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Gasp

Gasp

Gasp 12


  “Yeah. Trying not to be sick. I’m not good with spinning rides at theme parks, either.”

  I smile and reach into my bag. “You’ll do better if you look out the window rather than at the paper.” I pull a box of Dramamine out and give him a dose, along with a small bottle of water. “Try this.”

  He downs the pills and looks out the window through half-slit eyes.

  Rowan leans over, her sweet brown eyes troubled. “I only see one person who vaguely matches any of the descriptions of the victims,” she says quietly. “That guy over there.”

  “We might need to move around a little to find everyone. And there’s the first-class cabin—there could be people in there who we can’t see.”

  “Some of the descriptions are pretty general,” Sawyer says. He keeps his eyes on the horizon.

  I check my phone for what must be the twentieth time, and then glance around, nervous. “We should be turning soon,” I mutter. I stand up to see if I can keep my balance. The rocking is getting more and more pronounced, and hardly anybody is trying to walk around.

  Ben looks at me, concern in his eyes. “Where’s Trey?”

  “I was just wondering that.” And then I see him pushing open the door to come inside the cabin. The wind catches the door and he has to pull it closed. His hair is everywhere, and he looks damp, but not soaked. He makes his way over to our table like a drunk, staggering from side to side trying to stay level.

  “Jesus futhermucker,” he says under his breath, grabbing the table and swinging heavily into a chair. “There. Well, that was an adventure.” He catches his breath and grins at Ben, who is looking rather stern.

  “What’s the status?” Trey asks.

  “Rowan thinks she found one person on the list,” I say. “That guy with the tie.” Everybody turns, and I feel like we’re in an episode of Scooby-Doo. “Don’t all look at once, gosh.” I duck when the guy looks at us and frowns.

  “I don’t know anymore,” Rowan says. “He’s a maybe.”

  “That’s it?” Trey says.

  “So far,” she says.

  I look at the time. It’s been thirty minutes, and according to my compass app, we’re still heading northeast.

  “Hey, Sawyer?” I ask.

  “Yeah, baby.” He peels his eyes from the horizon and looks at me.

  “Why aren’t we turning?”

  “I don’t know.”

  I catch Trey’s eye, and I don’t have to say anything for him to know I’m getting anxious. “We should be turning,” I say again.

  Rowan bites her lip and stands up. “I need a new angle,” she says. She walks forward like she’s climbing a hill, and then suddenly lurches the rest of the way across the expanse of the ferry, grabbing the backs of chairs and whatever else she can reach. She disappears around a corner. I stare out the window at the rolling waves and whitecaps gnashing at the ferry. The sky gets noticeably lighter over the next few minutes. We have outrun the storm.

  By the time Rowan returns with only one more possible match, it’s six forty-five. The waves are growing calmer, and we are heading in the opposite direction of where the ferry sinks. There’s no way we could get there now.

  Everybody realizes it, but nobody says it. When Tori texts me, saying things are getting worse, I know it’s not because the tragedy is imminent.

  Another ten agonizing minutes pass in silence.

  “It’s not today,” I say finally. I close my eyes and let out a sigh, and then drop my head into my folded arms on the table, thinking of all the problems I just triggered by getting the day wrong. A missed school day, which we’ll have to do again once we figure out the right day. Another ticket home. And then another ferry ticket on the right day, if we can even figure out when that is . . . and then there’s the whole emotional mess of getting psyched up for this all over again.

  “Jules is not impressed,” I say into my sweatshirt sleeves. “Not impressed at all.”

  Forty

  Everybody tries to tell me it’s not my fault, and they remind me they agreed with my assessment, but I feel terrible about it. I don’t even have any money on me to buy a ticket home—I figured I’d just lose it anyway in the ferry disaster.

  Ben has his wallet, though, already zipped up tight with his cell phone in the waterproof pocket of his life vest inside his duffel bag, and he says he has enough money in his bank account to cover everybody’s tickets as long as we can pay him back this week.

  The problem is, it’s really difficult to get a decent cell phone signal out in the middle of Lake Michigan, and every time he tries to buy tickets for the ten fifteen ferry back to Milwaukee, he gets the gray wheel of death. Finally he gives up.

