November 2014

A Mysterious Rumbling

Did anyone else feel that? I hesitate to call it an “earthquake,” since I am beneath the waves in the bathysphere, and there is no earth for me to feel moving. However, the Aqua Hermitage did shake in a way which was completely unlike the swaying I associate with the moving of my supply ship above. Furthermore, the bathysphere was completely surrounded by a cloud of bubbles, coming up from below me, and lasting for nearly a full minute before finally dissipating.

I have lost contact with my interns, although I am not overly concerned by this as of yet. They are a reliable crew, as far as it goes, but the are so very, very young and so very, very slightly paid for their work, it is highly possible that they have merely wandered away from the bridge, and are engaged in a study session or group project of some sort. They are truly the best team money could buy, though again the money with which they were bought was a very, very small amount.

It’s difficult, adventuring on a budget.

If I do not hear from them by the morning, then I will assume there has been an equipment failure, and will resort to our backup method of communication: empty Yoo-hoo bottles stuffed with notes written in felt pen on pieces of toilet paper. Sometimes the old ways are the best.

Either way, I will be donning my diving suit and descending to the floor of the bay to explore the area. I wish to see if I can find the source of these mysterious bubbles. There may be an adventure to be had there.

Hope springs eternal.

The Journal of Ziv Falcone: 11-4-14

She had the softest lips of any woman I’ve ever kissed, like pressing my mouth against a summer wind moving in from across the ocean.

I was riding at the back of the bus, just at dawn this morning, making my slow way to the wharf to meet up with Lewis for the boat ride out to Sebastian’s yacht. We’d made plans to ride together that morning, and to leave his car parked overnight in the garage, but he’d sent a text at eleven last night telling me that his old Focus had died in Daly City, so that mode of transportation was shot this time around. He offered to split a cab with me to get to the boat, but I am a man of low budget these days, so even going halfsies on a taxi is pretty much out of reach. I told him I’d do MUNI and meet him there by seven.

I’m traveling light on the yacht, so all I had with me was my laptop and Kindle, and some extra clothes. The yacht was supposed to be fully stocked with food, and since that’s about my major expense these days, I figured my needs would be pretty well taken care of this week: the life of a college student in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I’ll be going from three roommates to only one, so that’s a bonus there also.

The sky was a dim blue-gray outside the bus windows, and I was fighting to stay awake and to not sleep through my stop. I didn’t know if the boat would wait for me if I was late for boarding, but I didn’t want to push my luck on my first day. I’d had two cups of that expensive coffee that Ashley likes to buy, figuring that she’d be over me sneaking it out of her stash by the time I got back to the apartment next week. The caffeine buzz wasn’t hanging on very strongly though. Too many late nights, not enough sleep in between work and school.

There was only one other person on the bus besides me, a man sitting behind the driver and wearing a coat too bulky for the weather, and my paranoid brain started remembering a book I’d read warning to beware of riders in oversized clothing, because the odds were that they had dynamite strapped to their bodies, and were just waiting for the proper moment to detonate themselves. Somehow I didn’t think that six in the morning on an empty bus would be considered the proper time, so I went back to reading my Kindle while
we made our way through the city.

On the edge of Golden Gate Park, the bus stopped at a corner. I heard the doors hiss open, and looked up from my book, and that’s when she got on. It’s stupid to say that she was beautiful, because of course she was: short auburn hair, framing a face of pale skin and large dark eyes, lips a shade of red that neologists haven’t found a name for yet, wrapped in a black woolen coat which somehow managed to hide her figure and to accentuate it, both at the same time.

I was smitten with her before she finished dropping her change into the bus’s till.

By the time she had walked the length of the nearly-empty bus and taken the seat next to me, I was in love with her.

The bus pulled back into traffic and entered the park. I did what I usually do when sitting next to a stranger on the bus, which is to turn my head away and look out the window, not wanting to make even a momentary connection with another human being. The problem here of course was that I did want to make a connection with this one, although I couldn’t think of a way to access my inner Fonzie on a bus ride across town. I decided that watching traffic driving past in the brightening sunlight was the only responsible course of action. Coward to the end, that’s me.

“I hate riding the bus,” the woman said, in direct opposition to the plan of non-interaction I had undertaken. Of course even her voice was lovely. “Same reason I don’t like to fly. I don’t like leaving my safety in the hands of other people.”

“Right,” I said wittily.

“I have a deep mistrust of other people’s regard for my safety.” She looked down at the Kindle in my hands.

“What are you reading?”

I turned the Kindle to her, like I would have done if I’d been holding a paperback and was showing her the cover. “The Making of the Atomic Bomb.”

“Light reading,” she said. She slid her hands into her coat pockets and surprised me by shifting in her seat so that her leg was pressed against mine. “I don’t think I’ve read an actual book in a long time. Who has time for books anymore?”

“I guess I do,” I said. I imagined I could feel the heat from her leg against my own.

“I’m too busy for that. Never a quiet moment. Fifteen things going on at once, you know how it is.”

“Not really, no.”

The bus hit a pothole and bounced us off our seats, weightless for a moment, gravity defeated, before bringing us down again. She took her hand from her pocket and took mine in hers. I looked at her, unsure of what was happening, and found her looking back at me.

