Glass Bottomed Boat
by Allison Spector
You were born on a glass-bottomed boat, but only you could sense its transparency. Only you could feel the churning of the water and the pull of the tide beneath the moon. You had grown to love the rocking of the vessel cradled in an infinite expanse of brine. You had come to learn its rhythms. You strode as others stumbled because they could not read the cycles, sense the change in winds, feel the energy of the waves surrounding you.
And the fish! So many creatures churned and thrashed in the water below your feet. You peered into the furthest depths, where the last shimmers of light cast shadows on objects you could barely discern. They filled your heart with dread and wonder.
Yours was the life of a child then. The ocean was deep and filled with fascination. You stared for endless hours and asked about the shapes, and the shadows and the fish. You reveled in curiosity with your stomach pressed to the ground, your nose upon the glass. Your parents were confused. They didn't understand what you were seeing. Your teachers accused you of wasting time, starring into nothingness. They reminded you, kindly at first, then more forcefully, that you were not on a glass-bottomed boat and you could not see a deep, briny abyss.
The ground was solid. The world was stable. The future was certain.
It was far better, your elders told you, to worry about what you *could* see and *could* feel. You drank in the words of the authority figures along with the brackish water that slowly wrenched your cells of life. Since the poisoning was gradual, you hardly noticed.
The disruption began before you recognized what it was. It came with the soft creak of water-logged wood and the rumble of gods no longer at rest. You were still so young, and your heart was filled with optimism. You ignored the subtle tremors that rippled across the deck and your mother's hands as you strolled through a playground of bones.
But at night, even with malnourished eyes, you could make out shapes and shadows. You could detect the rank brine-stench of rotting blubber. You knew the arbritum was not a forest. The graywater recycling system was not a mountain spring. And overhead, the beautiful sky was filling with great gray clouds under a ponderous, pulling moon.
Time advances. Your thoughts have matured, filtered through the power of routine and the weight of adamant normalcy. You solder pas the seasickness, and the vitamin deficiencies that mar your skin and brittle your bones. There is no way to acknowledge your hurt. They never gave you the words to describe your pain. Instead they gave you enemies. Pre-packages anxieties. Other people. Other lands. Other planets. Supernovas. Meteors. People who hate your freedom. People who lie about imaginary dangers. Intrusions of far-fetched ideas and far-flung objects.
You spend long hours on deck, traveling nowhere in an effort to convince yourself that you're on a journey. But when you return home, you can't help but notice the glow of the floor beneath your feet. You see shapes and shadows writhing, moving, fleeing. A low guttural vibration convulses against the glass. You throw up a little in your mouth.
You lose yourself in distraction. Throw a tarp over the transparent flooring. You drown your fears in drink and pills and willing bodies as you feel the once cool glass warming under your skin.
But try as you might, you can't evade the sights that haunt you. There's always another rumble. A hint of fate. A patch of uncovered glass. And through morbid study, you begin to understand the nature of the shapes that fascinated you as a child. In the glow of the vents and fissures you see endless piles of broken ships, smashed together in a graveyard of unheeded omens. Once proud edifices covered in barnacles and kelp and decay with phrases written in blood.
"Never again, never again..."
You start to scream but your neighbors can't hear you. They're standing on deck, starring up at the sky. They are blind to the water expelling outward ready to boil them alive. They're deafened to the hiss of the steam and the cries of those who too late realized that they were on a fragile craft perched delicately over an unforgiving abyss filled with hungry mouths and molten lava.
The steam clears. The illusions fade. On the horizon, the shoreline of a massive continent taunts you with a fleeting vision of what might have been. But lava ejaculates from deep within the earth and boils the surrounding brine. All paths of escape are blocked. Not a single soul recognizes what has happened. Except you.
You were born on a glass bottom boat, but only you could sense its transparency. This knowledge was your burden. Safe harbor was your responsibility. So close you could have swum to shore any time you had wanted. You wonder, for a moment, if there might still be a chance. But geysers shoot upward, rending the flesh from your bones as the boat slides into the hungry abyss. You leap into the sea, in a fit of convulsive sobs and laughter.
Allison Spector is a New Jersey ex-pat who escaped to the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. Her work has been featured in The Cost of Paper; Molotov Cocktail Magazine; Five:2:One Magazine; and Moonglasses, among others. She is the author of the novella Let's Stalk Rex Jupiter! and can also be found in the All Trumped Up anthology. Upcoming work is soon to be released with the Mad Scientist Journal and the One Hundred Voices anthology. You can follow her and her strange tales at her Twitter.