Birth of a Sea-Monster
by Joe Woodhouse, 3.24am November 10th 2021
'Blub, blub, blub' That's what the four limbed figure said as they floated high above. I tried to make out what this figure could be trying to say, it seemed important, each blub was faster and seemed more panicked than the last. I stretched out an arm to try and reach out to them, but they wiggled further from my reach each time I did. Swimming upwards closing the gap, chasing them down as they kept flailing in the darkness. 'Blub, blub, blub.' They always burst into fragments of light when I arrive. Happens every time I close my eyes.
I always wake up to the same sight, nothing much at all. It's all pitch black, maybe the occasional fish passes by, though they only make me wish I spent the night sleeping underneath a rock. Stare at the darkness too long and you start to see more than fish, just tricks of the mind, take it from me. I once spent an hour staring at a giant face which spent that same hour staring right back at me. But in the end, it was just like my dreams, just that.
The surface of the planet that I live is rocky, grassy, and free. I have the whole sea at my feet, and can swim for miles without needing sleep, though there isn't much to see. The other fish keep to themselves, as if they're scared of my scaly self, they should take a good look at themselves, though the glowing ones are kind enough to light my way in the darkest depths, at least they'll do that. I've been down here all my life, and I can't remember the last time I saw another one like me, but it wasn't always this way. Reflections don't count, trust me.
I used to be part of a crew, we called ourselves the Fisher Tykes. There was Float Sam, Gilled Pete, Shelly Sherbet, and myself, Fisher Pryce, the leader, of course. We'd roam the empty ocean floor kicking up sand, looking for fresh meat, both kinds, let it be known. We all rode giant five foot spider crabs, feeling as big and strong as a whale's penis, even Shelly felt like that. There didn't seem to be all that many fish men out there, our crew was all we had, we even wore matching seaweed hats. Life was good back then.
Float Sam was the first to go, what did anyone expect considering his nickname? He was always floating off somewhere, just one day he floated too far, far away, and no one was present to catch him, bring him back down to Earth. When he first joined our crew, we found him hanging by the gills on a nearby cliff side. He didn't seem too happy to be pulled down, he had a fear of standing, and that was his downfall. When he rode on his crab, he'd often do so with his feet in the air. I liked that.
Gilled Pete was a real fishy ladies' man, everyone knew that, especially Shelly, they were a thing, didn't you know that? He had the thickest gills I'd ever seen, and if you asked nicely, he'd let you touch them, feel them breathe, I was into that. He and Shelly would often lie in a corner somewhere, watching the abyss, pointing at all the creatures that swam past. Pete wanted to be reborn as a jellyfish, they live forever, let him have that. Where did those jellyfish go, he really wanted to know. Maybe he's with them right now, eternally reborn.
Shelly Sherbet was a hunter, in a past life she must have been a frilled shark. Whenever our crew crossed paths with sea life, that was that. She carried rocks in a seaweed sack, and wore shark teeth around her knuckles, who could really stop that? A night on the rocks with her always ended in a great feast, but I have to admit, I'm a little queasy at the sight of blood. She also enjoyed hunting tail, but we didn't tell Gilled Pete that. A shark tore her apart, and off those body parts went, up into the dark.
As the leader of the crew I had a lot to do back when the Fisher Tykes were running riot across the land. Whilst the gang looked up , the sand we stood on was the life for me, trying to find the best locations for our future proof den when we set out on our crab cruises. I imagined us crashing together all under the same rocky roof, but most areas that seemed like ideal spots were teeming with fish which had already set up shop. And those boys had teeth the size of my arm. Shelly killed many.
Once on my own I stopped hunting rocks, and found myself looking up just like they once did. I didn't long for jellyfish, I didn't want to float on, okay, I didn't want to die up there, those sort of dreams were best left to them, not me. Instead the deep blue sea was going to fall down on me, that's what I felt. It would come crashing down with all its weight, and each time I looked up, that giant face would appear and laugh, hur, hur, hur. That was my new existence without the Fisher Tykes. Perpetual fear.
'Blub, blub, blub'. That's what the four limbed figure said as they floated high above. I tried to make out what the figure could be trying to say, it seemed important, each blub was faster and seemed more panicked than the last. I stretched out an arm to try and reach out to them, and they wiggled further from my reach each time I did. Swimming upwards closing the gap, chasing them down as they kept flailing in the darkness. 'Blub, blub, blub.' They always burst into fragments of light when I arrive. But not this one. It stabbed me.
