By Jeff Williams


Kyle Halcyon, only scion of Ulysses and Lydia Halcyon, boarded Starry Night at the Port of Stars, the last place on the continent before land gave way to ocean.  While the gangway had been relatively steady, the ship itself was already being tossed by the early evening storm hovering just offshore.


"Good evening, Mr. Halcyon," Mrs. Riley said as Kyle stepped onto the rolling deck.  She was a small woman of slender build, her brown hair cropped closely around the ears and her small silver-rimmed glasses balanced carefully on the top of her nose, which was just a little too large to be proportional to the rest of her face.  Hazel eyes peered intently through the lenses.


"Ms. Riley?" Halcyon said as he tentatively held out his hand.  She took it firmly in hers and gripped so hard his fingertips began to throb.  A sealed-lip smile rolled across her mouth.


"Thera Riley, at your service," she said.  "If you'll follow me, I'll take you straight to your cabin.  The pilot is eager to get underway as quickly as possible.  Starbuck!"  A hatchway popped open from the deck, and a burley man in black climbed onto the deck.  "Starbuck, take the gentleman's bags to the V.I.P. cabin."


"Yes'm," Starback said in a deep, phlegmatic voice.  He effortlessly picked up both of Halcyon's leather bags and carried them through an open doorway.


"Doesn't waste any time, does he?" Halcyon said with a smile.  "I like that in hired help."  Ms. Riley extended a hand towards the doorway and bowed her head deferentially.  He nodded his head and stepped into the corridor.  Before following, Ms. Riley turned her head slowly and nodded carefully at two of the ship's crewmembers, members who had seemed to fade in from the rapidly approaching darkness.  They returned the nod and began casting off lines and attachments, beginning with the gangway.  The Starry Night was on its way to sea.




The V.I.P. cabin was as large as a small apartment.  The room was painted in soft golden colors on all the walls, and the crown molding was gilt with gold leaf.  The furniture, from the desks to the chairs to the couch to the wardrobes, was all framed with oak stained a deep brown.  The crème-colored carpet sank deep and plush under the feet of Halcyon, and from the way his bags sat upon the mattress of the king-sized bed, he knew his sleep that night would be, at the very least, heavenly.  Through the open door of the bathroom, he could just make out the Jacuzzi.


In the entire room, however, his favorite part was the exquisitely polished mirrored-ceiling.  Looking up and smiling at himself, his mind wandered over any number of memories.


"I wonder," he said, "if women like Ms. Riley really are as opposite as they say they are after hours."  He laughed heartily and then resumed unpacking his bags.  As he was placing his socks in the top drawer, a soft chime rang once and then twice.  At first confused, he suddenly realized it was a doorbell, and laughing to himself he went to answer it.


"Good evening, Mr. Halcyon," a man dressed in chef's outfit said.  "I'm from the kitchen.  I'm here to take your order for tonight's late supper."


"Really?" Halcyon said as he took the menu the chef was offering.  "That's very considerate, Mr...."


"Hardtack, sir," the chef said with a wide smile. "Everyone calls me Hardtack."


"Doesn't sound like a compliment to me," Halcyon said with a certain degree of skepticism.


"Merely a term of affection, sir," the cook said as he continued smiling, unblinking.  "Anything on the menu, sir, from lobster to grits is available, but if I may make a recommendation, the Chilean Sea Bass is particularly fine today."  Halcyon grinned and handed the menu back.


"Sea bass it is!" Halcyon spoke in a voice too loud for the size of the room.  "With it, I'll have steamed broccoli, and please keep in mind that I like my vegetables particularly soft.  I'll also have the Soba noodles and lemon tartar sauce.  I'm also quite fond of cornbread, so make sure to have several healthy portions available.  For dessert, I'll have the Boston Cream Pie."


"Very eclectic selections, if I may say so, sir," Hardtack smiled as he wrote notes for himself on Starry Night stationery.


"Merely taking advantage of the apparently large number of things you've mastered."


"Thank you sir, and for your beverage, may I suggest..." Halcyon held up his hand.


"No wines.  I've never been good at matching, and even when others do, I still can't tell the difference.  I'll have iced tea and Godet and milk."


"Very good, sir," Hardtack said.  "Dinner will be at 9PM in the Great Cabin.  Mr. Starbuck will come for you then.  I hope that you have a wonderful voyage, sir.  From now on, my souse chef Christof will come for your orders.  I just like to personally greet the passengers on the first night."


"Thank you, Hardtack."  The vibration of the engines picked up noticeably, and a crystal glass in the bathroom began rattling.  "What's that?"


"Nothing sir," Hardtack said.  "That just means we've cleared the harbor, and the pilot's picking up speed.  Good evening, sir."  Hardtack bowed deferentially and then headed up the corridor.  Halcyon closed the door and continued his unpacking. 


"Luxury," he said with satisfaction as he placed expensive clothes and lurid sex toys onto the bed.  "Now this is what a man like me deserves."  Halcyon laughed smugly, and his thoughts turned to the lithe creature who'd greeted him when he boarded.




The room was dark, extremely dark, save for two sources of light.  The first was the soft green glow of the digital displays on the stereo system.  The second was a small blue nightlight near the door.  Otherwise, the older gentleman was in the shadows.


"Wait a minute, baby," the song playing on the CD player said, "Stay with me awhile/Said you'd give me light/But you never told me about your fire."  The man sat unblinking in his black suit and tie, watching the second marks tick by on the stereo, his hands digging harder and harder into the cushions of his chair.  As certain words were said in the song, he would nearly tear up, and his bottom lip would quiver momentarily.  But then, burying his hands in the cushion even farther, he would pull back his composure.


"Said Sara, you're the poet in my heart," the song continued.  "Never change, and never stop."  There was a knock on the door, and for several seconds the man's expression remained frozen.  The knock came again, more urgently, and blinking finally, the man reached for a remote control and turned down the volume.


"Come in," he said in a hoarse voice.  Ms. Riley opened the door, and as her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she spotted his figure.


"Mr. Faites," she said softly.  "Mr. Faites, I..."  Her eyes began tearing up, and she turned quickly so that the old man would not see.


"There's nothing to be said, Ms. Riley," he muttered in a stronger yet still gravelly voice.  "You have news?"  Ms. Riley nodded.


"Hardtack says supper will be ready in five minutes," she said, fighting silently to regain her composure and walking further into the darkness of the cabin.  "He did want me to double-check with you about your order since there is still time to fix it if the steward got it wrong.  You wanted your steak rare?"


"Rare indeed," Faites said.  "A cold center."


"I'm sorry," Ms. Riley said as she clasped her hands together and lowered her eyes.  "It's just so unusual for you.  Your steaks are usually cinders."  Moving his hand slowly, Faites touched a button on his chair and turned up the lighting.  Then, he locked his eyes on Riley, who raised her head and locked eyes with him. 


"I have a taste for blood, Ms. Riley," he said deeply and darkly.  Nodding silently and looking as if a ghost had walked across her grave, she turned and headed out the door. 


"I'll see you at dinner," she said pulling the door closed behind her.  Returning his attention to the stereo, he turned up the volume again.


"Drowning, in the sea of love/Where everyone would love to drown..."




The dining room of the ship, referred to as the Great Cabin, was small but luxurious with a well-polished mahogany table.  The china, from a distance, appeared to be a simple bone white, but upon closer inspection a pale blue image of the constellation Orion could be seen shining in the middle of the plate.  The silverware was equally understated, though as he picked a fork up in his hand, Halcyon noted that it was so perfectly balanced that he could easily keep it level on top of his pointer finger.  He could just make out his reflection in the silver of the utensil.


Five other people sat at the table with him.  Ms. Riley, still in the same outfit she had worn when she greeted him, sat directly across the table from Halcyon.  Sitting next to her was a tallish gentleman.  The top of his head was bald and shiny, but the hair on the side of his head was pure white, shockingly white.  Even though he was certainly an older man, Halcyon suspected that the gentleman's hair had been that color for a long time indeed.  The gentleman stared back at Halcyon through the lenses of his white-rimmed glasses.  At the very end of the table, however, was a man to whom everyone else in the room deferred and seemed to regard with a certain level of awe.


