Beneath the Cobalt Surface

by Dean Moses

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Photo by Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons.

Lucy O’dior is a citizen of the world; she makes her home on the unforgiving sea, which is where we find her — in one of her many ocean liners — powering across the Atlantic Ocean with no discernible heading in mind. The time 7:45 A.M. The trip so far: uneventful. Despite being one of the fifty richest females in the United States, O’dior is discontented. She harbors a dark secret, a childhood pain, and an extensive memory. You, dear reader, are about to discover what can happen when these three things are blended in an isolated container. Join us as we board this vessel, peel back the skin of this one-percenter and discover the horrors in BONED.

The formidable ship did not just push ferocious waves asunder — it pulverized them, cutting the whitecaps like hot butter. While most people fear the sea, or are at least are wary of it, this ship’s master — and CEO of the world famous Grand United Industries Liners — finds it calming, at least on most days.

“Fuck it!” she slammed the laptop shut before hurling it through the open window and into the crushing sea below. “No more emails.”

Lucy O’dior perched on the edge of her bedstead, she did this with an air of grace that she exhibited even when not being observed. Her thoughts drifted — traveling about the extravagant cabin — eyes darting between immoderate furnishings. Her nose may have turned blind to the stench of high-priced fragrances, but her eyes still recognized that all too familiar stink: success.

Lucy grinned a rare grin — she did not smile much anymore — for her wandering eyes fell stagnant, fixating on a low hanging chandelier. This young lady saw her past lives in each and every one of its gleams and sparkles: an orphaned baby, an abused child, a homeless teen, and an incarcerated young adult. She had come so far since those bygone days, those former realities. The luxurious candelabrum gently swayed, the incandescent twinkles vanished. With a return swing they reappeared. Again faces materialized within the crystal — yet these were not her likenesses. She recognized the haunting visages flickering in the glass, the cruel catalysts of her past lives’: a drunk driver’s bewildered stupor, her foster father’s evil glint, a landlady’s callous glare, and a judge’s disapproving scowl. These men and women had caused so much pain and torment in her life. She could clearly recollect it all, and the imagery reflected this fact. As clear as a television set, the crystal displayed the horror all over again.

Lucy is a child. She looks up from the back seat of a car, blood coats the broken windshield, wind whistles through the crack and yawns into the night. Her parents are slumped in their seats; they don’t move when a strange man approaches. He stumbles over his feet, blue and red lights flash in the distance. The picture has switched now. Foster father stands at her bedroom door; ogling eyes glinting in the shadows, fingers twitching with imagined pleasures. He rushes for her, arms outreached, but he does not reach her. The channel has changed once more. Lucy is in her twenties now. She watches as three husky men remove her belongings from her apartment. The landlady regards her with a cold, heartless glance from the upper window. Lucy now stands in a courtroom, her voice echoes: “I needed the money.” The judge hammers the gavel. “Just because you shoot up, doesn’t mean you have the right to distribute heroine. I sentence you to five years in a state penitentiary.”

Turning from the harsh memories the light fixture wrought, she caught a glimpse of herself in the cabin mirror. Short red hair, face caked in plush makeup, and body wrapped up in an exquisite dress — the smile returned. None of those past lives mattered, not anymore. That abused, homeless orphan no longer existed. In that child’s place, the unblemished glass exhibited a strong and wealthy businesswoman — the CEO of Grand United Industry Liners. She had achieved greatness and overcome the wicked ones shining in the chandelier. The only life that mattered now was her current one.

“Let it go. Those lives are just the ashes from which you arose,” she addressed the mirror. “You have more money than God, they can’t hurt you any — ”

A shrill beeping consumed the room, cutting her sentence short. Lucy silenced her wristwatch. The time eight A.M. blinked pretentiously on the digital timepiece’s tiny face, as if it were admonishing the CEO for her reluctance to attend the day’s scheduled board meeting. Dragging her patent leather stilettos across the carpet, she meandered to the door. Before exiting she — as she always did — reviewed all of the cabin’s extravagant contents, and with that, all she had achieved… and all she had left behind.

***

The hallway was alive with radiant color. A golden carpet lay beneath the woman’s heels, a ceiling showcasing powerful vessels sailing a sapphire ocean reflected in the surrounding walls’ polish. This hallway had taken Lucy years to design, the perfect harmonization of color, art, wealth, and product enhancement. Identical passageways resided in each of her ten cruise liners. Snaking a few times, the corridor finally brought her to the boardroom. Lucy hated the birdcage — as she called it due to its small, metallic interior — and all the accountabilities that came with it: Bradley Moore, Regina Collins, Charlotte Chung, and the worst of the board, Phillip Harris. They were a constant irritant, always droning on about stock market points, business partnerships, and investments. Lucy knew there was no way in hell she could become bankrupt, so the weekly meetings felt like a waste of energy. Letting out a sigh she entered the chamber, eyes refusing to meet the board of directors until absolutely necessary. The doors slammed, the clattering echoed in her ears.

