For those unfamiliar, Clever Fiction's story prompts usually involve them giving writers three words to build a story on (although there have been plenty of other challenge types). The prompt for this challenge were the words "Sailboat", "Cove", and "Goldmine".
Now I could write a bunch of clever attempts and being deep here about that story and the intervening time period, but that's not what you are here for, is it? Instead, let's return to our seafaring friend to see what he is up to in:
Ashore: A Mallville Story
(Sailboat ~ Cove ~ Goldmine)
By Void Munashii
It had been thirty-two days, I think. I’d been making little scratchmarks on the wall of the sailboat’s cabin each morning, but it could be hard to keep tracks since every day surrounded by nothing but water is much like every other day surrounded by nothing but water.
I kept better track of my food and water, which was easier because there wasn't much of it.
I found an emergency kit with fishing supplies in it, and I was able to catch some fish, but the fuel on the boat’s stove ran out before I finished cooking my last one, and I have never been into sushi.
My water supply was in even worse shape. I tried doing that thing with a tarp and evaporating sea water; that went poorly.
I didn't give up. I couldn't give up. Every time I thought of sitting down and waiting to die, I’d look at Carla’s note. I had stuck it up on the wall of the cabin:
And so I have been. I’m no sailor, and had just been lucky that there hadn't been anymore storms like the one I’d ran into before. I had no idea where I was going. I was sunburned, thirsty, tired, hungry, and completely and utterly out of my league.
I was standing there with the wheel in my hand, holding it steady as if I had any idea what I was doing with it, wishing I hadn't been too much of a coward to save my wife, when I heard a voice.
“Trying going to starboard.”
I jumped, and almost fell over. I turned as I was fighting to stay upright and there she was, standing at the back of the boat.
“Carla,” I said, dumbly.
“Hi,” she waved as she spoke.
“You looked like you needed some help, so here I am,” she danced in a little circle, “think of me as your fairy godmother.”
I know, in my rational mind, that Carla cannot possibly have been there. She can’t have been, but the things that happened….
“It’s dehydration, right?” I asked.
Carla shrugged, “Maybe. Look starboard.”
Carla scowled a little, “Look to the right… no, the ship’s right: starboard.”
I looked out and saw something off on the horizon; it looked pretty big.
“I think you should check that out,” Carla said, she was right behind me then, speaking quietly in my ear, “don’t you?”
“What is it?”
“Dunno. It could be anything. It could even be a boat,” she walked in front of me, as if she were trying to get a better look at the speck.
“What if it’s hostile?”
“Do you really have anything to lose at this point? I've seen your supplies, hon, you’re pretty well fucked if you don’t do something,” Carla was never one for cursing: it was always a good indicator that she was especially serious about something. “Did you even try evaporating sea water?”
I steered the sailboat towards the dot, and after a lot over over-correcting back and forth, the object started to get larger. As I drew nearer, I could see that it was a small island. How far had I drifted anyway?
“You should circle the island first,” Carla said. She looked concerned, and sounded more serious than before, “Make sure it’s safe.”
“What happened to ‘do you have anything to lose’?”
“You should take advice given by a hallucination with a big grain of salt, honey,” her expression softened, “Including this.”
I figured that Carla was not only right about being a little cautious, but I also wanted to see if the island was inhabited; maybe there would be a dock I could use.
I did not find any docks or buildings, but I did find one sign of life: a huge frigging boat! It was one of those big shipping freighters they use to send stuff from China, and it had run aground in this cove on the far side of the island. It looked like after the boat had hit the beach, the current had driven it around so that much of its right side was up against the beach. It was listing slightly towards the island.
According to the back of the boat, it was called the Sinjin Eureka Hong Kong, and it had more shipping containers on it than I could count. There were dozens of stacks of containers that I could see piled anywhere from two to six high.
“You have to go check that out,” Carla enthused, “It could be an absolute goldmine of supplies; maybe even water! Or... it could be thousands of laptop computers, and you with no wifi.”
I maneuvered the boat around the freighter and into the cove, and hit the shore with enough of a jolt to almost knock me off my feet. I dropped anchor even though I was probably never going to be able to get the sailboat out of that sand again; no reason not to.
“You need a weapon,” Carla said.
I motioned around the deck of the boat; it felt weird to be standing on it and not have it rock under my feet, “What weapon?”
“There has to be something.”
Carla moved down into the boat’s small cabin. I waited, feeling a little foolish. I was about to go down into the cabin myself when Carla reappeared carrying a hammer and a large phillips head screwdriver, “It’s dangerous to go alone. Take these,” she said, sounding mostly serious.
I took the weapons from her, although a wooden sword might have felt more imposing.
“Don’t you want to keep one?”
She looked at me like I was being stupid, which, to be fair, I was.
We made our way down from the sailboat, and over to the side of the freighter. The ship looked big from the water, but it looked huge right up alongside it.
I tried yelling up to the ship for awhile, trying to get the attention of anyone up there, but no one responded, and eventually Carla told me to stop. We would board the ship.
“How do I get up there?” I asked, looking at the smooth side of the ship.
“Well, there’s some stairs over here, but I think they are a little higher than you can jump,” Carla was standing below a set of stairs that ended probably fifteen or twenty feet off the ground.
I walked up and down the length of the ship where it touched the cove’s beach looking for some other way up; maybe some emergency handholds or something. No luck. I thought of maybe swimming around the other side, but Carla said that it was a bad idea.
“Rope,” Carla suggested, “there’s plenty of rope on the boat, right?
She was right, there was quite a bit of rope on the boat. I went and got that rope. I then tied the hammer to one end, and threw it at the bottom of the stairs.
