The wave ripples like the blade on a chainsaw drenched in Kailua. We ride the peel through the metropolis, our swiftboat rattling underfoot past skyscrapers, banks and cathedrals.
“It’s peaceful tonight,” Milly says. She drops her robe and flaunts her fishnet hosiery, her high cheekbones rouged and belly low. “Pleasant temperature.”
“I agree,” I say. “Feels like summer.” I polish off a Red Dog and cast the can into the water.
She segues off her leg pegged below the knee and wheels the helm, verging the vessel through a vermouth chop ensconced in the plume of a fireball mushrooming through the barrel of a distant smokestack. We watch it morph into a sulfur cloud reflected in the surface of water as the surge recedes in the streets, smoothing like a soup reduced to tar. Smoke continues to trail from the chimney and the wind spreads it like a fungal garland through the moonlight suffused to the buildings about where only the tallest stand illumed while the rest lay in darkness.
I stir through the lapel of my lifejacket, produce my Smartphone and peruse the markets. Milly maneuvers the swiftboat around a downed Boeing with broken wings and a dangling tailfin.
“The NASDAQ broke even,” I announce. “But don’t ask about the Dow.”
The fuse of a musket butt flares from the roof of a looted Duane Reade.
“Hide your cell!” Milly screams. “It’s drawing fire!”
I sheath the phone and hit the poop a second before a mist of bullets pepper the swiftboat’s starboard bow. Milly lunges for her bazooka, locks her crosshairs on the rooftop and launches a missile at the target, engulfing the building in a flame.
A few blazing skeletons run screaming from the torched fortification, waving their arms and leaping into the moat. Their impacts splash on the hallucinatory void and fade into nothing.
“Bull’s-eye,” I say. I take Milly by the bonnet and plant one on her just as another round of muskets burst from the opposite flank. An immediate heat flares through my lungs and throttles my neck chords. Milly stocks the muzzle and fires on the vicinity of the second assault. I keel over, clutching my chest, eardrums exposed to the concussion of the shoulder cannon.
My eyes roll back and my head goes foggy. For a second, I think I can see The Light and then Milly rolls me over and applies the feverish Heimlich. I see her lips move as I come to though no sound comes out.
“I can’t hear you,” I say. “I think I’m deaf.”
“I didn’t say anything,” she says.
“Oh,” I pause. “Then nevermind.”
“Are you hit?” she says.
I sit up and pat my abdomen. White sparks pop through a hole in my lifejacket. I sift through my coffers and unveil the Smartphone now encrusted with a bullet welded to a cracked screen spritzing little worms of electricity.
“No,” I say. “This phone saved my life.” The heat of it singes my palm and I drop it.
“Well it almost got us killed,” she says.
The swiftboat rocks and the phone slides across the poop into a puddle of chum and sizzles.
“I’m screwed,” I say. “That had all my numbers and emails on it. All my pictures. My music too.”
“Damn,” Milly says. “I hope you have a good memory.” She reloads the bazooka and scans our peripherals, finger on the trigger, ready.
“Is the coast clear?” I say.
She fires a conciliatory shell and the Duane Reade’s remains. The windows on the buildings around it shatter. She says, “It is now.”
As we buoy amongst the flotsam, a small silhouette appears on the horizon, riding a riptide almost out of sight. I brace myself against the winch and squint. Milly whips out a pirate monocular and aims it at the apparition.
“What is it?” I say.
“It’s a polar bear on an iceberg,” she says, twisting the lens into focus. “It’s ferocious.”
She throws me the scope and I hone it on an emaciated mammal balancing on white chunk of remnant floe. The animal looks in my direction and snarls, and then bows, licks its ribbed haunch and growls.
“It looks like a crack whore,” I say.
“I bet she’s an orphan.”
I collapse the lens and hand it to Milly. She takes it and props herself against the mast and squats. I watch her unscrew her peg and attach a prosthetic galosh to the nub. She rises slowly and bounds forward with an awkward gait in my direction.
She rights herself beside me and I offer her a clove from an ivory cache. She takes one and smokes it, and then lights a kerosene lamp hanging from the masthead with the cherry as she picks a wedge in her hosieries from her whiskered camel-toe.
The hull makes a rapturous groan as we beach upon submerged bough of antennae poking through the surface like electrified reeds. The brunt of the impact throws me forward and I clothesline the jib. Mangled poles flail from the water like the tentacles of a giant squid, wrapping the vessel and dragging it downward. Our propeller tangles with a cable of a traffic light and we stall in an intersection before a superdome, the moan of metal echoing from depths.
