a serial story written by the Creative Writing Club.
The hat’s smile was extended downwards onto the face of the young girl who wore it, aged no more than 12. Strands of thoughts belonging to others beside herself echoed in her head, tightening her smile with a forcefulness that matched the prickling needles inside her skull. And when she tried to call out, to say something was wrong, that she was taken over, possessed even, her smile widened and revealed a row of straightened teeth.
We must get closer.
The voices sung a sweet but painful hymn in her head when she stepped causally over a dying man. He was not yet dead but somewhere in between, passed out and yet mumbling to himself about a wife and daughter. It was here where she had found the hat lying isolated in the corner of the hallway while walking to a family dinner.
Move forward, don’t look back.
There was one voice that stood out among the rest, deep and soothing, that reminded the girl of a feather’s kiss upon her nose. She moved forward; she did not look back.
The girl walked past corridors and stairwells, hairy old men sweating in hot tubs and parents swinging their children up and down in swimming pools over polluted by chlorine.
At the voice, the girl jerked her head. She was now at the dining hall. She could see dimmed candlelight among flashes of gold silverware beyond the glass doors where a plump woman in her mid-forties stood. She held a fan lined with bright orange lace fluttering incessantly at her reddened cheeks.
The voice continued: “Oh, Jamie, my girl. We were starting to get worried. Come. Where in God’s name did you find that hat?” She made a slight poke at it with her fan. “Well, we’re at a table by the fireplace,” the woman turned away and entered the hall. Then, mumbling to herself: “Now, whoever came up with the idea of having a fireplace on a cruise ship…Herald! Is that an electric fireplace? Because if not, I swear…” But the woman’s last words were lost to Jamie, who was overcome by the voices.
She kept moving. One foot at a time. Behind her, she could hear the whispers of a few guards, as well as a woman shouting her name. Jamie ignored them, following the voices instead, hallway upon hallway, until her hand landed on the latch for the infirmary. She pulled it open. The woman wailed to the guards not to hurt her child and a man grumbled agreement beside her, which was answered with a sharp slap from another guard and a quick “Shut up, Herald. You are not helping!” And then another plea from the mother.
Inside the room, several beds were hosting patients and a young woman with ice-blue eyes, handcuffed to a radiator, was gazing longingly out of a small peep-hole toward the ocean. A guard, sitting on a plastic chair opposite the woman, looked up at the unexpected entrance.
“Lia?” The name came to Jamie naturally and the voice that protruded from her mouth was not her own but an older man’s, deep and soothing, filled with some emotion that caused the girl’s hands to tremble when they reached out for the young woman.
I’ve found her.
But in that moment, the rich smell of blood came upon the girl’s nostrils and with her senses back about her, she noticed the mangled bodies dying on their plastic beds and fainted with the smile still stitched upon her features. The hat flew from her forehead when she hit the ground and landed at Lia’s feet. It was not a second later that its victim drew her last breath and the hat’s goggles sparked with new life, sending flashes of lightning into the air as it collected its newest soul. It drew the departed creature into its energy with a sudden fury that rivaled a passionate kiss upon a lover. It filled the room with a silver glow and the scent of wet clay. When it was over, the woman screamed. The man rubbed his eyes in disbelief and the guards slammed the infirmary door shut before locking it from the outside.