Swinging Lamps

Swinging Lamps

For Quibblo Writing Contest no. 24 - voting and commenting is appreciated!

All Carter Campbell's ever wanted is to continue the family legacy, but in an abrupt turn of events, Carter's rose-colored life is brutally shattered by an accident... and everything changes.

Soon after, run-of-the-mill preschool teacher Abigail Price becomes torn between contrasting worlds. As the lines between her mind and heart blur, Abigail's view on life, death and love is turned upside down completely.

Chapter 1

Siren's Song

It was not necessarily the shrill howling of the wind that woke Carter up, or the sound of panicked shouting and of pans falling out of their cabinets. It could have been the flickering lights, the unmistakable smell of the overworked engine, the wild and unstable movements of the boat... It could have been anything, but Carter Campbell's gut knew better.

Sitting up quickly - as much as sitting was possible with the low ceiling, anyway - Carter fumbled with the straps of the protective flap that was supposed to prevent him from falling out of his bunk. His fingers trembled. The cold, he told himself, it's the cold.


Carter tumbled out of bed, catching his fall just in time. "I'm awake!" he yelled back, throwing clothes around in search of his overalls. "Awake, sir!"

Shaun McDonald's shadow appeared in the doorway, his wrinkled face pale in the weak light. His mouth was turned down grimly. "Storm outside, we need your help tying things down."

"Is she a one or a twelve?" Carter asked, forcing an arm into the blue suit.

"A full-blown eight," Shaun replied brusquely. "Take care outside, boy. I promised your father I would bring you home without any broken bones."

"Yes, sir," Carter mumbled, pushing past the man quickly. He was halfway down the bleach-white hall when what must have been a wave crashed into the side of the ship and sent Carter and most of the ship's unbound items flying to the port side. Shaun cursed loudly behind him, clutching an opened door for support.

"That's not an eight," Carter hollered, brushing half-empty coca cola bottles off of himself as the ship stablized itself. "That's a fucking ten, Shaun!"


But Carter was already climbing the small ladder up to the wheelhouse, where captain Miguel Rivera was shouting into the VHF, his voice partially drowned out by the noise outside. Despite the chill in the room, sweat was pooling on his brow. "This is the Anna Maria VI, over," he barked. "Our position is—"

Not wanting to hear the rest, Carter threw the heavy door open and slipped outside. The first thing to hit him was the strong wind, like a thick wall of vaporized salt. Carter had to squint his eyes to assess the situation properly. It was dark, too dark. Even the stars, normally so easily seen this far from shore, had been hidden by the laden clouds. Cold water spilled over Carter's feet, rendering his toes numb almost instantly - boots, goddamn it, he had forgotten his boots.

"CARTER!" someone - presumably John, his uncle - bellowed as a flood of water sprayed them. "Give me a hand, will you?!"

"What do you need?" Carter shouted back, clutching a tied-down buoy for support as a wave rolled under the boat.

"It's the tanks, we need to tie them down. She's very angry tonight, so make sure you're lined up! And for God's sake, son, be careful!"

Carter did not respond as the glow-in-the-dark yellow line of his 'belt' was pushed into his hands. He secured it around his waist quickly - a bit too tightly, but that was better than too slack - and hooked it onto a metal loop on the deck. Trembling like a little kid, he began his journey over the deck on all fours, the frosty ocean washing over his exposed limbs again and again. His teeth clattered.

"Starboard!" John grunted in front of Carter, jerking his head towards the ropes that had been fixed to the steel railing, right above the fire red gasoline tanks. "You take care of the first four tanks, I'll do the others!"

"Yes, sir!" Carter called, his deadened fingers fumbling to unknot the ropes. The wind sheared over his short hair, sending shivers up his spine. His heartbeat, usually so steady, was rapid as it pumped adrenaline through his veins to keep him alert. This had to be the worst storm he had been in yet. Uncle John was right: she definitely was furious tonight.

"Get back inside!" a more heavily accented voice called from behind them; it was Shaun again. "The coast guard will be here in thirty minutes, you lunatics! Forget the bloody tanks!"

"Miguel's orders?" John asked, raising his voice to be heard through the chaos.

"Yes, Miguel's—"

Shaun's sentence was left unfinished as a black wave, greater than the previous ones, crashed down on the deck. The excessive water seemed to swallow both Carter and his uncle as it dragged them back over the railing, intending to guide them all the way to cold bottom of the sea.

The belt dug into Carter's hips, desperate to keep him attached to the ship. He gasped and cried for help as he tried to find the railing again, panic almost a greater threat than the ocean. Then the ship leered heavily to the left, and Carter's head slammed into the steel hull. The last sound he thought he heard, before everything went peacefully dark like the starless sky above, was a high, penetrating cry; a lament; a siren's call.


Glossary of Nautical Terms:


Abandon ship!

An imperative to leave the vessel immediately, usually in the face of some imminent danger. It is an order issued by the Master or a delegated person in command. It is usually the last resort after all other mitigating actions have failed.

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