“I hate riding the bus,” she said again. “Don’t you?”

“Not always,” I confessed. Not right now, I didn’t.

“What do you do?” she asked me. She nodded at my Kindle. “Are you a scientist?”

“No,” I said. “I’m a writer. Well, not really. Sort of.”

“Are you or aren’t you?”

“I’m an intern. But I write, too.”

She squeezed my hand a little more tightly. “An intern who writes on the side. What does something like that pay?”

“Class credit,” I said. “Plus tips.” I smiled at her to show that I was joking, but I don’t know if she thought it was funny.

She raised my hand up and flipped it over, slipping her fingertips along the skin. “I’m a palm reader,” she said. “On Mondays, anyway.” Her touch was maddening, my heart beat faster at her touch. “You’ve got interesting lines here.”

“What do they tell you?”

“I never give readings on a first date,” she said.

“We’re on the bus,” I said. “This isn’t a date.”

“Everything’s a date if you look at it the right way,” she answered, and then she let go of my hand and reached to grab the yellow cord running through the bus. “This is my stop,” she said, giving it a tug.

“What?” I looked out the window, and saw that I was still blocks from my destination. I turned back to her, planning to try to say something to dissuade her from getting off the bus and disappearing into a life that didn’t include the chance for her to read the future in my palm. Instead, I found her putting both her hands against my face as she leaned in to press her mouth against mine.

So soft, those lips.

Too quickly, she pulled away from me and stood, slipping into the aisle and then moving toward the side door. I slid over in my seat, not really sure what had just happened, and watching her walk away in a stunned sort of silence. At the exit, she paused a moment at the top step and then looked back at me. “What’s your name, intern?” she said.

“Ziv,” I answered. “What’s yours?”

Those amazing lips curled up into a smile. “Thanks for the ride, Ziv,” she said. Then she walked down the stairs and out into the city. With a lurch, the bus pulled away from the curb. I pressed myself against the window glass, watching her as I moved away, and kicked myself mentally for not abandoning my internship, for not tossing everything aside and getting off the bus with her.

A coward to the end.


IrisWe stood at the end of the long, tree-lined drive, the fields shrouded in a morning mist as thick as fevered dreams, and shared what we had agreed would be our final kiss. She tilted her head up to me, and I leaned down to her as she raised her hands and put her fingers in my hair. Her lips were electric—lightning and ozone—and for not the first time, I thought about the last few months we had together, the improbability of its birth, and the impossibility of its continuation. When we eventually ended the kiss, the finality of the moment struck me like an open hand, and I had to take a step back to steady myself.

The rain that had been threatening to come since dawn touched us then, a thin and weak spattering that was almost over before it had even begun. The drops clung to her cheeks like diamonds before she reached her small hand up and brushed them away.

“We couldn’t ever be anything more than newspaper boats in a stream,” Iris said. “It always had to end.”

“No,” I said. “It could have gone on forever.”

She embraced me, pressing her head against my chest, and the apple scent of her made my pulse beat like a thunderclap. “Nothing lasts forever,” she said.

Love is found and love is lost, but rarely does it leave itself imprinted on the pieces of a broken heart as Iris imprinted herself onto mine.

Some things do indeed last forever.

An Exploration Is Made

It was not easy putting the diving suit on without an assistant, but I haven’t gotten this far in life by being unable to handle myself in whatever situation arises. I put my twill and rubber suit on like anyone else, one leg at a time, followed by the other leg, both arms and a fifty-five pound copper and brass helmet. Buckles were buckled, seals were sealed, and in short order I had lowered the ladder through the bathysphere’s moon pool and climbed down to the sandy bottom of the bay. In all honestly, the worst part of reaching that point was the smell inside the diving suit. I don’t know where the interns had purchased it from, but there was the lingering scent of decomposition and, oddly, patchouli, which unsettled me more than slightly. If I were the type to believe in the existence of omens, then I would regard this as a bad one.

Visibility was poor, with a thick curtain of silt and mud obscuring my view. The lamp on the top of my helmet shone brightly enough, but even it was unable to penetrate more than two or three feet through the muck. I despaired of finding anything related to the quake which had shook the Aqua Hermitage the day before, but it felt good to stretch my legs, so I decided to continue nonetheless.

I turned in a slow circle, taking care not to tangle the hose running from the back of the suit, which led up through the moon pool and connected to the vent which provided the bathysphere with air from the surface. I had a few dozen feet of tubing altogether, which did limit the range of my explorations, but I would do the best I could within the limits of nineteenth century technology. I still say the old ways are the best, no matter what Rudolpho might argue.

Alas, poor Rudolpho. I would undertake a rescue of the poor kidnapped lad, if only I had some clue as to where to find him. There has of yet been no ransom note, not that I had expected one. Anastasia Valentine has no need to raise funds through such a low criminal act. She is rich beyond the dreams of any Trump or Gates or Kardashian, and even so would regard ransom as beneath her. She would say that she is a lady, and not a thug, although I have seen acts committed by her that could solidly land her in either category, depending on the day and her mood.

It was madness of me to fall in love with her, although we made each other no promises, and neither any demands.

Love, said the poet, is a battlefield.

