The Wreck of the Douceur Suprême(1)
(1. par rapport aux autres mouchoirs ultra doux.)
It’s not easy to sail on a box of Kleenex, but the Captain swears it’ll be worth it. We’ve been at it for some time. Roving over fearsome waves, scrambling to catch enough wind in the tissue. Dodging flying fish and gulls who come swooping, curious for the taste of branded cardboard. Seven of us and our beloved Captain.
It’s a merciless afternoon. We lurch and plunge over high blue triangles. The cook serves salted dust and shedhair pasta, but the chop knocks food off our plates. Most of us are still hungry when the sun plants its pink kiss on the horizon.
Captain, asks one of the deckhands. Do you recall our port of departure?
And when will our voyage end?
He gazes over the bow. His head tips forward. Old Nods, that’s his way. He’s never told us a thing; that’s why we trust him.
Every so often, the sea splashes under the plastic wrap. When this occurs, two of us descend through flaps of tissue, reinforcing the damp sections with spiderwebs. If any tissues were sogged by the breach, we bring them topside to air out in the wind. This is difficult and constant work. When the waves are vicious we might go entire nights without sleep.
The worst is when it rains. At the coming of each squall, we retreat into the plush cabin and batten down the plastics. Invariably our sail is destroyed and washed away, as is our mast and our rigging of old twine. Tonight is the worst it’s ever been. The deluge threatens to waterlog the cabin and utterly ruin us. We huddle together, shuddering, powerless. Were it not for the Captain’s steadfast head bob we would surely panic.
Repairs begin under the stars. We press-roll tissues to craft a new mast and raise our latest sail on frayed halyards. Everyone’s thinking the same thing. We’ve only got so many tissues left; when the cabin runs empty what then? But old Nods is unbothered. His gaze fixes north, eyes reeling in the horizon. Wherever we’re sailing, we’re always closer than before.
They came from nowhere.
We sit watching the sunrise when our hull is assailed by 2-ply grapples. We rush to ready our snot cannons too late. Pirates of the feared Charmin fleet board us, armed with Q-tips and blood. We attempt to fight back, unleashing a defensive swarm of dust mites on the invaders. But it’s no use. They have us lashed in their cylindrical brigs before noon.
Using only his neck muscles, Captain Nods deliberates with the pirates. It is agreed we may go free if we turn over everything in our cabin. The pirates say if they catch us sailing these seas ever again they’ll sink us to the soggiest depths.
We resume sail empty. The pirates bob away with whatever hope we might have had. With our load lightened, the waves absolutely throttle us. The horizon is as far as it ever was.
The crew convenes by night. We’re doomed, someone says. We can’t put our faith in the Captain to save us any longer.
What else can we do? asks the cook. We’re nothing but trash on the ocean.
A third sailor purses her lips. Our only choice is to join the pirates. We’ll fly our final sail as a white flag of truce, and the next time they come floating by, we’ll pledge ourselves over. It’ll be cruel work, but we’ll have our share of plunder and plenty of soapscum to eat.
A murmur echoes in the dark. Yes, someone says, in a world like this, you have to be a cutthroat if you want to survive. We all agree. But why are we in a world like this in the first place? No one knows.
Three days later we are starving and a storm rumbles not far off. The sea is rambunctious, waves knocking us sideways, buckling our legs. No more time. Someone gives the signal and we tie the Captain to the mast.
We’re so sorry, says everyone. But we’d rather live evil than sail righteously to our deaths. He dips his head. He understands. Even in mutiny, he understands.
We reef the sails and float still, desperate for our paths to cross again with the brigands. The storm evades us. Day turns to night and back to day. Some of us are very close to collapsing. We’ve tried spinning what little tissue we have into a plankton net, but the sea strips it to nothingness. Another storm rises. Wind so foul it throws us across the surface. Waves so high they eat the sky. We hold on for dear life, we tell each other how we love each other and how even though we came together only to die, we’re happy to have done it together.
Finally comes the rogue wave, the wave that rends our plastic coating to shreds and floods the cabin, capsizing our vessel once and for all. Abyss clutches us. Everything black and salty-cold. A sailor’s goodbye.
Our awakening is white and soft. Our eyes open one pair at a time. Sun on spun ground. We’ve washed ashore. A great desert of linens stretches before us. Its dunes are lush with crumbs and beetles. We stuff our faces and rejoice.
There’s enough loose string on the mattress to build homes. To build lives. We’ve made it. All of us except the Captain. The quartermistress sighs, gazing at the splendor of a pillow mountain with streams of fresh spring grease. If only we’d stuck it out with old Nods a while longer. He could have been here to see this.
It’s a rotten thing we did, says the cook. But how could we have known different?
At night, we snack on dandruff cakes, watching gentle waves roll over the stitching. Once in a while the moon seems to tip toward us, bending into a wry smile at the corners, or maybe that’s just our imagination.
About the author:
Karter Mycroft has been described as “talented” and “not allowed in this aquarium anymore.” Karter writes weird fiction about sea creatures (including humans) and has been published in Zooscape, The Colored Lens, Made in L.A. Volume 3, and elsewhere. Karter lives in Los Angeles.