Note: this is an alpha release of Corona Gale. Much like Sprites, Jets, and Elves, it only exists as a first act with no ending and has a lot of rough edges. You can see other chapters by following the Corona Gale tag.
Nine, Nine, Nine for a lost god
Kate didn’t put stock into this one. Not everything means something. Not every song lyric is something to write in white-out on your backpack. But this lyric always gave Kate just a little adrenaline, as if both sides of it had come true. We had a God. Everyone knew how to pray, and worship. And then we lost him. And nobody knew what to do with themselves—
Kate believed the modern world lost God. We lost God with technological prowess, the ability to see the universe around us with our bare eyes peering into scientific marvels. We lost God with every great war in his name, every great tragedy under his attributed words. We lost God when the only people left willing to die for him were insane. We lost God the moment we understood him.
Kate remembered the card in her pocket. Everything you don’t understand is magic—
It was all back. She had herself, her thoughts, her beliefs, her doubts, and her four problems.
It was too loud. Her ears had to be deceiving her. Was she actually surrounded by rushing water? She had been on a ship, and may still be there, but the water beneath them was still. Even if they hit the gale, it would still be underneath her.
Was she drowning? A few parts of her nervous body cried, yes.
But it had to be a deception. There had to be something deeply wrong with her perception. But she was finally ready to come back full. Just one more exasperated silent scream.
Ten, Ten, Ten, Ten for everything, everything, everything, everything.
Kate opened her eyes.
She could not believe what she saw.
She was still on the ship, this hulking mass of a floating city under her feet. She stop atop it, on one of the many floor decks. She was near the aft, she believed. Around her, as far as she could see, were other people, all unconscious or dead, strewn sloppily around, as if they’d fainted and fell with no one but the ship to catch them. What had happened to them all? What had happened to Kate? Why was she awake, but nobody else was? She didn’t feel drugged, or drunk. She pinched her arm, and slapped her face. She was not dreaming. This was happening.
Kate wanted to concentrate on the bodies, an entire ship apparently made unconsciousness, but she couldn’t. There was something bigger to worry about. On the outside of the ship, where there should have been a view of water for miles, was instead a view of water feet away, thousands and thousands of gallons of it, rushing upwards in every direction. The sound was so deafening she couldn’t hear herself scream. It was like an infinity pool had been turned on its head, and the laws of gravity in reverse. Kate felt intense vertigo. There was no obvious up.
Kate looked above her, but the water reached upward as far as she could see. She did not process what she saw. It was not something she could describe. Who would believe her? She tried to approach it, wondering if it could be touched, but she could only get to a few yards away from the edge of the ship before the intense wind held her at bay. The waterfall surrounding the ship held it captive and still, caging it.
Kate made way for the closest door. The closest entrance to the interior of the ship was wide, with eight doors, all made of tinted glass, covered in advertisements for the various bars found on the ship. A picture of a celebrity chef adorned half of them, the others canvassed with logos and guarantees. Kate grabbed a door handle and pulled. She had to dig her heels in and pull as hard as she could for the door to crack, the wind much stronger than she felt herself.
“Fuck!” She screamed, inching herself through the barely-open door, catching her foot in it, yanking, and hearing it slam. It was the first thing she’d heard that wasn’t rushing water since regaining consciousness. She screamed “Fuck!” again, just to see if she could hear it. She could, finally. She exhaled, and watched the water through the glass. What the fuck was happening?
Kate fished for her phone, its shape meeting her fingers in her right jacket pocket. She grabbed it with the other hand and pulled it out, clicking the little button to reveal its screen. She held it up, and saw no bars. She checked the wi-fi, which was supposed to be everywhere on the ship, but it would not connect. All radios on the device returned null. She put it away.
Kate still couldn’t really process what was happening outside, but knew she had to find some semblance of an explanation. She couldn’t be the only person left alive on the ship. If she was, she had to find a radio. She had to call for help.
Kate found a map, the light behind it flickering and tattered. Some cells of the map just didn’t light up at all. It had been struck by something, Kate thought. Still, she could read that the bridge was three floors above her, nearly on the other side of the ship. She would try a few cabins on the way, but that was the most likely location of a working phone. If there was no working phone, maybe someone was alive up there.
Just as she began walking, she heard a noise down the hall. She stopped, found the closest door, and hid inside. It was a room very similar to her own, except instead of her luggage there was a woman, unconscious, halfway off the bed. She would check on her in a second, but she kept her ear to the door, hearing a lone set of footsteps slowly approach. She bolted the door, and checked on the woman. She was older than Kate, overweight, wearing a Hawaiian-style shirt with ‘MMA’ written all over in a curly font. Kate put two fingers to her neck, then a finger under her nose. She was breathing slowly, as if just sleeping heavily. So Kate poked her, first in the arm and then the face.