I tapped my gloved hand against the side of my helmet and returned my mind to the task at hand. Any direction seemed as good as another, so I started off at a slow walk in the way which I assumed to be north. I could almost feel the silt rubbing against my skin as I moved through it, and the effect was very claustrophobic. After a number of minutes, a tug against the rear of my suit told me that I had reached the end of the length of my air hose, and so I turned back, using the hose as a guideline to return me to the bathysphere.

Again at the ladder, I set off to the west, and this time after fifteen or twenty feet, I was rewarded with… something completely unusual. The muck which had blocked my vision was gone, so suddenly as I moved forward that it was like I had passed through a curtain. By the glow of my lamp, I could see that I had entered into a sphere of clear water, empty of silt, mud and fish. At the very center of this clearing was what appeared to be a bubble, a ball as wide as a car’s tire, its surface rippling and sliding like quicksilver. The bubble did not rise toward the surface, but instead remained hovering chest-high in the sea.

I approached the bubble cautiously, as in my experience bubbles which exist in direct opposition to laws of gravity and physics may generally be regarded as untrustworthy. The water grew warmer as I neared the bubble, by what felt like at least ten to fifteen degrees, and while I enjoyed having the chill I had grown accustomed to living with beneath the sea taken from me, I would have preferred it to have been from a nice glass of fine vodka and a roaring fire, and not some undersea mystery object.

I stopped walking when I was slightly more than a foot from the bubble. Up close, I could see that the bubble’s surface vibrated slightly, like the surface of the vodka I wished I had, on the table I would be walking past, going to put another log on my imagined fire, as I stepped on the wooden boards of the floor of my surface world’s study. I couldn’t hear any sounds over the constant whoosh of air blowing into my diving suit, but I imagined that if I could, I would hear a low hum coming from the bubble as it pulsed in front of me.

Intriguingly, there was motion coming from below the surface of the bubble, barely visible under the swirling silver of its surface. I couldn’t tell what was moving inside it, as the bubble warped and blurred the image, so that it was as if I were trying to watch a terrible student art film, which I do realize is a redundancy in terms. I reached my gloved hand toward the surface of the bubble, but caught myself before actually coming into contact with it. I have put my hands into many places that they should not have been, but only after ensuring beyond a doubt that once I had done so, I would have all of my fingers still attached when I pulled them back again. For all I knew, this bubble could have teeth. Stranger things were possible, and while I do have many scars with which to prove that fact, I still do have all of my fingers.

Finally, I decided to return to the Aqua Hermitage to consider what it was that I’d found below the waves, and what coincidence had led me to choose just the spot to lower the bathysphere so as to be near to where the bubble appeared… or had it been there all along, and it was only a second coincidence of a small earthquake which led me to discover it in the first place?

I do not trust coincidences. The last one was the one which brought Anastasia and me together, and look how that has turned out.

No. There must be consideration here before action is undertaken.

My fingers demand no less of me.

Anastasia Says Hello

Spider SmallDear Sebastian:

The spider I have procured from Gilchrist the hunchback is impressive in its size, and also in its ferocity. Whereas most species of arachnids are shy creatures, biting only to feed or to defend themselves, this creature seems to take delight in the torment of its victims, striking once and retreating, then returning for another attack, then another, and another. Its fangs are easily as long as your fingers, and press like a miner’s pick into the flesh, gouging and tearing, injecting an extremely toxic venom which burns like acid and inflicts instant paralysis in the victim. Unless an antivenom is delivered straightaway, the toxin will dissolve the flesh from the outside in, turning muscle to tissue, bone to chalk. It is an agonizingly slow process, and one which is magnificent to behold.

Rudolpho says hello.


Texts from Lewis Strand 11-17-14

Full Lake MoonLewis: Wake up.
Lewis: Wake up.
Lewis: Wake up.

Fletch: I’m awake. What time is it? What is it? What?

Lewis: I can see the future. There’s a lot of dancing involved. It’s not pretty.

Fletch: It’s three in the morning. What’s wrong with you? Is your furnace leaking again?

Lewis: I’m standing in the middle of a lake. I don’t know where I am. I’m not wearing any pants.

Fletch: Where are you?

Lewis: I said I don’t know. In a lake. No pants. The stars are out.

Fletch: Why are you texting me? Where are you?

Lewis: In a lake. My phone was in my shirt pocket. I’m wearing a shirt. I’m not wearing pants.

Fletch: Get out of the lake. Turn around and go back to shore. Find your pants. There’s nothing I can do to help. I don’t even know where you are.

Lewis: I don’t need any help. I’m not in any danger. There’s a girl with me and I can see the future.

Fletch: Girl? What girl? You don’t know any girls.

Lewis: I don’t know who she is. I don’t know her name. She’s pretty. She’s not wearing any pants either.

Fletch: Lewis, you need to stop texting me and stay with the girl. Girls don’t hang out with you. You should stay with her before she comes to her senses.

Lewis: It’s not like that. We are sharing a moment. Under the stars. Looking at the future.
Lewis: The future’s really cool.
Lewis: Except for the dancing.

Fletch: I’m turning off my phone, Lewis. I need to go back to sleep and you need to stay with that girl. What’s her name?

