“Get up lazybones, you’re burning daylight!”
Kay grunted in annoyance, wrapping herself tighter in her blankets. She didn’t much care what she was doing with the daylight, being more concerned with staying in the nice warm bed. She had just about managed to fall back to sleep when the voice called again, joined by a hollow knocking on the door.
“Come on, up! Your breakfast is getting cold!”
Breakfast. Her only weakness. Damn.
Begrudgingly, Kay rose bleary-eyed from her bed, stretching and yawning herself awake as she emerged into the outside world. A heavenly scent greeted her there, the mingled aromas of cooking oil, salt and butter wafting thickly through the air. Mouth watering, Kay moved to follow the smell towards its source in the nearby kitchen.
A plate was already waiting for her when she arrived, piled high with a mess of eggs, bacon and hash-browns, all so fresh that it still steamed lightly. Instantly Kay zeroed in on the offering, crossing the room in two quick strides to reach it. She didn’t even bother to sit down as she armed herself with a fork and attacked the food. It tasted as good as it had looked, the perfect blend of flavors exploding her mouth like a fireworks display. She tried to savor them, but hunger got the better of her and soon half the plate was gone.
“Well good morning to you too.”
Kay paused in her devouring long enough to acknowledge the voice’s owner through another mouthful. Her father stood at the stove, working with pan and spatula to prepare more food. A chuckle rumbled out of him at Kay’s less than polite response.
“I guess that counts.”
Embarrassed, Kay tried again after swallowing the mouthful.
“Sorry dad. Morning.”
Her father laughed again. “Morning kiddo, sleep well?”
“Pretty well,” she said. “Just, weird dreams, I guess.”
“Well they must have been,” her father said. “Weird kids have weird dreams.”
Kay smacked him playfully on the arm, laughing as he refilled her plate from the pan. She tucked in happily, slowing down this time to better appreciate the meal. Her father joined her with a plate of his own, accompanied by a cup of black sludge he kept insisting on calling coffee.
“Any plans today?”
Kay shook her head. “Not really, got a lesson to get finished but that’s about it.”
“Aren’t you on school break?”
“It’s correspondence, I can do it whenever I want.”
Her father snorted, amused. “You are a terrible teenager, you know that?”
“One of us has to be the grown…up…”
Kay trailed off, something nagging at the back of her mind. Something felt, off about this whole thing. She felt like she knew this conversation somehow, that something important had happened because of it but she could remember what.
And wait, teenager? She wasn’t a teenager she was in her twenties. School of any kind was well behind her. She’d dropped out when…when…she couldn’t remember why she’d dropped out. Why couldn’t she remember this?
Her father didn’t seem to notice his daughter’s distress, instead finishing his coffee with a flourish and rising from the table with empty dishes in hand. When had he finished eating? Looking down, Kay started when she realized her own was also empty. She did remember eating most of it. What was happening?
“Well, you’re on your own for dinner at any rate,” her father said. “I won’t be back until late.”
“W-why?” Kay asked, trepidation creeping into her voice.
Her father smiled, casting her a significant look “Going out far to dredge today, going out after the big one.”
He said this as if it was supposed to be reassuring but all Kay felt was a creeping dread take hold in her gut. There was something he wasn’t telling her, something important, but she couldn’t remember what.
“I don’t, think that’s a good idea,” Kay said.
He smiled again, confident and caring.
“I’ll be alright kiddo, a little risk is worth it for this payout. You’ll see, it’ll be fortunes and fillet for us after night.”
At those words Kay panicked. She remembered this, or something very much like this. If he walked out that door, he would not be coming back. This she knew, this she feared. She had to stop him.
But he was already leaving. His old oilskin thrown over one shoulder, his lunch-pail gripping in one hand. He had a smile on his face, waving cheerfully back to Kay as he turned to leave.
“See you tomorrow kiddo, don’t wait up.”
“Dad, wait, don’t go!”
Kay rushed forward, reaching out to grab him, pull him back, anything to stop him from walking out the door. She made it barely a step when floor shifted beneath her. Looking down, it wasn’t the floor anymore but a churning mass of trash. Her feet sunk deep into the mass, pulled down with a grip like iron. Her father seemed oblivious, the floor beneath him untouched, leaving him free to approach the door.
“Dad! Dad, stop!”
The Sea pulling her in faster now, encasing her shoulders now, everything below trapped and sinking fast. Soon she would be up to her neck. Still her father did not turn back as he opened the door wide.
“Dad, please…” Kay pleaded.
Her head was being swallowed now, wrenched back at a terrible angle. Her father was barely visible anymore, pushed off to the edges of her vision. He was stepping forward now, about to cross the threshold.
“Don’t leave me…”
The last thing Kay saw of her father was his back, disappearing as the door slid closed.
Then, there was only oblivion.
Consciousness returned to Kay like a punch to the face, both sudden and painful.
Her eyes snapped open like shot, flooding her vision with a blurry smear of light and colour. She winced against the harsh contrast, confusion ruling her mind as she worked to blink the world back into focus. It was a difficult task, her eyes feeling strangely heavy, much harder to move than they should be. And they itched horribly, the swollen skin tender as she made even the slightest move.
That was a mild pain compared to the throbbing headache hammering away at her skull. It felt like a spike had been driven in one temple and out the other, hitting every pain neuron in between. The light before her eyes made it worse but she didn’t dare close her eyes to block it out. She couldn’t go back to the darkness. Not now, not ever.
