I swear I'm not turning morbid. I am, however, turning 40. Maybe that's why this and my last post are a bit on the 'end of life' side. Here's a selection from my new book, Cruise a la Carte.
“I saw a ghost.”
“Mm hmm,” I replied.
“Really, mate!” Rick insisted.
I looked up from my magazine, waiting casually for the flood of profanity sure to follow. I need not wait long.
“A bloody, f@*#ing goddamn ghost!” he continued. His brow furrowed deeply and he stared at the galley deck. I was about to mock him, but chose instead to bite my tongue. Rick was shaking his head slowly back and forth, eyes staring at the floor… staring at nothing. With all those curls piled so high on his head, he reminded me of a fuzzy cat watching a tennis match on television. He was truly distraught. It was very late—I was only in the galley because my evening art auction ran exceptionally late—but I sensed he was too agitated to retire.
“You’re serious?” I said.
It wasn’t really a question. Of course he was serious. Rick was serious about everything that didn’t matter. Had this been an issue of business, safety, or protocol—not that the latter matters too much—Rick would have been flighty and distant, if not downright disdainful. But things that implied secrets, cover-ups, conspiracies, and knowledge beyond the ken of man? Oh, Rick was serious about those, all right.
“I’m not biting,” I replied, returning to my magazine.
“I really did,” Rick mumbled quietly.
Quietly? Rick was never quiet. Even when he was performing a massage—he was the spa manager—he wouldn’t shut up. Made a babbler like me seem mute. Now I was paying attention. Rick continued to stare at the floor, back and forth, back and forth.
“I saw it last night, too,” Rick continued. “But I wasn’t sure. I’d been hearing stories from Natalie for weeks, but blew them off. She drinks too much…”—he ignored my snort of derision—“…but then Claudia said she saw something, too. And now I have.”
“In the spa?” I asked, now intrigued. The spa was deep in the bowels of Wind Surf, down near the waterline, back near the marina. At night it was a very quiet, very lonely place. Strange that such a small ship utilizing every cubic inch had locations that felt… well, abandoned. Everything was clean and tidy, of course, but I’d always felt that hallway to be somehow… different.
“I’ve noticed things moving behind the desk a lot,” Rick said. “Hard to tell when bloody f@*#in’ staplers move on their own when you have four employees, though. But you know the melon slices we keep in the urn of drinking water? I heard a gurgle or something and looked up in their direction. In the blink of an eye—in the blink of a bloody eye—they vanished! Then—splat! Right in front of me, right in the middle of the desk, the melons reappeared. Soaked all my paperwork and everything. Bloody f@*#in’ weird, if you ask me. But even that wasn’t enough to convince me the spa was haunted. Not ’til now.
“I was doing paperwork. It was about midnight. A bloody f@*#in’ guest walked right past me. I saw her clearly as she passed. Middle-aged, long brown hair, and a T-shirt that made her look chunky. I told her we’re closed for the night, but she just walked through the spa and into Natalie’s massage room. I followed right behind her, calling out. I was angry, actually, because I’ve had a bad time with stupid passengers complaining all bloody f@*#in’ day. I was going to give this lady a piece of my mind. When I got to Natalie’s room I flipped the light switch on… and nobody was there!”
Rick was clearly shaken. While he and I had had some pretty knock-down, drag-out fights about whether or not UFO’s were parked in the center of the Earth—coming and going through the holes at the north and south poles, Rick insisted—I sensed he was genuinely scared. This, from a former Australian special forces operative who’d been in the middle of genocidal atrocities in East Timor.
In fact, Wind Surf had more resident ghosts than merely in the spa. The cruise director and shore excursion manager both swore they’d seen an apparition floating in the hallway outside the purser’s office, mid-ship. The specter was a shadowy, yet overt, outline of a man from the waist-up. Both knew instinctively it was male, though no features could be seen on the hazy head. Both had offices with doors open to the haunted hall. Several times while doing paperwork in their respective offices on different occasions—though always late at night—they had sensed someone approaching their office. Looking up and out into the hall, they’d be shocked to see only half a man. Once spotted, the unbidden guest always faded back into the dark.
Not so with the purser, however. The Filipina had run to her office to retrieve copy paper for a busy purser’s desk. It was in the middle of the afternoon, sunlight streaming through her office window to flood the hall. Arms laden with said reams, she rushed out of the office and ran smack-dab into the phantom.
She shrieked, at first thinking she had accidentally run into a crewman. But it wasn’t a crewman—or at least none from the present. A caucasian man of average height regarded her skeptically… then vanished in a blink. The whole scenario happened so fast that, when pressed by the others, she couldn’t answer if she had seen his legs or not.
“But he seemed quite real, quite solid,” she stated resolutely. “I looked into his eyes. I saw surprise and something else… a sense of hopelessness. Though it was sunny in the hall, it felt very gloomy, very sad.”
Brian David Bruns
For more tales like this, be sure to check out my new book Cruise a la Carte. You can't go wrong, it's only three bucks!