As stewards moved quickly and deliberately through the Great Cabin, the man stood.  He wasn't very tall, but he threw off an impressive aura.  He was dressed in a black suit with a shirt so white that it seemed to shimmer in the lighting of the cabin.  His blood-red tie threw everything else into even sharper relief.  He was an older man, and his face was lined with fine-wrinkles like the first cracks in a plaster wall.  A thin film of gray hair covered his oval-shaped head and frayed out slightly behind his somewhat large ears.  But it was the eyes that truly bored into Halcyon.  Black eyes.  Deep black eyes.  Eyes so black that it was virtually impossible to see the difference between the irises and the pupils.


"Good evening, gentlemen," Faites said to Halcyon and the older man.  A steward placed two folders before the imposing man, and his thick fingers tapped upon their covers.  Other stewards began placing food and beverages upon the table.  "Welcome, my friends, to Orion Fantasy Cruises.  I am your humble servant and the operator of this firm, Rudolpho Faites.  Please, enjoy yourselves and the meals that Hardtack has prepared to your specifications."


"It's a pleasure to meet you, sir," Halcyon responded as he began sipping at his drink. 


"Indeed, it is good to meet you at last, Mr. Faites," the balding man said.  Halcyon, though he was not sure, thought he detected a hint of foreign accent in the man's voice though he couldn't quite place it.  Faites opened the first folder.


"Mr. Halcyon," Faites said as he ran his finger over the information in the folder.  He reached into his pocket and took out a pair of reading glasses.  "Ah, you must have been surprised indeed when you received the letter from us.  It says that this adventure has been given you as a gift."


"Yes," Halcyon replied, "imagine my surprise when I opened the letter from some company called Orion Fantasy Cruises.  I nearly didn't come, you know, having never heard of this...venture...before.  It's very difficult finding out anything about you."


"It is, isn't it?" Faites said deeply.  "Have you recovered from your accident?"  Halcyon, who had been smiling, suddenly blanched considerably.


"A-accident?" Halcyon asked.  Ms. Riley eagerly swallowed an entire glass of water.


"Your broken leg," Faites said.  "I trust it is healing well."  Halcyon shifted his position in his seat.


"It is," he said.  " did you know I'd broken my leg?"  Faites smiled widely.  Halcyon wasn't sure he liked seeing the old man smile.


"I'm not clairvoyant," Faites said.  "I saw you when you first arrived, coming up the gangway.  Your limp...some time ago I too suffered a broken leg."  He returned his gaze to the folder.  "I became all too well acquainted with the characteristics and inconveniences of limping."  Wiping his forehead with a napkin, Halcyon felt himself relaxing, and his face appeared to recover some of its color.


"Damn silly of me," Halcyon laughed.  "The shower is skid proof, yet I still managed to slip on the soap.  Imagine the embarrassment."  He laughed louder even as he frantically knotted a napkin under the table.


Faites smiled slightly.  "It must have been horrendous, lying there, helpless, waiting for rescue."  Halcyon shifted in his seat again and drank a large gulp of his drink.  "Well, everything appears to be in order.  Your requests are very clearly spelled out, down to the last detail."


"I'm eager to see if the stories are true," Halcyon replied.  "I mean, in all honesty, this whole thing sounds…”  Faites laughed deeply as he held up his hand.


"Oh, it is true," Faites said.  "About that, you will have no doubts soon."  He touched the other folder.  "And Mr. Engel.  I trust you had a good journey to Point of Stars."


"It was a long and arduous voyage," the white-haired man said.  Again, Halcyon caught a hint of a foreign accent, particularly in Engel's pronunciation of ard-oo-us. 


"Ah well," Faites said.  "Yes, everything appears to be in order with you too."  Halcyon began digging in to his meal.  "Gentlemen, what awaits you is beyond your powers of imagination or comprehension.  On board my ship, this Starry Night, anything is possible.  Anything you could wish for is at the end of your very fortunate fingertips.  Anything you desire is a mere push of a button or opening of a door away.  Based upon your requests, I have arranged this trip to satisfy the very fantasies you've requested, and in the morning a world of wonder will be made available to you.  When you return to your rooms this evening, you will find on your pillows a platinum key.  When you wake tomorrow, go to the room number, which you'll find on the key, and open the door."


"And then?" Halcyon asked just before taking a large bite of fish.


"And then," Faites replied as he locked eyes with the young man, never altering his gaze even as he sat down, never blinking, "you'll know the truth of Hamlet, my friend.  There are more things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of in your philosophy."




That night, the ship tossed upon heavy seas as it plowed headlong into a lengthy storm.  Lightning crackled outside the windows, lighting Halcyon's cabin and casting shadows like phantoms.  Halcyon lay awake, half under the covers, a half-burned cigarette between the pointer and index fingers on his left hand.


While the storm was certainly causing the Starry Night to lurch and sway, it was not the heavy motion of the boat that kept him awake.  Rather, it was the persistent pain in his left leg.  Even now, some time after it was broken, the leg set about proving the adage that old wounds make great barometers.  And the pain served to remind Halcyon of recent events as well, events he just assumed that he put behind him.


Reaching onto the nightstand, he grabbed the key that he had found on his pillow when he returned, stuffed and satiated, from dinner with the charming Ms. Riley, the intense Mr. Faites, and the enigmatic Mr. Engel.  It was an ordinary key in all respects, down to the ornately decorated but still relatively cheap plastic tag attached to it.  However, having grown up around his father's business, he knew that it was indeed made of platinum.  Solid platinum.


"Room 10," Halcyon said to himself, taking three puffs in quick succession from his cigarette.  He was tempted to get dressed and go to the room now, but he suspected that it wouldn't do him any good yet.  Whether it was because the fantasy wouldn't work before morning or because (more likely) the ship's crew hadn't had time yet to create realistic illusions he wasn't sure.  What he did know was that he wouldn't believe the Starry Night's reputation until he saw it--experienced it--himself.


The lightning flashed, and the thunder cracked almost immediately.  A shooting pain shot up through Halcyon's leg, and he winced and smoked more of the cigarette.  His doctor had assured him that all would be well with the leg soon, and Halcyon clung to that belief even as he stifled the butt and snuggled up under the silk sheets of the bed.




Breakfast had been uneventful.  The food, according to Halcyon's preference, had been plain indeed, just two scrambled eggs and grits.  He never was hungry in the morning, preferring instead to feast heavily at lunch and dinner.  His eyes, however, had feasted upon Ms. Riley, who had dined alone with him that morning.  They exchanged few words, but he knew that she had seen him looking at her.


Ms. Riley seemed stuffy, unattainable, yet Halcyon knew that a tigress had to be lurking underneath her business suit.


He remembered the way she smirked at his every word as he clutched the key to Room 10 in his right hand, and he wondered, almost nervously, if everything would turn out to be true.  Would his fantasy, as he requested it, truly come to life?  I wonder if I can add Ms. Riley to it after it starts, he thought to himself as he passed Room 8 and then Room 9.  He stopped momentarily to rub his leg, which was aching again.


Finally, he stood before Room 10.  The door was nearly identical to all of the others on the hall, a tasteful if unimpressive mahogany colored wood.  The only difference was the lock, which was a deep copper color compared to light gold of all the others.  Reaching forward, he inserted the key into the lock and paused, breathing deeply as, despite himself, his heart began beating rapidly.  If this is all a fucking bluff, he thought as he gave the key a twist.  The lock clicked.  After taking three quick breaths, he pushed on the door and walked into...




...a secluded grotto just off of a main room where a raucous party was in full swing.  Men and women in full evening wear danced close together on the floor while on the margins prodigious quantities of alcohol flowed freely.  Turning to his left, moving his gaze from the room to the grotto itself, his eyes were greeted by sights wondrous to behold.  Women of all shapes, from those who could have passed for supermodels to those who would have appeared at home on darkened street corners of large metropolitan areas, swam and played in the steaming waters of a blue pool.  One, who wore nothing but a slender silver thong, sat beneath the waterfall that provided a fresh supply for the pool.  Droplets ran in mini-rivers from her erect nipples and down her shapely sides until they plopped slowly onto the tile of the poolside, almost as if they were reluctant to leave her.  Halcyon let his eyes drink her in, all except the face, something he rarely paid attention to.


Other women around the pool found other ways to entertain themselves, some alone and some together.  Some simply lazed slowly in the water, gazing seductively at Halcyon and beckoning for him to enter.


"May I help you with your clothes, Kyle?" a petite blond said as she approached from behind.  Halcyon turned and was greeted by the extremely shapely and extremely naked woman, who then wrapped her arms around his waist and began kissing him passionately.  After almost a minute of this, Halcyon backed up and licked his lips.