Lewis: I don’t have any idea. But she’s important. She’s in the future too.

Fletch: The future is now, man. I’m turning off my phone. Call me tomorrow. I want to hear more about this girl.

Lewis: She knows where my pants are. She knows where yours are too.

Fletch: Mine are on the floor of the closet.

Lewis: No, she knows where they are in the future. And if they’re clean or not. Mine are clean, but I don’t know about yours.

Fletch: Goodnight, Lewis. Don’t eat any more wild mushrooms, okay?

Lewis: I haven’t eaten in three days.

Fletch: That might have something to do with it. Goodnight, Lewis.

Lewis: Pants are confining. Like society. I want to be naked.

Rice Granger’s Email 11-17-14

Full San Francisco


from: Rice Granger
to: Lauren Gale
date: Mon, Nov 17, 2014 at 11:12PM
Subject: I’m an Idiot

I don’t know what  I was thinking, Squish. I blame the saki, because I’m not a lightweight, but I don’t even know how many bottles we drank before we stopped. I do know we should have stopped sooner though. I mean, seriously sooner.

Did you dye my hair blue, or did I do it myself?

Seriously should have stopped.

Tomorrow is my shift on the boat. I don’t remember who I’m paired up with. I’ve got it on a note card here someplace, but I can’t find anything in this place right now. It’s a dump at the moment. It’s probably Neptune, my luck. What kind of name is Neptune, right? And don’t tell me Rice is a weird one too. I learned how to fight with a name like Rice. Okay, actually I learned how to take a punch, but shut up.

I totally know you dyed my hair. I’ll bet you Snapchatted it too. You’re just evil like that. No wonder I love you. Well, maybe not love, but something kind of sort of like it.

Okay, so what’s irritating is that I was just on boat duty two days ago, and I’m going back already. I mean, it’s not hard work or anything, so I’m not really complaining, but it doesn’t make any sense. Boone was off four days between shifts last time, and Ziv worked four days straight. This time I get one day off the water, last time I had three. It’s like there’s a monkey making our schedules. They don’t even tell us until the day before when we have to go back on. How can you plan around that, right? Still beats working at the mall though.

Weird part two: I’m writing this email to you on a laptop the company gave me when I got off the boat yesterday. Don’t put your social security in any messages to me or anything, because they warned me they’d be using our email for some kind of project or something after we’re done with whatever this is we’re doing. I get to keep the laptop when it’s over, so that’s cool. I’ll have Zack wipe it clean once we’re done, good as new, but I am UNDER ORDERS to write at least one email a day on this machine, which sounds absolutely creepy, I know. But hey, free laptop, right? Seriously though, it’s part of the job, so I’m going to do everything I can to be a success here, and not just because some faceless guy someplace is reading my email right now and deciding if I’m going to get credits for this internship or not. I AM A HAPPY WORKER, and there is NO THOUGHTCRIME going on here.

I’m so going to get fired.

Anyway, expect emails. If I need to tell you anything secret, I’ll text you. That ought to foil the Man’s nefarious plots!

Neptune. Who names their kid that?

I don’t even know.

Neptune Babbage Texts 11-18-14

Full GullsGinny: Hey, some woman was just over here asking about you. You aren’t having a cheap and tawdry affair, are you?

Neptune: There’s nothing cheap and tawdry about it. She is my one true love.

Ginny: I thought I was your one true love.

Neptune: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Ginny: I don’t even get weekends? Jerk.

Neptune: Saturdays are for golf. Sundays are for spiritual reflection.

Ginny: You don’t play golf.

Neptune: Don’t I, Ginny? Don’t I?

Ginny: No. You hate golf.

Neptune: Do I, Ginny? Do I?
Neptune: Anyway, who was this masked woman? Did she leave a silver bullet?

Ginny: She didn’t say. She said she’d find you later.

Neptune: Huh. That’s weird. What did she look like?

Ginny: Brown hair. Short. Way too pretty to be having an affair with you.

Neptune: Huh again. I have no idea. Maybe she’s part of the corporation.
Neptune: That’s probably it.
Neptune: You still there?
Neptune: Ginny?

Ginny: Nosebleed.

Neptune: What? Who you calling a nosebleed?

Ginny: No, I have a nosebleed. I was dripping on the floor. Toilet paper up the nose right now. Queen of sexy.
Ginny: I’m going to lay down. Text me later, k?

Neptune: Always. Feel better.

Ginny: Will do. Roger out.

Neptune: Roger roger.

The Journal of Boone Novak 11/20/14

Full Car Headlight“There’s something remarkably sad about a website that belongs to a person who is dead,” Tina said. Her bare feet were up on the dashboard of my car, the window cracked so that she could periodically ash her cigarette out of it. I don’t let anyone smoke in my car, but Tina was the empress of the passenger seat. Her reality was as she willed it.

She had a flower in her hair, some pretty blue thing she had picked from the floral display at the grocery store, snapping it off the stem and putting it behind her ear as we passed. I’d never seen her pay for anything yet in the time I had known her, and I doubted that I ever would.

“I knew this girl once, back in high school. She got her head cut off in a car accident, all Jayne Manson-like…”

“Mansfield,” I interrupted.

