The storm happened last night, but now the waves are calm, and it’s as if I'm being thrown from one hell into another. They lap against the side of the boat with a maddening to and fro. First was the threat of an abyssal grave and being crushed as my lungs explode before they are filled with the cold. The salt burns my throat and the darkness taunts me as I am tossed around like a flag at full mast in a storm. Now I’m taunted again. The calm is a different extreme, giving me an uncomfortable solace. Land within sight, but no wind to propel me. y ship which feels small and decrepit. So small and helpful that for all intents and purposes it may as well be an unstable island that I yell from. But the people are too far away to hear me. Although an island would be safer and more stable.
Then, as if by some miraculous act of fate, I see a ship. It is coming from the mainland, and it is getting closer.
‘I’m telling you, just come and watch. It’s actually a lot of fun.’
‘I know it’s a lot of fun, but it’s not my kind of fun.’
‘You can’t just know me. I mean, I’m amazing, everyone knows it,’ with that Angela pauses to wink at herself in a nearby mirror.
We ended up living in university housing almost next to each other. We had been inseparable for the last few weeks so she insisted on introducing me to new people, but I never had the opportunity to meet people without her. Which means I haven't made any friends of my own, since she is a big presence in the room. It’s what I love about her, she brings out everyone's smile.
However, she seems intent on easing me into the social scene with the same grace and poise as a flaming munitions truck ploughing through a fireworks factory. Thus, we have the same conversation we have almost every day. ‘And I would never want you gone. You’re awesome, you’re creative, you get my humour.’ She has a very dry, and dark humour. Oddly enough it aligns with many of my daydreams, so we laugh at things without having to say what it is that’s funny. ‘But…’
I can feel it now. The waves change. They're not the waves of the tide or wind. They're made by something sinister. Something natural. The most natural thing you’ll ever meet. The apex predator.
It had noticed me within its domain.
‘You need to be you, not the person that hangs out with me. When people ask about you I want to be able to say all this great stuff about you, not just about us.’ She draws out words until she loses her breath. There's a low-pitched screeching from the creature below me. It sounds almost like the creaking of an old, wooden house.
She can't hear it. Perhaps I’m hearing my boat be slowly pried open for the waves and the terror beneath to flood in. My heart is racing, my smile fades away.
‘And I will get there... I promise.’ I sit calmly on the deck, awaiting the beast. Surely if I submit it will be swift and clean. Right? Surely there’s a sense of logic and perhaps even common courtesy to this beast. I hang my head and my body slumps as I accept my fate. Surely, I can find a small serenity within my hell.
Then, from nowhere, there’s a strange sound. It's like a soft whistle, a squelch, and a scream, much higher than I expected from the creature. I lift my head to see a silver harpoon, dripping with a toxic-
looking, blue liquid, so dark that it was practically black. It recoils, the tentacles flail and the creature recedes back to the deep abyss.
There stands my saviour, my captain, the beautiful girl who takes my hand and pulls me to my feet. ‘Starting next week I need to be there anyway, so you may as well come too. Besides, they aren’t just jocks. They’re people too. You may even make some new friends.’
As she turned her back to return to her vessel, gold tracing the banisters and the sails a marvellous, regal orange, I am snared. She walks away, oblivious to my torment, tentacles seemingly made from the dark fluid that had oozed from the beast’s wound constrict my limbs, my body, my face. I can't see, speak, or move. I feel myself being crushed by the cold and fear, my abyssal grave. I feel my chest tighten again.
Then I feel a warm touch and I open my eyes. Her room is not cold, but still I think I shuddered. Her bed is comfortable, yet I am nervous and rigid. Her hand has moved to my shoulder and the cold recedes away. The sun is drying me of the stinging water and the dark tendrils evaporate into the air. I look up to see Angela smiling at me, my glorious sun above the sea. ‘Don’t worry. This won’t be as big a deal as you think it will. Trust me.’ Then she grabs my arm and pulls me to my feet. Suddenly I realise what a great captain she would make. Equal parts motivation, determination, and compassion.
I'm heading home, Angela’s set off for a night out with her girlfriends. I don’t really know what she is hoping to achieve by pulling me out of my shell. I like my shell. It’s cosy in there, and I have unlimited Wi-Fi to my own little worlds. But Angela insists there is a sport that even an introvert like me will get into. I’m not confident in her assessment. So I send her a text message.
What’s the game called again?