Fiction | July 01, 2011

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We cluster around the radio in the teachers’ berth. I twist the dial to 16, the hailing and distress channel, and Dave holds a hand up for silence, even though nobody’s talking. Most of the message is static, but it sounds bad. Ports are closed all along the northern coast of Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Virgin Islands. The throaty, Spanish-inflected voice of the Coast Guard broadcaster tells us to switch to 22A, and we do, straining for specifics of the attack, or whatever it is. I can make out snatches only: stay at sea . . . hazards . . . we don’t know . . . repeat stay . . . as it comes in. The distant sound of hip-hop drifts from the dormitory berths; the students are enjoying a normal afternoon below deck, unaware. The satellites are down. The computers and the handheld devices search endlessly for signals.

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