Prisha stared at the luggage by the door. Packed and ready, she was dying to get off the ship. Despite the nice weather and exquisite food, the voyage had been terrible for her. Nothing had gone as planned and all she wanted to do was go home. She glanced at herself in the mirror. Her green and gold sari while exquisite was not what she was used to. She preferred jeans and a short sleeve top, a kurtis with leggings when cooler, but she knew her parents were waiting at the port, so something more traditional was required. They disliked how westernized she’d become, and had often threatened to return the family to Punjab, but for Prisha that would be even more alien than America sometimes seemed. They’d moved to the US when she was just nine. Now eleven years later, despite any pleasant memories of childhood with her cousins, America was home.
The cruise had been a disaster fifteen minutes after she boarded the ship. There had been some serious misunderstandings between herself and the guy she had planned to meet. After several years of Instagram, messaging, and e-mails, she had decided to finally meet the guy of her dreams, her online beau. They had planned to take the same cruise as a way of getting to know each other. That way they could have different cabins, yet still spend time dining and doing different activities the cruise offered. It wasn’t the way many of her friends would have arranged the first in person meeting, but as her parents had long alleged, Prisha was her own woman and quite headstrong when she wanted to be.
Desmond, the twenty-five year old Medical school graduate she was supposed to meet, and hopefully spend the rest of her life with, turned out to be a forty year old insurance salesman from Ohio. While age differences between couples didn’t really matter to her, the fact he’d been lying about it for years did. She’d been in university for two years studying medicine herself, and her hope had been to get married, move to New York, and join her new husband in his family practice. Now the only real thing about that was her studies, so once she disembarked she was going to throw herself into her work so much she wouldn’t even have time to think of men. Especially ones who expected you to come stay in their cabin five minutes after boarding the ship.
Prisha smiled in the mirror. She had to put on a happy face, the one that would tell her parents everything had went nice. Though she’d told her few friends, and older sister, the real purpose of the trip, to her parents she hadn’t been quite forthcoming. She told them she was going to meet some girlfriends from the internet on the cruise. She felt guilty for not telling them the truth, especially after she’d been lied to herself by Desmond. She was both ashamed and embarrassed over the whole thing. Maybe one day she’d confess to her mom and dad, but not today. They would be too disappointed.
She pinned her long dark hair away from her face and took a deep breath. She wanted off the ship but she dreaded to even leave her cabin. Desmond was still on board and out there. Since their argument over honesty within relationships and “no, I’m not going to stay in your room,” he’d approached her several times attempting to apologize, but she wasn’t having it. For one, in person he didn’t seem half as sincere as he did online. For another, there was something of a lecherous leer to his gaze that made her uncomfortable. She wasn’t about to….
Her cell went off. A notification. ‘Please, don’t be him,’ she said. She checked her phone. Instagram. She sighed in relief. It was a post from her friend Cherise at the College. It was a somewhat blurry picture. Prisha squinted her eyes, trying to determine just what she was looking at. Didn’t she know how to use the tools to make the image better? It appeared to be of a man on top of another man. None of her friends sent such things over the internet before and she was almost embarrassed to look at it, this image of a bulky man laying flat on top of a younger man. Never mind they were clothed, it was just that it didn’t look right or appropriate to her sensibilities. But then she saw what the guy on top was doing. He was eating the other man.
Prisha let out a scream and threw the phone down. Oh my god, he was really eating him! This wasn’t a photoshopped picture, nor a screenshot of a horror movie. This guy had pieces of the other man’s face in his freaking mouth! She looked down at the phone, Instagram still up and showing the gruesome image. She hesitated to even pick up the phone out of fear the man would come out of the cell and attack her too.
Bing! Another notification. She snatched up the phone and clicked on it. It was Cherise again. Another image. This time it scared her so bad she closed Instagram and made the mental note to uninstall the program as soon as she could think clearly. The image had been a close-up of a face. A woman. Maybe slightly older than Prisha herself. Her eyes had been blood red. Her nose twisted at an odd angle. Foam or something had been on her lips, which had been curled up in a canine like snarl. Her teeth had blood and what appeared to be human tissue on them. That’s what had prompted her to shut down the app so quickly. Most people feared common things like clowns, or spiders, or elevators, but hers was different. She feared zombies. Suddenly, the companionship of a jerk like Desmond didn’t seem so bad.
She shoved her phone in her purse, threw back the bolt on her door, and fled out into the hall. She had to show someone this. She needed someone to tell her that what she’d seen on Instagram wasn’t real. That she had been mistaken. Perhaps they would gently shake her awake and say they were at port and ready to leave the ship. Or that what she was looking at was a makeup screen test for a new movie they were filming. But there was no one in the hall. This was First Class. You usually had people coming and going from their rooms to onboard activities or dinner. That’s it, she thought. Everyone is at breakfast.
Or, her mind told her, everyone IS breakfast.
She raced down the hall and pushed a door open. She had to get outside. Get some air. She was starting to hyper ventilate. Coming out onto the open deck, the morning sun blinded her for a moment and she collided with someone. All she saw was a quick flash of palm trees and parrots as the person caught her from falling. Her eyes came into focus. The trees and birds were on a Hawaiian shirt and an older man with deep blue eyes was looking at her.
“Whoa,” he said. “You alright, miss?”
She tried to speak but was having trouble breathing.
“Maybe she needs the Heimlich,” somebody else said. She turned to the voice and saw a guy who appeared several years younger than she smiling at her. He had short ginger hair and was in a white polo shirt with colorful neon swim trucks so bright it made her wish she’d live long enough to enjoy Holi again.
The man who’d caught her was holding her by her shoulders at arm lengths away from him. He had his head slightly bent to one side in an attempt to look her straight in the face. “Hey, just try to relax. Breathe in slow, then exhale. Breathe in…breathe out. Are you okay? How many fingers am I holding up?” He put his hand in front of her face and held up a finger, then another, then four, followed by three, then all five in rapid fashion.
“You’re going too fast,” she protested, finally catching her breath.
The man smiled and let her go. “Good. You’re okay.” He straightened up his shirt and reached for his collar as if he were more used to suit and tie.
“I apologize, sir. I didn’t mean to…”
Before she could finish, the younger one laughed. “ Hell, we just want to know where the party is at. You was running like your butt is on fire!”
For a moment, she thought the guy was going to follow up his statement by staring at her backside, but thankfully he didn’t. She gave him a “you better not” look anyway.
“Forgive him,” the older man said. “He was born yesterday and has never seen a lady until a few minutes ago.”
Prisha wasn’t sure what to make of these guys. Were they trying to flirt with her or just being nice? Was the young guy checking her out? Was the older man trying to win her over with flattery? Desmond had really messed her up for the rest of the male population, she thought. And then she reached in her purse and pulled her phone out. She thrust it at the younger guy.
He took a step back and asked, “What? You want me to put my number in your contacts?”
“No, I don’t want your number. Pull up my Instagram.”
He had a disappointed look, but did as he was told. He stared at the screen for just a second before he looked at his companion. “Oh no Ethan…”
“What is it?”
“I don’t think that was a movie we saw.”
TO BE CONTINUED
Zombie Drift. 2018 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.