The ocean stretched out before me an endless topaz gem. Sitting by the bow of my old skiff, sail fluttering listlessly over my shoulder, I dropped my line one last time. I watched as the bait slid slowly beneath the surface turning deeper shades of blue as it sank until all that remained was a thin filament of wire pointing down toward the ink black depths.
I sat back against the hull and let my gaze soften over the vast expanse of water. My left hand began to stroke my beard with the slow, meditative compulsion of accumulated boredom. Each breath took in the salt and sun and weariness of my toil. Closing my eyes I pulled the rim of my hat down over my face and imagined myself thirty years younger, a man of wealth and influence.
I awoke some time later as the sun was reaching the peak of its mid day heat. The line sat still as ripples of water lapped gently against the side of the boat. As I was about to reel in the disappointment of my efforts I began to feel strangely. Placing a hand on the splintered white paint of the hull I became aware that the boat was humming, vibrating silently beneath me. Looking up the cloudless sky was empty of the usual gulls and cormorants that circled in wait of an easy meal.
Suddenly the ocean began to froth and boil building heaps of green foam that popped spraying salty mist into my face. The sound that came next was like a titanic brass horn erupting from beneath the water, shaking my bones until I lost balance and fell over cradling my ears like a child.
The water continued to crash against my small vessel and soak my clothes and skin. The skiff shook so violently I feared it would capsize at any moment. Struggling to regain my footing I pulled at the rope to hoist the sail and as I was tying off I glanced over the bow and laid eyes on death itself. It’s head came first, a giant grey dome of slick shimmering scales that dwarfed that of any whale I’d ever known. Then it’s eyes, deep yellow and flecked with gold like a tiger, pupils so wide I could have sailed right through them into oblivion. But it was the teeth that broke me. The monster opened it’s gaping maw to reveal row after row of sickle sharp fangs tall as a man curving back toward the recesses of it’s immense gullet. It could have swallowed ten men in boats without notice.
I grabbed the handle of the rudder and prayed for wind, prayed that the waves would carry me away from this hellish beast, but like so many prayers these went unanswered. The sail sat limp on the mast and the water served only to fill the hull and wet my shoes. I looked back to see that the beast gaining on me. As it neared my vessel I could smell the acrid stench of rotting flesh on its breath. It’s tiger eyes darted wildly with the pleasure of the hunt. I let go of the rudder and cursed god. I cursed the sea. This boat and the wind. I cursed myself and my empty stomach. And as I was about to close my eyes a long ruddy brown tentacle speared forth from the water and shot into the air. The boat rocked and swayed at the tentacle came crashing down not on me but across the face of the beast.
The beast bellowed a deafening blast of hot, putrid air and I thought that even in the midst of my confused and fear I would find time to be sick. I closed my eyes tight and held on for dear life to the sides of the hull. The terrible trashing and wailing beyond my small vessel sounded like the end of days, a cacophony of screaming demons clawing their way into my skull. I dared one glance and caught the last of the beast, wrapped in the crushing hold of a net of tentacles, being pulled below the surface. A moment later the sea was calm. The frothy green foam clinging to the hull began to spread out and disappear. As I released my shaking hands from their hold on the railing and stared out at the still stretch of water where the beast had been, I felt something slither past my leg and I recoiled with a yelp. In the water pooled below me, back striped blue and black, swam a fat chub mackerel.