Thursday, 1 May 2014

Boat & Sea Monster

A retired sailor with mournful eyes looked out to sea. A vicious, stormy sea. The cold spray from the waves made him turn up the collar of his pea coat as he smoked his seaman's pipe. It was just like that night he thought. The night they'd been saved.
Saved. By a miracle. By the benevolence of the Gods. By a myth. It had been wonderful to survive, but a part of him wished he'd died because he hadn't realised the hold it would have on him. As he focused his eyes on the crashing tide he recalled that eventful day and night.
Under a clear blue sky, their small fishing vessel left the harbour. Light winds filled the sail and the air was warm. The placid sea allowed them to glide gracefully into open waters until they were surrounded by only blue sky and sea.
Waves had lapped hypnotically as he with another inexperienced youth had begun to dredge a fishing net from the bottom of the sea. What was usually a two man job took all three as the net felt surprisingly heavy, as if it were weighted down by rocks; a weightiness that turned out to be caught fish. A huge haul of fish! More fish than they'd ever seen! Their shiny bodies slapped the floor and gently rocked their tiny vessel, and as they gasped their scales glistened in the midday sun. Heaving nets and sorting fish was sweaty, back-breaking, relentless work, but a fisherman's life was a gamble and this kind of luck was rare.
All that hot afternoon, more fish were magically drawn from their nets, so that as the sun begun its slow descent into the sea they had argued about heading home. With their tempers raised, the climate changed. A change that was sudden and total. The sky that had been blue turned dark grey, then black, and the wind blew. Rain beat down and the sea grew choppy; the sky came alive with flashes of lightening and rumbles of thunder.
Marooned on this angry sea, they clung desperately to their vessel as it bobbed violently and prayed it would pass. How long could such a storm last? He had asked himself.
At that point the belly of the sea had seemed to grumble ominously and the waters had stilled around them. He was fearful and saw that same look mirrored on the faces of his fellow fishermen. Something was encircling them. Something that wasn't entirely visible yet, but which appeared to have a monstrous head and a writhing snake-like body. Could this 'something' be the Sea Monster that as a boy he'd heard tales about? Was he about to see his boyish fantasy made flesh?
The others by now were cowering at the stern, further unbalancing their vessel, but not he. He stood upright in the middle, his feet planted firmly, as the serpent, with effort broke the surface with its huge dragon head and apprised them with its glass bead eyes. It snorted, misting their boat in its puffed breath and launched its red coral body out of the sea. It gently grabbed hold of the mast with its mouth and coiled itself around the whole boat so that its tail was a roof, a shelter from the tempest that still raged.
What would it do now? Would it drag them down? To the Underworld, the realm of the dead? But no, they stayed that way on top of the tempestuous sea contained like a fossilized creature. And gradually his companions, like he, were lulled by this security from the pounding heart beats of the sea.
The Sea Monster kept its large, unblinking eyes on the skies until the overhead darkness cleared and the beating waves subsided, then it loosened its curled grip and with a huge splash and puffed sigh sank into the depths of the emerald sea. 
As he now smoked his pipe, he remembered the moment the serpent had left: jubilant that they hadn't capsized, but still possessed by those glass bead eyes. A feeling that throughout his sea-faring years had caused him much distress.