Ferry (draft excerpt)

A wind picks up over the harbour, meeting the waves returning from the basin. The water is deep with darkness, the crests white, flickering like a dying flame. The ship is unmoved by the change, a hand plane against the grain. The lanes are empty except for a tug steaming past George’s Island. Gulls circle the open water, calling over the bow and stern, diving to port. Distant metallic hammering sounds from the dockyards.

With a hand on the railing and a foot on a liferaft pod, she straddles then slips quietly over. In the corner of his eye, the flash of her backpack disappearing. It takes a moment, and then another to reach the other side, to see the wake of where she entered, nothing else. He runs to the last row of seats and stands like a conqueror. He removes his bag and grabs the stern-light, looking for a sign in the swirling ebbs below. Small bubbles surface and he leans forward, but, with hesitation, exhales deeply. Then the inhale of certainty. His voice, shy and breaking, comes slowly. It grows until it seems like it is no longer his own, but a siren over the hum of the engines.

The ferry grinds and shudders to a stop. The captain’s radio crackles faintly with emergency in the bridge. Signals calm, almost automated. He falls to the edge of a cold seat, holding his head in his hands. He slips down, the steel flooring damp and dirty beneath his knees.


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