Here is another prompt. I started it just before NaNoWriMo, and unfortunately haven’t been able to get back to it. I typed up what I had, maybe I’ll finish it soon.
There were two other people in the life raft when I went to sleep. Now there are three. The other two were slumped against the side of the raft, even in the dark I knew they were the same people, Judi and the old lady who didn’t speak English. Judi thought to tie rope to each of our waists and then to the boat. My blurry eyes followed the slack lengths of rope to them. The person in the front of the raft sat with their back to me. The clouds parted and a sliver of moonlight danced across the raft. I kicked Judi.
She stirred, grumbled something about llamas and fell back asleep. My wide eyes were glued to the figure. Waves crashed against the raft and salt burned my nostrils and throat. The smell of fish was strong but there was another scent; a darker, wetter stench like soaked dirty socks left in the washing machine overnight. I swallowed and the stench was caught in my throat. A cough came up that I tried to muffle, but it was too late. The extra person turned around, ever so slowly. The moonlight glistened over the white bone that peeked out from the holes in her skin. A small fish flopped around in an empty socket, while the other eye rolled to meet mine. The iris was a milky brown, a stone whitewashed by years of tumbling through the ocean and the beating of waves. Clumps of hair seemed to have withered away, leaving her mostly bald. She grinned.
One skeletal hand reached for me. I screeched. My screams didn’t deter her. Instead, she lurched forward. Her other hand clamped over my mouth; the flesh was soft and slimy. Bile rose into my mouth. She opened her mouth and years of decay assaulted my nose, I could feel my nose hairs curling up and dying like flowers on a hot day. She spoke.
Her voice was a grinding of coral. She spoke but one word. Her hand floated from my face. She seemed…sad? Can ocean zombies feel anything? Most of her features were weathered away, the soft flesh of her lips and nose were nonexistent, but the way so looked at me, so focused with that one eye, stirred something within me. Her bones creaked as she stood and jumped into the water.
I touched my lips; there was a piece of flesh hanging from it. My first instinct was to toss it overboard, let it sink to the briny depths along with the stranger. Instead, I clutched it in my fist. It squelched in my hand and wetness trickled down my wrist. I kicked Judi again.
She groaned but got up this time. Gee, thanks Judi.
“What is it?” she rubbed her eyes then winced. “So it wasn’t a dream,” she said. We sat there and stared at the waves. I always thought the ocean was calming but the unending vastness just filled me with sick dread and a sense of inferiority. “So,” she began, bringing her knees to her chest. “Why did you wake me up? Bad dream?”
I handed her the piece of flesh on my pink palm. It wasn’t that big, about the size of my middle finger. Her eyebrows shot up, “the hell is that?” I told her about my encounter. Judi burst out laughing. “You can’t be serious!” I tore the flesh into three pieces; they were uneven but it would have to do. I held out one piece to her.
“Take it or don’t.” I dropped it in her hand, she gasped and it fell onto the wet floor.
The old lady was snoring softly with a quivering fist below her chin. I shook her shoulder until she opened her eyes.
“Ka sa li?” My mother never thought to teach us Creole but I’ve heard enough snippets of my mother and aunts talking to understand the basics.
“Eat,” I said. “Manje. Bon.” I popped my piece into my mouth, it slipped over my tongue. It was gooey and tasted rancid. I tried to keep my face neutral as I swallowed. I held out her piece. Her look passed over me to Judi, but she took it anyways.
“Bon?” she repeated, turning it over in her hands. I nodded. She placed it on her tongue and immediately spat it out then yelled at me.
“Bon, manje,” I insisted. I couldn’t think of any more words to say. “Judi, help please?”
“You’re insane!” she stood and the raft rocked unsteadily. The woman and I both hugged the side as water splashed inside. “Why would you eat something without knowing what it was? What if it’s poisonous?”
“I ate it and I’m fine.”
“For now!” she yelled. “Plus, who takes things from dead people? Did you ask her how she died? Maybe she just wants us to join her.” Her arms flailed wildly as she spoke.
“I don’t want to die, either.”
“What if this kills us?”
“I would say, let’s hope for the best but…” I shrugged. The woman sat silently watching us, her eyes following us like a game of pong. Then she picked up her piece, plugged her nose with her thumb and index finger and swallowed the flesh whole. A shudder ran up her body. She turned to Judi.
