Maureen's Chapter

   Flushed with power, she strode confidently across the deck and confronted the ship's captain. (A ship? What gives?)
   "Where are we going?" she asked him, somewhat confused.
   "We are going to Alaska," the captain answered, without a hint of the German accent he displayed in the U-boat scene.
   "I thought this was my story -- I thought I was in charge!" she shouted, the frustration in her voice quite evident.
   "You are," he tried to assure her, "as much as anyone can be in charge."
   "But, we're talking about my imagination! Are you saying there are limits to the control I have over my own imagination?"
   "I have no idea about that, but you'll have to excuse me, the interactive murder mystery has begun and I play the murderer, so if you don't mind... "
   He tipped his cap and left. Maureen was thoroughly flummoxed. She pondered the situation. Here she was, in control of her actions, her thoughts, her speech -- except she's on a cruise ship headed for Alaska! Was this Jim's doing? Was his hand behind all this? Was he lurking in the background, pulling the strings? Huh? What if she simply decided to leave, transport herself somewhere else, somewhere of her own choosing. Could she? Could she, say, pretend to suddenly be in... Paris! The beautiful City of Light, the Louvre, the Seine, the Left Bank, could she?
   Alas, no, she could not. So, what the hell, it's North to Alaska on the Love Boat. Unfortunately, there's not much to do on a cruise ship if the only activity is a whodunit, and you already know who dunit. There was always the twenty-four hour buffet featuring such mouth-watering items as bean mash shakes and tofutti parfaits, so one could always eat, if not digest.
   Of course, she didn't have to watch the stupid play if she didn't want to, so she decided to take a nice, relaxing stroll around the decks. Before she could even take one step, though, she was surrounded by barbers, dentists, and orthodontists, and their wives, and they were all deeply interested, for some reason, in her.
   "What did he tell you?"
   "Where did he go?"
   "Do you know anything else?"
   "Where are you going?"
   "Who are you?"
   "Who are we?"
   Questions, questions. Maureen was confused, until she realized that this was all part of the stupid interactive murder mystery, and her little talk with the captain made her an important clue, or witness, or accessory, or plot point. Whatever it was it was stupid, and she couldn't believe so many people found it entertaining.
   "What did the captain tell you, dear?"
   "He told me he was turning the ship around and heading for Hawaii." Maureen has a way with a joke. Well, what a commotion followed! Hundreds of frantic cruise lizards scurrying around all over the place, speculating about the cryptic meaning of this latest clue -- leaving Maureen free to roam, her interactive acting debut a success. She took a stroll. As she walked, the bracing sea breeze almost made her forget the tensions and constraints of the previous chapters. Even so, with every step she was painfully aware that at any time his controlling hand could appear again and wipe away just about any of the enjoyment of this experience. Or maybe not.
   Soon, however, the slow rocking motion of the ship, the pitch and yaw, the up and down, the side to side, was making her very, very... sick. Why am I getting sick in my own fantasy? she wondered. Dizzy, she leaned over the railing and showered the ocean with New Age vomit -- probably tastes better now, she thought, laughing and retching simultaneously.
   Staggering away, she tried to figure out where her cabin was. It was difficult moving around in an imaginary landscape. For example, she'd never been on a cruise ship before, and yet she had a perfectly reasonable facsimile in her mind to work from, at least as far as the obvious details were concerned. But, when it came to things like lower decks, cabins, the engine room -- she was just guessing. It made her feel good knowing that, as she strolled along, everything she saw or experienced, every interpretation of every experience, was being made up then and there, by her, and no one else. It was very satisfying, and it brought a smile to her green face. (I've been quiet lately for the simple reason that Maureen's doing a pretty good job, don't you think? -- Ed.)
   She was in her cabin now, having neatly avoided the tedium of describing how she got there. Number 21 was her cabin number, but she might want to change it to 34, or 51. Maureen was into numbers and numerology, and she was into astrology, and astral psycho-kinetics, and several other obscure and laughably naive belief systems -- although she would object to that characterization and might have to take a break and get that part of the narrative deleted!
   "Man overboard! Man overboard! Man overboard!" The shouts were coming from above deck. What should she do? Should she go up and see what it's all about? What if it's a ruse to draw her out and have her replaced? (Don't worry, we like you -- Ed.)
   She decided to ignore the shouts. She was tired. She wanted to sleep. She fell asleep.

(This ends Maureen's Chapter.)

Chapter Fourteen