Myths and legends didn’t hold much value in my mind. To me, they were nothing but false stories used to praise a person or insult another for the benefit of political power. It is better to place one's faith in the facts and work towards uncovering the truth behind these myths and legends. That’s what I decided to do when I received a report from a dead man.
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“These islands won’t be here next month!” the captain yelled over the chugging boat.
“Why? Are they being moved?”
The captain smirked, which was the closest I could get him to laughing the entire trip. He was a confident sailor, but not a brave man. When I told him where I wanted to go, he needed a lot of convincing. He knew about the dead man who was found near these islands, which was enough reason for him to circle the islands and strike it through with multiple lines.
The fact his map had many of these circles told me not to trust him and his fears.
“The islands are covered in the high tide,” the captain explained. “In these parts, low tide is around sunset and persists till dawn. You will have better luck spotting them in the moonlight.”
“You have the coordinates,” I grunted, staring out at the calm ocean. “Those will help us more than our eyes could.”
“It’s your money.”
I glared at him but decided not to start a debate on who knew the sea better; an accomplished marine biologist or a fisherman. Luckily, I didn’t have to prove him wrong. The GPS device began to beep as we neared the coordinates and the islands, despite being below water, could be seen clearly.
“Would you look at that?” I said with false surprise. “Who could have known they would be there?”
It was close to sunset, so we decided to wait. The water wasn’t too high, I could have trudged through the water and searched for any equipment left behind by my colleague. Yet, I didn’t want to. It would be exhausting and difficult during the day, but much clearer at night.
The captain and I passed time with cards.
“These parts aren’t the safest,” the captain murmured.
“We both know that, but they seem pretty tame now. There are hardly any fish that I can see.”
“There are no fish. Aye, it seems tame now, but your friend wasn’t washed away by the Flying Dutchman.”
“I assume you have some more credible reason for his disappearance.”
“I assume incorrectly.”
Despite my comment taking a shot at him, we both laughed. We came to some common ground, showing our admiration for the ocean, comparing fish and other wonders we came across. There were some stories that I couldn’t help but admire and I had a few that even the old salt could marvel at.
The afternoon was made more splendid when the captain broke out his scotch.
“Bourbon is normally what I share, but not on this occasion,” the captain said with a smile as he poured the scotch.
“I make such great conversation that I deserve the good stuff?”
“No, I just need something stronger to endure your blathering!”
Our laughing and story-telling persisted until the boat leaned to one side and didn’t lean back. We were beached on a beach. Neither of us noticed that we anchored the boat over one of the small islands. With shared cursing, we climbed down the side of the hull, our boots hitting the fast-drying island.
“There’s no real damage,” I told him. “The jolt might have even knocked off a few of the looser barnacles.”
“Aye, but now we’re stuck here until high tide,” the captain mumbled.
I looked out towards the rest of the small islands. Some weren’t so barren, having clusters of smoothed rocks and even grass. Yet, I knew that in time, even the most persistent beach grass would be washed away or eaten. There was an ominous beauty surrounding the islands. They practically glowed in the moonlight, while the ocean barely glinted and the sky, despite there being no clouds, had barely a star.
If one squinted their eyes, the curves of the islands protruding from the dark waters looked like drowned bodies. My thoughts easily drifted from this image to the picture of my colleague when they found him.
“Now’s a good time to look for that equipment,” I told the captain.
“Well, you do that, I will try to get her back in the water.”
“You know it’s too small to be a ship.”
“It’s bigger than the rowboat you were gonna take when nobody would take you here!”
I waved his comment off. Boarding the boat, I gathered the GPS and went for a long walk.
The equipment consisted of more than one device, but only one case that could contain all the equipment had a tracker on it. I kept my eyes scanning the ground as I walked in the right direction, as I didn’t know if I might come across a black box or perhaps even my colleague’s notes. The only time I looked away from the sand was when the worrying thought that the best equipment got washed away, then my eyes drifted to the dark waters lapping up near my feet.
Soon, the GPS was beeping far more frantically. I turned off the satellite connection, choosing local detection so I could be more precise. It became necessary when I found the silver case buried just beneath the sand.
With the selfish wish that the dead man packed everything away before his death, I typed in the combination and opened the case.
It was empty.
I cursed silently, looked around the case, kicked at the ground and didn’t stop until I vented my frustration. The equipment was lost and I wasted my time coming to the small patch of nothing. I turned off my torch and began to trudge back the ship, which I was soon able to see upon moving around a large rock.
It still stood at a slant and I didn’t see the captain. I didn’t think much of it until I saw that his boat was rocking back and forth, the dull sound of metal reaching my ears. My curiosity reached its peak when the boat tipped over towards me, the control cabin’s weight wrenching itself off the hull on impact.
My mouth hung upon and my pace slowed.
