May’s Zeroflash Competition Entries

May’s Competition

Mermaid’s Dream

by Boris Glikman 

From our anthropocentric perspective, we automatically assume that every mermaid’s dream is to shed her fishy tail and become a full woman. The reality, however, is that they dream of shedding their human upper halves and becoming a completely marine creature.

If this seems to be rather implausible, consider some of the advantages of being a water dweller: the buoyant ocean provides support, both physical and emotional, to every creature that lives within it, enveloping them in its comforting, reassuring embrace; liberation from the tyranny of gravity that reigns over the terrestrial inhabitants; ability to utilise all of space’s scope and move freely in three dimensions.

Aquatic denizens have no need to possess blind faith in an all-pervading God, for they are immersed inside the God that the ocean is to them, and feel intimately His ubiquity. Nor do they require any New Age books or gurus to convince them of interconnection of everything, for unlike land, where each grain of sand, each rock and each mountain are separate from one another and occupy the same place for billions of years, in the seas every water molecule is in perpetual motion, forever mixing and intermixing with all the other water molecules.

Terra firma is incapable of providing this kind of support and land creatures are essentially alone, permanently disconnected, physically and emotionally, from one another. It is little surprising then that all the terrestrial denizens are always in a rat race with one another, struggling for survival,  while marine creatures float blissfully, in a permanent state of Nirvana.

 

Humans experience but a fleeting echo of this miraculous state of being when they go for a swim or a surf, immersing themselves briefly in ocean’s welcoming arms and escaping for a moment the realities of earthbound existence.

Snow White Must Die

by Laura Theis

I.

 ‘Snow White Must Die.’

Someone only needs to think it, and she knows. People have thought it, said it, wished it, often enough.

These men are whispering it, as she is lying slumped against the damp hull of the life boat, ostensibly asleep.

II.

What these men don’t know:

Snow White doesn’t sleep, not really.

Not since the forest.

Once you’ve slept too deeply, you never trust oblivion again.

III.

It was supposed to have been their honeymoon. Her and her prince, on that big pleasure cruiser: the Happily Ever After. It sank so fast. She remembers the sound of it crushing into the sea. She remembers her prince’s pale face before the waves took him. She wishes she didn’t. She is still grieving her almost-bliss.

The life-boat men treated her courteously enough at first, aware of her rank.

And now, after a week at sea, these smelly strangers are growing desperately, desperately hungry.

‘We’ll eat the girl and never speak of it again.’

IV.

Tough as nails, the hunters used to call her, back in the forest. Quick as death.

Snow White carries a poison knife in each stocking. Call it her inheritance. What she needs now is for those men to be distracted. The moment they all spot the island in the distance, green against the dawn sky, that moment is hers to snatch. A communal cry of joy, then surprise, fear, disbelief.  And finally, quiet.

The lifeboat drifts closer to the island’s shore.

V.

The island is small, but it’ll do nicely.

It even has a fresh water spring.

And Snow White is used to living rough.

She can build a hut, a fire.

She’s got the waves for company by day, stars by night.

She’s got two good knives, a boat.

And plenty of fresh meat.

Only Inches from the Safety of Shore

by Michael S. Sommermeyer

The rough sea picked up the boat and tossed it away from safety. This went on for what seemed like an hour, although time passed in a few minutes.

“I can’t keep it straight,” shouted Tommy. Martin shot a desperate glance at the rower who flapped his arms in the rough. Tommy’s oars missed the waves. “Dig in deeper!”

Tommy tried to row deeper and it was no use. The waves were too frequent and the wind tore into his face. Worse, the shore slipped farther way. A hidden force pulled the boat out every time he got close to the lighthouse.

“I can’t do it.”

“You have too. We don’t have any hope.” Martin looked directly at Tommy and pleaded with eyes. “I can’t do it man.”

Tommy watched a wave pick up Martin before capsizing the boat. He spit up water and grabbed for an oar. He saw Martin slip under a wave. The boat bounced away leaving Tommy in the sea alone. A wave washed over him and he began to sink.

“Pull him out of there!” shouted the captain. “He thinks he’s drowning.”

Navy scientists and technicians pulled Lieutenant Tommy Wilson out of the simulator. He gasped for air outside the tube and shook away his confusion. He took a deep breath. These investigative near-reality simulations were taking their toll. The mysterious magnetic force kept him no closer to explaining why those sailors died only feet from the lighthouse.

Down Where the Plankton Grow

by Kris McGinnis

 “I only hunt Monsters.”

Said with no air of arrogance; nor hint of fabrication, Captain Delacroix conspicuously eyed the warped, bubbled flesh that branded Francois’ forearms.

“Sperm and Blue should suffice… though it appears you were the hunted.”

Francois covered his dark, muscular limbs as Delacroix exchanged glances with the first mate.

“Come aboard,” he decided. “You’ll get 1/370th share. Unfair? Perhaps. But we sail trade routes where people with your markings are still regarded as property.”

Voyaging north under faultless azure skies, they tracked a pod of Sperm whale. Delacroix watched the ocean curdle red as Francois hunted with a ferocity and anger that came from a life spent in chains. But as the first carcass was being salvaged, the blue sky overhead suddenly turned spectreal black. The crew gazed omniously at its brooding slate hue.

CRACK!!!

The first was beautiful; the unexpected always are.

It ripped the sky open in a frenzy of bisque flashes before a scorched beast screamed through the fiery gaping wound. Spiralling downwards, its elongated body, guided by soulless eyes, sharpened wings and crescent tail, fractured ferociously against the water, spraying clots of oily fluid which ignited in accompanying fires.

“What in Gods name!” Delacroix stammered.

“The Devil’s branding!” shouted the first mate, pointing towards singed fuselage markings.

Malaysia Airlines.

Delacroix struggled to make sense of it. “Prepare to att–”

“Leave it be!” Francois warned. “Monsters of this world bleed red; not fire!”

As it was slowly consumed below the murky, residual broth staining the water’s surface, the sky  returned to its former halcyon state.

“Back to work!” Delacroix hollered, trying to battle the surrealness and regain control. “Whales won’t be hunting themselves.”

Monsters of the deep he could accept; but those from above? Best left forgotten, down where the plankton grow.

The Sea Witch

by Danny Beusch

@OhDannyBoyShhh

My mother refused to sing lullabies or nursery rhymes. ‘Our lives are not that simple’, she said. Her preference was arias, laced with revenge.

Waves will carry
The boats of men
Who love me

Waves will crash
Over the tyrants
Who use me.

Wave goodbye.
I am the sea.
Endlessly.

Mother taught me that love can last a lifetime or a night-time. But it was a mortal who showed me that love can turn like the tide, leaving you stranded and helpless and alone.

He has humiliated me. Never again.

Beneath the full moon I watch him race to the shore, hand-in-hand with another, giggling with anticipation. As they enter the icy water I feel their bodies caress, merge, become one. I could do it now – knock them from their feet, crush them – but that’s too easy. I dip through the shadows to his fishing boat and drop a rope on the deck, innocuous but for three small knots; each a spell, born of a broken heart, passed down for generations.

