraged the other to wave goodbye to the ghost, and they obliged with smiles across their faces.

They leaned across the rail, as if to better see the city, laughing and pointing towards the outlines of gray buildings wordlessly, their mothers squeezing their hands tighter and tighter with every inch they pressed their little bodies over the rail and over the sloshing watery abyss beneath them.

Noah Dresden hung over the rail a few dozen feet from the children, and their shrill laughter stung in his ears worse than the music or crashing of waves. He stood alone, a tall man with a light build and dark skin, dark hair curling from his head and down to his shoulders. A mustache across his upper lip, and thick eyebrows over each of his coal eyes, which were outset by dark bags resting beneath them. He held the stub of a cigarette in his mouth, which he often took drags from as he watched the city become swallowed in the same grayness which was beginning to stretch sea to horizon to sky, swallowing any color like a monster.

He flicked the butt of the cigarette off the edge and watched it fall. It left a trail of ash through the air for several seconds before it fell into the breaking surf slipping against the side of the boat. He reached a dark hand into the deep pocket of his brown, winter coat and drew another cigarette.

“I’ll trade you a light for a cigarette.” It was a woman speaking. She had appeared, cloaked in the sound of the waves and music and children. She was young, about Noah’s age of thirty, with dirty blonde hair, blue eyes, and light skin. Hey body was wrapped in a red shawl, and in an outstretched hand she held a black lighter, metal, with something resembling an iron cross decorating the side.

“That’s quite the lighter,” Noah said, and drew a second cigarette from his pocket. He passed it to the woman, who flicked open the lighter and lit her own before extending the light to Noah, whose cigarette dangled from his mouth.

“It was my grandfathers,” she said once both cigarettes were lit. They stood and smoked a while, watching the horizon and the infrequent, dim, pathetic swathes of light thrown by a lighthouse on the shore.

“I’m Noah,” he said after a minute.

“Emily,” she replied, and offered a gloved hand from beneath her shawl. Noah clutched it and shook, a weak smile across his face.

“I’m a writer,” he said, with nothing else to say.

“Charming,” was her only response.

“Are you married?” he asked her.

“Not anymore.”

“I won my ticket. In a mail contest.”

“Yes,” she said. “I think we all did.”

He took another drag on the cigarette, and exhaled the smoke over the rail, watching it disappear into the grayness of the sea and sky.

“Publicity stunt?” he asked. “You know, giving everybody tickets?”

“Might be.”

“Bit of a dump, isn’t it?”

“I’m sorry?”

“The ship, I mean. It’s a bit, you know, dumpy, don’t you think?” He cast a reproachful look at the deck. It was certainly not very well cared for and seldom washed. Between the thick gray steel of the siding and the endless feet of metal rails at the sides, it felt to Noah like a floating fortress, or perhaps a prison. Inside the ship, the twisting, narrow passages felt to him like catacombs, and he half expected to brush aside spider webs as he slipped through each and every steel door frame. His room had been only mildly better. Dark and poorly furnished and uncomfortable, it felt to him more of a crypt than anything.

“I don’t mind it,” Emily said. “It feels…rustic, don’t you think? I can’t wait to reach San Lorenzo, either. Plenty of time for luxury there, and on the way, a ship is a ship, don’t you think? One can’t rest in the lap of luxury eternally, can they?”

Noah only uttered a noncommittal grunt in response. Emily took another drag of her cigarette, and tossed the half that remained casually overboard.

“Well,” she said. “I really must be off. Pleasure meeting you.”

“Yeah,” Noah said. “You too.”

-------------------------------------

When night fell, the ship to Noah felt more like a fortress than anything, and the darkness was a besieging army. It began to circle the ship, to assault it from all directions and the deck lighting that flickered on at sunset barely kept it at bay. The sun, the last vestige of the bright day Noah had left behind disappeared in a haze of red and orange. The last rays of day flickered and died, one by one falling to the grayness of the sea which became black and thick.

By the time a weak canopy of stars had stretched across the halfway cloudy roof of the world, Noah was ready to retire to his room. He hadn’t spoken with very many people, aside from his brief contact with Emily, and hadn’t had the slightest desire to. He stayed by the railing for a while, and smoked a few more cigarettes before getting a bottle of complementary whiskey at the ship bar, where most of the guests had gravitated.

Noah, however, found himself instantly drawn away from the drunken conversation and joviality. After the children were in bed, and the sun had fallen, the speakers began to ring out in shrill, tuneless music that inspired a drunken sort of gaiting dance among the guests. This, to Noah, meant his signal to leave. Driving from his bottle as he left, he staggered through the catacombs towards his room.

