Written by James McCann
[NOTE: Those readers with a weak stomach or a bad heart, heavily pregnant or of a nervous disposition should not read the following story. We accept no liability for anything that may happen as a result of reading on. Don't blame us, don't sue me]
Bradley had been having nightmares for a while, ever since he took the jewels. He thought, at the time, that perhaps he was doing something wrong but the numbers rolling through his head had convinced him to take them anyway. He wasn't short of cash, but real gold was too great a discovery to pass up. He was SCUBA diving off the warm coast of Guardian Bay, miles out to sea where few, if any, tourists ventured for fear of sharks. Bradley had spent a lot of time studying sharks and knew that for the most part sharks really weren't much of an issue. Besides, Bradley knew that Great Whites could only see up and out, so as long as he kept himself under them, should they show up, he'd be fine.
He'd been swimming about, enjoying the feeling of the warm water on his body, enjoying the total relaxation of essentially being weightless. His joints, especially his knees and hips, thanked him for the swim. After maybe ten minutes, Bradley saw a long shadow on the ocean bed. It was barely fifty feet beneath him, and as he had the whole day to himself he went down to investigate. As he sank deeper, he was hoping to encounter a shoal of tropical fish, swarming about in an underwater tornado of bright colours, but alas, he saw none at all.
Closing in on the shape, Bradley saw that the shadow was actually a sunken yacht, and a fucking big (read; expensive!) one at that. He was never too hung up on what type of boat was which, he saw them soley as a vehicle, a means to get him away from other people. What he did know, however, was an expensive, valuable something when he saw it. And he was seeing it them.
Sensing that only a fool would leave something like this out here, Bradley worked quickly. He thought the yacht must be somewhere in the two-million range, meaning that if you could afford to buy it you could afford to have it risen from the depths. So if there was anything on board of worth, he better work fast.
He swam around the submerged vessel, careful not to disturb it too much, as one could never tell if the damned thing had settled or not, and if it started shifting it could raise a cloud of sand, or if it sank some more Bradley might get sucked down with it, entombed by his own curiosity and greed. Taking a tour around the sunken yacht, he got close to the windows to look inside. The first three gave a decent enough view of the interior. It was plush, and, barring all the water damage, was quite sophisticated looking.
The fourth window was the decider.
Bradley swam up to the port hole, and was greeted by the bloated, pale face of a dead woman. Her hair, once blonde, billowed out above her like a fan. Her dress was coming apart at the seams here and there, but none of that interested Bradley. At first sight Bradley had screamed momentarily, the action causing him to suck in a mouthful of salty sea water. He regained his composure, told himself that he wasn't going to drown, and got back to looking at the floating dead woman. She was wearing at least fifty grand's worth of jewellery around her neck, and at least another twenty, maybe thirty on her fingers.
As captivating as it was to watch a bobbing bloated body, Bradley was too shrewd to allow himself to be distracted for long. If the owners had gone for help then surely by the look of the woman they'd have already been back by now. Which led him to the conclusion that perhaps this woman had been killed. But by who? A husband? But why would they have left all of that jewellery on her?
It doesn't matter, dipshit, he thought and quickly found the door. He was going inside.
Carefully, so very carefully, Bradley entered the sunken yacht, fearful at any moment of coming face-to-face with a shark that had come in for a snack and gotten itself stuck. He knew there wouldn’t be any, but it’s always better to take caution. His goal was the room towards the front (bow, he knew enough to know the front of a boat was called the bow), where the woman was floating about. He didn't know how heavy all that jewellery was going to be, but it didn't seem to be weighing the corpse down any.
Bradley made his way into and through the first compartment without disturbing anyone or anything. Several loose fittings such as coasters and a tumbler floated by, but he wasn't interested in them. His heart was beating thunderously, he knew at any moment he was going to swim into the jagged-tooth jaw of a shark-
don't be stupid there are none for miles
or some other sea creature that has yet to be discovered and documented.
Christ get a grip, he thought.
He moved into a second room, and met a man of about sixty, fat and bloated, although Bradley believed the man was of a portly persuasion before he drowned. He had a large, bald head, a thin black moustache, and an expression on his jowly face that made Bradley want to slap him. He was going to move-on, but thought better of it. The rotund corpse before him looked to have been affluent, and so Bradley took a better look at him.
The man had a gold ring with a large ruby dead centre on the ring finger of his left hand. That, Billy knew, would have to come with him. Luckily and unexpectedly the ring slid off easily. Bradley put it on his own ring finger and found it to be too big. He put it on his middle finger and it stayed. He moved on, not bothering to pat the dead body down, believing that if this yacht belonged to him, he more than likely wasn't going to be carrying a wallet on his person.
