Bogleech.com's 2014 Horror Write-off:
" Admirality "
The Album Atrium
Tomorrow is my first day on the job. I received a letter in the mail looking for medical school students interested in a six-week internship onboard a cruise ship. It seemed like a great deal, I’d get job experience and a vacation at the same time. Not willing to risk losing such an opportunity, I called immediately. They had that old-timey waiting music playing on the other end of the call. It was actually pretty good. I was a little bummed when they answered.
“Yes, hello. I’m calling about the internship.”
“Ah, yesh, the internship.” When he spoke, he slurred his ‘s’s and had some sort of accent I could place. He sounded a bit like Sean Connery to me. “You’re intereshted in the internship?”
“Yes, that’s why I’m calling.”
“Are you familiar with the organ that pumpsh blood?”
“The heart? Of course I’m familiar with it.”
“Good, good, yesh. Shplendind, absholutely shplendid. You’re hired. Be at the Port of New Orleansh by the sheventh. ” And just like that he hung up the phone.
I can’t imagine why I was the only one who applied. The cruise ship actually looked more impressive than the brochure. It had to be big enough for at least 3,000 passengers. It’s a fairly plain-looking boat, though. Standard white paint along the hull with stripes of nautical green running along the edges. Rows and rows of little portholes glistening in the midday sun. There were even a few seagulls circling it, drifting lazily in and out like the waves. It was very soothing waiting in the line to board. I really needed this, all the fresh air and sunlight. I reached the end and was stopped by a tall man in uniform. His beard reminded me of “The most interesting man in the world” from those Dos Equis commercials. He huffed at me.
“Hold it right there, shonny, where’sh your ticket?”
“I’m here for the internship. Were you on the other end of the phone?”
“Why yesh I wash. Your voish shounds about right. Welcome aboard.”
“Thank you very much, sir. Can I ask you more about the position?”
“What? Of coursh not. I’m only the captain. You need to shpeak with our physishian. The infirmary ish on the second level, look for the red and white shigns. ”
“Thank you, sir.” I strolled onboard and found a nice map of the ship posted on a wall next to a bin full of smaller maps. Awfully convenient, but it was still a pretty big ship. I must have wandered around for a good forty minutes before I found what must have been the infirmary. I mean, the door had a huge Red Cross symbol on it but it looked a little abandoned. Damn, what if the doctor has taken a break and I’d missed them? I’d hate having to stumble my way through the ship again trying to find them. I cautiously knocked on the door to see if I could save myself the trouble. I was relieved when an elderly voice answered.
“Yes? Come in, mind the mess. There’s some volatile shit in here that I can’t afford to spill.” I entered very slowly, lest I spill some of his “volatile shit”. The exam room was very cluttered and dirty, as if it hadn’t been used very much. Stacks of patient’s medical records were all over the room, hogging all the desk and cabinet space. There was so little storage room that most of the antibiotics and syringes were just scattered about, resting atop the musty stacks like little paperweights. The room itself was fairly small, only large enough to handle a single patient at a time and even then there wouldn’t be enough room for any sort of operations. This place probably only administered first aid or treated small injuries. A bald, elderly man filed through a stack towards the back of the room.
“Uh, hello? I’m here about the internship.”
“Oh you are? That’s…great. Just great. There aren’t many patients, so you’ll mostly be doing filing work today.”
“That’s alright, I guess. Why are so many records here if it’s a cruise ship?”
“Ah, we’ve gotten a bit behind on all our patients’ records. Some of these have been here longer than I have. There just isn’t anywhere to put it, since they converted the back room into an operating table and morgue.”
“They didn’t have a morgue already?”
“Nope, manufacturer’s defect. Now get filing.” Not one to argue, I set to work. It wasn’t all that hard to do, just a lot of alphabetizing and moving to different folders. The doctor busied himself stamping different sheets of paper, writing some kind of letters, and crumpling others. We worked in silence for a while before he started questioning me.
“So, you’re a med student, eh?”
“Yes” I replied.”
“I remember my days as a lowly intern. Back then being a doctor was much harder, not all the fancy medicine you’ve got today. You had to anesthetize people with alcohol, and every now and then you’d drink a little, because it was the damn prohibition. Gah, I digress. I am doctor Ekberg, a cardiologist. As my intern, you’ll mostly handle the filing of these records so I can focus more on writing these letters and stamping these forms.”
