by David Lubar
"Which boat is it?"
"Shhh. Quiet. It's Pace Cruise Lines," Andy whispered. He crouched down on the
pier next to Mary.
"There. That's it," she said.
"Yeah. Good job." Andy felt a rush of adrenaline shoot through his gut when he
realized they were going to do it. Not just talk and plan. Not just daydream. Really
do it. There was the ship. He could see most of the name, except for a couple of
letters that were blocked by a cargo crane. There was the P on the left, then the E
on the other side of the crane arm, followed by CRUISE LINES. It was the ship
Brennan Winston had told him about.
"Ready?" he asked Mary.
"You sure about this?" she asked.
"Yeah. It'll be awesome. We'll blend right in with the passengers. It's just for three
days. But think about all that food and fun."
He crept toward the ship, trying to move silently on the old wood of the pier. He
could hear Mary slipping along behind him. All they had to do was sneak down
below and hide. Brennan had told him how to do it.
"It's real dark," Mary complained as they made their way up the walkway and onto
"Shhh. The passengers aren't boarding until tomorrow morning. Just follow me."
Andy led Mary down below.
"What if we get caught?" Mary asked when they reached the bottom of the lowest
deck, guided only by dim night lights.
"I told you, they won't do anything. We're minors. They'll just wait until the boat
gets back to the dock and make us leave. Keep calm and they won't catch us.
Okay?" Andy reached out and gave her shoulder a squeeze.
"Okay," Mary said. "I guess . . ."
The rocking of the boat woke Andy the next morning. "Hey, we made it," he said,
nudging Mary's shoulder.
She sat up fast, looking startled, and he had to shush her again. "I need a
bathroom," she said.
"No problem," Andy told her. "Put on your suit and we'll go up on deck."
Mary pulled off her shorts and top, revealing she'd worn her suit underneath. Andy
grabbed his from his backpack. He noticed that Mary turned around when he
changed. She'll get over it he told himself.
"Now be cool," he said. "We belong here. Just keep that in mind and nobody will
pay any attention to us." He opened the door and peeked out. There wasn't anyone
in the hallway. As long as they weren't spotted coming out of the storage room,
there'd be no problem.
Andy braced himself to meet people. He knew the first moments would be the
toughest. But all he had to do was nod and smile, or just ignore the other
passengers. That would work. Adults expected to be ignored by teens. You're on
vacation, he reminded himself.
They didn't meet anyone as climbed the steps from level to level.
"Must be early," Andy said.
There was nobody on deck.
"This is wrong." Mary grabbed his arm. "This is really strange."
"Relax," Andy said, though he had to fight to keep the calm tone in his voice.
"It's a ghost ship!" Mary stepped away from him and spun around, as if searching
for something to prove her wrong.
"Mary, stop acting crazy," Andy said. "There's no such thing as a ghost ship."
"Yes there is. Look around. There's nobody here. Nobody. Just us." She ran back
down the stairs toward the cabins.
Andy cursed and ran after her. He knew he had to calm her down before she got
them both in trouble. He managed to catch up with her halfway down the corridor.
"Wait. Look, everything is fine. I'll prove it to you."
He reached for the nearest doorknob, frantically trying to figure out what to do
once he opened the door and came face to face with strangers. He realized he could
just pretend he had the wrong cabin. That would work. And Mary would see that
everything was fine. So would he.
Andy gripped the knob of cabin A37. He figured that the doors were probably
locked. But even that might help Mary realize there were people on the other side.
The knob turned smoothly in his hand.
Andy eased the door open and peeked inside. An old guy was lying on the bed, fast
"See?" Andy whispered.
He waited until Mary nodded, then eased the door shut. "Look. It must be early.
That's why everyone's still asleep. Come on. Let's see if they've put out any
breakfast yet. I'm starving."
They went back up.
There was no food.
"This is crazy," Andy said. He looked around the deck. Then he looked toward the
ocean. There was no land in sight. They were far out at sea. "When we get back,
I'm going to tell Brennan that Pace Cruise Lines sucks."
Mary let out a small whimper.
"What now?" Andy asked. He was starting to wish he'd asked someone else to
come with him.
"It's not Pace," Mary said.
"Huh?" Andy wondered why she was whispering.
Mary didn't answer him. She pointed up at a mast above them. Andy noticed her
hand was shaking.
Fluttering overhead, a flag displayed the name, "Pyre Cruise Lines."
"Pyre," Andy said. English wasn't his best subject. The word took a minute to
register. When it did, he knew that the man he'd seen in the cabin below wasn't
asleep. The man was dead.
Everyone on the ship was dead.
Pyre. As in funeral pyre.
Music began to play over loudspeakers. Slow, sad music. Beneath his feet, Andy
heard the crackle of flames and felt the rising heat of the fire.
In the distance, Andy saw another ship. Squinting, he could make out the name
PACE CRUISE LINES on the side. Dots of moving color told him that people
were frolicking on deck, having the vacation of a lifetime.
The pyre grew. Andy turned to run, but there were flames everywhere.
"Look?" the first mate asked the passenger, offering his binoculars.
"Thanks," the man said. He peered across the water at the rising flames. "Wow.
Pretty spectacular. What a way to go."
The mate nodded. "Yeah. At least they're feeling no pain." He stood at the deck
and watched as the burning funeral ship slowly drifted into the distance. "Rest in
peace," he whispered as the last glow vanished from sight.