Daydreams and Underwear Thievery in the Afterlife (Chapter Eight)
Updated: Feb 15
This is the eighth chapter of an ongoing collaborative novel project. Click here to start with
chapter one, or here to see all the chapters.
“Seriously? That guy. That guy.” Ted balances his hacky sack on his shoulder and peers at me sideways through his stringy hair. “I mean . . .”
“What’s wrong with that guy,” I say. I’ve been watching the entrance of The Cape Cod Museum of Nautical Peculiarities and Fascinations for over an hour, but Captain Doug and Gabe haven’t reemerged. I don’t think Doug even realized Gabe went in the museum ahead of him. Not that he snuck off like he was doing something he shouldn’t have been doing—he just walked in with his perfect walk in his perfect cable knit sweater and his hands in the back pockets of his acid wash jeans and his tousled hair tousled just so. Jenny and Margaret and Roman all returned from shore leave ten minutes ago, but Gabe is still in the museum.
Of course Angel Boy is interested in fascinations and peculiarities. Of course he is.
I hold in my dreamy sigh because Ted is looking at me like he expects me to do something like that, and I just don’t feel like defending myself.
But even now, even as a ghost . . . oh my Go—
Ted flicks my nose, hard, bringing ghostly tears to my eyes.
“Stop it.” I smack the hacky sack off his shoulder, but he catches it before it falls all the way to the deck, fifty feet below us.
“He looks like a stiff wind could blow him over. Scratch that. Like a light breeze could.”
“He does not.”
“He’s so pale he looks iron deficient.”
“So he stays out of the sun.”
“Are we sure he’s not a vampire?”
Ted thumps his chest. “Ghost.”
I suck my teeth and then huff a laugh, reluctantly. “Okay. Fair.”
“He’s just so . . .” Ted gestures, grimaces, gestures some more.
“What? Just so what?”
“You’re a milk—whatever. Shut up. Just, you’re just jealous.”
Ted laughs. “Of what?”
“That he can pull off long hair better than you. Did they even have hair products in the nineties?”
He presses his hand over his heart. “Ouch, Sunny. Low blow. And my style is called grunge—you might want to pick up a history book some—”
The doors of The Cape Cod Museum of Nautical Peculiarities and Fascinations burst open and Doug and Gabe charge through them, a thin and tinny alarm sounding in their wake and quickly muffling as the doors close. But then the doors slam open again, and a woman appears, running close on their heels. She’s swinging what looks like an armful of tote bags over her head by their handles, and when Gabe trips and falls on the steps to the dock, she descends on him like a vengeful harpy, smacking him repeatedly with her load of bags.
“Ow, ow stop!” Gabe shouts, shielding his head from her. “Doug—help, man!”
Doug doubles back as the woman screams, “Vandals! Thieves! Breaking our cases and stealing our artifacts. Police! Police! Help!”
“Come on, kid—get your feet under you already! They’re just tote bags.” Doug grabs Gabe by the arm and hauls him away, catching a tote bag by the handle.
As it rips from the woman’s weaponized bundled, she gives an even louder, inarticulate scream and throws the rest after them. “And that will be eight dollars for the tote bag, too!”
“Yeah, yeah.” Doug and Gabe gain the gangplank of the SSV Heraclitus just as police sirens sound in the near distance.
“Time to go, time to go, time to go, go, go,” Doug says in a rush, hurrying beneath us. “Is everyone back on board? Please let the answer be yes.”
“Yessir,” the man hauling in the gangplank shouts.
Confused crew members obey his shouted orders to make way, and Ted and I drift down to where Gabe is sitting in a sweating, panting heap where he landed on the ship’s deck.
Gabe sweeps his long fingers through his hair and shakes his head, examining a ragged cut in the knee of his jeans—a new one, it looks like, not one of the ones designed to make the jeans look distressed. His knee is bleeding, probably from falling on the steps.
“Aw, poor baby,” Ted says. “Bet you wish you could kiss it and make it all better.”
“Shut it.” I push Ted so hard he tumbles over the edge of the ship. But, because of the curse and all that, he bounces. Bounces right back, like he hit a wall, and passes through Gabe.
“Yurgh,” Ted says at the same time Gabe convulses and looks around sharply. He springs to his feet, shivering and rubbing his arms.
“Essence of teenage boy.” Ted shakes his hands like he’s trying to get something dirty off him. “Gross. Do not like.”
“You’re a teenage boy,” I say, but I’m watching Gabe. He’s still turning circles, looking for the source of whatever gave him the cold shock.
“Yeah, well, technically.”