“That’s alright by me.”
“Good. Expect to do this daily. Now get back to work.”
In the week or so that I’ve been an intern here, I’ve done almost nothing but help Dr. Ekberg sort through patient’s files for hours on end. You’d think at some point you’d just burn them up, but he assures me they have to be processed and sorted. Just this morning I alphabetized papers from 1992! There’s just no end to them, and Dr. Ekberg isn’t much help. He busies himself stamping and signing records and then folding them neatly into envelopes. He hasn’t given me any directions involving those yet, but he just sits there and mumbles incoherently to himself most of the time. The office itself hasn’t been cleaned since I got here, which I suppose is for obvious reasons. Then again, it’s strange that no other crew members would have helped Dr. Ekberg by now. Surely having an effective infirmary is important for a ship this large?
Earlier today Dr. Ekberg informed me there was a fatality onboard.
“This poor bastard has had his last bowl of oatmeal.” Ekberg announced. “It looks like a pulmonary embolism, a kind of heart attack.”
“What could have caused it?” I inquired.
“Well, personally I’d say this man wasn’t making the full use of the cruise activities. Probably just lounged around and gorged himself on the unlimited buffet. In fact, I’d go a bit farther and say it was the oatmeal.”
“The oatmeal on this tin can is this real cheap slop they get from big oil-drums. Loaded up with sugars, salts, and fats to make it last damn forever.” The certainty with which spoke struck me as odd. Tentatively, I inquired further.
“Has this…happened before?”
“Has what? The oatmeal? Ah, hell, this must be the twentieth one since I’ve worked here.”
“Shouldn’t you say something to the captain if the oatmeal keeps killing people?” He stared at me for a long while after I said this, squinting as if he wasn’t sure what he was seeing, or in this case, hearing. I stood there awkwardly, unsure what I was supposed to do, when the door pushed open and a few sailors wheeled the body in. It was covered, of course, but it was already starting to smell. Ekberg’s focus shifted to the crewmate already through the door, and he began squawking at them about his files and chemicals and that he’d have their asses if they made a mess. I took this opportunity to get back to filing, trying to think of a way to excuse myself from the awkwardness that would resume when they finished. Once they’d pushed it through the back door into the makeshift morgue, Ekberg came out and returned his attention to me.
“I’m sorry, my boy, but you’ll have to leave for today. Those idiots made a mess in there that you aren’t qualified to clean. Report back here first thing in the morning.” Dumbfounded at this stroke of luck, I stammered out a quick understanding to the doctor and made my way to the door.
Today…I lost the body. I already explained what happened to Dr. Ekberg, but he just went on with yelling at me about what I’d done. He was less concerned with the actual corpse than with the mess I’d made losing it.
This morning, Ekberg had left me in charge of the clinic while he went off to get more medical supplies from the storage rooms a few floors below. It was about the same as every other day I’d been his intern, he busied himself with something else while I sorted files all day and no one ever came in for treatment. I was just finishing the stack I was on when I started hearing noises coming from the back room. It sounded like someone or something was shuffling around in there, bumping into boxes and generally making a mess. Ekberg had never let me go into the back room, claiming it was where he kept all of his important fluids and antibiotics and that I would just make a mess of them. Still, no one should be in there right now, and if they did make a mess, Ekberg would be sure to blame me or make me clean it. I knocked a few times and called out.
“Hey, the doctor’s not here right now. No one should be in there.” The noises stopped for a moment, then continued almost immediately. I sighed deeply. Now I had to go in there and look around, probably to see some passenger’s kid goofing around. It wasn’t locked, but I’d never had a need to be in there before, so I didn’t know exactly what I was expecting.
The room was fairly dark, and from what Ekberg had mumbled in his work stupor I gathered that the switch was broken. I flipped it to check. Nothing, just a click and the same gloom as before. The noises had stopped, whoever was in here probably hid when I came in.
“Seriously, if there’s anybody in here, I’ll find you. You’d better just come out now.” I looked around the room. It was much larger than the medical office I was accustomed to, sort of like a science classroom. There were several cabinets and counters lining most of the walls, while a pile of boxes were stacked haphazardly against the left wall, just about reaching an air duct. I moved into the center of the room, so I could get a better look around for whoever had been making those noises.
