Chapter 1: Midnight minus 1 day 17 hourswritten by fallingwthstyle - illustrated by Hausinge and Sifl-senpai
Stan wasn't sure what he thought would be different about the Mediterranean Sea, but he expected it to be different somehow, bluer perhaps. But now, watching the sun rise above its horizon, forearms resting against the enormous ocean liner's railing while it surged eastward almost straight into it, Kyle at his side, these waters looked no different than the Atlantic Ocean had yesterday.
They'd sailed through the nine mile wide Strait of Gibraltar last night, marking their passage into the Mediterranean. When they'd gone out on deck at six that morning, the mountains of the southern coast of Spain were disappearing behind them, and an hour later they were once again surrounded by endless open water.
Kyle looked at Stan and grinned. His hair looked like molten copper in the light of the rising sun. "I thought that was going to be it, Stan, going past Spain like that."
"Your oh holy shit moment?"
"My oh holy shit moment, yes." They had to speak up to be heard over the wind. "Seeing like fifty boats escorting us at two in the morning, those mountains just a mile away, and that full moon." Kyle smiled. He didn't need to mention what else they had done in this same spot five hours ago when this part of the ship had been deserted. He could see in Stan's face that he was remembering it too. "That wasn't quite it, but the oh holy shit moment was almost within grasp."
Kenny and Butters emerged from the double doors leading inside the ship and joined them. They had gone to their cabin to "put sunscreen on Butters' face" almost an hour ago, even though their group's four cabins were only a one minute walk away. They both grinned at their friends, knowing they'd been figured out.
"Kyle had his oh holy shit moment?" Butters asked, beaming happily, his fair hair rumpled by more than just the wind.
"Nope," Stan said, feigning unhappiness. "Just another close call."
"You've only got about two more days," Kenny said, actually sounding worried. Kyle had been waiting to experience the one perfect moment of this cruise, one that would give him the strongest memory he would take away from this whole incredible experience. "We dock in Greece at noon on New Year's Day..."
"I think we're all still accounted for," Butters interrupted, heading off what might be an uncomfortable discussion for Kyle. Making sure no one had fallen overboard had been an ongoing mission of his since the start of the cruise, and Butters made it his business several times a day to find out where everyone in their group was, no matter how widely scattered they were throughout the massive ship.
"Yeah we are, as long as you two know where Tweek is," Kenny said. "We just went downstairs a couple minutes ago; Cartman's still in the casino with his fat ass parked in front of a keno machine, and we passed Wendy on our way back up. She had a 'Get out of my way, I'm going power shopping' look in her eyes."
Stan and Kyle both laughed. "Tweek's walking," Kyle said, accounting for the final member of their group. "He just zoomed by us about ten minutes ago."
"Did he slow down long enough to wave this time?" Butters asked. He put on his sunglasses (expensive aviator-style mirrored Ray Bans) and held his hand to his forehead to block the glare, squinting into the sunrise toward the bow of the ship. "Speak of the hyperactive devil...here he comes."
The other three looked in the same direction. Even from 100 feet away, Tweek was easy to spot among the other people on deck outside enjoying the morning; he was the only one currently powerwalking towards them. When Kyle had said 'Tweek's walking' it told them all they needed about his whereabouts. Tweek had discovered on the second day of the cruise that walking endless laps around the ship had remarkable calming powers that none of his medications had, and spent hours both day and night making endless circuits around 'C' Deck. The only one of their group who hadn't accompanied him on at least one of his walks was Cartman.
Tweek had been miserable for the first day and a half of the cruise. On the first morning, as the skyline of New York City disappeared into the wake of the ship as it headed east into the open waters of the Atlantic, he had been convinced that when this vacation was finally over and he returned home in two weeks, Craig will have evicted him from the house they had shared for almost two years, all his shit piled up in the front yard. Kenny and Butters had reassured him repeatedly that his fears were groundless; that Craig wasn't that big of an asshole, and even if he was, they would never let him be homeless.