“What?” she said.

“Jayne Mansfield. Not Manson.” I slowed at a corner, and turned right, down a side street. “And she didn’t get her head cut off. It’s an urban legend.”

She sucked on her cigarette, obviously irritated with me. “Whatever. The point is that I was on Facebook yesterday and I saw that her page is still there, you know? She’s been dead five years, but she’s haunting the internet. She’s even got a couple of pictures of us together on there, which totally creeped me out.” She took a final puff of her smoke, and tossed the smoldering butt out the window. “Somebody ought to have a job curating that stuff.”

“That would be a big job,” I said. “Facebook’s got a billion users.”

“So outsource it,” she said. “Everything’s run out of India anyway, right? Have a bunch of people whose job it is to look through obituaries and delete people off the internet who are dead. Or not delete them. Maybe just move them into an archive someplace.”

“An internet graveyard,” I said. I slowed at what I thought was a parking space, but it was taken by a motorcycle that had been hidden in the shadow of the SUV parked next to it. I kept driving.

“Yeah, just like that. And they could store them all on special servers, put them in Palo Alto or someplace like that. And people could come and lay flowers by the computers. Like a new religion or something.”

Ahead of us, a car was backing out of a spot in front of a sushi joint. I pulled up and waited for them to leave, then slipped into the space they’d vacated. “Maybe that’s where we are right now,” I said. I turned off the engine, but didn’t open the door. “Maybe we’re dead and living in Cupertino in the back of some computer repair shop.”

“That’s a depressing thought,” Tina said. She took the flower out of her hair and held it in her hand, plucking loose a petal, and then another. “You’re such a downer sometimes, you know?”

“I knew a girl who drowned,” I said. “It was an accident. She went out too far, and the riptide got her. She didn’t have any family, don’t even know if she really had any friends other than me. Funny thing though, somebody took down all of her online accounts. Facebook, Twitter… all gone. I don’t even have a picture of her. It’s like she never even existed. Just a shadow against a cloud, and now nothing at all.”

Tina pulled the rest of the petals off the flower and dropped them onto the floor of my car. “Goes to show you that everybody needs somebody to love them. Everyone needs to be remembered when they’re gone.”

“There’s too many everybodys,” I said, “and not enough somebodys. There’s not enough love to go around.”

She took the pack of cigarettes out of her purse and shook one halfway out of the box, before pushing it back inside and tossing the entire pack onto the dashboard. “I lost my appetite,” she said. “Take me back to your apartment.”

“You sure?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said, and then suddenly, as if she’d just realized I might have other ideas for the evening, she added, “Unless you want something?”

I shook my head. “I ate a couple of hours ago,” I lied. “I’ll have something later. Maybe a sandwich or something.” I turned the key in the ignition, and the car started up immediately.

“You should have some soup too,” she said. “Do you have some there? I could make it for you.”

I backed the car out on the street, then put it into drive and started the drive back to my apartment. “It’s fine,” I said. “We’ll come up with something.”

We drove in silence for a dozen blocks, until she said, “I’m going to spend the night. I don’t want to go back home tonight.”

“Okay,” I said. “You can have the bed. I’ll take the couch.”

“Don’t be silly. It’s your place.” She touched her finger to a button on the door, and her window slid up, blocking out the night air. “We can share the bed.”

I took my eyes from the road and looked at her, but she was looking away from me and out the window on her side. The lights of the night city passed by in a rush of neon blues and greens, casting her in alternating washes of color and darkness, and all I could see of her face was the ghost of a reflection in the glass, her features faded and blurred, like the finger of an outsourced god had tried to erase her from the world, but given up halfway through the job.

The Journal of Fletcher Chowanski 11-21-14

Full CrossI feel like I need to make this job seem more dramatic than it is. Like I should write an entry here about the terrible storm that’s blown in, how the waves are crashing over the bow like the hand of an angry god, smiting us for our sins. How Ziv was swept overboard, and it was only through a combination of my bravery and quick action that he wasn’t pulled down under the sea, never to be seen again. How the boat is leaking from a dozen wounds in her hull, and there is no question that we will not survive to see the dawn.

The drama is so thick you can carve it up and serve it on slices of sourdough toast.

This is my third day on the yacht. My third beautiful, calm and lazy day on the water. I’ve just had two sandwiches and three bottles of beer (smuggled onboard inside my duffel bag, along with the three others that I’ve shared with Ziv, building our little team and establishing blah blah, something something. Rapport? Is that the word I want? An esprit de corps?)

There’s something broken inside me.

I’m starting to feel like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and it’s only been three days.
In those three days, I have finished a novel (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, in case you are following my booklist), watched three of the Terminator films on my laptop, written an email to Kathleen (which I deleted from the computer upon finishing, because it felt dangerous writing it on the company machine, knowing that they’d maybe be reading it after I sent it, and then recomposing it on the gmail app on my phone and sending it from there), and contemplated either a) murdering Ziv in his sleep, b) killing myself with an overdose of the pills I snuck onboard with the beer, or c) a combination of both those urges.

In all this time, I have done exactly one task related to the job at hand, which was to lower a screwdriver down to Sebastian, for reasons he didn’t relay in his emailed instructions.

