by J.D. Cook
The water was calm, the sky was grayish white, and Paul was tired. Weather like this always made him groggy. He slouched down on the bench of the Staten Island Ferry with exhaustion. The benches were surprisingly comfortable, in spite of carrying what looked like a painful wood panel design in the middle of them. As Paul felt his head drop to sleep he noticed only one thing. He could no longer see anything out on the water. Other ships, the skyline, and even the water in the distance had been swallowed by the raining mist of the ugly day.
James arrived at the Staten Island Ferry quickly. He flashed his badge without a second thought and jumped aboard the boat. It had crashed in a horrible spectacle of catastrophe. Many people driving down the nearby road, or parked for the nearby Staten Island Yankees game, had been shocked when they heard the screech of metal on concrete. This was combined with the screams of people trying to flee as the boat ran ashore at high speed. Many waiting for taxis had been killed instantly, and still others injured. James was reminded instantly of 9-11, and couldn’t help but be led to think this was somehow tied to terrorism.
“What’s the situation, McKay?”
“We…don’t know,” replied Officer McKay with some hesitation.
“What do you mean? The first responders have been on the scene for nearly an hour! Have they done nothing the entire time?” James couldn’t keep the anger out of his voice.
“No sir, it’s not that at all. It’s just, well…”
“No bodies on board,” mumbled McKay.
“Say that again?”
“No body or bodies are aboard. It is a ghost ship.” James surveyed the boat’s main deck. All of the benches seemed clear at a glance, nobody littered the stairways, and no one was calling out in pain. James’ jacket blew in an eerie wind that seemed to appear out of nowhere, the drizzling rain turned into a downpour suddenly as the grey skies opened up their wrath upon mankind.
Paul awoke to the sound of his IPod blasting the funeral hymn, ‘Dies Irae’. He was a fan of classical orchestral music, and especially of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. Paul loved how the musical theme of love changed throughout the song. It went from sweet to twisted as the story became more bizarre and interesting. Berlioz had written the symphony for a girl, and even got her because of it, only to discover after they got married that they didn’t love each other at all. A sad end to a sad symphony. Berlioz had written Symphonie Fantastique as a program story of unrequited love, and a descent into a mad opium filled dream where the protagonist found himself being marched to the gallows to descend into the final musical movement, “The Dream of the Witches
Sabbath”. It was here that ‘Dies Irae’ played. It was an old Gregorian funeral hymn, but most people knew it as the opening music of the Stanley Kubrick film, The Shinning.
Paul pulled his head phones out of his ears expecting for the familiar voice over the loudspeakers to announce that they were preparing to dock. After waiting for a moment he decided to move to the front of the Ferry so as to get off quicker. Paul grabbed his small lap top bag, and threw it over his shoulder as he moved to the stairs and descended them. As he reached the last step he found a strange sight. The back of the ferry was shrouded in misty grey fog. It reached through the open doors and into the first couple of rows of seats. Outside the windows the grey clouds of the ugly day seemed to press upon the glass. Paul raised an eyebrow and put his hood up over his head thinking nothing of it. Then he heard something. A sound issued from within the grey mist. It shook him to his core. It was a woman’s scream. Paul moved to investigate without a second thought. His dad was a cop and courage came easy to him as a result of a good moral upbringing.
“WAIT!” shouted someone from behind him. “It’s a trap!” Paul stopped and wheeled around on his right foot. A typical Staten Island type of girl sat crouched behind a nearby bench. Her hair was overdone; she wore too much make-up and could fit right in with the cast of the atrocious and culturally depleting television show Jersey Shore.
“What do you mean?” asked Paul, ignoring his feelings on the typical Staten Island girl.
“Some other people were drawn in a few minutes ago. Then they screamed and then they didn’t return.” The girl was panicking and out of breath.
Paul turned back towards the scream. “I have to go in, I’ll be right back,” he declared, unaffected by the girl’s warning. He burst ahead without a second thought.
“That’s what they said!” was the last thing Paul heard as he entered the cloud of grey.
Once inside it seemed like sound was muffled, but he had no idea how this was possible. He could barely make out anything in front of him as he slowed his pace down and walked on. Then something appeared on the ground. It was a fleshy blur at first, but then he realized it was an arm. The rest of the body came into view as he got closer. It was an old Indian man.
He lay on the floor as if he had been crawling towards where Paul now stood. Paul crouched down and gently laid a hand on his shoulder. To Paul’s fright the man awoke with a sudden shock. He spoke in an Indian dialect frantically. Paul didn’t know the slightest bit of this language. His dad had learned a couple of languages for work, but Paul had never invested the time. The Indian man slowed his speech and closed his eyes to concentrate.
“We…” the man paused; English certainly wasn’t his first language. “..must go now!”
