Semester Aboard by Elizabeth Kirke

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Jennifer is trapped on a cruise ship with a creature she only just found out exists. And she might be the only one who can stop it, before it kills her, her new magical friends, and everyone else on the ship.

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I assumed that I’d be the only one crazy enough to go out in the rain in the middle of the night, but to my surprise I wasn’t. There were people on the other side of the deck. It was too dark to see them well, but the lights from the deck above us illuminated them a little. One of them was Charlie. He was standing under the overhang where Deck Five extended out above Deck Four. He was just wearing a t-shirt and jeans, and I shivered in sympathy. A guy I recognized, not surprising since we all lived on a ship, was sitting on the bottom steps of the outdoor stairway that led to Deck Five. He was probably a football player back home or something. He had shaggy, dark brown hair and a fairly large nose. I’d heard a few girls giggling about him, but I didn’t think he was that good-looking. I wasn’t sure what his name was. Another guy sat in a chair, probably pilfered from Deck Five, with his back to me and his feet up on the rails. Mariana was near him, wearing only a bikini top and a short skirt. I couldn’t believe she wasn’t cold.

“I didn’t scream!” she said.

“You totally did! You freaked out!” Dani laughed.

It was too dark to notice Dani until he spoke. My jaw dropped in shock. Dani was sitting on the railing of the ship. Messing around on the rails was one of the first things they’d told us not to do when we got on board. Even sitting on them in the middle of a calm day was suicidal, at best. But to sit there in the middle of a stormy night was nothing short of a death wish.

“I was not!” Mariana cried.

“You were all like, ‘Oh, Danio, save me Danio!'”

“Well, I… I… Don’t be such a jerk!”

As Mariana spoke, she spun to face Dani and shoved him hard. Dani’s laugh turned into a yell of surprise, and he tumbled backward off of the railing! I gasped in horror. Every second was critical. If someone went overboard, we were supposed to immediately throw them a life preserver and run to tell a crew member. But not a single one of them did anything! The one in the chair uncrossed his legs and re-crossed them with a different one on top. The guy on the stairs threw back his head and laughed! Charlie quickly stuck his head over the railing, pulled back, and shivered. It was as if Dani hadn’t gone overboard at all.

“Oh my God!” I gasped. They must have been in shock, and that was the only reason they weren’t rushing to save Dani. I ran across the deck. At the very least, I could throw the life preserver in and hope he was still alive to use it.

They all jerked around to look at me. They acted more surprised to see me than they were about Dani falling overboard. Mariana gasped and backed against the rail. Charlie stepped to the edge of the overhang, and Football Guy jumped off of the stairs and to his feet. The guy in the chair was on his feet in an instant. I hardly even saw him move; one second he was sitting and the next he was up. He stepped in front of the others, almost protectively.

“That’s Jennifer,” Charlie spoke softly, like he didn’t want me to hear, but the wind carried his words right to me. “She’s in one of my classes.”

The guy in front smiled. “You’re up late.”

They were acting like nothing had happened! This was insane!

“What’s the matter with you?” I cried. “We have to do something!”

“Do something?” He almost looked genuinely confused. “About what?”

“She just…” I gestured to Mariana. “She just pushed Dani overboard!”

He had the audacity to laugh. “It’s raining, you know. And dark. You’re mistaken.”

“Jeez, Mariana, if you wanted a divorce you should’ve just-” My jaw dropped as Dani reappeared at the rail. He caught sight of me and froze.

My mind reeled. He was soaking wet, it was obvious it wasn’t just from the rain. He fell into water that had to be well over fifty feet below us, and we were really moving, too. Even an Olympic swimmer couldn’t have kept up with us. Dani had fallen all the way down into the ocean and, not only had he not drowned, he’d gotten back on the ship.

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