On a Boat in the Fog

I did something really bad,” he said to me. “It’s not that I haven’t regretted it, I have, but time is a strange thing and the guilt always subsided and I felt the urge to do it again. I tried telling myself that I should stop, but then one day I’d find myself making plans, just in case, and when the plans were made I did that thing again.”

We were sitting in a small rowboat, thick fog had settled, so all I could see was the sea surrounding us. The waves were calm, but still rocking the boat mildly, like a mother rocking her baby.

The man in the boat with me was old. His hair lay in grey tufts over his bald head, his eyes seemed to convey constant hostility, but his demeanour was slow yet confident. His hands were dry, his fingers long and thin and the knuckles disproportionately large.

“I remember the first one as if it was yesterday,” the old man continued. “She was a beauty, red fiery hair and she fought me like a lion. Would have escaped me too if it hadn’t been for the weapon,” he sighed, “always prepared, you know?”

I didn’t say anything, just continued to listen to the waves splashing on the boat. I felt the urge to ask questions, but thought it would be best to stay quiet.

“There wasn’t anyone quite as thrilling as she was, of course, though there were those who came close. I remember a particular blond with the bluest eyes I ever saw. I almost spared her just because I thought it would be a shame to see the light go out of those eyes. But of course I didn’t. I never could help myself.”

“Why are you telling me this?” I finally asked, much against my own better judgment.

The old man looked at me and smirked, I could see the arrogance shine through then, as if the devil was looking out of his eyes, glaring at me. I could see the young man in him, hidden inside that fragile old body. I could see his desires, desires that were almost impossible to subscribe to the body in front of me. It occurred to me that the fragile old man was just a part of his act now. That maybe he wasn’t as easy to overpower as he appeared to be.

I felt my heart starting to race. I had methods to calm myself though. I had become quite skilled in fighting the panic attacks. Though my anxiety was always a bit peculiar. I got the worst panic attack of my life waking up one morning, nothing special had happened, nothing was about to happen that I knew of I just panicked for seemingly no reason at all.

Yet in the face of danger I had always been able to keep a straight face and never felt even a hint of panic. I guess I am wrongly wired that way.

There was, however, something in the old man’s demeanour that got that little voice in my head whispering that maybe now it really was time to panic.

“Well, you see,” the old man hesitated, stroked the grey stubs of his chin and looked me in the eyes. “I know you,” he said, “and therefore I’m going to make you my last evil deed and hope that I’ll be doing something good while satisfying the last impulse I’ll ever have.”

“You see, you and me, we are the same. We are the worlds biggest cowards, trying to prove that we’re powerful and getting some pleasure out of it at the same time,” the old man whispered as he leaned closer. It wasn’t hard to hear him, the fog seemed to have either gulped us up entirely, even the sounds the sea should make were absent, the waves didn’t seem to make a noise, there were no seagulls squealing, all I could hear was the steady rhythm of my own breathing, which was rapidly increasing.

I rose above it though and glared at him, “That’s quite an analysis from someone like you,” I tried to be angry, but I’m sure my fear shone through instead.

He laughed.

“I’m old and stupid, but I’ve been stupid for most of my life,” he said. “It doesn’t mean I don’t have some ability to analyse the craziness when I see it in others”.

“What are you talking about?” I didn’t shout at him, I didn’t dare. I felt that if I’d shout then maybe I would break the fragility of this world I found myself in. I felt that if that fragility broke, then all hell would break loose.

I didn’t panic when I saw the knife either. He didn’t look an innocent old geezer anymore, but he still looked like a geezer. I could see the things he had done echoing in every movement. He had done this before, it was familiar to him and he wasn’t fearful or nervous even, he was just anticipating getting this desire out of his system. The glee was apparent and he wasn’t hiding it, though maybe it was involuntary, maybe he couldn’t actually control the way the joy reflected in his eyes.

He didn’t look like a kid in a candy store, he looked more like a long term prisoner entering a strip club and it appalled me, frankly.

“I’m an old man,” he said, “and I realise that. I have had a good life, and you may think that’s ironic or wrong even, though I guess someone like you would just find it inspiring, wouldn’t you?”

“What are you talking about?” I shouted at him, breaking the silence of the fog in a way that made me cringe. I looked around, half expecting to find something coming at me from the fog, an unknown wrath punishing me for breaking the silence.

“Shh,” the old man said. He was smiling.
“You see,” he said in his low voice, “I know what you are, we’re alike you and I, except you haven’t actually started yet. Do you know how I know that?”

