Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.
— Robert A. Heinlein
Water is already lapping at Joe’s heels, but he continues to stare mournfully out at the ocean slowly claiming the ship. People are screaming and running around on the tilted deck, and porters and officers are trying to get everyone calmly to the lifeboats.
But Joe doesn’t move. There is no point to his survival. He has nothing left to live for.
Some might say that being on a sinking ship is one of the worst things that could happen to you. For Joe, however, the worst thing happened last night.
It was just after dinner in one of the cruise’s man restaurants. He was happy and full of delicious food. They were only a day or so from land, and phone service had finally kicked back in, though not for all the passengers. So Joe wasn’t too put off when a strange woman came up to him reclining on one of the deck chairs and asked to borrow his cell phone. The confident, almost familiar way she asked for it was admittedly disconcerting, but Joe thought she reminded him of someone: his beloved Alice, whom he was on his way to rejoin. They had been together for nearly a year now, and his heart yearned for her every day. She hadn’t wanted him to go on this trip, but of course after he had explained about non-refundable tickets and “alone time,” she was quite fine with it.
Consumed with thoughts of Alice, he didn’t pay attention to the woman’s conversation until she turned to give the phone back to him. To his surprise, her face was blotchy red and her eyes were wet with tears.
“I’m sorry,” she sniffled. “I’m so sorry.” Then she hurried away out of sight.
Bewildered, Joe looked at the phone and saw that it was still on an active call – and the number was Alice’s.
“Hello?” he asked querulously.
“Joe, we need to break up.”
He suddenly felt very glad he was sitting down. “I – er – what? How – ? A woman just came up and took my phone! Why did she call you?”
Alice let out a aggravated sigh that made Joe’s stomach twist. “That was Nicole. Don’t you remember meeting her at my birthday party last month?”
Joe didn’t remember anything about that party besides being very, very drunk.
“Figures,” Alice said, correctly interpreting his silence. “Well, I didn’t want to do this now, but since Nicole apparently spilled the beans, I may as well. It’s over, Joe.”
“Alice, I – wait, why?!”
She snorted. “As if you have to ask.” And she hung up.
Joe sat there stunned for a few minutes, then tried repeatedly to call her back. It all went to voicemail, and Joe ended up throwing his phone on the ground, not even caring that the screen cracked.
After that, his memory was a bit of blur. He remembered going inside the ship to one of the bars and then drinking . . . something. Then wandering around . . . going into a few random rooms . . . a couple people screamed . . . one room had been full of blinking red lights that were very shiny and wanted to be touched . . .
In any case, he woke up horribly hungover on the same deck chair where Alice had ruined his life. One of the officers was shaking him, urging him to get to a lifeboat: the ship had struck a rock and was sinking fast. Then she hurried off to help other passengers.
And now he is here, water up to his ankles as he stands near the starboard railing. A couple officers have tried to pull him away, but he is determined to go down with the ship, to be as dead in reality as he is . . . in his heart.
He takes a swig of something from a bottle that he’d found in his torn jacket.
It’s only a little while later when a very large security guard wrestles him away to a lifeboat, with Joe screeching and crying for Alice the entire time. He’s dumped into one of the larger boats, this particular vessel containing a very angry captain, who promptly has him cuffed for breaking into the engineer’s room last night and smashing the sensitive instruments – particularly the ones designed for detecting very large rocks underwater.
By the time they’re rescued, Joe is very sorry that he ever let that strange woman borrow his phone.
The real final prompts to the challenge! XD I smished the last two “bonus” challenges together, because next week is the start of *fanfare* National Novel Writing Month!! I’m really, truly gonna try to do NaNoWriMo this year, but it means I won’t have time to write new stories for the site during the entirety of November. Not to worry, though! I have old stories and essays that I’ll be putting up, and I’ll probably still do editing articles and VeggieTales reviews. But yay, writing a whole book in a month!!! *hyperventilates*
Want to do the challenge yourself? Today’s prompts are: “You realize the boat is sinking, but that’s not the worst thing that could happen. The worst thing happened last night.” And: “A stranger asks to borrow your cell phone. You agree. She turns away and talks on it for a moment, then faces you once more. ‘I’m sorry,’ she says, eyes red. ‘I’m so sorry.’ Then, she runs away.”