Author's Note: I wrote this when I heard about the legend of the 'Horse Latitudes.' I'm pretty proud of it... first story submitted here.
I reclined back, feeling the warm ocean breeze and listened to the sound of the waves crashing against the hull of the ship. This was certainly the life. No homework, no school, no bothersome—
"Jeremy! Come with me to the lounge!" Crap. I guess not all worries go away on a luxury cruise ship. My brat of a sister, Ollie, was still here. Too bad my parents didn't leave her home like I suggested. Okay, maybe I suggested keeping her in the freezer, but hey, don't sympathize with her until you've spent thirteen years having all your CDs broken, all you comic books stolen, and having to babysit her every single weekend. Still don't understand? I suggest you get some medication, then.
"No." I shouted back. "Go by yourself, your old enough!" Ollie was eight, but she sometimes acts like a three year old. Sheesh, she has all these irrational fears, like of spiders, and burglars, and hamburger meat, and ghosts, and Mickey Mouse… The list goes on and on and on. You'd think my parents would try to resolve those fears, right? Wrong. When she was three or so, she got lost for a day at Disneyland. We found her the next day when a worker helped her find us. Apparently, she was too busy chasing Cinderella. Mom and Dad never trusted her since. She's been babied all her life, while I had to earn money by helping out the crazy old lady next door.
"But Jeremy!!" She whined. "There are a bunch of scary people in there, but mommy and daddy are in there too!" She had these big puppy-dog eyes that were too close together, but those big, brown eyes could get to almost anybody. Except for me. I've been building up immunity for about thirteen years.
"You should probably be kinder to your sister," A voice startled my tanning. It was Hanna, that onboard assistant person. She was pretty nice, in her twenties, with long black hair that was tied back in a ponytail. She walked and talked as if we were high class. As if. We finally were able to go on this cruise. It took about a whole year savings. And now nothing is going to ruin my vacation.
I sighed. "Fine, come on." I led her to the door. I sighed again. The lounge was mainly for adults. There were a few kids in here, but most were too busy enjoying the heated pool and the climbing wall to be lulling around, eating fine foods. I was looking for my parents when I bumped into a chair. Fortunately, it wasn't an adult, so I didn't have to look like and idiot. Unfortunately, it was a bigger brat than Ollie: Mariah-Paige Danker.
"Hey, watch it middle-class." She sneered. She had this bright red hair that curled very elegantly. It looked like shredded carrots. She has about a zillion bucks in the bank, since her dad is a head executive or something or other at this really big business. I really couldn't care less. And she picked a fight with the wrong person.
"Watch it yourself," I retorted. I hated when people mentioned how poor my family is. We weren't really that poor, but not like Miss Carrot-Top here. "If you haven't noticed, we have a name. It's Jeremy and Ollie Cheval, not 'middle-class', or any other stupid name you give us. Got it?"
"Why you—" She couldn't finish her sentence or comeback, because her cell phone rang. Flipping out a phone that had about a billion buttons, she started talking on it. It looked like some futuristic machine. Too bad that using something as confusing as that didn't assure you that you have a high IQ. "Like, OMG Jane, like the ugliest loser just told me off. Yeah, can you believe it? That was like, so rude!" I left Miss Cheddar Cheese to talk to her equally annoying best friend.
Well, I found mom and dad, and we went to eat. The boat had this huge restaurant, with other cafes dotted around the ship. The food was so good that I ordered too much. I started getting sick. Second day here, and I'm getting an upset stomach. How great is that?
Coming from the delicious instant-diarrhea, I bumped into this girl whose nose was buried in some indiscernible book. Yeah, I bump into people a lot. It's one of my natural talents, next to Ollie-immunity. Well, that chick finally looked up from the book, thank God.
"Huh?" She said. She looked like the average nerd, with large rimmed glasses, freckles, and light brown hair that was hanging loose on her shoulders. Okay, maybe she was kind of cute, but she was still a nerd. "Oh, sorry, Voltaire is so interesting I didn't look where I was going." She shrugged sheepishly. "Hi, I'm Jane."