Tweek had spent that first day cowering miserably near his friends, trembling and trying to suppress the tics that kept threatening to surface and overwhelm him. He knew his four best friends were avoiding being intimate with each other when opportunities presented themselves out of deference for his feeling about his own crumbling relationship.
At 8:00 the next morning, Tweek decided not to be a burden to his friends again today; he knew his presence was sucking the fun out of everything they did. Not wanting to be surrounded by strangers, and not wanting to be alone in the cabin he shared with Wendy, he reluctantly made his way down one flight of stairs to 'B' deck, where the gym and most of the stores and bars were. He headed straight for the casino, pausing a moment to look up in wonder at the enormous stained glass wall separating the ship's casino from the hallway; it was a sixteen foot tall floor to ceiling rendering of the Greek God Poseidon holding a trident. The casino was practically empty this time of day, and he spotted Cartman immediately, sitting in front of a keno machine. Everything about the way he was sitting told Tweek that he was losing, and badly. Knowing he would regret this, Tweek went over and sat at the machine next to him and fed a twenty-dollar bill into it.
"Good morning, Eric," he said, barely managing not to screech.
Cartman was staring stone-faced at the machine he was playing. He hit the 'start' button and watched another two dollars go up in smoke. "Tweek." His eyes were smoldering.
Even though Tweek already knew the answer, he wanted to try to make conversation. "Having any—ah!—luck?"
Cartman's eyes never moved from the display in front of him. "No." He looked ready to explode, and Tweek turned his attention to his own game. He picked eight numbers on the touchscreen to play based on his and Craig's birthdays along with 23 for both their ages. He bet a dime and hit the start button. He won nothing the first round.
Mr. Acres, the British steward, had spotted him and was bringing him a very large coffee. "Good morning, Mr. Tweak," he said, putting the coffee next to him. "And how are you doing, Mr. Cartman?"
"I could use another drink, you limey bastard."
Acres nodded stoically and went off to bring it. "You shouldn't talk to him that way," Tweek said, watching his keno machine light up as he won $25.
"Ey! Those other hippies rag on him all the time! Why can't I?"
Tweek's stomach dropped. He didn't want to get into an argument, and hoped Cartman would go back to his game and leave him alone. It wasn't to be though; Cartman looked over at Tweek's machine and sneered:
"How the fuck are you going to win anything betting ten cents?"
"I—I—think the key to winning keno is patience! I can play all day this way—"
"The key to winning keno is getting one good hit on a large bet," Cartman interrupted. "I can win $800 every time I hit the 'start' button. How much can you win betting a fucking dime?"
Tweek's stomach was tying itself in knots. He knew a truthful answer would just piss Cartman off even more than he already was, and Tweek would eventually have to get away from him too, leaving him with nobody to be around. Yet he knew he couldn't lie, since Cartman could just look at his machine and see the answer for himself. "A hundred dollars—and" He suppressed a shudder and went on, trying to be helpful. "You picked ten numbers to play. I'm only playing eight...so my odds are like—ah!—four times better than yours!"
He tapped his machine's start button, and his heart jumped into his throat when his machine lit up as he won $50. Cartman scowled and turned away, angling himself so his back was more toward Tweek, dismissing him. Tweek sighed miserably. Maybe Cartman would just leave him alone and let him sit quietly next to him. Even that would be better than being alone in his cabin with the blanket pulled over his head.
Since he was now playing with credits he had won rather than his own money, he increased his bet to fifty cents per game. Two minutes later he won $500. Cartman glared at him as Tweek stared at the reflection of his eyes in his coffee as he took a large swallow from it. Acres was back now with Cartman's drink; Tweek could smell the bourbon in the glass from three feet away.
Tweek hit the start button again...and won another $400.
"Goddamnit Tweek!" Cartman raged. "I'm glad at least one of us is having fun!"
"It's just luck..." he stopped and cringed when Cartman slammed his drink down on the table between them.
"I'm going to the bar to get drunk," Cartman said tightly. "Alone."