It was about then that I realized I had no idea where the body was. I looked frantically for the metal gurney, only to find it empty in the furthest corner in the room. The shuffling noises began again, and one of the boxes fell over. Sheets of paper, used syringes, and a stethoscope all spilled out. Then I noticed a more humanoid shape moving around there. At first, I’d though it was someone crouched behind the boxes to hide from me. Then it went limp and began moving towards me. It wasn’t all that fast, but it had startled me and I backed into the right wall. In the light coming from the office, I could vaguely make out a sort of wormlike appendage extending form the corpse’s torso, which latched onto nearby objects and dragged the body along. It was horrifying, whatever it was, and I recoiled as it approached. I was so focused on it that I slammed right into a cabinet and sent all sorts of medical substances tumbling downwards. One large jar spilled right onto the worm, and it let out a low pitched cry, like one of those slow-motion voices. It squirmed away in pain, dragging the corpse onto the pile of boxes, and then removing the air duct with one pull. As it slithered away into the ventilation, I took a look at what had caused it so much pain.
“Formaldehyde, methanol…” It was embalming fluid. I quickly screwed the cap back on and stored it where I could get it later, if I ran into that thing again. The rest of the day after that is…a bit of a blur. I don’t remember how exactly I got here from there, but only that I requested to be let off the ship. I was denied, as the cruise was not yet over and I was employed. Everything’s just starting to feel…off to me…
They wheeled in another corpse this morning, this one was a 300 pound woman who looked as if she’d never seen the sun. Ekberg blamed the oatmeal again, but I’m not so sure. It just doesn’t seem right, two people dying suddenly, one right after the other. It’s a little too convenient, the first body disappearing only a few days before the next comes in. There’s only enough capacity for one body in the morgue as far as I know…
Dr. Ekberg left me in charge of the clinic again today. With a second death so soon, they required him to give a presentation about proper cruise safety and health advice. I’ve spent so much time filing documents that I’m almost glad to be administering treatments today. You know, if anyone ever came into this crypt of an office. Anything would be better than sitting here all day, especially after what I’d seen in the morgue. I mean, I’ve read some pretty sick shit about parasites you can get while on vacation, but what kind of twisted bug does that to a person? It couldn’t just be coincidence though, two people dying of spontaneous causes on a cruise in close proximity to each other. I had to know, I had to go into the morgue and see if the second corpse would be like the first. I’d be ready for whatever it did this time, I grabbed the jar of embalming fluids from the drawer I’d stashed it in. I reached for the back door, but found it not only locked, but bolted from the inside.
“Is anyone in there?” I banged on the door a few times and waited for an answer.
Nothing. If someone was in there, they weren’t willing to acknowledge me. At this point, I was more annoyed and confused than curious, so I began craning my head around to look through the glass panel. The room was a lot like Dr. Ekberg had left it the other day. Very clean, other than the stacks of boxes in one corner, and the cabinets I’d fallen against were now locked so nothing would spill out again. In the middle, though, I could just make out the metal gurney where the body should be. I say should, because the only thing there now was the same mildewy, stained sheet they’d covered the last body with. I guess they’d moved it when I wasn’t in the office, which is strange, to say the least. Dr. Ekberg can barely move those stacks of paper, let alone a 300 pound woman.
Today…I’m not sure how to describe it. I’m not even sure about it. I’ll just…write down what I think happened, and try to make some sense of it...
I arrived for work early and sorted papers until the room was actually functional. I managed this by stashing them in the morgue so the medical supplies could go back into the cabinets. By then, it must have been about 6:00 Pm. The office door opened and one of the crewmembers entered. I recognized them as one of the two who’d brought in the first body. A huge bearded fellow, who vaguely reminded me of Bluto from those old Popeye cartoons.
“You the new intern?” He barked.
“Yes. Dr. Ekberg isn’t here right now, did you need him?”
“No. I’m here for you. You’ve been invited to the captain’s table.” This news was startling, as I’d only seen the captain once before when I had boarded. If he’d wanted to speak with me, he’d had plenty of opportunities already.
