We arrived at the other side of Lake Manapouri with no further incidents from that trap door, but I gave it one last look as I left my seat. It looked normal, just another mechanical room like in so many other boats of its size.
Why did the attendant look at me like that?
“Everyone please enjoy your trip into the Doubtful Sound, one of New Zealand’s most treasured places,” a voice was wrapping up her parting remarks as I filed out the back of the boat with thirty other people who would either be with me for the next two days as we kayaked or would be out and back on a quick one day tour. For a few seconds, I tried to guess who would choose which option.
I smiled at a couple who looked to be my age. They were wearing sandals like mine while most others were in hiking boots.
As I reached the edge of the boat and the attendant smiled at me once more, I saw a rope hanging from a tall T-shaped post at the end of the dock.
I did something crazy, something even my eighteen-year-old self wouldn’t have done.
I made a ran for it and --
-- left, right, left, JUMP!
I grabbed the rope, ran around the base of the post and swung into the lower level of the boat. I saw the tall attendant try to reach for me as I flew past him and through a window into that supposed mechanical room. When I landed on the floor, I felt blood running down my leg and heard footsteps running down the stairs toward me. I had cut myself on the broken window, but I didn’t have time to do anything about that right then if I want to check out that room.
GO GO GO!!
I ran to the front of the boat where I had seen the light. There was another door in the floor under my seat on the main level.
I looked back.
The tall Attendant was quick on my heels. I pulled open the door and plunged my whole body through it to the other side, letting it slam behind me.
I fell through the air for a full minute before I landed in a net that catapulted me into a room where I floated up toward a cloudy ceiling that had appeared above me right that second. It was clouded like on a night after a day of thunderstorms. I could see familiar shapes like I might have seen back home where a big puffy cloud would turn into a man’s face with chubby cheeks and a bulbous nose.
The clouds provided just enough light to reveal a few things, like a green elephant figurine balancing on the edge of a small, round table with a glass of red wine.
This was not on their website.
Before I reached the clouds, I wanted to figure out how to get back to the floor where I had come from.
I tried the breaststroke in mid-air and only made a fool of myself.
I thought really hard about floating toward the wall. Nothing.
Finally, I swung myself over to the wall by flinging my legs toward it. The wall felt like it was covered with the soft grass I remembered from my grandparents’ yard. I could have sworn I was back under their maple tree running my fingers through the emerald blades looking for lost change or those tiny snail shells I’d sometimes find there.
Halfway down the wall, the grass ran into a small creek. I held onto the edge with my left hand while I let my right linger in the gentle current for a few seconds before I reached for the other bank and pulled myself farther toward the floor, my legs floating straight up behind me. It wasn’t hard to descend the wall, but there was something about that ceiling that pulled my curiosity back. My rational side was trouble-shooting.
Is anyone following me?
Once on the ground, I made my way to the table and wrapped a foot around one of its legs. I looked for a door or a slit, anything that looked like a way out or in. There was nothing at first.
Then, a space opened up a few feet away from me and a scene played out. The tall attendant from the boat was red-faced and angry as he shouted into a walkie talkie next to the staircase at the back of the main level. I couldn’t hear anything. He couldn’t see me, but I got nervous when he stopped shouting and started listening and nodding. He took out a notepad and pen from his jacket pocket and started taking notes.