"Aah!" Tweek couldn't take it anymore. He almost ran out without collecting his winnings, but he made himself hit the 'cash-out' button on the machine he was playing and shook his foot vigorously while it printed and spit out a ticket. One of the attendants heard the machine and came over holding a large wad of cash. She took the ticket from Tweek's trembling hands, raised her eyebrows, and counted out his winnings to him.
"Congratulations, sir." The attendant said as she left. Tweek looked at the money in his hands and then at Cartman who was staring straight ahead angrily. He impulsively threw two one hundred dollars bills on Cartman's keno machine and ran out.
He stood in the hallway outside the casino leaning against the wall shuddering. Now what? he asked himself. Shopping with Wendy sounded worse than torture. He thought he might try his other friends again; maybe they would just let him hang out nearby while he pretended to sunbathe or something. He walked thirty feet to the grand staircase, the ship rocking gently beneath his feet. This was the lowest deck that passengers were allowed to go; there was an 'Authorized Personnel Only' sign on the wall beside the stairs going down. He went up one flight to the deck where their cabins were and walked a short distance, pausing alongside a connecting hallway that led toward their cabins as well as the bow of the ship. On his left was the cabin belonging to Mike and Linda Rogo, two people from New York who seemingly only spoke to each other shouting at the tops of their lungs. It was quiet now; they must be in another part of the ship.
Tweek walked over to the connecting hallway. Their four cabins were on the right; on the left was a large glass walled room with three vending machines for sodas and snacks, along with an impossibly old 'Missile Command' game. Tweek thought it would be a good gesture to bring drinks to his friends, so he went through the glass door and started feeding dollar bills into the machine that dispensed cans of soda.
A young boy of about ten was playing the Missile Command game. As Tweek's third soda selection dropped from the machine, the kid crowed triumphantly. He looked at Tweek with a big friendly grin. "High score again, sir!"
Tweek looked over at him and tried to smile like a normal person would. "Congratulations!" he said, feeling proud that that had come out sounding okay.
"Thanks!" The kid was busy using the buttons and joystick to record his newest high score on the machine. When he was finished, he jumped up from the stool and went out the door, throwing a "see you!" over his shoulder at Tweek as he left. Tweek pulled the last soda from the machine and, on a whim, went over to the video game. The kid didn't just have a couple of the high scores, he had logged the top eight, recording his initials (RES) alongside each one. Tweek smiled and set the five soda cans on the carpet. He dug a quarter out of his pocket and sat down. He played one game, and deliberately lost as soon as he had surpassed RES's best score by 20 points. He grinned, pleased with himself, hoping the kid came back later and saw the new high score with Tweek's initials (TNT) on top.
Tweek picked up the cans of soda and made his way down the main hallway to the double doors leading outside. They led out onto 'C' deck on the left side, near the center of the ship. They were propped open, bright sunlight pouring in through them onto the carpet. He took one step out into the daylight...and a jogger ran straight into him, almost knocking him off his feet.
"Gaah!" he shrieked. Two of the soda cans flew from his hand and rolled across the deck toward the railing. The jogger grabbed Tweek's arms, trying to steady him. Tweek looked at him panicked, but then realized that this man looked kind, not like someone trying to murder him; he looked like Kyle might look when he was about sixty, with short cropped red hair, a ruddy complexion, and a warm face, now filled with concern and guilt for having almost knocked someone over.
"Jeez, mister, I'm sorry!" the man said, keeping his hands on Tweek's shoulders only long enough to make sure he was going to stay on his feet. "Are you all right?" He patted Tweek's shoulders, then his back, as if trying to make sure he was in one piece.
"Uh!-yeah, I'm okay!" Tweek was both touched and calmed by this stranger's concern for him. "You just! Really startled me!" He started to lean over to pick up the two soda cans he had dropped, and the man who had run into him was already retrieving them for him.
