Ocean spread out
as far as any eye could see. Only a strong telescope would
have detected the land. It was calm, with not a breath of
The yacht Lady
Maria rested on the glassy surface. Her anchor had
not been lowered, the wind and current not being enough
to move her from the spot. On her foredeck lay a very young
woman, dressed in a yellow bikini. She lay on her front,
the straps of the bikini pulled off of her back to avoid
tan lines, her breasts flattened against the deck itself.
She seemed to be asleep.
At the wheel,
an older man, old enough easily to be that woman’s father,
although there was no physical resemblance between the two.
He had the boat heaved to and was reading a book.
They were, in
fact, becalmed. Which in this day and age is no great terror…if
all else failed, the Maria had an auxiliary, but they
were determined not to use it until they had to. She had
a radio. The fact that there was no wind was not a threat
to life and limb, but rather an excuse to relax.
The young woman
finally sat up, her brown aureoles visible for a moment before
she re-secured her top. She did not seem to care if anyone
saw her, and, for that matter, who would?
There was a third
person on the yacht. That third person lay in the cabin,
a pimply young man. The misery on his face indicated that
severe seasickness had recently been experienced, although
now he was stirring, starting to sit up, perhaps emboldened
by the lack of motion the boat was currently displaying.
He wore only a set of shorts, but the body thus shown had
nothing special about it…it was scrawny and pale. He headed
back, to the head, emerging a moment later with a befuddled
expression before he started to climb up on deck, closer
to the wheel than to where the woman now sat, rubbing on
more sunscreen in a vain attempt to prevent the cancer she
the…” He trailed off, glancing off the back of the ship.
At such an angle, only he could see the other boat coming
towards them. “Watch out!”
The man at the
wheel, who’s name was Paul, turned…and then he kicked the
auxiliary into action. Determined not to use it as he was,
the other craft…somewhat larger…was coming in at speed, and
coming right towards them.
The Maria leapt
into motion, her narrow hull cutting through the waves.
“That’s one lumbering
whale of a boat. Who’s not looking where he’s going.” Paul
lifted his voice. “Ahoy!”
No response from
the boat. It seemed to be ignoring them, but it, at least,
kept on sailing past.
“I’m going to
report him to the Coast Guard.”
“What is it, David?”
“Did you hear
“No…” Paul trailed
off, frowning after the boat. It had no sails and in any
case there was no wind.
Then it was suddenly
turning, within its own length. The Maria heeled away.
“It’s a Dutchman.”
The woman, moving
into the wheelhouse, had turned pale under her tan. “Are
they trying to run us down?”
“Yes,” Paul said,
shortly. “Hold on.” He put on all speed, wishing for a wind.
Any wind, even the breath of a wind. The Maria was
far faster under sail than she ever could be on the auxiliary,
and there were tricks he could do that he could not do with
It missed them
again, but so close they could feel the wind from its passing.
Cold and chill it was, but it touched the yacht’s sails not
at all. It was as if it only had the reality it chose to
have, here on the blue ocean.
The skies remained
blue, the sun still beat down, as the boat chased the Lady
“We’re all dead,” David
said, over and over again. “We’re going to die, going to
die, going to…”
The girl slapped
him, hard, the red imprint of her hand on his cheek. “Stop
that. We’ll definitely die if you…”
The yacht heeled
again, and David almost went overboard. “Maybe we should
Paul was focusing
on the wheel. “We’re too far from shore. Who would pick us
The boat bore
down on them, and then it struck…it struck aft, knocking
the Maria sideways through the water. The three were
flung into the ocean. The water was cool, chill after the
heat of the sun, but not cold. The woman, not wearing a life
jacket, flailed before she tread water. Paul had found his
own water legs faster. He spun in the water. “Dammit.”
no sign of, for he had been swept under the boat, down into
the dark water, from which he would not rise until doomsday,
should such an event occur.
The stream of
curses that came from Paul were no more productive than David’s
earlier hysterics. As the boat turned again, the woman, Helen,
treated him in the same way.
Helen shook her
head. “You go.” She had found something within herself most
people possess to some degree, but few ever really learn
to use. Courage.
Instead of swimming
away from the boat, she swam towards it.
screamed, not wanting to see the young woman pulled under.
Or, worse, chewed up and spat out by it.
“Go!” It was still
silent, it made no sound this boat, it was nothing but a
shadow, as she got closer.
As she reached
for the side of it, as she lunged for the ladder that so
conveniently fell down the side, a chill ran through her.
Her blood turned into ice, and she knew, knew with everything
that was in her that if she did this she would never return
to the world of the living.
What was it the
Dutchman sought? A beautiful woman. Paul had said ‘a Dutchman’,
though. A ghost ship, and…it was about to kill Paul.
That carried her
up and onto the deck and into the wheelhouse. Her hands on
the wheel, and she tried to turn it. Tried to. All of her
strength, for a moment, could not budge it.
“You have me.
You don’t need him as well,” she screamed to the air, to
nothing, and it spun in her hands, swerving the boat away.
“I love you, Paul,” she
called, and then she looked again. It was solid to her now,
the boat, the reality around it flowing away, becoming mist.
But there was
no voice, and in truth, there was nobody on board. It was
not a man who sought a beautiful women.
It was simply
a boat, that sought a pilot. A boat from which Helen would
never again step ashore…but which would claim no more victims,
for she had done what she had done out of love, not a desire
Yet, when the
sea drew calm again, the boat could be seen once more, forming
out of the mist. For just as the Dutchman could be freed
by the love of a true woman…so could she be freed, by the
love of a good man.
What of her Paul?
That was the real
tragedy. He never loved her.
# # #
Aboard the Lady Maria by
published in the Fall 2011 print edition