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II

I didn’t sleep well last night. I had a terrible nightmare about being capsized during a rough storm. I wore a life preserver, but it didn’t help. I was pulled down into the black depths of the ocean. Everything was silent while the storm raged on far above me. I couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe, and couldn’t do anything other than to sink down and down and down.

I wasn’t scared during the dream, just… sad. That’s the only feeling that came over me as death waited for me in the darkness—ready to take me as soon as I took in a deep breath of sea water. But it didn’t come. No matter how many fathoms I sunk, death would not take me. I felt no pain, or worry, or regret, only that lingering sadness. But why?

Then suddenly, as I stared into the nothingness while completely engulfed by the blackness of the midnight ocean, a flicker of light went off right in front of me—followed by a flash that illuminated the whole ocean around me. Countless sea creatures appeared before my eyes in the deep depths, then immediately melted back into the blackness of night. I was alone again.

Then I just woke up. And now I’m here, several hours later sipping a warm mug of coffee, waiting for the sun to peek over the horizon. It should’ve already come up by now. I feel as if I’m in a perpetual dream. Slowly the world is making less sense. Am I going mad?

The moon still sits high above the world; its magnificent glow does not lessen the loneliness I feel deep inside. The water, remaining black as ever under the cloudless sky, has all but stopped moving—no more tiny waves nip at the sides of the boat—nor does this craft continue drifting in any specific direction. Much like my soul, I feel as if the boat is stuck in place, unable to find where it belongs in the world.

My eyes follow the straight line of the moon’s reflection along the water—ending where it pushes on past the dark nothingness beyond the horizon. Thoughts of my former life come to me slowly, unwelcomed as they creep into my subconscious. By the time I notice the rough terrain my mind has begun to cross, it’s too late to go back.

The dam holding my emotions has burst, and I’m unable to stop the memories from flooding back to me. My sweet Natalia, so innocent, so pure—I remember how she would look at me. She had these soft brown eyes, warm and caring, and she would look up at me with such adoration. No matter my mistakes or shortcomings, it always seemed as if she saw something great in me—like she looked beyond all else and could see deep within my soul.

I would get lost in those eyes of hers, and the world would cease to exist around me. All I cared about, all I wanted from this world, it was all her—she was my world, my life. Then, one day, I lost her.

I snap back to reality when a flicker of light catches my eye; it’s the same flicker I saw before—but this time it seems to be dancing along the horizon. No boat light, comet, star, or marine animal could bounce around the way it is. It’s easily clearing many miles in mere seconds with each flicker. I don’t know what to do.

I watched for several minutes, anticipating another great flash. The flicker, as white as the moon, jumps closer, then back to the horizon once more. It does this several more times, yet no matter how close it seems to get to me, it never appears any larger. Then it happens again.

The water turns a crystal blue, and the stars and moon are blocked out by what looks like an afternoon sky. A hot breeze hits my face and the ocean gives off a fresh, lively smell. I see the green tip of an island far off in the distance; I’m much closer to land than my coordinates led me to believe. But just as before, this only last a few seconds before the night reclaims its place.

My eyes have trouble adjusting to the dark after the appearance of daylight nearly blinded me. The flicker has vanished and the temperature is cool once more; I feel like I’m going crazy. There is no reasonable explanation for any of this.

I head down to the cabin and retrieve a flask of bourbon from my desk drawer—it’s 100 proof and carries a wicked bite. But after what I’ve seen, it won’t be nearly strong enough. I throw my head back and take a hefty swig. The familiar burning slides down my throat and hits my chest like a fireball; I’ve always detested the first hit of straight whiskey.

It used to be I would run to the bottle whenever life got more complicated than I felt I could handle; this is no exception. Before leaving for this trip, my friends snuck aboard and cleaned out my booze stash. Of course, I anticipated this, which is why I hid the flask where they couldn’t find it; tucked into the crotch of my underpants. Not my finest moment, but certainly not the first time I’ve done this either.

The bourbon settles in my stomach and by the fourth swig—more than half of the flask—the effects begin to take hold. My face starts to flush and a warmth washes over my body. My head lightens as do my worries. I feel happy and carefree; this is always the desired outcome. I predict I have 20 minutes before the sadness takes over.

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