Into The Dark

“No, mom. That’s not how it works,” I shake my head and wave to the crowd standing dockside. The smile on my lips is only there because everyone else is doing the same. It’s an infectious thing, that sort of joy. Something I’m hoping doesn’t go away as the ship gets out to sea.

“I know dear, I’m having trouble with it. It’s not something we talked about when I was younger. Women liked men and vice-versa. I just want you to know we don’t think it excuses Bill.”

I nod, even if my mother isn’t able to see it.

“I’m glad you understand that.”

“I do. We both do. A betrayal in marriage is just that. It doesn’t matter what he was thinking. Trying to introduce another woman to your bedroom!”

I sigh. The divorce was bad enough, but having to come out to my parents as a bisexual made it more complicated. Stupid, stupid Bill. Always thinking with his dick first. I almost wish we’d never met.

“Okay, mom, the ship is leaving the dock. I’ve got to let you go. I’ll try to email but I can’t promise anything.”

“Right. We love you, Kelly and I hope you find whatever you’re looking for.”

“Love you too. Bye, mom.”

The crowd continues to wave and cheer for several more minutes as the tugs guide the ship away from the pier. I watch as we slip through the churning ugly dark water of the bay. It takes me away from the stress of the past several months, the frightening amount of uncertainty Bill pushed me into, and the unhealthy amount of resentment my therapist says I have. Absorbed in thought, the world drifts away. Which is why I nearly leap out of my skin when I glance up and notice I’m not as alone as I thought I was.

She smiles, her green eyes shining with suppressed laughter as I stammer an awkward apology.

“Sorry, I thought I was alone.”

Her hand reaches out and touches my arm, as she tucks a few loose strands of hair behind a freckled ear. Any words I might try to say get caught in my throat as she turns around and walks down the deck.

I bend over and put my burning forehead against the cool railing.

“And with that, ladies and gentlemen, my first singles cruise is off to an awesome start.”

#####

Seattle to San Diego, across the pacific to Hawaii, then  onto Sydney. A month and a half onboard to get to know people, to have fun, sun, and whatever else consenting adults want to get up to.

My friend and longtime confidant Monica told me about it a month after I filed for divorce.

“It’ll do you good. Help prime the pump, as it were,” she said.

“I don’t know. The divorce isn’t final yet. And who knows how I’ll be feeling after the papers are signed. Maybe I’ll want to throw myself off a bridge before I’ll feel like dating. Again.”

She shook her head at me.

“Listen to yourself. The divorce is already final in your head. You never did anything that your brain didn’t already analyze a thousand different ways. You’re ready.

“Besides, no one said you had to fall in love right away. Go and have fun. Meet all sorts of new people. Socially and biblically.”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“Because of what Bill did. Do I have to spell it out for you?”

The shocked look on my face must have done all the talking. Monica’s face turned red and she left the office we shared, not returning for an hour. By the time she got back, I’d booked the trip.

Then I was on the phone to my lawyer. If this was going to be a mistake, it was going to be on Bill’s dime, not mine.

#####

“Divorce or spinster? Take a guess.”

She’s not unattractive. The way she’s holding the wine glass at a jaunty angle and tilts her head is alluring, but the half-drunk smile is not. Her bleached hair with blue streaks is rebellious but conforming. Reminds me of half my students right after they have a bad breakup.

“Divorce,” I say.

“Damn. What gave it away?”

“The hair,” I say pointing to her head. Taking a sip of my whiskey, I shuffle the cards. The three others all nod in agreement. Before I can stop myself, my mouth opens again.

“And you’ve got a kid that’s just entering their teens.”

Her brown eyes narrow to points and a snarl briefly appears at the corners of her mouth. It would appear that I’ve touched a nerve.

“Good guess,” she says before the rest of the wine goes down her throat. The second half of the bottle tips into the glass and is swirled around for a second before joining the first.

The others at our little table smile, choking back the laughter as the cards are dealt.

“Twos and Tens are wild this time. Find the joker, double your entry in the pot. Ante up people, we’re playing until someone is naked.”

A pair of socks join my shirt sitting in the middle of the table. A slip suddenly appears from Blue Streak’s side, followed by pair of jeans from right across from me.

“Okay, who hasn’t joined in yet?” I ask.

There’s a sigh followed by a bra.

If I only knew their names. But no, this is one of those activities the ship organizes. Throwing random people together in someone’s cabin with cards, chips, and enough booze to grease the social wheels to China and back. However, we put our own spin on poker night. A little regression to more innocent times.

