Saturday, September 21, 2013
Serial Saturday: Suggestion Box #9
Featuring the Suggestions of Pamela Poole.
Uncharted Phoenician island
The setting sun cast an amber glow over the dark sands of the island. Sprawled just beyond the ebbing tide was the form of a man. He was a man of average appearance, the rumpled tuxedo he wore contrasting sharply with his tousled, dark hair full of sand.
Horatio opened his eyes. He wondered briefly if this was a dream--and yet it seemed much more real than the last vague memories wafting over his recollection. He picked up his head, but even this new perspective did not yield much. There were trees, but entirely a different species than any Horatio had ever seen, even in his far-flung travels.
Movement began in his toes and fingers first, spreading up his arms and legs toward his trunk. At last, Horatio mustered enough energy to bend his arm and push upwards, rolling from his front to his back. Panting from the effort, he smeared the sand off his cheek and squinted up at the sun. How did it come to this? Horatio closed his eyes against the dying light and let his mind drift back to who-knows-how-many hours earlier...
The cruise ship was ablaze with lights of every color. A floating hotel, they called it, and for Horatio Whistlestop, it really was a home-away-from-home for him. The agents organizing the Mediterranean cruise joked that Horatio Whistlestop was better off owning a cabin on the AquaVita, since he never failed to participate in that cruise, and he always chose the same berth.
He exited his third-deck port-side cabin and adjusted his bowtie as a bevy of sequinned beauties emerged from the aft corridor, headed for the stairwell that would take them all to the dining hall. They waved; he smiled.
"Good evening, ladies," he crooned.
"Good evening, Mr. Whistlestop!" one charming specimen in an aquamarine shift tittered.
He shrugged magnanimously, "Please, call me Horatio." He offered his arm to the one who had replied. His new entourage twittered like the exotic birds they resembled. Horatio descended the stairs and drew the attention of everyone nearby--exactly as it should be.
Endless food and drink, lively music, and wonderful dancing dominated the ship's ballroom. Waiters in white waistcoats milled among the tables with trays full of fresh flutes of champagne and petite hors d'ouevres.
Horatio was never without a companion all night long. Their faces began to blend together; the only distinguishing feature Horatio could remember was the color of the dress. He dined with a woman in royal-blue silk, danced with a beauty in a red dress, and shared drinks at the open bar with a young brunette wearing a black, close-fitting, off-the-shoulder number. Horatio eventually began to feel the effects of drink; his head felt light, and the music buoyed his mind past the capacity for thought. Everything was light and sound and laughter and excitement--
Then the foghorns blared. Alarms sounded, and a voice erupted from the loudspeaker.
"Emergency! Emergency! Everyone please move toward the lifeboats in an orderly manner. Do NOT return to your rooms! Repeat, do NOT return to your rooms! Please follow thesssshhhh!"
The announcement died in a burst of static, but there was no time to comprehend the orders, as the lights flickered at the same time as a strange movement in the floor. An entire table setting crashed to the floor before one of the guests shouted out, "We're sinking!"
Pandemonium erupted, and everyone immediately began screaming and running for the nearest doors, or throwing themselves against the walls and columns in a panic. Horatio sneered from his position on a sofa; two little words, and suddenly everyone forgot how to stand or walk! He stood, and immediately pitched forward on the sloping floor. Horatio caught himself on an armchair and thrust his body back upwards. He straightened his jacket and bent his knees as he hobbled sideways along the slant, fighting to maintain his composure amid the hysteria. Once he made it to the outer decks, he broke into a stumbling run, trying to make it to the life rafts, even as he saw passengers throwing themselves over the railing and into the churning sea.
Just twenty feet from the bank of boats, the ship gave a perilous lurch, and suddenly, Horatio found himself hovering thirty yards in the air, over the angry water, with nothing underneath. He was falling, falling--a pile-driver of cold wetness, and then nothing but warm darkness.
Horatio opened his eyes as the memory ended. He was still laying on the beach, but by now the sun was touching the horizon. Soon it would be night; a cool breeze was already blowing across the surface of--
Horatio heaved himself onto his feet. Where was he? There were no buildings as far as he could see, no people milling about, no familiar ports. He walked down the beach until he reached the edge of it. The whole land mass seemed completely isolated from the land. Far on the horizon Horatio could see shapes of other shores--but beyond the fact that this was somewhere near Greece, he had no idea where on earth he was.
Horatio shivered and hugged himself as a strong gust billowed around him, biting through his wet, salt-caked clothes. He needed to make a fire; when it was warm and comfortable, then he would worry about food and a return to civilization.
Horatio set about gathering dead branches from around the trees while it was still light enough to do so. His pile of twigs and sticks was barely visible in the twilight as he fumbled in his pockets. Never had the little box of matches felt so good in his hand. Horatio stopped to examine the small anchor printed on it, along with the name AquaVita. It took nearly the whole box, but at last he had a small blaze going.
A sharp snap severed his calm. Horatio looked off to the forest. In the dancing light of the flames, the shadows seemed to hide animals, even though he had been over most of the visible undergrowth and had seen nothing that indicated any other signs of life. Horatio slowly stood.
"Hello?" he called.
A rustle echoed through the brush, but it could have been the wind. Horatio stood, grabbing a long branch from the fire to use as a torch. Cautiously, he crept toward the treeline. Just ahead of him, a branch clearly twitched. Horatio stopped and gripped his torch with both hands.
"All right, you!" he yelled. "Come out of there!"
There was no response. Horatio stepped closer.
"I said," he reached forward, "Come out!" He yanked the branch suddenly. Something rough slapped him in the face. Horatio yelped and stumbled backwards. In the light of his torch, he saw that it wasn't an animal, but something attached to the branch:
A length of rope, tied in a peculiar style of knot around the branch.
The 2013 Suggestion Box Series:
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13