The first thing I can remember is getting ready to depart on a big boat trip with a bunch of friends. This was by no means a luxury cruise. We were informed before we got there that this was a very special trip funded by some organization to promote affordable travel and it just so happened to be very convenient for our large group. There was one guy who seemed to be in charge of the whole operation as if it were some kind of survival mission. When we arrived at the shipyard I noticed that it was a very run-down part of town. Nothing looked familiar to me at all, but I did notice a large ugly abandoned house on the corner of a street right before we got to the boat. It turned out to be more of a barge than a boat, considering it was just a long flat cement strip floating near the docks. It was like a shipping type vessel with nothing on it. Where were we going to sleep? There was a huge pile of lumber right next to the boat and it became aware that we were going to have to build our own shelters on the boat for this journey. People jumped right to it and started assembling their little sections of territory on the boat. One of my friends immediately started calling people and getting construction tips and got a bunch of other people to help build one large structure together. He was the first one to finish and ended up building a full two story house with a roof and siding and everything. It looked a little sloppy but it was still amazing. I was jealous. I finally started to explore the ship. There was no food, but I wasn’t hungry. There was one bathroom, but it was covered in toilet paper and was one of the messiest that I had ever seen. There were various stations around the boat to collect supplies. One big pile of waterproof tarps, one big stack of large sleeping pads among other things. There was no organization, everyone was just scrambling to get what they could while it lasted. There was also a big red digital timer in the center of the ship counting down hours, minutes and seconds until the boat was going to leave the docks. I knew I had to work quick if I was going to build any sort of shelter before departure, so I had to stop exploring and go gather some wood from the shore. On my way I got distracted by some people who were delivering a bunch of boxes. Apparently, we were also being provided shoes. They had all different types, styles and sizes. I started looking for my size and checking them out. I eventually found a couple that I liked, but could only find one shoe and not it’s pair. I was spending far too much time and it was getting dark. I needed to go get that wood. A woman even stopped me and reminded me of how much time I had left to get me going. I ran off and grabbed what I needed. It seemed by this point everyone was already settled in, relaxing and getting ready for the trip. There were hundreds of people, many of them familiar looking or friends of mine, but I still had no idea where we were going. I had to build my shelter in the very back of the boat near the engine where it was the loudest, because every other spot was taken. I felt very alone. I laid down the tarp over the ground, which was now wet grass somehow, to prevent myself from getting wet. Then I laid down the sleeping pad. I was so tired I didn’t even bother with building anything. I wrapped up in a blanket and looked out over the water as we started moving. I remember overhearing some girls talking about the condition of the bathroom and how they had to go off the side of the ship instead, among other bits of random conversation. Someone had set up some lights and speakers and were blasting music. I could see people dancing in the flashing orange and red lights. It looked like they were having lots of fun. Still, I was too tired, so I just watched from afar. Things get blurry, but the next thing I know we are not on a level surface. The whole ship was on an incline and we were climbing out of the water onto a ramp. We had made it to land, and I guess the boat had wheels under there as well because now we were traveling through a city. All of a sudden everyone had chairs and were snapping pictures out the windows like we were on some sort of tourist bus. We pull into an large open area full of runways and planes. A big truck hooked the front of our vehicle up to an airplane. The airplane fired up its engines and the jets started roaring. This plane was gonna take off and pull the boat-turned-bus into the sky? Everyone was calm and acting like it was no big deal. Totally normal. No one seemed unnerved by the situation at all, except one lady who freaked out, started yelling at everyone that it was not going to work and ran off the vehicle in rage. I decided to follow her and a few others followed me. Now outside on the ground, we watched anxiously as the plane took off. It actually worked. There was a plane towing a boat with wheels, packed with people and little wooden structures through the sky. Magically everything stayed together and stable. Beyond that, we even saw people hanging behind the boat with with tow ropes, soaring through the sky like it was some sort of leisure sport. Now everyone I was with felt like they missed out on something amazing. We all went our separate ways and wandered off back into the city. Things get blurry again. I am in a bed. There was no color, no wallpaper, just a mattress on a frame in a dark room. I went downstairs to find a completely destroyed interior of a house. I see a little boy playing with something and humming to himself while sitting on the ground. He notices me and quickly runs outside. I follow and right away notice that it is the same ugly abandoned house from the very beginning when we arrived at the shipyard. How did I get back to where I started? Why was I sleeping there? So many questions run through my head… then I woke up.
