a short story by Sha’Tara
(inspired, in part, by the article, “Gyres” by Bucky McMahon
View at Medium.com
There are twelve of us aboard the “Gyre Sniffer” as we call our sloop. She isn’t pretty, but can take gale-force winds as if they be but a breeze. All her gear is top of the line. Our crew is the best of the best of the best as they so proudly say in the military.
Our job? Well, more of a lark, really, because we were all very well off and could spend money liberally, was to find the sea’s most horrific, deadly, large, stinky, poisonous floating garbage island. We had heard that it was guarded by a giant sea monster evolved from the materials it had found inside the floating plastic garbage.
We hadn’t had much results with satellite feeds or “Googling” our target and we didn’t care. Actually, we didn’t want to rely on advanced tech for this, we wanted it to be a sort of Moby Dick adventure. We were first of all, going to have as much fun as possible, even when we came face to face with the plastic sea monster and prepared to kill it.
It was Selina, the Portuguese girl, who was the first to throw her tablet and cell phone overboard. We remonstrated her about this, of course, but her reasoning was impeccable: they’re kin to what we’re searching for, follow them! We’d had a few drinks, the joints had been passed around and under the circumstances we thought she made total sense. That’s how serious we were.
We had managed a pretty good gender mix, five women, seven guys, everybody from late teens to mid thirties range and all of us totally freed from any sex taboos. When the sun shone we went about naked and enjoyed ourselves whenever in the mood, wherever we happened to be lying or standing, by reading and studying – yeah, right!
We ploughed on, using solar power to run our freezers, fridges, computers and minimal guidance systems, enough to avoid colliding with any cargo vessels we may encounter which to this point was none. We would get excited when we saw flotsam and made for it. But like Selina’s tablet and cell phone, they were on the way, not there yet. Since following was too slow, we calculated the flotsam’s direction and pushed on.
When high, a couple would jump in the sea for a dive and swim and more sex. Sharks? We figured in such an empty world they had better hunting nearer beaches. Yeah, we’d all seen “Jaws” – we even had a copy on a disk drive aboard. That’s how serious we were.
We weren’t so much interested in killing a monster. We certainly didn’t see ourselves as heroes. We were, to tell the truth, just a tiny segment of the earth’s richest “kids” utterly bored with our lives. We had met here and there, at parties, ski resorts, spas, even in board rooms, make that bored rooms, and in semi-drunken, stoned talk, had put this thing together. We ‘coagulated’ together as we discovered our mutual skills and sexual attraction.
We bought the sloop, had her completely overhauled, came up with the Moby Dick idea, geared ourselves up and met one foggy, dreary morning at some dead-beat marina along the Florida coast. We sailed, I mean that literally. We had thrown out the diesel engine and back-up gas engine also. We were going to sail, come hell or high water. If it meant it would be a one-way trip, so be it because nothing is worse than depression borne of absolute boredom.
Though we had this vague goal of finding a garbage patch and, mythologically speaking, finding a plastic sea monster circling and guarding it, the main point was to become the residents of an ark, the last and only remnants of humanity. So, we would enjoy ourselves, pleasure ourselves, to the hilt and to the dregs.
We ploughed on. The seas rose and fell as did our sloop. We got used to the sussuration of the sea against the hull and the music of the wind in the rigging. We got browner, tougher, smarter and quieter as the weeks passed. We began to see one-another, not just as fun partners or sex objects or casual acquaintances but as individuals; as people, as brains and minds with gorgeous bodies not just made for sex, but to admire and to remember, even in our dreams.
I dreamt of our elected captain, Sir Oliver Hampwell the Third, or “Cap’n” who was twelve years my senior.
As I thought about Cap’n I felt years slipping from my heart. I was getting younger and increasingly introspective. I found so much emptiness in my heart, I had to dig in our stores to find the classics Eugene and Mira had insisted on packing (though they had yet to pull out a single one.) I chose Moby Dick simply because I’d studied it in college but never actually read it. Certainly not to grasp the deep philosophy underlying the story. I read. I actually read. When approached by Darwin who’d been swimming and looked like he really had a ‘need’ I actually turned him down, me! “Not now, Darwin, I’m busy. Later maybe?”
“H’m… sure. I’ll find somebody else, no probs!”
That’s how it was with us. No one would ever insist on getting their way, they’d just find another way, someone else. I was ‘in love’ with all our guys actually, it’s just that I was discovering I developed ‘my moments’ when I had to belong to myself. It was nice to be desired, of course, but even more so to be understood and left alone in those times. I think one could say I was re-birthing myself, re-creating myself. Actually it would be more accurate to say that I was giving myself a life: I’d never really had one before.
We ploughed on. Less and less we listened to satellite radio feeds. There was so much traffic, so much noise, it jarred with our ocean-filled ears. We got more serious about life, more introspective, more eager to share and understand; to listen to another’s story. I would say, “Jesper?” and not “Hey you!” I wasn’t the only one changing, we were all going through it.
We became philosophical. Imagine that, us, the spoiled brats of a planetary elite, seeking the meaning of life.
“When we return to the real world, it’s going to be so different,” said the diminutive Suki. I wonder what I’ll do…”
“Maybe we won’t return. Maybe Suki, this is the real world and we all came out of an illusion. Maybe this ship will sink into the waves and we will become part of something so big we can’t even imagine it,” said Clive, our fabulous cook with the body of an Adonis. I didn’t want to see Clive drown, what a loss, it seemed to me then.
“We won’t sink, we’re past that now. We will sail, we will grow, we will learn more and more. We will all change, evolve. Best of all, we will seek and gain understanding. We will see signs and events in the sea and the sky no one ever saw before and that will make us both, certifiably crazy, and the wisest of people. We can never return to our old lives, you realize? Our past is non-existent. We can only go forward.” So spoke Cap’n, the wisest among us.
We ploughed on, the seas parting freely for the sloop’s proud prow. One sunny morning, with the spray shooting up, I walked up, naked, to the jib’boom to lie on it like a goddess figurehead pointing the ship in the direction of good luck, and a safe harbour. I made it, eyes full of salt spray and I saw the gyre-created island to starboard. I cried out, “Island to starboard!” and slowly worked my way back to a safe deck then joined in the work of rigging our change of direction.
We circled the plastic island for days, smelling the horror of it when downwind. We were indeed horrified. We thought there could never be a man-made disaster worst than this.
Then we heard the news as we were attempting to communicate our find to the “real” world: The US had just dropped nukes on North Korea and both Chinese and Russian nukes had annihilated the US surface navy and taken out most major cities of continental US and Europe. In automatic response, US and European nukes were heading for Russia and China.
Our monster had struck before we could confront it and it mocked us as it sang to us of the end of the world.