I have no idea what I’m doing here, other than slowly losing my mind. My shift ends tomorrow afternoon.

Magda might be waiting for me at the dock. This would be a bad thing. A very, very bad thing.

I’m not going to write about it here. That would make this seem too much like one of those found-footage movies, where the characters just happen to have a camera rolling through all the chaos and rampaging monsters and burning cities around them. Inevitably, one of them will tell the other to stop filming! And the camera will tilt to the pavement, or it’ll shut off in a second before starting up again a few minutes later, capturing new dangers as though it was the most natural thing in the world to be calmly recording the apocalypse, instead of throwing the camera to the ground and running until you can’t go another foot.

How is any of that believable?

It’s not, that’s how.

Magda is over there, and I am over here. That’s a temporary solution to the problem at hand, except that Kathleen is also over there, which puts a real bad spin on things.

The moths are in my bag too, smuggled in along with all the other contraband, wrapped in a sock, hidden beneath my Negativland T-shirt. They’ve still got Irina’s blood on them. I haven’t had the opportunity to wash them clean, not with Ziv around. The blood on my hands, I’ve washed off. Funny thing though, I can still see it there, even if my eyes are the only ones that can.

The tattoo is itching again, angry, like being bitten by fire ants. I scratch it, using the thumb of my right hand to scrape at the skin between the thumb and finger of my other hand, knowing it’s all in my head. The tattoo is moths old, and healed a long time ago.

Man, did I just type “moths” old?

Everything about this was a mistake. There’s no way out that doesn’t lead to a really big, really horrible mess.

In my duffel, under my shirt, under the moths, there’s one more thing I smuggled on the boat, loaded with fifteen rounds, and another fifteen in the pocket of my bag that a cell phone is supposed to go into. I don’t know anything about guns, but I know which end is the one to point away from yourself.

I know which end is the one to point at Magda.

Problem is, she also knows which end of hers is the one to point at me.

Contact Is Made, Briefly

Widget BubbleA most peculiar thing happened this afternoon, while I was undertaking my fourth examination in as many days of the mysterious bubble floating unmoving near my bathysphere: the bubble moved. It wasn’t a drastic change in position, but as I poked it with the pointy end of the screwdriver I’d had the interns lower to me by means of the aquatic dumbwaiter (what would be referred to on the surface world as a “rope and bucket”), the bubble made a brief but sudden approach in my direction. The screwdriver slipped through the skin of the bubble, vanishing up the length of the shank in an instant, and it was only my panther-like reflexes which allowed me to release my hold on the handle before the entire instrument vanished within the bubble’s surface (I knew the years of training with the Shaolin monks would pay off for me in the end). A tiny ball of quivering air burped out behind the screwdriver as it was pulled within the bubble, and then rose through the water, very quickly being lost in the darkness beyond my lights. The bubble itself remained in its new position, vibrating faster than normal for a few seconds, before settling down again to its resting state.

I believe I am going to need a longer screwdriver.

Telegraph Code/Email From Boone Novak 11-24-14

6855639373_e3b4f179f3_ofrom: Boone Novak
to: Tina Salisbury
re: Telegraph Code

Did you know that you pop when you sleep? It’s true. Every time you inhale, the tip of your tongue presses against the roof of your mouth, and when you breathe out, it makes, just barely audible, the slightest pop as it drops down again.

Did you also know that you can see your hair tying itself into little knots as it slides between your pillow and your cheek? You press your face against the cotton and dig against it, like you’re trying to make yourself a hole inside it, and I can see the knots form as though woven by the hands of an invisible fisherman: a figure-eight, a hunter’s bend, a half-hitch.

It’s funny the things that can endear you to someone.

I stopped for coffee on the way to the boat today, and there was an old man sitting alone at a table, dressed in the ancient uniform of a foreign army, perhaps from a country that doesn’t even exist any longer. He had a muffin on a plate on the table in front of him, and while I waited in line, I watched him. He was breaking off pieces of the muffin and dipping them into his coffee, which he would pop into his mouth without shaking off the excess liquid. Drops of coffee were trapped in the hairs of his beard, which was thick and gray like the ash-covered forest at the end of a fire. When he’d finished his breakfast, he dabbed at his rheumy eyes with a napkin, but used the sleeve of his old uniform to wipe his beard clean.

I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but I needed to say something to you other than I like to watch you sleep.

But I do very much like that anyway.

At the dock today, a weird thing: Fletcher refused to get out of the boat. You remember him, yes? The nervous one who can never stand still? Well, I’m not sure what was going on, but Kurtis (the one who drives the boat here. Does that make him the captain? He isn’t the captain of the yacht, but I never see him doing anything other than ferrying us back and forth, so maybe he’s called the ferryman. I don’t want to offend him, so I’ll just think of him as Captain Kurtis from here on out)–Captain Kurtis had to essentially push Fletcher off the boat, yelling at him to get his act together unless he wanted to swim to the yacht next time. Fletcher took off running the moment his feet were on the dock, and he crashed into a couple of tourists on his way, not even stopping to apologize.

He’s only been on the yacht for a couple of days, so I don’t know what that was about. A serious case of cabin fever? I may or may not ask him the next time our rotation brings us together. I’m not really certain how I feel about him yet. As I said, he’s nervous and fidgety, and I’m not sure what to make of that.