I didn't see the spiked pole this figure was holding, I was too focussed on trying to make sense of why the face was covered in metal and glass. I blinked so I'd be down in the sand on my back once again, but I was still with the figure swimming, all seeing, still clutching a wound on my cheek, it hurt. Blood. The sea was crushing down on me in the form of my dreams which had come to be, something Gilled Pete once warned our crew of. The men from above will seek our gills and gut us.
Bubbles poured from their chest as we both sunk to the bottom of the ocean, their gills were pipes protruding from the thick material that they wore. I wondered what Shelly might have done in such a situations, and I recalled the shark teeth knuckle dusters she always liked to use, they made her pretty and rouge. After the shark attack that tore her in two, I took one as a memento, kept it in my seaweed hat, and I always wore that seaweed hat. I grabbed those teeth and sunk them into the neck of this bubbling man, blub.
Our bodies sunk, but the blood rose, what did they say about the place that we lay? The two of us were no longer scuffling, only hugging, though only one of us still had something to say. More would come, they wouldn't let sleeping fish lie, and that was it, I knew. There was nothing to pack, no one to bid farewell to, the crabs were long gone when the Fisher Tykes emptied. The abyss was pitch black today, but I couldn't wait to fend off more men from above, the shark teeth had cracked, so I jumped into breaststroke.
I swam to the highest point I'd ever been, turning back to look at the ocean floor that had been my home. I could just make out the rocks that had been our Fisher Tykes den, but the sand, all the sand looked the same from up high, the smooth ripples and footprints were invisible to the naked eye. When I swim a little higher, breaking my previous record, the below was no longer in my sights. Up and down, they were the same pit of darkness, I had to keep swimming onwards, but which way was that? Bubbles knew.
As I swam blind the only company I had was the occasional flash of jelly fish. I wanted to follow, let them lead me, but by the time I turned their way, the light had dispersed, was there ever anything there? The abyss was silent, the abyss was cold, and I no longer felt my arms and legs as I swam on. I sometimes wondered if I was even moving, but as I closed my eyes I could feel the movements for the currents. It wasn't swimming that I was doing, I was falling, falling up into the sea sky.
I awoke, as I often do, lying on soft sand. In a panic I shot up to quickly look around, but this was not the floor I knew so well. A jellyfish was lying on my stomach, a squishy ball that had guided me through the all consuming darkness, into the light, that abyss no more, replaced by multicoloured fish and rocky coral cliffs. The jellyfish slapped my wrist as if to say hi, before floating off into the blue. I hoped Gilled Pete made it this far, and if not, maybe reborn he was the one who saved me.
The higher seas seemed like the place to be. Every time I opened my eyes there were new creatures to see in so many new flavours. The crabs were smaller, imagine the Fisher Tykes using them to get about, we'd have to wear one on each foot. I imagined Gilled Pete and Shelly Sherbet living forever amongst the seaweed trees, but when I found a skull by my sleeping spot, I knew I needed to keep on floating, like Float Sam will have done. I wondered if the sea was eternal, or if there was an end to fall off.
The continued journey to the top was a more pleasant one this time. Creatures with shells on their backs followed me some of the way, their flippers reminded me of childhood for some reason, maybe we were related somehow. A whale the size of the volcanos I used to see blocked out the light for a short while, but it wasn't like the last time, I knew that it would come back, in fact it was brighter. I now knew why Float Sam did what he had to do, if this was half way, how was the top? Float on.
Of course I hadn't forgotten the men from above, but that was part of the plan when I saw a group of them diving in a swarm, dressed tighter than the last one. And unlike before I was the first to know, even without a pair of Shelly's shark knuckle dusters, I still had my own fangs to tear them apart. They didn't see me coming when I took my first bite, how easy it was chew right through, like thick, bony, flesh eels. I saw so many bubbles burst out from their mouths, blub, blub, blood. Then I surfaced.
The waves brushing against the shore was such a calming sound, I could have stood in the shallow waters listening to it for hours. But my eyes had to adjust to a new kind of blue that was so high, no one could swim in it except for a bright ball hanging in the sky. I wondered if Float Sam sat inside it. The sand was packed with men from above, all different shapes and sizes, all screaming and running from me. I took my first steps onto the land, and gasped. How many more did I have to kill?