First Night: The Conflict Between Hope and Cynicism
Story by Dr. Lee Brazil
Foreword and Epilogue by:
Written by Ron Breazeale, Ph.D.
All Rights Reserved
December 22, 2019, 10:46 A.M.
Their destination, Kings Wharf and the Royal Naval dockyard, was over twenty-five miles away on the opposite end of the island. As Father Allen had said, their driver was a talker. But he was also filled with questions. Where were they from? What brought them to Bermuda? Joann answered these questions as best she could and explained that Emanuel was not feeling well which, from Lee’s perspective, was the truth. As they left St. Georges, Michael pointed out the sights. The unfinished church, the State House. They by-passed Hamilton, Bermuda’s capital, a modern city, and followed the coastline passing beautiful beaches and driving through other small villages that looked similar to St. Georges. Lee paid little attention to the travelogue. He closed his eyes and continued to try to make sense out of everything that had happened over the last twenty-four hours. It was all too much for Lee to understand. There was no sense to be made. The early afternoon sun on his face, the drone of the conversation, the motion of the taxi, Lee drifted off. When they arrived at the dock, Joann had to shake Lee awake.
“What?” said Lee.
“We’re here.” Joann stepped out of the cab, paid Michael and thanked him.
Lee took off the sunglasses and rubbed his eyes. He stumbled out of the taxi and followed Joann up the dock toward the ship. It was a beautiful afternoon. The sky was clear, the ocean a bright metallic blue.
The Saint was the only cruise ship in the boatyard. Built in the late 1990s, she was considered old and, although she could accommodate over two thousand passengers and a thousand crew, she was now considered by “modern standards” to be a small cruise ship.
There was only one customs officer at the ship entrance. Joann smiled, showed her passport and Emanuel’s and explained that Emanuel was dealing with a migraine. Lee nodded agreement, and the two were allowed entry to the ship.
There was no one else in the entryway. They boarded the elevator to their deck, Deck 4. When they got off, Joann directed them down the hall.
The ship was quiet. No sound. No activity.
“Where is everyone?” asked Joann. “It’s like a ghost ship.” “You may be right,” said Lee.
“I’ll see you in a minute,” said Joann, as she slid her keycard into the door.
“Okay,” said Lee, waiting for something else. He fumbled through his shirt and pants pockets, finally finding the card to his room in his jacket pocket. He slipped it into the door. He pushed the door open slowly. A stateroom with an ocean view meaning he had a porthole. He explored the room with his eyes. A small bath, a microwave, double bed, chair. There was a knock on the door. Lee opened it, but no one was there. The knock came again. He realized it was Joann knocking on the door that adjoined the two cabins. Lee opened it.
“What were you doing?” she demanded.
Lee, taken somewhat aback, “Just looking over the place.”
“Well, you’re going to find this is the weirdest ship you’ve ever been on, with the weirdest people. I’ve been on cruise ships before, but never one like this. I almost had the driver take me to the airport this morning for a flight back to Boston. Maybe I should have. Now, tell me what’s going on?What kind of a mess have you gotten into?”
“I don’t know,” said Lee. “I’m just as confused as you. Maybe even more confused.”
“Well, if you don’t know, I don’t. I just answered an ad on the Internet. You know how I hate the holidays. I thought it would be an opportunity to get away for a few days. Some extra money, not that I need any. Taking care of a couple of kids.”
She went on. “It all sounded good, so I e-mailed the couple my résumé and within a few hours, I got a positive response and directions to the dock. The next day I got a FedEx with a train ticket to Boston and a round-trip ticket on The Saint.”
She turned and walked over to the window and continued on. She needed to talk.
“See Bermuda. I had never. I had always avoided it for some reason. And that cross.”
“Oh, yes,” said Lee.
“For some reason I felt like I had to return it to my grandfather’s church. Strange.”
Joann turned to face Lee. “You know, I took the cross to a jeweler once. I asked him if he could tell me what the stones were in the cross. I thought they might be emeralds. He couldn’t. He said they weren’t emeralds, but he had no idea what they were or where they were from.” Lee looked away and changed the subject.
“So what was so wrong with the cruise and the ship?” asked Lee. There was silence. Joann looked out the porthole and put her hand to her cheek.
“I . . . don’t really know. I mean, the passengers weren’t . . . normal. They seemed surprised and fascinated by everything.” She shook her head. “The television, my cell phone, you name it. I don’t know what rocks some of these people had been under for the last fifty years.”
“And the kids?” asked Lee.
“Two little boys. They were fine. But they kept talking about being on a yacht. And a storm. Taking a trip around the world. And the yacht had a strange name–uh, ‘The Empress’–no, ‘The Enchanter.’”
“The Enchantress?” asked Lee.
“Yes. I believe it was The Enchantress.” Joann looked at Lee.
“Built in the mid-twenties. Lost in the Caribbean in the mid-sixties.”
“How do you know that?” snapped Joann.
“You know . . . I’ve always been a fan of Maine maritime history.”
“Oh, yes,” said Joann, remembering.
“There was a family aboard. A husband and wife and two children, and a small crew.” Lee began to pace. “Wreckage of the ship was never found. They all just disappeared.”
“Sounds crazy to me,” said Joann, dismissively. “So what has it got to do with us?” She stared at Lee again.
“I don’t know,” said Lee. “Nothing I guess.”
“Well, there’s nothing I can do about it. This whole thing is beyond me.” She sounded scared. She turned away from Lee. “So, I’m just going to be a good girl and do what I was told to do by Father Allen.” She moved toward the adjoining cabin door. “And what I promised to do. I will report you to sick bay.” She took hold of the door and pushed Lee through it. “Now, back to your cabin and look sick.” She smiled as if all was understood.
“I really don’t think I’m going to have a hard time looking sick.”