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Authors: Christine Dougherty

Tags: #Horror, #Fiction

The Boat

BOOK: The Boat
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The Boat

A novel by Christine Dougherty



The Boat

By Christine Dougherty

Copyright © 2012 by Christine Dougherty

All Rights Reserved


The Boat
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.


* * *


Also by Christine Dougherty:


Faith, Creation, All Lies Revealed

Faith was three the first time her twin sister died. The second time, she was ten. Discover the paradox of Faith. Book One in the Faith Series.


Darkness Within, A Collection of Horrorific Short Stories

These bone-chilling, mind-wrenching short stories will leave you wondering about the people around you...and yourself.



James Smith is receiving messages. Will he find the right answers? Follow James as he pieces together the puzzle in this taut, psychological thriller. You'll be guessing until the last page.


Born Lucky, The JD Chronicles, Adventures of a Reluctant Psychic

At three days old, JD was blown clear of the explosion that killed his mysterious parents and set him on a path of uneasy discovery. A reluctant psychic, JD chooses to live in the safe world of a mental institution, unable to control the things he ‘sees’…sometimes with unwelcome, and even dangerous, consequences.


The Devil Stood Up

Could the Devil, Himself be the ultimate hero? This is the brutally told story of how the Devil, after countless millennia of strictly doing God’s will of punishing sinners in Hell, decides to lay down a Judgment of his own.


* * *


* * *


Special thanks to everyone who has supported and continues to support me in writing these books. I could never thank you enough. Chrissy, Susan and Jeff, Ann, Roger and Mary, Bob, Jim, Rosemary, and Karen.

Thank you, Pauline Nolet, for proofreading and keeping me cheery; it is much appreciated.


This book is for my husband, Steve Dougherty, because he saw the sinkers first.

Love you, Biggie


* * *


August 6, 2011


Chapter One


Randy leaned back and closed his eyes, letting the tip of the fishing pole dip almost to the water. The yellow bobbin bobbed obediently, riding the gentle waves. The sun was warm and the steady lapping of water against the little rowboat was relaxing. He didn’t get much time to relax anymore and wanted to make the most of this small window.

It was very quiet; a steady breeze made the trees on the banks seem to whisper a sweet song of rest. The sunlight off the water dappled strange but soothing shapes across his eyelids. He felt himself sinking into a comfortable abyss. The pole slipped from his loosening hands.

, will you
pay attention to what you’re doing? You’ve
something on the

Bonnie. He’d almost forgotten all about her. He glanced back at his wife of forty-some years, taking in the lines of varicose veins, the pudgy way her thighs pushed at the edges of her Bermudas. Her stomach was pooching out under the life vest she wore. Life vest. Jesus jumped up. In the

“Bonnie, you don’t need a damn vest in the bay. What do you think is going to happen? Whale gonna sink us?”

You’re the only whale around here
, he thought and then felt bad about it. He was for sure no skinny Minnie, himself. And the reality was they’d both lost quite a bit of weight in the last two months. Not much choice in it.

He felt a tug on the line and started cranking the reel. He cranked slowly, more preoccupied with Bonnie than he was with the line because chances were better he’d snagged a bunch of debris rather than anything edible.

He turned, straining, to see her better. She was sitting bolt upright in the seat behind his, her hands clutching the sides of the little boat. Her teeth were clenched and thinly veiled panic danced in her tired eyes. The life vest pushed up against the underside of her jaw, doubling her chin, giving her a childlike, vulnerable look. Randy felt the familiar give and take of his feelings: irritation at her constant nagging overtaken by the desire to protect her from anyone or anything. Even if that meant protection from his own unkind thoughts.

“Honey,” he said, still absently cranking the reel. “Just relax. Isn’t it nice out here? Isn’t it pretty in the bay?”

Her gaze slid left and right and then back to him. She shook her head and tears slid into the deep pouches under her eyes. Her chin trembled. She had never gone fishing with him before all this happened. She preferred lunch with the ladies and then a refreshing trip to the mall for more scarves…he would swear she had more than a hundred. So, he’d always fished by himself. Back then, though, it had been mostly freshwater fishing and he’d done it from the safety of a collapsible chair on the bank.

Everything had changed now, though.

Boy, had it ever.

Randy shook his head, thinking. The line was getting heavier by the second. He hoped it wasn’t a tree, all waterlogged with tangly branches.

“What’s wrong?” she asked him, her voice edged with panic. “Why are you shaking your head?”

“Bonnie, please. Nothing is wrong. Would you just try and relax? Haven’t I told you a million times that attitude is everything? If you would just try–”

He’d turned to face her again as he reeled, straining against the weight on the line–something heavy coming up. Her eyes went past him and her mouth dropped open in horror. Randy squinted at her and started to ask what was wrong but before he could say anything, she whooped out a scream loud enough to send birds flying in a panic from the trees along the shoreline.

He turned forward to where her gaze was directed. The line had cleared the water. He’d hooked a man right through the eye socket.

The man’s skin was almost entirely eaten away–by fish or by time or by a combination of the two…it was hard to tell. The one eye he had left was a bleached out blue and the retina was floating sleepily off to the side. It looked like he was trying to see back into the water he’d just been hooked from. His tongue was a spongy mass filling the cavity of his mouth, surrounded by white, split lips.