"Hold that thought, baby," Halcyon sneered.  "Let me get a drink first."  The blond pouted and slowly ran her hands over her body.


"But Kyle," she pleaded, "I need your attention.  I crave you.  I'll just die if I have to wait to be with you!"  He smiled.  Damn, Halcyon thought, it's perfect.  Completely perfect!


"I got nothing but time, darlin'," he said condescendingly.  "I promise I'll be right back.  You waited this long for the best, so you can take it just a little longer."  The blond pouted and pleaded more, but Halcyon ignored her as well as the pleas of other women around the pool, holding up a reassuring hand to all yet specifically acknowledging none.  Reaching the edge of the grotto, he bounded up the stairs and entered the main room.


As he walked to the bar, making his way through the undulating dancers, he was suddenly struck by something else.  "My leg's better," he said out loud though no one could have heard him over the music.  "Man, they even fixed that!"  Laughing, he pushed through the last barricade of bodies and reached the bar.


"Well, good evening sir," the bartender said pleasantly even though he had to shout over the music.  "Have I ever told you, sir, what a simple pleasure it is to be in your employ, particularly on these nights?"


"It is a pleasure, isn't it Baines," Halcyon said as the name of the bartender suddenly popped into his head.  "You're very fortunate that you found me.  Now..."  The bartender held up his hand and pulled a large white drink from beneath the bar.


"Don't worry, sir.  It's all ready for you.  Godet and milk, warmed to exactly 100 degrees."  Halcyon smiled and picked up the drink.  Sipping at the thick white mixture, he smacked his lips and then took bigger gulps.


"Why Baines," he said in the same tone that one would use to praise a child.  "Very good, Baines.  Very good indeed!  And here," he said as he pulled out a thick wad of hundred dollar bills secured in a solid platinum money clip, "is your reward."  He threw five hundreds on the bar, and Baines very lovingly picked them and cradled them like tiny paper children.


"A treasure of a lifetime, sir," Baines beamed, his pudgy face blushing slightly.


"Have more of these," Halcyon said, pointing at the glass, "sent over to the grotto at the top of every hour.  If I'm otherwise indisposed, just leave them on the side of the pool."  Baines' eyes gleamed.


"You got it, sir," the bartender said.  Halcyon turned and looked back at the dance floor.  From the way many of the couples were dancing, he wondered if the grotto was only place depravity was taking place.  This is my kind of party, he thought as he downed the rest of his drink in four large gulps.  He threw the glass into a nearby fire and watched it shatter in the flames.  Finally, his belly warm from the alcohol, he moved back into the mass of the crowd.  Even as he walked, he began loosening his tie, pulling the knot far away from his neck.


Just as he was about to leave the dancers, however, one of them bumped into him.  When Halcyon saw who it was, his eyes lit up, and he grinned a Cheshire cat grin.


"Well, well, well," he said as he looked her over.  "What do we have here?"  He took her hand and led her to the edge of the room, pulling her close, kissing her deeply.


Ms. Riley, dressed in a loosely fitting white dress, returned the kiss, taking her silver glasses off and throwing them into yet another fire.  Her hazel eyes were rimmed with black mascara, and a deep red rouge laid on a little too thickly adorned her cheeks.  She looked at Halcyon as if he was the only man alive, the only man she'd ever need or want.


"Oh, Kyle," she whispered.  "I've waited, so patiently, so long for a real man like you to...come...along.  I've needed you to sweep me away, to release the woman within.  Will you, Kyle?  Will you give me that pleasure?"  She was nearly weeping with delight as Kyle pulled her close again and let his hands wander where they would.


"I know of a room, nearby," he whispered in her ear.  "Not the grotto, but another room.  Where we can be alone for a while.  Would you like that, Ms. Riley?"  Her eyes sparkled, and her knees went weak.


"Call me Thera," she moaned.  "Oh god, please call me Thera."  Halcyon grabbed her hand and pulled her towards a hallway hidden behind several tall plants. 


"I'll think about it," he sneered as they walked in the relative darkness and came to a jet-black door.  Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a large ivory key and inserted it into the lock.  The door opened with a simple push, and the two entered slowly.


The room was octagonal and featured predominantly black and white.  A white, round bed sat in the middle of the room, the silk and satin sheets carefully and immaculately turned down.  Black cabinets stood against the white walls.  Some of the cabinets bore clear glass fronts, revealing the contents within.  One had a large television and DVD player.  Another contained an extremely expensive stereo system which was wired to speakers mounted on top of each cabinet.  Another contained a substantial collection of all types of alcohol along with appropriate glasses.  Yet another contained a refrigerator and microwave.  The remaining three cabinets, however, had solid black doors, and each door was locked.  Halcyon reached into his pocket and felt the key for the cabinets.  His Cheshire cat grin widened. 


Ms. Riley pulled herself close to him and again passionately and deeply kissed his mouth.  Suddenly, with his right hand, he grabbed her arm and pushed her away from him violently.  She stumbled but managed to keep her feet.


"This is my room," Halcyon hissed.  "My room.  My rules.  Is that understood?"  Riley, her cheeks flushing, nodded.


"Yes, Kyle," she said softly.


"Yes, what?" Halcyon hissed even more coldly.


"Yes, sir," Riley cooed.  Halcyon smiled malevolently, lust burning in his eyes.


"Good girl," he said, taking off his coat.  "Now, wench, on your knees!"  Positively beaming, Ms. Riley lowered herself to her knees, never taking her eyes off Halcyon.  He circled back as he finished taking off his tie.  He pushed on the black door, which slowly began to close.


"Now," he said as he began wrapping the tie around his hands, "let's see what you're made of, shall we?"  As he approached her, lifting the tie to the level of her neck, the door slammed shut.




The sun was beginning to set when Halcyon stepped out onto the deck of the Starry Night.  He was tired, very tired, but extremely pleased by his adventure in Room 10, and stared out onto the gleaming ocean waters wondering why no one had told him of Mr. Faites' extraordinary talents before.  He rubbed his chest which, along with the rest of his body, was sore from the afternoon's activities.


As he stared at the ocean, Mr. Engel approached from another hatchway, his solid white hair blowing in the sea breeze.  "Well," he said genially.  "It sparkles like diamonds, does it not?"  Halcyon looked over at the old man, thought momentarily about saying nothing at all, and finally decided that it would do not harm to talk.


"Like diamonds," Halcyon agreed.  "Or better yet, sapphires.  The water is sapphire blue."


"I must disagree, young man," Engel said, hints of a foreign accent again surfacing.  "Like diamonds is the better simile."  He looked at the young man through the lenses of his white-rimmed glasses.  "Diamonds are infinitely more precious."


Halcyon smiled and looked at the white-haired man.  "Have a thing for diamonds?" he asked.  Engel smiled slightly and looked back at the water, 


"Yes, diamonds," Engel replied.  "I have a...thing...for diamonds."  Engel breathed deeply the salty air.  "Have you any idea what diamonds are worth, Mr. Halcyon?"  The young man laughed slightly to himself, wondering whether to indulge the fool or just walk back to his cabin.  Halcyon was intimately aware of the cost of diamonds.  His father, Ulysses, owned ten jewelry stores and obsessed over the cost of precious gems, spouting off figures nearly all of the time.  Halcyon had relished the thought of going on this trip if for no other reason than to get a break from his father's invectives aimed at DeBeers.


"I'm afraid I don't," Halcyon lied.  Engel shook his head.


"Neither do I," he replied.  "Not in today's market.  I'd very much like to know."


"There's always the Internet," the young man said, rapidly tiring of the whole conversation.  Engel seemed somewhat puzzled by the statement, but then he simply smiled and turned to look at Halcyon again.


"Learning new technology," Engel said, "is not easy for me.  I have a learning disorder.  I'll not bother you with the name; however, reading is very difficult for me.  And my writing..."


"Bad, huh?" Halcyon said, tsk tsking the old man.  "What a shame.  How did you ever let Mr. Faites know what you wanted in your fantasy?"  Engel absorbed the comment and smiled a closed-lip smile.


"Patience is a virtue, young man," Engel said as he stepped away from the railing and prepared to leave.  He tapped a hand on Halcyon's shoulder.  "It is not always a virtue of the young, however.  Good evening, Mr. Halcyon."  Engel walked off and entered a hatchway back to the inside of the ship.  Halcyon looked back at the water and laughed.


