This is the eleventh chapter of an ongoing collaborative novel project. Click here to start with
chapter one, or here to see all the chapters.
It's been five days lost at sea.
Five days since I was buried under a load of laundry the size of a swell in a hurricane. Five days since I was swallowed by the eye of the storm (by which I mean, obviously, the hole in the middle of the spinning laundry inside the washer). I've been buried under wet clothes so long I can't remember what the sun looks like.
For five eternal days, I've laid below the soggy textiles, feeling the toss and turn and yaw of the ship, praying to God that my students, my crew, were all right. Praying to Poseidon to have mercy on my ship and all in its path. Praying to the sea to swallow me and end my suffering.
Where are we? Somewhere in the north Atlantic, still, I assume. Assuming the ship is still afloat. Assuming I'm alive and not in some damp purgatory.
I'm retracing my steps, trying to comprehend how I ever came to this accursed fate.
It was two days after our embarkment when I realized I hadn't brought enough socks for six weeks.
Or two days.
What I'm saying is, I forgot to pack socks.
It seemed like an opportunity though. An opportunity to be the hero. An opportunity to cement my role as leader. I would do ALL their laundry.
In my mind's eye, I could already see it. Me, stepping onto the deck, carrying a basket of all their clothes, washed, dried, and folded neatly. Clean clothes for all! They would be cheering my name.
I know it sounds ridiculous now, but that was before I got buried beneath the waves.
The waves of laundry.
It was only twenty minutes into the first load when I heard the explosion, and the flood of soggy cotton and spandex overwhelmed me where I stood. I struggled at first, of course, but when it became clear how powerless I was to overcome the load of laundry above me, I gave in and began to pray helplessly for rescue.
It was that centaur. I knew it was. I had seen it glowing the other day, back when I put it in its drawer, but i shrugged it off casually at the time. Welp, I thought to myself, we all know it's curse. No big whoop.
I was a fool.
I spent a whole day—an entire day below this stinking wet mess of half-washed fabric—before the swirling colors in front of my eyes turned into something other than bald delirium. Before her face appeared before me and began to speak.
Thirteen braids, all twisted in different directions, each bearing a lit candle that smelled strongly of sulphur, to go with her foul breath. An eyepatch and a disgusting grin. A voice of sandpaper and tobacco smoke and the cries of drowning mutineers. I know what you're up to, Douglas, she said.
How do you know my name?
She laughed. The sort of vile laugh that can come from only the blackest of hearts. I've been living in your pants and/or desk for DAYS, she scoffed.
It's BLACK! Black Alice! Why does everyone call me Beige? I'm SO sick of that...!
Sorry, it's just—I mean, your HAIR is black, but your face is more of a caramel color, so—
It's not a literal descriptor, you idiot! It's a moral pronouncement upon my actions.
It's—I mean, are you really that thick? They call me Black Alice because of my dark deeds. Because my evil, heartless acts imply that my SOUL is black. It's not a color, it's a MOOD.\
To be honest, I find that kind of problematic—
Oh just stop. Don't east coast white people know an adjective other than 'problematic'? Life is short. Stop wringing your hands over everything and just have some fun.
I mean, clearly, it's not THAT short. You're speaking to me from beyond the grave, so...
I trapped my soul in the accursed centaur, and I've been in here ever since. I've cheated death, sure, but my results aren't typical.
So it's like a horcrux?
NO! Shut up. It's completely different.
If you say so.
Anyway, life IS short if you don't know voodoo. That's the point I'm trying to make here.
Ugh, fine. So why am I trapped under a mountain of soggy laundry? Are you going to explain that to me?
I can't allow you to return the centaur to Africa, Doug.
What? Why not? You don't want your centaur back?
I'm trying to tell you, I AM the centaur. You have been grossly misinformed about the nature of Theseus's treachery and the nature of the curse, Douglas. Theseus did not merely distract and rob me. He MURDERED me.
Do I—do I need to repeat that? I thought it was pretty straightforward.
No, no, I was expressing surprise, not requesting clarification.
The story of the albino giraffe, she said, is a story he told his friends and neighbors, yes, but the truth is far darker. SO dark that even my beige soul—
You mean your black soul, right?
Yes, that, whatever. Anyway, Theseus hunted me down and killed me mercilessly, drunk on the thought of stealing my riches.
YEAH, whoa. But before Theseus's sword slit my throat, I placed my soul deep within the centaur.
Well, that's good, I guess.
Not so much for you.
Yeah, sure, point taken. I still don't get it, though.
What is there to get?
Why are you trying to prevent me from returning the centaur to the place it belongs? Seems like you'd be in favor of that sort of thing.
I WOULD, except—I mean, have you been listening to any of this?
Sorry, my mind wanders sometimes.
All right, well, here's the deal. If the centaur is returned to the Gold Coast, my soul will be cast out from it forever, into the nether realm.
The what now?
The nether realm. Oblivion.
You're starting to sound like dialog from a videogame.
Call it whatever you want. If you return the centaur to Africa, I will cease to exist. And I cannot allow that to happen.
So your plan is to trap me under soggy laundry?
Well—yes. I mean, that's what I've got so far. So...yes.
And what about my brother, Alice? What about Ted? And Sunny, and everyone else trapped between life and death? You're just going to let them remain there?
Why not? They're no worse off than me.
But we could break the spell! We could bring them back! We could bring YOU back!
You don't know that. You have no idea what will happen if you break the curse.
I mean, do you LIKE being trapped inside an anachronistic statue, or—?
It's not the WORST thing.
What WOULD be the worst thing?
Let me ask you this, Alice: Is the ghost of Theseus still out there? Still wandering the grounds of his estate?
I assume so.
Then I've got some bad news for you.
He's...here. Probably. Trapped in the sails of the ship.
But now we're interrupted. By two teenage ghosts diving into the wet clothes.
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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