"Here," the man said, gently squeezing the two cans before handing them to Tweek. "If these are ruined, I'll replace them—"
Tweek took them from him; the aluminum cans felt a bit tight but okay. "They're all right—really! One of them's mine anyway!"
"Well, I'll watch where I'm going from now on. I'm really sorry sir." He stayed another moment, then slowly took off toward the stern, trotting in the direction he'd been going before their collision.
Tweek watched the man jog away; for a sixty-something year old, he did okay, but his 'jog' was more like an awkward bow-legged waddle. Tweek knew he could easily keep up with him just walking fast.
The idea of walking a lap or two around the ship suddenly sounded very appealing.
He spotted his four friends about fifty feet away when the jogger went past them. None of them appeared to have noticed him or his collision with that kind stranger a minute ago, and Tweek was grateful for that. He looked at them for a moment, delaying the inevitable when he had to join them without spazzing out from nervousness. He hoped Kyle was wearing sunscreen; he could see even from here that Butters was.
He finally steeled himself and started walking toward them, thinking how nice it would be to have something to say to them besides 'hi, guys'. As he approached, something sort of clever actually occurred to him, and he liked his idea so much that he sped up.
Tweek thought that Butters looked incredible today. He was wearing knee length tan cargo shorts and a light blue Hawaiian shirt with white flowers on it; Kenny had bought that for him in one of the Poseidon's many stores yesterday because it looked like the one Butters had worn when they went to Hawaii together as kids. Rounding this off was a white wide brimmed hat to keep the sun off his face, the mirrored sunglasses that looked amazing on him (especially when he smiled), and a wide patch of zinc oxide sunscreen across his nose and cheeks.
Tweek approached them, more confident now because he had something to talk about for a moment, a conversational gambit he could toss out that maybe one of them would run with, and let him retreat into his safe place beside his friends, without them worrying about him every single moment.
Stan spotted him first. "Hey Tweek!" They all turned to greet him. Tweek felt like he was walking into a den full of friendly lions, like they didn't know they could tear him to pieces just by being too kind.
"Hey guys!" He hoped his smile didn't appear manic. "Hey, Butters," he said, turning to address him directly. "I was just—uh!--thinking: You've been wearing those sunglasses since yesterday. You better check and make sure you're not getting some kind of scary tan lines under them!"
Stan and Kenny exchanged glances, and Stan laughed. "He's got a point, dude." Kyle started laughing a moment later.
"Oh, no," Kenny said, reaching for Butters' sunglasses as if he were about to turn the page of a tragic novel. "Let's see this..." He slid the sunglasses off of Butters' face, took one look, and started chuckling.
No, don't laugh at him! Tweek thought frantically, and then relaxed again when it seemed that Butters was starting to laugh hardest of them all. He reached for his sunglasses and took them from Kenny, turning them around and holding them up to his face so he could look at himself in one of the lenses.
"Oh, shh...hamburgers," he said, laughing and shaking his head as he looked at his own reflection. He looked up at his friends, catching Tweek's eye as if to say 'thanks'. He had two white circles surrounding his eyes from the shadow of the sunglasses; the rest of his face was a light pink from the sun.
"No wait, we can fix this," Kenny said, still snickering. He used the pads of his index fingers to wipe some of the zinc oxide around on Butters' face, bringing it just to the edges of the white circles the sunglasses had made. "Just lose the shades for a while and let that part of your face catch up." He used a fingertip to spread more lotion across his brow. "Just don't stay out here too much longer today, okay?"
"Okay." Butters grinned and handed the sunglasses to Tweek, surprising him. "Here. You deserve to wear these for a while."
Tweek looked at them for a moment and then put them on. The bright glare on everything suddenly became comfortable. He looked up at his friends, and then out toward the ocean. The sky was now a muted gray; beneath the sun, the water was struck with a million shimmering points of light, now in sharp relief through the polarized lenses.
"Hey, that's a good look on you, Tweek!" Stan said, and Kenny nodded in agreement. Tweek looked around some more; everything looked much more serene now.