"What an old nut!" he said through the laughter.  "What a complete idiot!"  He laughed for nearly two minutes before finally turning and reentering the ship.  He needed to go to his cabin, to rest and recover before going to dinner and, more importantly, before planning out what he would do next in Room 10.




The kitchen of the Starry Night, while relatively small, was well organized, and everything from the largest mixer to the smallest marrow spoon was placed according to Hardtack's preferences.  He breezed easily from one station to the next, prepping one item then checking on the progress of another then starting another, all in a blur of hyper efficiency.  Souse chefs would occasionally pop in from a small preparation room adjoining the main kitchen, but for the most part they stayed out unless specifically requested to enter by the master chef. 


The only thing that seemed conspicuously out of place was a small table near a porthole in the back of the kitchen.  Rudolpho Faites sat at the table, pen quickly flowing in ornate script over crème-colored heavy bond paper.  As Hardtack would move behind him to reach a utensil or dish, Faites would shift his weight slightly to provide more room.  


"I tell you, Mr. Faites," Hardtack said with a mixture of pity and irritation.  "I don't see how you can get any work done here, especially when you've got that great office upstairs."  The pressure cooker began hissing steam, and Hardtack moved quickly to deal with it.


"Ms. Riley says I've been spending too much time up there of late," Faites said even as he continued to write.  "There may be something to that."  He paused and looked up, his eyes taking on a distant, vacant look.  "She may be...."  His left hand reached up and clutched a diamond ring which hung from a simple gold chain draped around his neck.  Hardtack paused, his face taking on a sad, grim look.


"Can I get you anything, sir?" he asked, barely above a whisper but still audible even in the noise of the kitchen.


"No," Faites said absently.  Closing his eyes and reopening them slowly, he pulled himself back from the place where he had gone.  "No, thank you, Hardtack.  I apologize.  I must be in your way here."


"Not at all, Mr. Faites," Hardtack said as he resumed his frantic pace. 


"Give me time," Faites said, forcing a smile.  "All will be well soon.  I promise.  Indeed," he paused, his eyes again becoming distant, "I swear it will."




Dinner was once again an opulent affair, and Halcyon's menu selection turned out to be as eclectic as ever.  Blowfish sashimi, with just enough of the liver attached to produce a pleasant tingle in his lips.  This was followed by a course of sweet and sour chicken--minus the sweet and sour sauce, minced meat pie, baked Alaska, and the ever present iced tea and Godet and milk.


"So, Mr. Halcyon," Faites asked between sips of his extremely dry Merlot, "was it everything that you hoped it would be?"  Halcyon smiled mischievously.


"Oh yeah," he said, his mouth half-full of pie.  "I've got to admit it, now.  I thought, frankly, that you were full of shit if you'll excuse the language.  But, everything's true isn't it."  His gaze, nearly malevolent, shifted to Ms. Riley, who was eating a second bowl of mixed greens salad and vinaigrette dressing.  She merely continued eating, barely even acknowledging Halcyon's presence.  "It was perfect, Ms. Riley.  Absolutely perfect."  Ms. Riley smiled lightly and resumed ignoring him.


"Well," Faites said, his voice shifting to a much lower register, "I'm pleased to hear that the experience has been all you'd dreamed so far.  And just think, sir.  You've several more days at sea to explore it."


"And I intend to, Mr. Faites."  Again, he shifted his gaze to Ms. Riley.  "I truly intend to."  Faites finished his glass, and a steward seemingly materialized out of the background, carefully decanting more into the crystal glass.


"And is everything to your satisfaction, Mr. Engel?"  The old man sat before his nearly finished meal of sausages and cheese.  He smiled lightly and wiped his mouth with one of the white cloth napkins.


"Everything is satisfactory," he said.


"Is that all you're going to say, Engel?" Halcyon asked with a laugh.  "Doesn't really tell us much, does it."


"Everyone's fantasy is confidential unless the client chooses to reveal it," Faites interjected.  "If satisfactory is all he wishes to say, that is his choice."


"Young man," Engel said to Halcyon.  "You're trying to provoke me into some sort of harsh response.  I'm far too old to be drawn into such conflicts.  If you truly paid attention, you could learn a great deal through observation.  There are stories to be told in everything if you are simply bright enough to connect the threads.  I have a strong suspicion that you will never learn this, however."  Faites shot an icy look at Engel as Halcyon looked down to find the last morsel of pie.  "I believe I will say goodnight now," Engel said, standing up and leaving the Great Cabin.


"Touchy, touchy," Halcyon said as he began digging his spoon into the baked Alaska.


"What was your line of work again?" Ms. Riley asked Halcyon.  His eyes gleamed.  "It was something to do with jewelry, wasn't it?"  Halcyon laughed.


"Something like that," he said.  "My father owns several jewelry stores which are scattered over a three state area.  Some time ago he decided that he was getting too old to check on the operations personally, so he hired me to do it for him.  You could say I'm a traveling human relations man."


"You must be quite successful," Ms. Riley said before sipping at her water.  "You radiate charm and tact."


"In buckets and spades," he replied.


"And what did you do before going into...human relations?"  Halcyon sat back and swirled his iced tea in its glass.


"A little bit of everything," he said.  "You could say I was something of a late bloomer.  But then, there was no real pressing need to find employment.  My father isn't what you'd call filthy rich."  He swallowed a large gulp of tea.  "His hands are pretty dirty though."  Halcyon smiled widely.


"Well, I must bid you all a good evening," Ms. Riley said as she stood up.  "Mr. Faites, I'll have those reports ready for you in the morning."


"Thank you, Ms. Riley," Faites said.  Halcyon quickly downed the rest of his tea.


"Sorry to run like this," he said, quickly getting up from his chair.  "Long day today.  And I'm planning on an even longer one tomorrow.  Better get some sleep."


"Quite," Faites muttered.  "Good evening to you, then."  He slowly swallowed the rest of his glass of wine, and he watched carefully, unblinkingly with his eyes as Halcyon left the Great Cabin.


Moving quickly, the young man caught up to Ms. Riley, who was getting ready to climb the stairs to the next floor.


"So," he said, saddling up next to her, "may I walk you to your room?"


Ms. Riley smirked and shook her head.  "I'd rather you didn't, sir," she said blankly.  Halcyon continued his pace.


"I insist," he said.  "We haven't talked much.  It bothers me when I've had so little conversation with someone so..."  He paused.  "Efficient."  She rolled her eyes and pushed her glasses further up onto her nose.


"I'm sure that's the word you were fishing for," she said sarcastically.


"A live wire, I see," Halcyon said, implying as much as he could through those words.  "Now we're getting somewhere."  The two of them stopped before a cabin with 'Thera Riley' printed on its small gold nameplate.  She turned to look at him squarely in the face, her hands clasped behind her back.


"You put me into your fantasy, didn't you?" she asked though her tone implied that she already knew the answer.  "What is it with people like you?  You see a plain Jane and assume that something...something...must be lurking inside, something to please whatever craving it is you may be having."


"The thought had crossed my mind, now that you mention it," Halcyon murmured condescendingly as he moved closer to her.  Ms. Riley stood her ground and showed no sign that her personal space was being violated.  Instead, she smiled wickedly.


"So what was it?  A night of wild passion on the beach?"  She moved closer to him.  "Me, hanging by my wrists from ropes while you...had your way?  Or maybe I was your slave to be commanded, to do whatever your bidding may have been?"  Halcyon laughed quietly.


"Care to join me tomorrow to find out?"


"To be frank, Mr. Halcyon," she said, moving close enough to him to be kissed, "no, I would not.  You're not the first to seize upon me like this.  And, it is unfortunately an occupational hazard, you will not be the last.  You see something, something you think you cannot have, and you must have it."  She turned around and unlocked her door.


"It's a pity," Halcyon said.  "I think it could be fun.  See, I know you, Thera.  I've seen into you, and I know what you are."  Riley slowed faded into the darkness of her cabin.


"Not really, Mr. Halcyon," she said as the door was closing.  "It is the same with all of you."  She caught the door with her right hand just before it closed.  "You see only what you have projected onto me.  But still, now or later, it will haunt you.  Everything you think you know about me is nowhere near the truth.  It is a truth you will never know."  The door closed, and the lock immediately latched.