Moving into the second room, Bradley found his puffed-up princess by the porthole, waiting for the help that for her was never going to come, and he moved over to her quickly. He had lost all track of time, and was starting to acknowledge his own concern about how much light he had left in the day and how much oxygen he had left in the tank.
Bradley got to the woman and turned her around and was shocked now to see that the skin on her face was grey and punctured, as though a million tiny mouths had been snacking on her. Both of the eye sockets were dark and empty, and Bradley felt his bladder release, as he was sure that only moments ago this dead woman's face had been, if not pretty, at least whole.
Remember why you're here, man, Bradley scolded himself. He got to work with shaky hands removing her necklace, her bracelet and her rings. There was some trouble as Bradley couldn't get his hands to stop shaking, the sense that he was running out of time was ever-growing. He was also beginning to believe that he wasn't alone in the sunken yacht, as crazy and paranoid as that might be.
Try as he might, he found it difficult not to stare at the vacant eye sockets. It was as if the woman was boring into his very soul despite the lack of eyeballs. It was beginning to dawn on Bradley that there was something incredibly wrong here. If these two, the pot-belly in the first room and the eyeless woman with him now, were the only people who had been on the yacht then they probably would have been in touch with someone with regards as to their location and when they'd be back. If a ship went quiet, especially one with wealthy owners, then at some point someone was going to come looking. On the flip side, Bradley didn't think this ship was manned by the two corpses, and that either meant they had been intentionally drowned-
shit i'm contaminating a crime scene
or someone had gone for help and taken too long. Either way, a new person could be arriving at any moment.
Bradley took the jewellery and allowed himself a quick rummage through any drawers that he found, but truthfully he just wanted to get the hell out of there. He was at the door to leave the sightless lady when he realised that something was very wrong indeed. He didn;t know how it could be, but he knew that if he turned around he'd see the woman had tried to follow him. That this dead floating body had turned away from the porthole, to watch Bradley leave.
Then don't look back.
He couldn't help it.
He had to turn back.
The woman was where he'd left her, only inches from the glass in the circular frame. It didn't make him feel any better, but it did light a fire under him. He turned back to the open door and that was when everything went wrong. The portly fellow from next door was in the doorway, blocking Bradley's path. There was a bizarre grin on his face, revealing tiny yellow teeth like tombstones. He was holding up one hand and wagging his finger back and forth.
Bradley turned, not sure if there was another way out but determined to find one anyway. He moved straight into the woman. She too was grinning, her face a mask of grotesque elegance. She reached out and grabbed tightly at his throat, his arms quickly beating at hers, breaking her grip. No sooner had he accomplished this than the man from the doorway was behind him, clawing at the tank and mask, trying to remove and destroy the breathing apparatus.
There was a sick joy in the fat man's eyes that Bradley could not deny. The twisted bastard was enjoying this.
Bradley managed to scoot around the rotund ghoul, not easily done under the water, and break for the exit. He was able to clear the yacht, although he realised that the oxygen tank was longer on his back, and he was desperately in need of making the surface before he should drown. He swam hard all the while trying to get to the surface before needing to breathe, all the while knowing that the more effort he exerted the greater his need for oxygen.
Bradley made it to the surface.
He made it back onto his own boat.
His face was scratched, he'd lost some skin on his middle finger where the ring had been torn off, and his larynx were going to be bruised for a long time to come, but God-damn it, he was alive. He'd made it out.
Bradley set sail for land, and had never been so relieved to be around people in his entire life. He moored the boat, climbed ashore, and headed straight for The Slanty Shanty, the little coastal tavern all the boat owners frequented. It was there at the bar that Bradley proceeded to keep downing Jameson, until one old-timer pulled up a stool next to him. He had close-cropped white hair, a face dusted with white stubble, and two blood-shot eyes. He wore a thin blue shirt and smelled heavily of soap.
'You look like a man who's trying to run away,' the old man said.
'Ah-yuh,' Bradley replied, and sunk another short.
'Like a man who maybe saw himself a ghost or two.'
Bradley stopped trying to beckon the barman and turned to look at the older gent.
'About, oh, five miles or so out, she'd be.'
'The Chrssie Louise.'
'Yacht. Damned expensive, too.' The old man could tell right away where the younger man had been earlier that day and what he'd seen. 'Sank about thirty years ago. No on ever did find her. Never did find the owners, neither.'
'Why are you telling me this?'
'Oh, sure, some say they seen here. Time-to-time. Some say they've seen a shadow 'neath the waves, but can't be sure, see? Cus no one ever see that shadow in the same place twice.'
'Can't be...'Bradley whispered to himself.
'Seems every now and then we lose some poor soul who goes down trying to see what that shadow is. They never do come back up. No, never do come back up.'
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