I pick up my hand and stare at a pair of aces and a pair of tens. Nice.

“What about you, dealer? Spinster or divorce?” asks the blue-eyed twenty-something that ponied up the jeans.

She also falls into that average category, not a great beauty but also not unattractive. Younger than me by a decade. Might have felt something back in college, but that barrier I’ve erected to keep students and myself separate also holds me back.

“I’ll give you a hint,” I say with a smile. “I didn’t pay for this trip.”

We laugh for several minutes before getting back to the game. I slide out one card and wait for them to do the same before picking up the deck again.

“I wish I had thought of that,” socks says.

Another pair of brown eyes, she lost her shirt and bra a while ago. Early forties but has taken care of herself nicely. Her curves only hint at the three kids she keeps talking about. Kids nearly as old as blue-eyes with whom she keeps flirting. Kinda creepy.

Although it’s not nearly as creepy when blue-eyes flirts back. Or when she switched chairs with the ever silent Raven-haired woman so they’re sitting next to one another. At some recent point I made the decision to not look under the table. Just in case.

I circle the deck around the table exchanging cards and end up staring at the Raven for a few extra seconds as she’s distracted. She smiles sweetly when she does finally look up.

“Not to change the subject too drastically, but what did y’all think of that stop we made yesterday?” she asks with a half-southern, half-Texan drawl.

“Pretty weird, if you ask me,” Blue-streaks says, frowning at her cards.

“I don’t know if I buy whales sneaking up on us. Seems to me that they have Sonar to prevent that,” Blue-eyes says.

The others nod in agreement as two of them fold, leaving myself facing Raven and the older Creepy. Raven has been doing most of the winning. That bra she tossed in for ante was Creepy’s. It smacked of being a taunt.

“Okay, last round,” I announce and toss my socks on to the pile. Creepy stands up and unzips her pants with a smile that’d send me running if it was just the two of us. Turns out she was going commando and is literally down to nothing. Raven tosses a shirt from her pile.

“I call,” says Creepy, showing a triplet of kings.

“Not bad,” I say, revealing my full house.

Everyone turns to Raven.

“What? I got nothing. Total bluff this time,” she says, turning over a hand of trash.

Creepy groans and slips down in her chair. The others cheer a little bit as I take my winnings, pulling my shirt back on.

“We said until someone’s naked. And that would appear to be the case,” Raven says, nodding at the pouting Creepy.

“Yup, so do want another round or what?” I ask.

Blue eyes leans over and proceeds to give Creepy a full mouth on mouth kiss. As we watch, tongues come out and fingers start playing with more than hair. Without another word, the rest of up get up and starts going through the pile of clothes as quickly as we can.

Raven stands by the door looking uncomfortable as we struggle to get our clothes back on. Our last look at the pair was one of bodies starting to intertwine. I shake my head as Raven and Blue-streaks start breaking into laughter as we walk down the hallway.

“I totally did not see that coming,” Blue-streaks says.

“Who knows, maybe she has a thing for women twice her age. I’m not judging,” Raven says.

We nod in agreement as we come upon one of the many corridor junctions.

“I think is my stop,” Blue-streak says. “The night is still early and I’d like to see what else might happen.”

“Well, good luck,” I say, waving as she shimmies toward another party.
I turn back to Raven, shrugging my shoulders and sighing.

“You want to walk the deck for a while?” she asks.

“Sure. Oh, and since we didn’t get introduced earlier…I’m Kelly,” I say holding out my hand.

Raven smiles and does a half curtsey before taking my hand and giving it a quick shake.

“Pleasure. You may know me as…Tim?”

“Ah. The old man from scene 24. I wondered why you looked so familiar.”

We laugh. The trip up to the deck is filled with us quoting our favorite movies and shows back and forth. We hit the more obscure ones trying to stump the other.

As we start a second lap I ask Raven what her name really is.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Can’t be any worse than the one I’ve been calling you in my head.”

“And what’s that?”

“Raven. Because of your hair.”

Her cheeks flush red, the blush going down into her shirt. I cock my head to the side as she puts her hands over her mouth and then runs away. It takes a second before I start running after her.

“Wait! What did I say?”

I catch up to her huddling in a chair far from everyone else.
“Hey,” I say leaning down and trying to brush the wild hair out of her face. “What happened back there?”

It takes a second before she looks up into my eyes. There’s a little bit of fear there. Her weak smile does give a bit of reassurance that it wasn’t me she was running away from.

