Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Get Your Short Shorts On
Prompt. Losing someone you care about on a cruise ship.
Purgatory and the Ocean
Nicole leaned over the back of the captain’s white leather chair in the ship’s control room. “I don’t know where he is. That’s what I keep trying to tell you!” The towel on her shoulders slipped again and she tugged it closer. Sea brine from her raven black hair dripped down her back. “You’re not listening to me.”
The crew looked away, busing themselves with blinking knobs and dinging buttons on the control dash. The first mate scanned the open water of the Atlantic with a pair of binoculars. He angled his pointy chin in the air and his right ear in her direction. The captain adjusted his white hat. His eyes narrowed into slits. “We’ve been over the log.” He scratched at a full gray beard. “No one by that name boarded this ship in Southaven.”
“But he was here. Ask our waiter. Our Steward. They all saw him.”
“Then they ‘re lying.”
“Why would they have reason to lie?”
Nicole bit her trembling lip. “I’m telling you, I met Brendan on this ship three days ago and today he’s gone. Into thin air.” Tears trailed down her pale face, mixing with the sea water. “I’m not crazy. He was here.”
The captain shook his head. He tossed a glace back to the first mate. “We need to find her dry clothes.” He eyed a crew member. “Call the ship’s doctor. Her delusions could be a sign of hypothermia.”
Neither of the men left their posts. They passed a knowing glance at each other and went back to work.
“I’m not delusional.” Her towel slipped again, but she didn’t reach for it. Ice cold droplets of water from her hair chilled her neck and shoulders. She didn’t flinch. “And I’m not crazy! Brendan was here. Alive. Breathing. Here!”
“Then where is he now?” The captain crossed thick arms over his chest.
“I don’t know. He went out to walk the desk after dinner and never came back.”
“How did you get so wet?” He nodded at her.
“Looking for him in the rain.”
“Look outside. What do you see?”
Nicole flashed a determined stare. “Darkness. Rain. What should I see? What does this have to do with finding Brendan?”
“It’s not raining outside.” He opened the cabin door. “Clearest night of the voyage. Not a drop of rain in three days.”
Nicole shivered. “But it poured before. The clouds covered the moon and I couldn’t see anything until he”—she pointed to the first mate—“showed up with a flashlight.”
“Monty?” The captain turned to face the young man concentrating on searching the ocean instead of the young girl. “Did you go out on duty tonight?”
Monty’s unsteady hands propped the binoculars on the dash. “No Sir.” His voice cracked. “Not tonight.”
“But it was him. He grabbed my arm and pulled me into this room,” she insisted.
“That he did,” the captain spoke. “Five years ago.”
Nicole shook her head. “You’re making no sense. Why are you not looking for Brendan? He could be drowning? He could be dying?”
They all lowered the heads but the captain. He frowned, but his eyes never left hers. “Brendan is probably home, safe in his bad asleep at this hour. He’s not dead. He’s no dying. ”
Nicole lowered her brows. “No. He was here.—“
“Five years ago he was. Five years ago he came on his ship with his parents and you met. Five years ago he went for a walk on the decks and thought he’d play a trick on you.”
Her forehead creased. “No. Tonight. He went missing tonight.”
“Five years ago, when you couldn’t find him you thought he’d downed.”
She gasp. “That’s not true.”
The Captain kept going. “You saw a bird bobbing on the water in the dark, and then the rains came. You leaned over the edge to see if Brendan was in the water. You slipped.”
“No.” Nicole’s hands shot up over here face. Her body shook. “That isn’t true. He was here today. I was. . .”
“It always takes a minute for it to sink in.” The captain reached a hand to her shoulder but stopped short of touching her. “Sometimes I forget myself you aren’t real. I wish I could go back to that night. I wanted to find you. I wanted to save you.”
“I’m here. Brendan is the one missing. I keep telling you.” Nicole voice started to fade. Her body went pale and as the seconds ticked by turned white.
“We’re leaving the area,” One of the crew members said.
“I know.” The captain watched as Nicole vanished, still pleading her case. Fear filling her eyes. “We can never save her.
“Then why do we always take this route, captain? A few miles in either direction and we’d miss her completely.”
The captain went to his seat in the chair, now dry from Nicole drippings. “We didn’t save her before. This is our punishment. She’s in purgatory for an eternity; the least we can do is remember her. The girl we couldn’t pull from the ocean fast enough.”