Three Days Out

by Frank Scozzari 

“That was hell. I’m not in hell now, nor do I ever want to be again, at least not until I’m dead.” Ridley said it like he really meant it and then spit overboard into the water. He looked far out into the horizon. The swells were large and foreboding and the fog prohibited him from seeing anything beyond a couple hundred yards.

“Are you sure this is the right direction?”

Gordon checked the GPS device. He could see their position on the small digital screen, a red dot on a map, and the outline of the California coast, which moved slowly along the right-hand margin.

“All is good,” he said.

Gordon sat in the stern of the 28-foot panga boat, near the outboard motor, wearing a faded, khaki flannel shirt and sunglasses. He looked ahead as the bow sliced through the jade green water. Sarah, the one female onboard, was nestled beside her boyfriend Michael on one of the perpendicular benches. And Ridley sat precariously at the point of the bow.

The Secret is what saved me,” Ridley continued, his long brown hair blowing in the wind. “If not for The Secret, I’d still be in hell now.”

“The Secret?” Sarah asked.

“You haven’t heard of it? It’s a global phenomenon. The Secret… the laws of attraction. If you have a dream and believe in it, the forces of nature will conspire to make it come true.”

“Okay, maybe I have heard of it.”

“It was my salvation… like a light bulb going off in my head, and the minute it came to me, I realized I could have anything I want.”

“That’s why you’re on a panga boat in the middle of the ocean?” Gordon asked.

“It’s like finding nirvana,” Ridley said, ignoring the comment. “And with it, everything begins to fall into place.”

“Tell me more,” said Sarah.

“Hell is something you can eradicate from your mind. Heaven is something you can choose to have, here and now, if you want it. It’s all a matter of controlling one’s consciousness, and willing it.”

“Yeah?”

“What do you think Gordon?” Michael asked.
“I think its bullshit.”

“Let him talk,” Sarah said.

“It’s been around since the dawn of time. All the great minds of history knew about it… Plato, Shakespeare, Lincoln, Einstein.”

“Then why isn’t everyone rich and powerful?” Michael asked.

“Most people don’t know about it. It was suppressed for many years.”

“Okay,” Sarah said. “Tell me how it works?”

“It’s the law of attraction. What you seek and what you desire will come true if you believe it and let into your mind, and concentrate on it. Look at me. A week ago I wanted to be a millionaire, and here I am now on this boat with all of you, soon to be one.”

“You just have to think about it?”

“Thoughts become things.”

“It seems too simple.”

“It works, trust me.”

Gordon tapped the side of the fuel tank with the sole of his shoe and it made a hollow sound.

“Hey Michael, pass down one of those gas cans,” he said.

Michael lifted one of the heavy five-gallon gasoline cans and carried it down to the stern, carefully stepping past Sarah and over the three perpendicular benches.

“I went to a conference in L.A.,” Ridley continued preaching from the bow. “I saw kidneys regenerated, cancer resolved. One man was paralyzed, mute, and on a ventilator after his spine and diaphragm had been crushed in a plane crash. He fully credits his recovery to the power of the secret.”

Gordon chuckled.

“You doubt it?” Ridley asked.

“I question it.”

“You’re a non-believer.”

“I believe in a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the power of positive thinking, but I think they have their limitations. I prefer to rely on my own know-how and perseverance.”

“You have to get the negative thoughts out of your head.”

“I’ll do that after we get this boat to its destination.”

Ridley turned his attention back to Sarah. “Quantum physics is a part of the Law,” he said, lighting up a cigarette. “Your thoughts actually send out magnetic signals that draw in what it is that you want. It’s a scientific fact.”

“And now he’s a physicist.” Gordon said quietly as he twisted off the fuel tank cap.

“He’s into the spiritual, mystical side of things,” Michael replied.

Together they poured in the additional five gallons of gasoline and then Michael returned to his place beside Sarah.

“It’s a power that we human beings have always possessed but have always suppressed. It’s been stashed away, hidden not only by those who wanted to keep it for themselves, but also by all of us who are unwilling to accept it and acknowledge its power. For example, that GPS there that Gordon’s got. It’s a nice tool but you don’t need it. If you have The Secret you can navigate this ship, or any ship for that matter, simply by using the laws of attraction.”

