Ocean Excursion

Submitted into Contest #108 in response to: Write a story about a voyage on a boat.... view prompt


Fiction Suspense Horror

Paul found himself, beer in hand, in a deck chair on the Lido deck. An extravagantly colorful awning overhead kept him out of the direct sunlight. The beer was heavenly.

No one splashed in the pool, no passengers wandered the deck. He had the entire place to himself.

He felt that he should be bothered by the revelation that he didn’t know how he got here, but he just sipped his beer.

A dark cloud appeared then moved on.

Paul found himself on the bridge. In front of him, a deck to ceiling window cut a 120 degree arc. Outside, the white surfaces of the ship contrasted with the dark blue of the ocean. A dark band marked where the light blue sky and the ocean mated at the horizon. The ship was dead in the water.

In front of him, a wooden control panel, polished to a shine, contained a bewildering array of buttons, knobs, switches and displays. His vague thought of piloting the ship to some safe haven shattered by the complexity of the controls. He found a radio. 

“Mayday! Mayday!”

No answer. He twiddled the knob to change frequencies and repeated “May Day! May Day!”. The lack of response frustrated him. He stopped.

I’ll come back and try again later.

He noticed a gooseneck microphone on a table next to the controls with the label “Public Address System”.

Fat lot of good that will do me, alone on this ship.

Paul found himself at the Captain’s table, eating dinner. The Captain did not join him.

In the distance, dark clouds and lightning threatened a major storm, but dissipated quickly.

Paul found himself in an opulent suite, his bed more comfortable than any he’d ever slept in. In his dreams, he heard beeping noises but as much as he searched, he never found the source.

Paul found himself eating lunch at the Esplanade Cafe. After lunch, he strolled about looking at the shops. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement. He turned but found nothing.

“Hey! Is somebody there?” he called.

The lack of a response frustrated him.

Paul found himself on the bridge speaking into the public address mic.

“If anyone is out there, we should meet. Maybe we can help each other. I’ll be on the Lido deck. Let’s meet.”

Paul found himself watching a young woman crossing the Lido deck. She moved in fits and starts, unsure herself, unsure of him. Her curly brown hair reached to her shoulders. With a brightly colored shirt, white shorts and sandals, she fit Paul’s image of the typical cruise ship passenger, until he realized he wore the same clothing.

She stopped dead, ten yards away. Her posture put Paul in mind of a rabbit standing absolutely still as to not attract attention, ready to scamper at any sign of danger.

“My name’s Paul,” he called out.

He barely heard her say “I’m Michelle.”

“Could you come closer? So we don’t have to yell?”

She tilted her head and squinted her eyes, perhaps trying to judge his character.

Decision made, she edged closer, never taking her eyes off him. At perhaps 12 feet, she halted.

“Let’s start again,” Paul said. “I’m Paul Groves, pleased to meet you.”

“I’m Michelle Martin,” she said. “Pleased to meet you as well.”

Paul thought she had been about to curtsy.

Who teaches a girl to curtsy in this day and age?

She was skittish, as if at one wrong word or movement, she would bolt, never to be seen again.

Paul said, “I’m confused, no, wait, I need a stronger word. Bewildered? Discombobulated?”

She giggled at discombobulated.  “How about flummoxed?” she said.

Paul felt better hearing her laugh and engaging with him.

“Flummoxed works,” he said. “I don’t know how I got here. I don’t remember buying a ticket or boarding the ship. I don’t even remember where this beer came from.”

She had been standing with her right arm hanging straight down and her left hand holding her right elbow, hugging herself. Now she released her arm, visibly relaxing.

“Me, too. My parents bought me the ticket. Me and Kaitlyn and Jenny were all going to be here. We couldn’t wait to get onto the Ocean Excursion!” She had started speaking with some animation and a smile, but she deflated. “I wish they were here.”

“I wish they were here, too,” Paul said, as gently as possible. “I wish we had an entire ship full of people here. But, at least we’re not alone anymore, right?”

She nodded but didn’t seem comforted.

Paul and Michelle found themselves at the Captain’s table. 

“Have you been on a cruise before?”

“Oh, yes, of course,” Michelle said. “But this one was going to be special. We graduated high school, we’re 18. Our first cruise without our parents.”

“Ah,” Paul said. “A rite of passage. Three young women, alone on a cruise ship, looking for romance, right?”

She laughed. “Something like that.”

Michelle’s laugh made Paul smile.  She seemed to have relaxed and gotten over her initial shyness.  Paul wished relaxing was as easy for him.

They found themselves on the observation deck, with clear skies, the stars forming a canopy overhead.

“So many stars,” he said. “I forget how beautiful it can be without everything blocked out by city lights.”

“I know, it’s so much different out here on the water.”

Dark clouds assembled in the distance. Lightning flashed and they heard the rumble of thunder.