To Kay relief, the thunderous agony quickly dulled to a merely unpleasant throb, melding into the general ache that gripped her entire body. It felt like she’d been placed under a great weight, uncomfortable but manageable so long as she didn’t move. She tried not to picture the weight being a mass of trash as her vision finally cleared and she took in her surroundings.
Stark white walls sat before her, scrubbed so clean that they almost shone in the diffused light. Glass fronted cabinets sat at eye and knee level with rows of bottles within lined up like soldiers. She couldn’t read any of the labels, but she recognized them as medical.
Looking down, Kay discovered she lay in a bed, the sheets pulled up to cover her legs and leaving her arms sitting limply on either side. Wires and plastic tubing snaked from her right forearm and out of sight over the edge of the mattress. Turning her head after them, she discovered they connected to an IV stand and heart monitor set up next to her bed. The latter chirped away with a slow steady rhythm, matching line graphic on the screen.
She wasn’t dead then. That was probably a good thing.
For a fleeting second it was her father’s voice speaking to her. Many things flooded her at once, joy, hope, fear and sadness mingling together into one great mass of conflicting emotion. Only with great effort did she manage to keep herself from falling apart all over again, the heart monitor spiking in volume in response. It was just a dream, she reminded herself. It couldn’t possibly be her father speaking because it was just a dream. Just. A. Dream.
Turning towards the voice, Kay found not her father but Oscar. He sat perched on a chair, leaning forward with hand braced against the bed as he looked down at her with concern.
She tried to greet him but all that came out was a violent, hacking cough. It left her completely paralyzed, what felt like a ball of needles bouncing around in with gleeful abandon. She gasped and wheezed, barely able to breathe as she waited for it to end. It was all she could do not to pass out before then.
Oscar re-appeared in her vision again, holding a glass up to her lips with one hand, steadying her head with the other.
“Here, drink,” he said, tilting the glass back. The water was the single most refreshing and delicious thing Kay had ever tasted and she greedily drank every drop until it was gone.
“Better?” Oscar asked.
Kay didn’t answer immediately, not wanting to risk another coughing fit so soon after the first. Instead she blinked her eyes back into focus for a better look at Oscar. He looked ragged, his clothes rumpled from being days worn and the scraggily beginnings of a beard clinging to his chin. Heavy bags sat under his eyes and it was clear he hadn’t showered recently, a greasy sheen clinging to his hair and face.
“…look like…shit…old man…” Kay said slowly, handling each word carefully.
A smile split across Oscar’s face. “Yeah well, you’re not much better brat.”
Kay almost laughed but she supressed it as pain began to rise in her chest. Taking a moment to steady herself, Kay eventually managed more words.
The smile vanished from Oscar’s face as he blew out his lips, sitting down heavily on the edge of the bed.
“Clamp slipped and we hit the deck hard. We’d have been screwed if the dock crew hadn’t got us out when they did.” He paused, tilting his head to indicate the room. “You were out cold when they brought us up here. That was three days ago.
Three days? The number seemed unreal to Kay. To her, only minutes had passed since she’d been in the Pacific’s engine room, battling to keep the fire under control. She remembered the scene vividly, the glow of flame against the smoke, arid stench flooding her unprotected nostrils, mask given up for crewmate’s sake.
Recalling that last detail, Kay scrutinized Oscar again and noticed for the first time the bandages wrapped around his arm. The same arm that she’d noticed bleeding during the fire. From the size of the dressing, it hadn’t been a small wound.
“…hurt…?” Kay asked.
Oscar gave her a look, following her gaze to the bandages before waving off her concern.
“It looks worse than it is. Dressing will probably be off by tomorrow.”
Kay was happy to hear that, even allowing for the fact that Oscar was almost certainly downplaying the severity. She let it slide for the moment, trusting that he wouldn’t do anything too stupid and moved on to a much more important worry.
Oscar did not answer immediately, slowly lowering both arm and gaze while letting out a long breath. Panic thundered through Kay as she imagined increasingly terrible possibilities for what had become of her old rust bucket. She was on the edge of a nervous breakdown when Oscar finally broke the suspense.
“It’s, fine. Or as fine as it can be considering. I haven’t had a chance to look at it myself but I’m sure I can fix it.”
Kay let out a huge sigh of relief, almost setting off another coughing fit in the process. So long as it wasn’t a pile of actual scrap metal, that was something. It wasn’t good, but it was something and already Kay was beginning to crunch the numbers, planning for they were going to do next.
Something of it must have shown on Kay’s face because Oscar raised a hand to gently tap her on the forehead.
“Hey, none of that. You’re on bed rest until you’re better.”
“…not…the boss…of me…” Kay muttered, prompting a look for Oscar.
“Yeah well, let me go get Doc Tom and we’ll see who’s the boss of who,” He stood from his seat, pointing a stern finger at her. “Don’t move, be right back.”
Kay let him go without a word, letting herself sink back into the mattress with a sigh. Loathe as she was to admit it, bed rest really did sound good right about now. Though they had faded somewhat, the various pains she’d woken with remained, making every thought and movement infinitely more difficult. She should probably take advantage of the enforced time off to relax. After all, given that she wasn’t dead, she supposed that her debts were once again her problem.
Kay couldn’t tell what part of that fact upset her the most. She elected not to think about it.
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