“Ii bay manti.”
“I never said it tasted good,” I said. “It’s like medicine.”
Judi snorted. “The prescription from hell.” she sat down, knees to her chest again. The woman placed a hand on my shoulder. I leaned into her and she caressed my head. She hummed a lullaby. Her face, crowned by moonlight, was all I saw before unconsciousness took me. I forgot about the accident, the frantic race to the raft, the dead woman and her last word.
There were days I felt we made no progress at all, as if our little raft were anchored at sea or fated to drift away. The sun beat down from above, the heat rolled over us, drying out our skin and garments. My lips felt like scales. Salt was imbued into my tongue and solidified on my teeth. Judi tried to distance herself from Darline and me. Darline (finally got around to making introductions) spent her time singing. Her voice wouldn’t get her on American Idol but it was comforting.
Some of the songs reverberated in my early memories of my grandmother. When Darline sang, it was as if I was five again, sitting by my grandmother’s rocking chair as she knitted. She only ever made scarfs but never finished one. She would knit and knit and knit, hours on end, then give it to me to unravel. Then she would begin again.
“Good things should never finish,” she said. But they did. All things must end.
I let my hand hang in the water. Then I would place the dripping fingers to my forehead. The water was lukewarm, but it felt nice. I wouldn’t tell Judi, but I thought of following the dead lady. I would plop into the water just as she did, to sink into fathoms below where no sunlight lived and the cold reigned. The last piece of flesh lay in the furthest corner of the raft; the sun had shriveled it up like a strip of beef jerky. Probably wouldn’t taste any better. Nothing changed since we consumed the flesh, no bouts of diarrhea or vomiting, no cravings for brains either (Thank God, I don’t think I would enjoy being a zombie). It made me wonder why she gave it to me in the first place. Her last word replayed in my mind, I could have misunderstood, and the whole grounding voice didn’t make for pleasant conversation. I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep, listening to the whisper of the waves and Darline’s melody.
I was swimming along the ocean floor. From the blue gloom, rose pillars of pink and orange coral. I followed the path to a large temple, overgrown with seaweed and covered in algae; it seemed worn by years of abandonment. I entered through the gap between the large stone doors. A startled school of yellow and blue striped fish parted and scattered to the sides. The same pink and orange pillars held up the interior of the building. While outside was dull, in here, color exploded everywhere; like a painter had dropped her palette and then the Ocean became the artiste. Tiny crabs scurried across the sandy floor in bright spiral shells. The anemone seemed to wave as I swam past. A sea Turtle swam through what used to be a window. It swam around me in a wide circle; its black eyes squinted as if smiling. It turned and swam deeper into the temple, it stopped and I swore it waved its flipper at me.
“Follow,” it seemed to say. So, I did.
We passed more schools of fish, small and skinny, large and flat. We came to the end of corridor where another large stone door stood open. The turtle went it and I followed. This chamber was devoid of sea life, and empty save a throne of stone on the far wall. The head of the throne extended towards the ceiling, and intricate spirals decorated its face. Suddenly, I felt as if I were trespassing. My skin felt cold, as if eyes were watching me. Well, I knew the turtle was. It stared at me as if expecting something.
When I looked back towards the throne, she was there, the dead lady. She sat gripping the arm rests of the chair, her head lay on her shoulder, as if she had just fallen asleep. The little fish swam out of her empty socket and nibbled on the scarce skin of her fingers. Her mouth creaked as it moved, as if it hadn’t been used in years, and in the same old voice, said
I blinked and she was standing before me. I screamed but she held fast to my arm. Her skin was ill grey and flaps of loose skin undulated in the soft current. I tried to turn away but her grip grew stronger. She grunted and took hold of my shoulders. I longed for the sun, and the slow death that awaited me above, anything to keep from staring into the hideous, half-eaten flesh.
“What do you want?”
She didn’t answer.
“Please,” I whimpered. “What do you want?
She didn’t answer. She let me go and I fell to the sand. Her feet were in worse shape than her hands, only clean bones. The fish have been busy.
“How long have you been here?” I forced myself to look, even if she were my future fate, I looked. The milky eye gazed at me then towards the throne. “You want me to sit?” She nodded. She held out her hand and I took it.
I had another paragraph or so but I’ll post it along with the ending.