My short story Adrift was published in Strange Circle Magazine: Issue 3 in June of 2011. You can  buy an ecopy for your Kindle.



By Laura Rittenhouse

Thank God. It’s finally starting to get light. I still can’t see the water through the mist but at least now I can see the tiller.

What a night. The wind died around midnight leaving us hopelessly adrift. Since Paul went below and left me to my night watch, I’ve been straining to spot any ships that don’t notice our tiny yacht bobbing aimlessly in the middle of the ocean.

Alone on deck, I listen to the waves lapping against the hull. Slap, slap, slap.

A sense of dread settles on me through the murky fog. I nestle in the embrace of fear, yearning for the sun to come up and burn away my anxiety.

Slap, slap, slap. The waves rhythmically strike the yacht.

The radio has gone quiet. It’s dead again – some problem with the fuse that Paul keeps fixing. I really should learn more about the yacht so I’m not totally dependent on him.

Slap, slap, slap.

The radio doesn’t matter, way out here all I’d hear is static anyway.

If the wind would pick up, at least the sails would flap and their familiar sounds would drown out this oppressive silence. As it is, I only hear the waves. Nothing to break the tension of the night.

Slap, slap, thud.

What was that? It sounded like a body hitting the hull. No, not a body. My imagination is tormenting me again.

Slap, slap, scratch. Like a hand scraping the bottom of the boat.

I stand up and lean over the stern, trying to see what caused the noise. In this gloom I can’t even tell which direction I’m drifting. All I see are rolling waves absorbing the pre-dawn light.

Probably just a floating log.

Slap, slap, slap.

I sit back down and try to focus on the horizon that exists only in my memory.

It’s time to wake Paul but I’ll wait a little longer until the sun comes over the horizon. Then this eerie feeling will vanish and I can greet him with the news of a dead calm and a dead radio before I hand him the helm and snuggle into the warm spot he’s made in our bed.

Slap, slap, slap. Oh God. I can’t stand it anymore. In the half-light the fog is starting to look like ghosts sliding across the deck. The waves are beginning to sound like ghouls struggling for release from their watery graves. Time to shake off this mood and wake Paul up.

When I open the cabin door, the hall light shines across our empty bed. My throat tightens as the dread tries to drag me down into its arms.

My eyes drop to Paul lying on the floor. He’s face down with his legs entangled in the blankets and his hand stretched out as if he’d tried to drag himself to the door.

I remember the thud, the scrape, the dread.

Looking around the room I see a bloody mark clinging to the low shelf. A thick dark stain encircles Paul’s head.

Panic grips my chest. I’m alone.

Slap, slap, slap.

© Laura Rittenhouse 2010