"Yeah, I—ah!—could get used to this!"
"They sell those down in one of the gift shops, you know, one deck below our cabins," Butters said. "If you want, I'll get you a pair...?"
Tweek thought about it; he thought hiding his eyes behind a pair of expensive sunglasses might be comforting; he always thought his eyes looked too manic. "Let me, ah, wear these for a while and see if I like them...but thanks!" He just remembered something. "Actually, I could buy my own pair. I just won $900 in the casino!"
"Oh, shit." Kyle started laughing again. "Was Cartman there?"
"Congratulations!" Kenny said, also laughing. "And I know Cartman was there. He's been losing at that same machine since last night."
Tweek suddenly smiled; this was the first time that earlier incident had seemed anything but terrifying to him. "Yeah...I was sitting right next to him. He kind of ran me out of the casino—"
"He can't do that!" Butters said, sounding a little angry. "You have as much right to be there as he does!"
"Ah! That's okay—it was...getting sort of awkward anyway. He'd been there all night, and it only took me ten minutes to win that."
Stan laughed hard, falling against Kyle. "Ah...that's the funniest thing I've heard since we got on this boat!"
They started talking amongst themselves, and Tweek settled in comfortably alongside them. He looked up several minutes later and saw the jogger who had almost knocked him over approaching them with his awkward waddling gait. The man (Tweek thought again that he looked like a 60-year-old version of Kyle) recognized him and waved. Tweek wasn't sure if it was just his sudden good mood or the confidence he felt wearing the sunglasses, but he suddenly waved back at the man as he jogged past.
"Hey, can I join you?"
The man stopped for a moment. He smiled and started away again. "Sure!"
"See you guys later!" Tweek said, waving and taking off after the man. The four watched them moving away, the older man jogging, Tweek just walking fast beside him. They appeared to be talking animatedly.
"Okay," Kyle said a long moment later. "I didn't see that coming."
"Tweek, making a new friend," Stan replied wonderingly. "This cruise may be the best thing that's ever happened to him." They talked for a few minutes, then fell into a comfortable silence, enjoying the views and the fresh air.
"Let's walk up front," Kenny suggested, and they all nodded and started off in that direction. There was a long row of lifeboats lined up along the deck; Butters ran his fingertips along their hulls as they walked past. A few minutes later they spotted Tweek, now walking slowly toward them with the man he had left with, along with two other, also older people, obviously husband and wife.
"Tweek's making friends with old people," Stan observed. "Must be all this fresh air."
When they met, Tweek said, "Hey, did you guys know that one lap around the ship on this deck is exactly half a mile?"
"I did," Kenny said smiling. "I read it in the brochures."
"Oh!" Tweek said. "I almost forgot! These are my new friends...this is Mr. Martin"—he indicated the jogger—"And this is Manny and Belle Rosen. They're traveling together, and get this! They're also on this trip with Mr. and Mrs. Rogo!"
Everyone shook hands, introducing themselves. Manny Rosen said, "Tweek was just telling us of your misfortune to have cabins across the hall from them. They're noisy...but I've known Mike Rogo for almost thirty years; they're good people."
"They do get loud sometimes," Kyle said. "And sometimes over simple things, like what to order for dinner."
"Yes, that would be Linda," Belle said. Kyle thought she looked like his own mother might in twenty years; Belle and Manny were obviously Jewish, and a longtime, devoted couple. "She does get passionate sometimes."
"Passionate?" Kenny said, laughing. "She lectured him passionately last night for five minutes on which side of the bed she was going to sleep on."
Belle smiled. "I didn't say she always picked her battles well," Everyone laughed, and just like that they were friends.
"Don't you think Mr. Martin looks like Kyle will when he's that age?" Tweek asked. Somehow, he managed to not make it seem like too odd of a question. Despite still being winded from his walk, he was unusually calm.
"I was just thinking the same thing actually," Stan replied, studying Mr. Martin for another moment. "The resemblance is actually kind of uncanny."