“Hope that’s not heading in this direction,” Paul said.

Seemingly in response, the clouds swelled and quickly were overhead. A crack of lighting, a roar of thunder and the deluge started.

“Let’s get inside!” Paul yelled. She probably didn’t hear him over the shrieking wind, but she followed closely as he dashed down the steps.

Loose deck chairs sailed into the air. Paul fought to stand upright against the wind. He turned to offer his hand to Michelle when a wave crashed over the railing and knocked them to the deck.

Michelle screamed.

Paul lunged forward and grabbed her hand.

The ship rolled to port, threatening to dump them over the rails.

Fighting against the rushing water, Paul yanked Michelle behind him. Rolling over onto his butt, he pulled her between his legs and wrapped his right arm around her in a bear hug. Michelle’s screams were inaudible uver the roar of the wind and the crashing of the waves. For some reason, Paul heard a puzzling beeping sound. 

They slammed into the railing. Paul shoved his left arm between the balusters. He clutched Michelle more tightly against his chest by grabbing his left hand with his right.

“Hang on!” he yelled. 

When the ship rolled back towards an even keel and the water receded, Paul pushed himself to his feet and half-carried, half-dragged Michelle inside, where they both collapsed, exhausted.

The storm dissipated and an unnatural silence descended.

They lay on the floor, Paul with his back against the door, Michelle practically in his lap, her head on his chest. He could feel her whole body heave as she sobbed. 

“You saved my life!”

Paul felt fiercely protective of her. He knew he would do it again in a heartbeat if he had to. He hoped he never would.

Eventually, her breathing became calm and steady. Paul realized she had fallen asleep. He didn’t want to disturb her, so he leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes.

They found themselves having breakfast in a 1950s themed diner. Everywhere they looked, it was red, black, white or chrome. Michelle had recovered from the previous night's horror, laughing, joking and upbeat as she filled Paul in on her plans for college and afterward.

“So, what are we doing today?

Paul told her about his visit to the bridge.

“I’d like to have another go at it, maybe I can raise someone on the radio this time. Come if you want to. Maybe you want to go have some fun?”

“It wouldn’t be much fun alone,” she said. “How about we spend the morning on the bridge and play in the afternoon?”

They found themselves on the bridge.

Michelle’s eyes and mouth opened wide. “Oh my God! The view from here is incredible!” 

Paul started trying to raise someone on the radio. Michelle sat at a computer terminal, looking for any kind of information. After half an hour of repeating “May Day” into the microphone, Paul felt defeated. Michelle sat slumped at her terminal.

“Seeing all of this equipment got me excited, but I’m not finding anything. You’re not having any success. What are we going to do?” 

Michelle was on the verge of tears. Phil was on the verge of screams.

“We should stop for the day,” he said. “Let’s have some fun then come back tomorrow. No sense in beating our heads against the wall.”

Paul found himself at the top of a bright yellow water slide. At the top of a bright green slide to his left, Michelle was laughing and playful.

“Let’s race,” she had said, challenging him.

They raced four times. Michelle won every time. 

They found themselves at the Captain’s table again.

“It’s kind of rude for the Captain not to come out to see us,” Paul said. “I might file a complaint.”

Michelle laughed. She was graceful, in a powder blue dress. Paul wore a tailored suit, his shirt matching the color of her dress.

“You look nice tonight,” he said.

She blushed. “It’s like senior prom all over again.”

They found themselves in the disco, uptempo music playing. Paul stood and watched as Michelle danced. She threw herself into the music, her hair flying around her head, her eyes closed and smiling from ear to ear. A synesthetic achievement. Her dancing became the music. The music became her dancing. Waves of joy flowed off of her.

The uptempo music stopped and something slow started. The lights dimmed. A mirrored ball lowered from the ceiling and, hit with a white light, formed alternating lights and shadows throughout the room, creating a romantic mood. Paul hesitated, then bowed.

“May I have this dance?”

She giggled and this time she did curtsy.

Who teaches a girl to curtsy in this day and age?

Paul put his left hand lightly on her hip and lifted her left hand with his right, careful to keep a discreet distance between them.

“Paul, when this is all over and we get out of here, will you stay in touch? Can we still be friends?”

Paul felt a little surge of emotion and had to pause before he could speak.

“Absolutely. I’m so glad to have met you. I’m excited to see what you make of your life.”

She smiled, then laid her head on his chest.

They found themselves on the observation deck, again, clear skies overhead.

“I don’t like this,” Paul said. He started down the steps with Michelle right on his heels. 

A storm attacked the ship.

The wind swept everything off the deck. Michelle fell hard. A wave broke over the deck and Paul heard her scream as she hurtled toward the edge.

“Michelle,” he yelled,”I’m coming!”