“Sorry. I panicked a little.”

“A little? You ran halfway down the deck,” I say, taking a seat.

She shrugs and unfolds enough that her knees aren’t jutting up under her chin anymore.

“That was a little crazy, wasn’t it?”

“More than a little. I was just making conversation, not trying to get in your pants.”

“I know,” she pauses and sighs. “I think I might have been trying to get into yours. Do you have any idea how poor the nerd to normal ratio is on this boat?”

“I am familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda.”

That gets her to laugh and unfold more.

“Thanks. I really shouldn’t be taking this so seriously should I?”

I grab a hand and give it a quick squeeze. She doesn’t let go after I relax.

“I don’t know. How seriously were you taking it and what were you taking seriously?”

She blushes again before turning and looking away. For a moment, I let her do that. Then I reach out and bring her head back around so we can look each other face to face.

“Right. So how about this: We hang out together, talk, eat, go on walks, see the sights, whatever. If we don’t murder each other, then we can figure out the next move.”

She nods and squeezes my hand.

“My name is Sindy. Short for Cynthia. I was named after my grandmother. But since the seventh grade, I’ve spelled it with an S mostly to piss her off. She’s been a complete bitch my entire life.”

As we sit there, watching the stars and the ocean slip by the ship shudders. Something makes me see double: Two ships moving through the same space but not quite at the same time. There’s another copy of myself, staring back at me. It’s too much. I can’t make any sense of it, so I close my eyes.

Raven starts screaming.

“What is it, what are you seeing?” I shout.

“I…I don’t know. It hurts.”

“Close your eyes. Don’t look and stay close to me.”

The ship lurches, hard, coming to a sudden halt and we’re thrown onto the deck.

“Are you okay?” I ask, turning to Raven who is curled up in my arms.

She nods and grabs me to bring me closer as the PA buzzes to life. A familiar male voice, the same one which does the daily announcements begins to speak.

“There’s been a minor issue with the engine. It will be restarted and everything will be back running in a few minutes. Doctors and nurses will be available on your home deck to examine you, starting in five minutes.”

After standing up, Raven and I remain on the deck watching the stars and holding one another in the dark. A few minutes later, the engines start up and without much delay, the ship begins moving once more.

#####

That was a day out of San Diego. We stay onboard despite thinking the better of the rest of the trip. I regret this in many ways. Not the least of which are the nightmares which Raven starts having as soon as we leave port.

They started with her talking in her sleep. A week later, halfway to Honolulu, she begins waking up covered in a cold sweat. Despite this, she remains upbeat.

Telling me about them, she describes huge structures. Some buried deep in deserts, some drowned for ages under the ocean. All of them surrounded by darkness. In each place, she’s running to keep from being caught by something chasing her through the dark.

#####

“Com’on! When’s the next time you’ll be in Hawaii? Ever?” she asks.

“I’d rather catch up on my reading, Raven. It’s my first chance in weeks. I’ll be able to go out on deck without being bothered.”

“We have only three days in port. Today and tomorrow come with me and explore the island. And I’ll leave you all alone on that last one to do your reading.”

I stand and nod.

“Okay. You’ve talked me into it.”

“Good,” she says leaning in and throwing her arms around my neck.

Despite the touristy things, I really enjoy it. We stay near the beach that first night, holding hands and watching the night come over the glassy bay.

Lacking the funds for another spontaneous beachfront hotel stay, we reboard the boat after our second day of exploration. Our sun-kissed skin welcomes the temperature controlled room and cool showers.

I see Raven off at the ramp and head back to my cabin. I fall backwards onto the bed, taking a moment to soak up the emptiness of the room and closing my eyes.

After a few minutes, I gather up my bag of deck items, grab the keycard and head out of the cabin and make my way up to the ultra-cushy Platinum deck. A few crew members greet me as I wander around the empty seating area.

I choose something deep in the shade side of the ship, less to fuss with, less to worry about if I fall asleep. Wrapping up in my towels and I practically disappear from view. Gulls cracking their lonely cry above and an occasional swoosh from the wind is more than enough to relax me.

I’m not sure how long passes before a couple of senior officers appear, going straight to the unmanned bar. They don’t seem to notice me sitting as they start discussing something that I catch only snippets of before it becomes heated.

“And what did he think was going to happen when they were called? Just swim alongside the ship until we go there?” the first one asks.

He’s stocky but not short. Maybe an inch or two taller than me with mousy brown hair and eyes. The breeze carries the scent of booze on him. As the other starts shouting, I try shrinking into the chair.

