Have you ever had an experience that chilled you to your very soul? I did, once. It took place on the ferry that travels back and forth from Cape Cod to Nantucket.
It was in the evening. I had spent part of the day on a bus tour of Nantucket. Now the ferry was heading back to port. It was already dark with a thick fog having settled over the ocean.
I was sitting and reading a paperback I had brought with me when about halfway through the trip, I got a little sleepy, so I decided to take a walk around the ferry to wake up. At the back of the boat, I found an opening in the metal railing where the crew would normally place a ramp to let passengers get on and off. The opening in the railing was roped off by just a single metal chain. I thought that was kind of dangerous. Suppose someone fell off? But that wasn’t what sent chills through my body. It was what I saw beyond the chain—a four to five-foot wave caused by the wake of the boat. But even that wasn’t what frightened me.
My fear was ignited by the fact that I couldn’t see beyond the wave. Between the darkness and the fog, all I could see was where the wave crested and nothing else. It was like staring into an impenetrable abyss so vast and deep, that if a person should happen to fall into it, not even God would find them. They’d be gone forever!
I stood there, staring into that eternal darkness, while slimy tendrils of fear wriggled their way into every part of my body. I began to shiver. After more than a minute, I felt that if I stood there much longer, somehow I’d be lost, too.
I had to get away!
Slowly, with great effort, I managed to break free from the darkness, then head back into the interior of the ferry, where there was warming light and people. It took a long time for both my body and my mind to calm down, but finally they did. Once the ferry stopped, the crew had us depart from the front of the boat instead of the rear—thank God! Afterwards, I checked into a nearby motel. But that night, and for several thereafter, I dreamt about the abyss—about it trying to snare me once again with its cold slimy darkness. Each time, I’d wake up shivering.