Kyle said, "Then since we're on the subject, I was just thinking that Belle here looks like my mother might in twenty years." He looked directly at her. "That was a major compliment, by the way."
"Why, thank you dear!" Belle's cherubic face lit up with a warm smile.
"What about me?" her husband asked. "Do you think I look like your dad will someday?"
Stan and Kyle looked at him, then at each other, and laughed. "No...not so much," Kyle replied, and everyone laughed again. They talked for a few more minutes, and as their groups broke up they made plans to have lunch together. Tweek announced he wanted to walk a few more laps around the ship before then.
"Same time tomorrow then?" Mr. Martin asked, just before Tweek turned to walk off. "Two miles before breakfast? I'll try not to run into you next time."
"Ah!" Tweek was surprised and touched by this. "Sure!" He looked at his friends. "I'm going to do ten miles before this trip is over!"
"Twenty laps around the ship, Tweek?" Kenny replied, chuckling. "Good luck with that."
Tweek took off walking again, still wearing Butters' sunglasses. "You'll see!"
Lunch with the Rosen's and Tweek's walks around the ship with Mr. Martin in the morning and at all hours of the day thereafter became part of their regular routines. Tweek and the ten year old 'RES' continued trading high scores on Missile Command, although Tweek never saw him after their first encounter; he would check the game after his morning walks and find that the kid had returned to reclaim the high score, and Tweek would sit down and take it back again, putting his TNT on top of the list.
The morning they sailed into the Mediterranean Sea, their regular routines were disrupted considerably. Promptly at 11:00, Mr. Acres emerged from the double doors carrying a container with beverages for them. Just as they'd planned yesterday, Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Butters all turned to him and said, "Good morning, Mister Acres," in unison, like a small class of third graders greeting their teacher.
"Gentlemen," Acres replied, trying not to smile, knowing his usual formality wasn't required with this group. He'd been taking his morning breaks with this lively and friendly bunch from Colorado since the third day of the cruise. He handed out their drinks (sodas for almost everyone—sugar-free for Kyle—and a large black coffee with a lot of sugar for Tweek for when he came around next), then lit a cigarette and leaned against the railing, looking out over the ocean as he smoked and made small talk with them.
"Gentlemen," Acres said finally. "There's something we should probably talk about." He sounded serious for once.
"Okay...what's up, Mr. Acres?" Stan asked.
"The captain has ordered life lines rigged around all decks." As if on cue, two uniformed crewmen emerged from the double doors carrying long coils of ropes and began rigging them to the ship's railing, increasing their height and giving people something more to grab onto. "We're heading toward some bad weather this afternoon. It could get pretty rough; you won't want to be out here on deck when we go through it. The ship's doctor is expecting a lot of seasick passengers."
"Oh," Kyle said. "Good." Stan grinned and poked him in the side with his elbow. Kenny was listening avidly to everything the ship's head steward said.
"The thing is," Acres went on, more quietly now, not wanting anyone beside this group to overhear. "That's the official version that we're supposed to tell passengers. What I'm not supposed to say, and I'd appreciate it if you keep this to yourselves, is that they're having some sort of trouble in the engine room. There's a broken pump down there, and they've been trying to take on more water for the ship's ballast tanks, but without that pump they can't...the ship's riding higher in the water than it should be. It could be a rough couple of hours."
They took that in for a moment. "Okay, thanks Acres," Kenny said. "When's this weather supposed to be here?"
Acres held out his arms in an 'I don't know' gesture. "Sometime early afternoon I gather, sir. We're heading straight into it, so you'll see it coming a long way off. And in my experience, the sea will start getting rough even before you start to see the storm."
They all looked instinctively toward the bow of the ship. The sky was a flawless blue, all the way to the horizon.
"Tweek's not gonna be happy," Butters said. "He'll miss being able to walk!"