“Come on,” Sarah said.

“Really, most of the things we rely on in this world are just a substitute for what we can achieve on our own. Columbus didn’t need GPS because he knew the power. He simply attracted himself to land just as a meteor attracts itself to the earth.”

“You really think it works that good?”

“I don’t think. I know.”

“It would be great if life could be so easy.”

It’s all crap, Gordon thought. He listened to the humming sound of the 90 horsepower Yamaha outboard motor as they continued their way north at a steady pace of twenty-five knots. He checked their route on the GPS. The screen showed a straight yellow line from the south, from where they had come, and a straight blue line etched ahead. He looked forward. It was late in the afternoon now and all their parkas were wet from the dew and fog. Sarah’s hat flopped in the breeze generated by the forward momentum of the boat. She was a decent looking woman, he thought, daintily feminine but firmly confident. A college graduate in her mid-twenties with a full head of red hair, yet here she was with three desperates out in the Pacific on an illicit mission.

He watched as she opened the ice chest and pulled out some packages.

“Dinner anyone?”

“I’ll take one,” Michael said.

“Me too,” said Ridley.

She passed around pre-wrapped sandwiches and bottles of AriZona ice tea, and a Rockst energy drink for Ridley. They all ate as the boat continued on its northerly path.

“Too many people focus on the negative,” Ridley said. “You must telegraph your thoughts and desires. You must manifest your dreams if they are to come true. You must create your own destiny.”

***

They pulled shifts through the night, sitting in the stern of the boat, steering the small outboard motor and watching the GPS screen. Morning came and Gordon woke from a short sleep with his head resting on the rail. The light of dawn illuminated the ocean’s surface and he could see the swells rushing past. The fog had broken and there were now dark clouds in the sky. He looked east. Even now with the visibility clear for several miles he could not see land. He looked back to the stern. Michael sat there, holding the steering tiller in his hand.

Gordon climbed back to him and took a look at the GPS screen, positioning himself so that he could see it clearly without any glare.

“You’ve been keeping the nose on course?”
“Yes,” Michael said. “Why?”

Gordon picked up the GPS device and checked the longitudinal coordinates. The screen showed their progress, and the slow moving mass of land several miles to their east.

“Thought we’d be able to see land from here, that’s all.”

They both looked in the direction of land and saw nothing.

“I kept her on course,” Michael said.

“What time did you guys switch?”

“Around two.”

“Was Ridley awake?”
“Yes.”

“He wasn’t sleeping?”
“No.”

“Was he on course?”

“Yeah, he was on course.”

Gordon glanced over the side. The swells were zipping past. The outboard was still humming along nicely. The bow continued slicing cleanly through the water. “Take a break,” he said.

Michael climbed over the perpendicular benches to where Sarah and Ridley were curled up in sleeping bags near the mid-section of the boat. He found an empty space next to Sarah, curled up beside her, and pulled a wool blanket around him.

Gordon placed the GPS device back in its mount, took the pilot seat, and watched the screen curiously, holding the tiller steady. The red dot on the screen continued its forward progression; the digital image of the land mass to the east moved in the same manner as it did before. He looked in the direction of land, staring for a good thirty seconds, but could not see anything. He checked the distance on the small scale on the GPS screen. It looked to be about ten kilometers, which was strange, he knew, because the coast here was mountainous and easy to make out from a considerable distance.

Ridley was now awake and standing at the bow He stood fully forward in the eave, facing the water and using the rails on either side to support his knees. He had a blanket wrapped around his neck and it was blowing backward in the breeze like a cape.

“I’m a magnet,” he said boldly. “Attracting the light of the land.”

Gordon heard Sarah’s sleeping bag unzipped. Her head popped out and she looked up at Ridley and began to laugh.

“Look at him! It’s like he’s flying!”

Michael too, awake now from a brief sleep, looked up at Ridley. “He looks like a winged-god or something,” he said.

“I am Osiris,” Ridley clarified, “god of the afterlife. I’ll bring you a continent, like the rays of heaven will bring you to the hereafter.”

Gordon looked out across the water, to where land should be. “Hate to interrupt the entertainment, but I think we’ve gotten off course.” He looked at the GPS device. “Yeah, I think something’s wrong.”