  “We’ll have to buy them at the terminal,” he says.

  When we get to the terminal in Muskegon, it’s nine thirty local time, and once we disembark, there’s a line for tickets.

  Finally it’s our turn.

  “Two seats left,” the woman says. “I can’t give you five.”

  We look at each other, mildly panicked, unsure what to do.

  “I’ve got five seats available on the four forty-five ferry,” the woman says.

  “Shall we take the two and then three of us go later?” Rowan asks.

  “No,” Trey says. “We only have one car in Milwaukee, so whoever would take this ferry would just be stuck in Milwaukee waiting for the rest of us. Let’s all take the four forty-five.”

  “Yeah, good thinking,” I say, relieved. “We’ll just have to call Mom and tell her we’re doing stuff after school today.”

  Ben buys the tickets, and then we go into the restrooms to peel off our wet suits and redress in our sweats. I wish I’d brought other clothes, but that would have been senseless if things had gone the way I expected.

  We all find bench seats in the terminal to curl up in and take naps, which should come easily after the night and morning we had, but I can’t sleep. I lie there, eyes open, wondering where I went wrong. I text a bit with Tori, who is starting to lose it. She can’t see her phone anymore to text, so her mother is doing it for her. After a few more messages, I step outside the terminal to call her.

  Her mom answers and hands the phone to Tori.

  “How bad is it?” I ask. “Tell me everything.”

  “Jules,” she says softly, “it’s so bad now that I can feel the water rising up around me.”

  Whoa. When we hang up, I check the weather forecast, and tomorrow looks to be a beautiful day. “Maybe it’s a freak storm over the lake,” I mumble to myself. “Or maybe I shouldn’t put so much stupid faith in spring weather forecasts, since they’re wrong half the time anyway.”

  By afternoon everyone’s awake and starving, and nothing in the terminal looks appetizing. We decide to explore outside, and find a cool little hot dog shop nearby for a cheap lunch. Apparently we look old enough, or confident enough, not to be questioned about being there on a school day.

  While we eat, we can hear thunder rolling in the distance. Sawyer takes a look out the window at the darkening skies and decides against finishing his second dog in case the ride to Milwaukee is rough.

  Fat drops of rain hit the ground as we walk back to the terminal. We go over everything we know for the thousandth time, trying to figure out where we went wrong and what obvious clue we’re missing. I wish I could see the vision just a few times. It’s so frustrating having to rely on Tori to look for all the clues. What if she’s the one who is missing something? What if she doesn’t know what to look for? What if she misinterpreted something? All I know is that we’re either doing something very, very wrong, or this thing is happening tomorrow, or maybe the next day. Yet . . . we can’t keep riding this ferry forever, trying to figure it out.

  • • •

  Rowan calls Mom to let her know we’ll be home late tonight. And finally the afternoon ferry pulls in. We watch the stream of passengers get off, and then wearily we board the ferry for the two-and-a-half-hour ride to Milwaukee.

&nbs
p; Sawyer takes his Dramamine before he feels sick this time, which should help him. He holds me close and I manage to fall asleep to the sound of driving rain hitting the windows. The rocking is almost soothing, since I know Sawyer won’t let me fall. I drift into a hard nap and dream about Tori sinking under murky waves.

  When I hear Rowan saying my name, and I feel her tugging at my arm, I have to struggle to wake up, and I can’t remember where I am.

  “Jules!” she says. And soon Sawyer is joining in.

  I open my eyes and stare at the strange surroundings for a moment before I remember. “What’s up?” I say. My voice sounds like it’s far away. I sit up a little and see enormous waves rolling around the ferry, lightning streaking through the sky, and nervous passengers staring out the windows.

  Everybody’s looking at me. “What?” I say again. I look at Sawyer. “Are you sick?”

  “Jules,” Trey says, “did you hear the announcement?”

  “What?”

  “The pilot just came on the loudspeaker. He said there are tornado warnings in Milwaukee, and marine warnings for waterspouts all along the Wisconsin shoreline.”