Jane…as in, Cheeto-Head's friend. Wow. I'd never expect that conceited airhead to hang out with this…normal girl. Well, I'm bad at judging people. "Um, I'm Jeremy." I glanced nervously out at the sea. Then I noticed it: I could still see the harbor. We didn't move. I jerked towards the railings, and stared out, worried at what's been going on. "Why aren't we moving?" I yelped.
Jane smiled, and adjusted her glasses. "Don't you know? We're in the Horse Latitude, 30 degrees north. That's where the Westerlies and the East Trade Winds meet, and there's hardly any wind here. This cruise is just for the feel of the ocean, not to travel. Actually, there's a legend about that when…" She continued babbling. Typical of nerds to get ahead of themselves. But now I feel a bit better, since that this was normal. Hopefully.
I woke up next morning, feeling strangely refreshed. I stayed up half the night on the toilet, my stomach showing me no mercy. I grinned evilly. I won't show it mercy today, either. Quietly, as to not wake Ollie up, I sneaked outside, onto the ship's deck. A was about to hit the ice cream shop when I heard a familiar voice.
"Oi, Jeremy!" It yelled. I turned around, and saw Tom running up along the side of the ship. Tom and I met here, and we became perfect partners in crime. Tom was from Illinois, and was here with his grandmother, since both his parents were lawyers and almost always busy. "So…ready to get into more trouble?" Yeah. Tom was a bit direct, but still, he has a really wicked mind.
"Nah, not right now," I winced. "My stomach's still is getting on my nerves." Plus, the last time I let him lead us to an adventure, we ended up almost being thrown overboard by the evil captain himself.
"Now, what're yer kids doin out here!" Speak of the devil, the Devil himself. Captain Lear. One hundred fifty pounds of ugly sourness, and fifty more pounds of sauerkraut, he was the terror of both passengers and sailors alike. Blackbeard would have been proud. "I specifically told yer that you darn kids ain't s'possed to be hangin around 'ere like it's some dang party!" Lear had a funny accent, really Western, like the first sailing redneck.
Tom and I grinned smugly "What about those people over there?" I asked. We were standing on the main floor with all the junk food stands, and the jerk was too idiotic to notice. "If you haven't noticed, this place doesn't have and 'off limits' sign. Everyone's permitted to be here. And also, the ship's code of conduct says that you should be treating us with respect."
Captain Lear's face swelled up like a tomato, and he was about to explode when another voice entered the conversation. "Sir, I'll handle them from here," Hanna said, walking along. Lear eyed her suspiciously, and then walked away, mumbling about those "God-darned kids".
Hanna sighed. "You two really shouldn't be causing the captain trouble. He has enough problems already."
Tom was about to burst from the encounter. Apart from being a troublemaker, he was also the biggest conspiracy buff in the world. "Is it true that the captain's done time? I heard from a really reliable source that he was sentenced to ten years in jail for murdering his wife!" Yeah. And I'll also bet that the 'really reliable source' also sold him the Bigfoot story and the UFO sightings.
Some tourist just then tapped Hanna on the back. She talked to them, and then looked at them incredulously. "Really?" She yelped. Running to the edge of the ship, she screamed. Tom and I also ran there, and saw that, in the white waves crashing around, there were three dozen or so horses, scampering and trying to stay afloat in the frothy waves.
"Out'o my way!" Shouted Lear, stomping to the spot so loudly that it was a wonder the ship didn't collapse then and there. It would've been easier that way, too. "Now, why are there dang horses in this dang sea?" He yelled. I could see every artery in his neck, and I wondered it one of them will pop and save the earth the trouble. "'Ower the ropes, you scoundrels! Save these no-goo' horses, or no dinner for ya!" A couple of sailors came and three down a net or something. In about an hour, all the horses were saved.
"Jeremy!" I heard my mom calling. She was holding onto Ollie's hand, and grabbed a hold of mine, too. I tried to wrench away, since I could see Mariah-Paige, and the last thing I wanted was to be dissed by that Shirley Temple gone wrong. But mom studied piano when she was young. That gave her superhuman hand strength, which meant that Cheese-head would probably be gossiping to her friends. Oh, wait, that's Jane.
"Look, Jeremy! Ponies!" Ollie said. One of the only things she isn't scared of are horses. Her room is covered with pink stuffed horses, My Little Pony toys, and the like. It would make you puke your guts out.