I’m on a very familiar lake with a group of very familiar people. We are all gathered behind a house talking and discussing what we are about to do. I look out over the water and notice that there are multiple floating cones or buoys wobbling back in fourth a great distance out. There is one buoy near the shore marking the starting point. It is orange with fluorescent tape wrapped around it making it shimmer in the light. It is starting to get dark so we decide to get started. It is clear now that this is going to be a race. Everyone starts scrambling and forming teams. We start boarding the boats which are like row-boats, but longer. Eventually, I notice that everyone has paired up and some people are even in groups of 4-5, but I am all alone. I don’t have a team, I am all alone on my boat. It doesn’t matter, we start paddling as hard as we can. There is no distinct starting point we are just going, and if you haven’t gone yet- you better catch up. There is a lot of competitive talk and bragging about an individual team’s chances of winning. Everyone seems to think they are the best and they will win. It turns into a psychological mind game where people are trying to psyche out the other teams and make them think less of themselves. I am paddling as hard as I can, but the talk doesn’t phase me. I already think I am going to lose. I am all by myself, how could I possibly win? As it gets darker and darker, I slowly hear the talking fade into a light whisper. I look ahead at the cones and I see no one in front of me, just two cones marking the point where I turn around and head back. Now I realize that I am winning. How could this be? I look back and see all the boats clustered together, but way behind to the point where they just look like dots on the horizon. This is where things start to get fuzzy. I start to get dizzy and my vision becomes blurred, but I am still paddling. I feel tired and I slowly drift off into a deep sleep. I wake up to the sound of screaming and water splashing. They are gaining on me. How could I have fallen asleep? I start frantically trying to make up for lost time and rush to quickly make it around the two distant buoys and start my journey back to shore. The only light left is the little shimmer of moonlight reflecting off of the lake and lighting up the water and buoys. I am still seeing blurry and feel as if I cannot open my eyes. I collide with the other boats as our paths intersect. I am bumping into boat after boat and apologizing, but still paddling. They are all heckling and getting frustrated with me for getting in their way. Before I know it I drift back up to the dock by the shore and exhaustedly get out of my boat and lay down on the grass in the backyard. I am in the yard behind my Grandparents house. I am not even excited about it, but I won. My time was 128:55. No one was on shore keeping track, but I specifically remember my race time being one hundred twenty eight minutes and fifty five seconds. I stumble up to the house and crash through the door to tell everyone inside about my accomplishment. My whole family is there, but they all seem busy and nobody seems to care about the race or who won. I go into the bathroom and wash the dirt from my hands, face and from under my fingernails. I have no idea how I got so filthy. My Dad starts to talk to me about an apartment. He is telling me to hurry up because we have to go over there and move things in. Then, he tells me not to rush because we cannot even get in yet, they still have to change the locks first. I am confused, but as I start arguing with him about why they need to change the locks, everyone from the race barges into the house in a fury. They are all mad at me because I won. They cannot believe that I won, the only person racing alone. They start to explain that it was only because my boat had less weight and then go on and on about how it was unfair. I drift off in thought about my apartment. Do I even have an apartment? What does it look like? I imagine a narrow tall building with long, winding, skinny halls and steep stairwells. I am trying to haul luggage up to my room. I am there now… then I woke up.
I have a paddle in my hands and I am repeatedly pulling it through the water. I have no idea where I am or why I’m doing it. I look around to find myself on a boat. It’s a long boat with at least forty other people. The longest row boat I have ever seen. Everyone is smiling and talking. We all look around and gaze in astonishment at the beautiful landscape that surrounds us. We are paddling through an unnamed body of water with no destination in mind. Soon we find ourselves docking up to another boat. These new ones are giant flat bottomed pontoon style boats. I noticed now that there are multiple skinny row boats all congregating near the fat pontoon. There are also other pontoons nearby with other row boats docking up to them. They are covered with circus-like decorations including a big red and white striped tent over the top. When we get nearby it a lever is pulled and two landing platforms lower from the sides of the circus pontoon. They are bright red and about two feet wide, just enough room for people to stand on before they jump onto the floor of the new boat. Everyone starts frantically trying to get off the row boats. People are pushing each other and yelling at each other. It is obvious that we are are scrambling to get a spot because we were not sure if there was going to be room for everyone. The larger boats now start moving and luckily I made it on. New faces are now appearing. My family and some of my friends are aboard as well. We are all talking about things I can’t remember and laughing. In the distance now we see an even larger boat. This time there is just one. It looks like some kind of cross between an old fashioned pirate ship and a modern day fishing boat. We are all so excited. We get closer and we notice that the entire boat is covered with old mesh rope fishing nets. Every surface. Next thing I know I am on board and exploring. It is very crowded in some areas, but very empty in others. I end up waiting in a line for something and I get bored, so I sit down. When I sit down I notice when looking at the boat from that particular spot it is especially beautiful. Then, I get in an discussion with the person behind me who disagrees and says that looking up at the sail is a much more beautiful view. I compare the beauty of the two and eventually agree. I am then genuinely surprised to see a good friend mine appear all of a sudden. We decide to explore the boat together and of course go find the bar on board. We don’t have to search very far before we are in the tavern. It is a long and wide room with very low ceiling and windows all around with great views of the water. It is packed with people everywhere, but fortunately everyone has a drink already and there is absolutely no line at the bar. This took us a little bit to figure out. I ask the bartender what I should get. He starts rambling and listing off beers that I have never heard of before and showing me bottle after bottle of different suggestions. All of which are completely unknown to me. Meanwhile some other guy behind the bar reaches out is hand and opens it to revile a collection of assorted bottle caps, some unusual coins, stones, a key and what looks like a large shark tooth. I mention that I really like the key, but I pick up the sharp tooth-looking thing and it is actually carved out of wood. I remember being amazed by how much weight it had, it was a very distinct and real feeling of density. I thank the guy for his gift, and then he snatches it back from me and acts offended that I would try to take something from him. He makes some kind of snarky comment about how foolish and gullible I am. I laugh it off and turn around with a beer in hand. I look out into the randomness of people all congregated on this boat and inside the bar. We all came from small boats, to larger transport boats, and finally made it to the great and enormous pirate ship. It was a journey. I feel accomplished and happy that I was able to make it… then I woke up.