“What?” Michael asked.

“No worries, my man.” Ridley spoke from the bow. “We’ll find our way.” He held his arms out in a flying motion and let the blanket fan fully backward.

“We should be seeing land from here,” Gordon said. “And I don’t see any land.” He looked up at Ridley who was still pretending to fly. “Did you keep the boat on course last night?”

“I see land,” Ridley said, oscillating in the wind. “I can see across the ocean and I can see land ahead.”

They all looked past the bow and saw nothing. Then they looked at one another with doubtful expressions.

“There’s no land,” Michael said.

“Are you high?” Gordon asked Ridley.

Ridley did not answer.

“Swell.”

For a moment there was silence. Then came a groaning noise from Sarah.

“I’m feeling sick,” she said.

They all looked at her. Her head was tilted back and her arms were limply in her lap and she looked pale and dizzy.

“Hang over the side if you need too,” Michael said.

“I’m not that sick!”

“There’s some Dramamine in the tackle box,” Gordon said. “You should take some.”

Sarah opened the tackle box, pulled out two Dramamine capsules, and downed them with some tea. Gordon picked up a leather satchel he kept near the outboard and took from it a handful of papers, among which was the GPS manual and a sheet of paper with their coordinates. He checked the coordinates and reconciled them with the coordinates on the GPS. They seemed to match, which was odd, he thought. He maneuvered the bow in an eastwardly direction toward land, and locked the tiller there. Then he opened the GPS manual and began reading through it.

After twenty minutes, Sarah was still whining and moving restlessly.

“Try lying down,” Michael told her. “Usually that will make you feel better.”

“I feel awful.”

“Try lying on your back.”

Ridley climbed back to her and took a seat beside her. “I have a little something,” he said. He pulled out a plastic baggy and set it on the bench in between them. It was filled with an assortment of colorful pills. Using his fingers he pulled two turquoise-colored pills from the bag. “Take these. They’ll make you well.”

“What are they?”

“They are the tears of Osiris.”

“Don’t be giving her drugs,” Gordon said.

“Don’t mind him,” Ridley replied, holding the pills in his hand. “It’s Nepenthe, the drug of no sorrows. It’ll make you fell better. You’ll want to fly.”

Gordon looked over at Michael.

“The Dramamine’s not working,” Michael said, shrugging his shoulders.

Sarah took the two pills and held them in her palm. “How long does it take for them to work?” she asked.
“Not long.”

“Ridley, don’t be giving her that stuff,” Gordon demanded, and just as he said it, Sarah popped the pills in her mouth and swallowed them without water.

Gordon frowned and returned his attention to the GPS screen. Curiously, he saw that their proximity to the land mass had not changed, despite the fact that he had maneuvered the bow all the way to the east. In fact, the red dot on the screen seemed to have moved further away from it.

“Did you mess with this thing last night?” Gordon asked, looking directly at Ridley.

Ridley did not reply.

Gordon glanced back at the GPS. “You did, didn’t you!”

“No worries,” was Ridley reply. “We’ll find our way.”

“We’ve got problems,” Gordon said.

“What?” Michael asked.

“Something’s wrong with the GPS.”

“What makes you think so?” Sarah asked.

“It’s not responding to a directional change. In fact it seems to be going in the opposite direction.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means it’s not working.”

“We’re lost?”

“We should be able to see the land.”

“We’re lost?” she asked again.

“I think someone was too busy getting high last night instead of keeping us on course.”

Gordon glanced skyward. It was overcast and difficult to make out exactly where the sun was, but in the direction that he thought should be west, he saw a bright spot.

“I think the sun is there,” he pointed. He looked at his watch. It was 10:00 am. “If that’s true, it means we’re heading in the wrong direction. We’re going southwest, not north. We’re heading out to sea.”

“That’s not the sun,” Ridley said. “It’s over there,” pointing in the opposite direction.

Both Sarah and Michael looked up into the sky. The clouds were full and dark and they could not tell where the sun was.

Gordon turned the steering tiller all the way to the right and the bow began making a wide, sweeping turn.

“You’re wrong,” Ridley said.

