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It's worth going to Bainbridge or Bremerton just for the ride back some nights. If you do it enough, suddenly the ferry ride transforms. The first time you ride? It's a magical experience. The thrum of the massive diesel engines underfoot, the boat shuddering as those giant props push all that weight. The people sitting at their tables, playing cards, just hanging out. The cafeteria, and, I remember so acutely when I was a kid and would go to Orcas Island, the video games.
But ride the ferry too much and it becomes a huge bus. The people playing cards are bored, they do it all the time. Or, if not bored, maybe partway in the transformation that riding the boat allows us, this window into a world between worlds as we cross a barrier from one land to another.
The ferry is a thin place, a place between places. The bored people are in suspended animation, while the vibrant newcomers are awake with the excitement of the new — snapping pictures, staying on the cold deck with the wind whipping them, talking loudly and having a full-life moment. So the ferry contains two types of people, at least, and the shear between them can feel odd, like walking into a wax museum where half the figures are animatronic animals.
Sometimes, on rare nights, the energy is so charged there are riots.
No ferry ride is as special as coming into downtown Seattle at night. How many people get to see that view? How man crowd the waterlogged front windows so they can see? How many run out to try to capture it, how many professional photographers with their tripods setup are there to capture the skyline as only the ferry view would let them?
Watching the city approach, first on the horizon, then growing until it gets bigger than it should, it feels amplified in front of you, like a camera trick where you're point of view is shrinking as the buildings get so tall they appear to bend over you.
It just overwhelms your senses with the lights of the city, the approaching promise of...what? Home? A night out? Whatever it is, the reverse engines kick in, and the water roils in front of the ship. You push backward to slow down, and ease into the dock. Welcome to Seattle.
It happened like this: as soon as the boat pulled out from the dock she went up to get a cup of coffee. It was against the rules to leave the truck, but she double checked all the cages and they were fine, and she was only going to be gone a few minutes. Less than ten minutes later she came down the metal stairs, opened the heavy door, and walked onto the car deck. The first sign something was amiss was the monkey sitting on top of the truck. The monkey holding the master cage key, and then, she noticed, just how many animals were sitting on all the cars surrounding the truck.
It was returning from Bainbridge that he picked his moment. He had a friend hiding with a telephoto lens on the opposite balcony. He brought her out, and kissed her, then got down on one knee. "Clarice," he said, "you've made my life so complete. I love you so much. Would you do..." — "you have got to be kidding me," came a voice next to him. A guy, thirties, burly. He stipped off his shirt and threw it over board, then ran to the railing, looked at Clarice, and shouted "I'm the king of the world!"
The worst shift on the ferry was working the ritual sacrifices. But if you didn't give leviathan his due there was no way to cross Elliott Bay without being dragged down into the brine by a tentacle the size of the Space Needle. So the new people always had to be the ones to do it. Toss the animals overboard alive, but bathed in the blood of fish — it was like a doorbell to the monster. But, it wasn't that part that was horrible, although the gruesome cruelty certainly would be. But no, it was when that first tentacle broke the surface, and you suddenly realized what lived under the ocean. You never felt safe passing over it again. You may have known in your mind that you were unsafe in the world, but until you saw the monster that controlled us all, it never really became true.
He was just in a pissy mood. His parents were being super annoying, and, like, riding him about everything. He wasn't doing well in school. He broke the television. He made his little sister cry. It wasn't his fault! They never even listened to what he was saying. And now, they were making him go to Seattle to stay with his grandma while they went on some lame vacation without him. "A second honeymoon" they said. So, he got the hell out of the car and went up on the deck. Screw them. He stomped through the cabin, and slouched down in one of the long banquet seats. Then he saw her — his fifth grade teacher. She was sitting with a man, and it wasn't her husband, and they were kissing!
They were waiting in the van until the ferry got away from the dock. Eight of them, armed to the teeth. In black clothes. They pulled balaclavas over their face. They had one mission: to break into the cockpit and take control of the vessel before it landed in Seattle. They had thirty minutes until they docked. It was time to move.