The next morning, after casting off, he unpicks the first knot. Sunlight bursts through the clouds, waking the sluggish shoals. He undoes the second, and light rain ripples the surface, hiding him from the creatures below. Perfect conditions for my fisherman, but that won’t satisfy him. Right on cue, there goes the third, summoning the freak gust of wind that smashes the bow, breaks the keel, and snaps his neck.

Our daughter kicks. Not long, my child.

Wave goodbye.
We are the sea.
You and me.

All at Sea

by Jody Kish

She walked along the cliff’s edge—stench of seaweed, and salt air—wafting up into her lungs as thoughts encapsulated her. A soft blue cardigan surrounded Cynthia’s small frame; each step had a purpose.

Seagulls took flight as gusts took them on an adventurous ride—gliding free of worries or strife. Their joyous songs drifting off into the fog that swallowed them, and everything in its path. The waves crashed against the rocks below with ferocious determination, everything as it should be, but Cynthia was filled with dread.

“Robert!” Her damp eyes continued to search the bluff—the path caving in from the brutality of the waves below.

No one.

The gusts were more intense, pulling her cardigan in a tug-of-war, as she fought to stay warm.

The lighthouse was in sight now—the little boat bobbing up and down with the sway of the ocean’s fury.

“Robert!” The wind muffled her yells, that became screams.

The narrow steps were rickety, squeaking with each step she took. She held tightly to the cold railing.

“Robert, where are you? I’m sorry!” Cynthia cried with no response in return.

The boat was within her grasp—her lifeline to freedom—away from Robert, but she couldn’t leave him, without knowing.

He disappeared like the seagulls in the fog.

Guilt flooded her body; the fighting that took place, she hitting him with the champagne bottle, and his form falling off the rocky edge.

No sign of him.

“Rob…” Her last words. Her body fell into a heap.

Tugging.

Lifting.

Pain.

In…out…in…out…water…weightlessness…

*  *  *

When she finally came to, Cynthia was adrift in the small boat. Wet and sticky—head pounding.

As waves pushed and pulled at the little boat, she caught the faintest voice on the wind…

“Happy Anniversary…”

A Brief History Of Sealife

by Kathryn Evans

A lifeless, spherical rock to be given the name ‘Earth’ spins aimlessly in space, its surface cloaked with a glistening solute. Waiting. Within, particles jostle, like people on a hectic Saturday afternoon along Oxford Street.

And then the spark, an intense energy burst from deep space. RNA forms – a primitive replicator molecule, single-stranded. A recipe book telling how proteins can be cooked up. Cells evolve: factories that can respire, synthesise, monitor, reproduce. Salty cytoplasm reflecting their oceanic origin. A cell membrane, a cocoon, is built for protection, to mark boundaries. Unicellular: all living organisms for eons. A pair of bacteria fuse; one adopts the role of cell nucleus. The genetic information runs its own manor. Double-helical DNA turfs out RNA. A nucleated cell engulfs a bacterium, another overwhelms a cyanobacterium. Primitive mitochondria and chloroplasts have been born: energy-producing powerhouses.

A mutation leads to multicellularity – sponges, brown seaweeds. Cell specialization. An explosion of diversity starts filling the oceans. Colours, shapes, habitats. Thousands upon thousands of new lifeforms. Adaptation. Genes out for themselves. Microscopic plankton: existing just to provide food. Snails with brittle, whorled jackets, slugs their naked cousins. Surly crabs with armour plating and pincers: don’t mess. Shapeshifting anemones and jellyfish seeking out prey with venomous cnidocytes. Pentameric symmetry of starfish. Octopi and squid with oversized head and tentacles. Intelligence. Reactions we recognize as our own, feelings, emotions. Shelled molluscs surveying with abundant perimeter eyes, applauding creation. And fish – swimming, darting rainbow shapes with fins and gills.

One day a bony lungfish decides life in the ocean is not for her. It’s hostile, overpopulated, too competitive. A better life must await elsewhere. A mutation in homeobox gene HOXD13 leads to vestigial limbs. Land is at her mercy.

But she won’t stay away forever: the pull of the sea is too strong.

Packing Light

by Anna McLeod

It’s like packing for a holiday, thought Isabel, throwing the suitcase open on the bed. Breathing hard, she began rummaging frantically through the detritus of her life, tossed in heaps around the bedroom. Be ruthless. Only take what you can carry, what you can’t bear to leave behind. The instructions had been clear.

She could hear her children, sprawled on the couch, bickering over whose turn it was to reign over the remote control.  I wonder what they’ll think, when they realise I’m really gone. Isabel’s eyes welled up. She loved them both so much. Maybe one day they’d understand she had no choice.

She pulled out the dress she’d worn on her first date with Tony. Won’t need that. It joined the growing pile on the floor. Keep it simple, Iz. Comfortable, warm, basic. You won’t have much room. One or two keepsakes, but small stuff; things you can hold in one hand.

Muffling a sob, she sank to her knees at the sight of the tiny wooden box. Tony had brought it back for her after one of his sales trips to China. Embossed on the lid, vibrant against the red lacquer, was the Chinese marriage symbol. Double happiness. And now quadruple misery. As she packed, her mind filled with images of Tony and the kids; how things would look without her. I can’t stay here, she reminded herself. I have no choice.

Tony appeared in the doorway, his face a mosaic of grief and helplessness.

“They’re here, babe. You ready?”

“Yep.” She gestured around the room. “Sorry about the mess.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

She looked around at the piles of things she’d been so convinced she’d die without. And now she would. Gasping for breath, she dragged herself downstairs to where the hospice vehicle was waiting.

Hemisphere

by Hilary Greenleaf

It is the fourth day – the ship ‘Penelope’ is wounded but afloat; the sea and sky spent, their rage burned out in the equator crossing.

Saul cleaves himself to the floor of the berth deck. Reaching out he feels the reassurance of their age and survival – battered and salt whitened since the reign of old Queen Anne. Four men were lost over her side in the hurl and lash, and though her joints cracked and brayed like donkeys at their drowning, she’d triumphed again.

Redundant fingers travel to the pocket of his shirt. Yes! In its pouch the caul has survived. Had she been right when she’d urged him to forsake the King’s shilling and the sea? A mother’s raw heart had forced her to buy the filthy birth veil with coins she could ill afford. ‘Maybe it will save you from the stars?’ she’d pondered. The toxic stars she’d always claimed had aligned when she’d pushed him out, bloody and without a caul of his own. Stars, she’d said, that promised death should he sail on tide…

Shaking, greasy with salt, Saul staggers, crawls around his fellow ‘tars’. Scribble limbed and groaning they lie. Horrified, he realises that their purple flesh and ragged faces are surely his own mirror.

