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Guilt

The boat tore through the immaculacy of the previously serene sea like a knife through silk. It rippled uncertainly, but reformed quickly as the ship meandered through. This was Waldo Patterson’s prized yacht, currently wandering through a lesser sea off of the coast of Spain.

Waldo himself was sitting on the deck, sipping a tall glass of Spanish fly, enjoying the ocean. He gazed at the peaceful horizon, lost in the smooth, rolling field of azure. Smiling, he shifted in his deck chair and out of his pocket fell an old, well-worn bronze locket. The blissful smile fell from his face.

With some difficulty, he cracked the locket open, moaning slightly as he did. A pale, white face stared back at him with uniquely gorgeous dark blue eyes, a cheerful grin on the red lips. Waldo sighed again, staring into the picture.

“Oh…” he murmured, “Ivana… My sweet Ivana…” He put the locket onto the deck table. It shone dully in the sun’s light.

“Why did I lose you?” he asked tiredly, “Why did you leave me?” He wrapped the necklace’s chain around his finger unconsciously. Abandoning the jewelry on the tabletop, he refocused himself on the ocean. The water was choked with seaweed of all colors—fiery reds, forest greens, inconspicuous browns—and his eyes were drawn to them as they bobbed gracefully atop the waves. They danced and mingled; they spun and linked together; they morphed in such unimaginable ways he was sure he was dreaming as he watched them. Gradually, they changed and moved and grew and shrunk until they had formed a very familiar face, the face of his wife. He threw himself away from the ethereal seaweed formation, nearly falling out of his chair, but could not resist the urge to take another look, to be sure that he was not insane.

It was Ivana, borne of seaweed. Her two repulsive but strangely beautiful red lips pursed, parted, and moved awkwardly. The seaweed monster hissed and gurgled, and Waldo was sure it was calling for him. He flung himself out of the chair and over the table, crawling until he reached the cabin of the ship. Frightened and panting like mad, Waldo slid into the tight room and lay down on the floor. Slowly, he calmed himself, truly believing that what he saw was only a mirage, the product of grief and a mild case of sunstroke. Warily, he crept back out onto the deck of the ship, and, seeing nothing different or odd about his surroundings, lowered himself into his chair, suspicious of everything. Little by little, he relaxed, leaning farther back into the seat and letting the warmth of the sun wash over him, forgetting about the vivid hallucination, because that is all it was—a hallucination.

The day went lazily by, and, hours later, the sun began to dip down in the sky. Waldo’s cap had long since fallen over his eyes, and he was fast asleep. Suddenly, he was wakened by the irritating call of a flock of seagulls. He blinked a few times, and groggily opened his eyes. Twenty dozen seagulls stood solemnly, balanced on the rails of the yacht. Twenty dozen seagulls glared at him from their perch. Twenty dozen seagulls, all sporting the face of his wife. As soon as they noticed him awake, they began to chant in broken caws.

“MUR…”

“…DER!”

“MUR…”

“…DER!”

“WAL…”

“…DOE!”

“MUR…”

“…DER!” Waldo screamed.

“No! No!” he shrieked, trying in vain to shoo away the stubborn seagulls, “I loved you! I loved you!” Suddenly, they all fluttered their wings and took to the sky in unison, while Waldo stood, awestruck, on his yacht. His eyes fell from the fleeing birds and found the water again. There, he saw a school of fish, scrambling around hurriedly until they became the perfect, sculpted oval that was his wife’s face. He shook his head and looked away. Everywhere—in the water, in the sky, in the clouds, even in the elegant treasure that was his boat—traipsed the unrest spirit of his wife. Her face was in everything, always staring at him, smiling at him, calling out to him words he could not discern.

Waldo escaped her ghostly visage by returning to the cabin. He locked himself inside, praying that the lamp or the blotter on his desk wouldn’t suddenly exhibit her likeness. Nothing stirred. He breathed a sigh of relief and walked over to the large cabin window that framed the natural beauty of the sea. He spotted a tiny, brownish smudge on the horizon. Finding and putting his glasses on, he saw that he was headed towards an island, and, if his course remained unchanged, would be unintentionally landing there very soon. He tried to run outside to save the ship, himself as well, but the door refused to budge. He pounded on it with his fists, weeping as a child does when they throw a tantrum. Finally, the door gave way and he sprinted onto the deck.

It was too late. The yacht crashed into a high pile of rocks on the island and Waldo was thrown from it, landing headfirst in the sand. Night had fallen already—a full moon hung lifelessly in the sky—and his only way of sensing his location was through the crunch of sand underneath his feet or the tickle of the cool water on his toes. He struggled to stand but could not—the accident had left him injured and dazed. Instead, he hauled his weak body in the other direction, away from the ship and, hopefully, from the surf.

He found himself staring into the milky white face of his deceased wife. She stood, black waves of liquid crystal pulsating around her bare feet, rotted green seaweed dangling from her shoulders. He shuddered, horrified, but felt an irresistible draw to her lone figure. He forced himself to look at her again. She was beckoning him, blowing him the occasional kiss from her colorless lips.

“Come…” she whispered breathily, “Come to me…” Waldo stared at her. He gulped.

“Ivana,” he said, his voice wavering, “I didn’t kill you. I didn’t kill you, Ivana—”

“Come…” she called, her voice loud but somehow just as chillingly soft, “Come to me…” Her eyes flashed like fire. Despite his better judgment, Waldo began to crawl towards her, unable to stop himself.

“Oh… my… darling…” he muttered. As he inched along, Ivana seemed to be farther and farther away from him.

“My… darling… Ivana…” he breathed, delirious and exhausted, but genuinely determined. He now felt the coolness of the water caressing his back; only his head remained untouched by the chilly waves.

“Come…” Ivana called one last time, sinking down under the water. Waldo followed her, vanishing beneath the sea.





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