Okay, I know. I'm late on this one, but I am catching up! This is technically June's 3 Random Words Story, which we did a little differently. Here's what was ordered:
Genre: Murder Mystery
Time: 20 years in the future
Main Character: Shape Shifter
Setting: On a boat in the Atlantic Ocean
Random Word: Goggles
The gentle lap of water against the sides of the ship brought Anthony back to a state of consciousness. Stretching out his long arms, his eyes fluttered open to see an expansive grey and white sky. Red and white sails ballooned in the wind, and a tattered and lonely American flag fluttered softly against the dreary backdrop. Misty clouds of condensed breath molecules sprang out of his mouth in a steady rhythm. Anthony wrapped his arms around his body, tugging at the tight jacket sleeves. A sudden flow of warmth trickled down his arms and back. It was almost too warm, and he felt his body start to sweat beneath the thick, skin-tight material wrapped around his body.
This is it, Anthony thought, this is how I’m going to die.
The boat collided with something hard, rocks, maybe.
Land, Anthony hoped.
To Anthony’s surprise, he was able to stand with little effort. He took stock of his surroundings, taking in the daunting scene before him. Stretching as far as he could see in every direction was nothing but ice-covered ocean. Stark white sheets of ice danced atop the crystal blue water, taunting Anthony’s hopes of finding land.
A faint beeping sound began to grow louder, three steady beeps followed by a second of silence before starting up again.
Beep, beep, beep.
Anthony scoured the deck for the sound, but it sounded like it was following him. He drew neither closer nor farther from the noise, and each step felt like it led to a spike in his body temperature. He paused and closed his eyes, trying to isolate his hearing so he could identify the origin of the noise.
Beep, beep, beep.
It was coming from him – somewhere on his body. He patted himself down and quickly realized that his jacket wasn’t a jacket at all. It was a full-body suit, black with red accent colors, and it included a control panel screen on the right arm sleeve. A red and white logo read ‘Astrid 8’.
Suit temperature: 30°C
Automatic shut off will occur at: 31°C
Suit minimum temperature: 26°C
The screen readout also displayed the outdoor temperature (-34.5°C), and his vitals, though nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The suit maintained his body temperature, keeping him warm and alive despite being exposed to the frigid elements.
“Well, that’s convenient,” Anthony said aloud. “But how the hell did I get here?”
Anthony began to search the ship, his anxiety building as he continued to look for anyone who might be able to answer his question.
I must have fallen, Anthony thought. Hit my head and can’t remember anything.
Though, that wasn’t entirely true. He did remember some things. His name, for starters. He also remembered a scene: men on a boat screaming his name, the overwhelming sense that he was shrinking, and a burst of yellow light.
“Hello?” Anthony called, pausing for a reply. “Anyone here?”
The ship bobbed eerily, and Anthony fought his suspicions that he was alone. A shiver ran down his spine at the thought. The stairway leading to the kitchen and forward berth of the boat was dark, but more importantly, it was opened to the elements. Another sign that something was amiss. At the bottom of the steps, Anthony found a small utility bag with a flashlight that barely had any juice in it, but he didn’t need much to see the horror that laid out before him.
Four bodies, well, more like four skeletons laid atop the warm blankets of their individual beds, their bones still wrapped in the same black and red suit that covered Anthony’s. The opened door had long released any unpleasant stench, and Anthony decided to take a closer look. With the fancy technology in the suit, it was unlikely that they died due to exposure. The control panel on each suit still glowed red, ready for instructions. A sinking feeling washed over Anthony. If it wasn’t the elements, then it was something much worse.
Anthony searched the ship for food, hunting down any scrap or morsel he could find, but there wasn’t even a crumb left in the cereal boxes strewn about the berth. These men died of starvation. And if Anthony didn’t get out of there soon, he would certainly meet their fate.
Taking the steps three at a time, Anthony sprinted to the bridge.
“Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. This is vessel...” Anthony’s voice faded out. What was the name of this ship?