“I appreciate your patience, people. As you know I am extremely busy this time of” Lucy stopped, eyes on her heels and hand reaching for her nose. “What on earth is that awful sme — ” The alarm emitted from her watch once more. “Damn thing,” she muttered, pawing at the untouchable sound.

Lucy, at last, looked up with a strident squeal. The board members were gathered at a lengthy table, their emaciated figures slumped over its refined surface, ashen faces, frayed and peeling skin, blood-shot eyes, mouths agape — prominently displaying blackened teeth — and, at the epicenter of it all, a small monitor displayed a flickering snowstorm of dots, a crude static emanating from its speakers. Lucy instantly fled back to the doors, mind focusing on her clicker-clacking heels. It was no use. The woman pulled and pulled but the doors would not budge. “Get me the fuck out of here! Hello? Hello?” she screamed — pleading over the static — now relentlessly striking the doors with balled fists, splintering her imitation nails. The exit remained steadfast, appearing to be held shut by a formless force. Where is everyone? She wondered.

Exhausted and panting, her soul grew stronger, or desperate. She resolved to face the slouching demons. With intrepid steps she moved nearer and nearer, eyes darting among the corpses, heart pounding beneath her bosom. It was not the odor, nor was it the carcasses’ unsightly appearances that disturbed her most, it was not even the stillness — the silence — the lack of life. It was their skeletal-like exterior, comparable to if their souls had been slurped from their bodies, leaving a deflated bag of bones behind. Clutching Phillip — the nearest skeleton — by the collar, she pulled the man from the table — his rigid frame sinking into the chair, a decayed tooth falling from his mouth and plummeting to the floor with a dreadful ding. Fear boiled in her gut and sprayed from her mouth: “My God,” the two words dissolved into a whisper.

Phillip’s undernourished face resembled an egg on a skillet — gurgling and spiting as additional layers of skin fell away, dancing on the air like October leaves. The last of his sweltering hide was shed, revealing another face. This corpse was no longer that of Phillip Harris, she did, however, recognize its rotten profile. Its nose was missing and its cheekbones had crumbled far beneath its lax husk, nevertheless, she identified the deceased as her late foster father. Her gaze fell back to the other bodies. They too had metamorphosed. Their gaunt appearances were unmistakable: the judge, the landlady… the drunk driver. Even in death those past lives — her tormenters — had found their way to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

“Wake up!” she bawled, exhausted from the trauma, collapsing into a seat, head falling onto the tabletop’s cool exterior. The monitor nearby was a stark reminder that this was intended to be a conference, not a dead congregation. Wishing on all precious possessions — her ocean liners — that this day was merely a nightmare from which she would soon awake proved fruitless. As the CEO buried her face in her hands, a shiver ran down her spine, for a swift draft brushed by, causing her hair to flutter. Lucy’s muscles tightened. She jumped away from the seat, knocking it to the ground. The resounding clang merged with the television’s heavy static, producing a dramatic amalgamation, akin to the tunes played at climaxes of Saturday morning serials. Escorted by this unwelcome hymn, she turned back to her faux father’s corpse, eyes falling upon an empty seat. Thenceforth a hand, freezing to the touch, crawled its way up the woman’s back on nimble fingers before implanting itself firmly atop her shoulder. Lucy’s vision blurred with terror, “My darlin’, come show daddy some love!” She sped away, the hand clasping — tearing a strap from her dress.

The corpse shuffled forward, strap dangling from its fingertips, a toothless smirk beaming from a dislocated jaw, fiery, blood-sodden eyes scorching Lucy’s soul and boiling her rapidly beating heart. Wilting from the approaching terror, half-repressed memories returned to the CEO with great clarity, comparable to if she were a little girl all over again. The table jolted, the other bodies began to animate — hands clawing at empty air, mouths snarling as if at an electric current’s behest.

“Did ya think you could get away from us that easy?” Foster father asked, in a low voice — the kind of voice that causes souls to shudder.

“All I want is to be left alone, just go away!”

“Guilty!” the judge wailed, rising from the table and hammering her fist upon its surface. “Guilty!”

Returning to the entrance, Lucy again yanked, heaved, and hit as hard as she could in a vain attempt to open the immovable doors. Finally, she turned to face the horrors, back sliding down the cold metal until she lay on the ground in a hopeless heap, acquiescing herself to her apparent fate, observing the harbingers of her past lives — foster father’s twitching hands, landlady’s cruel glare, judge’s shrill scream, and the inebriated driver’s unsteady gait. Lucy did not fight it anymore — just watched their subdued ascent, tears falling from her eyes — ready for the last of her lives to come to a macabre culmination.

The phantoms stopped, inches from her sunken figure. Reaching into their pockets, each one pulled out a tiny scrap of paper and dropped it at the CEO’s affluent footwear. Lucy awaited their wrath but that wrath did not come… they did nothing — just lingering in place. Scrambling to the pile of papers, she lifted the nearest shred, and then another and another. They were all identical: Complimentary tickets to a two-week getaway on Grand United Industries Liner…

Ten. The air fell still. The monitor’s static dispersed, a somber news anchor appeared onscreen in its place.

