Friday, March 29, 2013

Drifting Luxury Tomb

In response to another writing prompt from my friends at STUDIO 30 PLUS...

It's a photograph, this time!  By Marie of my cyber house rules!

[For this one, I'm going to allow a peek into the still-very-rough first draft of one of my NaNoWriMo zombie novels.  There aren't any zombies in this scene, but whatever.  My protagonist and his dog still don't quite know what's going on, at this point...]

He tried the satellite phone a few times, once actually connecting (more or less) with Bart.  Apart from proving to each that the other was alive, the conversation provided little more than frustration, with Bill yelling "what's going on?" and Bart yelling "where are you?" simultaneously, until after a minute the connection was lost.  By just after dark, Bill had reached St. Kitts, which put him maybe a day or two from the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.   

Here, his exhausted little psyche took another hit.  As they approached Basseterre's Port Zante, with its cruise ship terminal and mega-yacht marina, Bill eased past a massive Royal Caribbean liner, apparently adrift, about two miles offshore.  No fire or passengers were visible, but he thought for a moment that he could hear distant screaming and yelling.  Also, smoke was pouring from the ship.  It was beyond acrid.  Bill gagged and choked and pulled his shirt over his face.  It smelled like burnt hair and raw sewage and body odor all went swimming in vomit together, then wrapped themselves in Styrofoam and lit the whole thing on fire.  Doug threw up a little at his master's feet, then hid in the cabin until the smoke thinned.

Closer to the Basseterre waterfront, Bill spotted what looked like a big red and white sail ahead of him.  As he got closer, he saw that it, too, was smoking a little.  As he made the turn into the biggest, most brightly-lit marina he could find (none of them had answered his radio calls), he saw that the sail wasn't a sail; it was the tail section of a Delta Airlines jet, and the water around it was littered with floating debris and what appeared to be bodies - or parts thereof.  The smell of jet fuel soon overtook the stench of the cruise ship's smoke, and it burned Bill's eyes.  He closed the hatch to try to keep it away from Doug.

He slowed the Sedna to a crawl and approached a pair of gas pumps at the end of the marina's pier.  A powerful hand-held spotlight beam blasted his eyes, zipped around the boat and settled on the bow.  Rubbing his eyes, Bill made out two dark figures between the pumps.  One of them appeared to have a large rifle - maybe a shotgun - aimed at Bill.  Reflexively, he slowly raised his hands, eventually putting them on top of his head.  "I don't want any trouble," he said. "I just want to buy some gas."

"Put your hands back on your wheel, you dumb American!" one of the figures yelled with an odd and very menacing accent. "But first let me see you take the cartridge out of that 9-millimeter you're carrying - and don't do anything stupid or I will blow your head halfway across the harbor."

Bill complied, quickly and a lot more smoothly than he thought he could have.  "I'm cool, I'm cool.  Look, I can just turn around and never look back.  No problem." he said.

"How close you get to that ship?" the other, apparently unarmed figure asked.

"Maybe within five hundred yards.  Meters?  Not that close." Bill felt as though he had wandered onto the set of a disaster movie.

"You pick anyone up?"

"What?  Out there?  No.  I didn't see anyone to pick up.  But I wasn't really close enough to see anything." Bill's internal fight-or-flight debate was over, and he fully expected wings to spring forth from his back at any moment.  He had swung the Sedna around, almost in-place, and now had the port side of the boat up against the pier.  Great, he thought. I'm going to be robbed and murdered, and I'll never get to find out what the hell is going on.

"You stay away from that boat, bro.  You know what's good for you.  You got cash?"

Bill surrendered the sizable roll of bills from his pocket - probably $1,500 dollars, then stood with his hands on his head while the men topped off the Sedna's tank.  Just as the flow of gasoline shut off, from out of the shadows at the far end of the dock, another pair of men charged toward them, cursing and shouting and brandishing a shotgun of their own.  "Hey!  Get away from my pumps!"   

The two guys who had just taken Bill's money and given him someone else's gasoline leapt from the pier into a small skiff, ripped its motor to life and buzzed away.  Bill was right behind them, gunning his boat's big inboards and nearly taking a gas pump with him.  He thought he heard at least one shotgun blast over the roar of the engines, but he didn't look back to see.  A few seconds later, he caught a glimpse of the robbers' skiff, zipping across his bow about two hundred feet ahead in the darkness.  "Good.  Go that way.  I'll go northwest.  Good luck, dudes," he said.

He cut a wide arc around the smoking luxury liner, and when he'd put a few miles between the Sedna's stern and Basseterre, he opened the cabin hatch and let the dog out.  Doug was not amused, as he hated hearing conversations he couldn't sit in on - and utterly despised being closed in the cabin when the boat was moving.  He didn't mind at all being in there, even on rough seas, but only if the hatch was open.  He was not having fun anymore, and stayed very close to his best friend for the rest of the night...


  1. What a perfect story to go with the picture! When I took it (the image) I thought it looked like a ghost ship with all the fog...

    If you ever have any image you'd want to submit for the weekly prompt, just let me know! ;)

  2. Thanks Marie! It's a great prompt-shot, for sure.

    And now you've done it - so many pictures... A couple in mind already. I'll let you know!

  3. Are you doing Camp Nanowrimo? I'm considering it. Trying to patch up some holes and freshen up the edges of my november novel. I don't have zombies, but I do have hot blue-haired alien chicks who look like Mila Kunis in my mind. I love the imagery of the tail of the airplane sticking out of the water. It kind of touches on that "we're totally fucked" feeling you get during the statue of liberty scene at the end of Apes.

    1. I'm not ready for the April session, but I am definitely doing it in July. I just have to decide whether to continue one of the dangly-ended previous stories, or go all-new. If I go all-new, I *might* even do some research, first.

      Also, I will have to learn how to use Scrivener between now and then.

      Are YOU "camping," this year?

      Oh - and thanks for your comment. That is exactly the feeling I was going for! In that moment, my protagonist's crisis grew exponentially, right before his eyes.