“Gordon’s smart,” Sarah said, sighing and holding her hand to her forehead. “He’s the sailor among us. Listen to him.”

“Gordon has negative thoughts.”

“What do you know about sailing?” Michael asked.

“Nothing,” Ridley said.

“Well then, let Gordon do his thing.”

“You’re just going to sit there and let him take us in the wrong direction?”

“He’s gotten us this far.”

“You mean lost?”

“I mean he didn’t have to invite you along but he wanted to share with my friends.”

“It’s already written,” Ridley replied. He lit up a cigarette and looked out across to the horizon. “Gordon is too focused on the negative. It’s his problem. He’s always thinking about what can go wrong, and Wah-la! It does. If you let him take us in the wrong direction, we are all going to die. We need to rely on out built-in barometers.”

Michael and Sarah exchanged curious glances.

“Ridley, you need to listen to Gordon,” Sarah said. “He’s been our leader from the start. And he’s been a good leader.”

“He’s wrong,” Ridley said. “I can feel it. We’re heading in the wrong direction.”

“The Secret is telling you so?” Michael asked.

Gordon locked the tiller in place, heading in the direction he believed to be east. He opened the GPS manual again and began thumbing through it, again trying to figure out what was wrong.

“Who’s the real leader here, anyway?” Ridley asked, puffing quickly on his cigarette.

“I vote for Gordon,” Michael said.

“Gordon knows his stuff,” Sarah whimpered.

Then Gordon made a spontaneous noise. “Someone reversed the hemispheric settings on this thing!” He looked up at Ridley. “You messed with this last night, didn’t you!”

“Rely on your inner being,” was Ridley’s reply, “That which the spirit created, not on some man-made device.”

“Shit!”

“No worries,” said Ridley. “We’ll all be rich in a day.”

Everyone was quiet now. A brooding feeling came over the boat. Sarah lay in the aluminum hull, Michael sat quietly on one of the perpendicular benches, Ridley puffed away on his cigarette, and Gordon continued to fiddle with the GPS device trying to reset it back to day one. If they had been going southwest all night, he thought, they had gone far out to sea. The curvature of the California coastline would have taken a southbound vessel considerably west of land, he thought. He looked out across the water. A good eight hours worth.

Another twenty minutes passed before he finally recalibrated the GPS back to the correct hemispheric settings and he re-entered the proper coordinates. When he finally looked up at the others, he saw Sarah standing at the point of the bow, much like Ridley had been earlier, with her blanket wrapped around her neck and blowing back in the wind.

“It’s marvelous!” she proclaimed. Then, pointing to a bright spot in the clouds, she said, “There’s the sun!”

The three men looked up to where she pointed.

“I thought you were sick?” Michael asked.
“Not no more,” Ridley said. “She’s right. It’s right there… which means I was right. We’re heading in the wrong direction.”

Gordon looked up at the spot. It was bright all right, but there were other spots in the sky that were equally as bright and it was impossible to tell exactly where the sun was especially now that it was nearly noon and the sun was high. He looked at the compass reading on the GPS.

“That’s not the sun,” he bluntly stated. “North is that way.” He pointed to his left.

“Can’t be,” Ridley said.

“Well, it is.”

“That’s the sun!” Sarah said, pointing back to the bright spot, wobbling now like a drunk. “Look! There!”

Ridley climbed over the perpendicular benches back to Gordon, grabbed the GPS device from its mount, and stared into the screen.

“It’s fixed,” Gordon said.

Without forewarning, Ridley tossed it into the water, doing so nonchalantly in the same manner as he discarded his cigarette butts. It hit the water with a splash and quickly disappeared beneath the surface.

“What!” Gordon yelped, reaching for it.

“What did you do that for?” shouted Michael.

“We don’t need it,” Ridley said.

“That’s just great,” Gordon said. “That’s just fine.”

He pushed Ridley aside, not wanting to start a confrontation, and reached for the leather satchel behind him. He grabbed it, took a seat on the back bench, and began writing on a note pad. He wrote down the time, and wind direction, and the direction and the intervals between the swells.

Ridley looked curiously over his shoulder

“Gibberish,” he said. “Don’t need it.”

Gordon said nothing.

“I think Ridley’s right,” Sarah said, fanning her blanket at the bow.

