By Christina Roberts
Copyright © 2011 - 2013 to Christina Roberts. All rights reserved.
This work is the intellectual property of Christina Roberts. No piece of it in any amount may be distributed or reproduced in any medium or format without proper permission. Only small excerpts and brief quotations may be embodied in critical articles, for reviews, or for direct academic essay.
Ms. Brightman had to travel to Alaska on a business venture. She had to go by boat. So she chose to commence her traveling by applying passage to a prestigious cruise liner. It was set to sail the following day at noon and though the trip would take many hours from Washington State to Alaska, she felt completely satisfied in her accommodations.
She thought everything was perfectly within her control, just how she preferred it. The morning of her departure, she packed her silk-covered stilettos, sparkling scarves, and tight dress sets into a leather suit case and snapped her snake skin purse over her shoulder just so.
Her excursion from limousine to a well-paved cement dock started and ended with perfect control. She embarked down the dock, littered with poor and rich people alike, and produced her ticket with a flick of her wrist before the boarding officer with a small, perfectly composed smile crossing her mahogany lips. He smiled, nodded, stamped her ticket, and handed it back. Her cabin was be on the third floor, first class, of course.
Just like she wanted: blissful control. Ms. Brightman spent her time reading women's vanity magazines and making client phone calls. She loved clacking her nails on the small oak desk supplied in her cabin to peak out at the sparkling ripples of water against a flaming sunset of cirrus clouds. Stars popped into the sky one by one until the last strings of soft pastel gold faded from the sky, scattering black and the coming of millions of celestial ballroom dances spinning and sparkling in the heavens.
She drifted through the rest of her ocean trip in rose-colored, sugary delight.
When Ms. Brightman arrived in Alaska, she wasted no time calling for a taxi to take her to her reserved hotel suite. She changed into a pair of black, satin pants and a cotton shirt, with her hair carefully woven atop her head in a bun covered by a large gold barrette.
Her business of arranging deals with her clients for her new clothing designs didn't take long. They all loved her, her manicured nails and stenciled eyebrows, and thin figure topped with dazzling long lashes, and especially her fashionably fake mole attached near her lower lip. It was Ms. Brightman's duty to live and breathe her pristine fashionable lifestyle, and she did it flawlessly.
After her expected conquests and the promise of a high commission by clients, Ms. Brightman slid into a taxi two days later to start her return voyage to Washington State. Puffy gray clouds decided to blast the middle winterscape with flakes sticky and thick. She started to feel slightly uneasy, as the early night approached and lights started to twinkle down near the docks.
She was familiar with the cold weather, but had low tolerance of it, so when her taxi stopped and she saw only one boat about to leave dock, she snatched up her bags and clacked along the dock in her stilettos as quickly as possible.
"Wait!" She cried out to the ticket master, who was just then waving the last boat away to detach the dock ropes.
He turned with a raised brow and told her she would have to wait for the next boat—a whole twelve hours away.
No, she couldn't wait. Ms. Brightman shoved her ticket into his hand, offering ten thousand dollars if he let her on the boat. Instantly, he stamped her ticket and allowed her on, removing the plank behind her.
She shivered, but was satisfied until she turned nearly into an older man dressed in rags. Gasping, she looked away, only to see more of the same fair, old and young of both genders, trailing the decks as phantoms. Some were barefoot. All wore tattered brown robes and splintered hats.
Ms. Brightman's eyes darted across the lavishly decorated decks, wondering if her mind was playing tricks on her. She saw the staff in their crisp uniforms walking freely about, but they were openly dodging the tattered passengers.
She rushed off to her cabin, panting from confusion and her bags, as no aid had come to help her carry them.
All that day, she stayed in her cabin, reading in seclusion, but the silhouettes of the tattered people crept near constantly past her window, slow and sad. She didn't sleep at all that night for fear one would break in.
The next morning, the boat's captain notified on the intercom system that the ship would be arriving at an international dock between Alaska and Washington. This was not on the ticket description, he explained, and it was not a registered stop, but the boat had mysteriously become damaged and he would have to drop off everyone off and have them board another boat.
Instantly, Ms. Brightman packed her bags and clacked up, heals and flashy suit and all, to the top deck to overlook the approaching dock. It was pouring sleet and frozen rain to say the least, she in half disbelief that the boat was afloat under such conditions.