Are you going to be at my apartment still when I come back from my shift? Will you be on the sofa, reading a melancholy book about English sailors lost at sea in a small wooden boat? Will you be sitting at my kitchen table, drawing currents in a winter cloud of spilled sugar? Will you be napping in my bed, with your hair in knots and your tongue pressing a telegraph code against the roof of your mouth?

I like to have something to look forward to when I get back to land.

I like very much looking forward to you.

Marked/Email From Boone Novak 11-25-14

Crabfrom: Boone Novak
to: Tina Salisbury
re: Marked

This was so weird, I’m just going to copy and paste from my journal for you to read:

I woke at dawn this morning to find a girl with a birthmark kneeling on the floor beside my bed. I don’t know who she was, because there’s never been anyone on the yacht at the same time as me other than whichever one of the interns is on rotation, and we two are the captain and the crew of the ship while we are here. I glanced at the other bunk, but since it was Ziv’s turn on duty, the bed was empty.

Her birthmark was on her face, the color of a pomegranate, running from one ear to the other, laid out like two highways meeting at the bridge of her nose, then joining to slip down her right cheek, then curling under her jaw and along her throat, where it disappeared into the collar of her shirt. She put her finger to her lips in the universal gesture of keeping quiet, and then knelt further down beside the bed, disappearing out of sight but for the curve of her back. In a moment she sat back up, then whispered to me so quietly that I had to strain to hear her, “Where are the moths?”

“I’m sorry?” I said.

She put her hand on my shoulder, like she was trying to keep me from sitting up in my bunk. “The moths. I need the moths.”

I put my hand on her wrist, but I didn’t try to remove her hand from me. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Are you Fletcher?” she asked.

“No,” I said. I didn’t give her my name.

She nodded at Ziv’s empty bed. “Is he?”

“No. He’s not. Fletch left yesterday.”

She frowned, taking her hand from me and resting it against the mattress. She was silent, and I raised myself up, propping myself on my elbow, but making no move to leave the bunk. Neither of us spoke for a good thirty seconds, until finally she asked, “When is he coming back?”

“I don’t know,” I said truthfully. “We don’t have regular schedules around here.”

Again there was silence as we stared at one another. I wondered how she’d gotten onboard without Ziv having seen her, but of course Ziv was more than likely asleep at the wheel. What was there to be on watch for out here anyway? Pirates in the San Francisco Bay?

The girl reached her hands to her neck and lifted a necklace from under her shirt, which she raised over her head and held out to me. It was a thick circle of flattened bronze, as wide as a cherry tomato, held through a square hole in the center by a thin leather strap. It was a coin, I realized: a very old Asian coin.

“Take it,” she said, and I did, holding it by the strap. “Put it on,” she also said, and I did that as well, letting the coin fall against the fabric of my T-shirt.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Don’t take that off,” she said, not answering my question. “No matter what else, when you’re on this boat, don’t ever take that off.”


She put her hand flat against my chest, pressing the coin between us. “If you see Fletcher, tell him it’s not too late. If he gives me the moths, everything will go away.”

“I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about,” I said.

She stood, and I realized that she was only wearing a black tank top and shorts. Her feet were bare, and she made no noise as she walked to front of the sleeping area, where she paused and turned to me again. “When you’re on this boat,” she repeated, “don’t ever take that off.” Then she moved away, going through the kitchen area to the short set of stairs leading up to the deck. I pushed myself out of my bunk and followed her, but when I stepped up into the dawn light, the deck was empty except for Ziv, who was sleeping in the captain’s chair, arms in the pockets of his light jacket, hat pulled down over his eyes. There was no other boat in the water nearby, and no one swimming away from the yacht in the cold bay water: the girl had completely vanished.

I put my hand over the coin hanging from my neck, assuring myself that I hadn’t just woken from a particularly vivid dream, and looked again out over the empty water.

I’ll show you the coin when I get home this afternoon. Are you still there? I hope you are. I’m a little unsettled just now, and a little worried.

Fletcher’s not answering his phone.

Something weird is going on here.

And I’m not taking this coin off until I get back to shore.

The Journal of Lewis Strand 11/28/14

Full OctopusI’m terrible at diaries. I tried to keep one a couple of times when I was a kid, even had one with a lock on it, and I got exactly two entries into it before it ended up in a box in the back of a closet. Keeping a written record just isn’t really my thing. So look at me now, with a job that’s making me do it. I feel like a twelve year old girl.

I don’t have any idea how to do this.

So I’m on the boat today, and it’s been pretty quiet so far. Not that there’s usually a lot to do. Sometimes we drop things down to Sebastian, sometimes we haul things back up. I did a little maintenance on the air pump, then spent a couple of hours napping on the deck. Am I supposed to say that? Napping on the job? I could delete it I guess, but I’m not really about the take-backs.