As he completed this sentence, the Indian man was pulled away violently. He grabbed onto Paul’s pant leg dragging him as well. The man screamed in terror and Paul tried to stop himself by gaining friction on the wet orange floor. He failed to even slow himself down but suddenly realized where he and the Indian man were being dragged to…off the ferry. Paul knew he had one shot to stop himself. He had to grab onto the doorway as they passed through it. His adrenaline kicked in with force as all of his thoughts now scrambled from his brain.
The doorway came into sight as thunder crashed somewhere in the distance. Paul put his arms out and grabbed the metal doorway with all his might. For a second it felt like he would be ripped in two and then the Indian man was gone, and he was left with the man’s last horrified expression as he was pulled up into the air instead of plummeting down into the Hudson.
Paul didn’t waste a moment wondering what that meant. He got to his feet and bolted back towards the Staten Island girl. The humorous image of kissing her passionately jammed its way into his mind. Levity was all his subconscious could manage to keep him from screaming at this moment apparently. He felt something following him, and he knew it was disappointed when he leapt out of the grey cloud over one of the wood paneled benches. He rested for a moment feeling pain in his back from the hard landing. From under the bench, he looked towards the grey mist he had just escaped and expected something to burst out after him, but nothing did.
James had just finished surveying the entire boat with a couple of the other officers. No one was on board, alive or dead, they had all vanished. The only trace of people that had been found were some bags and other merchandise that they had been carrying, but the people themselves were all missing. McKay walked up to James and handed him a coffee that gave off steam in the cold damp air.
“Any ideas yet?” asked McKay expecting the wily vet to sum up the crime in a Sherlock Holmes fashion.
“None…this is damn peculiar. Someone had to set the ship to ramming speed. Someone had to leave all of this stuff behind. Someone needed to be operating this Ferry!” McKay bent down and picked up a lap top bag from the ground. He lifted it without a second thought. “That’s evidence ki…” James mouth fell open.
“What is it, sir?”
“Let me see that!” James took the bag and quickly rifled through it. There were a large number of things Paul would never leave behind. His comic books, for instance. Paul always seemed to have them on hand since he got a job in a comic book store a few months ago. Then there was his lap top, and his college notebook, but his cell phone was missing. James quickly removed his smart phone from its case and speed dialed him. The sound of Paul’s ringtone surprised both officers. It came from directly behind them. It was issuing from inside the ferry’s internal elevator. James pressed the call button on the elevator, but it did not respond.
“Get me some firemen to wedge these doors open!” McKay was off in a flash, recognizing the ringtone as that of Jame’s son Paul.
Paul got to his feet and found the Staten Island girl still huddled a few rows back. He jogged to her, afraid to walk. “Where is everyone else? What is going on?” Paul shouted as his adrenaline wore off and fear overcame him.
“I don’t know, by the time I noticed anything was wrong, mostly everyone was gone,” replied the girl, much calmer than Paul.
“How did you not notice people VANISHING?” yelled Paul, almost accusing the girl of something.
“I had my headphones on. I wasn’t even paying attention until that Indian man shook me and asked me if I heard the screaming.”
Paul regained his composure a bit as he felt guilty for the tone he had taken with the girl. “We should move to the front of the boat, away from this misting fog,” she added.
“Agreed,” panted Paul standing up next to her. Clearly, her bleach blond hair and skimpy clothing betrayed an iron core within her. Paul would remember that the next time he met someone and judged them from their appearance. The two moved past the snack bar, glancing around quickly for anyone. The girl went into the ladies room but found not a single soul. Then they both received a shock. As they looked back towards where they had been huddled a minute ago, they found it engulfed by the grey cloud of mist.
“It’s moving and soon it will encompass the entire ferry!”
“What do we do?” asked the girl as her iron core melted a bit.
“Keep moving away from it and up the stairs to the other decks,” replied Paul.
“You two down there!” a voice echoed through the ship. It was a gruff male voice – a man most definitely not from New York originally. “Get in the elevator! I will cut the power from the bridge! I don’t know what’s happening, but it should be safe in there, but you need to move quickly because that thing is moving towards you! I can’t hear you, so don’t bother replying and just get a move on!”
The two people looked at each other and bolted for the elevator, but to their dismay the cloud had already taken it at this level. Neither was brave enough to dive into it and wait for the elevator. “Next level! Get to the next level!” called the voice over the loudspeaker.
The pair ran away from the mist towards the front of the ship and turned into the stairwell. Paul stopped for a moment and noticed that the silver sliding doors at the front of the ship where he usually waited for the docking ramp to descend were closed shut, but then, as if on cue, one of them began to slide open. Nothing was behind it, and the boat didn’t seem to be in rocky waters. It was being opened by some thing. The cloud seemed to seep in towards him, but he didn’t waste another second as he shot up the steps after the girl. She was stopped in front of more of the cloud on the second level. It again had beaten them to the elevator.