“I have the unfortunate responsibility of bringing our viewers some distressing news. We are just being told that the coast guard discovered the remnants of the missing cruise liner this morning at approximately eight A.M. It appears that the tenth Grand United Industries Liner sank due to an explosion onboard which damaged the hull. Over 200 people are confirmed dead while 50 more remain missing. Grand United Industries Liners had ten luxury ships in service, the principle owner, Lucy O’dior, resides on the eleventh. Stay with channel six news for more, after this — ”

The screen cut back to static before repeating the message.

“Did ya really think it was that easy, did ya think you could leave your daddy, darlin’?” foster father asked again.

Lucy looked up, into the corpse’s crimson eyes. “Yes…”

“Guilty! Guilty!” the judge squawked.

Lucy, no longer afraid, got upright. “Bet your fucking ass I’m guilty! Those complimentary tickets I mailed each of you were meant to take you on a luxury cruise to hell!”

The drunkard stumbled forward, “I didn’t mean to kill your parents, but you meant to kill us, and all the people aboard with us.”

“I would have sacrificed the lives of thousands to furnish your sunken graves. I would have done anything to get away from you fuckers — to punish you all for what you did to me and mine!”

“But, darlin’, darlin’… darlin’, you can’t get away from us.” Her adoptive father smiled, lunging forward, clutching at her slender arms with an icy grip, and wrestling her to the ground. “We will always be with you.”

She felt like that child again. Lucy kicked and punched, heel penetrating putrid flesh, fist cracking brittle bone — coagulated blood oozing from now open wounds. The corpse did not abate, its unyielding hands as swift as ever. It reached for anything it could seize, but she intercepted its fingers and tore each digit from its hand. The extremities dropped, Lucy rose, driving a heel into its skull, over and over until nothing remained above its shoulders save powdered bone and brain.

“Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” Beep. Beep. The judge’s voice morphed into that penetrating alarm. Lucy lifted her wristwatch — the time: eight A.M. How is this possible? The time my cruise liner sank, the time I left my cabi — 

She lowered her arm to see that chandelier once more, sparkling in all its brilliance — the faces from her past leering at her from within its garish shimmers. The CEO was back in her cabin, limp from the visions exhibited in its luster.

“My darlin’, Lucy.”

That smooth voice again, this time from the mirror — foster father smirked from the other side of the glass with more substance than any dream’s phantom, he appeared as alive and as wicked as the day Lucy first came into his care.

“Leave me alone!” she screeched. She — as she always did — reviewed all of the cabin’s extravagant contents, all she had achieved and all that she had never left behind. Every single extravagant item bared their faces, from bureau’s sleek surface to glitzy makeup case, their presence loomed large. Her past lives were recapitulated over and over again. The stink of success no longer hung on the air.

***

Bradley Moore, Regina Collins, Charlotte Chung, and Phillip Harris waited impatiently with sweat on their brows and laptops open in the boardroom.

“Where is she?” Charlotte finally asked.

“You know how she is,” Phillip replied.

“Yeah, so just think how she will be when she reads that email. Nobody takes kindly to being investigated, especially when that investigation includes murder and, least of all, insurance fraud.”

“Hell of an email to wake up.” Bradley piped up. “Looks like we will need to dock at the next po — ”

“Hold it, People,” Regina’s voice was heard for the first time. “It looks like the email has been opened — she’s seen it already. I think somebody needs to go find her. She can’t be taking it well.”

***

Phillip pushed open the cabin door to see a once opulent chamber in ruins. The room’s chandelier had been torn from the ceiling, the bed had been overturned, and mirror had been shattered into a spider’s web of cracks. Lucy O’dior sat amidst broken glass and tattered clothing. “Where are my parents? We were on the way to the boat show, but there was a crash. Where are they?” she mumbled.

“Pleading insanity isn’t going to cut it. We are in deep shit here. I am not taking the fall for this.”

She looked up through a haze of smeared markup. Their gaze met.

“No, I don’t want to stay with him, he looks at me funny.”

Phillip saw something different in her eyes.

“Lucy, we are in big trouble here. They think you sunk that ship. They want us to reroute.”

“No, don’t take my home away, I can pay next month… just one more month.”

Phillip kneeled beside her, his arm reluctantly draped over her shoulder, as tears built in her eyes.

“Don’t send me away, judge. I don’t want to go to prison.”

Lucy O’dior is a one-percenter; she owns fine fragrances and luxury clothing. She eats premium food from deluxe silverware. Unfortunately for O’dior, she also consumed poison from a cold dish labeled revenge. This citizen of the world makes her home on the ocean in attempt to escape her past lives — to be alone. But, try as she might, she is never alone. She is accompanied on that merciless sea by the four unforgiving souls whose earthly forms now reside far beneath its cobalt surface, in a rusty relic identified only as Grand United Industries Liner Ten. Or, as O’dior knows it: G.U.I.L.T.

Dean Moses is the author of A Stalled Ox, entertainment contributor for the Spring Creek Sun, wordsmith extraordinaire, and hungry vegan.

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