"Feisty little bitch, aren't you," Halcyon said to himself, his Cheshire Cat grin returning.  Well, he thought, we'll see tomorrow just how much I can project onto you.  And I'll draw you in yet, pretty thing.  I'll draw you in yet.




The next morning, Halcyon slept in and skipped breakfast.  Feeling extremely well rested and full of energy, he put on a blue jumpsuit, grabbed the key to Room 10, and headed down the hall.  It was 12PM according to the clock.


As he strutted down the corridor, he passed personnel who were busy cleaning the rooms and replenishing supplies.  He noted with some degree of envy that they were even checking the rooms which were currently unoccupied.  I must ask him where he hires his servants, he thought.  These people know how to do the job properly.  Not like those damned unionized people Daddy hires.


Finally, he reached Room 10.  With a look of great joy on his face, he inserted the key, and giggling to himself, he walked quickly...



...into the museyroom.  Hibberdijibbers and hackysack handsaws buzzring in circles.


"Waiter!" Halcyon ejaculated in puzzleymint, "What in the Helen's gone on?" 


The room was a shifting dreamy mirage of a party, and people drifted in and out seemingly when they pleased.


Halcyon, happy Halcyon, Halcyon days again.  "Welcomen side and yurself worm by the fry," he of the great handle-bar mustachios proclaimed.  Unbeknowingly to his own fragile psyche, our own H.C.E. crisscrossed the threshold like the brushing bride.


"H.C.E.!" the party yelled.  Halcyon, happy Halcyon, repeated redundantly once again his skillful inquiry.


"What in Helen's gone on here!  Whymeye speaken gibberish?"  Whereupon a cad with a pipe slid up and offered disown words by way of explicanation.


"Oz about to tell you," the cad said, solemnly goosing the nearest wait rest.  She sherked with the light and drunken swich liquor with the buoys by the Captain Morgan.  "Yessir, oz about to say!  This fan to see, wonderful to behead!  Howard you ever think of such as this?  Hum?"


Halcyon grabbed his temples, trying to make the world he'd stepped into come into focus.  However, every time he tried to speak or even think carefully, the same things happened to his words.


"Whose Partee? Jamie here?" Halcyon queried without rest pounce.  The cad lid his pipe and smoked rings around the room, a smoke pocket full of poses.


"Y H.C.E.," the cad said as he googled the eyes of the young lemming across the carpeted pond.  "It's really fun to be with ol' H.C.E.!"


"Now cuttin dat clout!" H.C.E. yodeled.  "Travelled wide to get too far, un me never called H.C.E."  He looked up angerly and shrieved his fist.  "My questions never fellow the marrow and straits!  Peking clearly, to peak cleverly, my fortune my fortune to sprechen clear as the morn dew!" 


Halcyon hung his head in his hands, trying to make sense out of his situation.


"Alright," he bespoke the cad, "Iman finding door and leafing to another page.  Then, gettin in, begin again."  Here he opened wide the door.  Museyroom and nothing more.


"Flock!" he screamed.


"H.C.E.!" the party yelled.


"Now cuddit ought!" Halcyon whaled! Moby the dick spewed him in salt and sea.  "Whymeye H.C.E.?  Hug?  Sommey ex-plane deux me!  Sommey!"  The crowd parted, mucking way for the grandee of the room.


"Mayor Seedotes," the cad explain as he nippled into the closet with the closest of the female of opposite engender.


"Doseydotes," the metro golden major zed 2 awl by way of acknowledge-e-ments.  "Yer H.C.E.  Yessir, the grated and puffered H.C.E."  Hymn shouted the weight ooh lad oarway, troweling Halcyon into the transom.


"Wad H.C.E.!?  Wad H.C.E!?" Halcyon screeched owl-like in desecration.  The mayor kicked him through the doorway.


"Here Comes Embicile!" he sendentary before turning and going back...


The room faded like a nightmare through the open door, leaving Halcyon with an injured psyche and a throbbing rear-end.




Halcyon staggered out onto the deck, his eyes wide and his head throbbing.  He was twice as tired as he had been the day before, but he'd spent hardly any time in Room 10.  Pulling his thoughts together, he prepared to go find Mr. Faites to complain.  At that moment, however, he noticed two things.  One, it was night.  Two, Mr. Faites was on the deck as well, his gaze directed towards the ocean.


“Mr. Faites,” Halcyon said as he staggered towards him, “I demand a fucking explanation for what just happened to me!”  Faites was staring forlornly out onto the black ocean.  Few lights were on, and while it was obvious that the seas were rolling, the stars still painted a brilliant backdrop.  Faites’ eyes, however, were staring down into the murky depths.


“Mr. Faites, I believe I am entitled!”  He tugged on Faites’ sleeve, and the old man finally turned to look at him. 


“Good evening, Mr. Halcyon, my young friend,” he said softly but firmly.  “We missed you at dinner this evening.  You were speaking of an explanation.  For what do I owe this explanation?  Yesterday, you were glowing about the fantasy and the conquests you’d engaged in.”


“Yesterday isn’t the issue!” Halcyon hissed.  “The issue is the madhouse I just entered and from which I was kicked out at boot point!”  Faites furrowed his brow and turned to face the young man.  "And the issue is also how come so much time passed.  I wasn't in that damn room more than a few minutes, and yet it's gone from frickin' noon to frickin' half passed stupid!"


“Madhouse?  There was no madhouse listed in your request.  Believe me, I would know.  I’ve had them requested a number of times.”  Halcyon balled his hands into fists and strongly considered knocking the old man overboard into the surf.  Faites' impertinence, power or no power, was severely grating on his nerves.


“How do you explain then,” Halcyon continued as he walked up to the railing, “me walking into a ‘museyroom,’ everyone talking gibberish.  Including me, Faites, and I was trying like hell not to!”  He beat his hands on the railing.  “And they kept calling me H.C.E.  Over and over again.  And as the Mayor was kicking me out of the ‘party,’ he finally revealed that everyone thought I was an embicile!  Er, imbecile.”


“Museyroom?” Faites said with a hint of recognition.  “H.C.E.?  Well, then there’s your explanation.  The mindset of the patron can affect the outcome of the fantasy.”  He turned once again to the water.


“Now, just a damn minute!” Halcyon yelled.  “Just what are you saying?  That I’m a nut?  Because if you are…”

“No, no, no,” Faites said reassuringly.  “I’m only saying that when you read Finnegans Wake it must have left quite an impression upon you.”  He sniffed at the night air.  “The impression, inadvertently I’m sure, came bleeding out into the fantasy.  I’ll do what I can to keep it from happening again, but…”


“What the fuck is Finnegans Wake?” Halcyon asked disdainfully.  “I’ve never even heard of it.”


“Work of a genius,” Faites said, “or of a madman.  Take your pick.  Personally, I preferred Joyce’s Ulysses to Mr. Earwicker’s night dream, but…”


“Joyce fucking who!?” Halcyon yelled.


“James Joyce!” Faites yelled back, clearly annoyed.  “I’m surprised you don’t remember the author.”


“How could I,” Halcyon replied, “when I’ve never read a word of him?  I skipped those damn useless bleeding heart liberal crap arts classes when I did go to college!  Why would I read a damn book when I didn’t have to?”  Faites turned to face Halcyon square on.


“How very interesting,” he said.  “No wonder it came bleeding through.  The book bothered you so much that you’ve blocked out the knowledge of it.  Perhaps, when we get back, you should look into…”


“I tell you I’ve never read it!  But, you have.  Maybe you influenced this disaster!”  Faites recoiled as if having been hit by a hot iron.


“I assure you, sir,” Faites said sternly, “that I have no control over your fantasies other than to ensure your safety and to ensure that you are getting what you want.  Even if I wished to influence your desires and the way the fantasy plays out, I couldn’t.  This power,” Faites said as he stared up to the sky, “be it a blessing or a curse, cannot be used for me.  I am compelled, for lack of a better word, to exercise this talent in the service of others.  Certainly, I can charge for my services, but…”


“Bullshit!” Halcyon said.  “Try that one again!  I know you just snapped your fingers and all of this appeared out of nothing.”


“If only,” Faites said.  “This is the accumulation of a lifetime’s work.  A very long lifetime.  No, I may not use my singular talents for personal purposes.  It must be carried out in the service of others.  I’ve had swindlers on board, extortionists, arsonists…”  He paused.  “Killers,” he said deeply.  “And what could I do?  Nothing.  Let them have their fantasies, no matter how simple or complicated, no matter how innocent or demented, and send them on their merry way.  All of my clients receive the same treatment.  I have no choice.  I have read Joyce, Mr. Halcyon, but I could no more impose that book on your fantasy than I could The Divine Comedy or The Song of Roland or the Bhagavad-Gita or any of the hundreds of thousands of other works I’ve examined over…over the years.”