Michael looked at her. “A minute ago you were telling Ridley to listen to Gordon?”

She shrugged.

Ridley climbed back over the benches up to the bow. He stood there beside Sarah, scanning the ocean.

“That way!” he said, pointing to his left.

“He’s high,” Gordon said.

“Listen to him,” Sarah said. “He has the power of The Secret.

“My God,” Michael moaned. “You too?”

“They’re both high,” Gordon said.

“He knows which way to go,” Sarah said, truly believing it.

“Come’on, Sarah,” said Michael. “Really now!”

Gordon shook the fuel tank and could hear the swash of fuel low at the bottom.

“Bring another one of those gas cans, will ya?” he asked Michael.

Michael lifted one of the cans and brought it back, and together they began dumping another five gallons into the fuel tank.

“Who brings their girlfriend on a drug run?” Michael asked Gordon as the fuel poured in.

“I told you not to bring her,” was Gordon’s only reply.

“This is crazy, desperate shit,” Michael said.

They both looked up at Sarah. She stood there beside Ridley, standing tall and confident now, looking like the carved figurehead of an old sailing ship.

The boat continued eastward, or at least in the direction Gordon believed to be east. Making up for lost time, he thought.

***

It was late afternoon now and the sky was very dark and one could not make out where the sun might be, or even if there was a sun. Gordon looked at his notepad. He had logged in the wind, and the current, and counted the time intervals between swells, every half hour, but now he was unsure if the wind had changed its direction, only that it had increased in velocity and that the water had become choppy.

Ridley and Sarah sat in the first bench near the bow, they were talking, but Gordon could not make out what they were saying. He saw Ridley pull out his little plastic baggy again, pop a couple pills in his mouth and then hand Sarah a couple, which she too quickly swallowed.

Ridley turned and looked back and saw Gordon and Michael watching them.

“Want some?” he asked

“What is it?” Michael asked.
“It’s good stuff.”

“What kind of stuff?”

“Amazing stuff.”

Ridley held out his hand, exposing a couple of the pills.

Michael shook his head.

“Think of the best place you’ve ever been,” Ridley said. “That place on a beach with the woman you love, when life is easy and everything seems like magic. Do you want to go back there for just a moment? You can be there now, in a matter of seconds.”

“Don’t listen to him. He’s crazy,” Gordon said.

“Magic is a moment away.”

“If it were that easy, the entire world would be at peace.”

“Such a disbeliever,” Ridley scoffed.

“Come’on Ridley, stop screwing with them.”

“Gordon thinks he’s king, but he’s not your king. He’s only king of his own crazy world.”

“Don’t listen to him. He’s full of shit.”

Michael looked over at Sarah.

“What can I say?” she shrugged, smiling broadly. “I’m not sick no more. In fact I’m feeling pretty good.” She looked out across the ocean in the direction Ridley had pointed earlier. “I think Ridley’s right. Gordon’s got it wrong.”

“I’m going to need your help, Michael,” Gordon said. “I’m going to need you to pull this off.”

Michael nodded his head. “I know.”

“That’s where we need to go,” Gordon said, pointing off the starboard bow in the direction the boat was heading. “We’ve got to keep her in that direction.”

“Okay. Don’t worry. I’m with you. I’m just tired. Just need some sleep.”

Michael climbed over the rear benches to the place where the hull was flat and widest. Gordon watched as he pulled out his sleeping bag, crawled in it, and zipped it shut.

***

Through the night Ridley, Sarah and Michael slept up near the bow of the boat. Gordon stayed in the stern, awake and hoping for a glimpse of starlight by which he could navigate, but it never came. It remained overcast with flurries of sprinkling rain. He spent most of the night listening to the waves slapping against the hull. He had plenty of time to think about this whole adventure. A damned crazy one, he thought. Their cargo remained secure, in its waterproof bales tightly fastened to the aluminum bulwark, lining the entire ship except for the stern. He could see that Ridley and Michael were using the bails as cushions, their heads resting against them now. They looked comfortable and it made him wish that he could sleep too. Except for a few moments when he knew he had passed out, he had kept his eyes open and vigilant all night. Now the pale light of dawn came across the ocean’s surface, a dawn with no sun, and Gordon struggled to stay awake and keep the boat pointed in the direction of the swells; the direction in which he hoped landfall was not far. But in truth, he did not know, and though he searched the horizon in all directions, he could not see land.

