Friday, October 7, 2011

Chapter Thirty-Six

Why do I keep getting hit in the head? 
I clutched my skull behind my left ear.  It was crusted with dried blood.  My mouth tasted like camel dick. 
I don’t know how I know that.
I rolled to my side, propped myself up and bumped into something.  It was black as a bucket full of assholes inside wherever I was.  Then I sensed the movement and knew – I am inside a ship crossing the Atlantic.  I had experienced the pitch and roll before when afloat for my third-class cruise.  Thankfully, I do not get seasick.
Aw crap!
After ralphing what little I had in my gut I continued dry heaving.  I think I puked my appendix out.
I must have blacked out again because I awoke to a longer pitch and roll.  The air was stale with the smell of – me.  I had no idea what day it was, what time or where on the ocean I might be.  I managed to sit up and get my back against a wall.  I used to call them bulkheads but I've forgotten so much about being a Marine that it feels wrong to use the jargon of the person I once was.
My stomach stayed steady though my head continued to press against the back of my eyes.  My left eye especially, and my teeth ached.  I took a deep breath and winced as the cold air hurt a tooth.  I probed around and felt a jagged edge; one of my back left lower molars felt cracked.
Great, a trip to one of those sadists in white coats – dentists. 
The long swells had started hobby horsing the ship; a storm must be on the horizon.  The ship groaned as it adjusted to a different period between trough and peak.  An occasional corkscrew roiled my gut, but keeping my body against the firm structure helped. 
I adjusted and after a long moment ran my hands over the rest of me.  No other apparent wounds applied for attention.  So I turned and gazed into the dark.  It did not look back.
I felt adventurous, so I moved to my hands and knees and swept in front of me like a panhandler groping for a dime.  I found a table bolted to the floor.  I found the far wall and followed it back around.  A shudder found the ship and it responded with a deep bass groan.  I slid into the wall as the ship regained itself.  Putting my hand out to steady myself, Ifelt something familiar.  As I crawled nearer the mildew smell confirmed my touch.  My seabag.
I pulled the heavy canvas over by the strap.  A warmth infused me like finding an old friend.  I fumbled with the combination lock.  My finger found the raised notch.  Finding zero was a bitch.  I developed a large respect for the blind as my frustrations grew. 
I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.  I knew the combination but had always spun the dial by sight.
What the …
Footsteps fell outside my compartment.  They paused outside the far wall from where I was sitting and, after a moment, retreated.  My heart skipped a beat then continued too fast.  Adrenaline made my hands shake.  I exhaled again – this time a long slow clearing breath.  I could taste the adrenaline and pushed my exhale out again to dump it.  A peptic taste and weakness filled me..  All a natural reaction to fear but shitty nonetheless.
I turned my attention back to the lock with renewed urgency.  The footsteps could come back any minute.
I have no idea how I did it but I opened the lock.  I near wept from relief as the tumbler clicked open. 
I fumbled through the bag, tossing clothes and other items out of the way.  There. What I was looking for -- a small plastic dry-bag.  I opened it carefully, found the item and tore the plastic wrapper with my teeth.  I snapped it and shook the capsule. The chem-light glowed and showered my surroundings with a diffuse light. 
I was in a 10 by 10 room.  And there was a porthole -- painted over, dogged closed, but two feet from the ceiling.  If I stood on my toes I could just reach it.  I started to do that when a click popped a speaker in the passageway.
“Welcome aboard Jake.”

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