“Hey,” She said, louder and louder until she gave up. The sound of the water was still the loudest thing, even though this cabin had no window to the outside. The woman would not budge. Kate lowered her to the floor, so at least she’d be a little bit more comfortable, but her body gave an audible thud as it hit the floor. A second later, Kate heard a knock against the door.
“Is someone in there?” She faintly heard. The question to answer was, was he friendly? Should she trust the voice? There was a padlock between them, but—
Kate’s mind came into focus. Someone had done this to the ship. Someone had placed it here. This was not a work of nature. Nature would have killed them all. Nature would have taken the ship and tossed it into the abyss. It would be upside down, sawed in half by waves and gravity and the pull of a hurricane, and nobody would have survived.
Kate was alive, standing on a ship surrounded by rising water, a ship full of unconscious people, and there was a knock on the door. If she were alive in a situation like that, there’s no way it wasn’t designed. And if it was a plan of some sort, then this man was likely not friendly.
Kate looked through the viewfinder. She saw a man in a black life-jacket, thick on his large frame. He knocked again and she heard it next to her ear. His hands were empty, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t armed. He tried the door, but the attempt was half-hearted. She felt good about this.
Kate pilfered through the room, hoping to find something with which to defend herself if necessary. What would work best, she wondered? She found coat-hangers, clothing, suitcases, and toiletries. There wasn’t much. But, then, underneath a pile of similar over-sized shirts in a suitcase, the first cause for celebration. Kate found a can of mace. Just how had this woman hidden this on board? She must have read some website about crime rates on ships of this size, that having a population with so much alcohol in closed quarters for so long would surely lead to danger.
“Thanks lady,” Kate said.
The knocking stopped, and Kate watched the man continue walking away, until she couldn’t see him anymore. She waited a few moments, then slowly opened the door a crack and peered out. He wasn’t anywhere she could sense. She kept on her way.
Would she fight? Why not? Fighting would make sense in this circumstance. It would be the most normal thing in the world now. Kate smiled. She kind of loved fighting. The mace can sat harmlessly in her left jacket pocket. All her feeling had returned. She cracked her knuckles. If she had to fight, at least she might get some fun out of this nightmare.
She tip-toed around two corners before finding the man’s shadow, shrinking against the edges of a round hallway. Lights flickered. The ship was not well. Whatever was happening to it was not harmless. This vortex or tunnel or whatever it was was dealing damage. How long did she have? But first—
Kate crept up behind the man and cut him down. She kicked the back of his knee, stomped on his foot, and rolled over him, catching his neck, taking him down. She was above him, her hands fighting off his flailing arms, her right food pressuring his left shoulder into submission. When he pushed there, she let him and let him turn over, trying to get up, but she grabbed his life jacket and pulled it over his head, like a jersey in hockey, she controlled him. Two powerful left hooks to his face and he was reeling.
“The fuck is wrong with you?” he stammered, bleeding now through his nose.
He tried to tackle her but she jumped out of the way, and he fell.
He turned over, but didn’t get up. She smirked. She had him. Nothing was going his way.
“So,” Kate said. “You want to tell me what’s going on?”
The man lowered the life jacket back to its regular position. He shook his head, and put two fingers to his knows and leaned his head back.
“Jesus,” he said, extending the first syllable for ten seconds. “Give me a second.”
“Don’t get up,” Kate threatened. “I will kick you until you cry.”
The man stayed where he was. “You’re not supposed to be awake.”
“I had a feeling,” Kate said. “But why am I not supposed to be awake?”
“Because you’re not supposed to see this.”
“I have exactly thirty seven questions to ask you, but whether or not I was supposed to know what was going on was not one of them.”
He laughed through the blood. “You don’t get it. You’re too late.”
“Too late?” Kate asked, getting more frustrated by the second. “Okay, you’ve got one more insane babble before you swallow your teeth.”
The man piped down and looked her over. If he was thinking about making a move, he hid it well. But it was also clear he wasn’t about to tell her anything. And when she recognized this, she sighed.
At her exhale, he leaped toward her, thinking it was her putting her guard down. But she was faster, tougher than he could anticipate, and her boot ran over him, a mack truck to a bicycle, a starving lion pouncing on a wildebeest. Her ankle felt the impact, but the throbbing dissipated immediately, drowned by the sound of surrounding water and her adrenaline. Fuck yes, she thought. That felt so good.
Kate remembered the last time she kicked a guy into unconsciousness. It was a year earlier, in Detroit. A pair of men tried to mug her. She left them in an alley. It was the second best moment of that vacation.