Up the ladders and out onto the drying decks. Men sway and stagger, drunk with the impossibility of life after such a fury. Saul reaches the barrel, dips the ladle and drinks deeply. Looking up through the mesh of tattered rigging, he is aware that this is the tail of the day and night is inking the sky. He scans the stars above – No Orion? No Plough? – But a cross! Bright and clean born. The heavens here, painted anew. Shaking his head, Saul laughs aloud.

The Fall of the Lighthouse

by Kirsty Ann Mackay

The storm wasn’t like any that Jess had seen before. Another wave smashed at the side of the boat, sending salt water into her eyes, mouth, and up her nose.

She shook her head coughing; the wind was barely filling the sails, it couldn’t be what was stirring up the waves against them.

“Back to the harbour,” Roared the Captain, “This storm’s too much for the ship!”

The crew did their best to steer the ship back toward the long passage of stone that led to the harbour. The ship turned slowly, creaking as it moved against the current and the waves. Its sails emptied and it was only with careful tacking that they could keep any speed. The lighthouse was behind them, it’s light fell on the deck every few heartbeats.

That was when the waves started to build again. The sea started to rise. A thumping noise echoed around the bay. The ship moved faster towards the passage, every second rising higher and moving swifter. Until the ship scraped along the highest point of the cliffs, losing paint and barnacles, scaring birds from their roosts and into the grey sky.

The last second before they were pushed beyond the first corner Jess looked back. There would always be a question in the back of her mind about why she did it. What was she looking for? What was she expecting to see? She never remembered afterwards, what she saw forever marking a change, nothing from before was the same as what was after.

A storm dragon was wrapped around the lighthouse. The head glided up the side, it’s aim the lamp that still shone in the pre-dawn light.

Moments later the sound of cracking stone filled the dawn.

 

Final report of Acting Master McCormick, U. S. Navy, commanding U.S.S. Sidewinder, of the passage of the abandoned Confederate battery at Hill’s Point by that vessel.

by Frank Trautman

   U.S.S. Sidewinder

Nansemond River, April 19, 1873

Sir: I have the honor to report the particulars of the passage of this vessel by the old rebel battery placed at the falls of this creek.

At 6:45-p.m. we got underway to Suffolk, having gladly made preparation to set aside our current surveying duties in order to bring the dispatches from Secretary Robeson, relayed to us this day by U.S. S. Columbia, Fortress Monroe. Crossing the obstruction at Hill’s Point by twilight, we noticed faint plumes of smoke emanating from old Fort Huger, and colors on the flagstaff. Spyglass revealed this to be a Confederate standard, not seen raised over the works since the War. By rights of the evil that banner has seen upon this countryside, we made ready to land and oust the rogues whom’d raised it; undoubtedly children, I first believed, camped in the battery with no idea the struggles of our wizened generation.

It was dark as Sidewinder approached the left bank; as we prepared a launch, she hit the bar, shaking the gig from the divots as she went aground. Here we spied figures on the ramparts, grinning skeletal masques with rifles trained on our position. As I write, we hear unmistakable sound of carriages swinging guns into positon.

We are trapped.

I write this letter in earnest, hastily, as the ragged devils bear down upon us. I send it with a young mate, faithful and fleet of foot.

The battery at Hill’s Point is manned by hostile force, ‘manned’ is used in broadest connotation not accounting for what lies within these parapets.  I fear the wicked spirit of rebellion has never left us.

I have the honor to remain, your obedient servant,

  1. M. McCormick

Acting Master, Commanding.

 

Rear-Admiral F. T. Endicott

   Commanding North Atlantic Squadron.

THE LAST OF THE VIKINGS

by Irene Montaner

         The sun was up in the sky, the days long.

The longboat was loaded, a small crew assembled.

Leif was one of the few Norsemen who still called himself a Viking in the summer months, one of the few who still longed to sail the open seas looking for adventures and plunder alike.

*

         Castles are highly guarded, monasteries out of question.

Small homesteads scattered along the coast, their chimneys puffing smoke.

The rusty warriors descend from the boat and sack the farmhouses. The place is stranded, the task too easy and not as fun as it used to be. Something’s amiss, thinks Leif as they bring their loot to their boats. Six silver candelabra and a golden cross, encrusted with rubies, a dozen ivory miniatures from the biggest house of them all and food from the rest.

*

         A shadow comes over them, a colossus stands between the longboat and the sun.

An enormous vessel with more than one sail, her men outnumbering Leif’s.

“Their cargo is poor,” says a man in a tongue that Leif cannot understand. But he understands well enough when his wrists are bound and he and his men are locked up in the depths of that wooden beast. And away they sail, far off the coast and across the oceans.

Times were changing and the season of coastal raids and puny plunders was gone.

The Go-away Bird

by Daphne Olivier

            I saw him for the first time the day I pitched camp on the banks of the Limpopo. One moment he was there, a grey shadow towering above the trees, the next he was gone as silently as he’d appeared. Just that one glimpse, but I knew, beyond doubt, that it was Dlulamithi, the giant the Shanganes call, He-with-the-mighty-tusks. The thought of how much those tusks would fetch in Sofala, set my pulse racing. And my feet hot on his trail.

I spied him once in Zimbabwe and again, six months later, in Mozambique. A year and a half went by before I got close enough to take a shot. He moved at the last moment. The bullet grazed his ear. He gave a bellow of rage then melted away into the bush.

When I returned to camp, I found it in ruins—tents flattened, trees uprooted, provisions smashed to smithereens. And, in the trampled earth, the footprints of Dlulamithi.

Two years went by before our paths crossed again. Another ten without a single sighting. Then, one day, in soft, moist earth, there was the spoor I knew so well. My heart leapt as I breathed in the scent of crushed leaves mingled with musk and freshly-dropped dung.

The scent led me on. And on… Then there he was, a huge grey shape with flapping ears and wrinkled skin. Trunk held high. Sunlight glinted on twin shafts of ivory.

Gun in hand, I gazed into eyes as soft as velvet. Brown eyes, fringed with long, dark lashes. Wise eyes. Eyes that held a thousand memories.

From somewhere high above my head, a loerie called, “Go ‘way, go ‘way,” the harsh notes rising and falling.

For a timeless moment, I stood undecided. Then I turned. And, without looking back, walked away.

Mortal devotion

by Mark Warren

“You pleaded for immortality.” said the woman clad in shadows.

“But this isn’t what I meant! What good is it if my body keeps growing older? I wanted to stay young forever.” said Edward. “Please. Help me. Reverse the ageing.”

The woman studied Edward before rummaging through piles of paper, eventually withdrawing an ancient map, placing a crooked finger on it and saying, “Travel to the midpoint of the Indian Ocean. There you must seek the Waters of Vitality, a hot spring submerged at the bottom of the ocean. Collect and drink sparingly, and you will attain your desire.”

“The fountain of youth?” said Edward. “Thank you.”

 

Five years had passed since that night and Edward had not wasted a single day. From raising funds, purchasing land and boats, to the research and development of a submersible craft, Edward had worked every available moment to reach this point.

He sat in his submersible on the bottom of the ocean, the warm spring exactly where the woman had shown him on the map. A volcanic glow emanated from fissures around the vessel, lighting up a bottle clutched by a robotic arm fixed to the side of the craft.