“Are you sure? I’m just-”
“No more talk. Follow me.” He growled these words out, then pushed his way out the door. Even if he was mistaken, I didn’t want to upset such a large man who clearly had a short temper. So I walked behind him as he lumbered his way to one of the main stairwells.
“Down.” He said.
“But the Cafeteria is on the first floor, isn’t it?”
“Down.” He repeated, clenching his fists in agitation. As we descended, he walked behind me, barking directions to keep heading further and further down. I started to think that perhaps the sailor was mistaken, or drunk, and that he wasn’t sure what he was doing. I considered ducking into the next floor, but he was easily within arm’s reach, and might start dragging me angrily to his intended destination. After several minutes of unease, we reached the bottom, and Bluto shoved us through a set of steel double doors.
“BOILER ROOM” They read.
In here the lighting grew steadily worse, as if the makers couldn’t care less about engine maintenance. I could vaguely make out dark, mechanical silhouettes looming on either side of the hallway we had entered. They produced a low hum, which mixed with the sounds of metallic clanging from some unseen machinery above. The air was warmer than what I’d felt anywhere else on the ship, and humid almost. This was probably the steam coming off a few of the machines, I thought, but the moist air continued long after the dark shapes began disappearing. We had made our way down a long hallway, whose width had been steadily decreasing with the number of machines to either side of us. It was still wide enough for two of three people standing shoulder to shoulder, but began making me a little claustrophobic.
As we continued down the hall, I kept looking for any sort of side passages I could try and run into, there was no way Bluto was in his right mind. I had just about given up and resolved that when we reached wherever we were going, I would try to push my way past him and run back the way we’d come. Then the air began to stink. It became sour, bitter even, like wine. It stung my throat and nose, and I covered my face with my hands in an effort to stop it. In my fidgeting, I briefly looked back to see Bluto had no issue with this new sensation. If anything, he looked less irritated than before. The clanks and hums of the engines decreased, but were joined by a loud thumping noise. It was sort of rhythmic, as if a chorus of drums were all being struck simultaneously. By this point, the air was starting to make me cough, and I placed my hand on a wall to steady myself. It was moist from the air, probably, but also sort of spongey. The lighting was still poor, but I could see that the walls were made of the same metal as everything else. I poked them again, and sure enough, they squished and sprung like some kind of sponge.
I was getting very nervous now. There had to be some sort of gas leak, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. Bluto probably had been down here long enough to get brain damage from it. I wasn’t going to wait any longer, and decided to just charge him and run, and he spoke.
“Here. Welcome to the captain’s table.” The light had improved, if only marginally, and I could see a fine wooden door with a brass plaque on the front.
“ADMIRALITY” It stated. This word was nonsense, it didn’t have anything to do with the captain of his table. However, the stinging sensation had started to go away, so maybe the room was safe? It looked like the best option at the time, so I went in.
Immediately, I could see soft pink light illuminating what looked like a captain’s quarters. There was a nice mahogany desk, and an armchair behind it. Seated there was the captain I had spoken with on the phone and seen when I boarded. The desk faced towards the doorway, but between myself and the captain was Dr. Ekberg, kneeling on the floor with his arms propping him up. The captain greeting me when I entered.
“Ah, yesh, the new intern ish here. We may begin. Come forward, namelesh intern. Shee the folly of the Ekberg’sh waysh.” I tentatively moved forwards. Bluto stood motionless at the doorway, supposedly guarding against an escape. Upon reaching Dr. Ekberg, the captain began clapping and rose from his chair.
“Very good, yesh.” He lauded. “Now shee thish. Ekberg here hash been mutinoush.”
“No, captain, I-“Ekberg was cut off as Bluto thumped him in the back.
“You do not speak here.” The sailor growled. “Receive your judgment.”
“Ash I wash shaying,” The captain continued. “Ekberg allowed formaldehyde to reach our beloved Admiral. Ekberg knowsh that it ish a danger to him, but he shtill ushed it.” At this point I had to speak up. Whatever insane misconception was going on, I had to let them know that whatever upset them about the embalming fluid was my fault.
“Actually, captain, I spilled the embalming fluid on the body. Is that why you are mad at Ekberg?”
“No, no, dear intern. Ekberg shouldn’t have had the shtuff in the firsht place. It is poishon, it is bile. The Admiral needed a thick and creamy remedy for it. Ekberg shall shuffer, it ish the will of our Admiral.”
