The ferry was very late. I was not troubled by the fact, was not even puzzled. At this point I was somewhat detached from the events transpiring around me; observant, but not engaged.
Outside, rain poured down on the island and the ocean. It came down it fat, cold drops interspersed with hail. Soft orange lights broke up the darkness. I watched them with interest, being at the point in tiredness where animal instincts begin to surface.
It took a sip of the liquid contained within the cup in my hand. It had once, long ago, been coffee. For some time now, I had been topping it off with a bottle of Jack Daniels from my bag, and it was now as much whiskey was coffee.
I was inside the passenger lounge at Sturdies Bay, a room by the ferry dock with large glass windows that provided poor insulation. Cold, dim lights burned above my head. Each had at least one insect beating itself to death against its surface.
I fleetingly wondered how long I had been waiting. I began to try and decide. Much to my surprise, I realised that I didn’t care.
I looked up, and saw a man sitting across from me. This was strange. I couldn’t feel his presence. One can normally tell if they are not alone, but this man had no aura that indicated his presence. I had to concentrate to see him.
He looked a bit like me, only old and tired. A beard streaked with grey covered his chin, and his eyes were weary and blank. He was wearing the same genes and jacket I had, but both were tattered and threadbare. Judging by the way he was sitting, he had been sitting in the same spot for a very long time.
I opened my mouth to speak, but my throat had gone dry. I gulped and spoke.
“Um … hello.”
He looked up slowly, and proceeded to gaze balefully into my eyes. The look of pity on his face confused me further.
“Hello,” he said.
He spoke in my voice. My real voice. Not the shrill parody heard in recordings and over telephones.
“It must be near midnight,” I said, trying to make conversation.
I couldn’t think of a response, so I didn’t say anything.
”Tell me: how long do you suppose you’ve been waiting,” he asked.
I hesitated. “Probably around an hour.”
“Would the cup have lasted you an hour?” he asked.
For a moment, I felt slightly mad. How dare he speak in my voice?
“I’ve been topping it off,” I said.
“Enough to make it last an hour?”
“I drank it slowly.”
“Why is it still warm?”
I looked up at the man who was me. “How long have I been waiting,” I asked, almost harshly.
“Not as long as I have,” he replied.
Outside, the rain began to pour down with new ferocity. A piece of hail hit the window and created a small but visible crack.
I got to my feet unsteadily, hands shaking, brow sweating.
“What’s happening!?” I asked, louder than I had meant to.
The look of pity on his face became more pronounced. I decided that he pitied not only me, but himself. Perhaps there wasn’t a difference.
“You have been waiting for a very long time,” he said.
The man was gone. I decided that I was more drunk than I had thought. I sat down, head spinning.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder.
I whipped around. Beside me was myself. I was very old. My hair had gone, and my eyes were more tired than a soul should have to bear.
“Longer than you can imagine,” I croaked to myself.
Head pounding, I grabbed my old self by the collar. The fabric came apart in my fist.
“What the hell is going on!” in shouted. The other me was gone. My blood ran cold. I waited for a very long time.
There was a sickly squelch from the chair to my left. I gulped, and forced myself to turn once again.
I was sitting in the chair, dead. I was older still. In one of my hands was my Swiss Army Knife. My throat was cut.
I retreated to some place deep within myself, eyes glazed, hardly aware of my surroundings. The rain came down harder still, thickening the air.
I closed my eyes. I waited.
After an eternity, I pried my eyes open and looked. On the opposite side of the room was myself. Not old. I was the old one.
There was the sound of a fog horn.
My young self grinned at me. The grin sent chills down my spine. He got up, opened the door, and stepped out into the rain to board the incoming ferry.
I tried to stand, but my legs failed me. I felt suddenly dizzy, and was forced to sit again. I blacked out.
Later, I awoke, utterly disoriented. Light hurt. My limbs felt heavy and numb. My breathing came hard. Not unexpectedly, when I looked down at my hands, they were withered with age. What surprised me was that one was holding my knife.
“No,” I breathed.
I cast the knife to the floor. A fog horn came again.
I forced myself to my feet, fought through the dizziness, and took a step towards the door. I took another, and another. Each came easier than the last. I finally made it to the door and threw it open. A cold blast of rain hit my face and chilled me to the core, and I welcomed it.
I threw myself outwards into the rain, and felt myself falling. The sensation ended, and I was standing again; cold, soaked, and young. The lights of the incoming ferry blinded me for a moment. I stretched out my arms to greet them.
The Queen of Cumberland landed ungracefully in the dock. Metal scraped against metal, rain hammered down, and untamed ocean waves crashed against the shore. I laughed until my throat was raw and my stomach ached.
I stepped onto the rain-slick deck of the ferry, was greeted by a woman in a booth, and ascended the staircase.
It was a very long ride.