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Lost at sea

By Matt SpazianiPublished 3 years ago 8 min read

The Carina was back.

Grant noticed it out of the corner of his good eye, after he had turned to go inside. The charred remains of his cigarette were slowly being eaten by the waves, vanishing into the tide where he had flicked it a moment ago. He barely registered it. His eyes—both of them, now—were fixated on the boat floating just on the edge of the horizon.

He slowly backed up to the porch, continuing to stare at it. When he felt the back of his leg touch the wooden deck, he flailed behind him for the bottle of vodka he had left on his chair. Eventually his fingers touched glass and he brought the bottle to his mouth, swilling it like water in the desert, closing his eyes as the liquid burned down his throat.

When he opened them, the boat was gone.

Grant breathed deeply, thanking whatever god existed for the drink in his hand. Alcohol often kept the Carina at bay. It was a temporary solution, but a solution nonetheless, and he would cling to it for as long as he could.

He turned away from the beach and weaved his way to the door. His shin banged into the chair, but he hardly noticed. The drink had numbed him, and all he cared about was blacking out before the boat could return.

It's not there, he thought, something he always needed to repeat to himself.

He stepped inside, the door swinging shut behind him with a bang. There was a time when friends and neighbors were constantly walking through this door, Grant or his wife ready to welcome them, but those days were long past. Now Grant rarely even bothered to lock it. No one would break in. And if they did, maybe they'd kill him. Win-win.

He went to the sink, retrieved a plastic cup from the drying rack, and began to pour. It was time to switch away from the bottle. Glass didn't mix well with his drinking, and he couldn't help but remember when he came out of one of his blackouts to find a trail of bloody footsteps leading through the kitchen. He stopped when the cup was half full, paused for a moment, and then filled it all the way.

Yeah, that oughta do it, he thought.

He took a large sip, wincing again, and turned away from the sink. As he did, his eyes drifted to the ocean out the window.

It had returned.

He froze, his pulse quickening. The Carina drifted closer to shore this time, but it was still too far away to discern many details. Even so, he didn't need a clean look to recognize it. He remembered the white hull, the cushioned seats, the faded hard-top. The helm shone bright red like his daughter's hair, the reason he had named the boat after her. He remembered the day they had brought it home. Carina was only ten at the time, and she had jumped up and down on the deck, yelling excitedly about sailing the “ship” to the Caribbean and fighting pirates. When Grant had taken her out for the first time, he lost count of how many times he had to pull her back from the rail. She had kept leaning over it to see the bottom of the ocean. And when she was older she brought Lukas home for the summer—

"No," he said aloud, taking a swig, trying to drown the memory with vodka. "Don't think about that. It's not really there."

He tore his eyes away from the boat. His mind was sluggish now, but it didn't matter how much he drank; his thoughts continued to drift to Lukas. Lukas, who bragged about wearing designer jeans and a dinner jacket out here in the boonies of Maine. Lukas, who didn't want to help carry firewood in from the shed because the outdoors "weren't really his thing." Lukas, who corrected Grant the first time he had said "Luke," and who the fuck does that? Grant had to tolerate being called Swifty for four years in the service because he showed up late once in his first week of basic, and this asshole couldn't stand having his name shortened? Grant had always dreaded the day that Carina would bring a man home from college, but he had expected the man to at least be competent.

He breathed heavily, trying hard to bring his mind to a more grounded state. It would do no good to dwell on these memories. Carina didn’t even speak with him anymore, so what was the point of thinking about her?

He trudged to the stairs and began stumbling upwards. His foot caught on the bottom step and he quickly grabbed the rail to keep himself from falling face-first into the wall, spilling some vodka on himself in the process. He felt the liquid hit him, but distantly, as if through a filter.

Outside, the wood of the old house creaked as it stood against the gathering wind. A storm had been on the forecast this morning, and its time had apparently come. The clouds had been dark and gray on the horizon—

(behind the Carina)

—and already he could hear the pitter-patter of rain on the shingles over his head, and for the last time, no, he didn't see that goddamn boat, it wasn't there.

He drank from his cup, still supporting himself with the railing, and relished the dull numbness edging into his brain. The Carina wasn't there, he knew it wasn't there, it couldn't be there, but that didn't stop him from seeing it. And he knew it wasn't the drink. It still haunted him when he was cold sober.