"Then why the hell did this just happen?  Where did all the time go?" Halcyon yelled.  "What does your power tell you about that, Faites?"


"Again," Faites said, "I tell you that you must have read the book, or at least part of it, even only in passing.  It made an impression on you, and for whatever reason it came through tonight.  I'm sorry, but that is the only possible explanation."  He turned towards the ship.  "As for the time, that's simple as well.  What happens in the fantasy world is not necessarily in sync with what is happening out here.  Trust me, sir, you won't walk into a fantasy and pop out fifty years past your natural, but several hours can conceivably slip away in mere minutes."


"Right," Halcyon said, "I'm going by the kitchen and get that damn cook to whip something up for me, and after I've rested, I'm going back again."


"Noooo," Faites said, shaking his head.  "I wouldn't recommend doing that.  You've had a trying experience tonight, and that makes it all the more likely that things will go wrong for if you jump right back in.  Take the night to sort yourself out.  Go back to your cabin."  Faites began speaking reassuringly.  "Rest, young man.  I'll have the stewards bring some food to your room.  In the morning, you can try again, and things will be better."  Halcyon looked at him skeptically and then breathed deeply.


"Okay," he said in a clipped tone of voice.  "I'll do it your way.  But I'm warning you, if tomorrow isn't exactly what I want, I will sue you for fraud."


"I'm sure you would," Faites said, his voice becoming almost fatherly.  "However, it will not come to that. Go on.  Rest.  Try it again in the morning, and all will be well."  Halcyon cocked his head and looked as if he was going to say something, but then he simply turned around and walked off.  Faites stared for several minutes at the empty space where Halcyon had once stood.  Finally, shaking his head, he looked back towards the water.


"Hold on," Faites began singing in an offkey and occasionally warbling baritone, "the night is coming/and the starling flew for days..."




The door to Room 10 lurked before Halcyon like a monolith.  He had tried to sleep during the night, tried to get his emotions and his anger under control, but strange images he'd seen and his powerlessness to deal with them in the fantasy had shaken the image of himself he'd always carried.  Now, however, he was determined to take on the fantasy, to win it over--or subdue it--whichever was most expedient.  His parents had paid good money for this fantasy, and he intended to see that their investment returned treble returns.


So, he thought to himself, do you do the brave thing and go in, or do you give up?  Briefly, he considered waiting until dark and then breaking into Ms. Riley's cabin.  However, after considering the potential ramifications of such an action, he gave up on the idea.


Finally, inserting the key into the door, he turned the handle and walked into...




...a secluded grotto just off of a main room where a raucous party was in full swing.  Men and women in full evening wear danced close together on the floor while on the margins prodigious quantities of alcohol flowed freely.  Turning to his left, moving his gaze from the room to the grotto itself, Halcyon's eyes were greeted by sights wondrous to behold.  Women of all shapes swam and played in the steaming waters of a blue pool. 


"Now this," he said as his mouth curled into a wicked smile, "is more fucking like it!"  He closed the door and moved closer to the pool, intending to redeem the weekend immediately.


"Well hello, doll," one of the women growled seductively as Halcyon moved closer.  "We have just been dying waiting for you to get here."  Wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around her waist, the woman speaking stood up from her deck chair and began swaying towards Halcyon.  At first, he was delighted, but then something caught his attention.


The woman's looks were okay, but she was still clearly older than any of the women had been previously.  Halcyon looked around, scanning the rest of the women.  All of them were older than he'd remembered, and many of them featured less than completely flattering bodies.  They were...he searched in his mind for the word...they were...


"Ordinary," Halcyon said lightly.  "There's nothing special about you.  About any of you."


"Oh, but if you let me, I can show you just how special I am," a somewhat heavy-set woman said as she approached him.  She didn't even wear a towel.  Halcyon blinked and then began tightening the tie he'd starting loosening when he first came in.


"Tell you what," he said with a forced smile, "I'm gonna go get a quick drink, and then I'll be right back.  See you soon!"  He twinkled his fingers at them as he waved, and then he quickly made his way to the dance floor.


The music was much harder, much more insistent than he'd remembered it being before.  Also, rather than simply making way for him, the crowd instead kept dancing insistently, bumping into him, knocking him off balance, making his passage much more difficult and twice as long as it should have been.  He angrily pushed some of the dancers from his path, and a couple angrily yelled at him, uttering invectives at lightning speed.


"Same to you," Halcyon yelled, flipping them the finger in the process.  Finally, he made it to the bar.


"The usual Baines," Halcyon said.  The bartender, his orange uniform nearly pulsating in the flashing lights of the dance floor, glared angrily.


"And just what the hell would that be?" Baines said.  Halcyon glared back.


"How dare you speak to me with such impertinence!" Halcyon yelled.  "What's come over you?"


"What's come over me," Baines said, "is the realization that I don't particularly like you."  Halcyon's right hand balled into a fist, and he swung hard, knocking Baines in the jaw and throwing the bartender to the floor.


"I take it I'm fired, sir?" Baines laughed even as he rubbed his cheek.  He spit blood onto the floor.


"You are so fired," Halcyon said softly but angrily.  He reached across the counter and grabbed a glass along with a bottle of Godet and began pouring himself a drink even as his hand shook.  Hitting the bartender had caused more pain than he'd anticipated.  Halcyon downed the glass and poured another, muttering to himself the whole time.  As he drank his third glass, out of the corner of his eye, he caught the figure of a woman dressed in white.  Thinking it was Riley again, he straightened his tie, drank the glass with as much sexy dignity as he could muster, and turned to look at her.  What he saw caused his heart to sink.


"What the hell are you doing here?" Halcyon whispered.  The woman was tall and slender with a build that less sophisticated men would have considered too small but which, in reality, suited her in a most striking manner.  Her skin was pale, but, even in the pulsating light of a party that was rapidly turning into a demented rave, it was obvious that she was not unhealthy.  In fact, she nearly glowed, seemingly radiating slender threads of luminescent goodness.  This was topped by long, red-brown hair, which hung in delicate curls down to her shoulders.  But the eyes, dark brown eyes, told another story.  They were nearly lifeless, save for the piercing stare she bored into Halcyon's eyes and the tiny teardrops that fell onto her dress.


Halcyon moved towards her, his fear turning to rage.  "I said, what the hell are you doing in my fantasy?  How did you get on board?  Huh?  Are you responsible for ruining my fun?"  The woman did not speak; she merely intensified her stare.  "Say something, damnit!  I didn't put "ghost" on my request list!"  The tears fell in larger drops.


The crowd was dancing even harder, bodies nearly slamming into bodies as the music and lights intensified.  Someone bumped into Halcyon, and angrily he shoved the person back into the human wave.  At that moment, the woman in white ran onto the dance floor.


"Come back!" Halcyon yelled, uttering curses under his breath as he lunged after her.  The crowd writhed and swayed to the ever-intensifying music, and just as he would get closer to her, someone would get in his way causing him to fall behind again.  Each time, he practically threw the "obstacle" out of his way.  Finally, he spotted her as she made it to other side of the dance floor.  She turned back, locking eyes again onto her pursuer.  Seeing his chance, Halcyon made a mad dash through the only clear passage in the dancers. 


Suddenly, the DJ revved the music up to a nearly impossible speed, and the dancers flailed about trying to keep up.  Halcyon's foot caught on one of them, and he fell to the floor.  Almost immediately, the revelers, oblivious to his presence, moved in to fill the void.  Halcyon screamed as he felt himself being trampled.  Someone kicked him in the teeth, another stepped on his leg and aggravated the old injury, and yet another pierced his skin with her stiletto heel.  Forcing himself to move, Halcyon dragged himself up.  Becoming more of a human pinball than a conscious mover, he was bounced about until, finally, he was spit out on the other side.


Blood trickled out of his mouth and onto his white shirt, joined the other stains beginning to spread there.  His face and body screamed in agony, but as he was able to fall onto a sofa to try and recover, he spotted the woman in white again, this time dashing towards the exit.  Rage burned within Halcyon, and summoning up his last reserves of strength, he hobbled as quickly as he could after her.  She stood by the door, almost taunting him, giving him the impression that he could catch her.  Just as he drew close, however, she opened the door and ran into the corridor.  Mere steps behind her, he stepped from his fantasy gone wrong into the hallway of the Starry Night.  The woman was nowhere to be seen.