Sprinting back out onto the deck, Anthony searched for the name of the ship. He tried to look out over the edge, but he couldn’t quite make out the letters. The Mayday won’t work without the name of the vessel.
Think, Anthony commanded of himself, think.
He brought his hands to his head and saw the red and white logo once more. He sprinted back toward the bridge.
“Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. This is vessel Astrid 8.”
He repeated the mantra three times and paused before continuing the Mayday process, something that came to him in the form of another distant memory, as if from another life.
“We are located at 81.37831491245953 latitude and 39.225571966170044 longitude. The boat is black with red and white sails. There are four deceased passengers and one surviving passenger, me. We have run out of food and water. Please send rescue. Over.”
Anthony paused once again, waiting for the Coast Guard to respond. He glanced around at the bridge and realized that nothing felt familiar. All of the technology was foreign, like it came from some alien planet.
“This is the Coast Guard. Can you please repeat the name of your vessel?”
Anthony rushed back to the phone, pausing for a split second to take note of its unusual shape and location.
“Astrid 8,” Anthony repeated.
A long pause followed. Something wasn’t right.
“Can you tell me your name, sailor?” the Coast Guard asked.
“Anthony. Anthony Wiznicki.”
Another long pause.
“Is this some kind of joke? Anthony Wiznicki was murdered twenty years ago. The Astrid 8 went missing five years ago and is presumed sunk. This line is for emergencies only. Over.”
The connection cut out with a loud click as Anthony’s head spun in confusion. Flashes of memory came back. Screaming sailors, fear painted across their faces. They weren’t running toward him, they were running away from him. The feeling of being lifted into the air and being dropped over the ocean. The name of a boat painted in purple ink along the white hull. Magdeline. Then there was only a bright yellow light. Perhaps from hitting the water. Did someone want him dead?
“I think you’ve made a mistake,” Anthony said over the line. “My name is Anthony Wiznicki. I was on the vessel Magdeline before I went overboard. I think. Or maybe someone pushed me overboard. I – I can’t remember. The Astrid 8 must have picked me up. But they are all dead now. And I’m going to join them if you don’t send rescue. Over.”
Though his voice shook with fear and uncertainty, it was also strong and true, without a hint of deception. Seconds ticked by as Anthony waited for a response, placing his hand above the phone for balance. His fingers landed on a smooth, embossed collection of letters and numbers.
EST March 3, 2041
It wasn’t possible. Where did 20 years go? A lightning bolt of pain spidered through his skull, sending him to his knees. His brain continued to crack open, spilling memories faster than Anthony could collect them. The ability to breathe underwater. A pair of goggles that appeared the size of a human. The peaceful sound of silence. A pair of fins protruding from his body. Another yellow light as he approached land. Four legs. Paws. The incredible ability to track almost any scent. A gun. Searing pain. Another yellow light.
Thousands of pieces of his life unraveled before his eyes, each with its own stories of success and failure.
“Sailor, this is Lieutenant Ricketts with the United States Coast Guard, can you please repeat your location? Over.” The phone felt like it was miles away as his memories continued to flood back.
Wings flying over the beauty of Greenland. A lost ship drifting deeper into the Arctic Ocean. Two legs. The sensation of being pulled aboard. Hunger. Another bright yellow light. The predatory feeling of stalking prey. Easy prey. Sleeping prey.
“Sailor, come in. What is your location? Over.”
Anthony left the bridge and scurried back to the berth. Four skeletons still laid bare on their beds, but they hadn’t died of starvation. Their suits were ripped, the black and red coloring masking the bloodstains covering the absorbent material.
“Oh God,” Anthony cried, stumbling back toward the stairs. He crawled back up to the main deck, the sound of the Lieutenant’s voice still echoing through the bridge. “It was me,” Anthony whispered. “I did this to them.”
Without another thought, he threw himself over the edge of the boat, an offering for death to take him. A bright yellow light consumed him before he hit the water.
Silence. Calm. Two grey fins protruding from a stealth, silver body.