The heavy metal door to the staircase leading to the guests rooms slammed behind him, and severed any contact his ears might have had with the obnoxious music above. Drinking his whiskey, he descended into the peace and quiet of the crypts below.

He passed the wooden doors. On each was a small placard, a nametag about the size of an envelope with the guests name written in large, happy letters. Arthur passed from door to door, reading the names, halfheartedly looking for Emily...

He didn’t find it. He turned, stopping at his own room, which he had almost walked past. He drew his key from his coat pocket, sliding it into the lock and turning the handle. He heard a click, but not from his own door. Startled, his head snapped to the vague direction of the noise. A man stood there, bald and clean shaven, wearing a black suit and red tie. He was pulling a placard off one of the doors, checking to see the door was locked.

“Hello?” Noah asked the man, who was perhaps ten yards away. “What’s going on?”

“Never showed up,” the man said with a smile, turning towards Noah. “Their loss, right?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Enjoy your vacation, sir.”

“Yeah, no problem.”

Noah turned the door handle and stepped forward into his room, into his own personal crypt.

-------------------------------------

Noah had yet to unpack what few possessions he had brought with him for the trip, and this made the room look especially barren. His suitcases, brown and battered, lay across his bed. The only thing which had been unpacked, a black laptop, lay on the pillow. Noah took another swig from the bottle, and threw his coat onto the bed. He started to search through his backpack, eventually pulling a power cord which he fitted into the laptop, and set on the room’s single, scratched, wooden desk.

He searched around for a power outlet, eventually seeing the corner of one concealed behind the desk. Mumbling, he shoved the hard chair aside and crawled beneath, holding the cord in his hands. With some difficulty, he managed the prongs into the wall. The outlet was poorly grounded, and sparked a little, temporarily lighting the darkness beneath the desk and throwing shadows across the hard, scratched wood.

Noah paused beneath the desk after the split second light from the spark disappeared. After a second straining his eyes in the darkness, he slipped out and searched through the pockets of his coat, eventually pulling his own small, white, zippo lighter. Another swig of whiskey, and he was crawling again into the darkness.

After a moment, he worked the lid of the lighter up with shaky hands, and pressed it near one of the sides of the desk. He clicked at the wheel three or four times before producing a long, thin, wavering flame that threw an orange light at the inside wall of the desk.

Words were written there, rough and infrequently sized and carved presumably by knife into the cheap wood.

They’re not who they are

I will always love you

-------------------------------------

Noah slept poorly that night. He tossed and turned with the ship in the waves. He hadn’t managed to write anything, and with each opening draft he deleted, more of the whiskey had vanished from the bottle. Finally, he gave up on the endeavor altogether an elected to collapse on the bed, the thin covers drawn to his chin, his door locked shut and his pocketknife under his pillow.

When he awoke at about noon, the room swam with the sort of painful half-consciousness he had grown used to since the age of fourteen. He was so used to it, in fact, that his head barely stung as he stumbled his way onto the deck and towards the bar, which was for the moment a barbeque. Cheap plastic tables had been set out on the deck, and men and women in bright clothes were either eating, or laying in the temporary grace of sunshine.

Noah approached the bar and grill. Behind the grill, flipping burgers was a stocky, little man with a thick mustache both bigger and darker than Noah’s. He was wearing a tacky green Hawaiian shirt, and over that, a dark red apron.

“Well howdy, partner,” the barbeque man said with a mad grin on his face. “Didn’t seeya round breakfast. It’s free, ya know.”

“Slept in,” Noah grumbled.

“On a day like this? You’re crazy, that’s what you are. What’ll it be, burger, steak?”

“No,” Noah said. “I don’t think so. What else?”

“Sure? Steak’s good today.”

“Vegetarian,” Noah croaked out, taking a seat at the bar.

“Is that so?” the man asked, still smiling like a madman. “I thought you all lived in California. Didn’t know there were any of you out here. So, let’s see what we got. How about some corn and watermelon, or d’you only eat grass, fella?” he started laughing as he arranged a plate of watermelon, corn on the cob, and a block of toasted bread which he put on a hard plastic tray and sat on the bar. “Anything to drink with that, rabbit?”

“Beer.”

“Well, well. I think we finally got something we agree on, rabbit.” He reached under the bar and pulled a cold bottle of beer from a cooler, cracking the top and pouring it into a tall glass. When the last of the liquid had disappeared into the frothy, cool cup, Noah took it and nodded, walking his tray to an empty table where he sat and proceeded to eat alone.