He felt his head bob, and he went out, for how long he did not know, and when he looked up he saw Michael standing in the front of the boat with no shirt on and his arms stretched skyward.

“Can you take a shift?” Gordon asked.

Michael turned back and looked at him, but did not answer. Then he resumed his forward gaze.

“I need to sleep, Michael. Come on back here and take the tiller.”

Michael turned again without speaking.

“Hey man, I really need to sleep.”

And when Michael failed to answer a third time, Gordon realized something was wrong.

“You feeling okay?”

“Fine,” Michael replied. “It’s a beautiful day.”

Gordon stared at him for a moment. He seemed distant and disconnected.

“Did you take some of those pills?”

“You shouldn’t be so serious,” Michael said. “You need to relax a little.”

“You did!”

“Sorry buddy.”

Crap! Gordon thought. We’re floundering and I’m the only sane one left. He looked up at the sky. It was not cooperating either. You should have never let Ridley get to them. You should have never let him pollute their minds with his bullshit.

“You should try some, Gordon,” Michael said, wobbling as he spoke. “It’ll make you feel great. You’ll get your energy back and be able to see everything clearly.”

You’re going to have to do this on your own now, Gordon thought.

Ridley then rose from the belly of the boat with his hair all disheveled.

“Good morning El Capitan,” he said, looking at Gordon.

Sarah poked her head out of her bag now too, and then pulled herself completely from it. She went to the ice chest and took out a drink.

“Look at Gordon,” she said, with a little smile.

Gordon realized he must have looked like hell. His eyes were dark and swollen, and he was hanging over the tiller as if it were the only thing holding him up.

“He looks silly, doesn’t he,” Ridley said. “How’s the log coming along?”

Gordon glanced down at his notepad and realized he had completely lost track of time. It had be some hours since he had made his last entry.

“He’s suffering from exposure,” Ridley said, lighting up a cigarette. “Are you ready to get us on the right course?”

“Listen to Ridley,” Sarah said. “He knows what he’s talking about.”

“Ridley’s high,” Gordon said. “He’s crazy.”

Sarah and Michael exchanged doubtful glances.

“He’s ridiculous,” said Ridley.

Gordon held on to the tiller, barely keeping his eyes open. Three long days with little sleep had caught up with him, he knew. You can do this, he told himself. You have to do this! You can manage another day or two, can’t you?

As the hours passed, Ridley, Sarah and Michael remained in the front of the boat, seated together on the first bench; Ridley in the middle, talking and exchanging laughter and occasionally glancing back at Gordon.

“Come join us,” Sarah said. “We’re talking about The Secret.”

Gordon could feel his eyelids growing heavier by the minute. The constant drone of the outboard motor had become its own sedative. He felt his head slip off his hand, and his hand slip off the tiller. He found himself having to catch himself, again and again, sometimes falling completely off it.

“Can’t you see?” said Sarah. “We’re no longer lost.”

“You need some sleep, buddy,” said Michael. “Try some of Ridley’s pills. They’ll put you in the right state.”

“What are you doing?” Gordon asked.

“Nothing. Come on, take some.”

“You’re crazy,” Gordon said.

“No, you’re crazy,” Sarah told him.

“You all need a reality check.”

Gordon straightened his posture, holding his head high. He shook his head and tried to focus his eyes. Can’t give in, he thought. Have to remain focused. He looked up into the sky. If only the clouds would break, just for a moment, then I’ll get this thing in the right direction. Just need some time for the skies to clear.

He dosed off again, and when he awoke he saw the three of them still seated on the front bench.

“I’ll go first!” he heard Ridley saying.

He watched as Ridley stood up, pulled his iPhone from his back pocket and held it high in the air.

“Oh great digital device,” Ridley spoke like a great orator, “man’s pinnacle of technological evolution, I hereby condemn you to the sea,” and with that, he tossed the phone into the ocean. He turned back and looked at Gordon. “Don’t need it anymore,” he said.