Let me see. The Focus is out of commission, but I’m pretty sure it’s the alternator. I’ve got to get the funds together for that, but then I can switch it out pretty quick. I was thinking about asking Ziv if he wanted to go in halfsies on it. I’d let him borrow the car for a few months in trade, whenever I could. He’s a pretty easy going guy. I should ask him about it when he wakes up.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to be writing here. Something about school? I’m pulling straight C’s, which is pretty good for me. College is easier than high school ever was, but not by much. I’m still getting blackouts, and that doesn’t help anything. Like the other day I was coming out of McDonald’s with a Big Mac and a Coke for lunch, and next thing it was night and I was in a lake with this really cute girl and neither one of us had any pants on. Don’t know where I was or how I got there, which used to scare me when it would happen, but now I just roll with it. Maybe it’s a tumor, but you think I’d be dead by now if it was.

I hitched a ride with a guy in a pickup truck the next morning. I didn’t find out the name of the lake, but it was up in the Sierra Nevadas somewhere, and hell if I know how I got there. I don’t know where the girl went. I laid down on the beach for a while, and when I woke up, she was gone. I never got her name, which is weird, but that’s okay. I take weird in stride anymore. Least I’ll recognize her if I see her again. She’s got a crazy birthmark on her face, so I’d know her anywhere. Must have been hell on her in school, birthmark like that.

I’m ready to get off this boat. It makes me nervous being out on the water like this. Like anything could happen and there’d be nothing I could do about it.

Sometimes I like to have a little control over my own destiny, you know?

A little control never hurt anybody.

I wonder what that girl’s name was?


An Unsettling Dream

Full StaircaseI had a peculiar dream in the bathysphere last night, and it has left me feeling very unsettled. In the dream, I was in a Japanese tea house, on the edge of a small lake. I was sitting at a table by the open glassless windows, and the smell of jasmine floated in from somewhere outside. The buzzing of bees could be heard, but I saw none of the insects flitting about.

Seated at the table with me were two old Japanese men, who appeared to be identical twins. Both had their hair cut short against their heads, both wore brown sweater vests, and both had faces lined with creases and folds which clearly illustrated their advanced ages. Neither man spoke, but merely sat to either side of me, with their arms resting on the table, their tea cups empty in front of them. My cup was also empty, and I looked to see if there was someone who would bring us a pot of tea.

At the rear of the shop was a flight of stairs, and suddenly I found myself at the top of them, looking down at the table where both of the old men sat, and I saw that I was also still seated there, while at the same time at the top of the staircase. Such is the logic of dreams.

“Why are you here?” The voice came from behind me, and it was a voice I know well in my heart: Anastasia. I tried to turn to face her, but my body was immobilized by some force stronger than my will. There was a shift in the air beside me, and warm breath blew across my ear as Anastasia leaned in closer to me to whisper, “Why are you here, Sebastian?”

At that moment, I was overcome with the smell of oranges, and although I had not eaten one, I could taste the citrus on my tongue, fresh and cold. I tried to open my mouth to speak, but found those muscles as unresponsive as were my arms and legs.

“There is a fog coming, Sebastian,” Anastasia continued. “You will not be able to see into it, but you must enter it in any case. All things are hidden within, Sebastian. All things are hidden without.”

At the bottom of the stairs, the air surrounding both old men suddenly combusted, and they were both consumed in flames. Neither man moved nor gave any indication that they were in distress. My own body at the table rippled to my eyes in the heat of the fire, but it did not move either.

“Look for the woman, Sebastian,” Anastasia said. “Look for the woman with glass arms. She is your salvation and your end.”

The stairs before me began to creak and twist, and long shards of wood began to break free from the whole. Instead of breaking loose however, the shards began to grow, like branches from a tree, splitting into two and threes, twisting and pushing their way toward the ceiling. As I watched, leaves began to appear in the branches, but they were not true leaves. Instead, they were leaves made of green glass, and although I could not move to touch them, I knew that if I could, I would find them to be as sharp as razors or dragon’s teeth.

“Look for her in the water, Sebastian,” Anastasia whispered. “Not in your sea, but in one not yet arrived. Look for her, and look to her.” The branches advanced upon my position, and began to loop around me, creating a shell of wood and glass. The buzz of bees grew louder, and my skin grew cold where the leaves pressed against me, as cold as the bottom of the ocean.

Find her, Sebastian,” Anastasia breathed into my ear. “Find her in the future sea.”

With that, the glass leaves covered my eyes, and my dreamworld fell into darkness. The leaves caressed my cheeks, moving down over my face, and I shut my mouth against them. They pushed themselves harder, forcing my lips apart, and then poured themselves over my teeth, digging down into my throat like icy fingers. There was no air, nothing to sustain me, only a crushing suffocation, being smothered beneath a wave of frigid emptiness…

I woke then, throwing back my thin blanket and leaping immediately to my feet, fists raised, ready for attack. The bathysphere was of course empty, as it should have been. However, there was a glow coming from outside the main window which lasted only a few moments, a faint green cloud which dissipated the moment I looked toward it. I want to say that it was a wispy remnant of my dream, dancing for a moment or two before evaporating, but I also am not fully prepared to accept that this is the fact. Here below the waves, I believe that nothing can be taken on face value. There are messages found in dreams, and they are not always just sent from the subconscious mind. It would not be the first time Anastasia has spoken to me in such a fashion.

After all, the hand of madness opens as many doors as it closes, in the end.

I must meditate on this.

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