Authors: Iain Rob Wright
“Thank you,” said Jack, reaching into his pocket to find his wallet.
Joma waved his hand. “You don’t need to, sir. All gratuities are included in your fare.”
Jack liked the sound of not having to tip. He’d been unsure about the required etiquette aboard a cruise liner and it was a relief that Joma had just informed him what was expected. He decided to give the man a tip anyway. He’d been preparing to do so throughout the entire week, so if this was going to be the only time he was obliged to hand over money,
he’d still be way ahead of budget. Jack gave Joma a twenty-euro note.
“This is very kind of you, sir. You need anything at all, you come see me. I work the bar in the
. It’s very nice, quiet. You have a headache, you come to
and it go away.”
It sounded nice.
Jack thought there was a reasonable chance he could actually end up there most evenings,
which made it all the better that he’d gotten off to an amicable start with the bartender.
“Thank you, Joma,” he said.
“I’m sure I’ll see you there.”
The man nodded and smiled. “You settle in good. Have lovely week, okay?”
“I will.” Jack turned away and inserted the plastic card he’d been given into a slit in the door handle. He was pleased when it disengaged the lock
I always thought these things were supposed to be a pain in the arse.
Inside, the room was spacious, with a private bathroom
,and a living room separated from the bedroom by a pull-across curtain. Jack had seen smaller bedsits in his time and he was pleasantly surprised by the luxury afforded to him. He was also impressed by the fact his luggage had been delivered ahead of him. It sat on the floor in front of the room’s built in wardrobes.
Jack had to admit the cabin was nice. There was even a respectably large LCD television, already switched on and displaying information about the ship. According to the text on screen, the
Spirit of Kirkpatrick
weighed 40 Tonnes and was powered by two Sulzer LB66 diesel engines. Its top speed was 22mph. Many more facts and figures
also popped up on screen, but they weren’t interesting enough to prevent Jack from turning off the set with the small black remote he found on a table beside the snuggly-made bed.
The bed itself was what truly interested Jack. It was a double, seemed indulgently comfortable, and he intended to spend the next twelve hours there. Even before Jack had boarded a plane at 8AM, flown for two and a half hours from Birmingham Airport, and then taken a forty-minute coach ride from Palma airport to the dock, he still would have been weary. It had been two years since he’d last slept through the night. He was hoping with every scrap of his soul that if he could get anything out of his enforced holiday, it would be a decent amount of sleep. It felt like if he did sleep now he might never wake up again, as tired as he was. But that was what he’d been sent here for – to rest and relax – so he at least intended to try. Jack didn’t hold up much hope, though. All he wanted to do was get through this week as easily as possible. No thrills, no excitement, no nothing. Then perhaps he could get back to the miserable life he was used to.
The life I’m already missing.
Jack was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
Jack awoke with a start. The fuzziness that filled his head and covered the back of his eyelids was a feeling he had not experienced for some time. It was the feeling of deep sleep
I must finally have slept. Well, I’ll be damned.
It must have been a very deep and embracing slumber because it had somehow left him feeling more exhausted than rested. His throat was dry and sore.
Jack sat up in bed, blinked his eyes. The room was dark. The light from the cabin’s window was blocked by the dividing room curtain
.An alarm clock on the bedside table, shaped like a cube,
displayed the time in glowing red numerals. It read: 1400.
Christ! I slept through for twenty-four hours. That’s insane. Maybe I would have slept even longer if something hadn’t bloody-well woken me up.
Jack pulled back the duvet and
dumped his sweating feet onto the floor. He stood up,
then shimmied around the edge of the bed carefully, mindful of the darkness of an unfamiliar room. The main light switch would most likely be
near the cabin’s door, so
he headed over, fumbling through the shadows. Sure enough, his probing fingers eventually found a set of knobs and switches set into the wall – the controls for both lighting and air conditioning no doubt. He fiddled about for a few moments and eventually hit upon the right switch.