He struggled up the remaining steps to the bedroom. The ruffled comforter on his bed invited him to flop down and wait for the blackout to come, but he knew that lightning or the sunlight tomorrow would rouse him from his stupor earlier than he wanted if he didn't draw the shades. He placed his drink down on the nightstand and crossed to the window.

The Carina now floated a stone's throw from the beach.

Grant's blood ran cold. It had never come this close before. It always lingered at the edge of his vision, just a silhouette against the horizon. Now it was near, a shark circling its prey. He could see the texture of the deck, the spokes of the helm, the letters of “Carina” in faded letters on the hull—

"No you can't!" Grant shouted at himself. "You can't see it! It's not there!"

But it was. It had been for years, wherever he had gone. He even tried living away from the sea once, in a small town near Phoenix, but he could have sworn he saw it floating out in the desert during a drive once, and that one sighting was enough for him to come flying back home.

He wanted to leap away from the window, cover himself with the blankets, and hide from the world, but he was frozen, mesmerized by the craft sitting in the waves. And damn it if he couldn't see someone moving around the deck.

No, he thought. Fucking impossible. No one's been on that deck since—

—since the day his way of life ended. The day Lukas had shown up at the house, unannounced, alone, about four years after he and Carina started dating. The day he had asked Grant to take him out in his beloved boat, get some alone time, some “male bonding time.” The day Lukas had asked for Grant’s blessing to propose to Carina so he could take her away from "this," gesturing to everything around him. The day Grant had felt more rage than he had ever felt before. He had forgotten things from his life, but he'd never forget the utter fury at this pretentious bastard who always looked down on Carina's upbringing, who always bragged about his own family's yachts when Grant had saved for years to buy a modest fishing boat, who had never once made an effort to talk to them unless he needed something. Carina’s mother had been in the ground at least two years by then, and now this pompous asshole had come here to take his Carina, his only living family, away from her home?

The fucking audacity.

Grant didn't remember when the shouting became shoving or when the shoving became drowning. All he remembered was the man's body going limp in his hands as he held him under the water.

Now, as he watched the Carina float just beyond the shore, the mix of feelings he had experienced in that moment came back to him. Rage, guilt, relief, fear, shame...the list went on. But he remembered his first thought once the adrenaline passed: his daughter could never know.

Which is why it was impossible for his old boat to be here. It was with Lukas at the bottom of the ocean.

And yet, it was here nonetheless.

"No," Grant finally said. "Not tonight." This boat had followed him since the day after he sank it. It didn't matter if it was closer than ever before. He was done.

The wind was howling by now, the rain coming down in sheets and bolts of lightning streaking across the sky. He tried to ignore it and closed the blinds. Out of sight, out of mind.

The job done, he walked to the nightstand to finish his drink. Then he collapsed onto the bed, closed his eyes, and—

—and he was outside.

He stood on the beach, staring back at the house. Had he blacked out? Usually he woke up after vomiting the next morning, or to the sound of his radio alarm going off. It didn't feel like that now. Only a few minutes seemed to have passed. He was soaking wet and shivering, the wind causing a chill every time it buffeted his damp clothes.

The sound of waves behind him had become louder. Slowly, knowing what awaited him, he turned to look.

The Carina was on the edge of the beach.

It sat completely still, not even rocking in waves around it, looking less like a boat than the snout of some large predator, ready to open its jaws and ingest him. Its years beneath the water had done no damage; it hadn't appeared to age a day since he last saw it. And there, sitting near the helm, was a dark figure that looked very familiar.

Come on, Grant, he heard Lukas say, the same words he had said all those years ago. You're always talking about this boat. Show me what it can do.

Grant hesitated. Every fiber of his being urged him to go back in the house, to ignore this apparition, but did it matter? He'd be lying if he said he hadn't considered walking into the ocean before. His wife was dead, his daughter didn't talk to him anymore, and he was alone.

So why not accept Lukas's second invitation?

He walked forward, stepping onto the deck. He briefly wondered why his shoes were filling with water if he had boarded the craft, but it passed out of his mind in seconds. Lukas came over to pass him a beer, and the waves were at Grant's shoulders now. He grabbed the bottle and took a drink.

Water began to fill his lungs.


About the Creator

Matt Spaziani

Robotics engineer by day and writer, musician, and gamer by night.

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    Matt SpazianiWritten by Matt Spaziani

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