Elizabeth struggles to keep her stinging eyes open amid being mercilessly pummeled by her own hair and the torrential rain. She tries to take in her surroundings as best as she can while squinting. Her hand is resting on what appears to feel like some kind of mass of soaked and matted fur. She gasps to find she had been petting the black cat she had followed prior and is now clutching his tail in a near death-grip. The cat slowly turns to regard her with an unforgiving gaze and an annoyed meow that releases her hold on him. He sprints off hissing to look for shelter from the unforgiving storm.
Her body aches and after feeling the ground beneath her she notes that she is lying on her side on a floor of rotting wood. Flashes of lightning flicker menacingly all around her and dance close enough to nearly graze her fingers. Thunder booms overhead so loudly she cannot hear herself think. She tries to get up to her feet, but the ship she appears to be on lurches with such force that she resigns herself to staying low.
At least, she thinks it is a ship. It was dark and stormy, if you will pardon the cliché, but the swaying underfoot reminds her of the rocky instability she faced on whale-watching trips with her parents back when she was younger and much less cynical.
With all the chaos agitating her body and floating around unwelcomingly in her mind she hardly hears the voice calling out to her.
“We’re flying through a bit of a rough patch there, Elizabeth, but we should be out to see the setting sun in no time.”
“What is this place?” she cries out while whipping around trying to find the speaker. Her head is throbbing from all the stimuli and her clothes are soaked to the bone causing her to shiver feverishly. She suddenly wishes she could snap herself awake back in that drab classroom. Her daydreams seem to be getting more vivid. At least, she hopes this is all a dream.
“This here’s my darling Destiny. The heights she soars and the masts she sails are beyond compare,” the voice booms proudly. “We may be pulling through a storm, but she’ll see us safely to the other side.”
There are so many questions swirling around in Elizabeth’s mind that she settles on the simplest yet most pressing one. “How did we wind up in the middle of the ocean from the men’s hospital bathroom?!”
Laughter echoes with a chill matching the air around them. “Guess again, my dear. Look over the railing.”
Without fully processing what she was doing or why, Elizabeth clutches onto the instructions like a lifeline and claws her way to the edge of the ship’s rail. Heaving herself up to her knees and pulling her nose up to peer over the edge she clamps a hand over her own mouth to prevent herself from screaming or vomiting or a gross amalgamation of the two.
There are clouds beneath them. Padded by clouds above and below the ship appears to be in some sort of blanketed sky pocket in the eye of the storm where somehow more chaos resides here than the promised tranquility that such a place is typically said to bring. Lightning flicks out like a snake’s tongue to pierce through the gloom as the icy winds wail in agony pounding on everything in sight.
Elizabeth sinks down and whirls around once again to try and spot the other living speaking soul here in this mess with her.
“Who are you? What do you want with me? Why am I here? What did I do wrong?” the words tumble quickly out of her with more of a whimper than she would have liked. She needs to stay strong.
“Oh, you didn’t do anything wrong, Elizabeth. You did exactly what you were supposed to do right. You found yourself at the right place at the right time,” the voice growled kindly with a surprising lull.
Refusing to remain a shaking pretzel on the floor amidst the swirling seas of confusion, Elizabeth pulls herself up to stand tall and uses the railing to swing herself forward to the nearest wall. Slumping against it she grips the edges of what is now apparent to her to be a doorframe and wills the appearance of the figure by squinting through the sheet of rain hoping he materializes before her.
“Show yourself, you coward!” she shrieks with the confidence she most certainly does not possess at this particular moment in time. “If I’m gonna die, let me at least see your bloody face!”
A renewed rumbling shakes the ship. Elizabeth cannot tell whether that is the perpetual thunder echoing all around or the steps of a great beast lumbering towards her. It was both. Through the fog she can start to make out the dark outline of a rounded creature wearing a tricorn.
A glow begins to emanate from the skull on the tricorn and two beady red eyes bore into Elizabeth’s mind. She swears she can hear laughter knocking around within the corners of her head and suddenly she starts to feel heavy. She fights to stay upright and awake, but her knees shake as they threaten to give in at any moment. More than anything she wants to sink down, but she knows that this is all the more reason not to. She stands her ground and glares back despite her eyes feeling like they are swimming over with rainwater and brain fatigue.
The creature draws closer now and takes Elizabeth’s breath away. She feels small and insignificant in his looming 7-foot presence. She urges herself to say something, anything, but helplessly she looks up.
The menacing giant chicken standing before her seems to be immune to the storm as he remains completely dry, the water somehow bouncing off and redirecting away from him without ever making contact. His wattles are a striking red and shake with the howling winds. His clothes are oversized and tattered, but not nearly large enough to cover his massive frame of white feathers which protrude from his vest. His billowing steampunk leather jacket is adorned with mismatched gears with scribbles on them as though they are badges of honor. Steely eyes pierce through her heart. She shudders and he grins.
“Welcome aboard Destiny, girl,” the Captain snarls his beak into a smirk. “There’s no escaping your fate here.”