“The hurricane deck! The last highest level! It’s our only hope!”
“Are you crazy? It will be filled with this!” replied the girl as Paul wasted no time ascending to the next level. She followed, and to both of their surprise the cloud wasn’t present here. They jogged to the elevator and hit the call button. It responded, but it was obviously on another level of the ferry. Paul looked out into the grey white mist that surrounded the ferry, but it was a useless gesture as nothing could be seen.”LOOK!” shouted the girl. The door to the outside sitting area of the ship where the tourists loved to stand and snap pictures of the Statue of Liberty shot open hard. In flowed the white grey mist and the elevator had still not arrived. As if on cue, the other doors around the deck shot open. It would have them in seconds. The girl grabbed Paul instinctively and he squeezed her as if she had been his lover for some time. The two leaned against the elevator doors and closed their eyes. It was almost on them. It seemed to inch towards them as if it was alive. Paul opened his eyes and could swear he detected a mist like hand reaching for him out of the haze when the elevator doors opened and they both fell painfully inside.The girl jumped up and slammed on the ‘door close’ button multiple times. It seemed to wait stubbornly as if it wanted them to be enveloped. The mist-like hand seemed to be turning the corner into the elevator. It was just about to Paul’s face when the door closed and cut it off.
Both Paul and the girl breathed an immense sigh of relief. They cuddled as if they had just engaged in a marathon of romantic movies. The lights of the elevator went out, and both of them barely noticed. “Thank God for whoever was on the loudspeaker,” said the girl. They both let go of each other as if they suddenly realized they were both complete and utter strangers.
“Carissa,” replied the girl after Paul cut the oddness for both of them by introducing himself. Without thinking Paul leaned in for a kiss, but Carissa withdrew.
“I’m engaged,” she replied holding up a huge diamond ring. The awkward silence that followed was akin to a turtle on its back.”It’s not a big deal,” laughed Carissa.
“Sorry,” replied Paul with a chuckle. “Damn, I lost my bag!”
“I’m sorry, I think I broke the strap when we hugged each other.”
“It’s no problem; I’m sure my dad will find it and realize where we are. He’s a cop.”
James stood by the elevator doors as he continued to call his son. The phone continued to ring without an answer. His stomach turned around as if it was a washing machine on spin cycle. The firemen stuck crowbars and axes into the doors. With one giant heave, the doors would be open. James and McKay stood awaiting the worst. Jame’s imagination got the best of him as he imagined the badly mangled and mutilated body of his son, but he quickly pushed these thoughts away.
“Hey James, want to hear a joke?” asked McKay seeking to break the tension.
James needed to escape his own mind for a second. He knew it was impossible, but the only thing he could do was try.
“Go ahead.” McKay was a good kid, and he didn’t know how to handle the situation himself. Sometimes all you could do was try to laugh.
“This guy I know is in his front yard the other day, when this really hot blonde neighbor comes out and goes for the mail.” McKay stopped to remember the rest. “So she looks inside the mailbox and then slams it shut before going back inside her house.”
James had heard this before but he wouldn’t tell McKay and he couldn’t even focus on the joke anyway. “A little later the blonde does it again, this time she gets angrier before heading back inside. Finally a bit later the guy is outside again and sees the girl do this yet again, but this time he asks, ‘Waiting for a package?’ to which the blonde replies, ‘No, my computer keeps saying, you’ve got mail!'”
No one laughed as the firefighters gave their heave and threw the elevator doors wide open. Out of it burst a grayish white mist that covered the area for a second before it started to dissipate. Everyone waited in silence for the last traces of it to fade so that they could get a good view of the elevator. Except when it finally did everyone was surprised to find nothing within, nothing except Paul’s cell phone which displayed the ten missed calls from his father. James burst out with a scream of frustration tossing his own cell phone into the wall. He fell to his knees and pounded on the ground as McKay leaned into the elevator and surveyed the space. The firefighters left to help with those injured by the Ferry crash.
Paul and Carissa sat in the dark happily. They had been there for an indeterminable amount of time making what idle chit chat they could. Suddenly the elevator seemed to shake slightly. Then a little more so; Carissa and Paul drew close to each other again.
“Have we crashed?”
“I think it would have been more violent if we did,” replied Paul hoping the elevator cable held tight. He knew the possibility of it snapping was slim and that the fall three floors down would probably not be fatal, but he had a big imagination. From outside the elevator a sound came. At first it was indescribable. Then it took the shape of words as light began to issue through the crack of the elevator doors. Paul looked at Carissa’s eyes and found them a milky white. He slapped her face, lightly at first, but she didn’t respond.
Then all Paul could do was listen to the words that were now deafening, and he finally comprehended them as, “I am always watching you. The time has come for me to take you away with me.”