24-Hour Short Story Contest
3rd Place Winner!
TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
With blistered, salty skin and matted hair, they were down to their last sips of fresh water. A recreational day at sea had turned into a fight for continued existence. Slumped on the bow, searching for any hint of a breeze to soothe her burning face, her eyes widened when she noticed something fast approaching in the distance...
Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.
by Eric E. Wallace, Boise, ID
Hallucination is a helluva high. If you allow it to be. If you're not fully aware that your life's in jeopardy. And I don't mean the quiz show. Or maybe I do: that's the nature of hallucination. I'll take Survival for 400, Alex.
I think I was drowning, thirsty, starving, growling over the last stupid granola bar, broiled by the sun, fighting with someone, attracting every shark in the Pacific. All of those. More. Maybe I was. I am. It's hard to say.
Those fins are a good lesson in triangles. I flunked geometry, but now I get it. The shortest distance between two sharks is a trail of blood.
We've had days, weeks, centuries out here, bobbing along like the red-red robin. Only this lawn is foamy black-blue and heaves up and down, and the worms are giant jellyfish, and someone squinted at seajunk and said 'God, isn't that the crap from the Japanese earthquake?' A silver microwave floated along, and we let it drift away because we're already being nuked by a cruel, relentless oven. Who needs another?
We? Someone? Am I'm hallucinating about others? It's only me, I think. Blisterman, super hero of the seas. Yes, I think it's only me. Now. Not that I'm lonely. I'm hungry again, but lonely I'm not.
Here in this blue infinity there's a constant parade. Rub-a-dub-dub.
Take Alfred Hitchcock. His big black and white lifeboat full of actors cruised by, corpulent Alfred in the bow wielding his megaphone like a coxswain. He turned it to me and bellowed 'Good evening!' in that roly-poly English accent. I wish I'd gotten autographs. I wish I'd eaten cast and crew. Lots to nibble on.
Another lifeboat held wide-eyed Titanic passengers. They floated past yesterday, last month, sometime. Bundled up, shuddering, so wonderfully cold. I envied them. "Have you anything to eat?" I called. They ignored me, singing a hymn. I can still hear it. "Nearer my food to thee." I forgive their bad manners. They have problems, too.
Robinson Crusoe, he had good manners. Lounged right over there on Friday. Or was it Friday crouching over there and Crusoe sitting here? We chatted about something shipwrecky and how to make do. All very proper. I yearned for his island, any island, the incredible feel of terra firma.
The trouble with hallucinations, they're interrupted by tossing and spattering and retching. Something stinks. Brine, maybe. But where was I? Oh yes, it was so gut-achingly funny to watch Captain Hook try to stare down the Somali pirates. No match. They forced him to walk the plank. Some lucky sea creature had a surprise meal, claw hand and all.
You and I were eating crab claws and drinking French wine when we were berthed at Sydney or Honolulu. Remember? We ate till we burst. Later we made love on the deck, damn the torpedoes.
Stand by to repel all boarders. The Flying Dutchman oars past. I spy the Owl and the Pussycat, yum, meet the Mayflower, hohum, and thrill to see Amelia Earhart sunbathing on the wing of her plane. Great news, America, it floats, she's alive. She waves to me, what an honor.
This ocean is so crowded. A hamburger stand could make millions out here. Millions.
Millions of stars each night. The vast glittery zodiac hovering above my little zodiac-dinghy-thingy. There's a message up there waiting to be read. It's a fantastic advertising opportunity. Heavens to Betsy.
Not millions. Four of us, I think. Four sailors to cross the ocean blue. Hardy souls, hardy-har. Storms and screw-ups, the fire from hell, and our very own unsinkable cabin cruiser foundered. We hit the Andrea Dorea. But I'm hallucinating, Molly Brown. It was the Costa Concordia, rammed hard into us by a lovesick captain trying to ogle you sunbathing nude on the cockpit roof, my Amelia. Where are you now? Tumbling, crashing, the great roaring rush of waters, tumult, all hands on deck on all fours, and four became three and then two, and it was all we could do to board our rubbery salvation. Which wasn't, isn't.
Someone should tame the sun.
So, focus. Burning. Thirst. Hunger. Fear, dread, all dead. What else to do? Enjoy the hallucinations, the living dreams. Cheekbones scorched, nose a fiery radish, this silly improvised sailcloth hat, I'm promoted to admiral. I, John Paul Jones, command one and all to provide provender. I can ration water, mouthful by mouthful, drip by drop, but what's for dinner? Who's for dinner? Look in the locker. Davey Jones' locker, that's the one.
Blood is saltier than tears.
Oh, but bliss comes when stress is stretched like a halyard so taut the world groans and gives, and I'm in the mountains. Snows, ice caverns, frozen air, cracking tree limbs. What joy to shiver! But something gnaws at me, the insane truth of our peril, and I remember who I am, descendant of those distant travelers trapped on the high snowy pass of no passage, forced to make unthinkable choices, choices which led through sullied generations and eventually right to me, a Donner through and through. A Donner to the very bone.
Hallucination, a helluva high. And it helps the truth go down so much easier.
What Eric won:
$200 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
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