I woke up to the smell of burning gasoline and the sharp, siren sound of my mother's screams. I bolted out of bed and ignored the immediate pounding in my head that resulted from such a quick movement. My legs were heavy and my mind was groggy but I pushed aside my discomfort and searched the second cot for my sister, Rosemarie. She was gone. My heart thudded against my chest with a hammer as I ran to the boat deck as fast as my sleep-laden limbs would allow. Spending the night on my father's boat, the Odyssey, had been a stupid idea.
"Mom!" I yelled hoarsely, pulling myself out of the boat cabin and scrambling to my feet. Sixteen years of horror films did not prepare me for what I saw.
I had expected to find my mother running around screaming because she had somehow managed to light the boat on fire. Stuff like that always happened to her. She called it bad luck, while I liked to call it straight-up clumsiness. After living under her roof for nearly two decades, waking up to the smell of burning gas wasn't that uncommon. It was, however, quite uncommon to find my mother lying face up in a pool of blood like crimson ink, with her neck twisted at an odd, impossible angle. The source of the blood was coming from a gaping wound in her chest.
My stomach churned, my heart stopped, and all of a sudden, I simply could not breathe. My head spun to the point of nausea. I had to grip the side of the boat to keep from sliding to the ground. I couldn't even bring myself to run to her. She wasn't dead. She couldn't be dead. It just wasn't possible, she was my mother— oh my God. Rose, where was Rose? If she was hurt, if she was dead as well…and my father. Why wasn't he here, calling the coast guard or driving the boat to shore. What if something had happened to him as well?
"Rosemarie," I frantically cried out. The salty sea wind whipped my hair around my face as the black boat violently rocked from side to side. "Rose! Dad!"
I spun around, still looking for them. I realized that the bottoms of my feet were wet and slippery and, when I looked down, I noticed that my mother's blood had made its way down the boat. It coated the deck like an oil slick and made walking nearly impossible since I could barely keep my balance on the swaying boat. Tears started streaming down my face when I couldn't find either of them, but then I heard it. Heard her. Never before had something sounded so sweet.
"Rashelle," a small voice whispered as tiny fingers wrapped themselves around my wrist. I looked down at my sister, with her tear streaked face and cow-licked red curls. She clutched a large, stuffed bear in the hand that wasn't latched onto me. Relief coursed through my body, mixed with the need to help my mom.
"What the hell happened?" I exclaimed, shaking her off me and staggering towards my mother. Now that Rose was safely beside me, I could deal with more important issues. Rose grabbed my wrist again and tried to pull me away.
"No!" She screeched, her blue eyes hectic and scared. "We need to swim back to shore now. Dad's gone crazy and he said that he was going to drown us and—."
"Let go!" I shouted, trying to pry her fingers off my wrist. "Can't you see that mom's hurt? I don't have time for whatever stupid game you and dad are playing!"
Shaking her off for the final time, I dropped to my knees beside my mom and, pushing her hair aside, fumbled around her neck for a pulse. When I couldn't find one I blamed it on my own inexperience in first aid. She just couldn't be dead. Couldn't. I fought back tears and looked heavenwards. I screamed for help, screamed for my father because I had yet to see him. I screamed for a coast guard but we were too far from shore to be heard. I just screamed until someone responded and, finally, someone did.
"There are my girls!" My dad bellowed as he lumbered towards my sister and I on legs that were as unsteady as my reality. Standing up, I ran over to him and collapsed against his chest.
"Daddy, mom's hurt. We need to get to shore—."
My father laughed and clamped his hand down over my shoulder. I smelt it on him then, the sickly sweet smell of alcohol. He reeked so strongly that his scent almost overpowered the smell of gasoline. I felt my blood turn to steel and I knew that no help would come from him.
"Silly girl," he said with a loud belch. "Your mother and I are just playing a game."
I stopped breathing for a few moments. Rose had been right. Our father had gone insane. I pulled away from him and reached out to Rose, edging her towards the side of the boat. We were both good swimmers. We could make it to shore, we could call for help….
"Rashelle," my sister said in an urgent voice. "Who's driving the boat?"
My dad grinned and pulled my sister and I into an unbreakable embrace. "Now we'll all be together."
My body started to shake. My heartbeat slowed and the smell of gasoline became so heavy in the air that I nearly vomited. I looked down at my sister, whose terrified face probably mirrored my own. I had to get her out of there but the more I struggled against my father the tighter he held on.
"It's going to be okay," I croaked out, my voice wet with yet to be shed tears. I didn't get to hear her reply because, with a wild lurch the boat exploded and plunged me into an orange hell that managed to scorch and freeze at the same time. I didn't actually see the boat explode but it must have, because one minute I was standing on the deck and the next there was a feeling of soaring, followed by a feeling of sinking. My fingers instantly went numb as I somersaulted through the liquid ice that was the ocean. I tried to gasp; glacier-like water gushed into my mouth and stabbed my lungs with icicles. I twisted my torso, looking around in vain for my sister, but all I could see was black, empty water. I couldn't even tell where the surface was and, as I opened my mouth to cry out for Rose, all I managed to do was swallow yet another mouthful of salty water. Moving my arms and legs, I tried to swim towards where I thought the surface was, but I quickly realized that such a feat was impossible. My limbs felt like they were weighed down with rocks. Finally, I gave up and closed my eyes. I could feel the sand beneath my back as I let my body sink to the ocean floor and the sliminess of the seaweed that kissed my arms. I could feel the tickle of the fish that darted around my feet. Dying—because that's what I was doing, dying—felt almost like falling asleep, except I knew for certain that I wouldn't wake up.
Now we'll all be together…