The room lit up in a blink and everything came into colour. Jack’s eyes were still fuzzy and the sudden onslaught of light made them ache as well. Squinting through the pain and trying hard to focus, it became a little clearer what had woken him.
Jack’s luggage lay sprawled against the wardrobe door. It must have tipped over as the ship crested a particularly rough wave. As if to confirm his suspicions the ship listed again and the luggage bumped against the wardrobe doors
With the mystery solved, Jack stretched out his arms above his head and let out a long, overdue yawn. He had to admit that he felt better after such a long sleep, almost as though a cloud had lifted from his mind, allowing him to see things more clearly. The colours and smells had finally returned to his world. If not anything else, then at least the cruise had given Jack a brief respite from his insomnia. Maybe his bosses at the police force had been right about him needing a change of scenery in order to relax.
Who’d have thought it?
Jack pulled aside the curtain separating the middle of the room and padded over to the porthole window. A lifeboat partially obscured his view to the left, but he could see the wooden
outside and the blue-green sea beyond its railings. The Mediterranean was vast and soulful, every inch of it shifting and rolling beneath invisible forces. Jack knew little of the ship’s itinerary, but he supposed that today would be a day at sea. Which meant all the passengers would be onboard, reducing the amount of areas for quiet and privacy.
So much for getting some alone time. Hopefully tomorrow everyone will bugger off
,once we hit the coast of France or wherever it is we’re going.
Something struck the glass.
Jack leapt back from the window, his breath catching in his throat.
He ended up laughing to himself when he realised it was just a seagull come to perch on the ledge of his porthole. The mottled bird stared in at him with beady black eyes, then flew away to pursue adventures elsewhere.
Maybe he was just trying to tell me that waking up at 2PM is unacceptable for a grown man, even on vacation.
Jack let out one final yawn and then decided he would indulge his sleepiness no more. A shower was the next order of business and something that could finally rid his eyes of their fuzziness.
The small bathroom was cooler than the rest of the cabin and a breeze seemed to enter from somewhere and skim across the tiles. Jack hadn’t unpacked his things yet so he was pleased to see that, with the exception of a toothbrush, everything he needed was supplied. There was soap and shampoo in the shower cubicle and a roll of non-branded toothpaste sitting in a glass jar at the rear of the sink.
Jack reached over into the
shower and twisted the knob jutting out from the wall. The shower head hissed
and let out a freezing
-cold jet of water. Jack yanked his arm back and tried to keep from swearing in surprise. His temper was part of the reason he’d been sent on the cruise in the first place, so he intended to try and gain some control over it if he could.
After a few minutes had gone by, during which the use of the toilet had
necessary, Jack reached back into the shower to test the water. It was warmer now
he stripped off his clothes and stepped inside. The soothing heat immediately caressed his body and made him shudder. It almost lulled him back into a sleepy daze, so he turned the temperature down and made the water lukewarm. It
cold enough to bring back his focus.
Just try and make the best of this, Jack. There’s nothing wrong with taking a little time off. The world doesn’t need you as much as you think it does.
Jack took a few minutes to wash his aging body, getting soap into places he forgot he had. Then, once clean and sufficiently refreshed, he
turned the shower off. He stepped out cautiously, not wanting to slip on the wet tiles, and dried himself with one of the provided plump towels. Then he crept, naked, back into the bedroom.
His clean clothes were still in his luggage, which he
hoisted up onto the bed. From inside, he dragged out a pair of long khaki shorts and a nondescript red t-shirt. For footwear he chose a pair of white tennis pumps.
Once Jack was dressed and ready, he suddenly found himself reluctant to leave the room. Rather than exploring the ship, he could just as easily spend the day reading in bed and swigging from the unopened bottle of Glen Grant he had in his luggage – would prefer it in fact – but it would be ungrateful seeing as he wasn’t the one paying for the holiday. Like it or not, Jack
needed to make the best of things.