From nowhere, Emily appeared, a tray in hands, and sat down. Today, she wore a figure-hugging yellow summer dress, and a ridiculously oversized pair of red sunglasses. On her tray, she had half a hamburger, a slice of watermelon, and a salad.

“Why, hello there.” She said after she had sat opposite Noah. “Pleasant day, isn’t it?”

“Peachy,” Noah said. “Where’d you get the salad?”

“Oh? The man, at the bar? You just have to know how to ask.” She winked at Noah, and smiled toward the bar, waving her hand flirtatiously. Noah hazarded a glance behind him and saw the burly grill man beaming broadly, and waving back, a metal spatula in his idle hand.

“Huh,” Noah said, and bit into his corn on the cob.

“You said you’re a writer,” Emily said after chewing thoroughly a bite of hamburger, following it with a large sip of water. “Tell me, what do you write?”

“Books, mostly,” he responded, taking a sip of his beer, which was quite good.

“Books? That’s nice,” and she kept eating. After a moment, she added in an afterthought, “What kind of books?”

“Novels, mostly.”

“Oh yes? I adore novels, I must say. They’re my favorite kind of fiction. What’s your full name? might I have read any of your work? What might I know you from?”

“Noah Dresden,” he said. “You probably don’t know me. I write ghost stories.”

“No, haven’t heard the name,” she said, chewing another bite of hamburger. “I don’t read ghost stories. They’re ghastly, don’t you agree?”

Another low, noncommittal sigh. And then another day spent largely in his room, trying to write a story that simply wouldn’t emerge. Eventually, after drinking four or five more beers, Noah stumbled into the hall towards the bathroom. There were at least three empty rooms along the way, and Noah had been fairly certain there were occupants before, but in his drunken state he couldn’t be sure. He scanned across the names. He had found Emily’s room, at the very end, neat the staircase that led all the way up to the captains quarters.

But he had also started to memorize the names, and to link them in his head to where they belonged. Wasn’t there an Edgar? Edgar Waits, or Williams, or something? Hadn’t he been immediately opposite the bathroom, next to Emily’s room? He would have to ask her in the morning, if he saw her again, that was. He had a feeling, a feeling that twisted and turned inside of him like a serpent– that he would.

-------------------------------------

He collapsed early that day on his bed, his knife again under his pillow, and woke early in the morning. The sun had risen, had thrown some temporary waves of light across the sea and sky, which today was again gray. The water was calm, calm and gray with only the slightest hints of vile green. His nose had adjusted by now to the salt water, but his stomach had not quite adjusted to the constant rumbling and tumbling upon the waves.

Lighting a cigarette, he decided to walk the seasickness off.

He started to pace the perimeter of the shipping, stopping for a smoke and watching the gray, vague horizon whenever he became winded, which happened twice before he completed a single circuit. After a few minutes of his walk and during his third cigarette break, he noticed something, gray-green and misshapen upon the metal deck floor.

It was perhaps a foot across and an inch thick, lying contorted upon the metal, baking in the sun. Noah’s first, worried thought was of a snake, and the thought held for a few worried seconds as he backed away. The snake, however, didn’t move an inch. Noah approached it, slowly at first, tentatively inching towards the twisted strand on the deck, and still it made no sign of motion. He bent over, and his hand reached out to touch it. Still, it was motionless.

He touched it with the toe of his shoe and turned it over, it flopped without resistance. He bent over it, and ran his finger down it, it was slippery and wet. Then he realized; seaweed. Instinctively he looked over the side of the boat. The metal drop was sheer, going down at least fifty feet to the water, still being cut by the path of the boat into surf that broke against the metal.

“Whatcha lookin’ at, there?”

Noah twitched, the seaweed in his hand slipped off the edge, slipping into the surf.

“Jesus Christ,” Noah said, turning to see only the grill-man, in a different Hawaiian shirt and the same red apron. “Don’t sneak up on me like that.”

“Sorry, partner. What’re you doing out here–hey! It’s rabbit! Well, how ya doin’, rabbit? Getting ready for breakfast? I’ll bet I can scrounge you up a carrot.”

“Yeah, maybe in a bit. Hey, erm–I never caught your name–?”

“Ernie,” he said.

“Yeah, Ernie, right. I’m Noah. Hey, have there been any divers out? You know, SCUBA or anything?”

