The Nightmare Ship

I heard the weapon discharge and the anguished yell that followed it. My footsteps echoed on the metal frame as I jogged through the corridor, following the direction of the scream. I could barely see through the darkness; the lights flickered for a moment and a strained childlike voice seemed to crackle out of the gloom.

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea…

I knew those words. They didn’t make me feel any better about the situation, but I tried to wipe them from my mind as I opened the heavy blast door to Section A-6.

To see what he could see, see, see…

A breeze of cold air blew through the corridor and, for a moment, I thought I was on on one of the beaches back home but I shook my head – it was just my imagination. I was still on the N.S. Aurelia and I wouldn’t be seeing swirling blue oceans and golden beaches for a long time yet.

I heard a sharp cough issuing from the decompression tank. I looked up at the glass door; Eric was pressed up against it and I could see flecks of blood around his nostrils. Lying beside his feet; smoke billowed from his laser-gun. There was a growing crimson patch on his chest and, as I watched, the colour drained from his face until he was sickly and grey. Eric lurched, vomiting all over the glass; I felt suddenly queasy and turned away.

But all that he could see, see, see…

I shivered. That voice again; I wondered if Eric could hear it too. Eric! He was dying in front of me and there was nothing I could do. I felt helpless and scared. He retched again. I could feel my stomach churning at the sight of his vomit but I had to do something – I had to get him out of there. I slammed my fist on the control panel and the glass door swung open. Eric was becoming drowsy and I knew I had to act fast. His head lolled to the side and his breaths were little more than ragged gasps for air as I dragged his weakened body into the open.

‘I saw…something…must,’ Eric shuddered and laid still.

Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea…

***

The mood aboard Aurelia was a sombre one as we watched Dr. Kayleigh Farthington perform an autopsy on Eric’s corpse. Her scalpel burned through his tissue and she used the electro-clamps to open him up. I turned to gaze at Aimee whose nose had wrinkled at the smell. Eric had barely been dead for two hours and he was already rotting – that was the affect of a blast from our laser-guns. It was paramount to keep the safety checked as an accidental blast from the gun would mean either emergency amputation or death.

‘Can you determine the cause of death?” Laura asked in her husky voice. The gold strips on the wrists of her jacket identified her as our captain and she took her position seriously. Kayleigh removed her gloved hand from Eric’s insides and scowled at Laura. They had a fractious relationship but there was clear, if deeply-buried, mutual respect.

‘Yes,’ Kayleigh announced. ‘He shot himself.’ There was a stunned silence. ‘You can see the telltale signs of laser decomposition around the edges,’ said Kayleigh and she pointed at what she meant. ‘I’m marking this down as suicide.’

‘No!’ We stared at Aimee, shocked at the sheer force of her voice. Aimee gulped and then addressed Kayleigh. ‘You knew him…he wouldn’t.’

‘There’s no other explanation,’ Kayleigh told her. ‘I’m sorry.’ But Aimee refused to accept her findings and I thought back to how I had found him.

‘You saw!’ I blinked. Aimee was right in front of me now and I could see the fury in her eyes as I looked down at her. ‘Did he say anything? What did he say? Tell me!’  I didn’t say anything and no one else did either. ‘Don’t you care?’ Aimee’s voice quivered and I felt a twinge of shame. Eric had been our friend and yet we were covering up his death. It wasn’t right.

‘I’ll analyse these in the lab,’ Kayleigh informed Laura, holding a dripping bag under her right arm. But as she turned to walk away, Kayleigh seemed struck by a sudden crippling fear and I felt the breeze of cold air wash over me again.

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea…

‘Get her away from there!’ I yelled and dashed forward to grab Kayleigh. The medic, however threw me back and with horror we watched her grab a syringe from the metal table beside her.

To see what he could see, see, see…

‘I deny you,’ Kayleigh’s voice was level but her entire body trembled as she plunged the needle into her eye. She convulsed for a few moments before stiffening and falling with a sickening thud.

But all that he could see, see, see…

I ran. I didn’t even know what I was chasing but I kept on running anyway. I could hear Laura shouting behind me and I didn’t care. Eric had been right. There was something aboard and I had to find out what.

Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea…

Footsteps. I stopped running and spun around on the spot, my laser-gun cocked in my left hand.

***

‘Will you get that out of my face?’ I sighed as I saw Aimee and Laura standing in front of me. They were both pale, clammy and breathing hard.

‘Sorry,’ I mumbled, lowering my gun. ‘I thought…doesn’t matter.’ Laura frowned and gave a cursory glance around the corridor of Section E-7.

‘What’s going on, Harry?’ It was a fair question but not one that I felt I could answer.

‘I don’t know,’ I replied. It wasn’t an outright lie – I didn’t know but I knew Aimee had been right. It wasn’t suicide.

‘You were with him,’ Aimee began, pausing to catch her breath. ‘You saw what happened.’ I swallowed hesitantly.

‘I saw him die.’ Aimee scrunched up her face.

‘Did he…y’know…say anything?’ It was the same question she’d asked me in the med-bay but she wasn’t shouting this time. She was quiet, controlled and staring at me with those piercing blue eyes of hers.