It took a few tries, but eventually I got the hammer through the bottom step, and let the weight of it pull the rope up while the hammer dropped back down to me.
Carla suggested tying a sort of noose on the end of the rope that the hammer had been tied to, and then feeding the other end of the rope through the noose, and pulling it tight to secure the rope around the bottom step of the ship’s stairs.
By the time all of this was done, it was getting late into the afternoon. Carla told me to stop and eat; I was going to need as much strength as I could muster for what would come next.
I protested, but Carla insisted I eat more than what I had been rationing for myself.
Back at the bottom of the rope, I pointed out that on my best day the chances of my climbing up to the top of the rope were slim.
“I can help you,” Carla said.
“How, give me a boost?”
“No, look at all the excess rope you have,” she pointed, and there was a good thirty or forty feet of rope lying in the sand beyond the bottom of what was hanging from the stairs, “you cut that off, throw it up threw the steps again, tie the other end around your waist, and I will help pull you up while you climb. Plus that way if you fall I can try and slow you down.”
“But… you’re not really here. “
She stepped forward and poked me hard in the chest, “Aren't I?”
She hadn't been wrong yet.
It hurt: the rope around my waist dug into what had a month earlier been my gut hard as she pulled it, but she gave me just enough help that I was able to pull myself up the side of the freighter and grab onto the bottom step.
I clambered up the steps, and collapsed onto the ship’s deck, panting. My arms and palms burned, but not both for the same reason.
It seemed like only seconds later when Carla appeared at the top of the steps, “See, now that wasn't so bad, was it?”
“Yes it was.”
“Up! It’s going to be dark soon, and you need to find the crew.”
I made my way past stacks of shipping containers towards the ship’s control tower, I think that’s what it’s called. It was an easy target, being the only thing taller than the containers.
I didn't actually make it to the tower before I found out what had become of the crew.
“Look out,” Carla cried.
I turned to see a shambling man in blue coveralls coming at me. He was too close for me to properly hit with the hammer, and Instead of bashing in his skull, I stuck it in his mouth. Then we both fell to the deck with him on top of me, trying to chew through the hammer to get to me.
With my left hand, I worked the screwdriver free from where I had it in my pocket, and tried to stab the dead man in the side of the head with it. That did not work at all.
“The ear,” Carla yelled, “or the eye!”
I jammed the screwdriver in its ear hole, but it stuck. I couldn't shove it it farther or pull back out.
“Move your hand!”
I let go of the screwdriver’s handle, and Carla kicked it home. The man fell limp and I rolled him off me.
It was as I was trying to pull my hammer out of the dead-again man’s mouth when we heard shambling footsteps. Two more coverall-clad flesheaters came around the corner of a container stack and started towards me.
“Hey, assholes,” Carla called, somehow she had gotten behind them and was standing my the rail at the side of the boat, “over here!”
The zombies went for her, and she stood there, beckoning to them. She wasn’t going to even try and run.
The monsters stopped, and looked towards me again.
“Shut up, honey,” Carla ordered,then, waving at the zombies,” Over here! Come and get it!”
They went for her. I stood, again frozen in fear as the undead surround her, unable to help. I didn't see what exactly happened last time, whether she managed to escape or not, but I did this time.
This time, when the zombies reached her, she simply wasn't there. The monsters hit the railing she had been standing in front of, and toppled over it, landing on the sand below with a pair of crunchy thuds.
I broke my paralysis, and ran to the railing. One of the zombies had landed on his head, and wasn’t moving. The other one only seemed to have broke its back, and was clawing at the sand trying to drag its broken body. Later, I would finish him off by tossing heavy crap at him until I managed to hit his head.
“That was easy,” Carla said from behind me.
I turned to face her, “How…?”
“Shhhh,” she said, placing a finger on my lips.
Exploring more of the ship revealed another dozen corpses, but the dead kind, and only one more zombie. This one had been badly eaten; most of his face and upper body was gone. He went down easily with the crowbar I found near a couple of the bodies; judging by the dried blood on it, I was not the first person to use it as a weapon.
I don’t know if anyone got off the ship alive. It looks like there are a couple of lifeboats missing though, so maybe someone is out there; maybe even on the island. I pulled the rope I used up just to protect against any unwelcome visitors..
It was almost dark when we began breaking into shipping containers looking for food. Thank goodness for emergency flashlights. On the sixth try, we found that goldmine Carla had talked about earlier. A container full stuff from Hawaii. A lot of it has not been too useful yet, like the red salt, but there was fifty cases of water that claimed to be 100% Hawaiian.
Carla smiled as I took a long drink from the bottle with the hula girl on it, “I guess my work here is done,” she said in a comically deep voice and her hands on her hips.
“You can’t just depend on me forever; you need to figure some of this out on your own.”
It felt like my heart imploded in my chest, “You can’t leave again.”
“I will always be here when you need me. Right here,” she touched my forehead, “ and right here,” she touched my chest.
She put her arms around me, hugged me tight, and kissed me softly on the lips. When I opened my eyes at the end of the kiss, I was alone under the stars.
That was a month ago. I feel more at home on this ship. I found a rope ladder to let down the side of the boat to get on and off. I have plenty of food and drink; some of it is kind of weird stuff, like dried squid, but it beats starving. I have a bed, there are books to read, and even a small workshop where I can build… stuff. I am set for awhile at least.
Tomorrow I climb down and start to explore the island. I cannot live on
the Sinjin Eureka Hong Kong forever, and if there is one thing I need to do, the one thing Carla insisted I do, it’s live.
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See you next time, and until we meet again: don't trust the darkness.