“Alright? I know. He knows now. That’s why we’ll delay calling more until we’re there. I guess. He keeps fiddling with the cursed thing.”

The second one is blonde, tall and appears to be chiseled from granite. Not sure what the uniforms indicate, but if I had to guess this one ranked higher than his drunk companion.

“We should take it away from him,” Boozehound says. “Make him wait until the appointed time. We should have never brought him in the circle. Too much risk!”

Granite shakes his head.

“There wasn’t another choice. He had to know so the course could be plotted to coincide.”

Boozehound nods in agreement and brings out a bottle to take a swig of. Granite snatches it from his hands.

“You’ve drunk too much. You need to dry out and get your head right again.”

“Mind your own damn business. With those things, I need all the peace I can get. You don’t have the nightmares, do you John?”

Boozehound grabs the bottle back and seems to gulp down the rest of it in a single movement. Granite-John just shakes his head.

“I don’t but that’s because I’ve made my peace. I know what’s going to happen and look forward to it,” Granite-John says, turning to Boozehound. “Makes me wonder why you haven’t.”

Boozehound sneers at Granite-John before stalking off. Granite-John follows, shaking his head as if disappointed with outcome. No indication that either one of them noticed me sitting there. I check my watch and see that it’s getting close to dinner now.

I let a few more minutes pass before I get out from under the towels, checking to see if I am alone. No noise, no crew. Raven should be back soon. I get my stuff together and head to the cabin.

It could be paranoia but I don’t feel alone on my way back. Something is watching me, but I can’t say from where. Or why. Am I starting to lose it?

I lay down on the bed, trying not to cry but I can feel the tears dripping from the corners of my eyes. About an hour later, Raven comes in and gets me to put my head in her lap, calming me down enough to tell her what happened.

“I think you just fell asleep on deck. You know you were worn out from the last couple of days,” she says while smoothing my hair.

“It felt so real, though. I mean, I could smell the booze coming off the guy. I could have lit it and watched him burn.”

“Dreams are like that. You know the nightmares I’ve been having? Those seem just as real to me.”

I nod and sit up, facing Raven. She leans in kisses me. She feels safe and warm and everything I want right now. My arms wrap her close to me, but she pushes me back.

“We’ve got one more leg of the trip. It’s the long one. Are you sure you want to go? Once we leave there’s no turning back,” she says.

“As long as we’re together, I’ll be fine. This isn’t the first time I’ve had persistent nightmares. And they’re only dreams. Nothing in dreams can hurt me.”

“On to Oz!”

#####

Out on the seas again, Raven suggests going to a Captain’s dinner to see if I see the two men.

“Just to convince yourself it was nothing but a dream.”

“But what if I do see them? Wouldn’t that mean…”

“It would mean nothing of the sort. Trust me. As freaky as my nightmares have been, I know they’re dreams. Anything I see in real life from them is a coincidence.”

“And have you been seeing things?”

She stands up and comes over to me, taking my hands into hers and giving them a squeeze.

“A few things, but again, trust the nightmare expert over here. They’re no big deal. Just coincidences.”

“If I agree to this, will you tell me everything about your nightmares?”

“Everything. But only after the dinner.”

“Okay. I’ll make a call to the concierge and see what it takes to get arranged.”

What doesn’t surprise me is the list. What does surprise me is how easily you can get to the front of the list with a few smart questions and the purser holding a large sum in your ship account.

We arrive to find the dining room very full, waitstaff hurrying everywhere. Everyone is dressed in their best. Even a few tuxedos and formal dresses which look like they flew in from Paris or New York. And here we are in cheap cocktail dresses.

“Well, I don’t feel outclassed in the least,” Raven says.

“Hush,” I hiss under my breath as the Maitre’d shows us to the Captain’s table.

It is not exactly an intimate affair. Around the huge table there’s places for forty people, maybe more. However, he does get up as the two of us arrive to take us from his Maitre’d. We appear to be the last to show.

“Thank you Charles. I’ll show them from here.”

He offers one arm to me and his other to Raven, a gesture that seems to surprise her. I nod, readily taking the offer while giving Raven a look to follow my lead. She does, trying to smile and hide a sigh.

The captain takes us to our seats, presenting us to the couples on either side.

“Kelly and Sindy, this is Georgia and Pete,” he says with a smile and wink.

