The Paradox

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
All is not what it seems

Submitted: August 14, 2009

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Submitted: August 14, 2009

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The Paradox
 
Mr Graham lay on the deck, heaving with the swell of the vessel. Crabs pinched at his feet, and above, seagulls flew through the glistening waves as sunlight bronzed the tips of the breakers. His skin was scaled and dry. His fingertips, wrinkled from water, pressed into the splintered boards which supported his weight. The seagulls screeched and barked.
Undulating toward him, the slug was slow and relentless. Its pulsing mass edged forward leaving a pungent reminder of its existence: a thick, yellow slime. The boat was like the bristles of a paintbrush; mixing colours on the palette that was the ocean.
‘Mr Graham?...Mr Graham?’ The voice inside his head called to him, whispering through the salty mists of the sea. A damp echo seeped into his mind. The slug edged closer. ‘Mr Graham?’
The ocean rolled and his body heaved. The seagulls pitched and soared on the currents looking down on his lazy body. He drew a short breath. And hidden within its freshness lay a putrid intrusion; an imminent reminder of the impending danger.
Through a weepy eye, with an encrusted rim, he could make out the wet mass advancing toward him. Sensing the danger he got up to run, but his legs were useless. He tried to crawl, but his arms refused. With a dry, cracked throat he cried for help but there was no one there to hear him. From above, hungry seagulls eyed the slug as they swam on the waves. Its size shot fear into their hearts and they were afraid.
‘He must listen to us...’ The voice was back. ‘We must get through to him!’
‘Be patient.’ More voices. They were close. So why could they not hear him?
‘Mr Graham?...Mr Graham?! Wake up! You have to wake up!’
Bill Graham carefully opened one of his eyes. He was lying face down on the deck and there were three or four pairs of shoes, all with legs attached, facing him.
‘Mr Graham, wake up sir. We must talk with you.’ He could see that the shoes were not shoes at all, and the legs were not legs. And he was alone. The voices: just voices inside his head. The ground was soft and moist. Birds chirped and squawked in the trees and a warm breeze blew over his face. He rolled onto his back and stared up into the canopy of lush foliage. He felt warm and peaceful.
There was a pain in his leg, and looking down he noticed a small dart protruding from his thigh. Yellow and red feathers swayed in the breeze as he pulled it from his body. Beads of sweat dappled his face as he peered at the silver dart. His head began to throb as blood fed oxygen into his brain. Suddenly he felt very uneasy. A sharp pain ripped through his head as he tried to stand. He aborted the attempt
Over the wind and birds a new sound; urgent and familiar stood out waiting to be heard. In stillness he strained to listen. And as it grew nearer, it became clearer. He lay, paralysed on the jungle floor wishing he could run.
‘He must listen to us,’ one cried.
‘Mr Graham! Mr Graham?!’ yelled another.
Bill lay on his back with his eyes squeezed shut hoping this would shield him from his pursuers.
‘Wake up, you have to wake up!’ So many voices. It was then he noticed the black shape in the shrubbery to his left. Its glistening bulk was the size of an oven. And on the breeze hung a pungent stench; a foul odour. The kind that precedes death.
‘He must be told.’ The voices were closer now. Were they emanating from the slug? Or, were they real? The sun glistened through a tear in the cover. Bill opened his eyes and stared into it. The light encompassed him, warmed him and his anxiety melted away.
‘Mr Graham, you must wake up.’
‘Slap him.’
‘Get some water.’
The voices, however, stayed. He was standing now, staring into the light up in the sky. He was stretching toward it, closer and closer, longer and longer. Looking down, he could see the slug crawling onto his body, covering him. It forced a tentacle down into his throat, into his stomach and began to feed.
‘Wake up!’
The voice was harsh and loud. Bill Graham sat straight up as the cold water yanked him from his drunken slumber. The sun blinded him. He found himself sitting on the deck of his boat, drenched in water and surrounded by several high-tempered crew members. One leaned down, with his face close to his, looking for signs of consciousness. It was Sean Crow, the First Officer.
Bill’s head throbbed from a severe whisky hangover. Sean saw what was needed.
‘Whisky! Alright, the captain’s fine, get back to work,’ he barked.
A bottle was produced and the men dispersed. Sean offered his friend a drink.
‘Have a slug, sir. It’ll clear that taste in your mouth.’
Bill looked at Sean and took the bottle.
‘Here’s one in your eye.’
‘Indeed, sir.’
