Short story – The boat to the west

Brian was confused.  He woke up in the middle of the ocean in pitch darkness.  His arms and legs hurt from treading water in the wavy seas.  The last thing He remembered was a man asking him if he had a cigarette when he was leaving McDonalds after his shift.  After that there was no memory until the faint sound of six foot waves rolling by him brought him to his senses.  Water and darkness.  The ocean was at least three hours away from his last memory, but somehow he knew.

“Help,” he said not too desperately.  He knew there was no one here to hear him.  “Help!” he tried louder as what he hoped was only some seaweed brushed past his foot.

He saw the moon barely breaking through the thick clouds in the sky.  He legs were beginning to burn, he thought he’d only been treading water for a few minutes but it had been much longer than he realized.

The clouds moved slowly but steadily the moon appeared in the blue night sky and Brian began to see more than darkness.  As the moon shined onto the ocean the waves slowed crashing.

He blinked as he thought he couldn’t be seeing a vessel to the east that looked to be about only 300 feet away.  And to the west he could barely make out a much smaller boat that looked much further away, maybe half a mile.

The boat to the east looked to be casually sitting in the water and now Brian could see lights and he thought even heard laughter.  Maybe it was even drifting slowly his way.  The boat to the west Brian could now make out a very dim light, but he couldn’t make out any sounds.  Of course it was farther away, and it seemed to be moving even further from him.  Something about that one seemed peaceful to him. His legs were killing him.

“Hello there,” he heard a clear voice from the east.  Brian saw the person standing on the bow calling to him.  The boat now looked to be about only 250 feet away.

“I need help,” Brian called back.  “I’m lost, and tired, and confused, please help.”  He tried to kick toward the boat but his legs were hardly moving the way he wanted them to.

“We know Brian; we are here to help you, don’t worry now.”

“Who are you, how do you know my name, how did I get here?” His legs were feeling like cement and he wasn’t sure he could keep from going under much longer.

“Brian we are your friends, we knew you were on the way and that you would need help, we’ve been waiting for you,” the person on the bow smiled as the boat moved closer.

“But I don’t know you,” his legs stopped working and he knew it wasn’t long until his body slid under.

“But you can know us Brian, get on our boat, we can save you from this deep ocean.” He knew there was something in that voice not to trust, but his legs were useless and he needed to get out of this ocean now.  The boat was just feet away from him now, he saw the person on the bow.  The most beautiful woman.

His chin was just above the water and slipping slowly.  Out of the corner of his eye he saw the boat to the west, much further away now and hardly visible.  “What’s that boat?”

“Brian, come aboard, that boat can’t help you, and we can.”

As he looked at the woman on the bow her beauty pulled him, but he knew she was deceitful.  “Can you help me get to that boat please?” he asked trying to find a centimeter of strength in either of his legs as his arms were giving up now.

“That boat is not for you, it’s for losers, it’s for those who don’t appreciate everything that we have to share with those who join our boat.”  He heard the irritation in her voice.  “Just come aboard Brian, it will be okay, this is the boat that everyone’s on, this boat can save you, it has everything that you ever wanted.”

“But..”

His arms moved less.  The beautiful woman leaned over the bow and reached her hand to him, he was going under.  He swallowed a mouthful of ocean water before reaching for her hand.  In an instant he was out of the ocean and onboard the boat.

“See, this is better than swallowing ocean water isn’t it?”

He was sitting on the deck of a very pristine boat.  Down its center as far as he could see were people laughing and dancing and talking happily.  Even further past them he saw other people enjoying every possible luxury that he had ever wanted.  This boat was the place to be.

“Here you are Brian,” the beautiful woman was slipping a robe on him. She held his hand and pulled him toward the center of the boat towards all the happiness.  He stayed seated, “I think I will sit here a while,” he didn’t let her pull him.  “As you wish. I will look for you soon.”  She walked into the boat’s happiness.

Brian sat trying to figure out what was going on and where he was as he watched everything his heart desired just a few steps away from him.  Not many of these people work at McDonalds he thought.  He started thinking more and more that it didn’t matter how he’d gotten here.

An average height man in a crisp blue suit walked up and sat down next to him.  “Hello sir,” Brian said.

“Hello Brian, welcome, we are happy to have you aboard.  We hope that our ship is everything you want and more.”  This man seemed more sincere than the woman.

“Yes thank you,” his mind thought of the little boat to the west just for a second.  “May I join the boat’s party?”

“Yes of course,” the nice man motioned to the center of the ship. “Anytime you wish.”

“Is it free, will it cost me anything?”  Brian questioned not worried about the man’s answer.

“It’s free; it won’t cost you anything at all.  We do ask that you tell your friends about our boat.  And later on there are just a few other things, but I promise you there is nothing to worry about.” The man’s smile ensured Brian.  “Feel free to join the party whenever you wish, I will see you later,” he walked toward the back of the boat where there seemed to be a little commotion, maybe someone arguing.

Brian was excited, he stood and his legs felt better, they barely hurt anymore. He walked toward the center of the ship.  It seemed like everyone he walked by was smiling at him and truly happy that he was here.

‘Keep your voice down,’ he thought he heard someone say from the direction that the nice man had walked away to.  He decided to walk that way too.  When he got to the back of the ship he saw a small group of people talking to a man that looked very upset.  ‘Whoa,’ Brian thought, it was the man he last remembered talking to before ending up in the ocean.

The nice man was talking to him, calmly but urgently. “We don’t want you to leave, that small boat to the west is long gone and you are not fit to find it.  There are only a few losers on that lonely ship.  If you stay here with us there is happiness and fun and peace.  The small boat to the west only brings lies and hurt.”

“You are a liar,” the man said holding the rail to steady himself. “This ship is the one full of lies and deception and pain, the boat to the west has hope.”

Brian’s mind fought to understand what was going on but he wasn’t sure.

The nice man grabbed the man’s arm, “You listen to me you little..”

Another person that looked like a teenager pushed the nice man’s arm away.  “I will swim with you to the other boat.”

Brian watched unable to move as the teenager and the man who called the nice man a liar jumped back into the dark ocean that they had been rescued from.

“Let them go,” the nice man said to those looking into the darkness after them.  “We don’t need people like that here, they are losers.”

Brian wasn’t sure what to do, he knew his legs weren’t ready to find the boat to the west.  But he knew that there was hope there.  Maybe he would stay on this nice ship for a while.  There would be plenty of time later on to find the little boat to the west.

He walked toward the happiness, thinking of the ship to the west and those that jumped over hardly at all.

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