‘No,’ I don’t know why I kept lying. It seemed easier to hide the truth from her and it was getting easier.

‘That doesn’t matter!’ Laura barked. ‘I’m sorry Aimee but Eric’s dead and he’s not coming back. You saw what happened to Kayleigh.’ Aimee’s bottom lip quivered. ‘We have to get to the bridge.’ Laura looked at both of us and, when Aimee finally nodded, I concurred.

We raised our guns and pointed them in front of us, using their lights to guide our way. Everything seemed normal as we stepped through the first three corridors but as we approached the blast door leading to Section E-8, Laura began to appear agitated. Aimee wrenched the door open and we stepped into the communal kitchen. Four rectangular metal tables were laid out lengthways in the centre of the room and there were dirty dishes and cutlery discarded along them. Laura replaced her gun in its holster and held out her right hand in front of her face. She wiggled her fingers, staring at them. Her nails were sharp and painted gold to match the strips on her jacket.

‘Did you see that?’ Laura asked and I was surprised to hear the break in her voice.

‘There’s nothing here,’ I told her.

‘I thought I saw…’ Laura looked over her shoulder and her eyes appeared to be following a movement that only she could see. ‘There! See that?’

‘We can’t see anything,’ said Aimee. Something had clearly spooked Laura and to tell the truth, we were all frightened.

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea…

Laura shrieked suddenly, waving her arms around her head. I narrowly avoided being struck in the face as I approached her; Laura had jumped on top of one of the tables and was writhing around in every direction she could reach. 

‘Get them away from me!’ Laura swiped at the air; sweat rolled down her cheeks and her eyes were wide and fearful. ‘Get away! Get away!’

To see what he could see, see, see…

Aimee was trying desperately to calm Laura – I could see two tiny cuts on her face where Laura’s nails had struck her. I leapt forward and dragged Aimee away but ripped herself free of my grip and rushed up to help Laura once again.

‘Get back!’ I shouted. I watched Aimee duck as Laura’s left arm flew over her head.

‘They’re everywhere!’ Laura hissed. ‘Tormenting me. Pecking me!’ She stopped flailing her arms and cupped her face with her right hand. I could see her nails clenching the skin. ‘I see them,’ Laura whispered. ‘I dream of them.’

But all that he could see, see, see…

I stared open-mouthed, horrified as Laura began to scratch at herself and her sharp nails easily broke through her skin until blood was trickling from every wound on her face. Aimee scrambled up to her but Laura kicked out and I heard a loud clatter as Aimee collided with the cold floor.

Laura’s hands had moved down to her chest; her jacket lay in a heap by her feet and she was tearing at her shirt. She tore through the synthetic fabric and began to scratch at her nipples. I was briefly distracted by an inappropriate thought but the sight of Laura ripping into herself brought me crashing back to reality.

‘I deny you.’ They were the same words Kayleigh had spoken before she had the plunged the needle into her eye. Aimee had realised as well for I saw her mouthing something in surprise at me. Laura let out a banshee-like wail and as I looked back up at her, I saw that she was holding her severed nipples in her hands.

Blood trickled down her exposed stomach and she was growing paler with each passing second.

Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea…

Laura collapsed and fell face first on to the table. Blood seeped from every wound as I stared, I saw her convulse and then she was still.

***

We didn’t stop as we dashed through the maze of corridors aboard the Aurelia to get to the bridge.

‘We have to send a distress signal,’ Aimee shouted at me; I pulled open the heavy blast door and stepped inside the elevator. Aimee followed before the door closed with a click and the platform began to rise up towards the command deck.

We didn’t bother cocking our guns when we left the elevator, whatever was hunting us; they were no use.

‘This way,’ Aimee said, pointing at a sign above our heads. We ran along the lefthand corridor into Section A-4, not daring to look behind us.

A sailor went to sea, sea sea. To see what he could see, see, see. But all that he could see, see, see. Was the bottom of the deep blue, sea, sea, sea…

The closer we drew to the bridge, the louder and clearer the voice became. But only I could hear it and every time I stopped to listen, Aimee grabbed my arm and pulled me forward.

A sailor went to sea, sea sea. To see what he could see, see, see. But all that he could see, see, see. Was the bottom of the deep blue, sea, sea, sea…

Aimee tapped in the code and the shield-door to the bridge slid open but the sight that greeted me was unlike anything I had expected.

A small boy was standing in front of me, drenched from head to toe in seawater. It splashed across the deck. I knelt and looked the body in the eye. I could see Aimee standing behind him and the waves of water were washing above her head but none of it seemed to affect her.

A sailor went to sea, sea sea. To see what he could see, see, see. But all that he could see, see, see. Was the bottom of the deep blue, sea, sea, sea…

I felt myself pushed forward into the swirling pool that kept on rising. I dragged myself above the surface, gasping for air. Water was pouring into the boy’s open mouth and I could see him spluttering and choking. I was transfixed by the image of the child drowning and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

‘Harry!’ Aimee’s voice cut through the illusion for a moment but I couldn’t fight it and as I tried to call out, the image was back and the boy gargled as the water filled his lungs. His skin was wrinkled to the touch. He slipped from my fingers and I heard myself shout out as I watched his face disappearing beneath the surface.

‘I deny it.’

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