“I’m next!” Sarah shouted. There was a tone of excitement in her voice and a spring in her legs as she stood up and took her smartphone out. She held it high in the air in the same manner as Ridley had done, and announced; “Be gone yea chain of worthless connections and stupid applications!” And she wheeled her arm way back and threw the phone far. It sailed through the sky and splashed into the swells some thirty feet away.

Michael then stood with his smartphone in his hand. “I paid three-hundred dollars for this!” he said, staring at it for a moment. Then he quickly threw it off the bow, adding, “But I don’t care! I’ll buy a thousand more in a day or two.”

The thoughtlessness of slumber overwhelmed Gordon again, and when he awoke this time, it was to the sound of yelling.

“Look at that!”

“Marvelous!”

“Yeah! Over there!”

He looked up and saw Ridley pointing off the starboard bow. He looked in the direction he pointed but could not see anything.

“What?” Gordon asked.

They all turned back and began to laugh.

“He can’t see it,” Ridley said.

“He’s delirious,” said Sarah.

Gordon looked again, far out across the water and saw nothing but choppy swells and dark clouds, and a vague line that marked the horizon.

Sarah began giggling. “We’ve been talking about you.”

“Let him be,” Ridley said. “He’ll come around.”

The grogginess that comes with sleeplessness began to muddle his thinking. It pulled like a veil over his head. He could not remember what time it was, and when he looked at his watch, he was surprised to see it was nearly mid-day. The three remained seated forward, their backs to him. He saw them talking and exchanging more pills. He checked the steering tiller. It remained locked in place. But in what direction? He felt his head bobbing again and he let it down on the tiller again.

When he awoke he found his face pressed against it and his arm draped over it. His entire upper body weight was supported by it, and before his eyes was a hand, a few inches from his face. In it were two turquoise-colored pills. He looked up and saw Michael’s face.

“It’s Adderall on steroids,” Michael said. “A double espresso of the highest form.”

Gordon pushed the hand away.

“Take them. They’ll make you feel better,” Michael opened his hand again, revealing the two pills. “They won’t hurt you.”
“Give him time,” Ridley said.

After forty minutes passed Gordon awoke again and saw them all looking back at him, smiling.

“Ridley drew a map in our heads,” Sarah said. “Land’s not far off, just out there,” she pointed.

Gordon lifted his head and surveyed his surroundings. They were still at sea, all right, and there was no land in sight. Above the sky remained overcast with no indication of letting up. The steering tiller was still locked in place, heading to nowhere. Insomnia will make you crazy, he thought. What good will you be then? Can you navigate a ship if your mind’s not working?

He opened his eyes once more, unaware of the duration they had been shut, and took a moment to focus them. Once more he saw the hand before his face; the two pills nestled there in the indention of the palm. Above was Michael’s sympathetic face.

“Come on, buddy. Take them. You’ll be fine.”

“Join us,” Sarah said. “We want you to be with us. We want you to see what we can see.”

Gordon stared at the pills for a good twenty seconds. They were insignificant enough, he thought. What harm could it do?

“We want our leader back,” Sarah said.

Gordon slowly reached out and took the pills into his hand.

“What did you say they were?”

“Nepenthe, the drug of no sorrows,” Ridley said. “The drug of no pain.”

“I just need some rest,” Gordon said.

“These will do the trick,” Ridley replied.

Some rest, Gordon thought. Then I can sail this thing back to land.

He looked up into the dark clouds. There was no sun, but the sky seemed overtly bright. Then, in a quick motion, he slapped the pills into his mouth and tilted his head back, swallowing them both. He could feel them going down his throat.

He crawled down into the flat spot in the aluminum hull, leaned his head against the cushioned cargo bales and stared up into the clouds. He closed his eyes and felt a drunken elation. The brightness of the sky began to fade.

Just need some rest, he thought. Then I can navigate this thing. Once the clouds break, I’ll get us back on course. Yeah, I’ll get us back on the straight course.

 

***

 

The panga boat came ashore, capsized, in a remote area along the rugged California coast near Piedras Blancas. No one knew what became of the boat’s occupants. The cargo was still strapped to the aluminum bulwark, but there were no signs of life. The authorities found the fuel tank empty; all the fingerprints had been washed away by the salt water.