"What the fuck?" Halcyon murmured.  No doors were closing.  No footsteps were fading down the corridor.  It's impossible, he thought.  There's no way she could have gotten away that fast.  Just then, the doorway to his fantasy closed, startling him, causing him to yell.  The pain almost immediately got to him, and Halcyon fell to the floor.


A door at the end of the hall opened, and one of the stewards came through carrying a plate of German sausages.  He placed the plate on the floor and ran towards Halcyon.


"Are you alright, sir?" the steward asked, reaching down to help.


"Do I fucking look alright to you?" Halcyon yelled, angrily pushing the steward’s arm away.


"But what...what happened?" the steward said, again extending an arm to the injured man.  Halcyon glared but grudgingly grabbed hold of the arm.  He winced in pain as he was slowly pulled from the floor.


"I know what's gonna happen," Halcyon growled.  "You're getting me to a doctor, and then you're dragging that high and mighty boss of yours to me.  He is going to be royally sued!  By the time this is over, you're gonna be working for me!"  The steward, ignoring the statement, helped Halcyon hobble down the hall.


"How badly is your mouth hurt?" the steward gasped.  "There is a dentist on board."


"I'm gonna need him," Halcyon said, placing a hand on his jaw, and the two of them exited the corridor.




Halcyon sat in a dentist's chair, an ice bag on his face.  He was grumbling to himself, and invectives echoed through the nearly empty room.  The only furniture was the dentist’s chair he was sitting in along with a table and light.  On the table sat a thick, rolled up leather pouch.  By the wall was a small, white sink, and a white towel hung from a hook.  Finally, the door opened, and Halcyon turned to see who was entering.


"You're the dentist?" he said quizzically.


"I am, my boy," Mr. Engel said as he stopped by the sink.  He slowly turned on the hot water and soaped down his hands and arms.  "You're a very fortunate young man."  Engel turned his head and smiled a smile, displaying his small, perfectly white teeth.  "Judging by your opinion of me, however, I seriously doubt you shall see it that way."


"Spare me, okay, just spare me," Halcyon said, holding up his hands.  "I'm not in the mood for moral discussions."


"Oh, I agree wholeheartedly, my boy," Engel said, carefully drying his hands and then spreading the pouch.   Dental instruments were arranged neatly within.  "It was simply an observation.  You should have learned, by now, to be much more observant than you are."


"Yeah yeah yeah," Halcyon muttered, wincing as pain shot from his mouth.  Engel grabbed a mirror and a small hook and walked towards his patient.  He motioned for Halcyon to lean back, and, reluctantly, he did.  Engel then tapped on Halcyon's shoulder and motioned for him to open his mouth.  As he did, more trickles of blood came out.


Engel began checking each tooth, tapping at some, poking at others.  Halcyon rolled his eyes impatiently.  Suddenly, a hook jabbed hard at a tooth, and Halcyon yelled in pain.


"Hey!" he yelled at Engel, who stepped back, his expression not changing.


"Did that hurt?" Engel said.


"Damn straight it hurt!" Halcyon yelled.


"It doesn't surprise me.  It has a rather substantial crack in it, in addition to a large cavity.  You should take better care of your teeth, young man."  Halcyon sneered.


"As a rule I normally avoid being trampled on," he said sarcastically.


"You have several cracked teeth as well as two lost fillings," Engel continued.  "I'm afraid we shall be at this awhile."  Engel placed the instruments onto the leather pouch and pulled out a small bottle containing a cream-colored substance.  He dabbed some of the liquid onto his pinkie and beckoned for Halcyon to open his mouth again.  Reluctantly, the patient complied.  Engel expertly massaged the liquid onto the injured tooth.


"Better?" Engel asked.  A surprised look coming over his face, Halcyon poked his tongue at the tooth and felt no discomfort.


"What is that stuff?" Halcyon asked wide-eyed, still examining the tooth.  “That’s fantastic!”


"Amazing isn’t it," Engel said.  "Simple oil of cloves."


"You should sell it," Halcyon replied.  "So what's the verdict?"


"As I said," Engel continued, placing the bottle back into the pouch, "we shall be at this awhile."


"I've got nothing but time," Halcyon said.  "I'll spend it thinking of the ways I'm going to ruin Faites' life."  He leaned forward again.  “You want to hear how many ways I’m going to sue him into the dirt?”


"You can tell him yourself," Mr. Engel said, his back turned to his patient, obscuring Halcyon's view of what he was doing.  "I understand that Mr. Faites will be here momentarily."  Just as he spoke, the door to the cabin opened, and Faites stepped slowly into the room.


"Mr. Halcyon," he said, "what happened?  I understand that you were injured in your fantasy."  Halcyon spun his head around rapidly, pointing at his bloody mouth and the scratches on his face.


"Damn straight I was hurt!" Halcyon seethed.  "Nothing was the way it was supposed to be; the friggin' crowd tried to grind me into the floor!  Worst of all was..."  Halcyon suddenly quieted down.


"Was," Faites' said encouragingly, suddenly becoming very attentive to Halcyon's words. 


"What...was the worst of all....Mr. Halcyon?"


"There was a woman," Halcyon hissed as he leaned back into the chair.  "Someone I never wanted to see again.  She was, emphatically, not supposed to be there!"  Faites smiled slightly, raising his fist to his mouth.  Halcyon, staring at the ceiling, did not see.  "But, that's beside the damn point, you fake.  When we get back to port, I'm calling my lawyer, and we're gonna sue you back to the stone age!  Oh yeah!  My parents go to all this trouble to buy this gift, and you fuck it up!  You're dead, old-timer!  Dead!"


The door opened again, and Ms. Riley and Starback entered, though very quietly, so quietly that Halcyon did not hear them.


"What do your parents have to do with anything?" Faites asked, sudden dark overtones filtering into his words.


"This," Halcyon replied, waving his hand frantically around the room.  "This surprise gift!  They’re definitely not getting their money's worth out of this!"  He placed the ice bag onto his knee.


"Your parents, Mr. Halcyon," Faites said, inching ever closer to Halcyon, " do with this."  Halycon laughed.


"Of course they did you jackass," Halcyon sneered.  "Believe me, no one else would have ever done anything like this.  I should know; people borne into my class very rarely have true friends."  Faites stared towards the ceiling, seemingly close to losing his composure, but he regained it quickly.


"You are mistaken, sir," Faites said.  "None of the paperwork mentions your parents.  None of the checks held by my bank draw money from their accounts.  Their signatures do not appear on the contract."  Halcyon turned again.


"Well if it wasn't them," he said, "who's the idiot who thought this would be a good idea?" 


Faites put his hands in his pocket and laughed quietly.  "Who's idea," he laughed.  "That, my friend, is a very interesting question.  But let me turn it around.  Who was that girl you saw in your fantasy?"  Halcyon shrugged his shoulders and squirmed slightly in his seat as his temper flared.


"Just...just someone I used to know," Halcyon said softly.  "I didn't even know her well."


"Oh, come now," Faites continued.  "She appeared to you in your fantasy.  Surely...surely, sir, she was someone with whom you were intimately acquainted.”  Halcyon shook his head.


"I really don't know her," Halcyon whispered, growing tired of the questions.  Faites began pacing in a circle.


"Don't know her, eh," Faites repeated.  "There was someone I once knew, Mr. Halcyon.  Ahhh, she was wondrous to behold.  Never had I laid eyes on a more beautiful, more kind-hearted soul; I should know since I've been around for a very long time.  All those years, Halcyon; never once in love.  Never once.  But then, then I met her."  Faites began tearing up, and he stopped for a second to recompose himself again.


"When are we gonna get on with this," Halcyon said to Engel, trying to change the subject.


"In a minute, young man," Engel replied.  "Patience.  Patience."


"Patience isn't a particular virtue of yours, is it Halcyon," Faites stammered.


"You've got a point?" Halcyon asked.  He was beginning to feel very uncomfortable, not just with Faites but with everything.  Something was bothering him, something he could not quite put a finger on.  And the questioning about the woman was making things even more irritating.


