The small yacht named Us Three stood in the port of the Royal Malta Yacht Club, bobbing slowly in the blood-warm tide below the old walls of the city. A filigree of dashed clouds rolled over the island and out toward Sicily.
Although the Us Three had bunks for four, as the name suggested, there were three on board. Paul and his wife, Sarah, bought the yacht before their fifteen-year-old son, Max, was born and rarely sailed it until he turned ten. When Paul retired early after a successful start-up sale, he had a college student sail it from New York to Miami, and they met the boat to set sail across the Atlantic. On July 4th, they landed at Ceuta and at Valletta a week later. Now the family—hale and tan as leather from the long trip—was walking the medieval streets of the ancient town. The boat was alone, bobbing on her moorings.
The water of the port was dark and deep, a wave or two from a passing yacht making the little craft murmur against her ropes. Before they left, they tied her sails down and locked her hatch, but in the gathering gloom the boat became home to something else, something clot-red and strange and hungry, something that slurped out of the water and, once on deck, found a crack and slid below. It slept there until the man, the woman, and their boy came back later in the night, the mother flush with wine and the father flush with whiskey and the boy too tired to even read in his little, cozy bunk. He slept while his parents kissed on the deck, and while they made love under the stars, still drunk at 2:00 a.m., while the town slept.
When the parents came belowdecks, the red thing came between them and squirmed itself into the man, finding purchase in places hidden, masking the pain of its coming in the tumult of his booze-flashed head.