“Hmm,” he said, stroking his chin. “No, I don’t think so. Nobody dives out here. Everything out here worth seeing is too far down.”

“Oh, well, how about swimmers?”

“Nah, water’s too cold. Been thinkin’ ya want a swim, rabbit?”

“No, it’s just… Could anybody have climbed up, you know, from the water?” he cast a glance again down the sheer metal side of the ship, tilting in towards the center mass. Ernie followed suit, leaning his thick, small neck over the ledge to look straight down.

“From down there?” he said. “No way. Hey look, I gotta go make breakfast. Will I see you there? I’ll have a carrot ready, rabbit.” He laughed, slapped his stomach, and started walking off the direction Noah had come. Noah looked once again into the water, and then walked off to get breakfast.

-------------------------------------

Three meals, six beers, and two glasses of wine with Emily later, Noah was staggering around the upper deck, looking for a bathroom. The cloudy day had turned cool, and downright cold as the sun disappeared below the horizon without fanfare. Noah was wearing his coat, which was wrapped around him, secured at the waist by a belt. He kept his hands in his pockets, staggering slightly as he walked, and whistling a tuneless song.

He found a heavy metal door, and pushed on the handle–locked. He turned, stalked off and kept whistling. The deck here was dirtier than even the lower deck, which had seemed so drab to him on his first day. Crates and barrels were piled, haphazardly, against the railing, threatening to topple down onto the vacationers below. The floor was dusty, and his shoes practically left footprints as he walked. Twice, here, he actually did see spider webs and the little scurrying spiders on them devouring caught flies.

Another heavy metal door, another dusty iron handle. He wrapped a drunken hand on it, though expecting it to be locked, and turned, pushing it forward. The door clicked, and then reluctantly slid open with a hiss and low screech. He slipped in and slapped his hand against the wall for a light switch. He found one, and flipped it half a dozen times before deciding it was broken.

He shut the door behind him, sealing himself in the darkness of what he knew was a small, cluttered room, and reached into his pocket. He drew a cigarette and slipped it into his mouth, and then drew his Zippo. Flicking the wheel, a warm orange light filled the dingy room.

It was small, perhaps little more than a closet, and smelled strongly of salt. Crates and metal barrels were stacked about in vague, dangerous-looking towers that nearly touched the ceiling. The tattered remains of a red tablecloth with centralized gothic black cross stretched over one of the boxes, hanging down like a ripped, fluttering flag in still wind.

The light vanished, and he struck it again, holding the lighter before him like a torch, shining warmth on each of the objects in sight. On one of the crates, glittering a little in the warm light, was the dusty handle of a small revolver; and beside it a handful of equally dusty bullets.

The light went out as he reached forward, and he drunkenly groped in the darkness for the handle of the gun, shoving it into his pocket and then the bullets before he flicked the light on again. A smashed lantern, pieces of broken glass lying around it and a half melted candle within. Rusty nails that looked as if they had spent years corroding in the ocean, a stack of ancient books bound in red leather that had faded almost completely to gray.

On a crate in the back, near the top of the pile was a straw picnic basket upside down and propped up, so that only one of its sides connected with the wooden crate, and the other was suspended in the air. Noah reached for it, and pulled. As he pulled the basket to him, the thing which had been propping it up slipped off the crate, and crashed upon the floor.

Noah bent to retrieve it, and again the light vanished. Flicking it again, he saw the statue, on its side, its eyes still and gazing towards the flame, as if it had been mesmerized by the light.

It’s very shape seemed to fill Noah with a sense of great dread. He could compare its shape only to that of a disfigured man, who shared characteristics with both dragon and octopus. On it’s back, carved thick, leathery wings were folded across an almost-but-not-quite human body. It’s face, for what it was, was filled with writhing tentacles, groping forward. The black pewter statue was posed in triumph, with human arms ending in tentacle fingers outstretched in either direction. The figure, whatever it was, wore a robe which flowed around it’s torso until reaching the base of the statue, where it became waves. Holding the match as close to the statue as he could without touching the accursed thing, Noah’s eyes became transfixed on a tiny rectangle among the waves of the beasts feet, no larger than a single one of its tentacle fingers.

It was a boat.

-------------------------------------

Noah slept with the gun under his pillow, that night, and his chair propped against the door. In the morning, he woke in a cold sweat, his body and bed drenched in water and his forehead feverish. He threw on his coat despite, with the revolver in the picket, and slipped out of the door. He stole his way down the hallway, hardly caring to be quiet, and looking from empty room to empty room. Now, it seemed, nearly a dozen guests’ rooms were empty, and only that many remained.