Pete looks like an ordinary guy in his mid-forties. Maybe a little lanky, the sort of look accountants stereotypically have. His dark skin give the purple suit a certain seventies throwback look. Georgia is a handsome woman, playing up the butch with cropped hair, pantsuit, and shoulder pads big enough for a linebacker.

“Georgia, Pete? This is Kelly and Sindy. Kelly is recently divorced, and Sindy? Well, from what she’s told me this is her big chance to get away from it all.”

I smile at the couple giving Pete a firm handshake and do my best to avoid Georgia’s hungry stare. Raven nods to the both of them as we are turned around to introduced to the next couple.

“And over here Kelly and Sindy, we have Gary and Gary. Not joking. Like yourselves they seem to have found one another on board.”

They nod and we return the gesture, the Captain smiles and claps a Gary on the shoulder before returning to his seat. Raven and I sit down; Raven takes the seat next to Gary leaving me with the feeling I’m going to have to be fending Georgia off for most of the meal. She doesn’t look like the sort of woman who takes “no” for a first, second, or third answer.

As we settle in the Captain raises a champagne flute to the table.

“A quick toast. To all of those assembled here tonight. May you find your dreams as we travel through the dark. It may seem deep and it may seem endless, but we are almost at our destination. And so may we all…”

He doesn’t get a chance to finish as the boat shivers violently throwing everyone to the floor. The room goes dark as dishes crash and silverware clatters all around us. A few screams pierce the air. Raven grunts next to me as we fall backwards, hitting the ground. The emergency lights flicker on, giving me enough light to see that Georgia is on top of Pete while the Garys seem to be trying to crawl under one another like a pair of frightened squirrels.

“You all right?” I ask, stretching out an arm to touch Raven.

“I…I can’t see, Kelly. I feel you. At least, I hope that’s you touching my shoulder.”

“It is. What do you mean you can’t see?”

The main lights try to flicker into life, giving me a strobing view of the room. People are frozen in terror as they try to right themselves.

“I can’t see you. I can feel you. You’re right there, but you aren’t. Where are we, Kelly? Where are we?”

“We’re in the dining room. On the floor. The ship just did that lurching thing again.”

A long pause from her and she stands up.

“No. No we’re not. It’s somewhere else.”

I feel another pair of hands on my shoulders, trying to get under my arms. For a second, I fight against them and then I hear a newly familiar voice.

“Kelly. It’s the Captain. Let me help you up.”

I stop struggling and let him help me stand. Looking around, the room has changed. The lights steady, giving me a good view of the room. Only a few people remain standing around. The Captain stands in front of me looking far more tired than he was a few minutes ago. A few other crewmen also stand nearby, or I think they’re crewmen. Their uniforms look close to what they should have been but they’re not quite right.

I turn back to the captain after looking around the room.

“Where’s Raven? She was right here.”

“She’s in the Dark,” the Captain says. He has an unhappy look on his face.

“I do apologize, Kelly. It would appear that some subordinates of mine were not as trusting as they should have been.”

“Can I get her back? Is there any way…?”

“To find her in the Dark?”

He sighs and pulls a chair up for me to sit in.

“What you’re asking isn’t an easy thing. This last surprise took a lot out of me,” he says with a gesture towards the mostly empty room.

“And you can see that I couldn’t bring everyone back.”

I think about it, looking at him and wondering, questioning everything.

“I know that look. Everyone who starts out down my path gets looks like it at one time or another. So let me say one thing before you make up your mind: It’s all about being an explorer. Nothing more. It’s not about power, it’s about knowledge.”

I frown and feel the stress of grinding my teeth together. Anger, fear, and fury have all joined forces in my heart.

“It was someone named John and a friend. The friend was about my height, brown hair, brown eyes. They were on the Platinum deck a week ago. They were talking and never saw me sitting in the shade.”

The Captain turns and nods to two of his crew. They hurry off before anything else can be said. He turns back to me and puts his heavy hand on my shoulder, giving it a quick squeeze.

“I know the two. They will be punished. But back to Sindy or was it Raven?”

“I was the only one who called her that. Because of her hair. And how she played cards. Smart and observant. Like a raven.”

He nods and smiles slightly.

“Good. You need to keep those thoughts with you.”

The smile broadens some before he turns around and nods to the remaining pair of crewmen. They also head out without a word.

“They’re going to be getting my tools. Now, let me explain what’s going to happen next.”

I cut him off before he can start.

“What do you need me to do?”

He sighs and stands up, just as several crewmen drag John and his accomplice in. They look at him, ready to start yelling when he runs a finger across both their cheeks. Flesh crawls up and seals their mouths shut.

