Anthology

Thirst

Lorraine Thomson

Credit: PicMonkey

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona. Ever been thirsty? I’m talking about a thirst as deep as the ocean. A thirst like that – a real thirst – drives a person crazy. I don’t know if it changes them, could be it just coaxes out the evil that’s been lurking there all along. There is one thing I can tell you for sure: it is not a pretty thing to witness. Arkansas California, Colorado. A year ago, you asked me what happened to a person when they were dying of thirst, I’d have told you that they grew weak, weak enough to faint. That they faded to their death. But that was in those sweet, blissful days before the Gorgo went down. Before I knew. Connecticut, Delaware, Florida. Eight of us went into a raft designed for twelve, but still it was a squeeze. We were all rumbled up together, people cut and bleeding, the stink of panic in the air, and all of us praying that we’d make it until dawn. Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho. You’d think sleep would never come in a situation like that, but somehow it does. I woke up with that big mess Aldo Manx pressed right up against me. I told him to keep his hands to himself. He said he was just trying to keep me warm, what with me being the only woman on board. That’s when Pinkerton put the knife to his throat. I could tell by the look in his eyes that Aldo had the rage, but he put up his hands like he was surrendering and pretended to laugh. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa. Pinkerton had the highest rank, so he took charge. There wasn’t much in the way of rations. It would have been okay if we knew help was coming, but that wasn’t something we could count on so Pinky tried to eke out what we had. He said we had to catch fish or seabirds to supplement our diet. He used those words, supplement our diet, like it was that easy. The hunger kicked in pretty quick. Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana. There was a fight. Pinky tried to break it up but Aldo and Morgan were like junk yard dogs, snarling and lunging at each other, nothing existing for either of them except the other and neither for giving up until Morgan bit a chunk out of Aldo’s cheek. Aldo howled and snatched up a water container. He swung it at Morgan and caught him on the side of the head. There was a moment when the whole scene froze. You could see what was going to happen, but there was nothing you could do to stop it. Maine, Maryland. Both Morgan and the water went into the sea. I made a grab for the water, but the tank sank like a stone. Morgan flailed, but not for long. There was a flash of fin, rounded, tipped with white, and then the sea turned red. Massachusetts, Michigan. We’d been catching sight of the whitetips since that first dawn. Everybody knew they were there, but nobody said shark out loud in case it brought a curse on us or something, but seeing how it all panned out, Morgan got off pretty light. Minnesota, Mississippi. We had another container of water, but it was almost empty so Pinky cut the rations and everyone hated on Aldo. Missouri, Montana. There was barely enough to dampen our swollen tongues and every time Aldo took his share, the hate on the raft deepened. Soon all we had was hating Aldo. Nebraska, Nevada. Thirst hurts. I’m taking about a deep, agonising pain. Feels like your guts are being strangled. I thought about taking my chances in the sea. Drowning or sharks, either way it would be quick. That’s when I started reciting the states in my head. Alphabetical order. Something to focus on instead of the pain, repeated over and over. New Hampshire, New Jersey. My crewmates were shrinking. Even Aldo. Especially Aldo. When big guys fall, they fall hard. If they were shrinking, I knew I was too. Eyes sinking into my head. New Mexico, New York. Hazy days of pain went by and then Aldo redeemed himself. Getting the turtle onboard was a hullaballoo. It was big and heavy and flapping its flippers. I don’t know where Aldo got the strength from, even so it took a long time for him to bludgeon it to death. We ate it raw. North Carolina, North Dakota. Everyone eased up on Aldo after that. You could see the goodness returning to them, but one turtle between seven wasn’t going to last forever. Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon. I don’t know who said it first, all I can tell you is that everybody was looking at everybody else with hunger in their eyes, and I was getting more looks than most. I knew they figured I’d be easy to take down. I had to persuade them otherwise. I’d rather be shark food than have Aldo and Pinky gnaw on my bones. Pennsylvania, Rhode Island. There was a short fella called Buster, walked with a swagger and had a meaty look about him. I whispered his name in Aldo’s ear. South Carolina, South Dakota. Buster kept us going for a while, him and the rainwater we collected in the turtle shell. Tennessee, Texas. The ocean has a pulse. You can feel it, even on a calm day. Deep and relentless as thirst. Utah, Vermont. When Buster ran out, Pinky said we should draw lots to see who was next. Virginia, Washington. That it would be an honourable sacrifice. West Virginia. You think you’ll do anything to survive. Maybe you will. I pray you never have to find out. Wisconsin. Eight went into the Gorgo raft. By the time the Panoptes picked it up, there was only one survivor. Sharks got the rest and that’s God’s honest truth. Wyoming.

Lorraine Thomson (AKA LG Thomson) lives on the north west coast of the Scottish Highlands. Her published works include noir thrillers and The New Dark dystopian trilogy. Her short stories have appeared in literary journals and anthologies and she has a regular column, Writer on the Edge, in visual arts magazine, Art North. She’s on Twitter @LGThomson1 and the Web: thrillerswithattitude.co.uk.