The robot arm had seized up and wouldn’t move. The cabin lights had gone dark and the engine hummed no more. Edward just stared at the bottle, his face highlighted red from a blinking light on the console. The light displayed the words “Low Power”.

 

Fifteen years later the blinking light finally died. Edward was only a skin covered skeleton now. He would miss that little blinking light. They’d become friends. He wondered how he would pass the time alone in the dark and cursed immortality one more time.

The Ship’s Cat

by Jess Doyle

The ship had lingered almost stagnant for days. We’d drifted on the feeblest of currents with not a breath in the sails. And all the while we baked on board, the lower-decks suffocating. We had no choice but to burn and blister under the fiercest sun any of us had known.  Supplies and spirits dwindled ever lower.

Neptune had failed us. The god of the sea but also his namesake, the ship’s cat, meant to bestow good fortune on us. It wasn’t intended as a full sacrifice; the captain was too superstitious to kill a cat on board. But sun-sick and sleep deprived he believed that the cat’s tail, which held the magic of storms, would be enough. As First Mate, I objected; to harm a cat on board would surely bring adversity. I was overruled. Poor Neptune’s tail was cut from his body and thrown to the sea. The cat’s yowls welcomed devils on board. I felt them dancing about us like flames on a funeral pyre. As the captain eagerly awaited the storm that did not come, Neptune’s injury festered.

Neptune perished. The captain had sealed our fate. He desperately tried to make amends, by throwing our ship-mates to the sea. Death was a long time coming for the first, the waves too weak to drag him under. Ultimately, he succumbed to exhaustion and slipped below.

The beast came for the rest. We don’t know what manner of beast, the less superstitious of the crew said sharks were likely in the still, warm waters. But none could say, none of us could bring ourselves to look when we heard the screams.

‘Should have got a female cat,’ the captain mutters to himself and still the wind does not blow.

S.S BLUE

Isaac Chapa

Seconds had become minutes, minutes had become hours, and hours had become days.

The humidity of the salty bath that slowly swallowed Jason’s little-to-no remaining slivers of oceanic sanity bubbled with a smug arrogance. Was this freedom? Fighting? Liberty?

A vast array of conflicting thoughts dominated Jason’s anemic sense of patriotism, although his apparent defeat by nature proved otherwise.

Stinky. Fatty. Yonkers. Blue. What once was a luscious garden of social triumph was now ridden with hopeless ruin. His mates—partners— brothers slept with the gentle hum of the cold sea, warmed by the natural furnace of the great blue that gingerly caressed their mushy, rotted bodies.

I’m next. I’m next. I’m so thirsty. So thirsty. It was so tempting. His tongue pleaded for hydrating mercy, and the seemingly-endless bath of quenching liquid sat beneath him. It seduced Jason. Drink me, it muttered. You know you want to. I’m right here. Kiss me. I don’t bite.

His knees shook with a compulsive fear. His fear—well, his fear was of the inevitable.

Jason had realized this from the start, albeit it was halted by the ineluctable delusion that stood hand-in-hand with its rather watery brother. Every sunset marked the growing proximity of his nautical expiry. Every sunrise marked the inception of a new millenium. The days were endless.

Jason took a heavy gulp. The potent contrast between the piercing blues of the sky and the sea blinded him. Occasional hiccups of scattered wind stung the fleshy wounds of his chapped lips. Die for your country. A tear. Jason glared at the blue. His crusty eyes shut. He shifted his balance and fell into the gentle hands of the plush coffin below him. This was always an option.

Bleak Rock

by Emma De Vito

A single boat, tossed like jetsam in the huge waves, fought against the sea. Within it was a man possessed. A desire to find the unfindable lured him to the lighthouse. It had taken months to locate someone who could be bribed to swear to secrecy and navigate him through these waters.

The boatman approached the craggy rocks upon which the lighthouse was perched. Anchoring them to land, he struggled against the wind. Once secured, the man lunged onto the rocks.

“Stay here.” he called imperiously.

“Yes, Mr Leighton,” the boatman returned.

The weatherworn door hung loose on weakened hinges. Mr Leighton advanced into the hollow shell of the lighthouse. With little light, he could just detect the outline of spiral stairs. Unwaveringly, he climbed to the top.

For decades, many had tried to locate the plundered contents of the shipwrecked ‘Carcassonne’, but none had returned. Only the boatman had been privy to their ventures. All five of them had gone there with the same purpose as Mr Leighton.

Reaching the top, he smiled at the vastness of the chest. The rumours were true. Stepping forward, he heard a crack under his foot.  Hesitantly, he stepped back and heard another. He gasped in mortified horror. Scattered around the room were human bones – devoid of their clothing of muscle and flesh. Skulls stared at him in recognition of his folly.

Greed had brought him here, but the chest no longer held any value. He descended hastily, yelling to the boatman. But when he reached the doorway, the boatman wasn’t there. All that greeted him was the inky midnight sky.

He was alone.

Smiling to himself, the boatman rowed away. With the payment for the journey safe, he would wait again until someone wanted to voyage secretly to Bleak Rock.

Ballad of the Beasts

by Desmond White

“It’s not fair,” Numa said, floating over brains of coral. The others had found their songs, found their beasts. Everyone had the gift but her.

“Not fair, not fair,” she said in mantra, fists like stones. She took a current down to groves of stinging nettles, over swirling rocks and flowers, past knives of fish and crabs sea-bathing. She sang to an orange and black striper playing in the jellies. Mal had spoke to them, been welcomed to the kettle. But Numa’s song was as horrible as the snap of bone. The stripes vanished.

Lerm could snap to the feet of shrimp. Jak croaked jaggers to sharks, Kelse drew the runes of oysters, Loka danced to octopi. But shrimp shrank from Numa’s garble. Sharks found other waters to prowl. Oysters clammed up, eight legs walked away. None knew her melody. None liked her melody. Not fair to be born without the gift.

Numa stopped at the pit. Behind her, the rustling of fans, fens, stars, snails, worms and whales. Above, the glimmers—the light defrayed by feathers of fish. Below, shadows hiding eyes and teeth. A choking, crushing death. The Forbidden Fall.

Numa released one long blast into the void.

From the deep, where the gradient of light passed into blindness, a screech responded. Above, the glimmers. Behind, skeletons. Below, ribbons with serrated, plush rings, the rise of a serpent head, the yawn of blade beak, a curling and uncurling like a crown of eels.

The beast emerged.

The Catch

by Stephen Slage

I stood at the edge of the ship, looking out into the tranquil, blue sea. There wasn’t a fish in sight and that’s how I knew we weren’t alone. This was only the calm before the storm. My captain had been planning this job for months and we’re finally ready for the biggest catch that anyone’s ever seen.

We dropped the nets and waited. I took a deep breath and mentally prepared myself. A moment later we heard the unbearable screeches coming from the bottom of the sea. The calm just ended and the storm is here.