I didn’t say anything. I just stared at him. The horror was complete, I felt paralysed with fear. It wasn’t a panic attack, not a normal one, but a sense of utter paralysation came over me and I couldn’t but to just stare at this horrible old man.

“So now my last deed will be to satisfy my last urges and safe a few lives while I’m doing it.”

“You’re delusional, what do you think I’ve done?” I shouted again.
“Shh,” he repeated, “I don’t think you’ve done anything yet, but I’ve been following you. I was so glad when I found you. I was afraid I wouldn’t get my last blast,” he giggled, or gurgled rather.

“I know you haven’t actually done anything yet, but you will. You’re in the throes of all these urges, you don’t fool me, I know what you’re capable of and I know your victims will be those who are most vulnerable. I’ve seen you goggling at them, maybe you haven’t started planing anything yet, but you will soon, or would if I’d given you the chance, but I feel I need redemption. I feel that I need the chance to go to purgatory and work my way up, you know?”

I shook my head, I believe it was as violent a gesture as a passive one can get.
“You know what I’m talking about, you may not understand the urges completely, you may still think you have these things under control and that you’re normal, but you’re not and I guess you’ll never get to discover that side of you like I have discovered mine.”

“I am not like you,” I told him in a softer voice.

He didn’t say anything. Just sat there with his knife in his hand and he stared at me, the echoes of old memories seemed visual in his eyes. I sat there in the aft and didn’t dare to move, my eyes never left his but I was very aware of the fog that seemed to become thicker and thicker as we drifted.

Then he plunged at me. He was faster than I thought he could be, and he hit me on the side of the head, I fell backwards leaning over, suddenly staring down into the grey ocean. The blow left me dizzy and unbalanced. I felt blood trickling down my cheek and I knew he was leaning over me.

That’s when I panicked, and when I panic something takes over. I don’t sit paralysed and wait for things to happen to me. When I panic I usually start running, but I was sitting in a boat so that wasn’t an option. I guess I could have thrown myself overboard, but I was groggy from the blow on the head and I had no idea how far from land we were.

I thrashed around and tried to punch him, but I missed. It was infuriating hearing him laughing, but my sight was failing me so I tried to flail around with my arms, hoping to hit him.

“I should have kept you drowsy,” he said, “but I wanted to talk to you.”
That’s when my eyesight returned, partially at least, and I leaned backwards and kicked him in the stomach. It was a low blow, and he keeled backwards, the surprise visual in his face.

He dropped his knife and I managed to grab it and as I rushed at him, towering over him, looking him in the eyes, I plunged the knife where I hoped his heart was.

I could see the utter satisfaction radiating out of his eyes. I felt the blood oozing out of him as I withdrew the knife and pushed it in there again, just to be safe. Then I fell backwards and sat down in the aft again.

“See,” I heard him whispering. “You’re there already, I guess my job here is done.”
“What the hell do you mean, you old fart?” I screamed at him. The adrenaline was rushing through my body and I wanted nothing more than to run away from the situation, but the boat was small and there was nowhere to run.

“I chose you because you have potential. If I’m right then you’ll start to feel the urge and the potential in it. This will help you a long. I’ll have helped create the female version of me.”
He smiled, bleeding severely from his wounds.
“I AM NOTHING LIKE YOU,” I screamed at him as the life seeped out of him.

Sitting in this boat, letting it just drift to wherever it wants to go is easy. I don’t feel like making an effort, I don’t know where to go anyway. Either I’ll be lost with him at sea. Or not…
I lean backwards, resting up against the old timber of the boat. The paint is worn, once upon a time white but now more grey than anything else. And I feel the rush leaving my body slowly, all too slowly.
I don’t feel any panic. I don’t feel any fear. I just feel that satisfaction in having survived. Or is it something else? Was he right? The thought rushes at me too soon. It should have taken days to come at me, but it took mere minutes.
I look into the fog, see strange figures, illusions playing there. Small children giggling, and I see old men, men who have done things, not all like him, but some. The mirage is white, but I see these figures clearly before me, so tangible and I want to join them. I want to join them, or at least make sure they can’t keep doing what they do.
The boat rocks me further, the sea still as silent as before. I resign myself to my fate. Whatever it is. I resign myself to becoming what the world wants me to be. I can see it written in the fog in white, bold letters.
Or maybe I’ll just be lost at sea with the man who, one way or the other, made me his last victim.

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Copyright © 2016 Eygló

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