Here’s another episode in that fantasy/sci-fi/thriller from last week, A Boat Out Of Here. I don’t know what Sam got them mixed up with, what the deal is with that quarter, or who or what is after them. Not yet. The characters haven’t told me. Whaddya think? Turn it into something? Short story, novel or film script?
We’re in the twilight zone, me, Beth and Sam, running through a nightmare that never ends. How the three of us got stuck here together I can’t figure out for the life of me. It’s late and the rain has let up to a soft drizzle. Street lamps illuminate iridescent patches of oily sludge, which I’m careful to avoid as they’re actually bottomless pits in disguise. We splash along in the night, jogging past rats, big as terriers, scavenging in the garbage cans. They’re singing Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” and mimicking the dance moves from the video. The street lamps send word of our progress in relays toward the docks, where we’re hoping to catch a boat out of here.
The street is lined with rotting hulks of empty apartment buildings that lean in and leer at us as we pass by. I hear them whispering to each other. They start taking potshots; roof tiles and loose bricks begin to fall. We pick up the pace. I see flashes of jagged orange light in the sky and the eerie keening of the approaching horde sends chills through my sweat-soaked exhaustion. Even if we make it to the docks, I don’t see how we’re going to escape.
Sam has a plan, and I can only pray this time it works. Beth is lagging behind. Her leg is still bleeding. We bound it up the best we could, but it’s seeping through the makeshift bandages. “Sam, I’ve got to rest a minute,” Beth says. “Let’s duck into that park over there.” There’s no time to rest and I know the park can’t be safe, but I can tell she’s in really bad shape. In the glare of the streetlight her face looks gaunt and pinched with pain, her blonde hair hangs limp and damp, and her normally blue eyes are grey and desperate. Sam and I exchange a look. I shake my head “No” but he says, “Okay, just for a minute.” We head into the little park and Beth collapses on a bench under a tree. It’s quiet in the park, and I’m glad to stop running. Sam passes around a flask. I readjust Beth’s bandages. I’m worried about the gash on Sam’s face. It looks like it’s spreading. His blond hair is plastered to his skull and he’s hunched over Beth, who’s shivering hard.
“Here, take this and run on ahead. Wait for us by the harbormasters office,” Sam whispers, as he hands me the quarter. “No way. I’m not leaving you guys,” I say. He must be crazy if he thinks I’m going to risk getting separated. The quarter seems dull and quiet now, nothing special, like any ordinary quarter, but I know better. I don’t want to touch it and shove it back to him. “You keep it. Now what’s your plan? How are we going to get out of here?” Before he can answer, the tree gives the bench a hard thwack and I jump away. “Better get moving if you don’t want to get eaten,” it says. I reach out to haul Beth to her feet, but Sam stops me. “What do you know about it?” Sam asks the tree. “Well other than the fact that you’re running straight into a trap and you’ll die if you stay here any longer, not too much.” Great, now he’s asking for advice from a tree in this fucked up nightmare of a day. I wish I were dreaming, but this is really happening. The keening sounds are louder now. They’re getting closer.
“So, what do you recommend? How do we get out of here?” Sam asks. In reply, the tree sticks out a branch and tips the bench over, dumping Beth on the muddy path. “Come on Sam, let’s get going.” I say. We each grab an arm and get Beth up and moving again. As we head out the other side of the park, the tree shoots an acorn at my head. It bounces and skitters to a stop under the streetlamp. “Avoid the street lamps,” it tells me. Good advice, I think and leap over one of the bottomless oil pits. It spits and hisses at me.
I can see the docks up ahead a couple of blocks. I yank Beth and Sam into an alley. “OK, if the tree is right and we’re heading into a trap, what’s the plan?” I ask Sam. Beth sags against the wall. I keep an eye on it, just in case. “Somehow, we have to get to slip eighteen. There’s a boat leaving tonight,” he says.
We are so fucked. Obviously, Sam’s original plan didn’t account for all the scary weird shit we’ve run into. We don’t have much time. Whatever is after us is getting closer and Beth’s lost a lot of blood. She’s not going to last much longer without medical attention. Sam’s not looking so good either. The gash on his cheek is oozing this fluorescent green slime and his face is all grey. I peek around the wall and scope out the street and the docks. There’s no one in sight and the docks look empty and abandoned.
Why the hell did I agree to meet Sam at that damn Mexican cantina? It’s not as though we’ve been all that close lately. “Stop whining and feeling sorry for yourself if you want to live.” Now what? Where did that come from? An iridescent peacock blue dragonfly is darting back and forth between the walls of the alley. It’s the biggest dragonfly I’ve ever seen. “Buck up, girl, and get it together,” the dragonfly tells me. It lands on my nose and gives me a little nip right between my eyebrows which sends a jolt of energy all the way through to my feet. Suddenly I know what to do and I’m not afraid anymore.
“Wait here,” I tell Sam and Beth, “I’m going to find us a way out.” I stick to the shadows and make my way closer to the docks. Something is definitely wrong out there. I can’t see anything unusual, but my body seems to have a new sensor system. A block before the docks my muscles tense and warning bells start clanging in my head. Without thinking, my body makes the decision for me and cuts through another alley. I notice my vision has changed. There’s a fluorescent green tinge to the street lamps and the harbormasters office. I can hear the street lamps whispering, “Where did she go? Do you see her?” I avoid anything with that green tinge and keep moving through the alley behind the waterfront.
“Here’s the tricky part,” the dragonfly says. We’re level with the last dock. I can see a sign for slips twelve through eighteen on the chain-link gate. The gate is glowing fluorescent green and there’s something disturbing about the lock, but I can’t figure out what’s wrong about it. I study the dock. There’s only one boat tied up at the very end. It’s a sport fisher, about 50’ long and looks kind of old and beat up. Not very promising. The boat starts to shimmer around the edges. I blink and squint at it. I can just make out the outline of a sleek modern go-fast boat hidden within the outlines of the old hulk. I’m relieved. “How do we get past that gate?” I ask the dragonfly. “Let me worry about that,” she says, “but you’ll only have about three minutes to cast off and get away once I get the lock open.”
© 2014 Mikhaila Stettler for Creatrix Arts