8. Boat Hell
Author’s note: I stared up at the ceiling of the Wharf Hotel, Melbourne, Australia, and saw an old boat. That’s when I began writing, Boat Hell. Do you get sea sick? I do.
The boat rocked and bumped. Brad’s legs smacked up against the timber sides, then back, in the same swaying motion of the low rolling swells. Sick dripped from his knees, some of it already hardening on the tiny hairs along his legs like glue. Sweat dripped from his forehead and into his eyes and stung. He screwed up his face up and wiped at the salty water, then slammed his first into the side of the wooden boat in frustration. The white, partly sun peeled paint, crumbled to the pool of swishing water at his bare feet.
“You still not over your land legs, Brad?”
Brad didn’t turn his head. His face dropped further and his stomach turned and twisted until he was sure he would die. “I’m Okay.”
His brother laughed and slapped him on the back.
Brad elbowed backwards but only hit air. They shared absolutely no similar qualities except the regular want for adventure, as boys did, and Brad didn’t even know if he really liked his brother. He already knew Tray didn’t like him, but he would never let on either way. Their mum and dad had told them that spending some time on the water together would be good for them. Brad didn’t think so, all they had done so far was sit and barely talk. If they did it was only about how much they hated school.
A wave of water came over the side. It drenched Brad and he shivered, some of it going in his open mouth. He gagged and again vomited. Not once but another four times. He had no idea how he had come to have so much food inside of him. Howls of laughter from behind echoed in his head and made his eyes ache. Somewhere a million miles away, his brother laughed and slapped the side of the boat like he had never seen anyone be sick before. Brad gripped his knees and slowed his breathing, then gagged but didn’t bring anything up except for a little bile at the back of his throat.
If Tray pushed him any further…
The sun settled into the shimmering sea and the glow sank deeper down under the rolling waves. Brad saw all this happen from the corners of his eyes. All his concentration still on keeping his stomach from squeezing again.
Tray cried out as he heaved back and turned the reel on his rod. His first fish. Their first fish of the day, although since Brad hadn’t even baited his hook yet, Tray was likely the only one to catch anything at all. Back slapping would follow once he had the fish reeled in, then the yahooing and general self congratulations. If only Tray would fall overboard, then everything would go quiet. Maybe he would scream and yell, just for a while, pleading with Brad to help him in. Maybe the sharks would come. Then it would be over.
He thought further of his brother’s suffering and began to feel better. Then he felt the slap on his back and the yelling. Tray didn’t stop there. He brought Brad to his feet and attempted an absurd waltz around the narrow deck of the skip The boat rocked and water splashed inside and filled the increasing pool at their bare feet. Brad couldn’t control his stomach. He knew his brother would be mad, but he couldn’t stop. Brown gunk flew from his throat and splashed on both of them.
“Yuck! You stupid moron. You’re such a filthy piece of crap. I only came along because I had to.”
He found a rag he had used to wipe his hands of fish bait and blotted up the bile on his neck and chest. “I wish you would just jump over the edge and die. You’re no good to anyone, you know.”
Brad looked back to his brother. It cost him all his strength and his head swam, but he did so and looked Tray in the eyes. “You… you… you’re supposed to be my big brother. You’re supposed to look out for me.”
“I’m not your brother and your not mine. Your parents hate you more than I do. So don’t give me that crap. If you had of died when you were little like you were supposed to then it would have been me and them. Why don’t you just die now and do us all a favour, yeah? I’m serious. Hey, I’ll even throw you over the side.”
To Brad’s astonishment, Tray gripped him by the shirt and pushed him to the side of the boat. The decking tipped up to the side at a desperate angle with the weight concentrated in one spot.
Tray let go. “God, I’m only messing with you. You’re too uptight. I wasn’t going to… Ah, crap, maybe I was, I dunno. But you were supposed to die, you know. They told me that when they adopted me.”
Brad knew this was true. But he had been told by his parents that he was a miracle, not a burden. His eyes swam in his head and his chin bobbed up and down as he tried to control his squirming stomach and dizzy head, but he managed to stick his middle finger up at Tray and hold it there for a second or more before he had to rest.
Tray laughed. Then laughed again and didn’t stop until Brad spoke.
“I wish you were dead.”
Tray stopped mid-laugh so quick Brad had to open his eyes to make sure Tray still sat in the boat and hadn’t suddenly been swallowed up by a wave. As he did he saw Tray run at him again. The soft glow of the setting sun and lamp dangling from the middle of the skips sail shone on Tray’s face with deep dark shadows. His face showing as a twisted ship wreck.
Tray’s vision blurred as his brother descended upon him. His eyes rolled around and up. His legs went numb. He blacked out.
Brad opened his eyes and stared through crusty eyelids to absolute darkness. He blinked to make sure he had woken but nothing changed. Was he awake? He reached up and felt for the light on the mast and clicked it. Nothing happened. The sails were still tied down. The water seemed more settled now.
No answer. He found the emergency kit to look for spare batteries. His dad had showed it to both of the boys before they set off on their adventure. An adventure. Right. As if it had any chance of actually bringing them closer.
