“To the lucky deckie!” Skipper roared. All the beer glasses went up with a ragged cheer, before tipping to empty their contents down the throats of their owners.
My glass came down empty. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and stood up. I started to weave through people to the sink out the back. It was near closing time and there was an unspoken rule – it was always the deckies’ turn to wash up.
Skipper stood in front of me, so I had to stop. “Not your turn tonight. You head back to camp.” He winked. “Maybe find some other way to celebrate tonight.”
Bloody bastard was reading my mind. I faked a yawn. “Yeah, like sleep before you get me up at the crack of dawn tomorrow.”
I stumbled out of the club into the dark.
Someone made a ribald comment behind me that I didn’t hear, but the laughter in response was unmistakeable.
It took me a minute to find my torch in my pocket and switch it on, before I went down the rock-strewn track to the dinghy.
I pushed it out into the water and got in. The engine caught on the second pull and I steered her around, headed back to Rat Island and camp. Good thing I knew this stretch of water so well – beer and driving a boat in the pitch black was bloody difficult.
I figured I had maybe half an hour before the other guys would be back. If we had the lights out by then, maybe they wouldn’t bother us. Was that enough time for a couple of drinks with her? A drink or two and one thing might lead to another….SHIT!
I felt the wave drench me from behind and saw it half fill the boat with water, knocking the torch out of my hand. The engine sputtered and died, drowned, and I found a few more four-letter words to describe the motor. I pulled on it, over and over, pounded it till my hand hurt, but the bitch didn’t catch. Dead in the water, with a boat full of water, I groped for the paddle I know had been there before the wave hit. My hand grasped the handle and I pulled it free.
Look at the bloody lucky deckie now, I fumed. Paddling his bloody dinghy back to Rat Island in the dark.
I paddled till my arms ached, but the distant lights on Rat only seemed to get further away. I saw the other guys get in their dinghies and head back to Rat Island in a convoy. I shouted and waved, but they never heard me. The wind was blowing the wrong way, carrying my voice out to sea. It had picked up a fair bit, too.
I stopped paddling to rest for a few minutes, letting the boat drift with the waves. Maybe it’ll ground on a sandbank or a rock and I can just sit here and wait till morning.
I hadn’t prayed about it, but the unsaid prayer was answered anyway. The bottom of the boat scraped across a rock. I tipped the useless motor up, in an effort to save it from further damage, as the tinnie wedged up against part of the rock just under the surface. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Now I just sit here and have wet dreams while I’m soaked through in a dinghy full of water on a rock, until someone comes looking for me in daylight. Just the thought of Vanessa with her clothes off would keep any red-blooded male warm for a night…
I drifted between sleep and daydreams, waking every time a wave jolted the boat. Another wave sloshed over the side of the boat, soaking me again, and forcing me awake. The boat was almost full of water now, I realised in panic, as I groped for a bucket to start baling with. Throwing bucket after bucket overboard, I couldn’t tell if I was making any difference to the water level in the boat.
One moment I was holding the bucket, about to scoop up more water, the next I was flying through the air, full of spray and water and no sign of the tinny. Suddenly immersed in cold, black water, I couldn’t see the surface. I struggled, kicking in the direction I thought was up, and hit a rock. I jerked back reflexively and my head cleared the water. I gulped a huge lungful of air and grabbed for the rock. I had to hold on till daylight. Surely, that couldn’t be too far away.
Another big wave broke and I tried to keep a hold of the slimy rock, but I was pushed out of reach, drifting in the current. I tried to kick my legs, but I wasn’t sure if I did. I couldn’t feel my feet and the numbness was creeping up my legs. Vanessa won’t be able to help me here, I thought. I could feel my body shake with laughter. I drifted.
I could hear the breakers on the outer reef, louder than they were from shore. I could feel the spray on my face. A wave washed over me and I was under the water again.
I thought I heard dolphins, but it sounded deeper and closer with my head submerged. Dolphins or whales? I thought I could feel them beside me, rolling me over so my face was at the surface, pulling my body through the water.
Arms lifted me into a boat, laying me down across the length of it. Dolphins with arms? No, that’s not right.
I could feel the boat moving through the water, but I couldn’t hear the engine. Maybe it was the rushing in my ears, drowning it out. All I could hear was an unearthly singing, high and sad, like some kind of suicidal dolphin. I could say I blacked out, but everything was already so fucking black I wouldn’t have noticed the difference.
I checked out of Hotel Consciousness. At least I got to dream of Vanessa naked.
About Demelza Carlton
Demelza Carlton has always loved the ocean, but on her first snorkelling trip she found she was afraid of fish.
She has since swum with sea lions, sharks and sea cucumbers and stood on spray-drenched cliffs over a seething sea as a seven-metre cyclonic swell surged in, shattering a shipwreck below.
Sensationalist spin? No – Demelza tends to take a camera with her so she can capture and share the moment later; shipwrecks, sharks and all.
Demelza now lives in Perth, Western Australia, the shark attack capital of the world.
The Ocean’s Gift series was her first foray into fiction, followed by the Nightmares trilogy.
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/oceans-gift-demelza-carlton/1114691067?ean=9781479399062
Demelza’s website: http://www.demelzacarlton. com
About the Book
Sirens don’t fall in love with humans. For centuries it has been so…
But Sirena is different. She lost her first love to sharks and a storm, cursing the islands that stole him from her.
Times have changed and she must swim ashore once more, to the islands she once cursed.
Gone are the boats powered by sail and steam – jet boats with GPS are now the order of the day.
Enter Joe, the deckhand on the Dolphin. A handy man to have around when the lights go out. He’ll fix your generator and have the lights back on in no time, no worries.
But can he seduce a siren?
Or will she swim away before he can uncover her secret?
A book about lobsters, beer and boobs, on some cursed islands off the coast of Western Australia. At least, that’s how Joe tells it.
For Sirena, it’s a very different story.