Oh so close! I thought I could wrap the story up with this bit, but we’re not there yet. So sorry! Still, a little music might help see you on your way.
He was holding onto the orca’s dorsal fin now, trying to streamline his body as they sliced through the sea, but seemingly within minutes they were in the debris field, surrounded by thrashing bodies and shredded tatters of sail. They surfaced next to a pale girl in a yellow jacket and Henry reached for her; too stunned to comprehend the sight of a man riding a killer whale, she grabbed his hand and they turned to the next closest human.
And then he noticed that his orca’s pod was with them, too. And that without being told a thing all the other orcas were swimming up to the humans in the sea and offering their dorsals. Too stunned to know what else to do, the drowning sailors clung to the whales while Henry’s orca appeared to orchestrate the pod’s movements, and when Rupert drove the Swan into the scene, everyone – in the sea and on the Swan – seemed to realize what was going on out there in this dark madness.
“Don’t just stand there, goddammit!” Henry screamed to the people on deck. “Get back to the swim platform and start getting people out of the water!”
There were eleven humans in all, but with their help it didn’t take all that long to get everyone safe and situated. Soon all the survivors of the doomed boat were below, drying off and being fed warm soup, while Henry returned to the cockpit. A friend of Ruperts along for the race, a retired emergency room physician, started IVs on the sickest, while Pete made contact with the Coast Guard and informed them that there there were eleven survivors aboard and everyone was accounted for. The Coast Guard advised that a cutter was outbound from Pearl Harbor to take the survivors from them, and to keep them updated with position fixes.
“You wanna tell me what the fuck just happened out there?” Rupert said as he handed Henry an oversized beach towel to wrap himself in.
“If I knew, Amigo, I’d be happy to tell you.”
“Henry? Has that whale been following us?”
“For how long?”
“Since we left The Empress, I think.”
“Henry…this is insane…”
“Like you’re telling me something I don’t already know, Rupert? Look, you tell me what the fuck’s going on, ‘cause really, man, I got no clue!”
“But Henry! You dove in like you knew exactly what you were doing!”
Henry looked down at the wheel, then he looked back into the sea, into the orca’s eyes. “It was you, wasn’t it?” he said quietly a moment later. “You were telling me what to do, weren’t you? Just like you were telling all the other members of your pod…”
“Henry? Do you know what you’re saying?”
But Henry wasn’t listening now. His eyes were locked on the orca’s – and Rupert thought it looked just like they were communing again – until Henry threw off his towel and dove back into the sea.
Only now it didn’t take long before everyone on deck was standing at the rails, gaping in disbelief – and then all the sailors on the Swan gathered and watched a pod of killer whales surround their friend in the sea, at least until they saw what happened next.
As he settled into the little boat-like ride, and now with Edith by his side and Mike just climbing in, the incessantly playing music kept rattling through Anton’s mind –
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.
We pillage and plunder, we rifle and loot.
Stand up me hearties, yo ho.
Sitting in the front row of the little boat, the ride launched them into a twilit bayou, with fireflies dancing among drooping Spanish moss off to their left and a restaurant to their right, and yet still the music played –
We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot.
Stand up me hearties, yo ho.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.
Then they were plunging down a darkened chute, water roaring all around them – until they were adrift once again, floating through another world…
Rolf looked at the envelope once again; it was tucked inside the front cover of the three-ringed binder Henry had left on his bunk, and it was marked “do not open until noon on 28 December” in handwriting that was clearly NOT Henry’s.
Only – now it was time.
“Granma-ma? Tracy? Could you come here please?” he called out, and when they had joined him he showed them the envelope, and read aloud the instructions as well, taking time to note that the handwriting on the envelope was not, as best he could remember, Henry’s.
“Well? Go ahead. Open it,” his grandmother sighed, now even more exasperated with Henry Taggart’s never-ending and nonsensical dramas…
Rolf pulled the envelope free of the binder and opened it.
There was a letter inside. Typed. And three passes – to Disneyland Paris – but Rolf handed these to Tracy while he started reading the letter aloud.
“Hi all,” the writer of this missive began, “sorry to drag you out of the boat on such a warm winter’s day, but I need you to head out to Disneyland now, and make sure you board the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at exactly six this evening. Thanks, Henry.”
“What?” Dina cried. “Are you kidding me, Rolf?”
But Rolf shook his head as he passed over the letter, and as she yanked the paper from his hand Tracy held up the three Annual Passes and read aloud “Disneyland Paris, Pass Begins on Date Indicated Below.” And there at the bottom of the ticket was the date: 28.12.24. She scanned the ticket for more clues and found the tickets had been purchased more than a month ago by one Taggart, H. at the concierge desk inside the Hotel Crillon, and right away she knew Henry was behind all this.
