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To The Deep

It's been awhile since I posted, but I brewed up this story one morning at about 4:30am as a warm-up to writing, and I thought it was about time I shared. Enjoy!

His boat rocked gently on the sea. The sails, filled with the summer wind, lent it balance.

The salt water caressed his skin. It was warm today, with the sun hovering low in the morning sky, and he had stripped to the waist.

A few days ago, a shark had cut through his entire collection of fish nets and had stolen half of them; today another shark swam by him—but he knew better than to worry. Sharks rarely bothered him and the odds of another incident were slim.

He turned his head and saw something bubbling beneath the surface of the water. He smiled. It was probably a squid. His nets would soon be full again, though the squids were lousy creatures and no matter how delicious they might taste, he did not like them—but today luck favored him, and so he settled in his boat and waited.

One lone seagull screeched above him. He watched as it performed three passes over his head before flying off, chattering angrily at another bird—probably a cormorant or gannet—that dove into the water with its webbed feet spread out wide. The only sound came from the endless expanse of waves that rose and fell rhythmically along the beach.

He shifted his weight on the rocking boat, preparing for another slow day’s work where he would sit back and relish a leisurely life while waiting for nature to deliver its bounty onto his nets. This was a good life, with not much to do but enjoy the sea breeze until it was time to pull in the nets.

It was high noon when his gaze settled upon something in the distance. He snagged his binoculars and pointed them at the shadow. It looked like wreckage from another ship, one bigger than his. He brought the binoculars down and glanced at the sky. The weather had been calm, so it wasn’t a storm that wrecked the ship.

He lifted the binoculars back up to his eyes and scanned again. It looked like some kind of yacht, not a fishing boat. There would have been people on board. He wondered if they’d called for help.

He took a closer look, clambering down from the sailboat into his little dinghy. His strokes were silent as he rowed with a grunting effort until he reached within fifty meters of it—and stopped dead.

The hull was torn apart, like Poseidon himself had brought his fist down.

He heard his heart beating in his chest and his hand trembled as he took another look through his binoculars. The first body floated to the left of the ship.

Slowly, fear crept into his heart. A sudden gust of wind blew by him; that was when he realized the seagull had only moments ago circled above this place with loud squawking.

The wind blew again, stronger this time. And he heard a scraping sound beneath him—like shells being dragged against sandstones, grinding down whatever they were attached to. He searched back towards the sea: there was no storm. What could make this noise?

He brought his binoculars up again and saw the seagull had returned and now stood on something at the center of the wreckage. It looked like a huge mound of writhing seaweed—a verdant mass with too many legs moving inside it.

One tentacle whipped up and snatched the bird, leaving tufts of down floating in the breeze. The tentacles slithered out of the boat’s interior. The mound continued writhing.

His little boat rocked back and forth as water surged against it from both sides. He thought it the motion from that horrifying mound, but when he glanced in the water, he saw waves of small creatures. They seemed like baby fish at first; but he didn’t see fins. Instead, he saw dozens of tiny legs crawling through the water. They looked like parasites, the kind that stayed on other creatures as they slowly ate them alive from within. And even if they did not have any eyes or mouths with which to feed on him, he had nothing to defend himself unless he wanted to row back right here and now; there was no time for another trip back toward shore while waiting for nightfall, so he could row out into the open sea.

And what if these things swam faster?

The boat rocked again: more tentacles rose into the air, waving wildly about as though trying to catch something in mid-air. His fear grew stronger by the moment. He grabbed an oar and started rowing to the shore in desperate haste. The boat flew across the waters like a frightened bird—but when it reached within fifty meters of land, one large tentacle rose from below and snatched him away.

He tried to kick and swim away from the creature, but another tentacle rose behind him and wrapped itself around his throat, pulling him back and squeezing. He sputtered for breath as he clawed at the slick tentacles, but it held him tightly and began pulling him under the sea.

He reached up toward the sky, and the last thing he saw was a seagull. Circling above them. His hand sank to the deep and the surface of the water was still.

The sun sparkled in the mirror of water, and a fish jumped in the distance.

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