by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
I hang onto the wooden rail as the salt water pours over us, stinging my skin. The boat lurches down and then up again: a bronco trying to throw us off, riding the swells. The rigging screams in tension, followed by a loud crack. I stare up, expecting to see the mast falling down upon us.
“It’ll be all right,” he says, again. I try to believe.
His large tanned hands grip the tiller; we continue through the storm. I feel helpless: he’s the sailor, I’m the passenger. My life-jacket is riding up to my neck, choking me. The boat heaves across the waves. My stomach churns. He offers to get out the safety harness for me, if I prefer. I shake my head and keep both hands on the rail, fingers clutching the rough wood as if I were hoping for splinters.
I stare into grey clouds and even greyer waves. The wind isn’t abating and it’s begun to rain. I can see him tiring.
“Under control,” he says in response to my worried look. I nod; I believe him. He’s all muscle and stress and bright blue eyes. I keep holding on and take deep breaths.
Another wave breaks over the boat, into my face, I choke and splutter. The boat heels sharply to the right and water crashes over the side. I shake my head, enough.
“It’s under control,” he says, his voice breaking.
“I believe you!” There are tears in my eyes: make it stop. “Please,” I say, the other words unspoken.
He hits the button, the simulation stops. We are on a dingy white square with blue screens on every wall and sharp black equipment all around us. I get off the floor and sink onto the hard grey bench, breathing deeply. I rub my dry face, it still feels raw and stings underneath my fingers. They’ve made it almost too realistic; I am thrown every time by my clothes’ being dry.
“You panic too quickly,” he tells me. “We never get anywhere near real risk.”
The real risk is that you can die. In a holosensory scenario, your heart accelerates, your brain believes: you die. He thinks that’s exciting. I think it’s insane.
“Real risk,” I say. I take off the life-jacket and get up from the bench, shaking my head as walk out of the room. “Real risk would involve walking out there, on the street.”
He trails behind me, blinking at the sunlight streaming through the windows.
“I can’t sail, out there.”
What can I do? I nod, it’s true. I look out into the sunshine, into the busy street of people who are sailing through life with no off button. At the last minute, I turn around.
“You don’t have to be the hero,” I say.
He looks at the ground and then retreats back into the blue room, closes the door. I stand, forlorn.
A girl half my age walks in and smiles at me. “That’ll be fifty dollars. Can I book you in for next Monday?”
Copyright © 2008 by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley