I am Mariner. I wake up each morning and stand on the jagged bow of HRM Quazzino. I close my eyes and feel the silence around me. The silence is tinged with old sorrow and long-forgotten deaths and despair. Some are human. Some are not.
The silence lasts half-way through the morn. Then, the ships and boats and jetskis come alive, groaning and creaking. It is a dirge for those who were lost. I know each word, each note of that unhummable tune.
It is my signal to begin my explorations. I travel from boats to ships to canoes to jetskis. Some are named. Some are not. Some are made of steel and crusted metal. Some are coarse wood that the water has warped and softened and aged. They are all my companions, my routine, my route.
I travel all over their shattered ruins, searching and watching for what is new. Most days and years pass without any discoveries.
Today, however, I made a discovery.
A new boat.
A new companion.
He lies asleep in his rowboat.
I sit on the end of his boat and watch him.
He mumbles and cries out, but he does not wake.
I creep closer to him. I am disappointed. He is the same as those who have come before. Same features. Same skin. Exposed hands. Hidden feet. Yet, he is not the same. Something is different. Hair color? Maybe. Jawline? Maybe.
But no. It is more than appearances. This one belongs to me. An invisible chain links me to him. A chain I will not break.
“Virginia.” His words are a soft moan. “My Virginia.”
I am not Virginia. I am Mariner.
And he is unwell. He needs food and water and comforting shelter, but he will not find such needs in my world of destruction.
But he cannot escape. These waters are cursed. Those who enter cannot leave. I know. I was here before the jetskis came, before the great ships. I came when there were only canoes.
My own canoe has disappeared far below into dissolved timbers and sludgy mold. I have forgotten where it is. But my spirit has been strong. Like a powerful heart that cannot stop still. My spirit has seen many years and many lost ones.
I want to help this lost one, but what help can I offer? I am locked into this solitary world. I cannot leave.
Neither will he.
He will stay here.
He will be my new companion.
But what will happen to my silent mornings? Will I still enjoy them if he is here? Will he understand the beauty of this ruined landscape?
But what will happen if he leaves? Will that invisible chain shatter from the strained distance? Will I miss him?
I reach for him. I will show him the beauty of this place. He will see it as I do. He will love it as I do.
“Virginia.” He flops his hand over his eyes. A golden ring encircles his finger. I gently remove it and study it.
Magic spirals inside the band, binding his heart and love to another. It feels like a new wind after a muggy night and smells like home.
Home. I remember a home that smelled like this: cinnamon and earth spices. But my home smells like timbers and sea air. I cannot leave it nor do I wish to leave it.
I study his sunburned face and I know. He will want to leave. He will be unhappy here, dead or alive.
But escape is impossible. Long ago, I tried to escape into the fog, into the far off mist. I tried and failed.
I smile at the simple solution.
I move his boat away from my companions, my routine, my route and point him towards the fog. If he can escape, so be it.
I hold his ring tight in my grip. If he cannot escape, it is not my fault.