Outside, the sun was beginning to rise to another clear day. Sunrise that day was brilliant and red, with only hint traces of orange wrapping around the tentacles of sunlight stretching from the base of the horizon halfway up the sky, where a wave of purple separated the still clear blackness from red.

Noah made his way toward the grill, where Ernie was up early and dressed as always in his red apron, already rolling sausage across the sizzling metal.

“Up early, eh Rabbit? Looks like it’s going to be a good day, don’t you think?

There were no passengers on the deck, and Noah struggled against his perpetual hangovers to walk a straight line to the bar. When he reached it, he placed his hands on it and hopped it with a deft movement.

“Whoa there, cowboy,” Ernie said. “What’re you doing there?” But it was too late; Noah was already ripping the bar apart, searching. Ernie grabbed him with his massive hand, trying to pull him back, but Noah resisted, throwing the fat man off balance and smashing him in the face with his fist.

He grabbed a small refrigerator beneath the bar, and threw open the handle.

Inside, icing with cold, delicate flakes of frost, and becoming purely bone at one end was the bloodied remains of a human hand. The grill man took a step forward, recovering himself and reaching out toward Noah.

“What’re you doin” he began, but Noah ad already gripped the pistol in his pocket. He yanked it out and without thinking, pulled the trigger. There was a crashing noise like thunder. The aim of the weapon was true, and the Ernie’s neck exploded in a sudden hole of blood. It seeped from the wound, dripping down onto his chest, but the chef was not downed. He was knocked against the bar, where his hand raised to the wound, touching the blood to his fingers, which raised to his mouth and brushed against his unmoving tongue. Using his hand as a brace, he started to lurch forward toward Noah. Noah lept back over the bar, and staggered backwards, toward the railing. His foot caught on a short ledge, and he tripped backwards, falling onto his back and hitting his head against the floor. There was a momentary flash of white, and the next moment, his head lolled to the side and he saw Emily in a red shawl running towards him.

“What’s going on?” she shouted.

“Its,” Noah said. “It’s…them…cannibals! C’mon, we’re getting out of here.”

Emily reached a gloved hand to help him, he grabbed it, and started to pull himself up. When he was standing, she lurched at inhuman speed toward the gun, which she began to wrestle for. In the struggle, it blasted harmlessly into the air. Noah clenched his fist and punched her in the stomach, she doubled over, her hands wrapped around where he had hit her as he gained control of the gun.

Something rattled behind him, and hissed a violent sound. The hairs on his neck began to feel a coursing, cold electricity, and he turned his head, the gun still pointed at Emily.

On the upper deck, along the rafters scurried a figure of about human height. It appeared at first a human wrapped in a blanket of seaweed. Noah watched in horror as he realized the lengths of seaweed were writhing, twisting at air, and that the hissing came from them, as if the man wore a beard of a thousand snakes…

Noah turned the gun, and fired it twice toward the creature as it ran toward the stairs that connected the upper and lower deck. The first shot went wild, harmlessly into the sky, and the second connected with the creature, smashing into its side but not slowing it.

A gloved hand grappled around Noah’s neck, and started to throttle him, to force him to the ground. He struggled, and threw off the woman. He smashed her against the railing, and pressed the gun to the bridge of her nose before turning his head and pulling the trigger.

-------------------------------------

He ran to his room, barely sapient as he weaved through the throngs of guests in the halls. Some tried to stop him, to wrest the gun from his hands, but most contented themselves to run towards the decks. Inside, Noah locked the door, threw the chair against it and then yanked on the desk flipping it on its side as a barricade. He tried, desperately to move the bed, but failed, and elected instead merely to sit, crouched against the far wall. The gun was in his hands, with only one bullet in the chamber.

A minute later, he heard fists slamming hopelessly against the door. Another minute after that, the fists had given way to a dreadful, slow, lumbering form. It sloshed, like the gray seas of the endless ether below him, and sounded as if some slippery beast were smashing against the metal.

And then, a more impossibly massive sloshing emerging from all directions, a slapping and hissing sound so immense to wound Noah’s eardrums, to make his blood vessels throb in his head and threaten to black him out. It was the immense noise of an immense creature rising from the deep, the watery cacophony of some monster from some dimension or foreign plane of existence bearing down on the ship from all directions, besieging it. A floating fortress to the last.


© Copyright 2018 Mashimoto. All rights reserved.

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