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THE MEDUSA

“It’s late,” she said.

It was true. Pitch black outside and who knew when the bulbs would run out. Those of us who were off duty sat around the gray foldout table we had duct-taped to the floor. Everything these days had to be taped or glued or bolted down. We had learned the hard way that a chair or a fork out of place could summon the angels of death. Playing cards were stranded, face up, bleeding across the table and mingling with half eaten cans of sardines. I was wearing my “I’ve got a wild cherry” t-shirt, the same pit stained torn up shirt I’d been wearing when they found me, a month or so before I guess. I don’t know, I don’t care, counting didn’t matter then, it doesn’t matter much now either.

“Let’s dock for the night. Looks like a storm is coming.”

A storm was coming all right, coming for us and the wind was howling, chanting, plowing deep into my ears! Our vessel, our savior, was churning left and right twisting through dark waters, past drowned houses on cramped streets. We lowered two of our girls on an inflatable raft into the water to search ahead for a safe place to rest.

I was thankful to be off duty that night, a night without a moon, I’ve never gotten over my fear of the dark. My heart pounds in my ears. I’m like a child, a big coward, a freak. I’m a dumb little girl scared of the boogeyman, scared of every shadow. I sleep with my head under the covers as if that might save me.

“God, I’m so tired,” I said aloud and felt stupid and cursed myself because of course we’re all fucking tired. Wobbling, tossed around day and night. All the fingers on my left hand had been numb for over a week from pulling on bristly ropes, but so blessed was I to possess 10 fingers, 10 toes. A joker gazed up at me from my hand, leering with curled lips, he knew as well as I did that I was a dead weight, another hollowed out can of sardines. I should have stayed in the water.

“We’re all fucking tired!” Thank god someone farted and I forgot all my bullshit and we laughed like hell, snorting and cackling and choking on our spit like the seamen we pretended to be. We fancied ourselves real sea-lasses, rugged and ballsy and full of beans.

A faint light glowed behind us, breathing brighter and brighter.

“Someone’s on our tail.”

My throat closed up as though it had swallowed a bird. Briny breath on our necks, just an arm’s length away. We sped up, but so did they. Crossing back, crossing back, crossing forth, crossing forth, parroting every move of our dear ship’s hips like a dance.

And just like that, like out of some crappy old movie or porno their ropes strangled our beams, their feet smashed onto our decks. 19 of them and only 14 of us. Those scummy creeps didn’t waste a second, pressing their foul cases against every one of us, pushing us down, ripping our clothes, tugging our hair.

The strongest of us, we fought. Fists. Teeth snapped in half. I was too unfastened from my skin to scream. Dirty fingers full of mouths, of buttons, praying for a gun. To shoot squirrels off the back porch one by one.

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