by Kaylia Mai
Art by Sharlene Chen
Issue: Solivagant (Winter 2018)
The great sails towered over the flocks of people hurrying to arrive at their destination. An hour to sailing time, the crowds hurried to buy their tickets and board the ship.
Mister James, hefting four large sacks, wove his way through numerous people. He was a strict man with strictly tailored clothes, and a tall, proud hat always covered his head. Mister James was a great many things, believed only the sciences, and looked out for his family best he could. He strolled through the crowd with all the trappings of confidence, and was closely followed by a woman clutching a small infant hurrying a young boy along.
“Come on, Timmy! The New World will have heaps and heaps of corn which we’re going to eat all day,” the boy cried. “and we’re going to stay there forever and ever, and never return to this place.”
“Hurry Jim.” the woman scolded, “You’ll lose your father to the masses.”
The small family stopped before the boarding plank, Mister James handed four tickets to the man in a red uniform, and they were granted entry. The ship, while moderately less crowded than the dock, was filled with people standing at the rails, waving at family seeing them off. Mister James and his family turned from them, and after a short discussion in which only he spoke, the family agreed to head below deck after the long day.
They walked quickly down a long corridor to reach their assigned quarters. Yellow light shone from oil lamps on the walls, bright and intense. They were on the ship with purpose.
Mister James had received a job offer from a friend in the New World, one which spoke of short days and tasteful housing. He almost saw the windows of painted glass, reflecting green and blue light into large ornate halls. He could almost smell baking bread and hear the faint melody of a piano.
He reminded them of this for the twelfth time on the same day. The woman hummed in agreement, settling down Tim. Jim was already snoring in the cot.
The crowds cheered and waved their handkerchiefs from outside the window. The ship bellowed thrice. An anchor was raised. The ocean laughed in triumph and danced beneath them in a brilliant blue-green that stretched down into an inky pit, deeper than the human eye could see.
It was much later that trickles of consciousness slowly filtered through the gloom to drag him into the waking world, and he reached out to grasp the tendrils and cradle them to himself. It was much darker than he remembered, green and blue light wafting hazily through the ship’s interior.
He blinked the lingering drowsiness from his eyes, and pushed himself up. He was in a corridor, stretching out on both sides into the darkness. He smelled nothing, and heard only a faint ringing. He moved slowly, meeting great resistance with even the smallest of movements, and observed that while he struggled to maneuver himself, he never grew tired as he did. There was a lot of him and it did not always go where he told it to. Walking was more difficult than expected, he soon realized as he pushed his way down the corridor. The world was sluggish, and he toddled down the corridor with feet barely brushing the ground.
He could have sworn his hair had been gelled back, but now large mops of it invaded his vision and refused to stay pushed back. His foggy mind briefly mulled over the abnormality, then dismissed it. He was half-asleep after all, and those that are half-asleep are often not lucid.
If he could find his family, then he could clarify his situation and solve it.
A tailed fly with a wide, staring eye flitted across his line of sight then vanished.
He needed to find his family.
Further, and a man with a rumpled hat and torn suit was stuck to the ceiling, arms spread, as if pleading for salvation from an entity that had abandoned him. The person seemed vaguely familiar, and not for the first time he wished his mind would clear enough for him to think.
There was a door in his path. The door was blocking him. He shoved.
The door gave way with a muffled thump. The air seemed to swirl thickly around him and into the hatch. The world was dark and cold. It was so dim now that he may as well have been blind. But he was not blind. Staring back at him with empty orbs floated a woman and two boys, curled into themselves in defeat within their eternal prison, stranded forever in a watery tomb.
Yet they also stood before him, grey and translucent. Those eyes looked. The gazes met halfway.
He supposed there were worse paradises.