"I thought about that, sir" Acres replied. "He could walk up and down Broadway until we get past this, if he would be all right with walking inside." He saw their puzzled looks and explained, "It's a service corridor, sirs, two decks below your cabins. It runs the length of the ship, and it's usually mostly empty. It's one deck above the engine room, so it's a bit noisy, and it's a ship's personnel only area, but—" Acres reached into his coat pocket and took out two things, and handed Butters one of them, a bright yellow guest pass. "Have him take this, and if anyone says anything to him, just have him say Mister Acres said it was all right for him to be there."
He gave Stan the other thing he'd brought, a small foil packet of ten blister-packed pills. "I have to get back for the lunch crowd, but I got this from the ship's doctor. He said if any of you are likely to get seasick, swallow one of these when the sea starts getting rough, before it gets too bad."
"Kyle's going to probably need one," Stan said, looking at the pills. "Maybe Butters, too. Thanks Mr. Acres, we appreciate all this, and the heads up."
"It's my pleasure sir. Be careful today." He went back inside. He enjoyed spending his morning breaks with this group, and taking extra good care of them as the ship's head steward. He wasn't quite ready to call them by their first names yet (Especially 'Butters'...Americans could be such odd people!), but maybe by the end of the trip he might feel comfortable with it. Butters had been quietly tipping him $100 a day to look after them, but he would have done all that for them anyway (except for Mr. Cartman, who was an insufferable ass.)
"Well, this is going to suck," Kyle said. "I want to stay out here as long as we can, maybe go up front and watch it come in."
Stan put his arm around Kyle's shoulder. "Sounds good to me, dude." He turned around. "How about you guys?"
Kenny and Butters looked like they were already discussing it. "Yeah, just for a little while, though," Butters said, a little morose. "Kenny don't want me out in the sun too much longer."
"We'll have to break the news to everyone else," Kenny said as they started strolling toward the bow of the huge ship. "Tweek's gonna freak."
Stan laughed. "Jesus, I hope not! He's been doing great the last few days."
The four made their way about four hundred feet to the bow of the ship. By the time they got there, the seas were obviously beginning to get rougher, and the horizon was now smudged with dark clouds, gray thunderheads rising into the blue sky above their own reflections.
"Mr. Acres wasn't kidding!" Butters said as a wave broke against the bow of the ship, sending a plume of salt spray up. They could feel the deck of the ship pitching more beneath their feet. Even though the sun was still shining brightly overhead, the air was getting noticeably cooler.
"This looks like it could get mean," Kenny said, eyeing the dark clouds gathering in front of them. Even though they were a long way off, they still looked threatening, and they were heading right into them at 25 knots, or almost 30 miles per hour. "We should get inside soon." He took Butters' hand. "Let's go, okay? This shit makes me nervous."
"Here." Stan broke off five of the blister packaged pills Acres had given them, keeping five for himself, and handing the rest to Kenny. "You might see some of our group before us. I'm going to take one now, just in case. Uh, Kyle...?" Stan tore into the packet and handed Kyle one of the chalky little tablets.
"Sure," Kyle said, putting it in his mouth and washing it down with the rest of his soda. It tasted like mint chalk. "We'll be in in a few minutes, Kenny," he continued. "I just want to see this a little longer."
Stan and Kyle watched them walk away toward the stern of the ship, then turned to face forward again, leaning against the railing. They were at the very front of the ship. Stan poked him playfully with his elbow. "Hey! You want to be Leonardo DiCaprio or Kate Winslet?"
Kyle grinned. "Neither one! Their cruise ended in disaster, remember?" Nevertheless, he half-heartedly threw his arms out to his sides. "I'm king of the world," he deadpanned. Another wave broke against the ship, this one sending up a spray that would have drenched them if they'd been standing ten feet toward the stern.
"Shit, dude!" Stan said nervously. "Maybe we'd better get inside too."
"Yeah, I think you're right." The wind picked up suddenly, lifting his hair from his forehead. They set off together toward the stern, where the sky was still a bright blue behind them. Stan took one last look over his shoulder at the approaching storm, thinking of everything that had happened to finally put the seven of them on this ship.