Another half hour, the boat docked and the crew disappeared within its stomach for discussion. Ms. Brightman watched the tattered passengers passively disembark but herself would not step foot on the dock.
To her, it couldn't be called a dock at all. It appeared to her more like a floating bug that a set of planks attached together. Several other large boats of personal and business designation sat docked to the left, right, front and back of it. There was one main plank, or spine, of the dock system, about five meters wide, running the course of the connected planks. Like appendages, thinner planks sprouted randomly to the left and right of the spine where, at the end, boats sat.
Every few steps, a loose plank creaked extra loud, rocking the already heavily creaking, old monster of a dock system.
Ms. Brightman was softly ordered to leave the boat, and as she did so, she became even more aware of how old the railings, just a set of old ropes, were and how each plank felt moldy. Wearing her stilettos didn't help much. A few times, she clutched her baggage and the railing. She stared at the near black water of the Pacific Ocean with horror. If the plank broke, she'd fall in and probably drown; if she tripped in her shoes, she'd fall in and the same fate would await her.
She slowly stepped along the swaying dock, not knowing where to go or what to do. No ticket master awaited to escort her to the correct ship. In fact, no ships appeared to be boarding at all.
"Excuse me!" She approached a dirty man in an old coat. "Are there any ships leaving for Washington State?"
"Yeh," he coughed. "The one over there but it left just a minute ago. Next one comes, oh, I have no idea when."
Panicking, Ms. Brightman clattered over to the end of the dock where the dirty man had thumbed but it was too late. The ship was about a hundred feet from the dock. The rain, a tolerable windless sprinkling, started to evolve into snow showers.
There she stood, dejected, on a rotting dock, with dozens of people who swayed and creaked lifelessly as the moldy wood beneath her freezing toes, slowly becoming colder and colder.
All that day, Ms. Brightman hardly moved from the spot. Occasionally, she glanced around herself at the people who never looked up from their claimed few inches of footing. She saw only water in all directions and felt the implications of her life narrowing in on her.
Night fell and still she stood. It was raining again, but her clothes had been soaked long ago. She'd become numb and so still stood like the others, only sticking out in her self-designed, expensive clothing.
Why she was here, Ms. Brightman couldn't comprehend. A simple business trip had turned into a nightmare. Oddly enough, the time between the days allowed her to consider her life's meaning and ending. Those on the docks around her, she suddenly saw as reflections of herself. All she did was business: make money, host fashion shows, make more money. But the whole time, she was alone, just a slave to the greed of her work.
She had no friends, never talked to her family, and felt that she never had time for a boyfriend. Oh, how she suddenly desired those things!
As she mulled the depressing thoughts in her mind, the sun started to rise and a boat appeared on the horizon. Sun's rays bounced off its stern. It came, gliding elegantly across the water to the dock.
Ms. Brightman kicked her shoes into the water and rushed, bags in hand, across one of the dock's long, unstable limbs where the boat was approaching. No one else joined her, but she didn't care.
The boat docked! No one disembarked except the ticket master, who took his place in front of the ramp.
"How much for a ticket?" Ms. Brightman chattered, her feet becoming numb again on the slippery, frozen dock.
"We don't sell tickets here. You have to have one already!"
"Wh-what? I-I've been here all night. My last boat had a problem and had to let the passengers off here."
"Sorry. No ticket, no boarding." He started to walk up the ramp.
Ms. Brightman panicked, "I'll pay you ten thousand dollars if you let me board!"
He laughed at her.
"Well, that's a hefty sum. A million is it?"
He allowed her on the ship, she shoving past him in a frenzy to find warmth and food from her near nightmare of the previous day.
Seemingly at long last, when she reached Washington State, Ms. Brightman told all the people she knew about the phantoms on the rotting dock, but all of them said no such thing existed. The captains, the officials in charge of the different boat systems, all stated the same thing: that such a dock could not possibly exist, as it was on no maritime map, and the thought was absurd.
Ms. Brightman never traveled on a boat again. As soon as two days after her frosty, teeth-chattering stay on the spider-like dock, she wondered if she had not merely dreamt it all.