“I know what the two of you did. You’ve done more damage than you could ever imagine. The plan wasn’t to let anyone on the cruise to get lost and now I think about half of the passengers are gone. Lost in the Dark. Good work you idiots.”

They both violently shake their heads, vocal cords straining against the fleshy gags. He turns his focus over to the little, dark haired man whose eyes go wide.

“What am I going to do? That’s a bad question. I’m not going to be doing anything.”

The Captain turns and points to me.

“She, on the other hand, is going to find Raven. And you are going to help her get to the other side.”

The other crewmen return with several items and start working. Within a few moments, they’ve used chalk to sketch something with wild shapes and sigils on the carpet. A bag is opened and a square object is placed in the middle of the work. The Captain nods before stepping into the middle of the work.

His hands are too quick to follow, but whatever he did, it caused the object to open up and it now looks like a harness the color of brass. He picks it up with one hand, using the other to motion to the crewmen holding John. They bring him over.

“Just remember, you brought this on yourself,” he says as he places it over the head like a hangman’s hood.

The heavy brass frame rests on his shoulders, and for a minute nothing happens. Then it sinks in. He tries to scream, but can’t. I hear him strain against the closure. The Captain turns and motions for me to come closer.

“In a moment the ship is going to feel like it’s shuttering again. That’s not really happening, just what your mind thinks is. At that exact moment, I need you to think about Raven. Everything you know about her. And be ready to act.”

I nod and look at John. His face is a picture of exacting terror and pain. I don’t really understand what’s going on but given that Raven is missing because of this man, I don’t have a problem with his treatment.

The Captain places a hand on my shoulder and asks, “You ready?”

“Yup.”

He turns back to touch the harness again. There’s a muffled scream as the room shudders around me and I start thinking about how much Raven has meant to me the last few days. About her smile and how it makes me feel to see it. The room fades, replace by something that echoes our world.

From somewhere distant, I can hear the Captain yelling.

“Keep thinking about her. Call out to her and wait. There are things that you don’t want to bring back. Wait until you are certain that it’s her in the Dark.”

I do as told, thinking about her, and waiting. It takes what feels like forever before I hear something come back.

“Kelly? Kelly, are you there?”

“Raven! Over here! Follow my voice!”

My hand reach out into the unknown, into the dark trying to find Raven. Someone or something passes by silent and the air turns greasy and slick, the sensation is electric and numbing at the same time. Doubling over in pain, I can only think about how the Captain warned me. Then I hear Raven again.

“You stopped talking, Kelly. Where are you?”

She’s close. Still reeling, I stand back up and take a deep breath.

“Over here. Here! Over here! Please Raven, I’m sorry I stopped talking. Over here. I’ll keep it up until you’re in my arms again. I’m here, Raven. Right here!”

For a second I think I see her stumbling towards me as a mass of a body slams into me, knocking both of us over. My arms hug whoever it is, trying to find some way of identifying them. Hair is long enough, the waist just the right shape, and her hands feel familiar as they search over my body.

“Kelly!”

“Help me up Raven.”

“The ship? How do we get back to the ship?”

As the last word of the question escapes her lips as the world becomes dawn grey. There is another shudder and the dining room shimmers into existence around us. The Captain is standing there next to a desiccated corpse, the harness embedded deep into the skin. He sighs and smiles as we take a few hesitant steps towards him.

The crew rushes in with blankets and towels. I turn my head to see the medical crew standing by. Looking down I see the dripping blood flowing down my arm. Before anything more happens, blackness pulls me under.

#####

“I understand, but that doesn’t tell me what happened,” I say as Raven finishes packing clothes into my suitcase. The scar races from elbow to the palm of my hand. A black and red line, parts of it pulse with my heartbeat where my skin is still very thin. The doctor on board has said that with time, it will thicken, but it will be a while.

“Well, that’s all I can tell you. You are incredibly lucky. Lucky that the Captain thought to have the med-team ready, lucky that that cut wasn’t deeper, and lucky that I am the same blood type.”

I put my arm back in the sling. It’s been only a few days since we escaped the darkness. Neither one of us is sure what is going to happen once we dock. There’s a lot of people missing. And we are witnesses.

As these thoughts cross my mind, my eyes drift down to the floor and stay there. Despite everything wonderful about Raven, this is not the cruise I thought I was going to take. She doesn’t speak a word but walks over and embraces me, kissing me on the cheek and pulling my head up.

“Whatever happens next, we’ll be doing it together.”