Miss Unsinkable by Russell Holbrook
The old man staggered forward, pointing at the couple. “You’re doomed if you get on that boat!” He shouted.
Morgan wrinkled her nose at the man’s stench and winced at his volume.
Brady smirked and laughed. “A harbinger… classic!”
Morgan shot her boyfriend an amused look. Their mutual love of horror and the paranormal had bonded them from the beginning.
The elderly vagrant swayed and waved a finger at the cruise ship. “It’s got a curse on it! The Lord showed me! He told me to warn ya! I had a vision!”
This time Morgan laughed and said, “I think it was the vodka that gave you a vision, not the Lord.”
Brady giggled. He reached out to Morgan to put an arm over her shoulder. The harbinger leaped at Brady, curling bony fingers tight around Brady’s shirt, pulling the young man close.
“You fool!” The old man shouted in Brady’s face. “You’ll die if you get on that boat!”
Brady held up his hands as if in surrender. He spoke in a soft, soothing tone. “Hey, hey, man, it’s alright, everything’s okay here. You don’t have to get upset.”
Standing by Brady, Morgan rested a caring hand on the wizened man’s arm. He turned to Morgan. She nodded and said, “You’re okay.”
Tears welled in the corners of the ancient man’s eyes. His fingers uncoiled. His hands slid down the front of Brady’s shirt. He stepped back and began to sob. “It’s not alright. It never will be, not while she’s on board. Ya gotta know-”
Two police officers appeared at the old man’s side, each taking hold of an arm, abruptly ending his warning.
“C’mon, Ralph, let’s go,” the officer to Ralph’s left said. They gently began to pull the old man away.
“I’m so sorry he bothered you, Miss. Ralph does this sometimes,” the officer on the right said to Morgan.
Morgan shook her head. “No, no, it’s okay, he wasn’t-”
“She’s still on there!” Ralph howled. “She’ll kill ya all! She won’t stop! Ne’er!”
A small crowd of passengers on their way to board the ocean liner had stopped to observe the commotion. They stared intently at the harbinger. With wild, bulging eyes he surveyed the gathered throng. “You’re all doomed! Doomed! Dooooomed!”
The old man’s screams faded as the police officers led Ralph away and quietly slipped him into the back of their cruiser. The travelers whispered among themselves, scattering, moving onward toward the ship. Morgan turned to Brady. She smiled and said, “Incredible!”
“I know!” Brady replied, his own smile beaming from his lips.
“I do hope Ralph is okay, though,” Morgan said, her eyebrows scrunching.
Brady wrapped an arm around Morgan’s waist and kissed her softly on the forehead. “I’m sure he’s fine. Those officers were pretty nice. They’ll probably just take him home, or, somewhere to sleep it off.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you’re right,” Morgan said.
Arm in arm, the young couple fell in line and shuffled toward the boat with the other passengers.
“You know, he really seemed like a true believer,” Brady said.
“Definitely,” Morgan agreed. She looked up at the boat. Looming just ahead in all her tattered glory was Miss Unsinkable, the last of the great cruise liners from the 1980s. Morgan whispered in awe, “There she is, the most tragic, haunted ship in America.”
“Wow,” Brady said.
“Do you ever wonder why she’s still in use, you know, after all the murders and disappearances?”
Brady shrugged and said with a wry grin, “Probably because people like us keep buying tickets.”
Morgan laughed softly. “So true, so true.”
And as the glow of the morning sun began to give way to the summer afternoon’s harsh glare, the last of the passengers boarded Miss Unsinkable and the captain and crew prepared to set sail.
Morgan clutched her stomach. “Oh no, I think something on that buffet didn’t agree with me. How do you feel?”
“I’m good, actually,” Brady said with a characteristic shrug.
Morgan groaned and bent low.
“Why don’t we go to the infirmary and get you something?”
“I’ll go,” Morgan said, slowly rising off the bed, “you stay here and finish getting the equipment ready. We’re still exploring below deck tonight, no matter what.”
“Eww, you mean where Violent Violet chopped up the teenage couple, Barry and Lisa, when she walked in on them gettin’ busy?”
“Nothing says coitus interruptus like an ax to the groin,” Morgan chimed with a giggle that morphed into another moan of pain.
“I’ll never, ever understand why anyone would kill their own daughter like that,” Brady said as he removed an EVP recorder and an EMF detector from a sturdy case.
“It was the 80s, that’s why,” Morgan replied. She kissed Brady on the cheek and moved to the cabin door. “Be back in a jiff.”
“Love you bunches,” Brady said without looking up from the equipment he was setting out on the bed.
“Love you mega bunches,” Morgan said before she hobbled out the door and disappeared into the hall.
The medical center was deserted. Morgan peeped around and called out. After a moment, an attractive woman with long, flowing brown hair, wearing pastel pink scrubs, appeared from the medical supply closet. She smiled warmly and greeted Morgan. After Morgan described her symptoms, the nurse went back into the closet and quickly returned with a small cardboard box.
The nurse held the box out to Morgan. “Here,” she said, “this should take care of your troubles.”
Morgan reached out to take the box of tablets. A jolt like a knife twisting in her gut assaulted her with fierce and sudden agony. She cried out and doubled over. The nurse caught Morgan and led her to a nearby bed.
“Something’s really wrong,” Morgan said through the pain.
“There, there, you’re going to be fine,” the nurse said. “I’ll get you something a little bit stronger.”
The nurse reached down under the bed and pulled out a bright red emergency ax. She frowned. “Dirty girls like you need strong medicine. Those little pills weren’t gonna cut it.”
Morgan’s eyes bulged and watered. Her lips trembled. The nurse raised the ax.
Morgan screamed, “Wait! You’re – you’re- I didn’t know! I didn’t-”
The nurse buried the ax blade in Morgan’s gaping mouth.
“Fan girls…” Nurse Violet said, blowing a stray lock of hair off her face. “When will they ever learn?”
Just as Brady was beginning to wonder what might be taking Morgan so long at the infirmary and hoping that she would be bringing enough medicine for them both since his stomach had begun to hurt as well, a loud metallic banging echoed off their cabin door. He hurried to the door and flung it open.
“Room service!” Nurse Violet said.
Brady’s eyes narrowed and then ballooned with recognition. “No way!” He exclaimed.
Violet swung the ax, swift and steady, slamming the blade into Brady’s forehead where it sunk in deep and split his skull in half. His expression fell blank and he plummeted to the floor.
“Well, at least he recognized me right away,” Nurse Violet quipped. She looked at Brady’s lifeless body, lying prone in the doorway. She heard music blaring from the main deck. Feet were shuffling. People were laughing. She guessed a conga line might have started. She sighed, shoved Brady’s body into the cabin, and shut the door.
Violet strolled past the row of closed cabin doors, making her way to the upper deck, smiling as she imagined the laughter of the passengers turning to screams of terror. Poisoning the ship’s food supply was already making her work go that much smoother; killing that first couple had almost been too easy. Still, she was grateful her boss had suggested it. He always did have the best ideas, and even after so many years, she never tired of their work together. She rounded a corner and came to the steps that led to the upper deck. She could already sense the growing of sickness and fear. It was intoxicating.
How wonderful it is to be at sea, Violet thought, and she knew that there was no place in the world she would rather be.