Bill took a long, slow draught from the bottle and lined his stomach for the day. Seagulls screeched from above, bringing the Captain to his senses.
‘Better?’ Sean asked.
‘Aye,’ said Bill.
With the help of Sean’s steady arm, Bill pushed himself off the deck. He rubbed the muck from his eyes, fixed his tunic and straightened his cummerbund.
‘Wake up, you must wake up!’
‘Did you hear that?’
‘What?’ asked Sean.
‘Someone telling me that I must wake up.’
‘No, sir.’
The voices were back.
‘Mr Graham, you must wake up!’
They were more anxious now and Bill felt like he was standing outside himself looking on. He stood on the deck of his ship as his crewmen watched with puzzled, questioning eyes. He could see inside their minds and what he saw was betrayal and murder. He must get off the ship.
‘Captain, are you alright?’
‘Yes, Mr Crow, I’m fine. What is our current position?’
He did not answer, for he was no longer there. The ship and the ocean upon which it pitched and rolled dropped away and melted into the blackness. Bill Graham’s mind reeled with a churning distaste as once again he was filled with a paralysing unease. He turned over and over through the blackness trying to hold onto something solid, something real. Anything. But there was nothing.
As calmness set in, images appeared. Moments washed over him, but failed to soak in.
‘He’s coming around.’
Voices.
‘Wake up. Bill, wake up.’
‘Quiet, they’ll hear us.’
The voices were like the light and they warmed him. Bill nuzzled into their comforting vibrations and as he did the feeling started returning to his legs.
‘Give him some water.’
He started falling. But he was falling upward and getting faster and faster. A small dot appeared in the centre of the blackness. Bill watched it as his eyes watered with the velocity of his movement. The dot got bigger. He seemed to be heading for it. The dot, which Bill could now see was a hole, was growing at an alarming rate. There was movement on the other side; two pinkish blobs, that shook, and distorted and spoke.
Faces. They were faces! Bill fell through the hole and found himself slumped over in a chair. One of the faces looked at him and spoke.
‘Drink this, it’ll help that taste in your mouth.’
Bill drank without argument. The liquid quenched his parched throat and he began to feel a little more normal. He was in a room with two people, both of whom he knew. One was his business partner, Tyson Rhodes. The other was his brother, Sean. The room had timber walls and floors and was sparsely decorated. Tyson stood by the door listening.
‘I don’t know how much you remember?’ said Sean.
‘Not much,’ said Bill. ‘The last I remember we were at dinner on the island.’
‘That’s right,’ confirmed Sean. ‘Some locals followed us back to the boat. They must’ve waited till we were sleeping...’
‘Then broken in,’ said Tyson.
Bill felt dizzy. “So where are we now?’
‘On the island, we guess,’ said Sean.
‘The yacht?’
‘Fuck knows.’
‘Ssshhh,’ interrupted Tyson, ‘I think I hear someone.’
‘Did they get the plans?’ Bill looked hard into his brother’s eyes.
‘I don’t know.’
The door opened and two men with scarves wrapped around their heads walked in. The shorter of the two stayed at the door. He eyed the three captives, holding a shotgun firmly in his hands.
‘Stand against the wall,’ insisted the other.
The three men did as they were instructed.
‘If they move, shoot them,’ he said to his companion. His accent was thick, yet familiar.
The man without the gun produced a roll of tape from his jacket pocket and bound Bill’s hands.
‘What the?..’
‘Shut it.’
The response was swift and sharp. A salty taste began to fill Bill’s mouth. His captor then wound the tape around his head, blinding him and throwing him into darkness. Finally, Bill’s mouth was taped shut. His ears strained to hear the muffled voices.
‘Gentlemen, if you would please step away.’ His accent was thick. ‘Did your brother suspect anything?’
‘No,’ said Sean. ‘He still doesn’t.’
‘Do you have the plans?’
‘I do,’ said Tyson.
Bill stood in a world of silence quietly unaware of the betrayal. A third man entered with a suitcase.
‘Open it,’ said the man with the accent. Sean and Tyson looked at the contents. Smiles broke on their faces as a pistol was raised to Bill’s head.
‘If you’d rather not see this?’ said the accent. His rough face and iron stare pushed to the centre of Sean’s soul.
‘It’s like the icing on the cake,’ he said, ‘do it.’
Bill felt a cold pressure against his head. Instinctively, he turned to face the object and a burning heat ripped through his body. Once again, his legs were numb. He fell, and his arms dissolved.
When Bill reached the floor, he fell through it and spiralled down. His hands and eyes were no longer bound. The hole became a dot, which shrunk to the size of a pin prick. And then it was gone.


© Copyright 2018 Paul J Burns. All rights reserved.

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