Ghost Marina on the Mississippi

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Chapter 15 – Nightmare in the Marina – Modern Day

That night, after a light dinner of cold chicken and a garden salad straight from the packet, followed by yogurt for dessert, Jason sat outside with a coffee enjoying the peacefulness of the deserted marina. There was no artificial light in the area and he was able to see a multitude of stars that he could never get to witness in the city of Cleveland. Today had been an interesting day, at least he had found what he believed to be the boat his grandfather had used for his trip. But there were still no answers to other questions, what had happened to the boat to make it sink? What had happened to the two men, the dockmaster and the people on the paddle steamer? It was a conundrum, much like the mysteries of the universe he was now gazing at. Where did it end? When did it start? What was there before? Is there a sign on a wall that says, ‘this is the end of the universe’? If so, what’s on the other side of the wall? Which provided a segue from his reverie back to his present surroundings. Maybe in the morning, he would discover some more clues and the reason for the wall.

With that in mind, Jason began to think about what he could do in the morning other than to have another scout around to see what he could find. After all, at this time last night, he didn’t feel he had a chance of finding out anything, but he had certainly turned that notion on its head. Then he suddenly remembered he had to touch base with the girls, he knew there would be no WiFi to transmit any emails, but could he get a signal for his phone? He located his smartphone down in the cabin and returned topside in an attempt to find a signal. Whether it was the wall or lack of cell-towers in the area was neither here nor there but his phone, to all intent and purposes, was useless as a communications device at that moment. The girls would just have to wait, he thought, but just then, a sudden tiredness washed over him. Having been out in the open all day, walking, diving, especially when you are not used to it, it can do that to you. So, Jason decided to turn in for the night but as he rose to climb down the stairs to the cabin the sound of a slight splash caught his attention. He was immediately drawn to the commotion but all he could see were ripples emanating from just above where the St. Louis Streamer lay. What actually had caused the ripples was hard to say in the dying light, so he merely shrugged his shoulders, continued downstairs to go to bed. Jason began to undress, most nights he would go to bed in pajamas or at least his underpants, but tonight, he thought, what the heck, there’s no one around, so he climbed, buck-naked, into his sleeping bag. It wasn’t long before he had fallen into a deep sleep.

It was the patter of rain on the roof of his boat that made Jason initially sit-up. Then, above the rain, he could hear the sound of music, a jazzy tune that he didn’t recognize. He climbed out of his sleeping-bag to check first his MP3 player, then his phone but both were firmly switched off. Then he searched for any other electronic devices that were capable of playing music before it suddenly occurred to him that instead of being pitch black, as it was when he went to sleep, there was easily enough light to see what he was doing, even through the black-tinted windows of his boat. He looked outside to witness an amazing sight, all the lights in the marina were on, illuminating the docks which had been miraculously restored to their original condition. Beside his boat, in the next slip, the cabin-cruiser was afloat in all its magnificence, just as Chuck had described it. Beyond that, was the St. Louis Streamer in all its glory with party lights hanging all around its structure and up along the stays that were holding the radio mast in place. It could quite easily pass as a Christmas boat in a marina parade. The music he could hear was coming from the paddle steamer and he could see people moving around inside the boat. He was immediately drawn to the sound of the music and proceeded to slide open his hatch door.

Jason climbed out of his boat and oblivious of the rain pouring down he began walking towards the music coming from the paddle steamer. He caught a glimpse of a man staring over the side of the cabin-cruiser and was about to say something to him, but his attention was drawn to two men walking quickly towards him, their heads huddled under their coats to protect them from the rain.

“Hi!” Jason said, but the two men ignored him, it was almost as if they hadn’t seen him. As they passed, Jason only managed to get a quick glance at the men, but it was enough to realise that the tall man hunched under his coat looked suspiciously like some of the old pictures he had of his grandfather. He turned to say something to them, but they quickly climbed into the shelter of the cabin-cruiser and were soon out of sight.

Continuing along the dock, Jason arrived at the paddle steamer, walked up the gangplank on the stern and opened the door. Immediately his body started responding to the beat of the music being played by an African-American quartet playing a type of swinging jazz he had never been subject to. Immediately, he was approached by a beautiful lady who proceeded to dance with him. For the first time since his wife had passed away, Jason was really enjoying himself until a man came in from the bridge of the boat wielding a gun and beckoning everyone through a door heading down to some steps. The music stopped, and everyone began to proceed down the steps indicated by the man. The last to leave was the lady Jason had been dancing with, she began to walk towards the step, trying to pull Jason with her. Reluctantly, he tried to pull away as her lips were trying to mouth something, but he couldn’t interpret what it was she was trying to tell him. Jason tried to move closer to understand the wording as she moved her lips but the nearer he got, the more her lips began to shrink. Slowly, all the lady’s teeth were revealed, then her gums began to recede and gradually, the skin on her face began to melt away until all Jason was facing were the bare cheek-bones of the once beautiful lady.

Jason recoiled in horror and made one last desperate effort to pull his arm away from the gloved hand of the lady. He succeeded, but in doing so, the force of his tug not only pulled the glove from her hand, it also brought with it the skin and the flesh of her arm revealing the white bones of her hand. The bracelet she was wearing went flying and settled underneath one of the catering tables against the wall. Jason’s attention was briefly directed towards the jewelry but was more concerned about the body parts he had in his hand. Immediately, Jason let go of the glove he was holding in disgust and watched as it almost floated to the floor. Jason looked up from the loose skin and flesh wafting around on the floor only to see the almost skeletal remains of the lady receding through the doorway with all the other passengers, who had now also turned into skeletal replicas of their former selves. Still, the lady was reaching out to him almost pleading for him to follow her down the steps. But the man with the gun was herding everyone down the steps with the lady being the last to leave. Suddenly, the man turned to face Jason, by now, the man’s face was a mask of decomposing flesh with flaps of skin falling around empty eye-sockets and his skeletal hand lifted to point the gun directly at Jason. Jason tried to reel back, but his legs were struggling to move and to make matters worse, it was then that he realised he was stark naked. Worse yet, the boat was sinking, he was desperate to get away from the gunman and off the boat. Jason was getting wetter and wetter, but the more he tried to move his legs the more resistance he was encountering, he was unable to escape.

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