Welcome to Bannville, MS, home of the Banned Library and set right in the middle of the dark piney woods where drugs, violence and dark forces are as abundant as the humidity. Our narrator on this journey is Evan Banned, one time director and current owner of the library now trying to bring it back after it burned to the ground and then, right after it reopened, was closed due to funding. Currently, Evan is on the cruise liner Dark Water Crescent and has been knocked out by the mysterious Felix Minx and Tisha Graham. What do these two want with luggage filled with guns? What happened to Evan’s Uncle Ted Banned? What the hell is going on aboard this boat besides the nightly party on the lido deck?
“How long?” Tisha asked.
“We could have done it night before last, but nothing was prepared,” Felix said, “That fool.”
“So we do it on the return,” Tisha said, “And the one below will rise. We will pass the Caymans and the Mexico stop and be over her grave Friday.”
I could have pretended to be asleep, but my shoulders and head ached. I groaned and looked up.
“What the fuck is wrong with you people?” I asked.
We were in the hold. Tisha and Felix stood to the side of me next to a large wooden crate and the suitcases that were in Uncle Ted’s room. She wore a light sun dress with yellow flowers on a blue field. Felix wore the same green suit. I noted with satisfaction the tear on the shoulder. I hoped I had done that. They were loading pistols.
Tisha smiled and my stomach involuntarily flipped. The woman had tricked and beaten me and still had a weird power over my insides. My guts are dumb and get me in more trouble than they are worth. Maybe not my guts, exactly.
She walked over to me and leaned down. The motion was easy and calm and did interesting things to the dress. She held the gun down and away, as she would a handbag. She wanted me to know how easy this was for her, “Poor boy, why don’t you go back to sleep? Soon this will all be behind you. Behind all of us.”
“Where’s my uncle?” I asked.
She flipped a hand, “Right beside you.”
I leaned my head right and saw stars. I had to move more deliberately. Uncle Ted sat to my left staring at me. His big chest rose and fell and blood dripped from his nose and a cut on his forehead. Like me, his hands were tied behind a large metal post that ran from floor to ceiling.
“Hey, boy,” he said, “Sons of bitches are a bit off in the head. Specially that crazy bitch.”
Tisha stood and with an easy swipe cracked Ted across the head with the pistol.
“What the fuck is wrong with you people?” I asked again.
“Oh, nothing at all. We just want to do what she bids,” Tisha said.
She opened her mouth again, but Felix walked over and took her arm. She scowled at him, her mouth down turned and angry. She wanted to gloat like a dumb super villain or something. What the fuck was going on?
The two of them turned and Felix walked over to me, “My partner seems to like you, but after we have the key card, we don’t really need you. So just shut up. Another day and all of this will be over, okay?”
“What is all of this?” I asked.
“They’re crazy,” my uncle said.
Felix grinned, his thin lips peeling away from his teeth, “Crazy? Maybe. But I know my purpose. Can you say the same?”
He stood and walked to the wooden crate. Both he and Tisha worked at it with crowbars, the nails in the wood groaning. They took off the top and starred in.
“Is that it?” she asked.
“Yeah. It is what she said to build. Simplicity.”
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and something suddenly felt very, very wrong.
“We need to go tell the others,” Felix said. They put the top on the crate and left with one of the suitcases.
We were silent for a while. We must have been close to the engines because machinery noise was constant, as if someone had a giant television set to static in the next room. It was constant in the background and when we were quiet it dominated the room.
“Crazy ass cultists,” Uncle Ted said, “You know what they said? That box there had melons in it they were gonna trade in Mexico. Were gonna give me a good profit, they said.”
I stared at the box, “Did he say ‘simplicity’?”
“Yeah. Been saying weird shit like that. Ever since they got me down here.”
“When was that?”
“Monday night. Those green cases? The ones with the guns? They were signed in under my name with the crate so they went to my room. Can you believe it? I went to yell at Felix and the little bastard jumped me. Never would have happened twenty years ago. Woulda beat the little piss ant into the hull.”
“They both got me,” I said, “They planning some kind of mutiny?”
“I guess. Crazy bastards keep talking about something under the water. Cultists or something. Crazy bastards is what they are.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I think I ran into something like this a few weeks ago.”
“What are the odds? Yeah, that sounds like them. Can’t believe they got me to bring that crate up.”
“Already done, Uncle Ted. Don’t worry about it. We just gotta get out of here.”
I leaned against my bonds but the rope was secure. Ted’s muscles strained but he stopped and let out a giant breath.
“I just… I can’t, Evan.”
“Yeah,” I said, “Don’t worry, sir. Something'll come up. We just need to be patient.”
And so we waited. I heard the ship stop and passengers disembark at Grand Cayman. We tried yelling for help, but all that did was cause our throats to become sore. All the machinery around us stopped the noise from getting far.
In the end all we could do was wait.
“I need a drink,” uncle said.