Everyone started muttering about him or herself. I mean, that was normal if suddenly a bunch of horses washed up on your boat. I just stared in shock like the smart person I am. It took about an hour before people stopped standing there, dazed, but now there was a tense mood here, as if the horses were bad luck.
Then we were told to proceed as usual, and I tried to do normal things with Tom. But after a few games of Pac man, I wanted to see the horses again.
Now, I'm not that obsessed with horses as Ollie is, but there is a certain raw power of them, like they could be galloping around for days and not rest. So, putting my hand upon a chocolate colored horse, I felt the power surging up into me.
"Beautiful, aren't they?" A voice asked. I turned and saw Jane, petting another horse. "I've always loved horses. I used to ride them when I was in elementary school. But now, I'm too busy." She sighed. "You know, that reminds me. That story I was talking about, do you remember it?"
"Uh…" My brain blanked out. I wasn't paying any attention when she said that. For some reason, talking to smart alecks makes my mind wander. A lot. So, naturally, I would forget the story. "Yeah," I lied, not wanting to look like a big jerk. "It was really fascinating!"
Yes, she bought it. "That's great. It's just…horses," She whispered. "So much like the legend, you know. Sorry, I'm just connecting loose strings. So, what did you name your horse?"
That question caught me. Name it? I hardly met this horse. But still, I thought, I should name the horse, just for kicks. "Okay, how about Las? You know, Lost At Sea?" I didn't even know where the name came from. It just popped into my head, I guess. "Yeah, Las."
Jane smiled. "Sure! Acronyms are fun, sometimes." We talked a bit, but most of the time I was lost. I mean, she had the vocabulary of my mom, and that was saying something. Mom graduated from and Ivy League school, I forgot which. So, she got a mater's degree and was about to go to law school, but she married Dad and blew it. So, she kind of never had forgiven any of us. And now, every time something remotely relating to her past happens, she'll start telling the story from the beginning, always sighing and sometimes sobbing her eyes out.
I rubbed the horse's nose, and looked it in the eye. "Las? You like that name?" The horse whinnied, which I thought meant a 'yes.'
Jane smiled and then checked her wrist. "Oh, sorry, I have to go, my mom's expecting me somewhere. Goodbye!" She smiled, and ran off. I glanced around me, and headed to the opposite direction, hoping that Captain Lear won't show up and bust me to my mom.
I woke up to the sun streaking through the blinds, and stretched. Boy, was that a good nap. Lifting the blinds just a little bit, I wasn't surprised to see that the sun was high up in the sky. What I was surprised to see was that tons of people – attendants and sailors and all those others – were bustling around, as if looking for something. Or someone.
Finding Hanna, I calmly asked her: "What's going on?"
"The captain's missing," she replied worriedly. "I don't know if he's somewhere hiding or anything, but he's no where to be found." That was pretty good news for me, since now I don't have that guy bugging me anymore. But still, I was kind of worried. Where would a guy that size go and not be found?
I decided to go check up on the horses, especially Las. For some reason, I have had a feeling of dread going through me, since I was afraid that old man Lear will send them away. But now, since he's gone, the horses are relatively safe.
Las was still there, thank god. He was still magnificent, though I could have sworn that his body was shorter, more proportioned like a humans. And there were patched of skin peaking through him. But I didn't notice. There was a dark red liquid stain near his mouth, and I rubbed it off. Then I just fed him a carrot and then went to go play skee-ball with Tom.
A few days later, I got into a routine. Wake up, go stuff my face with food, get tortured by Ollie, and then spend the rest of the day undisturbed. Well, then my routine got off track when, one morning, I couldn't find Tom anywhere. And while looking, I saw Jane, looking for someone, too.
"Looking for something?" I asked her.
She shrugged. "Just my friend, Mariah-Paige. You know her?"
"Only as the most idiotic redhead alive," I replied.
"Oh," she said. "Well, how's the horse?"
"Okay," I replied. "They seem to be well off, though they all have spots with no fur, that look almost," I paused, and whispered, not wanting to sound stupid, "Flesh-like."
