My fresh water is nearly gone, and I haven’t been able to catch a fish in two days. While the night brings welcome respite from the blazing sun, other, less welcome visitors arrive with it.
The sharks appear at dusk, ever circling, biding their time. I’ve bound the cut on my leg with one of my shirtsleeves, but I fear it’s beginning to fester. Can they scent my blood even though this dinghy is watertight, or are they tracking my fear?
Last night – this morning, really – just before dawn, I thought I saw the outline of a ship, an ancient three-masted vessel, the kind from centuries ago, before we sailed the solar winds as easily as we ride the white-credited waves.
She should have been a welcome sight, anachronistic as it was, but something about her threw me off: what I thought was sunrise filtered through her sails, which were billowing despite the lack of breeze (a puzzle in itself) seemed more like flame after several minutes of staring at her through the sonic spyglass.
And then there was the way her seemed to be leering at me, as if she was not a ship – or not only that – but a trapped soul yearning to be set free.
I chose not to hail her in the darkness, but hunkered down in the bottom of my boat, keeping my head below the gunwales, and I believe we passed alongside each other without her taking any notice, but I remember a strong odor, kelpy and dank and altogether disconcerting.
In the morning light, I was half-convinced I had dreamed the strange vessel, but for the lingering scent of wet wood and smoke.
Should I glimpse this ship again tonight I will have no choice but to hail her, and beg for assistance: water and food, at least, or perhaps passage to shore – any shore.
She saw my hail and her ghostly form became one of solid strength. A rope ladder was dropped over the side and I hitched my meager belongings and climbed aboard.
I expected a crew. I hoped for humans, or at least humanoids, but there was no one.
Alone on an empty ship that shows signs of a battle, fought long ago, and bitterly won, I begin to hear voices.
They are whispers, really, insinuating themselves into my consciousness by sliding between auditory perception and something almost psychic.
I should be wary, perhaps even terrified, but instead I feel welcome. I feel as though I belong here.
This strange ship has been speaking to me. Flirting with me.
She says I am her other half, the sun to her moon, the wind to her sails. Each morning I wake to the scent of lingering fire, and I go on a search of the entire vessel. The captain’s chamber always has fresh food laid out.
In the stories, people who eat such food are chained to faerie-land or somehow altered, but except for feeling stronger and more confident behind the wheel of the Lucy – for that is her name – I am much as usual.
It is odd, though, that we have seen no other vessels, as our course is centered on the common shipping routes. Not even a freighter with a robotic crew has crossed our wake.
Lucy has taken on the form of a woman, one who has been telling me stories about her life. Last night, she was as solid, as substantial, as any woman, and we danced on the deck as the moon shown down.
We shared a kiss. Her breath wasn’t the dank, rank swamp-gas we’re told such apparitions exude, but rather, was sweet, like jasmine mixed with evening primrose.
Arm-in-arm, we entered the captain’s chamber together, and our romantic interlude continued, but when I wanted it to go on all night, when I wanted to merge with her the way only two humans can, she demurred.
She was regretful but insisted she must leave.
I reached for her hand, but only caught her sleeve.
This morning, I woke in the grand salon with a piece of lace, yellow with age, clutched in my hand.
I am her, she is me. I long for shore, she resists. I know now that my thoughts control our destination, and whether we sight other ships.
Lucy whispers to me all the time, now fearsome, now flirtatious. We continue our dance each night. Both dances. I am quite certain that our joining is inevitable, but I do not know what it will mean. I fear I am losing my humanity.
I fear I will be one with Lucy forever.
I have experimented with directing our path toward civilization. It is nearly nightfall, and I can glimpse the flickering of Lady Liberty’s torch in the distance.
Tomorrow, I will attempt contact with the US Coastguard and ask for safe harbor.
The wreckage of the Lucretia Borgia, known to historians as Lucy have been found on the northern beach of Sandy Hook, the sandbar that is home to the country’s oldest continuously operating lighthouse.
The Hook, the sandbar that separates Raritan Bay from the Atlantic Ocean,, has been the location of several shipwrecks over the years. Two cement ships, part of the defense of New York Harbor during World War II, can still be glimpsed in crumbled glory during mud tides.
Researchers are puzzled by the skeletal remains found in the ship’s wheelhouse as they date from contemporary time, and appear to belong to horror novelist Alan Perkins, who went missing from his pleasure yacht late last month.
No explanation exists for the advanced state of decay of Perkins’ body. “It’s as if he stepped into the ship centuries ago,” said the team leader, Corrine Warriner of Woods Hole, MA. “We may never solve this mystery.”