“No.” he patiently replied.  “Well, there are these massive islands that have formed in certain oceans that are comprised of refuse, bottles, tarps, used medical supplies and all manner of filth, the currents pull all these pollutants and bits of crap into a common area, I don’t remember why that happens but it does, it all accumulates in one part of the water and begins to break down…” her speech grew in tone and pace, and begin to take on an unnerving tone of hilarity.  Dennis though of reminding her that they were not in the Pacific but stifled his insulting remark and began to think.  “…the plastics and stuff break down see, and it creates this industrial type sludge that pulls and attracts more garbage and the island grows…”  Dr. Ward had almost completely tuned her out, she was right he knew, it all sounded like some left wing liberal bullshit but the proof was right there before him.  A chemical dump polluting the ocean and damaging the eco system more than any oil accident could ever hope too.

Despite the smell and the near acidic atmosphere Dennis was trying to think of a way to use the situation to their advantage.   He was still thinking of his wife when he struck upon such an obvious idea he nearly smiled.  “We can find water here.”  He said assuredly.  “How, where?”  Mrs. Milton fluttered.  Her husband too distracted or dumbfounded to reply or participate in the conversation.  Mrs. Milton did not repeat herself when Dennis did not respond, the Milton’s had been acting strangely since their gluttonous fit; Docile, listless, abnormally acquiescent.  The doctor at first contributed it too the verbal lashing he had given them that night and his surly demeanor thereafter, but he had of late become convinced that there might be something more.

The pair, although clingy to begin with, had not left each other’s side since the feast.  They had eaten an unbelievably minuscule amount of the remaining rations ever since, having almost no interest in the dry food what so ever.  Herb and his wife had been rather talkative during their flight across the treacherous triangle, and even during their first day lost Dennis had wanted to tape the man’s fat blathering mouth shut, but for the last few days the air had been filled with a tense awkward silence.   Of course they were stranded in the middle of the ocean, burning under a hot rainless sky, hungry, scared and now becoming dangerously dehydrated; any of these reasons could be the cause of their unusual behavior.  Not to mention the admonishment they had suffered that night at the hands of the Doctor, or the fact that they had consumed over 40 lbs of raw, unclean cephalopod.

“Herbert, you and I are going to see if we can traverse that nightmare, and Sadie you stay here and watch Rose.”  “…but Doc…”  Herb began a weak protest that was cut instantly short by the Doctors icy glare.  Dennis looked at the man in such a way as only a man in the grips of great loss can look, and Herbert Milton, a dumb man but not unkind, could find no course nor reason to dissuade the man.

Herbert, above all else, was a coward, and he was more afraid of what was right before him then of what he could not see.  Dennis knew this, in fact had cultivated the fear the man had of him, in an effort to curtail any more accidental sabotage.  They methodically went through their pathetic stash of supplies and began to equip themselves for the strange odyssey.  It did not take long, they had depressingly little with which to prepare themselves, in the end they took only two canteens, the remainder of the rope and of course Mr. Hobb’s Smith and Weston pistol that Dennis hoped had remained dry enough to still be of use.

Dennis gazed out upon the forbidding gyre of marine debris (*flotsam), a look of loathing and reluctance set firmly upon his face, he ordered Herb out of the raft and onto the strange unnatural island.  Milton balked at first, but again Dennis fixed him with that chilling look, and gesturing with the pistol, motioned for Herb to move.  The gesture with the gun was casual and not directly threatening but the meaning was clear, Herbert Milton, accepting the absence of choice, stepped clumsily out of the raft and promptly fell directly through the semi solid surface into the bubbling (*seething) sea.

Sadie Milton screamed as she watched her husband drop like a rock through the deceiving plane of refuse, and poor Herbert had barely enough time to belch forth a strangled cry as he disappeared beneath the island.  Dennis cursed and reaching swiftly into the malign ooze with his free hand, began casting about for the lost man.  The liquid felt strange against his skin, and as soon as he plunged his arm beneath the surface he was wrestling powerful urges to remove it from the caustic substance.  He had about given up on the fat man when he felt a titan grip from below.  The hold was so strong and frantic that he was almost pulled overboard.  It took every ounce of strength to free the three hundred pound shivering mass from the dark thick sludge; he came up into the raft shivering and shaking retching and covered in a thick black slime.

Dr. Ward had to slap the large man twice, and hard, to bring him to his senses.  Herbert was shaking and coughing but his skin was warm to the touch and where it had previously been scorched pink by the sun it now glowed a bright, painful red.  He was crying and his wife was again making those pathetic mewling noises.  “C’mon Herb time to get your shit together, lets go.”  Dennis unsympathetically demanded.  Herbert Milton looked up at him with liquidy eyes, his chins quivering, and as he opened his mouth to protest Dennis punched him in the face.