I clutch a handrail unable to stand as the swiftboat rotates counterclockwise and t-bones the wake. Milly spits her clove out and hustles to the helm. She tries to pull it steady but the handles roulette from her grip and the waves pitch.
“Shit,” she says. “I broke a nail.” She darts across the poop towards a tiny porthole, unscrews the hatch and works her head into the outlet, peg pointing upward as she wiggles her tits through the threshold, slipping inside with a pop of suction.
I hear her land on her head below deck and cuss helplessly. “Are you okay?” I say.
She pokes her head through the porthole. “Nothing’s broken,” she says. “Everything’s fine.” She disappears again and a mechanical clamor commences.
“Are you sure?” I say. “What’s happening down there?”
“We’re stuck,” she says, her voice muffled by the frisk of rust on winding alkaline.
“I’m not exactly sure,” she says, reappearing at the hatch. She climbs through and stands crooked on the deck before me, shuttering in the face of a storm gust meandering towards the city.
“What happened?” I say.
She fidgets her prosthesis in a notch on the poop. “I did all I could do.”
“What was that?”
“I powered the engine down.”
I hug myself and shiver. “It feels like not enough.”
“It’ll have to do,” she says.
“What kind of engine is it?” I say. “Yamaha?”
“I wish,” she says. She stops and clutches her throat. “It’s, ahem, it’s, ahem. I mean, Suzuki. It’s a Suzuki.”
“What’s wrong?” I say.
The swiftboat eddies off balance through the current. Black froth laps the gunwale. Milly trembles and faints onto her back then starts to dry heave upward.
“What is it?” I say. “What’s happening?” I take her hand and her body seizes in the throe of a phlegmatic hack.
“Spit it out!” I say. “Spit it out!”
Her body gradually unfurls and sighs with a weary ineloquence. “Don’t know how to say this,” she says.
“Are you pregnant?”
“No,” she says. “I can’t swim.”
The ship abrades on the subaqueous terrain, sending a crack from the stern up to the bow. I try to ignore it and attend to her. “Can’t you even doggie paddle?”
“I tried it once but I drowned,” she says. “I was dead for ten minutes then a Hell’s Angel gave me mouth-to-mouth.”
A light rain begins falling sideways and then hastens into a deluge thick as fog across the watercourse, entombing the swiftboat.
My stomach muscles contract and I begin laughing hysterically. “I guess you shouldn’t be on a boat.”
“Seriously,” Milly says. Her eyes pan nervously up and down the torrent. “It isn’t funny.”
I detach from my lifejacket and offer it to her. “Here,” I say. “Take my floatation device.”
She shakes her head and shoos me. “That’s okay,” she says. “There’s a Blow-up Doll in the hold.”
“Does she float?”
“She does but it doesn’t matter.”
“The water is full of alligators.”
“It’s global warming, man,” she says. “These here waters are slewed with’em.”
A white-capped breaker lashes the bow, spewing froth around the capstan. The vessel seems to contract as we tilt in the angered surge, churning with sewage slopping the hull with brine and debris.
Milly swings her peg around and scurries into the cabin, disappearing through a privy and reappearing a moment later.
“I forgot what I went in there for,” she says, scratching her head confusedly.
A bolt of lightening strikes a building truss beside us and sends a cluster of shrapnel earthbound, crashing through the surrounding surf, sending the swiftboat awry on a wake, impaling the bow on the steeple of a church.
The jostle shakes the kerosene lamp from the mast and it explodes on the water rising around us. I see my visage mirrored in the sweltering muck hugging my cankles. A loose can of Red Dog bobs by and I grab it and watch the lurid swirl of thunder uncoil above the craft as it thwacks and splinters.
Milly returns to the cabin and reemerges with two rubber buckets. She tosses one in my direction. It skids across the fiery film and melts immediately.
“Whoa,” she says, wobbling, her face aglisten with jetsam and kerosene.
“What’s wrong now?”
“Sorry,” she says. “I got a head rush.”
“We need to hurry,” she says. She stoops and scoops several bucketfuls of water overboard with a frenetic energy. “Help me bail.”
The swell pins the vessel against a gargoyle, tearing the boat in two. I crack the beer as a sheet of water covers my thighs and slashes about in the gust of the rising sea.
“Pull up the anchor!” Milly says. “Batten down the hatches!”
I take a swig. The lukewarm foam bubbles down my gullet. My innards curl as I forage for thoughts.
“It’s too late,” I say. “We’re going down.”
Adam Moorad is a poet, salesman, and mountaineer. He is the author of Oak Ridge (Turtleneck Press, 2012). He lives in Brooklyn. Visit him here: adamadamadamadamadam.blogspot.com.