I’ve woken up with enough hang-overs to know a hang-over when I bump into one. This wasn’t one. My head felt like a bus was parked on it. But the real tip off was how hungry I was. I’ve known lean times, I’ve gone a couple days without eating many times. Once I was so hungry I started blacking out. This was way worse than that. I don’t know what starvation feels like but this must be it. I’ve never been starving and hung over at the same time.
Another bigger tip off that something was up was the fact that I was chained to the floor of what appeared to be the hold of a ship. Not chained, it wasn’t a chain, it was like metal rope. Is that something? I guess it was cable? It was looped through cuffs on my forearms and then through rings on the floor. I saw similar set-ups all around holding stacks of shipping boxes in place.
It was cold and dark down there and I should have been scared out of my wits but honestly all I could think about was how hungry I was. I felt like my stomach was turned inside out and I was digesting myself. I heard someone either singing or mumbling softly to themselves and called out. In the dim light I saw a man appear that I thought was Filipino maybe. I don’t know why but my first impression was that he was dressed like a lumberjack. When he saw me sitting up he said something in a language I didn’t understand. I wanted to ask him if he had a Marathon bar in his pocket but I managed to make myself ask a more relevant question.
“What’s going on?”
When he spoke English he did so with a French accent “You’re not supposed to be awake.”
“Where am I? What’s happened?”
He turned to walk away and I stood up to go after him. The wires or cords or whatever they were holding me weren’t long enough for me to stand up but they snapped when I pulled on them. It sounded like a gunshot in there when they broke. Those metal cables were about the thickness of a magic marker but they broke like they were shoelaces. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t hard either. At the sound we both flinched and ducked, and then the man turned around to stare at me wide-eyed.
“You . . . . shouldn’t be able to do that.”
“What did you do to me?”
I didn’t even raise my voice but he cowered like I was holding a running chainsaw “Don’t hurt me, I just work here!”
He started speaking in a language I don’t understand again as I ripped the metal things off my forearms and dropped them to the floor with a loud clank. He looked up at me, his eyes soggy with fear. I’ve never had anyone look at me like that before. It made me a little sick to my stomach. Which, somehow, only made me hungrier. He clutched a hand to his chest and barely whispered.
“Are you going to kill me?”
“What are you talking about? How could I kill anyone?” I looked down at the broken cables “I mean . . . I guess . . . look man just tell me what’s going on. Why am I here?”
He kept begging me not to hurt him in English and French and sometimes in other languages I don’t know. It was really freaking me out so I headed for what looked like some kind of stairs. Then I turned back and held out my hand.
“Gimmie your money. I’m going to need some cash to get home and I feel like you owe me.” He reached into his pocket and stuffed some crinkled bills in my hand. “What is this? Monopoly money? It’s purple. And there’s a moose on it!” He stuttered something I didn’t catch “What was that?”
“It’s a whale.”
“What?” I turned one of the bills sideways and looked at it closely, maybe it was some kind of Picasso whale. “Where am I?!”
“Is that in Arkansas?”