“Pull up the nets and get to it!” The captain shouted. The crew looked at each other and pulled up the giant net. All of the crew started to pull it out of the water. The screeching only got louder as the net got onto the deck of the ship.

Today was a huge catch. Inside the net was at least 50 mermaids. A huge payout for everyone on board.  We’d all be set for life with this catch.

I watched as my crew mates brutally cut off the tail of each mermaid and threw their bodies back into the sea. My captain laughed at this sight, as well as everyone else. We saw these beings as money. Not as the Earth’s creatures.

The storm was over, the ocean was calm and I stood at the end of the ship looking out into the sea. Now tainted red and filled with mutilated bodies of mermaids.

PRODIGCAL PELAGIC

by Dennis Mombauer

Once upon a time, waves crashed against an oil rig far out at sea.

Jet blue turned to black as Bodrov descended along the rig’s pillars. His work comprised routine maintenance and blowtorch repairs, mechanical even under crushing pressure. His hands were focused, but his mind kept going through his wife’s letters.

A spark hit Bodrov, and he revulsed at the electric shock. In this moment, he heard wailing.

As a diver, Bodrov had his own cabin separate from the crew quarters. He could hide what he found beneath the waves.

It wasn’t exactly human, its skin as pallid as a cuttlefish’s, its face noseless, but it came close. At night, it crawled under the blanket and hugged Bodrov to sleep; at day, it watched through the porthole. When the waves lapped high, it became restless; during calm seas, it dozed for hours.

Before dawn, they ran through the rig’s maze of pipework and engine steam. While Bodrov went diving, it played with a bucket of saltwater or spat ink into the corners of the cabin.

During storms, its eyes lit up like jellyfish beneath the arctic ice.

The music woke Bodrov at midnight. No instruments, just voices, a choir from beneath the waves.

“Dada.” It heard the song, and something changed in it. Bodrov crammed his shirts into the porthole, tried to muffle the sound.

“Dada.”

Bodrov flinched. Its neck had opened up, and red streaks pulsated beneath flabs of skin.

The siren’s song oscillated in the air.

Bodrov grabbed it without hesitation. Its gills helplessly opened and closed. They rushed along the corridors, the voices filling their ears.

The edge of the rig was close, the ocean roiling below.

“Dada.”

Bodrov kissed its damp forehead: “Son.”

The tiny body went under with only the smallest splash.

The Fare

by Emily K. Martin

After the vision of darkness dissipated, I found myself standing on a rocky shore of an unfamiliar sea. A sliver of moonlight drew a line across a wide expanse of black water, as if pointing toward me. A young man materialized next to me like an apparition, looking this way and that, blinking, wondering. Before I could ask this gentleman who he was and where we were, a third person appeared, a slight woman who looked around curiously. Neither of them appeared frightened. I was not frightened either, but I concluded that my intuition must have been altered by my recent illness, for I should be alarmed at having woken up in such an odd setting with strangers.

The low groans of a wooden rowboat interrupted my silent questioning. From the left, a tall man, wearing a first-class suit, brushed his oars through the water. He maneuvered a small, yet ornately decorated boat toward the shoreline. The sea parted, revealing a dry path of rocks to the boat, as if the water welcomed us aboard.

The three of us followed the path. We stepped onto the steady vessel and took our seats while the ferryman nodded, tipping his top hat.

“I trust you all have your fare,” the ferryman said. He leaned toward the woman, palm outstretched.

The woman reached into her mouth, drawing a coin from beneath her tongue, and handed it to the ferryman. The other gentleman did the same.

I reached into my mouth, thinking this was perhaps a magic routine, although I never believed in hocus-pocus or superstition, but I did not find a coin. I turned out my pockets, but they were empty.

The ferryman shook his head. “You will have to wait on shore until you have your fare. The journey to Paradise is never free.”

re-volution

Lee Hamblin

@kali_thea

Wallis rowed with the strength of ten, arms and legs flaming crimson with every stroke, lungs begging him for oxygen. His salt-stung eyes watched distant shore lights flicker on then off as chatter wandered from house to home. Townspeople gathered on the shore, held close their young ones, told them everything will be okay, but sensed different.

“I see the traitor,” Alfred cried from the fore, “There, up high, by the window, he’s lit the beacon.”

This, Wallis knew. He knew because the midnight sky was now awash with the pink and yellow of tulips, and the surface of the sea glistened on a night when stars were clouded, and the same brittle arctic wind stinging his cheeks whipped the sea to frenzy. There’s still hope, he thought, still time, he hoped.

Alfred stood up, fought for his balance, and hurled a rope towards the rocks. The knuckle snagged in a crevice. “Bulls-eye!” he cried, and winched the boat closer.

“You go,” said Wallace, “I have nothing left.”

Alfred stepped on the land, and as he did so, the world darkened beyond black, became silent beyond hush, and the worried sea relented and stilled. Alfred flicked a thumb at his flashlight, but it was done, drained of power. He widened his eyes, could see nothing but fear; could hear nothing in the silence but threat. Then came sound: a drone, like bees, or fighter planes of old, but not from the air, the sound came bleeding from below, getting stronger, closer.

“Wallace,” he whispered, “Are you–”

With the force of a thousand volcanoes the sea erupted, and whether it were Kraken, Leviathan, or creatures of another world that spewed from the depths to feast, no one could say, for as far as they knew, none were spared.

Reunited At Sea

by Chloe Gilholy

Everything about this place is beautiful from the breath-taking views to the grand interior design of this boat. I’ve always loved boats ever since I was a little boy. To be standing in one of the biggest cruise lines in the world is an honour. I’ve been all over the world on this boat and it’s been great.

Oh Melody, it’s a shame you couldn’t be with me. You would have loved this. It’s all my fault.

 

“Jack…”

 

A distant whisper echoes beyond the sea. It’s warmly familiar. “Melody?”

It doesn’t take long for my heart to pound as I dash towards the front deck and see a mermaid waving at me. Still to this day, she looks as gorgeous as ever. “MELODY!”

 

I can’t believe it. She’s dead. I helped bury her. I scattered her ashes on the Brighton Pier. She says nothing at first. Her smile wilts as she frowns. I can understand. If she’s trying to make me feel bad for what I did, I couldn’t possibly feel any worse. I hug her and even though she’s wet and slimy, she still has that cinnamon scent from her favourite perfume.

 

“I’m so sorry for what I’ve done.” My voice cracks between my tears.

 

“Apologies aren’t enough,” Melody hisses. “You have to prove it. You gave me aids, but we can still be together.”

 

“What have I got to do to make it right?”

 

Melody grabs my hand as her caramel eyes glow. “Die for me.”

 

“Yes. I will.” There’s nothing left for me here.

 

“Promise me you’ll never let go.”

 

“I won’t.”

 

Her tentacles block my airways and vision, but the cold sea quickly fills my lungs. My body is dying. My soul died ages ago. Soon I’ll be dancing with Melody again.

Thick as Thieves

Kelly Griffiths

@GriffithsKL

 Tom darted around the cabin, tossing clothes and sheets and opening drawers.

