Noel and I, with some of our friends, were trying to keep our balance on the deck. The sky was that moody dull grey it gets when a storm is lingering, and the cruise ship we were on was bobbing up and down, struggling to keep pace with the large swells in the ocean.
The weather must’ve been cold-ish because staff on board were wearing their coats, but I didn’t remember feeling the cool gusts of wind, mainly because I was too busy trying to stay standing upright. People around me, other passengers and some crew, were marvelling at the ocean’s roughness, a low uneasy chattering making it only slightly audible over the waves crashing on the side of the ship.
An announcement from the bridge: “Ladies and gentlemen, the ship’s horn will sound the emergency signal; this is not a drill, nor should you abandon ship. Report to your muster stations immediately.” And then, the horn sounded, the short bursts followed by one long burst, the sound reverberating deeply within me as we made our way to the stairwells to get down to our cabins to recover our warm weather gear, medicine and lifejackets.
As we passed two crew, a blonde Australian entertainer said to her foreign counterpart, “Don’t worry… I’ve been on the ship in much rougher weather than this. One time, off the shore of Sydney…” I started walking down the staircase and lost the conversation.
People were orderly and quiet. Some people looked pale. Noel and I entered our cabin (after climbing several flights of stairs) and I started packing my medicine and clothes into my backpack. A tinge of sadness: would the ship sink? Would my belongings go with it? I was most worried about my notebook, where I jot down stories and logs and ideas. Would I remember it all? Should I take it with me just in case? And then I thought, these things can be replaced.
We ran into Don and Soni in the purser’s office. Soni looked pale, and Don didn’t look very much better. They were quite calm externally, and it amazed me because Don usually panics in an emergency. We made our way to the muster station.
For some reason, I made my way back up to the open deck again. My hands gripped the railing as the ship pitched and rolled with the ocean, and the feeling of sea-salt sprayed and dried onto the hand-railing irritated my palms. The ship seemed to slow its props, anticipating a wave or three, then plow on.
Four tugs and three flatter boats (the flatter boats sporting a Navy-coloured grey hull) appeared in an armada on the horizon. They approached seamlessly and, the captain announced over the loud-speakers, they were there to help us. We were moving to a small island in the vicinity to wait out the massive storm.
Somehow, there was a jump in events. Maybe this was because I woke up and dozed back off to sleep; I’m not sure.
I headed back down towards the muster station and got lost. For some reason, I was in a capsule of sorts, kind of like the cockpit of the space shuttle combined with the runabout’s cockpit from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. There was a pilot sitting in the main seat, with two or three other officers sitting behind a wall behind the pilot. A man came in, stating something about the officers abandoning the crew, and what made them think they could survive the rough seas? One officer responded they were just preparing the capsule just in case and if they launched the capsule, they could get help quicker for the passengers. I thought it best I leave before I heard any more of the conversation.
The captain announced we were near the island, so I headed back upstairs to peer over the side again. In the ocean were sculptures and monuments carved out of rocks of amazing colours. Some were purple, some were reddish-purple, some were blue, some were red. Some were shaped like thin obelisks, an intricate circular pattern carved on them. Others were flat and round, like a pebble, ochre in colour with a delicate flower-like pattern carved into them, making them appear to be large mono-colour marigolds. The ship was steered in between these sculptures, and the water was noticeably calmer.
The dream jumped again. We were at the island, in some sort of shelter, waiting out the storm. The ship’s crew and colonists (if that’s what they could be called) put out coffee and tea and whatever food they had. Noel was sitting in a sweatshirt and shorts on the floor, others we knew surrounding him on chairs or on the floor. Clasping his cup of tea or coffee (in a white mug), he said to me that I needed to get a long sleeved undershirt out of the box in another area.
I made my way over and was chatting to a lady who was also a passenger, more worried about finding her and her husband some shirts than me (because I was still warm). I found their sizes, but I couldn’t find mine, so I settled on a men’s shirt a size smaller than I normally wear. The strange thing about the shirts were they were all green with patterns or stripes made up of varying shades and hues of green as well.
The dream jumped again; somehow, we were back, berthed in Auckland, next to the Prince’s Wharf Hilton. The ship was damaged, its decks littered with debris and quite wet. We were all waiting to disembark the ship, and, for some reason, my high school friends Karin and Kari were there with one of our beauty therapy graduates from our school here, Alicia. The four of us were recording a TV spot about the 25th anniversary of some show, founded in 1979 according to me. We’d screwed up the first shot, so we started again. The finished product was great; we were ready to air it.
The chimes for disembarkation sounded; it was time for our group to go. Noel and I walked past a large plank of wood covering some piece of machinery or damage, and he said that had we been in a major catastrophe, he’d have used that to float on until rescued. I thought perhaps a lifeboat would have been better, but I guess beggars can’t be chosers when a ship sinks. My mind raced at the prospect of going on another cruise, how I thought maybe this was too close a call for me and I’d not want to go on another ship until the memories faded. I shrugged, picked up my backpack, and headed towards the exit.