by Ink Spotz
We're all going to die on this boat. We are going to die.
A mantra from the lips of a dying man; a corpse soon to wash ashore.
Like his brother. His friend. Like the man lying beside him, mostly dead.
"Shut up. Just shut up," rasped his comrade, Eli. "You're digging your own grave before you even die."
"We're going to die out on the sea. Just you, me, and Johnny," cried Jem.
"Johnny is dead. You know he is," snapped Eli. "Now just shut your trap and rest."
"I'll have time to rest with the fishes," moaned out Jem, "Johnny says."
The night stretched on; the little boat bobbing back and forth in the waves.
Both men hung on to life as hard as they could, like they had been.
The waves lapping against the life raft were all they could hear; aside from the gulls who let out a few cries. They acted like vultures, waiting to claim their prize.
Hunger drove them mad, reducing their stomachs to next to naught. An albatross soon visited them, perching on some debris floating alongside them.
"I'm gonna kill it," said Eli. "Just you wait and see."
"You're going to rest with the fishes..."
"Just shut up! I want to eat!"
Eli, desperate for a morsel, a bite of food, slipped from the raft with effort and into the murky blue.
Chilled to the bone and already weak, it took a lot of effort to swim. The albatross watched this attempt, grotesque and grim.
"Bad luck to kill one. Everyone says so," came Jem's cry from the boat.
"This ain't no mariner's tale! We're starved near to death. This might just provide us with the needed sustenance."
Silence followed then; Eli mere feet away. He reached out a quaking hand as the albatross fluttered its wings.
"Stupid bird..." He muttered; hand now about its neck. He yanked it under the water with all his might; holding it there until it lay still and at rest.
"We're going to die," cried Jem who was still on the boat. "We're going to die, and it's going to be because of that bird you choked."
"He drowned," said Eli, annoyance in his voice. "Now shut up and eat. We didn't have a choice."
Clambering back into the boat, Eli butchered the bird. Though raw and bloody, their appetites were appeased.
Late that night, as the two men lay trying to sleep, a voice began to speak. At first it was soft, then Eli could start making the words out.
"Wake up," the voice was whispering. "We need to get out."
Eyes wide open now, quite sure it was a bad dream, Eli turned his head and came face-to-face with Johnny.
"You're dead. This isn't what it seems. Go away. I just want to sleep."
A hint of a smile worked its way onto Johnny's face. Johnny's hand lay on Eli's arm, seeming to firmly be in place.
“The boat is going down, Captain. We're on a sinking ship.”
“We are not sinking. I am floating to rescue. You are dead and need to let me sleep in peace.”
“We're going to die, Captain,” said Johnny, not swayed by Eli's words, “It doesn't matter if you sleep. There is no time.”
“Go. Away.” Eli rolled onto his side, trying to sleep. His eyelids were heavy. His limbs cold as the ocean beneath.
“I tried to warn you, Captain. About the ship's fate. You had time to save them – time to save me – but you didn't heed my warnings. It's your fault we are all dead. "
"It's your fault no one escaped.”
Johnny's voice persisted in his ears as Eli's limbs became colder than before. He could feel a tugging sensation against his legs, and found that he couldn't even open his eyes anymore.
There was never a chance of Eli or Jem being rescued. There was never a life boat. There was never a bloody Albatross to eat. All there had ever been was the midnight blue ocean beneath.
Everything else had merely been a delusion of a guilty mind.
Eli's body bobbed like a buoy in the waves; the audible shuddering of the ship sinking beneath the inky depths behind him the only cry at the funeral.
Then Eli's body disappeared beneath the inky depths.
Soon there was nothing left of the wreck to see – everything buried under the midnight blue beneath.