“To the lucky deckie!” Skipper roared. All the beer glasses went up with a ragged cheer, before tipping to empty their contents down the throats of their owners.
My glass came down empty. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and stood up. I started to weave through people to the sink out the back. It was near closing time and there was an unspoken rule – it was always the deckies’ turn to wash up.
Skipper stood in front of me, so I had to stop. “Not your turn tonight. You head back to camp.” He winked. “Maybe find some other way to celebrate tonight.”
Bloody bastard was reading my mind. I faked a yawn. “Yeah, like sleep before you get me up at the crack of dawn tomorrow.” I stumbled out of the club into the dark.
Someone made a ribald comment behind me that I didn’t hear, but the laughter in response was unmistakeable.
It took me a minute to find my torch in my pocket and switch it on, before I went down the rock-strewn track to the dinghy.
I pushed it out into the water and got in. The engine caught on the second pull and I steered her around, headed back to Rat Island and camp. Good thing I knew this stretch of water so well – beer and driving a boat in the pitch black was bloody difficult.
I figured I had maybe half an hour before the other guys would be back. If we had the lights out by then, maybe they wouldn’t bother us. Was that enough time for a couple of drinks with her? A drink or two and one thing might lead to another….SHIT!
I felt the wave drench me from behind and saw it half fill the boat with water, knocking the torch out of my hand. The engine sputtered and died, drowned, and I found a few more four-letter words to describe the motor. I pulled on it, over and over, pounded it till my hand hurt, but the bitch didn’t catch. Dead in the water, with a boat full of water, I groped for the paddle I know had been there before the wave hit. My hand grasped the handle and I pulled it free.
Look at the bloody lucky deckie now, I fumed. Paddling his bloody dinghy back to Rat Island in the dark.
I paddled till my arms ached, but the distant lights on Rat only seemed to get further away. I saw the other guys get in their dinghies and head back to Rat Island in a convoy. I shouted and waved, but they never heard me. The wind was blowing the wrong way, carrying my voice out to sea. It had picked up a fair bit, too.
I stopped paddling to rest for a few minutes, letting the boat drift with the waves. Maybe it’ll ground on a sandbank or a rock and I can just sit here and wait till morning.
I hadn’t prayed about it, but the unsaid prayer was answered anyway. The bottom of the boat scraped across a rock. I tipped the useless motor up, in an effort to save it from further damage, as the tinnie wedged up against part of the rock just under the surface. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Now I just sit here and have wet dreams while I’m soaked through in a dinghy full of water on a rock, until someone comes looking for me in daylight. Just the thought of Vanessa with her clothes off would keep any red-blooded male warm for a night…
I drifted between sleep and daydreams, waking every time a wave jolted the boat. Another wave sloshed over the side of the boat, soaking me again, and forcing me awake. The boat was almost full of water now, I realised in panic, as I groped for a bucket to start baling with. Throwing bucket after bucket overboard, I couldn’t tell if I was making any difference to the water level in the boat.
One moment I was holding the bucket, about to scoop up more water, the next I was flying through the air, full of spray and water and no sign of the tinny. Suddenly immersed in cold, black water, I couldn’t see the surface. I struggled, kicking in the direction I thought was up, and hit a rock. I jerked back reflexively and my head cleared the water. I gulped a huge lungful of air and grabbed for the rock. I had to hold on till daylight. Surely, that couldn’t be too far away.
Another big wave broke and I tried to keep a hold of the slimy rock, but I was pushed out of reach, drifting in the current. I tried to kick my legs, but I wasn’t sure if I did. I couldn’t feel my feet and the numbness was creeping up my legs. Vanessa won’t be able to help me here, I thought. I could feel my body shake with laughter. I drifted.
I could hear the breakers on the outer reef, louder than they were from shore. I could feel the spray on my face. A wave washed over me and I was under the water again.
I thought I heard dolphins, but it sounded deeper and closer with my head submerged. Dolphins or whales? I thought I could feel them beside me, rolling me over so my face was at the surface, pulling my body through the water.
Arms lifted me into a boat, laying me down across the length of it. Dolphins with arms? No, that’s not right.
I could feel the boat moving through the water, but I couldn’t hear the engine. Maybe it was the rushing in my ears, drowning it out. All I could hear was an unearthly singing, high and sad, like some kind of suicidal dolphin. I could say I blacked out, but everything was already so fucking black I wouldn’t have noticed the difference.
I checked out of Hotel Consciousness. At least I got to dream of Vanessa naked.
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Genre - Australian sea adventure,contemporary urban fantasy,paranormal romance
Rating – PG 13