Max stumbled into darkness, the radio falling silent for a moment, the creaking and groaning of the ship as she rolled on the tide the sound to be heard.
When his light winked on again, he found himself gazing at large, dark wood-beam chamber stacked with dusty piles of crates and boxes, with dim oil lamps hanging from the rafters. Grit shifted under his feet, and the floorboards felt rotten enough to crack under him. It didn’t help that there was a thin mist drifting across the floor, and the other end of the passage looked as if it reached a good distance beyond where the Sweet Lady’s hull should have ended.
Still the same as it looked before whatever happened happened, at least until he turned around.
While what lay ahead of him still looked as it had in his split-second glimpse of it, gone was the hold behind him, replaced by similar scenery to the scene before him. He had somehow followed those running feet and wandered into a part of the ship that just didn’t belong. And worse, he quickly discovered as he stepped back around the stack of crates to find more of the same, he had no idea how to get back to that place.
His confused musings were interrupted by another scrabbling sound farther down the way.
Hoping for some answers, he took off after it. Again, he could have sworn he saw a small child dart around the corner ahead of him, so he followed. Around the corner he found a cabin door, and next to it a stairway leading up, and no clue which way to go.
He hadn’t heard any doors open or close, and when he tried it, he found it solidly locked. By the same token, he didn’t hear any footfalls on the stairs, either, but felt it more likely that someone could go up stairs more quietly than they could shut a door that fast. Fearing he may already have lost this mysterious person, he went up the steps, figuring the others were probably back on the ship, and it would be a wise idea to check in with them since there was still nothing but faint static on the radio.
At the top of the steps, he looked around again, feeling even more disoriented than in the hold.
Much like that last section of the hold, this area didn’t look anything like the ship they boarded, either. For starters, the cabin room was bigger, and had a noticeably higher ceiling. While the first place merely looked deserted, this room looked long-abandoned: drab and dingy, the wood of the furnishings looked nearly rotten. And that same dreary mist wafted throughout, giving it a clammy, clingy atmosphere that bothered him deeply.
“Shades? Justin?” Max called out, not just into his mic, but to the rest of the ship, as well. Standing for a moment in the eerie silence of this creepy cabin, he waited for a reply.
All his headset answered him with was a random series of odd clicking sounds before fading back to the faint static that wasn’t there before the lights went out, and seemed to be his constant companion since.
Deciding that he had had enough of this, he resolved to go back to the ship. Stepping out of the room proved still more disorienting, as it led to a hallway with several doors lining each side. The walls and fixtures appeared grimy and rusty, and the deck was slightly slippery in places, as if damp from the mist. The Sweet Lady he originally boarded wasn’t big enough to have corridors like this.
The only thing he had ever seen that even remotely resembled this were the twisted, meandering halls of the Harken Building, and that was a thought he could really do without right about now, he concluded, as he dashed down the hallway and through another door.
Paying little heed to which way he went on this strange new ship, he finally made his way out onto the main deck.
By now, he was hardly surprised to see that even the outside of the ship was much larger than the Sweet Lady’s. In fact, by far the largest ship deck he could recall having ever set foot on, just what he could see of it, as the far end was completely shrouded in darkness and mist. Still fogged-in, as he remembered from earlier, and if he wasn’t mistaken, that fog was even thicker than before.
Frantic to find the Maximum, he ran along the outer railing of the ship, dismayed to see that the deck level of this vessel was at least twice their own. Starting with what he hoped was the same side of the ship they boarded from, and working his way to the rear, then back toward the front again, he sought for even a hint of their ship. He was about to give up and try the starboard side, when he heard a foghorn echo in the distance.
Max turned to see what looked like the vague outline of a ship off in the distance.
As he watched, the ship, possibly the Maximum, sailed away into the mist. While he ran along the deck, calling out desperately after it. He staggered to a halt as he saw the other ship vanish into the fog.
If it was actually there to begin with.
For a moment, in spite of his injured arm, he considered just diving in and swimming for it. But a brief look down revealed that the waters here were murkier, what he could see of it through the fog so much thicker. For the first time, he got a good look into those hazy depths, at half-seen shapes that occasionally drifted across the surface.
And thought better of it.
Max stumbled away from the railing, struggling against the image of this, the largest ship he had ever been on, being just a tiny speck floating on a thin, grimy film underneath of which were deeper, darker waters than he ever wanted to imagine. Certain there were things in those abysmal depths big enough to swallow him whole, laser sword and all, even if that other ship were real, and didn’t change direction on him. A well upon which few gazed on more than just the surface.
It was in the midst of these stark contemplations that he looked up to the moon. After all he had seen, he was surprised at his own surprise to remember that there was no moon earlier. Let alone two of them. On hidden partway behind the other, both of them a lavender hue he had never seen before.
What is going on?