Once again, he plunged into the water, reaching for her. He got his hand around her wrist as another wave hit. The ship rolled as the water lifted them up. They were going to get washed over the top of the railing!

Paul thrust his hand down through the rushing water and seized the top of the railing as they went over. The ship rolled back to an even keel. Michelle dropped like a dead weight and it took all of his strength and concentration to hold on to her and the railing. The wind and rain continued, but for a moment the ship seemed stable.

If I can pull Michelle up and wrap my legs around her, Paul thought, I’ll have both hands free to pull us onto the deck.

Another wave struck them! Michelle’s screaming was barely audible over the clamor of the storm and again, he heard the strange beeping noise. He felt Michelle’s hand slip out of his. He looked down at her as she fell, her face contorted with fear.

“Hang on, Michelle,” he bellowed, “I’m coming!”

He let go of the railing, pushed off with his foot and fell.

Paul awoke kicking and thrashing, irrationally frightened. All around him were white walls. The light blinded him after the darkness of the storm. Strange equipment surrounded him, a bewildering array of buttons, knobs, switches and displays. And that beeping noise again, but this time loud and annoying.  A woman in a nurse’s uniform leaned over him.

“Mr. Groves, please, you have to calm down. You’ll rip out your IV.”

Her words sounded strange until he realized he was in a hospital. Someone saved me! What about Michelle?

The nurse said, “Doctor Blake will be here in a moment.

Paul settled into his bed and calmed himself. He heard someone sobbing in the next room and others making comforting noises.

“I’m so sorry for your loss,“ a woman said.

“Thank you, Dr. Blake,” a man replied, his voice unsteady. “We know you did everything you could for Michelle.”

“Just let the nurses know if you need anything else, Mr. Martin,” the woman said.

Michelle Martin? She’s dead?

“Hello, Paul. I’m Doctor Blake. I’m happy to see you awake!”

“I...I…” he croaked through a sore throat.

“Were we saved? Did another ship come along? What happened to Michelle?”

“Calm down,Paul, take it easy. What do you mean, a ship? What do you remember?”

Paul spoke slowly. 

“We were on a cruise ship. Just me and Michelle. A storm blew us off the ship. If I’m alive, then Michelle is too, right? Where is she? Can I see her?”

Doctor Blake didn’t say anything for a moment.

“Paul, why don’t I tell you why you’re here and maybe that will trigger your memory.

“You were in a very bad car accident. You were driving home at night in a nasty thunderstorm. You crossed a busy road. A drunk ran a red light, crashed into your car and sent you spinning into another car.

“You and the driver of the other car barely survived. You’ve been in a coma for almost three weeks now.”

“No,” Paul said. He shook his head vehemently. “It was me and Michelle. Michelle Martin. I heard you talking to the Martins in the next room!”

Doctor Blake turned and whispered something to the nurse, who left the room.

“Paul,” the doctor said. “I think you may have been dreaming. You heard the Martins in the next room talking about Michelle. You got confused and your brain conflated a story to make sense of it all. And I’m sorry but Michelle is gone.”

Paul felt his hands shaking. His brain felt like a pressure cooker. He put his face in his hands. Hot tears streamed down his face. He felt as if they might never stop.

The nurse returned and injected something into his IV. 

“This will help you sleep,” Blake said. “In the morning, we’ll discuss this again.”

After six weeks of mental and physical rehabilitation, they released him from the hospital.

Paul found himself on a dock, near a small ship with passengers boarding.

Michelle threw her arms around him.

“Paul. I was worried you weren’t going to make it. I’m glad you’re here.

“I’m sorry about how our last night together ended, but there was no way to avoid it. Your bravery inspired me to hold on until the end. But you shouldn’t have jumped in after me! Brave and foolish.”

“Are you going somewhere?” Paul asked.

“I think you know where I’m going,” she said.

“But can’t you stay for a bit? I enjoyed our time together and there are so many things I want to talk about. How about if I come with you?”

“Sadly, no, this trip is just for me. I can’t stay and chat, the Captain has already called.”

She winked. 

“This time, I get to meet the Captain,” she said with a laugh. “If I don’t go now, they’ll probably throw me in chains and drag me on board anyway.

“Those last few days with you were special. You were kind.  And brave. It made it much easier for me to accept what happened.

“One day, you’ll get called to make this trip. Just be prepared and go cheerfully.”

She threw her arms around him again and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“Why, Paul,” she laughed. “You’re blushing!”

She turned and ran up the gangplank. When she reached the top she turned, raised her hand up high and waved vigorously. Paul waved, trying to match her spirit. He stayed and watched as the ship pulled away and quickly, too quickly, disappeared over the horizon.

He wiped the tears from his eyes, turned and walked away.

August 28, 2021 01:04

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09:18 Sep 05, 2021

Is this royalty free sir?


Lynn Dewees
15:54 Oct 01, 2021

What are you planning to do with it?


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