The man on the line groaned. He pulled a waterlogged arm from the water and flailed at the side of the boat. Randy thought it sounded like someone hitting the boat with a baked ham. He felt a little ill and then became aware of Bonnie’s scream going on and on behind him. Then he saw why. A small water snake had curled itself into the hole where the man’s other eye should have been.

Bonnie hated snakes.

, honey, it’s all
. That snake doesn’t want you,” he said and turned to try and catch her eye. “He’s content where he’s at.”

The man on the line moaned and the sound had a choking, burbling quality. A thick rope of mucous and water was draining steadily from a hole in his cheek. His arm flailed again but this time, his hand banged over the side of the boat. Three of his fingers disengaged from the pulpy hand and splatted onto the floor where they rolled to and fro.

“Gross,” Randy said, looking at the fingers at his feet. As he watched, one of the fingers began to scrabble in a half-circle, trying to gain traction, then it lay still.

Bonnie screamed on and on.

“I don’t care I don’t care Randy just for God’s sake get that thing off the line so I don’t have to see that snake anymore oooooh I hate snakes!”

She had squeezed her eyes closed and her mouth had squinched up and she was shaking her head like a little girl who has tasted something awful.

“Okay, okay, hold on, Bonnie, just hang on, honey bunny.” Randy dug a knife from his pocket and flipped open the blade. He took one more look at the sinker he’d hooked and regretted the lure he was about to lose. But there was no helping it. He couldn’t put his hand that close to the thing’s mouth. It would bite him for sure and then he’d most likely get the sickness, too. And God knows Bonnie would never be able to get the little boat back to the big boat, so then what? Then Bonnie would end up as a sinker, too.

Nope; definitely not worth the lure.

He cut the line.

The sinker did what all the sinkers do: it sank.

Roger sat back and sighed. They still had a few good hours left in the day, but the fun had gone out of it. If only they hadn’t come across that snake.

But they had, so.

“It’s okay, Bonnie, no snake. All gone, see?”

She cracked an eye open and looked. Then she opened her other eye. She smiled shakily at Randy. “Oh, thank you, honey bunny,” she said. “Ooh, I really do hate snakes. I just…they scare me half to death. I’m so sorry, Randy.”

She smiled and under the weight of years he saw the pretty young girl he’d married. He smiled back and then gave her soft knee a squeeze. “No problem, honey, I didn’t feel like fishing anymore, anyway. Those idiots on
don’t know what they’re talking about half the time; I don’t know what they were thinking sending us out here. It’s a terrible spot to fish.”

Because now the fish had plenty to snack on…it was hard to get them to bite at lures anymore, especially in the bay.

Randy socketed the oars into the oarlocks and began the long pulls that would take them back to
Barbra’s Bay Breeze
. Bonnie tickled his ears and neck each time the rowing motion put him back in her reach. She’d got to giggling. Randy laughed and swatted at her darting, tickling fingers. Then he settled more seriously into the job of rowing. Maybe he could think of a good way to round out the afternoon, after all.

He became contemplative, watching the shoreline as they went past. “Hey, Bonnie, do you think that sinker looked like Al?”

“Al who, honey?” she asked. She was happier now they were headed back. The snake had scared the daylights out of her, but she also didn’t like being in the bay in the small boat. The water was too shallow in places. Too full of…

“Al Anders, that sales guy from Mag Industrial? The big, bald guy? Back in…oh, I guess it would have been ninety seven? Or eight? When we lived down near Baltimore, remember?”

“You mean
Anders. Pete was the bald man who worked with you at Mag.” There’s amusement in her voice. She’s still holding onto the sides of the boat, but not as tight.

“Oh, that’s right! I always did get him mixed up, didn’t I, Bonnie?”

“Yes, you always did, honey bunny,” she said and laughed.

That guy had been a pretty decent sort, if a bit pushy, Randy thought and smiled a bit sadly. He wondered if old Pete had made it through…not many had. He scanned the shoreline dreamily, caught up in reminiscence.

The shoreline was thick with shuffling corpses that by all rights should have lain still. Their combined voices waxed and waned with the breeze. Every few seconds, they surged forward and the ones in the front fell in and became sinkers.

People on the boats called them chum sometimes, too.

Yep, that one he’d brought up had looked like bald Pete. Could have been him, too, for all Randy knows.

Funny world.




Chapter Two


Maggie stood on the deck of
Barbra’s Bay Breeze
and watched Randy and Bonnie as they rowed in. She stood by, ready to grab their rope and get the little rowboat tied up. She knew she was supposed to call this part of the boat the prow or the port or something equally nonsensical (to her), but she just didn’t feel like it. She was too tired today. Watching Randy and Bonnie was also making her sad, making her miss Joe. How did those two wind up alive as a couple when so many others had not? She and Joe were young; they
to have survived together–they were only in their thirties where Randy and Bonnie had to be in their sixties.

She ran a hand through her chestnut hair and consciously put the blocks to her agitation, knowing it was exhaustion and possibly hormones coloring everything in shades of brownish gray.

It was hardly their fault–any of it. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Just good luck or bad luck, really. She had to remind herself of that.

BOOK: The Boat
8.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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