Somehow my feet are wet.
The ship is strangely lit up inside. A soft glow coming from cracked and broken port holes.
On a rotten desk is a moldy diary with the name “Randy Rogers” scratched into the cover.
The girl giggles and pushes me in further. I can hear the song she was singing being played on an out of tune piano.
I hear sea gulls.
My stomach turns. I’m beginning to feel sea sick.
I stand still. Trying to not to throw up.
I feel water begin to rise under my feet.
“Welcome to Las Vegas” she says. “Drive safe and come again.”
She laughs. Flashes her shark teeth. The glow disappears and all is dark.
The shipwreck seems to be moving with the memory of waves. The old wood creaks and sand blows into my eyes.
There is no sight of the other two teens, just the girl, standing behind me humming a song.
Rocks poke through the sand, covered in moss and rust.
Why don’t you go inside? She says with a slight lilt in her voice.
I take a deep breath and point my flashlight towards the gaping, rotten wound in the side of the ship.
I step inside.
Rows and rows of sharp teeth.
That’s all I can focus on.
Her smiles makes my stomach turn but I can’t look away. She plays with her hair and stands in front of me, singing to herself.
I want to leave, but she takes me by the hand, singing louder, and leads further into the desert.
The shipwreck appears in the sand. Salt water winds and the faintest echoes of gulls and buoy bells. A flash from a lighthouse that doesn’t exist.
I illuminate the ship with my flashlight, but the batteries are failing. Have I really been out here this long?
My light falls on what was once the figurehead of the ship. You can tell it was supposed to be a beautiful woman. Maybe it was once. Dark hair that flowed through the wood, rosy cheeks and perky breasts decorated with sea foam. Now, the face was worn down, bleached, looking more like a wooden skull. A warning.
It’s all the same.
An ocean doesn’t have to be water. It can be dirt, sand, wasteland. There are still waves here.
An ocean is an expanse. You know this, you may have forgotten it. But, it’s true. Even inside of you, between heart beats, is an ocean. Each blood pumping thump equal to gale-force winds off the coast of Galveston.
The desert is an ocean.
An ocean is a place for ships and sailors.
And where those are…so are we. You navigate this land by using the light from the pyramid. How is that different than the stars?
I look around, knowing exactly how to get back – just go towards the Luxor.
She smiles. Hums. Climbs down from her perch and approaches me.
The flashlight glints off of her white, shark-like teeth.
I climb a little dune.
And there it is.
My flashlight reveals torn sails and rotten wood. The moon hangs above, but not doing its job. In fact, it seems to be darker here than five yards back.
The smell of the ocean drifts by again and I hear waves.
The desert wind blows steady.
The singing stops and I see shadows moving along the ship wreck.
It’s massive. It looks like a ship that would have carried stolen people to a new world or an army to an enemy country.
The wind picks up, it’s cooler now. Mist hits my face.
The singing starts again, this time behind me. This time close.
Slowly I turn, letting the flashlight guide me.
I see her.
The teenage girl, without shoes, sitting on a rock singing and playing with the cops service weapon.
Following the laughter, the distinct smell of the ocean. All barnacle and salt and half eaten fish and wet wood.
A voice, barely descernable, floating over the Las Vegas dirt.
The laughter again. It’s definitely the teenage girl.
I step in a puddle, mud sucking on my shoe.
I hear a gun shot. It stops my heart and breaks the night in half.
I don’t remember reading about the cop missing his gun.
There is a strange glow in the distance. It seems to be pulsing.
I point my flashlight towards it and start walking.
It’s hard to believe it can be this hot at night. Even away from the buildings, with nothing but dirt underneath.
The desert holds on to its heat. Even carries it on the wind.
I’m down two water bottles and still no sight of this mystery desert shipwreck.
The desert will play games with you. Or maybe it’s the heat. Sounds. Phones ringing, cats mewing. All in your head. There is no civilization out here.
I’ve tried not to walk in circles, keeping on as straight a line as possible. But I think my flashlight is picking up my footprints in front of me. Did I turn?
I hear more sounds. Birds. Someone laughs.
The laugh wasn’t in my head.
The teens are still missing but they found the metro cop.
The report from the coroner states the cause of death as drowning. He’d probably lose his job if it wasn’t for the sea water they pumped from the corpse.
How does someone drown in the middle of the Las Vegas desert?
Still no sign of the supposed shipwreck. Helicopters cross the sky with search lights. One more pass they say and then they are done.
Everyone is starting to come up with crazy, tabloid style ideas. If only they knew how strange this place actually is.
I’ve packed my bag full of water and with a flashlight I’m headed out into the desert.
Into the desert to look for a sunken ship.
They wouldn’t say what they were doing out there.
Out there in the desert. At night. When it’s still holding steady at one hundred degrees.
They refused to give their names.
One of them lost a shoe.
It’s out there. It’s full of rats. And fish. Fish bones. Just off Blue Diamond. It still smells like salt water.
Most didn’t believe them. Thinking these three teens were just out in the desert doing drugs, having sex, or whatever teenagers do when the heat is this oppressive.
The girl, the one without shoes, finally convinced a metro police officer to investigate what they called a sunken ship in the desert.
That was three hours ago and neither the cop nor the teens have returned.
An emergency search is in progress. There has been no sightings of the teens or the police officer.
The only clues that anyone has been able to find are what seems to be the wet foot prints of a teenage girl and a coin that could possibly be from the 16th century.