Not All Of What Follows Is True

A recurring journal of mixed veracity.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Excerpt from Hispaniola
(a work in progress)

Parker was perched on the prow of an elderly speedboat. The engine was off and the boat drifted gently on the waves. Despite it being at least twenty years old, the boat looked like it could shift when it needed to. It had a sleek, purposeful outline and an excessively macho name that Klein said was the same as some old movie Parker had never seen. From the side the boat looked like a monohull, but if you moved round to the front you could see it actually had a kind of trimaran thing going on, each of the three hulls so narrow that the boat almost disappeared below the cabin. Klein said the richest guy in Rabat used to own five of these back in the day, and would use them to run cigarettes or alcohol or whatever else they used to smuggle, clipping too fast for the coastguard over the night-time waves to Gibraltar and Spain.

The sea wasn’t choppy but the occasional swell did make the boat dip and bob, and Parker’s fingers kept slipping on the little terminal attached to the satellite dish. After a few minor setting changes, the dish locked on to its orbiting target and began to track automatically. Parker made his way back towards the cabin, crouched with one hand on the deck for balance. They were far out to sea now. Parker thought he could see land, but it might have been low-lying cloud or something. There were some boats in the distance. They looked like local fishing vessels, nothing to worry about. On the horizon, a vast container ship inched westwards.

“Dude,” said Klein, popping his head out of the cabin, “what are you doing?”

“Just staring into space, mate,” said Parker.

“Come on inside and have a beer while we wait,” said Klein.

The air conditioning was on but, like the rest of the boat, the system had seen better days. It was a little cooler inside than out, though, and at least it was out of the sun. Klein fished around in the cooler he’d bolted to the floor by the driver’s seat and produced, with a flourish, two bottles of Asahi.

“Just got to chill for a while now,” he said, handing Parker one of the bottles.

“I don’t see why we had to come out here so early anyway,” said Parker.

“Well,” said Klein, “you can’t be too careful.”

They sat in silence for a while, listening to the slap of the waves on the hull and the slosh of the water beneath the surface. That had surprised Parker at first – he’d never really been on boats much before and had kept thinking it was the sound of water trickling in through a hole somewhere in the hull. Klein had chuckled the first time Parker had pointed it out, when they were in harbour in a converted trawler somewhere close to Nevis. Chuckled and told him to relax, in his stereotypically Southern Californian way – an acquired demeanour, since he was actually from Minnesota. Not that you’d know it from his deep sailor’s tan.

“I’m going to plug in quickly and check the system’s, you know. Everything OK,” said Parker.

Klein regarded him quizzically. He knew it wasn’t really necessary.

“Just to put my mind at rest,” said Parker. His voice sounded oddly plaintive.

“You still getting those things when you plug in?” asked Klein.

“No,” said Parker, “not really. Well, sometimes. It comes and goes.”

“Man,” said Klein, shaking his head. “You gotta have someone see about that. Go to a doctor. This is important stuff we’re talking about, here. That’s your brain. It’s your mind.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s OK.”

He did get one of “those things” when he plugged in, after all. He hoped his expression didn’t give that away to Klein, who would only become more concerned. No sense in getting Klein agitated. It was an image of a memory, something long-forgotten. A sound of traffic and sunlight streaming through a dusty window. No context. Yet a sense of familiarity. As quickly as the image had appeared in Parker’s mind, it was gone. It was sure to be only a minor issue with the wiring in his implants, just a temporary stimulation of the wrong part of the brain when he flicked the on switch. In truth, Parker himself had been worried about the phenomenon too, much more so than Klein. He’d fretted about it for days, hadn’t even dared touch the equipment. His anxiety had faded recently, though. About a month ago Parker’s doctor had put him on medication to combat his hypochondria, and now it was kicking in he really didn’t care about the implants one way or another.

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