“Someone took them.” Tom picked up a pillow and searched under it. “I’m sure of it.”

“Took your pants but not your wallet—while we were sleeping?” Elle wiggled out of her jeans. “Here. Wear these to passenger services and ask if they can give you something. You can’t be the first person to pack your pants in the outgoing luggage.”

“I told you, someone stole them.”

Elle stifled a snort. Thanks to Aruba, Tom saw textile thievery everywhere. While they were snorkeling, his sneakers were stolen right off the towel.

Tom came back with a flushed face, brandishing a red windbreaker. “This is what they gave me.”

“The shops?”

“Closed while we’re in port.”

Tom’s eyes glossed over, conjuring the macabre image of himself wearing tighty-whities, a windbreaker, white tube socks, and black evening shoes.

Still, he tried the windbreaker. Either way something stuck out. How Tom wished he were a boxer man.

He whipped the coat across the room and looked to Elle.

“Don’t look at me. It won’t cover me either.”

“But at least you’ve a decent pair of shoes…”

“But I didn’t pack my pants in the outgoing luggage.”

Tom dropped into a chair and severely rubbed his face the way people do who want to rub away reality. Elle tapped her finger on her lips and surveyed the room.

“Tom, keep your eyes covered. I have an idea…

…Ok. Open up.”

Elle had stripped the pillow cases and tied them around her waist. With her petite white sneakers, she looked ready for a tennis match.

Tom gazed at his wife as if she were Athena and asked, “Think we’ll get in trouble for stealing the pillow cases?”

“Do you care?”

“Nope.”

The Sea’s Ward

by Pattyann McCarthy

On calm days, villagers see a golden arched doorway bobbing upon rippling waves on the horizon. Brilliant sunny days, they swear they spy a massive tower too, glittering as gold against the azure. No one knows how it got there.

Timmy, an adventurous boy of seventeen, full of bravado and a head full of red ringlets wanted to explore the mystery. His sea-green eyes sparkled as he told his parents.

“No,” his ma said, “I won’t hear of it!” She stormed off to prepare fish pie.

His da sat in his worn rocker drawing his pipe, concern flashed in his eyes as curls of smoke drifted past.

“Why son?” is all he asked.

“No one else will explore it da, and I want to see it up close!” He set his chin.

His da lowered his head and blew another curl knowing he’d go.

“Good journey to ya, son.”

The next morn, the sun was brilliant in a cerulean sky, Timmy set off in his family’s skiff, heading for the glittering tower. By the time his ma realized he’d gone, all she saw were red ringlets bobbing far out to sea, she hung her head.

Timmy’s heart thundered with excitement and awe the nearer he drew to the tower. Crawling onto the undulating platform, his skiff floated away.

Up close, it was magnificent! Translucent, its yellow diamond walls sparkled in the sunshine, prisms sprayed colorful rainbows in every direction. Standing before the golden archway, he heard soft voices singing. He inhaled, steadying his heartbeat and opened the magical portal with a gasp of delight. . .

No one saw him again but through a spyglass on bright sun-shiny days when he’d sit atop the glittering tower, a happy captive of the sea.

The cruise of a lifetime

by Jane Badrock

It was like one of those whodunit dinners, except it was at sea. Frances and I were getting bored of the usual cruises and this one had rave reviews, so we booked it.

As soon as we got on the ship we were impressed; piped on board by armed soldiers, escorted to our suite by a hooded man holding a plastic machete. There was a complimentary bottle of ‘Poison’ gin waiting for us and we giggled at the bars across the window – but of course, you could roll them back.

The food was to die for! Literally! Cooked by bandana-headed chefs forced into the kitchen at gunpoint. Oh, how we laughed at that. They’d clearly gone out of their way to make sure our experience was perfect.

We weren’t so happy when we woke to the emergency evacuation bells. It was the third day but we understood it was essential, and doing it unannounced added to the authenticity. After all, it was meant to be exciting.

It certainly lived up to our expectations. We realised we were actually watching another show. Our team were falling like flies to some very authentic looking Somalian pirates.

“Very clever, ” I said to Frances. “They really are paying attention to detail.”

It was only when they started making demands for money that I thought it was wearing a bit thin.

“It’s been jolly good,” I said, “but can we go to breakfast now?”

Then they tried to take Frances’ rings. “What the hell are you doing?” I shouted. “You’ve gone too far.” I was answered by a knife aimed at my throat. It pricked me; my hand felt real blood. I vomited when they chopped her hand off. It was then I realised we really were in trouble.

Unfathomable Fathoms

by Kerry E.B. Black

An oversized shoebox dangled in Dylan’s grip as she stared at the choppy waters. She stumbled, a land-lover with a seafarer’s name, unable to gain sealegs.

The Captain patted her back. “Are you alright, miss?”

Dylan nodded the lie.

To escape scrutiny, she turned again to the sea. Its undulations rocked her, but without the ferocity of life’s earlier blows. Her mother had died before she began puberty. Her father turned to drink, which left her to the indelicate ministrations of grandparents. Grandmother sneered, found fault, and expressed displeasure with every aspect of Dylan’s looks and personality, leaving the girl to fend for herself. Grandfather took an unhealthy interest in Dylan’s budding womanhood.

Dylan hid from him, from her, from her despairing father and the pity of classmates and teachers by sinking deep within herself, unfathomable as the ocean.

The ocean that claimed fleets of ships and captured countless souls within its depths.

Sailors said Davey Jones locked souls’ secrets in a chest far below where nightmare creatures swam.

If she could send her secrets to him, maybe the Denizen of the Sea would lock them away, too, in icy depths beyond the reach of her imagination. With them far from sunlight, away from scrutiny, Dylan could begin life anew.

“We’re here,” the Captain said, hat in hand. “Deepest part I can take you to.”

“Thank you.” She prepared to drop the box over the railing.

The Captain rested a hand on her shoulder. “Did you want to say something first?”

She imagined his face if she voiced her thoughts.

“May they rot in a watery grave. May they never feel warmth again, and may their loneliness never end.”

Instead, she dropped the crematory box containing her agony and its secrets into the sea’s unfathomable fathoms.

Turtle Egg Hunt

by Kenna Lee Elder

Tonight is a night for hunting turtle eggs,“ he heard his great-grandmother say. She never really brought any turtle eggs home but she always said that, on full moon nights. Clear as a silver day.

His waverunner zoomed effortlessly over the waveless sea. Left of him the black outline of the shore. A thick row of palms, all lined up like fluffy cotton candy. To his right waves crashing on the coral reef making a steady, foamy white line that always murmured, even on silent nights like this. Green cotton, he thought, white foam, and white snow all around him. His cargo in neat, dense, square packets stashed away in the watertight storages in front of him, underneath him, between his legs. The squares tight and heavy like his stomach felt now.

