No. 175

 Jean-Paul Paxton followed the crewman’s directions and parked his car at the end of the row. He cut the engine and got out, following the arrows to the narrow stairs to the passenger deck. He did his best not to look at the dark green water or the candy-striped lighthouse on the other side of the low barriers. Paxton was afraid of the ocean, and wasn’t keen on having to make this trip for work. He wondered, based on the fare, why his company wouldn’t let him fly to the Mainland instead of taking this floating ferry deathtrap every week. It’s not like it was that much more expensive.
He made it up the stairs, dodging the other Wednesday commuters, and stepped through the hatch into the lounge. There was a gift shop to his left, and a cafeteria directly in front of him. He had no intention of bothering with either one. He found a seat as far from the windows as possible and took a magazine out of his briefcase. There was a flurry of announcement over the intercom, and then there was a faint shudder as the large boat pulled away from the dock. With any luck, Paxton would be back on solid ground in an hour and a half.
“Hey, buddy, wake up. We’re almost there.”
Paxton opened his eyes. He stared groggily across the aisle at a young man on the opposite bench who had alerted him.
“Thanks,” he told the other traveller. “I don’t usually fall asleep on these things.”
 Paxton was annoyed with himself for letting his guard down. Who knew what could have happened while he slept?  He gathered up his belongings and stood, straightening his rumpled shirt. “Thanks again,” he told the young man.
With shaky legs, Paxton made his way back to his car. He also found that he had a splitting headache.
“Five more minutes,” he mumbled to himself as he struggled to maintain his balance. He glared at a sign that noted “Warning: hold handrail when using the stairs.” Paxton snorted. They were almost vertical. Of course he was going to use the railing.
It wasn’t until he reached the vehicle deck that he noticed something strange. There was the lighthouse again. But that wasn’t right. There was no lighthouse on this side. They must have turned around while he was sleeping. Paxton wasn’t happy. That meant he’d just have to do the whole trip over again once they sorted out whatever problem they were having this time.
He went to find someone who knew what was going on.
He found that person up by the bow. She was speaking on a walkie-talkie when he stepped up.
“Excuse me,” he said.
“Yes? How can I help you?”
“Why did we have to turn back?” he asked her.
“What do you mean?” she said. She gave him an odd look.
“Why are we back on this side?” he clarified.
She didn’t say anything for a minute.
“I don’t understand,” she told him.
Paxton was getting a little annoyed.
“How come we left the Island an hour ago and now we’re arriving at the same place where we started?” he said.
“You’re confused, sir,” she said. “We’re coming in from the Mainland. We departed from there. Are you alright, sir?”
It was Paxton’s turn to be confused. “I’m sorry,” he told the woman. “I must have fallen asleep and missed getting off.”
“Ok,” she said. “Enjoy your Sunday.”
“Sunday?” said Paxton, his headache flashing to the front of his skull. “It’s Sunday?”
He sank to his knees. This was a far bigger problem than he’d thought. What had happened to the last four days?