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by Luc Reid

I arrived at Cumberland Head around midnight, but the ferry there runs through the night. After I queued up, a man pulled into the lane beside me, towing a motorboat on a trailer.

He smoked a cigarette while we waited, watching the illuminated bulk of the ferry loom at us out of the darkness.

Ten minutes later, safely parked on the lower deck of the Evans-Wadhams-Wolcott, I locked the car and mounted the metal steps to the upper deck, where you could see. The wind was strong and damp, but the weather was too mild to be uncomfortable, and I stood looking out as we moved into the darkness, my hair streaming back.

We moved into the night like fox into a dark wood. The only substantial light that night came from far ahead and to the right, thin towers lit in pink and yellow and orange. It was another ferry, I thought. It was a refinery. It was a fairy city. It was a UFO, hovering just above the surface of the water, everyone there watching us, seeing something familiar in the moving lights.

On the deck below I saw the man who'd brought his boat on the boat. He stood, not smoking, far forward down there in the darkness where no cars were parked. I wondered what he was letting go of.

It wasn't until the ferry began to turn that I saw what the lights really were: the ferry landing on Grand Isle, where we were headed. It's a short crossing--fifteen minutes, maybe. But I wasn't sure the darkness was done with me, or the wind. I went down onto the lower deck, moving with some urgency I would have had trouble explaining, keeping clear of the other man, watching the lights ahead of us wax as we slid over the black water. The lights grew until I thought they could swallow me, and it seemed like it was only a moment before it was time to go back to the car, my black Toyota, waiting silently on the deck.

The lights filled the air around me. The wind lifted, pushed, streamed, pulled, carried.

* * *

The cars in the back eventually had to go around the black Toyota, but Mark Dunfee, who was bringing the boat he used to think he wanted more than anything in the world to a buyer at Lake Memphremagog, stayed behind to search with the crew. The car was locked, and there was definitely no one in there. There was no one in the faux-wood paneled cabin on the upper deck, no one on the highest deck where only crew were allowed. Mark kept straining his ear to hear splashing, cries.

They had to leave the black Toyota on the Evans-Wadhams-Wolcott for three more trips back and forth until the police sent a tow truck for it. Mark waited as they took it away, not smoking, though he wanted to.

When the tow truck was gone and the ferry had left for Cumberland Head yet again, there was no excuse to stay. He climbed into his truck and drove away in the darkness, wondering.

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