Ocean Wandering


Hana Varsano, Staff Writer

It was her first day at sea. She was an actress who had never been away from shore before, despite living by it her whole life. It was the thing she had only seen in movies, the deepest part of the water. Her mother and father never taught her how to swim, so she was afraid of the water. She was desperate to swim in the water, but when she swam anywhere where the water reached above her chin, she would always feel a sense of fear that she was drowning. But she knew that she would be safe just as long as she stayed on the boat for her trip. 


Her name was Shelly Mackweld and she was just 20 years old. She had been acting since age fourteen, when she joined the Fog of the Sea theater troupe in Bar Harbor, Maine. There were roughly 40 people who were a part of Fog of the Sea, and Shelly knew them all very well. Many of them had introduced Shelly to theater before she joined. There was Don, who directed most of the plays and owned the company, and Diane, who worked on the costumes with the crew.


The first time she saw them was when she was 8 years old, and she loved them. The schools on the island were so small that they couldn’t maintain a theater program. Shelly’s parents thought that she was too young to act, so they told her to wait till she was at least fourteen, and she did. A group of movie critics from New York City had visited Fog of the Sea and watched a play with Shelly as a minor character in Dear, Don’t Cry. The play received positive acclaim from the critics, and soon Don was getting calls left and right to perform off-Broadway. Eventually they settled performing at Cherry Lane Theater, and today was the day they were leaving. They were to set foot on a boat and view all the wonders of New York City, express their emotions in the theater, and go outside of Maine together for the first time.


“May the ladies go first,” said the boat woman as Shelly got into the small boat.


Over ten minutes later, they approached a medium sized boat. “Your living quarters for the next day,” the boat woman said. As the cast went up on the ladder and climbed into the boat, they looked at the dark ocean. They could barely see through the water. 


That night on the boat, there was a celebration. There was lots of champagne and caviar, a luxury they never had before. 


“A toast to us going to the city that never sleeps! And a toast to our crew! And a toast to our cast, especially June….I mean….I mean May,” Don drunkenly yelled. 


“I’m making patches for all of us saying ‘We made it to New York’ once we get home,” said Diane. 


And there was a continuation of celebration and singing. There was confetti and cake and drinks. There was May, who played on the harp she bought with her as Don and Diane danced.


Little did May know that her friend had grown jealous of her. Shelly had been in the theater for 6 years, and May almost always got the main roles. The highest role Shelly had ever gotten was in Oceania: A Northerners Tale when she played a travel journalist from England. Shelly felt it was all in the name of nepotism that May got the biggest roles. That night Shelly wrote in her diary:


I long for fame, I long for attention,


I long for it because I long to have a sense of hope. I feel as if I will never be like my friend. She has much more talent than I do. She has much more beauty in her than I do. She has a lover, whilst I’ve never had one. She leads the summer program for the theater. She wears much more extravagant costumes than I do. She stands in front of bigger lights and sets than me. She socializes much more than I do, and what do I get? The small roles as always, twelve lines at best. Yet I still work countless hours a day. The people I talk to always talk about how significant and beautiful her roles are. I feel they would show much more respect for me if I got a lead role. My father didn’t think I was fit to swim because I am a girl, so he never taught me. He thought acting was fine, though only after I convinced him it would make us well. He didn’t earn much at the fish market and Mom didn’t sell much fishing, so I told them my job would help. But look at me now – God. I am young. Sure, my job pays better than those of my parents, but I am unhappy. I am trapped in a place where I cannot swim and where I cannot love. Everyone around me has these gifts. But, I wish you, God, would give them to me.


That night, Shelly went to bed crying as she put her journal under her pillow. She fell asleep. Sooner than she knew it, she woke up. She looked at her clock – 8 am. Later that morning, her boat would be going into New York. The cast would be at the Royale Summerville Hotel in the middle of Manhattan, one of the best hotels in all of the city.  She was feeling much happier than she had felt before and ran down the stairs of the boat. She went towards the kitchen and was preparing to tell the chef what she was going to eat. 


“Chef, I would like to have a….” She walked into the kitchen… nobody was in sight. “That’s odd. Maybe the chef is still sleeping,” she thought to herself. 


She went into the seating area, which was near the dining room and kitchen. “Don, Diane, you said last night that you would be here by 30 after 7. What’s going on?“


At this point she was beginning to worry, as she realized that no one was there. “Surely the skipper is riding the boat. The boat’s going at a moderate pace,” thought Shelly.


She went to the steering wheel… not a single soul in existence was in sight. She looked through all the bedrooms of the ship and the outdoor area, finding no one. 


“Well, the waves aren’t moving that fast? I must be hallucinating,” she said to herself. “I must be dreaming.” And she pinched her arm. “Yet I must be wide awake, because whenever I realize I’m in a dream, I pinch myself and wake up.” 


Now she was fearful. She looked at the compass by the steering wheel. “New York is nowhere near here. The boat’s going up further up north from Maine. I must be in Canada. It might be a better idea to direct the boat towards a city nearby.” 


So she steered the boat for a couple of hours, not knowing what she was doing or how she would get to her destination. She stopped to take a break for lunch. 


“No food in the fridge, no food in the pantry, no food in anyone’s suitcase – great,” she said, now angry. Her thoughts began to get abrasive. “They ditched me, I know it they ditched me. May found my diary and she doesn’t want to be my friend anymore because I envy her. She told Don and Diane, and they thought I wasn’t worthy of being an actor anymore because what I said was mean, so they ditched me. May was never a true friend of mine. She just wanted more actors to stand in the background of her own stupid little spotlight “


“They purposely didn’t leave any food for me. I’ve looked through the supplies on the ship and there’s no fishing equipment to get some lunch. They want me to starve and die.” she said. “I should probably start steering the ship again and find out where the nearest towns are.” 


So she ventured for towns. Still, after a couple of hours, there was nothing. 


“I can’t get back,” she said. “I’m trapped in this ocean with no food and no water,” she said to herself. “Maybe flashing my lights would help the lifeguard boats notice me”. 


She went into the boat’s cabin and started turning the lights on and off repeatedly. Finally, she saw a helicopter. 


“Hello, can you please help me?” she yelled as she waved her arms up and down, but the helicopter did not notice her. “They all planned this against me. The cast, they called the first responders and they don’t want them to give me help.”  


Twenty minutes later, a lifeguard boat approached the ship. “Hello, please help me!” screamed Shelly, but the lifeguards did not notice her. “Wait. If a lifeguard is here, then there must be land nearby.” 


She steered her boat towards where the lifeguard boat had come from. She found an empty dock and tied the boat to it. She was in Halifax, Nova Scotia now. She got off of the boat and walked into the city. She found a water fountain and drank out of it. Now she saw people, but they didn’t see her. She got a pastry to eat from the nearby cafe without anyone noticing and felt a little better about herself. She was upset that no one noticed her, but happy she could at least get some food. 


She looked into the night sky and thought: Where is the cast? Did they truly ditch me? Am I in a coma? Am I the only one who survived? Will anyone ever notice me again? Am I in a dream within a dream? Did the cast ship crash, and did all of us die? If we’re dead, then why was I the only one who ended up here? Did the investigators find our bodies or did we disappear for good? 


She might have never known the answer, but she wanted to know. The problem was she couldn’t and was trapped in this life. She simply could never get out of this new world that she existed in, and started to cry.