The SSV Heraclitus pulls away from the dock and moves slowly into deeper water, which is probably a good thing because three police cars have arrived at The Cape Cod Museum of Nautical Peculiarities and Fascinations. The sirens blare at their loudest for a long moment and then shut off as the officers get out of the cars. Tote-bag woman runs to meet them, gesturing at us and shouting.
“Gabriel, get away from the railing,” Doug says. “Go below deck. Don’t let them see you.”
Gabe nods and, with one final turn, hurries away.
“Did you guys do something illegal?” Margaret’s voice sounds. She’s come on deck with Jenny and Roman, all of them wearing new sunglasses and ridiculous striped shirts and straw hats.
“Rad,” Jenny says.
“This program is turning out to be so much more interesting than I thought it was going to be,” says Roman.
“All of you below deck now,” Doug says, his voice little more than a growl.
Ted jerks his chin at me and we float together to join Doug.
“So?” Ted says.
For a moment, Doug watches the receding shoreline and the cops, who seem to be arguing with the woman. Then he turns glinting eyes on us and lifts the hem of his shirt. There, tucked into the waistband of his pants, is a gleaming golden centaur.
“Maybe the best place to carry a cursed golden centaur on which the fate of the rest of our lives depends isn’t in your pants, next to your—”
I smack Ted.
Doug drops his shirt with a sigh and a roll of his eyes and looks around all suspicious like, as if he’s afraid someone might swoop in and steal it out of his underwear. “I’m sorry, Ted. I dropped my tote bag, and I didn’t ask for another one to transport my stolen goods in, all right?”
“Goods—plural?” I raise my eyebrows.
“Yeah. Gabe helped me find something else. And it’s a doozy.” Doug gestures us to lean closer. “The navigation charts of Walter Theseus himself.” He lifts the other side of his shirt and pulls out a leather satchel filled to bursting with yellowing pages.
“Again with the pants,” Ted says.
“How would Gabe know that’s important to us?”
“He didn’t, actually. But he’s a bit of a Theseus enthusiast, so he knows the stories. I found him in the museum and he was excited to show me that in the basement they have a taxidermied white giraffe. He thought it was the giraffe from the Black Alice—”
“Beige Alice,” Ted and I say together.
Doug huffs. “Fine, Beige Alice, story. Well, I had to tell him there were no giraffes on the Gold Coast and it was almost certainly a fake. But naturally I was there looking for this”—he pats the bulge that is the golden centaur—“and we found it in a case by the giraffe. Along with these charts. One smash and grab and we were on our way.”
“So . . . what? Gabe knows everything now?” My heart leaps with the thought that Angel Boy—my Angel Boy—might be in on my secret. Daydreams press in. Gabriel, longing for me. Waiting for me. Returning the cursed treasure to restore me to life. Sweeping me into his arms. “How I’ve dreamed of this moment,” he’d say, just before our—
“Well . . .” Doug scratches the back of his neck and tucks the navigation charts back into his pants. “Ghosts might still be a bit much for him to take. But he knows about Theseus and the story of what he did to Beige Alice. He knows how and why O.C.E.A.N. was established and, I mean, he helped me steal these and didn’t ask questions, so . . . Does he believe in the curse? It’s quite frankly not a conversation we’ve had the time to have.”
“Oh,” I say, pouting.
“And he won’t be able to see you or hear you, SJ,” Ted says. He chucks my shoulder, too hard to really be compassionate. “But don’t worry, Now that we know Gabe knows the stories of Theseus and O.C.E.A.N., we can have a lot more fun with him, right Dougie?” Ted’s smile turns devilish.
“Actually, I think this kid might know more about our family history than we do, and if you want to break this curse and, you know, live again, the last thing you need to do is torture him,” Doug says.
“Huh? What?” Ted is floating away. “Where did Manny go? I need to find Manny. He’s always good for this sort of stuff.”
“Hey—did you hear what Doug said?” I follow him. “Ted!”
Doug sighs heavily.
“Great,” I say. “Now I have to keep my best ghost friend from haunting my living would-be-boyfriend, who also might be the key to saving us all. And we’re all stuck at sea together. Just great.”
“I’m . . . sorry?” Doug says.
“Do something about it, Doug!”
“Hey, I got you the cursed centaur and the maps. That’s something!”
“Do more!” And I fly away to find Gabriel and, I don’t know, keep my crazy grunge ghost friend from making his life miserable. Because apparently this is my afterlife.
Project CoNarrative is an ongoing multimedia experiment in collaborative storytelling from two award-winning authors. We're taking turns writing chapters and building on each other's work, improv-style. You can read them for free, here on the internet, as we write them.
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