It was the last thing Herbert was expecting and Dr. Ward was a well muscled man.  The blow caught Milton in the middle of his fat face somewhat off center to the left, so that when his nose broke it hooked sharply to the right side of his swollen, reddened and slime covered countenance.   Ward leaned down over the much bigger man and pinched his nose closed to stop the bleeding, his lips inches from his victims ear he whispered.  “Now you listen here you fat fuck, if you don’t get the fuck out of this raft right now and at least attempt to exercise some competence I’m going to first shoot your pig of a wife in the face and then I’m going to drown you in this cesspool, do I make myself fucking clear!”  It was not a question and although delivered in a whisper the hushed tones only served to emphasize the Doctor’s deadly seriousness.

Still quivering Herbert attempted to again step gingerly out of their stuck craft.  He tested the ground with one pudgy foot, and after a few moments seemed to have found a satisfactory purchase.  Herbert lifted his amble girth out of the raft and cautiously tested his footing on the treacherous garbage heap.  The combination of industrial plastics decomposing into chemical sludge and mixing with all manner of natural and unnatural materials had baked in the sun and hardened in areas to a thick spongy solid.  Herb first took one step then two, and had seemed to have found a path of sorts that would accommodate their traverse of the hideous island.

Herb walked out in front a few feet ahead of Dennis who walked slowly behind him keeping his eyes on the fat mans back when he wasn’t scanning the desolate wasteland.  The first thing Dennis noticed was the absence of scavengers, no flies buzzed above the thousands of rotting fish carcasses, no gulls called from the skies above and no crabs scuttled about searching for choice bits of rancid flesh.  There was no life here, just like there was no life in the waters surrounding this ecological travesty.   The wind here was also strangely and maddeningly still, a yellow green haze hung constantly in the thick air and nearly choked them as they navigated the awful landscape.

Dennis checked back over their shoulder and saw they had only traveled a few hundred feet from their stranded craft, it felt like they had been walking for hours.  The sun and lack of water were really beginning to toll on them.  Dennis figured he was far enough now “Ok Herb stop.”  Herb complied without turning or questioning, the only sound he had made since Dennis had struck him was a pathetic sniveling.  “Ok, here drink this.”  The majority of identifiable debris were bottles and containers, mostly plastic but also glass and metal, some of these were still in the very early stages of decomposition and their contents had not yet entirely evaporated nor had they sunk too far into the sludge so as to be irretrievable.

Dennis had collected a few of these fresher looking receptacles, ones that still held a clearish liquid that, God willing, could be life saving water.  “Dr. Ward, please…” Dennis leveled the gun at Herb who cowered at the sight of the revolver.  “I’m not fucking stupid Herb.”  Dr. Ward emphasized Milton’s first name turning into an insult.

“I’m a Doctor, remember, I don’t give a shit if this piss makes you sick, I don’t care if it fucking kills you…”  The crazed Doctor took a step toward the quaking giant.  The obese man looked so forlorn and distraught Dennis almost felt pity for the creature, but the beginnings of madness and the prospect of dying from exposure or dehydration hardened his resolve.  “Drink it Herb, don’t make me do something I may regret later…” the Doctor said almost soothingly.

He handed Herb three bottles one by one, and the other man dutifully tested each in turn.  On the first he gagged and looked as if he would vomit but dint, on the second he made a choking noise and claimed the substance was burning his throat, the third he drank swiftly after in an attempt to assuage his now raw esophagus.  Coughing and sputtering Herb could choke out little more than “…it burns…Dennis it burns…”

Commanding him to open his mouth so the Doctor could see the extent of the damage, Dennis was silently horrified at the level of devastation these liquids had wrought on his large and unwilling companion’s throat.  Large (*massive) blisters were already forming on the interior of the man’s mouth, and the entire region looked irritated and swollen.  “Your fine…C’mon get up…”  Dennis lied poorly.  Herb coughed blood and fell to his hands and knees rolling in the thick black sludge moaning pathetically.  He attempted to speak but managed only to gurgle out more thick blood mixed with a darker substance that the Doctor knew could be nothing other than internal tissue.

Gently now Dr. Ward’s tones softened “C’mon Herb, you can do it, get up now.” He realized he could not bull this man into moving, as much as it sickened him the only way Herbert Milton was going any further is if he chose too.  “Herb your wife, remember, she’s counting on us, on you.”  The Doctor, taking one of his thick arms in both his hands, half pulled half dragged Herb to his feet.  “There ya go now big guy, just a little further.”  Herbert Milton swayed back and forth on his feet; he looked to Dennis like a bloated skyscraper about to topple over.  Dennis pushed his back into the large mans grotesque gut and let him lean forward on him.  Dr. Ward, familiar with transporting and moving incapacitated patients, knew how to properly brace himself and bear his generous burden without being crushed.  The two men, looking like one odd conglomerate, staggered forward deeper across the abysmal plane.

This is Part 3 of The Plastic Sea, a five-part series. Part 4 will be published next Friday. In case you missed it, you can read Part 1 here, and read Part 2 here.

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