  “Waterspouts?” I blink. “Okay. How far away are we?”

  “We’re an hour from Milwaukee and the storm supercell is heading straight toward us, so the pilot says we’re being diverted to a different port and buses will take everybody back to Milwaukee.” His face is intense. “We’re being diverted to Chicago, Jules. We’re turning south right now, and we’re heading for Chicago.”

  Forty-One

  At first I can’t comprehend what Trey is saying. The ferry lurches and rolls as the waves get bigger. “But the sun won’t be right if it happens now,” I say.

  “I know, but maybe the ferry leaves from Chicago tomorrow morning,” he says.

  “Yeah,” Sawyer says, sitting up. “That would put the ferry in the right place!”

  “Hey, guys?” Ben says.

  I close my eyes to concentrate. “But . . . but the passengers will still show up at the Milwaukee terminal—how would any of them know—”

  “Because they can send an e-mail to everybody who pre-bought tickets to let them know of the change due to the weather,” Trey says.

  “Guys?” Ben says again.

  I am still not sold. “Why wouldn’t they just sail the ferry back to Milwaukee tonight after the storms pass?”

  “Guys,” Rowan says this time.

  We all look at her and Ben.

  “What?” Trey says impatiently.

  Rowan looks sidelong across the ferry and points her head in the direction she wants us to look. “There’s the guy who is on the list. The one who rode with us this morning.”

  I narrow my eyes. “I thought you weren’t sure.”

  “We weren’t sure,” Ben says, “until now, when we also spotted that girl sitting at ten o’clock to you, Jules.” He shows me the victim list and points. “This girl,” he says, “is her.”

  “And,” Rowan continues, “I see two more. No, make that three.”

  I follow her gaze as I watch a woman lurch toward the bathroom. “No,” I say, and then I grab the list and compare Tori’s descriptions with the people Ben and Rowan are pointing out. A girl about thirteen with blond hair and a polka-dot headband. A black-haired woman in a red skirt and jacket. An older couple wearing matching sweatshirts from the Wisconsin Dells.

  “Shit,” Sawyer says in a low voice as he reads the list over my shoulder. “There’s another one.”

  “But . . . the sun is wrong,” I say weakly.

  “Or maybe that light behind the clouds wasn’t the sun,” Trey says.

  “Or . . .” My mind flies everywhere, combing over all the conversations I’ve ever had with Tori. “Or maybe Tori’s sunrise is actually . . . a sunset?” I feel my throat close. “What time is it?” I scrounge around for my phone, finally remembering that I put it in my duffel bag. I grab it and check the time. It flips between six thirty-two and five thirty-two, depending on whether my phone is picking up a signal from the east side or the west side of the lake.

  I see five new text messages from Tori, and I flip through them. The water, she says, again and again. The water. It’s rising. It’s pouring into my mouth. It’s flowing from my eyeballs. I can’t breathe.

  While everybody waits for me to say something profound, I sit with my eyes closed, feeling sick and totally inadequate to lead this task. Trying to organize my crazy thoughts. Trying to figure out what to do first. Trying not to hyperventilate.

  I suck in a deep breath, blow it out, and open my eyes. “Okay, guys.” My voice shakes a little, which pisses me off.

  I sit up straighter and start again, stronger. “Okay. This is happening. First, we take turns getting our wet suits back on without drawing attention to ourselves, which could be difficult with all the rocking and the pukers waiting for your stall. Rowan and Sawyer, you first, and when you get back, tackle the rest of the victim list.”

  Trey gives me the tiniest smile of encouragement, and I know he’s proud of me.

  “Ben, how are you with math?”

  “Decent,” he says.

  “Good. See if you can figure out how fast we’re going and how far we are from the disaster point so we can have a clue how much time we have.”

  “Got it.” He pulls his phone out and starts working.

  “Trey,” I say.

  “Yes?”

  I blow out a breath. “First, don’t die.”

  “Okay.”

  Ben looks up at us for a second, presses his lips together, and goes back to work.