I thought it was the water pushing the boat, or perhaps a silly idea concocted by the captain. However, I still didn’t see him, so I feared he might have been injured. Taking one more tentative step towards the boat, my mind overcoming its confusion, I tried to remember my first aid training as I broke out into a sprint towards the vessel.
I still heard a banging against the boat, which made me for a moment believe my theory that it was the water. Yet, once I was only a few metres away, I realized the sound was too loud, too violent, to be the calm waves that were washing ashore.
I was going to call out, but something made me hesitate. A thought crossed the back of my mind, but I couldn’t pin it down. Something was incredibly wrong with that repetitive sound. As I walked closer, I realized that the sound was fleshy. A meaty thump, followed by smaller thumps that I couldn’t describe.
I walked carefully around the boat, looking around the corner, seeing the red streaks of blood in the sand. Peaking more around the corner, I saw what was responsible, or at least half of it. It was massive, just smaller than the old fishing boat. A creature with skin similar to a whale or dolphin, but certainly not as girthy. It was more lizard-like in structure, while fishlike in design.
I followed the long, black tale to its dark body, white legs much like a lizard. From that glance, I saw that it had four legs to stand on and a pair of arms. Unlike the legs, the arms were black, holding pieces of the captain. The rest of the captain was held in the monster’s maw. Its head was similar to a killer whale, with dark beady eyes that I could just make out in the darkness.
It was whipping the captain against the boat, trying to separate him with sheer force. The smaller thumps, I learned, came from his limp legs, the boots banging on the underside of the boat with each sickening swing.
I found myself on the edge of gagging and realized the creature would hear me if I did. I covered my mouth, falling back behind the boat and looking away. I suffocated the sound with my sleeve.
It didn’t help.
The creature made a noise that was unmistakable as one of curiosity. I could hear it moving, another blunt sound letting me know it had left the captain behind. On my feet, I moved as fast as I could without betraying my position. There was nowhere to hide on the islands, at least, nowhere within reach. It was going to move around the boat and see me, so chose to move into the water.
I slid into a crawl and inhaled deeply and forced myself below the surface, fighting the push of the tide and helping the pull. I was submerged and somewhat glad to see the moonlight had lit the shallows.
I was hidden there, lying on my back on the sand, staring up at the sky. I thought I would see movement, but I saw nothing. My safety was assured as long as I could hold my breath, which I believed would be long enough for the monster to lose interest.
However, I was not alone.
I saw a movement among the wispy seaweed which moved with the current. It was quick, but not fast enough for me to lose sight of it. It came into view and darted towards me. It was small and for a moment I thought it was an eel. Out of pure instinct and desire to live, I grabbed the lanky form.
It was another one of the creatures, although much smaller. Its legs were still forming and its mouth was barely large enough to latch onto a finger, I would say it could have only been born recently. Upon further examination, I saw a movement of skin on the head, two holes; nostrils. It couldn’t have smelt me, not unless I cut myself, but I made a note that these things could certainly track me.
My time was up. Breathe burning my lungs. As valiant as my effort was to remain underwater, I wasn’t going to break a record even if my life depended on it. I also couldn’t let the creature go or make a sound, for fear of attracting the large one. With a cold, fearful heart, I grasped its head and twisted, squeezing simultaneously. An underdeveloped monster would be easy to kill, but certainly not an adult.
After it died in my grip, I let it fall to the ocean floor, ready to surface. As I did, the water shifted, there was a much larger movement to my left. It was the creature from the boat, its front feet coated in the captain’s blood which slowly dissipated in the water around it. If there were any more of those creatures, and I think there are, they would soon come out to investigate.
I examined its entire form as it slithered into the ocean, in fearful awe. I knew that if it had seen me it would tear into me like a cat into a mouse.
Yet it did not see me and I carefully returned to the surface. It seemed, as long as I was quiet I could escape them with ease. Yet, had they spotted me and given chase, there is no chance for me to outrun them, definitely not outswim them either.
The islands were empty again, the creature having slipped back into the gloom. I stayed near the fishing boat, but not too close in case the body attracted more. In the moonlight, I continued my observations of the small creature. It was almost alien compared to the many oddities I examined.
Hours passed slowly, as I was constantly alert, but they passed nonetheless. As the captain said, the tide rolled in close to dawn. With the aid of ropes and clever knots, the tide helped me shift the boat upright again, only to be cut before they pulled it on its other side.
The islands had sunk again, but the boat was not so damaged that I couldn't get it going again and sail away. The local authorities, curiously enough, knew I didn’t kill the fisherman, but the bigger authority died. Yet, I had all the proof to keep me out of the orange jumpsuit.
I had found something, something that everyone wanted a piece of, but couldn’t have. I had all the funding and returned with more ships. I started a search for a creature from nightmares with cold, dead eyes.
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