Jane's eyes widened, and she took a sharp breath. "Remember when I told you about the Horse Latitude? There's a reason why it's called that. The sailors who sailed on one ship, they got stuck. And then, they had to throw their cargo overboard. And the ship was trading –
She couldn't finish her sentence, because then a bell rang, and Hanna's voice rang over the speakers. "Attention, the pool is closed because of an… erm, and accident. Repeat: the pool is closed for an uncertain amount of time."
I turned back to Jane after that message. "So, what were you trying to tell me?" I asked.
Shrugging, the nerd said, "Never mind."
"Okay, then." I muttered.
I went to see Hanna, and when I found her, I asked a question that was bugging me. "What happened in the pool?"
Hanna smiled reassuringly, though I knew that it was fake. " Nothing to worry about. The pool's going to be repaired soon, and it should be back in order in a few days." She was avoiding the question.
I wanted to know what happened, not when it's going to be fixed, although I did like swimming there. "You're avoiding the question, Hanna. What happened? What was the 'accident'?"
This question made Hanna uncomfortable, but I wanted the answer. She finally gave in, after a few moments of silence. "For some strange reason, there was blood all over the pool. I don't know how or why, but suddenly blood started filling up. The technicians are working on it, and it's no big deal." Her voice made me shut my mouth and not asks any more questions.
A few days later, I couldn't find my parents. Ollie was crying her huge eyes out, and I didn't know what to expect. Tons of people were disappearing, and I don't know how, when, or who. It's strange, but every day the horses are looking more… Human. Their front legs were now shorter than their hind legs, and they could balance themselves on their back legs. They were shrinking in size, and their hooves are no longer hooves, bearing resemblance to those old horses I saw at a museum. I was no longer visiting Las.
That day, I saw Jane. She looked very worried. "I don't know what's happening," She said. "But it's bad, and I think it has to do with the horses. Listen, Jeremy, what I was going to say earlier was that the ship that got stuck here? It was trading horses."
She then proceeded to run, faster than I saw a nerd run. After a while, she just disappeared. That was the last time I saw her.
I woke up in a cold sweat. It was the middle of the night, and Ollie was standing next to my bed, whimpering with fear. "Jeremy," She said between sobs. "I don't like horses anymore. Jeremy, I want to go home!" I looked at the clock. It was three in the morning. I was tired, and I had just fallen asleep three hours ago.
I mumbled a "Go away," and turned so that my back was facing her, a clear sign that I want to sleep some more and not be disturbed by my annoying little sister.
"Jeremy," She sobbed. "I don't like ponies anymore." That was a bit of a shock, since she's always wanted a horse, and is addicted to them, but I was too tired to care, and I just shook her off, and went back to sleep. By next morning, I couldn't find her anywhere.
When I woke up again and got dressed, no one was here on the ship. It was deserted, and I was the only passenger. It still looked like a cruise ship, though now no one was driving it so it just stayed put. A cold ocean breeze stirred, and I zipped up my jacket to bear it. The silence was unbearable. Everyone, Tom, Jane, my parents, Ollie, Captain Lear, Hanna, Mariah-Paige, and all those others, was gone.
I saw that the place where the horses were kept was opened. And, emerging from there, were about a dozen people, dressed in tatters that represented clothing from the past. It looked like they were from the 1400's, or farther back. One person, with chocolate brown hair, smiled wickedly. His teeth were too big for his mouth, and had a yellow tint to it. Horse's teeth.
"We are the Equestrians, who were captured by the barbarians and killed when the time came to die. We were what once was a great civilization, conquered and sold as slaves. We are the last of them. And we have gotten our revenge."
What Jane had said was true. Yes, a trading ship had gotten stuck here. Yes, it had to dump out its cargo so that it might lighten the load. But the load wasn't horse. It was people, turned to horses the moment they hit the frothy waves.
I glanced at the water, churning and breathless. I wasn't going to end up like the rest of them. I am not going to help these people – these Equestrians – become whole again. I will thwart them in their tracks. Just like Jane. Taking a deep breath, I jumped.
They did nothing to stop me: it was too unexpected. The fall was exhilarating, and I braced myself for the ocean's merciless waves. This time, I was going to survive. I won't be like the others, sacrifices to something greater than them. I will live.
I closed my eyes, and felt the fall.
Not Bad? Hoped you liked it...