I felt the fear rush through my blood as I saw the eyelids break apart to reveal the eyeball sitting there. My reflection bouncing off its surface. It’s pupil shifting back and forth and a shine glimmering in the iris. I felt the bones tremble all the way through my body. Backing away little by little, I could hear my heavy breaths as the blood pounded in my ears.
“Www…” my voice was hoarse. I felt my throat closing up and swallowed dryly, “what’s-” I faltered. A gentle hand hung on my shoulder, I jerked away from it. A muffled voice rang in my ear as the image in front of me began to melt into a blur as my eyes rolled in their sockets. Then as I attempted to regain balance I felt my limbs give way and peacefully I felt the gravity wander…
3 weeks earlier…
“Joey!” I called out wearily, galloping uncontrollably across the pier. Every footstep I took narrowly avoided the water that sat threateningly beneath, “Joey…” I panted, “Joey, wait!”
“Come on, slow poke!” I heard Joey’s voice faintly in the distance, as I could just about make out her figure bounding down the unstable wood. I felt my jacket slip out from underneath my arm and skidded to an unsteady halt. Wobbling on the balls of my feet, I spun my arms in frantic circles. I turned around desperately and then spotted my jacked bobbing below the surface of the water.
“Oh, shit!” I cried, leaning down warily and fishing it out with a stick, “ohh…” I groaned, lifting the sodden hoody with distaste. I turned at the sign of footsteps.
“What are you doing?” Joey questioned, standing with her hands on her hips. I shot her a glare.
“Oh, nothing!” I rasped, wringing my jacket out over the water. She hoisted me up to standing.
“Come on, leave it here…come back to it later.” She advised. Not quite persuaded, I discarded it by the side and strolled along side Joey. She flashed me a smile.
“So…what exactly are you going to show me?” I asked unsurely, brushing the red curls out of my face. She grinned.
“You’ll have to wait and see.” She giggled.
“Come on, please tell me!” I whined. She paused for effect.
“Well, you know how we’ve been searching for something to do in our gap year…” she began. I waited, but there was no follow up.
“Yeah…” I prompted her.
“That’s your only clue.”
“Come on Robin, we’ve got to cross these stepping stones.” She interrupted my protest. I stared down at the stones.
“That’s odd.” I remarked, looking at the broken part of the pier.
“Not really…this bit broke so they added some stepping stones.” She explained.
“So, basically they couldn’t be bothered to fix it…”
“Yeah, come on.” She giggled again and dropped onto the first rock.
“Er…” I hesitated, as I watched her leaping hysterically from stone to stone. She pulled herself up to the other side and squatted by the edge.
“Come on, then!”
I gulped and lowered myself on to the first rock. I froze to the spot with one foot suspended in the air.
I gradually made my way over to an impatient Joey and settled down by the side.
“Get up…it’s not far now.” She assured me, dragging me by the wrist as I whined. A quarter of a mile later we reached a boat port. I stopped and looked up at her.
“What are we doing here?” I sought a clue as I spoke. I turned to see Joey with an ear-to-ear smile plastered across her face.
“Well!” she began excitedly, “a few months ago I found this ad in the paper…”
She gained speed and began to amble swiftly away.
“Saying what exactly?”
I heard her chuckle.
“It was a prize draw…” she paused again in an attempt to create suspense.
She jogged further way, turned and then motioned me to come forwards.
“Joe-” I groaned again, “ugh!”
I followed her steadily.
Joey was standing next to a magnificent giant of a ship, with the words “S.S.Balsam” written across the side. She spread her arms out wide.
“Ta-dah!” she beamed at me. I walked leisurely over to her. She gazed up at it in awe, “Robin, look at that!”
My face lit up.
“Joey…” I started, hopefully, “what’s this?”
She span in a joyful circle.
“This!” she announced, “is our home for the next 12 months!”
I ran over to her side, laughing in astonishment.
“What…wh…oh my god!” I squeaked, “how?!”
“I put our names down for it…it said ‘a yearlong cruise for two’” she smiled, “hopefully it’s not supposed to be a romantic thing.”
“Agh!” I squealed pulling her into a hug, “Joey, you’re amazing!”
“I know.” She nodded. I pulled away and gave her a look.
“But you should have consulted me…” I patronized.
“I was being spontaneous!”
“As always…” I muttered, “but anyway, when are we leaving?!”
“Two weeks tomorrow.” She exclaimed with an over-whelming buzz of enthusiasm.
"Aww, look!" I said, pointing in the direction of a small feline. Joey swivelled around.
"Aww!" she squeaked and then began making a clicking noise out of the corner of her mouth, "hey kitty..." she crooned, leaning towards it. The cat mewed as it began to hobble towards us. It looked like a small bundle of ginger fur.
“What happened to it?” I wondered aloud, watching it limp forlornly. Joey shrugged. I lowered down beside it and gently stroked its fur, as Joey did the same. I felt an unusual texture across its back. I pulled my hand away and inspected it. I parted some of the hairs and noticed little coarse ones sticking out of its flesh. I then spotted it had them scattered all over it.
“Ew.” I shuffled backwards. I went up to it again as I saw something strange about its foot. I then cautiously lifted its paw and examined it. Something abnormal was lodged at the side of it. I backed away further and hopped to my feet, “Joey…”
“Yeah?” she said, not looking at me. I crouched beside her.
“Look at these hairs.” I said, making a gesture in the direction of the cat.
“What about them?”
“Not the ginger ones…these black ones.” I parted the hairs again to show her.
Joey frowned; she looked for a moment and then felt one with her forefinger.
“Ew!” she said bounding to her feet suddenly, “that’s creepy…they’re like fly hairs.”
I swept my finger across its fur.
“And it’s got six toes on one foot…” I stood up next to Joey. Her nose was creased up. She shuddered.
“Eww…that’s really creepy…where did it come from?”
I searched around and then glanced at the boat.
“Dunno,” I said finally, “maybe it’s a cross-breed…”
“Between what and what?” Joey said, unconvinced.
“Maybe we should-” I started.
“No.” Joey said promptly, “come on, let’s go…”
“We can’t just-”
“It’s not our problem!” she insisted and marched away from it.
“Joey!” I called out. I looked at the cat. It looked at me with inquiring eyes. I rummaged in my pocket and pulled out a pair of tweezers. I carefully plucked one of the wiry black hairs and heard the cat shriek in pain and dart off. I studied the hair closely.
“‘Fly hairs’?” I wondered.