Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Death And Life At Sea - A Continuation of A Fallen Life

Note: This post follows on immediately from yesterday's post.  You can find that under this link.

I have been told too that I should return to my private detective, whose first case was posted within the last week.  You can find that under this link.  I also want to continue the story about the stranger on my bed.  I posted the first part of that a few days ago.  You can find that under this link.  I also need to write about The Cafe of Stolen Dreams.  And I have a novel to write too.  So many possible writing projects.  When I began this blog two months ago my only project was to write from a prompt every day.  I am amazed how much has changed in just two months.

This is the first time one post on this blog has followed on from another.  I guess it won't be the last.  Here it is.  The second short chapter of a story.  It began with suicide.  Happy stuff!

I awoke to find myself in someone else's bed.  I could tell it wasn't mine.  The light was all wrong, the covers were too scratchy, and my own bed tended to stay still.  This one was rocking gently and I couldn't tell whether the movement was soothing or nauseating.  I opened my eyes to find a man staring down at me.  He had four long scars running down the length of his face.

"So you've woken up all by yourself.  You're in a strange room and a man like me is with you.  What do you do?"

"Hey, what?"

"What do you do?  Serious question."

"Er, er.  I ask you where I am."

"Is that the best you can do?  How disappointing.  I was rather hoping you might use some magic power to transport yourself onto the deck or that you might see how sinister I look and decide to engage me in mortal combat.  It's been a while since anyone did that.  But no.  Where am I?"  He asked the question with a sarcastic leer.

"Okay then.  Who are you?   And how did I get here?"

"Pulled you out of the water didn't I?  I am Captain Jonas and you're on my ship.  Saw your body floating out in the sea and thought you were dead.  Maybe you were.  But then you had a heartbeat so I stuck you in the spare bed for safekeeping.  Thought it up to you whether you live or die.  You seem to be having difficulties making that choice for yourself but don't let my face scare you, I'm a kind old fool and thought you should have another chance."

It all came back to me.  My suicide.  My miraculous resurrection on the rocks and how I had subsequently drowned.  Or maybe I hadn't.  I couldn't have drowned could I?  Not totally, because I was here now.

Jonas kept talking but I hardly took in the words.  Something about death and life and turning of wheels.  I looked around at the cabin.  It contained two other beds, both with the same rough grey fabric that covered me.  Decoration was sparse and the grey paint on the walls was disheartening.  The only break from the grey was two pictures hung next to the door.  The first was of a whale.  The other of a blue wizard's hat and at the bottom of the picture I could just see that it was being worn by someone.  I lay back on the bed.  Started to drift away into sleep.  Until Jonas said something that brought me back to full alertness.

"Your friend wasn't so lucky."

"Wha .. wha ... what friend?"

"That other woman who was with you.  Sorry to have to tell you.  She's dead.  Won't be coming back to life any time soon either.  Not with the state of her.  I really don't understand how these things work.  There she is, all puffy and her skin a total mess.  Looks like she's been sleeping with the fishes for days.  And there you are, all bright eyes and perky in the first mate's bunk, with your skin all smooth and gorgeous as if you had only been out for a quick dip.  Say, you're not related are you?  She's all puffed up and it's a very sorry sight but she looks a bit like you.  Stuck her down in the freezer until we get to a port if that's okay.  Don't tell me you were out with your family and lost them all.  Not that.  Oh, why must I be so insensitive all the time?"

I understood.  My corpse from the rocks had obviously washed out too and been picked up with me in some freak of currents.  The bloated flesh was odd but I guessed that stranger things had happened.  Somewhere.  At least once.

"Can I see her?"

"Later, later.  There's plenty of time for that.  We won't be in port for a day or two unless that changes.  First off you should eat.  Must be hungry after nearly drowning and all.  I've put out some clothes for you on the other bed.  Yes, yes, you're naked.  I've seen it all.  Too late.  But I don't care about any of that and don't suppose you want to stay that way.  They're not much to look at and won't fit well but they're better than nothing.  Can get a bit cold on deck too when the wind takes us."

"Thank you captain.  You're too good to me."