  “Second, I need you to use your amazing charm to try to talk to the pilot, or at least one of the crew, and try to tell them to steer clear of the low rock walls—”

  Trey closes his eyes, a pained expression on his face.

  “What?” I say.

  “They won’t listen, Jules. But I will try. I’ll give it everything I’ve got.”

  “That’s all I’m asking,” I say. “Maybe you can convince them to ask passengers to put their life vests on.” My throat hurts, and I know he’s right—they won’t listen to a teenager.

  “I get it,” Trey says. “I do. We have to try everything.”

  “Thanks.”

  Trey stands up carefully and aims for the nearest chair to grab on to, and he’s on his way.

  I sniff hard and pick up the victim list, staring blindly at it, thinking about the blond girl with the polka-dot headband.

  I look out the rear starboard side of the ferry toward Milwaukee and see a gorgeous family of four waterspouts spinning like dust devils, connecting lake and sky.

  Forty-Two

  I point the waterspouts out to Ben as others on the ferry notice too.

  “They’re amazing,” Ben says. “I’ve never seen one before.”

  I nod. I can’t stop watching.

  “You’re doing great, Jules,” he says. “I mean it.”

  I look at him, at the sincerity in his eyes, and I can see why Trey has fallen so hard for this guy. “Thanks. Thanks for helping us.”

  “How could I not?” comes his simple reply. “My life was saved in that music room. There’s got to be a reason for that. I figure this is it.” He looks at me. “What I can’t figure out is your dedication to this phenomenon. You’ve never been saved from anything, yet you feel such a strong need to rescue others.”

  I shrug. It’s too much to explain right now. As I spot Rowan making her way back to the table with her duffel bag, Ben turns back to his phone and says, “We’ve got about forty minutes.”

  I set the stopwatch on my phone. “Okay. Thanks. You change into your wet suit when Sawyer’s back.” I grab my bag and stagger toward the bathroom, pointing Rowan’s attention in the direction of the waterspouts. And I’m amazed there is so much beauty in this carnivorous lake, and on this doomed ferry.

  • • •

  It takes forever to get my wet suit on. I bang against the sides of the stall and once ne
arly step into the toilet as I try to glide my second skin on without puncturing it with my fingernails. I grab on to the toilet paper holder and the purse hooks more than once as the ferry pitches from side to side, and slam against the stall wall, scaring the person next to me, before finally getting my wet suit on. Quickly I slip my life vest on and clip it into place like Ben suggested, and pull my sweatshirt over top. The vest is slight enough to fit underneath, I can move really well, and it’ll save time later. I pull up my sweatpants, then replace my shoes and head back to the table.

  Ben has already changed and beat me back to home base, and Sawyer’s back too. Only Trey is missing.

  “He’s changing now,” Ben says.

  “Does everybody have their vests on?” I ask, though it’s slightly obvious if you’re looking in the right place.

  “Yes,” they all report.

  “Timers set?”

  Again, the answer is yes.

  “Have we located all the victims?”

  “All but five,” Rowan says, “and they’re all described as men or women wearing suits. So we figured they’re in the first-class cabin.”

  “That makes sense,” I say. “And since they’re all grouped in one place, who wants to be in charge of them?”

  “I will,” Rowan says. “I’ve got their descriptions memorized. I’m going to accidentally go in there right now just to get a look.”

  She goes, and Trey returns from the bathroom with a bit of a bulge around his waist.

  “Life vest?” I ask.

  He nods.

  “What did they say?”

  He smiles ruefully. “Pretty much what you’d expect. I spoke to an officer of some sort, who assured me that the pilot has sailed these waters many times. He thanked me for putting my trust in the crew on this ‘unusual’ voyage.”

  I nod. “At least we tried. Thank you.”

  We divide up the rest of the victims based on where they’re sitting, and assign a person to be on the lookout for them. It’s the best plan we can think of, though there’s sure to be chaos. Then we figure out where we’re each going to get life vests from, and determine that the outside deck is the best place since no one will be out there to trample us until they start exiting to the lifeboats. And then we go over our final plan and make sure everybody knows what to do once the ferry makes contact with the breakwall.