No one else dared be out working on this silvery night. Music would be nice. It would stop him from straining to hear the helicopter POC-POC-POC, the coast guard’s BRR-BRRRR. It would also shut up his own voice. Silence the chatter about his brothers. The jokester one, always grinning, up to no good. The fighter one, his troubles at school. The nerdy one, what’s the newest comic book please? The skinny one, clothes slipping off his bony shoulders. The silly one, the silent one. This one was a sister, her voice drowned out by her brothers’ shouting. Each needed something only he could give. So they were all One, really. One doctor’s appointment, One new pair of shoes. One university, maybe, one day.

But now is not day, it’s night. The low thrumming of the waves became the droning POC-POC-POC and BRR-BRRRR, and his smile hides like a baby turtle in its soft egg.

The Hut

by Jack Koebnig

@koebnig

Our little hut stands ten feet back from the edge of the cliff.

And there’s someone in it.

I can still remember the morning you claimed the hut as ours; the Atlantic was as smooth as a pane of glass and there wasn’t a single cloud above our heads. A perfect morning for a perfect gift.

I can’t make out the details of his face but I know it isn’t you; too tall, and as far as I know you’ve never touched a cigarette. At any rate, he seems to be enjoying his smoke. He’s taking his time, savouring each hit. I think anyone who takes their time doing anything is worthy of a second glance. Patience isn’t simply a virtue, it’s a skill. One I’ll never master. But you know all about that.

I think I’ll talk to him. Ask him if he likes the stone walls and straw floor as much as we do? Gauge his reaction. See what I’m up against.

It’s funny how visitors to our hut don’t tend to stay long. If they manage one night they never stay a second. I wonder how long he’ll last? He looks stubborn. But I can be persuasive.

I wish you were at my side. I truly do.

When we agreed to stay together I never thought that the very ceremony that was supposed to bind us would keep us apart. But you needed time to prepare. Time I couldn’t spare. I’m sorry I pushed. I’m sorry you hit the surface before me. I’m sorry you went one way and I the other. But those are the rules, apparently. No exceptions.

Anyway, time to stop sniffling and get to work; I have an uninvited guest to spook and a hut to evacuate.

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Love

by A.N.Onymous

You are the rock I can cling to in stormy seas.

You are my lighthouse and my life-boat.

You keep me safe and guide me home.

You stop me drowning.

When I become as crumpled as a letter filled with bad news, you smooth me out. Over and over, under your fingertips, until the lines are new pathways to follow and promise us a future instead of only a past.

As time moves on I will fold again, over and over and over, until I feel smaller. You will hold me carefully in your gentle palm, then meticulously, intricately, lovingly, cut away the parts that I don’t need.

Snip, snip, snip.

The excess drifts away, floats down onto the water as tiny paper snowflakes. These small white snippings melt into the raging ocean and become the white horses.

I know you love me; when you have snipped away the pieces that hold me back, you let me fly. I become an origami fledgling, soaring over the oceans. I swoop and dive and become at peace with the air around me.

When I land again, I stand on the edge of the world and watch the beauty of the storm. The rage is thrilling and splendid.

I fold. You smooth and snip.

I am a paper boat, bobbing at peril in a Turneresque seascape. I drink up the colour. The parts of me that became the white horses dance on the waves, and crash towards the shore. I toss my mane and turn back for more.

I am part of the tempest. You do not try to tame me or calm me.

I ride the surf and laugh as the spray blinds me.

I am always just over the next wave; just beyond your sight.

You will find me.

Swarmed Samurai

by Callum Mooney

The restaurant buzzed a new spurt of life. The evening traffic of office workers and business people swarmed the reception of the establishment, waiting to be escorted to their reserved tables. The king bee of a flocking nest broke open the doors and the light escaped beyond the stag-do and darkness shrouded the bar of awaiting customers. They were seated immediately. Treated like royalty. VIP’s of which are given the utmost care. He was queen bee. No, he was a wasp… a hornet! and pound signs spun the eyes of the staff.

The kitchen was open to the observation of the public and the shogun was informed of the stag’s arrival. He rallied his samurai and ‘yes chef!’ echoed the room. They sharpened their knives. Bloodlust mapped their faces and CHOP! Carrots flew into boiling bowls, meat simmered in pans and pipers piped their Michelin-star-like puddings. Steam poured through the room and the hive moaned their delights for the aromatic sensations that invaded their noses.

Ninja flocked the room.

‘May I recommend the soup of the day?’

‘So, one scallop, one pizza, two pastas and four beers?’

‘Sir, we assure you that all of our vegetables are organic and fresh!’

‘Someone get table 3!’

‘Order!’

‘Service!’

‘How long till the scallops?’

‘2 minutes chef!’

It was Kitchen Nightmare on crack. The chefs sliced and diced as though warriors and sous chefs sprinkled and seasoned dishes with pepper like wizards and the stag party was crazed with drunken laughter and ninjas flowed the room like arduous waves and AND! And there was us.

The room was manic. But amongst the craze was a simple family, content with their meal, oblivious to the outside world, ignoring the others to simply enjoy their own company.

Stonestruck

by Alyson Faye

@AlysonFaye2

Soaked in dusk, the boy stands, as if stone-struck, gazing at the sleeping angel. He has only visited the cemetery previously in daylight, with his nurse. Jacob loves his nurse dearly, for her creamy skin, secret stash of lemon drops and her magical stories. She told him, ‘An Italian sculptor carved this angel. He said the vision came to him in a dream and filled his fingers with the powers he needed. He’s buried below here, with his mistress.’

Jacob shivers, for the creeping shadows nibble at the gravestones, turning the angel demonic. But he is tired, so tired of running; his rage has brought him this far, now it has fled leaving him an empty shell. He is hungry too, his stomach tight and hurting. He’s not eaten since he left Father’s house- a day ago, or was it longer? Jacob climbs onto the massive stone tomb, lies down and nestles against the angel’s stone wing.

“Now I lay me down to rest,” he mumbles, saying his prayers as he’d been taught by his mother.

‘I miss you Mama.’ Jacob’s last thought, before darkness sweeps its cloak over him.

A young, foolhardy fox, lurking in the bushes, saunters up to the tomb, raises a wary paw and sensing the energy pouring out of the granite, scoots back to its lair. No other night time animal comes near. No trees allow their greenery to droop upon the angel’s shoulders, any unlucky leaves blacken and burn if they land.

Snow falls, soft as goose feathers, smothering and blurring the sleeping boy and the angel. They become one – flesh to stone, cheek to wing. The force imprisoned in the sepulchre’s guts, feeds on the boy’s fury, taking from him and giving him in exchange – immortality.

The End

by Fiona Brown

They held hands, intertwining fingers, clinging on. Night flies fluttered. The lights flickered, dancing across the mountainside, illuminating the bluest of pools, reflecting a deep black bay of sea. The white buildings, each one with a tiny slice of life within, stood precariously balanced, carved into the steep walls of the earth. A breeze so gentle blowing, stroking warm skin, causing the smallest of movements in their hair. The faintest hint of crickets making their distinctive night time call, setting a rhythm in the darkness, every note pitch perfect. The aroma of warmth in the air. A beautiful night for it. Perfect, almost. Fingers still touching, every sense heightened for a final moment. They fell.