"I've been around a very long time," Faites continued.  "I had the patience to wait for someone as special as she was.  She broke the spell of loneliness, sir.  Broke it, buried it, and then gave me wings for the first time in my existence.”


Why didn’t you just screw Riley, Halcyon thought as the pain started returning to his tooth. 


“Do you know what happened to her, Halcyon?  Do you know what became of this angel I'd waited centuries for?  Someone without a shred of patience drove too fast around a curve, smashing into the driver's side of her car.  Instead of calling the police, the paramedics, someone who could have helped, the driver removed all evidence of who the car belonged to and fled the scene.  And now, Sara Hendricks, twenty-four years old, daughter of Milton and Hyacinth Hendricks, is dead.  She could have been saved, Halcyon, if they'd reached her in time."


All of Halcyon’s anger and frustration suddenly dropped like a heavy stone to the pit of his stomach, and a cold sweat began running down his brow.  "What…what was that name…again?" he said weakly.


Faites nodded.  "Sara Rosalyn Hendricks.  Let me say that one more time, sir.  Sara…Rosalyn Hendricks.  It was the suffering, Halcyon.  The suffering.  Sara must have suffered terribly, in great pain, bleeding to death.” 


“Can we get on with this, Engel?” Halcyon asked.  “I want to get back to my room and get some sleep.”


“It took many months to track you down," Faites continued.  "Despite every power at my disposal, I couldn’t just snap my fingers and locate you.  But then…then it occurred to me.  Yes, the plan finally crystallized.  I wasn’t sure at first…”


“Just…just shut it,” Halcyon growled as he put the ice pack to his jaw again.  “No one ever convicted me of that.  In fact, I haven’t ever been in a wreck!”


Faites ignored him.  “Once I found you, I learned about the broken leg, among other things.”


“Say what you want, old timer,” Halcyon said.  “Even if I did do it, you can’t prove anything in a court of law.”


"The accident I could forgive," Faites said angrily.  "But leaving her to die while you skulked off like a coward.  That...that, sir, is unforgivable."  Halycon leaned back in the chair.


"Are you going to turn me in to the police when we reach shore?"  Halcyon laughed to himself.  “I’m acquainted with some very fine lawyers, Faites.  Libel and slander charges against you would really help me nail you harder into the legal coffin you’re falling into.


"No," he said.  "No sir, I am not."  Halcyon closed his eyes and felt himself relax into the chair.  Faites could threaten him all he wanted to, but there was nothing to be done.  "No, we've handled this situation here, on board ship."  Suddenly, all of the things that went wrong with his fantasy flashed through his mind.


"The fantasy?" Halcyon said.  "You've been screwing with my fantasy!  But what about what you said last night, about not being able..."


"To use my power for me?” Faites asked, loosening his tie and smoothing his thin white hair back over his head.  “Yes, you are quite right.  I am powerless to act on my own behalf."  Faites took off his coat.  "Killers, murderers, arsonists, extortionists, all of them have come to me with fantasies they’ve wanted to fulfill.  And each time, I felt worthless.  Here I had an opportunity to take them out once and for all, but I couldn't.  I had to listen to their twisted notions, indulge their whims.  And each time I felt another piece of me break away, wither, and die.  But you, sir, you finally offered the incentive I needed to find the loophole."


Suddenly, Starbuck's strong arms flung around Halcyon, pinning him into the chair.  Halcyon struggled, but Ms. Riley was able to bind his hands and feet.


“Now hold on, you jackass!”  Halcyon yelled as he jerked at his restraints.  “You can’t do this!  This is kidnapping!  This is against the law!”  Faites slowly lowered himself until he was crouched next to the patient.


“What you did was against the law too,” Faites stated plainly.  “At the risk of being philosophical, I’d say our two sins will cancel each other in the cosmic scheme of things.”


“If you can’t use your power for yourself,” Halcyon asked as his hands frantically tore at the bonds, “then how do you explain the sabotage in the fantasy?” 


“Rather easily,” Faites giggled.  “So easily, that I’m angry I’d never thought of this before.  Ms. Riley, please tell Mr. Halcyon here who gave him this fantasy.”  Ms. Riley stepped around so that Halcyon could see her.  She peered at him through the narrow lenses of her glasses.


“For Kyle Halcyon,” she stated, “given in memory of Ms. Sara Rosalyn Hendricks.”  Halcyon shook his head in bewilderment.


“Do you need me to explain?” Faites growled.  “Then let me do so expeditiously.  It’s a work of genius.  It isn’t my fantasy, Halcyon.  I’m merely the one who bankrolled it.  My name appears nowhere in the contract, only Sara’s.  This is Sara’s fantasy.  Granted, in her absence, someone had to make the decisions.  I couldn’t risk them being made by myself, so…”


Halcyon stopped struggling and focused on Riley.  “So you had Riley dream up the fucking details!”


“Not just me,” Riley said.  “Hardtack helped as well.  And Mr. Starbuck.  The three of us planned the fantasy.  Of course, this,” she said waving her hand around the room, “this was Starbuck’s idea.”


“What this,” Halcyon asked.  “What are you talking about?”


“Do you enjoy the cinema?” Faites asked, standing up and stretching his legs.


“The cine-what?” Halcyon said.


“Philistine!” Faites yelled.  “The cinema!  Movies!”  Faites reacted quickly to contain his temper.  “I remember seeing some of Edison’s originals while I was in New York.  I’ve been astounded by how the medium has matured.”


“Yeah, great,” Halcyon said.  “Just how old are you, anyway?”


“Seen many motion pictures from the seventies?” Faites asked.


“Any thrillers?” Riley chimed in.


“A seventies flick with Dustin Hoffman and Lawrence Olivier?” Starbuck said in a gravelly voice suggesting that he did not use it often.


“Hoffman? Olivier?  What the fu…”  Halcyon froze.  A dance of realization was carried out on his face, and his eyes grew large.  He’d seen something on television a couple of times.  Something about…  The details were starting to fall into place.  The jabbed tooth, the dentist’s hair…


“White hair,” he whispered as he looked at the back of the dentist.  “Engel.  White angel…the oil of cloves.  Oh my god…”


“You remembered the film,” Starbuck laughed.  “Good!  I was hopin’ you would!”


“Our good dentist,” Faites intoned, “at the devising of Mr. Starbuck, is not here for a fantasy.  He is part of Sara’s.  And, sir, he’s a choice I approve of heartily.”


“But he’s…he’s…”  Halcyon was cutoff by the sound of a dentist’s drill being turned on and off, and he felt himself being paralyzed with fear.  Before he could react, a pair of rubber chocks had been inserted into his mouth, forcing it despite all of his effort to stay open. 


The dentist turned around, a portable drill in hand.  Halcyon tried to scream but found that he couldn’t. 


“Sara suffered,” Faites whispered into Halcyon’s ear.  “She suffered.”  Riley moved around to the other side.


“Mr. Faites is one of the nicest, gentlest people I’ve ever known,” she said, speaking close enough to Halcyon’s ear for her lips to brush against it.  “He was so deserving of someone like Sara.  And you broke his heart.”  Riley’s face fell as tears began streaming down her cheeks.  You broke his heart!” she spoke with a broken voice. 


The drill was revved a few more times, and Halcyon focused his eyes on the smiling the dentist, the man he knew to be a Nazi dentist.  Then his eyes zeroed in on the drill.


“Oh, don’t worry,” Engel said as he moved closer.  “I’m not going back into that cavity.  That nerve’s already dying.”  He moved closer, and Halcyon pushed himself back in the chair as far as he could.  Hardtack entered the room carrying a tray with four wine glasses.


“No,” Engel continued, “a healthy, freshly cut nerve is infinitely more sensitive.  What I propose to do is cut into a healthy tooth until I reach the pulp.”  He turned on the drill, and this time it stayed on.  “Tell me, sir,” he said in an obscenely pleasant tone just as the tip of the drill neared Halcyon’s front tooth,  “tell me.  Is it safe?”




It was nighttime on the ocean, and the Starry Night rocked back and forth in waves being driven by an approaching thunderstorm, still far enough away that no thunder echoed when the lightning filled the sky.  The only sounds were the engines humming, the waves cresting and falling, and the screams spilling like blood into the air.




The End



© 2002-2003 by Jeff Williams.   While struggling to forge in the smithy of his soul the uncreated consciousness of all people, Jeff occasionally produces poems and short stories such as the one you’ve just read.  If you wish to contact him concerning this story, you can E-mail Jeff at