Sunday, September 11, 2011

Signs (Story Sunday)


They found the expensive sailboat drifting on open water, its running lights fading but still on.

The search and rescue crew had been sent out as soon as the mayday had come in, female voices screaming in panic, and though it had only taken them an hour to find the Adriana, they saw no one as the crew pulled along side.

From their taller ship, the three men could see the deck clearly and their lights went over things in eerie discovery. There was a cooler, open and still half full of melting ice and drinks, and in the damp wheelhouse, a frosty beer nestled in the captains chair. Between a 9 mm and a baseball bat.

The big gauges showed half a tank of gas that could run the Adriana's engines for hours, a radio that echoed their request for permission to come aboard, and even a lifeboat in tow, a bloody smear across the yellow tarp. Of people, there was still no sight.

The rescue crew surveyed these things uneasily as they boarded the small sloop and the strange stillness of both the air and the ocean under them kept their voices to low mutters.

“Just like the others.”

“Then we won’t find ‘em.”

“Here we go again.” The Captain muttered, waving his nervous men toward the bunks below. It was the third abandoned vessel they’d investigated this month and that was just his crew. The coast guard was covering that many rosters each week.

Despite the high numbers, no one from the government was paying any attention yet.

“Too busy with oil.” He sneered, listening to the suddenly alien sounds of the water.  “Haven’t considered it wasn’t no accident.”

The man looked at the rippling water, feeling the rhythmic motions of the boats riding the light waves. There was a deeper noise under the liquid, almost like a hum, and the lifelong sailor realized he no longer felt comfortable on the ocean.

“Nothin, Cap.” He nodded at the men coming back up, hadn’t expected anyone either.

“Nothin’s outa place. Table set, food on the stove just startin to bubble.”

“Just happened. Right before we got here.” The second crew member stated and the Captain waved a hand, feeling more jittery by the second.

“Back on board. Call it in.” The two sailors went quickly, sharing relieved looks, and the Captain lingered, sharp, ocean wise, blue gaze reading the scene again for his own report.

The weapons said these people had prepared to defend themselves but had not been given the chance. He narrowed in on the damp seats and deck, noting the lack of high seas or stiff winds and his unease grew. It had come from the water. Or the sky.

As if the waves had picked up his thought, the hum suddenly grew louder in his ears and the man shook his head at the unpleasantness of it. It was like nails under water on a chalk board. Wrong.

He backed toward his coastguard cruiser with the noise getting louder and he would swear later not to have heard the hungry whispers of the water, telling him he would taste so gooooooooodddddddd!

The Captain flung himself aboard his own ship with desperate movements that brought his men running.

“Get us out of here!” He shouted, unhooking them from the ghost ship, and the sound of their engines eased him a bit as they roared in response to being manhandled.

They were yards away seconds later and gaining speed before the Captain realized the humming sound was gone. He slowed his breathing, never talking his eyes off the ghost ship as his First Mate joined him on deck.

“You call it in?”

“Radio’s down again.” The Captain nodded, regaining control of himself as the small ship got further and further from view. Loosing the radio now was happening so much, the fleet was about to update all its systems. Was it connected to that hum? It had been like spoiled radio waves, nauseating and scary, and in a moment of unusually emotion, he confessed to the man watching with him.

“I think they're here.” His voice lowered. “They don’t want us to know yet. I think they let us go, so they can keep on gathering. They know we won’t be believed, no one will investigate.” His first-mate said nothing at first, watching the old man control himself better than most of their members did. When he finally spoke, it was with a surety that made the Captain’s eyes swing to his for a brief second.

“Soon, they’ll attack. Openly.”

 Instead of the scorn or laughter he might have gotten from someone who hadn’t been out on the ocean, the Captain only nodded.

“We need to get ready.”

“Had the same thought. So have the others. They’re not the only one‘s who’ll gather and fight.” The Captain nodded again, glad to see the ghost ship finally fall out of sight.

“Yes, we will. The governments may be caught off guard but those who live on and around the water won’t. We’ll read the signs.”

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