I wrote this for a podcast that was asking for flash fiction submissions. It got rejected, but I love it becsue I wrote it for a friend of mine and it has a special meaning.
By Jonathan Ryan
The snorkeler didn’t wake up this morning thinking she would be bent over a gunwale, struggling with an anchor line wrapped around her wrists. She looked through clear waters at Bill trying to untangle the fouled rope from the rock below. A sly grin cracked as she fondly reminisced about the last time she found herself in a similar position. Barbados. Pirates. Planks.
Her day had actually began waking to the gentle tropical breeze wafting through the vacation bungalow snuggling next to Bill. His snoring has stopped since he quit smoking making him just as pleasant to be asleep with as he was when he was awake.
Beth knew that he knew she was watching him, as a grin cracked his face. “Good morning, beautiful.” He croaked.
“Hey there, baby.” She smiled back.
The plan was to rent a boat, get wet, get back and go dancing after a fine evening feast. Beth agreed to her boyfriends bet that she didn’t have the nerve to spend the day in just her black bikini. She devilishly raised the wager if he would in a matching Speedo. She knew he dreaded his imminent embarrassment.
Internally she chided herself for at least not bringing towels to use to shelter themselves for the sun. A few days in paradise was making her soft.
Bill signaled with crowbar in hand he was coming up as she unbound the rope and greeted him as he breached on the starboard side of the Zodiac.
“I think… we are… making progress.” He said a little shallow.
“Are you all right? She asked.
He nodded. She bent over the soft hull gave him a soft quick kiss on the lips.
“You make saltwater sweet.”
“I think we need a break.” She winked.
He gave her a lingering kiss back. “Lets get the anchor free and then we can take as long a break as we need.”
“Okay!” and Beth slipped on her mask and fins and joined him underwater.
The anchor disappeared with the mid-day sun, and everything went black as she was left holding a suddenly slack rope. She was slightly disoriented when she surfaced.
“Bill!” Beth called grasping the boat, and pulling her mask up.
“Beside you babe.”
“Beats me. I paid the power bill. Climb aboard and we’ll figure this out.” He said, forcibly throwing his mask into the boat.
It took a second for her eyesight to adjust to the pitch black; pinpricks of starlight began to twinkle. She pulled the mask off her forehead around her neck. It was a security blanket in the new unknown.
“Beth. We’re moving.”
She looked around. None of this made sense. “We can’t be. The waters flat and we don’t even have a wake.”
“Look over there.” Bill pointed over her shoulder.
The center mass to which he was pointing began to elongate and streak. It was even more disorienting as the field was being played out broadside to the Zodiac, and Beth lurched back into her companion’s chest and arms. “Not to sound all damsel-in-distressy, but what happened?”
“I know we’ve seen weird before, but I want you to know that I am truly freaking out on the inside, so the best I can come up with at the moment is somehow we have been flung out into space.” She felt him hold onto her a little tighter than usual, “That makes us the first interstellar astronauts.”
She paused. They had a breathable atmosphere. There was no air currents one would assume came with the movement. Checking the luminous dial on her ladies dive watch, and digesting all of the facts she finally said. “We read too much science fiction when that makes sense.”
Bill genuinely laughed “You rock.”
She looked up at him. “No the fact that you are sitting on my spaceship in a Speedo rocks!”
“Seriously?” he replied quizzically.
She kissed him. “Very European.”
“I meant this being your spaceship.”
She welcomed her own giggle, “It’s rented it on my credit card!”
“Aye, aye Captain!” Bill laughed. It was the laugh he had after he got over a bad show and that made her feel more comfortable.
She shed a little of her nervousness, and grinned how everything always reverted back to Barbados, “Behave mister or I’ll have you walking the plank this time.”
He laughed a little more naturally, “It looks like we’re coming up on a star. I’m starting to make out the shape of whatever it is we are in.”
Beth surveyed the illuminating surroundings; it was interesting because whatever machinations that were at work were also slowing them down as they approached the sun of another world.
The trapped Caribbean waters began to glow as if someone turned on pool lights. “It looks like the ocean only goes on for twenty feet all around us.” She noted.
“We are in a bowl!” He said reaching for a paddle as she saw the shell take on a faint nebulous glow.
“I’ll forgo the obvious joke.” She retorted sardonically.
“That is one more reason I am nuts about you, babe.” He turned the boat into the direction they assumed was forward.
They both leaned over the port gunwale as they tortoised their way around the star quietly taking it in what was going on, they couldn’t help but succumb to the wonderment of it all. Beth suddenly reached over and grabbed Bill’s arm, “That’s a spaceship!”
“Jeez! We’re going to pass over it!” hurriedly the slipped back on their masks and snorkels before diving back into the water. At the bottom of the translucent bowl they stared breathlessly at the fellow spacefarer and waved as they passed over her. It sank in that they were not only were they far from home, but they were not alone. Prickled nerves and a rush of adrenaline took hold and they surfaced when they could no longer hold their breath.
“This is so cool!” Beth exclaimed
“I know!” Bill replied.
“Oh hell yes!! I’m too amazed to let it show!”
“If this wasn’t such an adventure I’m pretty sure I would be unglued by now.” She looked into the water and at the vessel below she knew her face was tense, but not hard. Beth knew this because he had once told her that watching her concentrate was one of the things he loved about her. “Do you think anyone saw us?”
“You know? I would like to think so.” He climbed back into the boat and helped her aboard. The unusual spacecraft began to accelerate again as the star field began its elongated processional.
In the decreasingly unfamiliar darkness she stroked his still damp arm, quietly as if not to disturb the passing scenery, stated, “I feel frisky.”
He rolled onto his knees to keep from tripping on the fins and took her into his arms. She latched onto his embrace and shifted beneath him and beneath the stars.
“Let me get these off.” She suggested reaching for the straps on her fins.
“I have a confession to make.”
“I think they’re sexy.”
“They make your legs longer!”
Beth laughed, leaving the flippers on and took him hungrily and with great abandon. They lay there in the bottom of the boat goofing about things like what their first words to the first native species they ran across would be, or if they could eat each other if they were going to be trapped in the sphere forever. It helped to ease the disquieting reality that was setting in again. They talked until slumber took them over.
A sunrise came with a gently flowing breeze over the gunwale. Beth stirred and looked at her watch. It had stopped. She hadn’t even noticed that sometime in apparent night he had sat up and laid her head in his lap. She looked up at him, his back against the tube.
“Good morning, beautiful.” He grinned.
“Hey there, baby.”
“I think we’re back.” Nodding over his shoulder.
She sat up to see. “Is that our island?”
“I think so.”
“It looks smaller.”
“Everything is going to look smaller after that tour.”
“No hon, it just doesn’t look the same.”
“Baby? Nothing is ever going to look the same.”
“Why?” She cocked her head quizzically. There was something in his voice.”
For the first time, ever, he said, “Because I love you.”
Beth squealed! “I love you too!”
It was that moment right there they knew it was a different world.