Who Calls for the Waters

by J. Motoki

The old man screams at the sea.

His wife’s face floats below him, fish sifting through long black hair, kissing blue skin. As she opens her mouth to speak, the water pulls her down in a cloud of bubbles white as her eyes. The old man, crying, jabs the waves with his harpoon while the sea laughs.

His boat bobs up and down until the sea tires of him, pokes long fingers of water into the floorboards, and shoves his boat over. He thinks this time they will drag him down. But the waves let him surface.

Why would we want an ugly old monkey? The waters laugh with many voices.

His boat lost to the taunting waves, the old man staggers up the beach. Before him, a vast watery ball, a living dewdrop, lies tangled in his fishing net. It’s a huge, slimy thing, big as a whale. Crying out in gasps and whistles, crying for the sea.

The old man pokes the thing with his harpoon and it wails. The sea screams at him to get away.

Give her back, the old man says.

Black clouds swell with thunder and rain. Waves hurtle towards him. The creature, wound like a kitten, struggles in the netting. Already, it looks more solid—less of the sea and more of the land.

The old man raises the harpoon to impale its pulsing heart, as the waves hang above them in a churning curtain.

Out of the waters steps a woman, skin brine-wrinkled, purple and bloated. Sea-crabs scuttle ahead, a vanguard. She reaches her arms to him—

The harpoon drops to the sand, and the sea gathers the crying creature. The old man holds his wife’s hands and they stand there in the dark of the storm, in the tumult of rain.

Voyage of a lifetime

by Chris Tattersall

She had never won anything before and was unsure of the genesis of the prize she had received. To her it seemed that her prayers had been answered and she wasn’t going to ignore this offer for voyage of a lifetime – 40 days all inclusive for her and her partner.

 

The timescale was short but after much excitement they arrived in plenty of time so spent a good two hours watching many other couples from a vast array of differing cultures board the ship ahead of them. As they entered the ship they froze, in awe of its cavernous beauty.

 

The seas were not as calm as envisaged. Soon the winds had picked up and the seas were angry like never seen before. Day after terrible day it was getting worse. Passengers spent endless hours watching the boiling seas from what should be the safety of the cabin but safe was far from what anyone was feeling.

 

Word spread around the ship that they were heading for safety in the Eastern Mediterranean, probably Turkey.

 

In the early hours a deafening, crunching noise broke through the silence and the ship seemed to shiver uncontrollably in the cold sea. As quickly as it started the noise and vibrations stopped. The ship stood stationary and stable in the middle of the sea. Aground.

 

On the bridge the novice captain breathed a sigh of relief. Noah and his ark had survived, as had his precious cargo.

Cosmetics Lady From Hell

by Stephanie Musarra

“What did this building use to be?” Terri asked herself, as she looked up at the red-

brick building with barred windows. “A factory, a prison?”

She climbed half way up the crumbling metal stairs, and hesitated. “Who worked in

this building? Who lived in the abandoned apartment building with the busted windows, and

crumbling floors? Was is a crack house?”

Terri sat on the park bench, and screamed as she saw a woman without a face.

She ran into the nearby café. “I need to get out of this heat.”

She ordered a milk shake, and sat next to the window. She turned around, and saw

several faceless women staring back at her.

She bolted out the door. “I must be losing my mind!”

“What’s wrong?” Glenn asked, as he rubbed Terri’s shoulders. “You’re not paying

attention to the movie, and you barely touched your popcorn.”

“Oh, I’m just tired.”

They were interrupted by a loud rat at the door.

“I’m with Bimbo’s Beauty Products,” said a decrepit old lady, with too much make-

up, that was leaning against her walker. “Would you like to buy some facial powder?”

“That poor thing,” Terri said, as she grabbed money out of her wallet, “She can barely walk. I’ll take 5!”

The next morning, she applied the powder. A few minutes later, her face fell off.

Unhappy Endings to Common Myths

by Mileva Anastasiadou

@happymil_

I held her in my arms, as the boat swayed under the moonlit sky. She smiled at me, a fake smile I could tell, yet a smile powerful enough to fill my starving lungs with oxygen.

It was crowded on that boat. Asphyxiating. Was it lack of oxygen that kept us out of breath? Or was it anticipation? We weren’t sure if it was hope we were after, or if we had already left hope behind. We only knew we had to keep going. Or keep still on that boat, that led us to another land. My youngster kept staring at me as if asking:

“Why, dad?”

I couldn’t answer properly, so I avoided his eyes.

Then strong winds began blowing and the waves grew bigger and bigger.

“We’re sailing between Scylla and Charybdis, yet God is on our side,” I said, to appease his fear, yet I wasn’t sure if God would truly help, or if he even existed. That moment, I was only certain about the existence of those two mythical monsters.

We were caught in between. Between home, which didn’t feel like home anymore, and a strange land, which didn’t seem that welcoming. Either way, we were hopeless cases. Yet we only wished to stay alive.

If Odysseus had made it, if Jason and the Argonauts had traversed the straits safely, why wouldn’t we? Then again, perhaps modern times don’t allow for happy endings.

When a big wave overturned the boat, I lost sight of them. I’m not sure as to which monster swallowed me, yet I am now a trophy in their closet, a failed Odysseus, buried under the sea. An uninspiring story soon to be forgotten, in which the Golden Fleece proved an unreachable dream and Ithaca was never found.

It’s All Arranged

by Sean Crawley

She married to please others.

Sophie’s family, suburban and of average dysfunction, actively promoted Todd’s good looks, wealth and charm. A keeper, they said. Sophie’s friends never said a bad word about the fellow, to her at least. In private they decided that Todd was definitely a wanker, quite likely a raging Cluster B fuckwit. Society said her biological clock was ticking.

Todd proposed at half time of the AFL Grand Final, televised courtesy of his family’s connections with the owners of Channel Nine. The screaming, “No!”, inside Sophie’s gut, transmuted somewhere in her throat into a shaky, “Yes.”

The only good thing about the wedding were the oysters.

The honeymoon all alone with Todd at the exclusive Secrets on the Lake was unbearable. The possums, frogs and other assorted native fauna, carved into the rainforest timber work, haunt her every move. The humidity drained what dwindling energy she had left. Worse were the constant questions: “Do you love me more than anything?”; “Wasn’t that the best wedding ever?”; “Did you see Francine perving on me?”.

Baroon Pocket Dam, completed in 1989, buried a long history of aboriginal bunya nut festivals beneath giga-litres of water and millions of native bass fingerling. The cries of the victims of colonial genocide drowned out forever now. Water needed for jobs and growth on the Sunshine Coast.

On her way to the bottom, she tasted the rich volcanic soil suspended in solution. She saw the morning light filtered through blue-green algae. She heard the kayakers paddling above. She felt the cool water on her conquered skin.

“Why did she do it?” they would ask. “She had her whole life ahead of her.”

Another secret under the lake.

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