“Praise the Admiral.” Bluto proclaimed.
“Praishe the Admiral.” The captain replied. They began to chant this phrase, almost piously in low voices. Then I noticed some dark shape in the corner of the room begin to move, and shuffle. I knew that shuffling, that slick noise of it moving across the floor. Yet it wasn’t what I thought, it was far stranger.
How could I describe it? It’s difficult to remember the exact details of it. It was like a giant heart, the size of a couch maybe. It was all wrong, though. The shape was distorted, elongated in a way. Pieces of tubes branched off from the top, leaking viscous fluids onto the ground. The heart itself was entirely covered in thick veins, pulsating with the same rhythm as the thumping I had heard earlier. The “Admiral” as they called it, lay on its side, atop what reminded me of a mass of fleshy red tubeworms. These were like long, thick tubes squirming their way across the floor and carrying the heart with them. They shuffled towards Ekberg, who only looked at the floor and muttered to himself like the other two.
“I have failed my Admiral….I have failed my Admiral…I have failed…”I wanted to help him, get him out of the thing’s way, but I was petrified. Right on the top right section of the heart, there was an elliptical ring where a tube had apparently been severed. In it was an eye the size of my head, but this too was elongated. It was the shape of an oval with each end coming together in a point. It looked outwards lazily, and made contact with me. There was…an understanding in its look. Words formed in my mind, spoken in a deep and languid voice. A reality unlike my own. I no longer felt any pity for Ekberg, nor any fear of the heart. This was my Admiral, and Ekberg tried to hurt him. The Admiral needed those corpses, needed their thick, fatty fluids to survive. Who would want to hurt such a beautiful thing?
I stood there, dazed, as the Admiral turned its attention to Ekberg, and shot out its tentacle like tubes. Vent-tacles I would have called them. Two of them had long, snapping jaws like a moray eel, and clamped around Ekberg’s arms, then lifted him into the air. Then a few more lunged at him, these ones with rings of thin lamprey teeth. They burrowed into the doctor, deep into his body, hungrily jostling against each other for the choicest parts. They engorged like snakes, pumping large bumps through their tube necks and into the Admiral. Its eye rolled back in presumed ecstasy, and as quickly as it had begun, it was over. The tendrils recoiled and the Admiral began to shuffle back into their corner. Ekberg’s body was almost literally a piece of Swiss cheese. He was all loose, leathery skin and holes where the mouths had pierced him. Dehydrated, it seemed, like a piece of beef jerky.
“It is done!” Bluto and the captain said. The captain exited first, followed by Bluto, and then myself. I stumbled my way back to my room in a sort of dreamlike state, smiling pleasantly at the thought that Ekberg was dead and I was his replacement. That I had been graced with the Admiral’s presence, and that I would get to prepare the meals in the future.
Only after I had reached my room did I start to snap out of it. By then it was too late. I had a taste of it…I immediately craved it again, my Admiral, our Admiral. What could I do to please him? I can’t leave the ship, I’d never survive out there…so far away from it…I’d burst with phonons. No…I must sort the papers, and send the letters…for our beloved Admiral…
To Whom It May Concern~
I regret to inform you that your child, spouse, loved one has recently passed away. At the time of their death, they were vacationing, employed on our cruise ship, the S.S. Akvörðun. I send my most sincere condolences to you and your family, and have included up to six complementary passes good for a free two-week vacation onboard. As you can see, these passes remain valid for up to four years and are transferable, making a great gift! There are no blackout dates and no hidden fees! A complete cruise at absolutely no cost to you! Luxury suites and an all-you-can-eat buffet, restocked daily! So stop whatever you’re doing and come on down! There’s Nothing you’d rather do than Go on a CrUise! It’ll be fine! Stop wORking and use your vaCAtion days, to go on a ReAl VacatIOn! Take your CHildren With You, they NEed a VacaTIon the MoST! You neeD A vAcaTIoN…DoN’t YoU? RElaX and EnJoy yoUREself! A crUIse, soMe sUn, aNd AlL THe fUn yOur HEaRt DesIreS!...YeS! wHY YEs yOu dO! sO bRInG tHaT blOOd pUMp of YouRS AnD enJOY!