He sprinted towards the sea, his slightly softened body bouncing with each bounded step on the water-hardened sand. Reaching the cold water, he slowed, stopped, and turned to walk back towards the rocks high in the gray loose sand of the shore. His body was covered in tattoos. Only his left leg was bare from the ink that covered his stomach, back, chest and arms with intricately designed landscapes and colorful scenes of war.
Reaching the rocks, he ran his hand through his dark hair. His brow furrowed and he shook his head slightly at himself as his fingers worried his hair. He gave a slight yank with his fingers at the end and set his jaw. Clinching his fists, he sprinted back to the dark and angry sea. Stopping short of the water’s edge again, he collapsed to his knees and punched the stiff sand with his clinched fist. Screaming at the sea, he wept. And no one heard the thuds of his fists or the screams from his throat.
Stephen walked along the corridor of the ship. He stumbled on the lip of a doorway as he passed through it. Falling against the bulkhead, his head clipped a pipe that ran water throughout the ship. Stephen winced and felt his head gingerly. His head was fine. His stomach, however, was clinching and rolling. He had to get to the ship’s medical bay before he passed out from the nausea and dehydration. Continuing along the ship’s passageways, Stephen gripped the walls. His pace was slow; doubling over in pain impended his usually long strides.
As he approached the medical bay, he cautiously stepped over the bodies of sick men strewn about the floor. Lolled heads fell back with mouths open, gasping for water with raspy breaths. He felt a hand circle his ankle and squeeze. Stephen glanced down to see his buddy looking up with dulled eyes.
“Oh man, you too?”
Stephen nodded before heaving into a luckily unoccupied corner. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he turned back to his friend.
“What the fuck is this from?”
“No idea, man.”
Stephen left his friend to shuffle to see the doc checking in patients.
“I don’t feel well.”
“Take a seat, buddy, no one feels fucking well.”
The doc was frazzled and clearly overwhelmed by the sudden influx of sick patients throwing up on his bay floor. Stephen heaved again and the doc snapped at him.
“Go drink some Gatorade. The wait for an IV is a few hours.”
Stephen walked towards the orange five gallon buckets and filled a paper cup with yellow liquid. Letting the liquid touch his lips, he flinched at the taste and drew the cup back to take a closer look. A rainbow film covered the top of the yellow liquid. Dipping his finger in the Gatorade, the oily film made a circle around his skin.
The fuel and god knows what else has leaked into our drinking water.
Stephen looked around at the men laying around the bay. All of them had crumpled cups beside their bodies. Stephen limped back to his friend.
“Stop drinking the water.”
His friend had fallen asleep.
Beginning to waver more, Stephen stumbled back to his bunk in the ship. He would try for an IV later.
He awoke with a velvet tongue. Glancing at the water at his side, he sat up and held his head between his hands. It felt like he had a hangover and he was almost delirious with thirst. Swinging his legs over the side of the bunk, he moved towards the passage of the ship. Everything was out of focus and his brain felt like a fog of confusion.
Somehow he got back to the medical bay, which was empty.
How long was I asleep?
Stephen fell against the desk occupied by a tall and dark doc. He vaguely felt the doc grab his arm and lead him into a room where an IV was hanging next to a medical bed.
“Take off your overalls.”
Stephen protested weakly before the doc unzipped his suit to the waist and removed his arms from their sleeves. The doc pushed Stephen onto his back and began taking his temperature. Stephen felt his arm wiped with something cool before a sharp prick made his brain sharpen. He opened his eyes to see the doc adjusting the drip of the saline bag before exhaustion overtook him and he drifted off.
Something was moving the fabric of Stephen’s shirt from the waistband of his pants. Crawling out of the fog of his mind, Stephen opened his eyes in time to see the doc pressing along his lower abdomen.
“Does this hurt?”
The doc gazed down on him while Stephen shook his head slightly. He couldn’t seem to bring himself to speak. The doc’s hands moved deftly under his shirt…and then began to move down.
“What are you doing?”
Stephen’s voice was raspy and cracked. The doc just looked at him silently as he reached down and grabbed Stephen’s cock.
“Get the fuck off of me!”
Stephen struggled to sit up and was pushed down by the doc who remained silent. His hand was firmly wrapped and he began stroking. Stephen froze, weak and vulnerable, and unable to fight off this large man. He closed his eyes and wished for the exhaustion to come back.
Stephen lost weight over the next few weeks. Every time he would see the doc in the passageways of the ship, his stomach would turn and he would run to the nearest balcony to wretch over the side of the ship. The doc would smile at him. Stephen couldn’t look him in the eye…he couldn’t look anyone in the eye anymore.
I deserved it. I should have fought him off. I should have done…anything but…Why did my body betray me?
Stephen began to wither away.
The act was simple. Stephen thought about how he would do it after the last “man overboard” drill. It was easy to lure the doc to a part of the ship that no watch could see in the middle of the night. Stephen went to the medical bay during the doc’s night shift and asked the doc to follow him outside. The doc suspected nothing and approached the sponson like he was meeting for a lover’s tryst. Stephen’s fist came quickly, knocking the man unconscious with a dull thud. The doc’s body slumped to the ground and Stephen struggled to push it over the sponson.
The body’s splash into the sea was indiscernible from the typical laps of water against the hull during an accelerated speed. No screams. A slight splash and then silence as the night sky glittered above Stephen’s head. Stephen calmly lit a cigarette and took a long drag, becoming just another sailor enjoying a smoke break on the side of the ship.
The ship looked for the doc for a few days before giving up and continuing the passage to Australia. One man’s life didn’t stop an entire ship’s mission.
Stephen ran back to the sea one more time. He remembered the sound of the splash that happened twenty years ago as his feet hit the water with a similar sound. Stephen wouldn’t stop running this time. He would swim as far as he could until he knew his energy couldn’t carry him back to shore. He assumed he would float for awhile, like the doc might have, before succumbing to the sea and finally paying for the crime he committed. The jury of Stephen’s mind had sentenced him on that fateful night and he had been outrunning his sentence for twenty years. His salty tears joined the sea as he began to swim.