He found the two AA batteries and slipped one into the lamp, but dropped the other. He searched the water, waving his hand through the dark pool and bits of bait from the open bag. No sign of the battery. He decided to try it with one of the flat ones, it would give him some light at least. The lamp came to life as he pushed it in.
Now he knew he was alone on the boat. A soft lapping of the calm waves pushed at the side timber, gently pushing it to the pier where they had left only an hour or two before. Or maybe longer now that darkness lay across the sea. He didn’t want to wonder about where Tray had gone to. Even if he did fall over the side, he had a life vest. He didn’t know now if he wanted him dead anyone, but gone forever would be good enough.
Brad put the oars in their metal clasps and pushed at the water, not entirely sure how the sails worked anyway, since Tray had been in charge of that part, and also not believing the wind would be enough to get him back to the pier.
Half an hour, or maybe longer, he brushed up against the low built pier and the rubber bumpers. He didn’t feel sick anymore although his head still hurt. He jumped up onto the landing and brought the rope from the skip with him and tied it off. Then sat and looked out at the water.
Where was Tray?
As if in answer, a moan came from the end of the pier. He saw what looked to be a leg and foot moving. Someone lying down, although he couldn’t see much past the circle of light from the dull bulb dangling on an ancient metal pole. Brad pushed himself up to his less than average height of four foot eight and walked to the still squirming figure.
“Hello? Tray?” Brad said and stopped.
What if it wasn’t him? Or what if it was and this was a trick?
Brad looked back to their boat. It barely moved on the calm water, although jumped up and bumped against the side of the pier occasionally. He remembered clearly what had happened before he had blacked out. His brother meant to push him over the side. Probably just to scare him, but still, he could have died.
He looked back to the light. The leg wasn’t there anymore. Something stood now and walked toward him. It had to be Tray. He looked injured, or maybe just tired. Brad stayed his ground, preferring to wait for Tray to come into the light rather than him walk into shadows. The figure came closer, but still not far enough into the light. Just metres away and he could still only see his sneakers. The person stopped.
Brad took a few steps back deciding now he didn’t care who this was. He wanted to go home. With or without Tray he was going to go home. He turned and ran back along the pier. Once he hit real ground he looked back and saw the figure under the light. It wasn’t Tray.
“You douchebag! About time you made it back. Mum and dad would have killed me if you didn’t come back with me. Come on, we gotta get going. We’re heaps late. What took you so long, ya dweeb.” Tray shined a torch into Brad’s face. “Oh man, what happened to your head! You’ve got a massive cut there! Damn, mum and dad are gonna freak—”
Something grabbed Brad by the arms and picked him up and threw him at Tray. They both shielded their heads with their arms and then collided. Brad heard another moan from behind, not Tray but from the man, then it spoke.
“You should have died.” It moaned again. “Twice. Twice.”
It held a trident at it’s side and stamped it twice on the ground. Both boys screamed. Tray stood up, then ran a little way, but soon turned back to search for Brad.
“Come on you idiot, get up! Did you hear him, he wants to kill you! Run!”
Brad turned just his head. The still dark figure reached from its shadow, which seemed to hang persistently over its head, grabbing Brad by the ankle and lifted him into the air. Brad waved his hands around and screamed for his dad to save him. Then screamed for Tray to help.
“I know,” Tray yelled back, and began running to Brad. “I guess, it’s why your parents want me around,” Tray grabbed Brad by the waist in an upside down tackle and tore him free from the man’s grip and kept running off to the trees. He finally dropped Brad to the ground, then turned and ran back to the man with the trident.
Brad stammered then finally yelled to his brother. “Where are you going? We should run. You said so. And we have to tell dad and get the police.”
Tray stopped after a few paces and turned around. “Nah, this guy won’t stop coming. You won’t believe me, but I know him. This isn’t the first time he’s come for me, so I guess this is sort of my fault. He’s sort of… well, not alive—”
“What do… what?” Brad said and began to cry.
“Shut up you little dweeb. If you stopped being a little shit all the time we might have some fun. And if you weren’t such a puny idiot you’d help me. I’ve gotta take his trident otherwise he’ll keep coming. He’ll get you too, you know, now that he knows about you.”
Tray swore then spat. “I guess I didn’t like you because what happened to you, also happened to me. I wasn’t supposed to live when I was younger as well.”
“You! But, you should have—.”
“—Should have been nice to you because we’re the same, blah, blah,” Tray finished. “It’s a really long and boring conversation we’re having and I couldn’t be stuffed. He’s come to kill us. Then he’ll kill us when we go to the next place, we’ll never come back then. And that will suck. So I’m gonna send him back where he came from.”
Brad stared. His crying stopped not sure how to reply. The man with the trident came halfway up the hill and seemed to be getting quicker and more agile.
“Well?” Tray said, then looked back at the man with the trident. “We have to do this quick before he gets used to the dead body he’s in. Then it’ll be impossible.”
Tray ran toward the man and screamed, charge, like the soldiers they had watched in the old western movie today. Brad stood and ran as well, catching up with Tray, running alongside him.
Tray growled and Brad growled with him. The man with the trident held up his arms and moaned.