“Max!” Justin called into his mic for what seemed like the hundred and eighth time. And, as before, all he got in reply was shimmering waves of static that almost seemed to rise and fall like the tide. Near the height of each static swell, he could almost swear he heard voices, but he could never quite make out what they were supposed to be saying.
Besides, he could see from the tense frown on his friend’s face that not only was Shades hearing it as well, but apparently none of those voices sounded like Max to him, either.
So the minutes ticked by agonizingly slowly on Shades’ watch as Max continued to fail to turn up, either in person, or on the radio.
Neither of them quite able to find the words to ask the simple question hanging on the tip of either tongue. No matter how obvious it seemed that the next logical step to find their friend would be to actually go in looking since he wasn’t responding. Yet both of them stood in that chill mist, unable to take their eyes off this foreboding ghost ship that seemed to have swallowed Max whole.
Just like in the legends, and both of them feared that if they took their eyes off the Twylight for even a moment, it might vanish back into the fog from which it came, taking Max with it.
“Now what?…” Shades finally said, summing up both of their frustration.
“Don’t look at me!” Justin shot back. Then, deciding that he didn’t like how that made him sound, even to his own ears, he added, “You’re the paranormal expert around here.”
“And I’m afraid I’m in over my head,” Shades admitted. “Unlike any of the books I’ve ever read, which can’t even be verified anyway, this thing is real. And he’s my friend, too, Justin. We need a plan…”
Frustrated and ashamed of his own cold feet. It was vexing, going on maddening, to remember, not too long ago, desperately waiting for Max to save him after his own failed attempt to save himself. And now Max seemed to be the one in need of saving.
Now Shades stood in Max’s shoes, and found himself lacking.
At last, he put one cold foot forward, swearing to himself that even if he couldn’t step into the Unknown as boldly as his friend, he would step as boldly as he could manage, for Max’s sake.
“Shades?…” Justin intoned hesitantly.
“We’ve got to think clearly,” Shades told him, pulling himself back together as he spoke. “If we give in to panic, that damn ship wins by default.”
“I know,” Justin said quietly.
Even as they wished for Max’s emergence from that ominously innocent-looking cabin door to make it unnecessary, the two of them continued their vigil. All the while trying to figure out how to go about searching for him when they weren’t entirely sure what happened to him to begin with. Weighing the risks of becoming an unsung part of the Twylight legend themselves. Wondering what possessed them to come aboard in the first place, and only being able to conclude that it was their own damn curiosity about the Unknown that got the best of them.
Mostly just drawing blanks.
Justin kept trying not to think about the things he saw in that porthole earlier, to tell himself that it was all in his head, largely failing.
While Shades kept expecting Max to just step out, telling them that he simply had some silly mishap down in the hold, or something along those lines. His pre-6-D self trying to rationalize it over and over, that it was just that, combined with some kind of glitch in their radio gear. That, and nothing more. Yet his mind kept revolving back to that story he once read, about the farmer who walks out into his field, waves to his family (as if for the last time), and disappears, never to be seen again. After all, he had seen more than enough in this world to convince him.
It was thinking about the radio, remembering the night he himself wandered off into the woods and vanished without a trace, that the beginning of an idea began to form. If not an actual plan, but at least the frost began to melt from his feet a little, bringing with it some small glimmer of hope he might yet see Max again.