He grabbed one of the books out of his luggage (an Andy McNab Thriller) and prepared to leave. But, as he reached the door,
Jack noticed a piece of paper had been slipped underneath it. He bent down to pick it up and saw that it was the ship’s newsletter. Printed in cheap black ink, as though from a photocopier, it was headed by the day’s date – 14.10.2012 – and the name of the ship in bold, SPIRIT OF KIRKPATRICK. Jack scanned the page and saw that it was indeed a day at sea as he’d earlier surmised. The afternoon activities included: afternoon bingo, a five-a-side football tournament, an ice sculpting display, and an audience with some magician he’d never heard of. The evening was scheduled with a production of
Half a Sixpence
followed by an obscure comedian. Jack didn’t fancy any of it, but when he looked at the lunch options he was pleased to see that there would be hotdogs served on the Lido deck at 3PM. His stomach mumbled at the thought of food, and rightly so. It had been over twenty-four hours since he’d last eaten.
Jack folded the newsletter into a square and placed it in the pocket of his shorts. Then he opened the door and stepped out into the hallway. There was a set of elevators a dozen yards down and he decided to choose a deck at random by pressing buttons without looking.
It turned out to be the Broadway Deck, and
when the doors opened
it was much brighter than B Deck. Natural light flooded in from an exit at one end of the corridor.
Jack’s view of the other end of the corridor was obstructed by a large room-service cart crammed full of stripped bedsheets and pillowcases.
He decided to head for the exit door, the glow of sunlight beckoning him. Just before he got there, though, the floor rolled beneath his feet and sent him crashing against the wall.
The rocking lasted another ten seconds or so, making his empty stomach churn irritably. When he was sure the unsteadiness was over, Jack peeled himself away from the wall and carried on down the corridor. October was obviously a bad time to be on the seas and he could see himself getting sick if the ship’s rocking was a regular occurrence.
Let’s hope Poseidon is in a good mood.
Jack pushed open the heavy, glass doors at the end of the corridor and stepped out onto the
. As soon as he did, he was forced to leap back into the still open doorway as a pair of giggling boys hurtled past without any regard for people in their way. Jack watched them race off recklessly down the side of the ship. He was about to shout after them but stopped himself.
Keep calm. Not worth it.
The boys turned a corner up ahead and disappeared from sight. Jack took in a lungful of sea air and instantly forgot about them. The fresh, unpolluted oxygen soothed his nerves and the feeling of saltwater on his face was invigorating. He strolled over to the railings and leaned forward, taking another, even deeper, breath. His experiences of being aboard a boat were few, but Jack was surprised to find that the rhythmic swaying of the vast
sea had a placating effect on him. Looking out across the water, Jack felt completely alone. It was if society, and all its wretched ills, was far
far away. Suddenly the urge to vault the barrier took over Jack and he imagined what it would feel like to plunge into the salty depths of the sea,
to disappear beneath its waves.
He quickly stepped back from the railing, unsettled by the thoughts his brain was presenting to him. While he’d contemplated suicide many times over the last several years, drowning was way down the list of ways he’d like to go. Struggling for oxygen and swallowing back lungfuls of stinging water while desperation set in was one of the worst deaths he could imagine. No, if he were to ever kill himself that would definitely not be the way.
Not that I’d actually ever do it.
A little disorientated, Jack headed in the direction that the two boys had run. It led
to the rear of the ship, where the Lido Deck would be located according to the ship’s newsletter he’d read.
At the end of the walkway the deck opened up into a large rectangular area spread over two tiers. On the bottom was a modest swimming pool inhabited mostly by children, while the top level seemed to be a
sun deckSun Deck
full of sunbathers and chairs and tables. Jack chose to head for the latter.
sun deckSun Deck
by a couple dozen people. Some lounged in the sun, while others sipped pints of beer and cocktails at the tables. Jack’s fondness for alcohol made itself known as the thought of a scotch and coke made his stomach flutter. While his meals were paid for, his drinks were not, so he intended to take it easy, but with his lack of hobbies and not being a smoker,
there would be enough in his bank account to go wild if he felt like it. Whether or not he did,
however, was the true test he would be facing this week.