"Nonsense lass.  Nonsense.  It's nothing.  Shame about the other one though."

"Was it bad?  How broken is she?  How bad do her injuries look?"

"Injuries?  Oh my no.  No injuries.  You don't get injured in the sea unless something eats you or you get stung by jellyfish or electric eels or find yourself caught up in the propeller of an ocean liner."  He laughed heartily.  "Injuries indeed.  My, my, you do have some funny ideas about the sea don't you?!"

Maybe I didn't understand after all.

"Please, I need to see her.  Need to know.  I couldn't eat a thing without knowing."

"Calm yourself.  Calm yourself.  Get yourself dressed and I'll take you down there.  She's not going anywhere.  And then afterwards I'll tell you what's what and you can help me clean the net.  It'll do you good.  Otherwise you'll just be thinking about it.  Why you're alive and the other one is very, very dead."

He left me then.  I got out of the bed.  Examined my body.  Everything was where it should be and I had to admit my skin really was quite gorgeous and smooth.  Where it should be?  Not quite.  It should be smashed up on the rocks and then washed into the sea.  If indeed the waves dislodged my corpse from those spikes.  That's where I should be.  Quite dead.  But nothing had gone to plan since I jumped from the cliff.  Nothing much had gone to plan in the year before jumping.  Otherwise I guess I would never have wanted to die so much.

As I dressed into Jonas' clothes I reflected that, having died twice, I didn't want to do it again.  I wanted to live.  Find a future.  Turn from all those things which had gone wrong and forge something new.  New town.  New people.  New everything.  I could do it.  Why not?  If others could sort their lives out why not me?  I didn't know why I wasn't dead.  Twice.  A rush of gratitude coursed through me and I burst into tears.

Once I had composed myself I left the cabin and found myself in a simple galley kitchen.  Jonas was there.  He took one look at me and burst out laughing.  "I'm sorry.  You do look funny though.  Dwarfed by my clothes.  And grey really isn't your colour.  I'll find you something in a bit to hold up those trousers.  Can't have you having to hold them up yourself all the time, not that I care.  Come on, I'll take you down to the other one now."

He led me out onto the deck of the boat, helping me climb the steep ladder from the galley although I didn't really need assistance.  On the deck I saw several fishing nets and various equipment that I hardly understood.  There was a wooden building at the front that looked close to collapse. Inside I could see the top of a steering wheel.  And that was it.  Everything was painted in the same grey as the cabin.

Jonas opened a trapdoor that had blended perfectly with the deck.  "Get a move on," he said, "I don't know about you but I want my lunch and if we don't hurry it'll be dinner time already and we'll be wanting to turn the clocks for a ham sandwich."

We climbed down another ladder.  This time I was offered no assistance.  In the room below there were several large freezers.  They all had their doors open.  All were empty.  And in the middle of the room were two smaller chest freezers.  "One's for my food.  The other's for just in case," Jonas explained.  "Wouldn't want the just in cases to get mixed with my food would I?  Even so they nearly didn't give me the second one.  Took weeks of arguing.   Seriously though?  Would you want to keep your fish fingers in the same box as your human fingers."

He laughed again.  I didn't.

"Sorry.  I guess that joke was in bad taste.  She's in that one on the right.  I'm off now.  Make lunch for us while I still can.  And then you can tell me about yourself and I can fill in the gaps."

Jonas left and I opened the freezer.  Laid out flat inside was a human corpse.  Bloated, distended, discoloured by the water and by having been dead for a while.  I could still see her face though.  It was mine.  I looked closer and reached in to check.  There were no obvious wounds.  No breakages.  Nothing to show where I had been impaled or shattered on the rocks.  I realised with a start that this wasn't that corpse.

The miracle had happened again.  I really had drowned.  Days ago probably.  And this was my corpse.  Or at least my second corpse.  Somehow I stood here.  Alive.  While I also lay here frozen on a fishing boat with no fish.  Somewhere, presumably, there was another version of me.  I stared at myself a little longer.  Closed the freezer.  And sank to the floor, uncomprehending, not wanting to face the questions that would come.  Perhaps my death would become harder than my life ever was.

[1614 words]

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