I’d been sleeping, somewhere between my cycle in fetal position and an overhead reach to stretch out my right hip because years of nursing my left knee had taken its toll on my other side. I suppose it was easy to surround me in my vulnerable state, sitting ducks and all, but I woke up to the sound of them humming. They hummed like camels and llamas do to warn off potential threats, but I guess, with their aggression toward me and all, that their motivation was somewhat different.
I rolled over and rubbed my eyes. I was trapped. Trapped by three dozen jumbo prawns.
Holding toothpicks like spears.
My reflexes sprang into action, and I pulled my knees up to my chest, wrapping my arms around me as toothpick protection. Absurd as it was, I asked the shellfish what they were doing in my room.
“You’re coming with us,” one of the them said to me. Clearly the leader, it stood a little behind the line of spear-holders, like cowardly officers do. Only a couple of extra dark gray stripes noted his authority over the others. These prawns were a subtle bunch.
I took stock of my situation. Was I going to be ordered around by something that on any other day, I’d simply eat with drawn butter?
“I’m not going anywhere,” I said, showing them my resolve. “I’m sleeping.
THWACK! A tiny but piercing pain shot through my forearm and I plucked the sliver out of me. Before I could yell at them to cut it out, more itty bitty javelins stung me like so many wasps.
“Stoooooooooop iiiiiiiiiiiit,” I said, the slow realization coming over me that these prawns had doused their damn toothpicks in something sleep-inducing. Holy crap, I’d been outwitted by beings much further down on the food chain than me.
I woke I don’t know how much later to an unsteady floor and the sound of sloshing. I was on a ship.
I’d been on a cruise before to Alaska, for my honeymoon, which was an excellent experience, all around. After considering the shipness similarity, all comparison ended there. Here was a rusty, dripping cargo hold with swinging lights that hung down from a high ceiling, and all manner of boxes and burlap sacks. I stood up and found I was chained at my ankles to the floor. How on earth could prawns operate manacles?
“He’s awake,” I heard one of the prawns say, and I turned to see it talking into a miniature walkie-talkie.
“Let me go,” I commanded the sentry, as if I had any command at this point.
“Shut up, fat man, or I’ll put you to sleep again.”
My brain, not having enjoyed the drug of prawn choice, ceased my ability to speak so that I wouldn’t be doused again.
In a manner of minutes, the prawn in charge entered the hold, followed by a lobster with a penchant for raspberry berets. I rolled my eyes without meaning to.
“What do you even want with me,” I asked.
The lobster stepped forward, moving its front claws around in tight circles, as if it had a need to gesticulate.
“We are taking you to the Persian Gulf where we will get a handsome price for you.”
“A price? I’m not a thing you can sell.”
“AND NEITHER ARE WE!” The prawn glared at me, so angry I thought it might boil itself from its own anger.
“I’m not a fisherman,” I said. “I’ve never caught or sold prawns or lobster, or any kind of seafood.”
“You’ve certainly eaten enough of us, from the look of you.”
I couldn’t argue with that. I stood and waited for what would come next. Maybe I could make a break for it when they docked.
The sentry glared at me for the rest of the ride, threatening me with more toothpicks if I started talking. I thought back to every episode I’d ever seen of I Survived for some kind of useful tactic. When I wasn’t thinking about skills I didn’t have, I replayed every prawn, crab, clam, mussel, and lobster meal I’d ever consumed.
Oh, they all tasted so good.