Confession time: I’m not happy with this story. I’m posting it because I promised myself that I would, but it’s still very rough. Although I won’t change the version that I’m posting here, the version that can be found under the “Stories” tab to the left will be subject to change.
This is the second entry in my short story series, and I’m happy to say that I kept it under 1500 words, which is a goal that continues to prove difficult. Further, it’s my first piece of apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic fiction to be posted here. I love that genre of fiction, and someday I would like to produce at least one novel of that type, but I’m nowhere near ready for that. Consider this a practice run!
I don’t make a habit of including current events in my fiction; I like it to be appealing at any time. With the events in Ukraine causing talk of the Cold War and WWIII, I made an exception in this case. Therein lies the source of my unhappiness with this story, though; I found it hard to not be heavy-handed with my treatment of the (hypothetical future) Cold War, and yet get the point across that it led directly to the events here. It’s a question of balance, and I have yet to master the answer.
With all that said, I hope you’ll find something enjoyable here. Read on!
All stories posted in this capacity may also be found under the “Stories” heading in the menu. Thanks for reading!
Today I came up on deck. They looked askance at me when I said I was going, but not for long. I just shrugged and told them I needed some fresh air, but I could have been declaring myself emperor, for all that they listened. I just shrugged again, and shook my head, and closed the door tightly behind me.
I thought about it as I made my way down the corridor. Is that the right word, “corridor”? I don’t know. I’m not a sailor. This is my first time on the water, to be quite honest. Well, it’s also going to be my last, I think. But never mind that; I was talking about the others. I couldn’t blame them, really, for not caring what I did; they had paid their passage, just as I had done, and so help them, they were going to get their money’s worth. If I didn’t want to do the same, well, it was my money, of course, and they didn’t care what I did with it.
My parents used to talk about the cruise they took on their honeymoon. As children, my sister and I would listen with our eyes wide to the stories they would tell, not only about the cruise, of course; but I we could tell that they had fond memories of that brief time. They said—if you can believe it—that back in those days, cruises were about seeing the ocean, and the sun, and the waves, and the beautiful ports of call. In those days, they said, guests didn’t stay below decks; sometimes they didn’t even stay on the ship, but went ashore on the islands. I should mention that that was also before the icecaps melted; now, those islands are gone, or uninhabitable, being greatly reduced in size by the rising waters.
Listen to me, being all poetic! I should write this down. Maybe one day I will, haha. Of course, when I say “write”, I mean “dictate”; paper is a luxury we really can’t afford, these days, and no one writes things down anymore. It’s a shame that so many trees had to give way to make room, but then, we are dealing with a population boom on top of the loss of the coastlines. At any rate, let me at least get my thoughts on record; I’ll be right back.
There, that’s better. Had to recap, but I don’t think you’ll mind, if you’re reading this; I can be brief. So, where was I? Ah, right. Heading above decks. I had to show my ID to get on deck, but it was really only a formality; the security guard scanned the oval of circuitry tattooed on my wrist, and out the hatch I went. I’m sure you know this, whoever you are, but with the resumption of the Cold War a few decades ago, heightened security became commonplace, at least when outside the borders. You get used to it after a while. Now, in my opinion, calling it a “resumption” is wrong; I’ve read my history, and I can promise you that this current version of the Cold War is nothing like the original! Why not? For one thing, no one cares. They did in the first Cold War, you know; everyone lived with it every day. They had fallout shelters and air raid drills in the schools and some funny piece of propaganda on the television that they called a…broadcast system, of some kind. Disaster? Emergency? I can’t remember. Now, though, we don’t pay any attention to it. We’re online instead. Oh, yeah, I know, the Web has been around forever, but let’s be honest, nothing interesting happens out in the real world anymore! For most of us, the Web is the real world. It’s where we live, and our bodies just carry us around.
I’m going to pretend like you don’t know anything about all of this. Why? No real reason. I just like to explain things. Besides, who knows? Maybe you’re some far-future archaeologist, digging up the ruins of our civilization, and you happened to find my little blog. How exciting! Well, except for the part where society ended. But then, all societies end, don’t they? So far, history is batting a thousand, as far as civilizations go.
So, my oblivious future archaeologist, you have a question, don’t you? “Why”, I hear you asking, “do people come on cruises if they’re doing the same things they do at home?” Good question. We don’t, really—do the same things, that is. The Web is pretty decentralized, and if not for the Cold War, borders would have probably stopped meaning anything a long time ago; but they do still mean something. There are things you can’t do at home. Some kinds of gambling, for example. They can only be done outside the borders. People still take cruises to get away from their real lives; they just do it in different ways. Those ways happen to not require going out in the sun anymore—that’s the difference.
I can see why. This sunlight is really bright! It’s a good thing it’s only partly exposed right now. I shouldn’t be glad for the clouds, but I am. But I have to say, the wind is nice, even if it is hot out here. I can’t remember when I last noticed it. I suppose I must have felt it as I went from the train to the terminal before embarkation, but the gap between the two is only fifteen metres, so I didn’t have much time to think about it.
I can really feel the ship swaying, though. It makes me nauseated, though I can handle it for now. I won’t have to worry about it for long, anyway. Below decks, you have no frame of reference against which to compare that motion, and so you adapt to it. Up here, I can see the horizon, orange light on dark seawater, and I feel every dip and rise. I’m not going to complain, though, because I really did need this vacation; it’s the one thing keeping me going right now. It’s sad, I think, how things just build up until they get to you: tensions at home, tensions at work, tensions in the news, all running higher than ever, every day. Of course, we’re almost to the end of this cruise; the food and the drinks are starting to run low, and you can see that the staff and the crew are starting to run short in the temper department, too. I wonder if cruise staff ever get vacations?
Now I’m starting to get a little melancholy. I came out here to shake off my grim mood, not make it worse! Maybe I should just go back inside and go back online and forget about it all. It’s what everyone else is doing. Forget about this salt air, forget about my growing seasickness, forget about everything. It’s just that, every time I do that, I feel like I’m forgetting something good in the world. I feel like I’m forgetting all of the amazing things that are out there…maybe even forgetting myself.
Some of the crew just ran past me. They look as dismal as I feel—no, worse; they looked panicked. I understand completely. I wonder what they plan to do? After all, we’re out in the middle of nowhere. It’s not as though we’re making landfall anytime soon. And really, what is there to go back to when we do?
I thought it would be different out here, and I guess it is. I didn’t realize that “different” could be a bad thing. But I may as well get used to that. I guess I’m not the only one; I guess the whole world is tired of the same old thing, too. I know, because the sky is burning, and the horizon is on fire. That’s the direction we came from, the direction of home. Or at least, it was.