“It’s legit,” she said as she read off the last four digits of the credit card he’d used. “He bought the passes almost a month ago, too.”
“Alright,” Rolf said, “let’s get our coats and go.”
“You do so if you want, but I’ll not be joining you,” Dina hissed.
“There are three passes, Granma-ma. Henry wanted all of us to go or else he wouldn’t have…”
“And I don’t give a damn what Henry Taggart wants – or wanted! I’m done with all his endless games, and so I’ll be flying back to Bergen tonight.”
Tracy clinched her jaw and ground her teeth, and after both Dina and Rolf took note of the change that had come over her, Dina backed away a little.
“Actually,” Tracy growled, “you’re coming with us right now. Grab a coat if you like, but we’re leaving now; you can get back on your fucking broomstick and go wherever the hell you like after we get back…”
The orcas surrounded Henry, forming a perfect circle around him while he tread water in the space between them, in the center of this new circle…
They were sitting in some kind of Captain Jack Sparrow themed restaurant, spooning little mouthfuls of fish soup while they looked at people floating by on this peculiarly French version of Pirates of the Caribbean. Rolf looked at his phone and saw they still had almost a half hour before they needed to board the ride, but already he was a little excited about the ride, because, he hated to admit, he’d always wanted to come here. Still, his mother had told him a gazillion times that they just didn’t have enough money for a trip like this.
Yet, now, here he was. But while he had some vague idea where his mother was, she was so inaccessible now as to be…what? Gone. Like Henry, perhaps? Now dead and gone? Because if she really was living fifteen million years in the future…
“I detest this music,” Dina groused. “Over and over…yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirates life for me. How nauseatingly American! Such mindless barbarism masquerading as hedonistic materialism!”
Tracy shook her head. “Gee. Ever here of just cutting loose and having a little fun with your grandson, Dina? Or is that simply beneath you?”
Yet Dina ignored the question and turned to Rolf. “What about you? Have you ever wanted to come here?”
“Only all my life!”
“What? Why on earth…?”
“Because, Granma-ma, this is a playground of the imagination, and I grew up with these movies. This place is very special to me…”
“And that,” Tracy added, “is why we’re here, Dina. But I can understand why you’d be upset that a total stranger knew more about your grandson than you do…”
“Do you know what is worse?” Rolf asked. “Listening to you two bickering at one another. God! Look around you! Let your mind run free for a while but please, please, let go of all this hate for just one stinking, miserable minute!”
Then Rolf threw back his chair and walked away.
“Nicely said,” Tracy muttered.
“I had no idea…” Dina sighed, wiping away a tear – but she caught herself and sat upright as she sucked in a deep breath. “For his sake, we must find a truce between us,” Dina added, her voice just barely above a whisper.
“Oh really? Why?”
“You are insufferable, you do know that, don’t you?”
“Listen close, Dina. I don’t know why you’re here, other than to get some work done on Rolf’s boats while we’re away…”
“Away? Away? What does this even mean, this away? First there is this vanishing priest, then all these mysteries surrounding my daughter and that other girl…”
“You can’t even say her name, can you? Henry loved her and yet you can’t even…”
But Dina broke out in laughter. “Oh, you poor fool! Haven’t you figured out yet that our dear Henry loved absolutely everyone? – but that when you love everyone, you in effect love no one at all?”
Tracy sat back and sighed, now more than angry. “You were with him, what? Five months, or was it six? And in that time, in all that vast amount of time,” she continued, her voice suddenly dripping with overwrought sarcasm, “you never once saw past your own worldview. Your own take on love. You never once, Dina, saw into Henry’s heart, saw just how much love was waiting in there, just waiting to reach out. Waiting – maybe even for you. For you to reach out and embrace what he had to offer?”
Dina nodded. “And what did he have to offer us, Tracy? Nothing more than an illusion, just like this place…all an illusion. Worse, really; his love was more like a delusion, a blind alley…a place that felt oh so comfortable until you discovered that his love was leading us nowhere…”
“Love is love, Dina. Love doesn’t take you places, it won’t lead you to bliss or nirvana. Love simply allows us to find what is locked away in our own hearts, and then, and maybe only then, can we share our gifts with others.”
“You speak the language of delusions, Tracy.”
“I speak the language of empathy, Dina. A language you know nothing about.”
“Maybe that’s why he was attracted to you.”
“God, I hope so.”
Rolf walked up to the table, his hands stuffed inside his coat pockets. “I have paid the bill. It is time. We must go get in the line to be there at the correct time.”
Dina growled then, her patience at an end. “That infernal music! Won’t someone please make it stop?!”
© 2020-21 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates. Bits of music quoted under the Creative Commons: Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me) © 1967 by the Walt Disney Music Co. Ltd., music by George Bruns, lyrics by Xavier Atencio. The original work can be heard here.