Priscylla

August 11, 2011

“We have a Latina female, mid-30s, gunshot wound to the abdomen, no exit wound.”

The EMT looked grimly across at Jen as she fell in alongside the gurney at a trot and took the woman’s hand; the patient was in a lot of pain and her shirt was soaked with dark blood.

“It’s alright, we’re taking you in to surgery now. Stay with me. What’s your name?”

“Luciana.”

“We’ve got you, Luciana, don’t worry, it’s going to be alright.”

The OR was already bustling with activity when the gurney burst through the double doors. An anesthesiologist went to work while the surgeons scrubbed in. Luciana turned to look at Jen with wide, tear-stained, eyes, her lips drawn tight behind the oxygen mask.

Luciana held Jen’s eyes with her own while the surgeons went to work.

“Scalpel—

I need some suction here—

BP down to 65—

Does anyone see the bullet?—

Pulse ox. at 80—

Give me some more light—

BP 60, we’re losing her—

I found it, forceps—

OK, let’s get out of here—

No rhythm, starting chest compressions—

No pulse, I’m calling it.”

~~~

Near the end of her shift Jen was dabbing at a stain on her scrubs at the bathroom sink when Laurie walked in.

“Tough day Jenny?” Laurie caught Jen’s eye in the mirror and furrowed her brow in the semblance of concern.

“Yeah.” She hated being called ‘Jenny’.

“You need a vacation — everyone needs to get out of the city once and a while.  I just got back from this cruise—”

All week Jen had been dodging Laurie, with her fresh tan and smug satisfaction, in order to avoid hearing about her vacation; she had to accept a weathered semi-gloss single panel brochure from Laurie’s pocketbook in order to get out of the conversation:

“Sunshine Line:  7 Day All-Inclusive Cruise.”

The idea kept rolling around in her head on the subway as she headed home. On one hand, being stuck on a cruise ship with 20-somethings on spring break and 80-something retirees was not Jen’s idea of a dream vacation. On the other hand work owed her vacation time and there was nobody waiting at home for her except a Himalayan with a bad hair cut (no family, no significant others of any significance.) When she got home she booked a cruise on the first ship leaving Monday morning and canceled all her shifts.

~~~

The cruise ship Priscylla was a 50 story office building turned on its side with over 1000 passengers roomed in seven decks. Jen’s stateroom, although affordable, was undesirably located below deck with only a single porthole to the outside. Although the queen bed was comfortable, some combination of free margaritas and the rolling sea beneath it led to strange and vivid dreams.

In her dream Jen was in the open ocean; Luciana was treading water across from her. There was no land in sight but Luciana smiled at her and Jen was strangely unafraid. When Jen’s limbs felt leaden and the effort of treading water was too much she let herself slip into the warm water, her eyes still open. Luciana was unclothed and the smooth and undamaged skin on her stomach rippled strangely as if jawed creatures were trying to break through. As Jen fell into the dark waters a tentacle wrapped itself around her and drew her upwards.

Although it was late at night Jen was not tired when she awoke from her dream. She decided to take a walk above deck and, because the night was windy and spitting rain, threw a rain jacket around her shoulders before taking the elevator up to the wraparound deck.

Jen stood at the railing staring out at the water; the night was dark but wave tips reflected flashes of light back to the ship. She was the only passenger above deck until a young couple burst out of the salon arguing about something. They were soon driven below deck by the wind and the rain and Jen was alone again.

She was watching the light dancing on the waves when the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. The lights in the distance were winking out as an advancing wall of darkness was consuming them. As the darkness approached the ship tipped towards it as if sliding down the banks of a deep ravine. Jen wrapped her arms around the bannister as she realized a rogue wave, over 100 feet high, was about to crash into the ship. The water surrounded her, wrenched her away from the balcony, and threw her like a toy. Jen hit something hard and her breath was knocked out of her. She lost consciousness.

“Miss, miss, are you OK?”

When Jen came to a sailor was shaking her gently by the shoulders.

~~~

4 Responses to “Priscylla”

  1. Emilybb says:

    I find the study of Rogue Waves very interesting and a little scary, great story!

  2. emmy em says:

    Lesson: don't take a cruise.

    • disperse says:

      My favorite part of the Wikipedia article on rogue waves is "Freak waves have been cited in the media as a likely source of the sudden, inexplicable disappearance of _many_ ocean-going vessels." (emphasis mine.)

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