The Witching Hour

Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

We were on a cruise in the Caribbean on our honeymoon. I was so happy. I had just married the love of my life and we were taking our first cruise together on the largest passenger ship in the world. I’m not the kind of person who gets motion sick easily. But the ocean is weird, I felt a see-saw motion in my head the entire first day. But it was beautiful on the ocean. We had our own suite and the staff treats you a whole lot nicer if you do. The great thing about a suite is that it has a little living room, a balcony and a bedroom. It is like a mini hotel room on the sea.

Michael and I wandered around the boat, had a drink on the exclusive suite deck and went for the Captain’s sail off party on the helipad. It was almost perfect. Almost. I had an inexplicable feeling of dread from the time we got on. As if something was wrong, but I wasn’t sure what.

Our honeymoon was my first trip to the U.S. and we had pulled out all the stops. We spent a week in Disneyworld to live out my childhood fantasy before we boarded the ship from Fort Lauderdale. I’m not familiar with cruise paths and hadn’t checked where we would be sailing but knew we were touring the Eastern Caribbean.

We had dinner at a restaurant and retired to our room early. I was still seasick and thought I would sleep it off. Only, I couldn’t sleep. With Michael snoring peacefully beside me, I wasn’t sure how to entertain myself. So I went on to the balcony to look at the water. The Pacific Ocean is pretty calm. It looked like an expanse of black ink illuminated eerily by a half moon. There weren’t any sounds, no people I could see or lights in the horizon. It was a bit creepy. Sitting on the deck, I started to imagine I wasn’t alone. But of course, when I looked around, I was. I finally went back in to bed, hoping that lying next to my husband will at least soothe me if not help me fall asleep. I shut my eyes and hoped that sleep would come. It might’ve been fifteen minutes or an hour, I’m never really sure at that time of the night. But I heard a sound from the direction of the living room. I opened my eyes and saw the light streaming on the floor from the under the bathroom door. I might’ve forgotten to turn it off. Maybe Mike had gotten up and gone to use the loo without my realizing. I was still looking at the light on the floor when a shadow passed over it. The kind that does under a door when someone walks by. I looked up and saw Mike. He crossed over from one side of the living room to the other without looking at me. Then he came to the bed and sat at the foot of his bed, looking away from me, staring out on to the ocean from the window. The room felt weird. As if something malicious was there. It freaked me out. I kept waiting for him to turn around or say something. Maybe he was sick from the dinner. Not wanting to break the dark silence, I reached across the bed to tap him on his shoulder and ask him if he’s okay.

While making my way over, my hand touched someone lying next to me. I gasped in shock to see that Michael was still lying next to me, sound asleep. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. I was holding Mike’s hand while I could see him or someone that looked just like him sitting at the edge of his bed stock still, looking out of the window. Never one for dramatic screams, I reached over to the nightstand and turned on the light. But the Mike at the edge of the bed was gone! The light woke up Michael and he asked what was wrong. I wasn’t even sure how to explain that I had seen him sitting outside his body a second before. I explained what I saw as best I could. Being the saint that he is, he walked around the room to show me no one was there and we were alone. I checked my phone for the time before going back to bed. It was 3.04am. I thought half-jokingly about the witching hour, admonished myself for hallucinating because I was sleep deprived and closed my eyes. Sleep didn’t come. I felt the weird hollow in the pit of my stomach grow. But I had the lamp on and I was holding my husband’s hand. All I had to do was wait out the night. Everything gets better at sunrise.

And it did. The next morning, the boat was lively again. My room looked cheery and I almost forgot the incident over the next few days. We went around the Bahamas, St Thomas and St Maarten. Unfortunately, Michael felt quite ill on the third day and he was quarantined to our room. I ended up doing a lot of the honeymoon sightseeing alone when we docked. But I didn’t mind so much as we also spent time watching movies and eating room service in bed. Basically my favourite things to do on a holiday.

When we turned around, it was two straight days of sailing straight back to Fort Lauderdale. Mike was healthy again and we enjoyed the cruise activities. Watching overweight middle aged men dancing raunchily to win the title of sexiest man on the boat has its own prurient charm.

It was our last night on the boat, time to dock and go home. I had gotten over the seasickness but was looking forward to being on land again. It had been seven days since the creepy doppelgänger incident and I had decided to write it off as the result of a sometimes wild imagination. We turned in for the night and it returned. The strange feeling that something was wrong. That we weren’t alone in the room. I switched on the light and lay close to Mike, I wasn’t keen to see more ghosts in the dark. I don’t even believe in ghosts! As we neared the shore, I couldn’t wait to get off but had some time to kill. I figured that both instances of sensing a presence happened around the same location. We were about ten hours from Fort Lauderdale. For curiosity, I looked at the cruise path. It feels bizarre to even report it here but we were passing through the Bermuda Triangle at both times.

I have no explanation for what happened that day. The Bermuda Triangle is the topic of lore and controversy. I didn’t know ships and flights still chart paths over it. Does it have a magnetic field that messed with me? Or are there wrecks under the sea which have spirits visit less suspecting travellers on ships passing in the night? I guess I’ll never know.

It has been six months since the honeymoon. The story of Mike’s evil twin has become a fun tale to tell at parties. It always has everyone in goose bumps. The sceptics try to explain it and the believers tend to defend it. Everyone has theories but for me it’s like a half-dream that I might be misrepresenting.

We are back in the U.S. for our friend Kevin’s wedding. When you make the expedition over from the Middle East, it’s only fair to turn it into a two week road trip. Our first stop is San Francisco. We’re staying at the beautiful Westin St. Francis hotel on Union Square. The first night is tough, I’m battling with jetlag. As usual, Mike’s fallen fast asleep next to me. I’m tossing and turning. Is the duvet trying to suffocate me, it is suddenly so hot. I am about to get up and turn the thermostat down when I spy Michael standing across the room at the dial. I bet he’s making it warmer. He always does that, why can’t we ever agree on the temperature. I whisper to him. I don’t know what it is about dark rooms at night. Even when it is just the two of you, it feels unsettling to speak loudly. “Mike, please make it cooler, I can’ sleep.” He doesn’t respond. He’s just standing there with his back towards me. I call out louder. “Mike!” I hear a muffled surprise next to me on the bed. Michael’s right there! I turn the lamp on immediately. The doppelganger disappears. I check my phone for the time and a chill runs down my spine in this hot sweaty room. It is 3.04am.