Saturday, September 16th 1989
Kevin swore under his breath as he felt one of the many hooks caught within the net he was trying to unravel pierce the thick pad of his thumb. Pulling his hand back slightly he cursed again as he could see a small drop of blood welling up from his finger. He’d decided to wear his fingerless gloves today, thinking that it was too hot for full gloves. His boss had of course ridden his ass about it, though Kevin hardly listened to Roland except when it had to, it was more of an as needed basis when it came to actually paying attention to the man. For his own part Roland Mcregor was a pain in the ass, but he was still a good captain.
“Told ya that was gonna happen.” Kevin looked back at the younger man that was working with him, seeing a wide smile split the boy’s face as he shook his head. Justin Callas was one of his best and oldest friends, as were the other two young men that were working below decks at the moment. The four of them had grown up together despite living on different sides of the Columbia River. Kevin had lived in Astoria much of his life and had graduated just last year. He’d been without prospects for anything other than going to work as he’d done for nearly three summers for Roland Mcregor, the most notorious charter captain in Ilwaco. His other friends, Corey Ames and Erin Stiles, had graduated from Ilwaco High School just as Justin had. Corey had graduated two years ago while Erin and Justin had graduated just this year.
“I don’t know why we’re keepin’ this old thing.” Kevin said, putting his finger in his mouth as he continued to frown. A light smack upside the back of his head caught his attention as he jumped slightly.
“We’re keepin’ it because it’s not used up yet. Or do you think all old things should be tossed overboard?” Kevin winced slightly as the boss walked by him, stepping quickly towards the main cabin as he didn’t look back. He couldn’t help but war with himself at that moment, he so badly wanted to toss a quip at Roland but knew that it might earn him another smack.
“No boss. It’s just, well, it’s kind of gettin’ ratty y’know, with all the crap that-“ Roland turned around as Kevin continued, his left eyebrow cocked as he looked at the younger man. “Sorry boss.” Kevin shut up quickly as Roland turned back around, heading into the cabin to do whatever he was up to at the moment.
“I’m surprised he doesn’t have to jump to smack you in the back of the head.” Justin said. Kevin offered him a level stare as the seventeen-year old laughed heartily. It was true that Kevin was without a doubt the largest person on the five person crew that manned the Black and White, a charter vessel sailing out of the port of Ilwaco. Roland owned the boat, though he ran charters for the Sea Breeze company, working a deal with them where he took half of the profits his boat brought in as well as the cost of gas and equipment maintenance. It was a good deal for their captain and not a bad deal for his crew, who were just young enough to still be living with their parents and didn’t need much more than gas and spending money.
“All I have to do to smack you in the head is reach down.” Kevin retorted. He was nearly six feet four inches, taller than any other man on the boat. The only one that came close to him was Stiles, as Erin was called on a constant basis. They each had nicknames for one another; Justin was Ferret because of his wiry build, Corey was known as Cross for the twin tattoos he’d picked up only a month ago, an elaborate Celtic cross that had been placed upon each shoulder, and Kevin was known as Bear thanks to his size. Roland was known simply as Boss, a simplistic and very forthright title. The old man, he was only in his thirties actually, had saltwater in his veins it was said and knew nearly every tide pool and current along the western edge of Pacific County.
“You’d have to catch me first big guy.” Justin said, moving away easily as Kevin tried to swat him. His finger throbbed slightly as he did this, forgetting about his injured digit.
“Enough grab-assin’ out there! Get those nets stowed Bear and dammit Ferret get yer ass on baitin’ the traps! We’re goin’ out in a couple of hours!” Each man jumped slightly as Roland’s voice called out from the cabin. Justin shook his head as he headed to the port side of the boat, towards the outdoor cooler that Roland kept fully stocked with bait and the crab cages that lay beside it. Aside from the charter business Roland was an avid delver of the sea, taking any and all opportunities to harvest what he could from beneath the waves. Each of the crew had their own fishing poles stowed in the hold beneath and often enjoyed testing their luck when business was slow.
Around the docks they hardly ever caught anything, though three miles or more out into the Pacific was a different story. Just last summer Kevin and Erin had each landed enough yellowfin to share with the rest of the crew as well as their families. They’d exceeded the legal limit by more than a few, though Roland had ways of keeping such secrets until they weren’t needed any longer. No matter how much of an ass he was the man took care of his crew through thick and thin, not unlike a surrogate father of sorts. Each of their parents had expressed a fondness for the old man and as a result he had been invited to dinner more than once at each of their homes.
Roland was a thirty-five year old bachelor with two ex-wives and two daughters that still visited their old man now and then. Each of his girls were teenagers and were quite pretty, though Roland had warned each of his crew members before that if their bait and tackle ever escaped their trousers he’d be using their pitiful little worms for bait on his next run. No one had doubted the man’s word and had thus been perfect gentlemen around the two girls. The two girls, Kylie and Cora, had come out a few times with the crew on their outings in the last few months, mostly to spend time with their father, whose heart it seemed belonged as much to the sea as it did his daughters. When asked politely about this both of them had admitted that they loved their father and didn’t mind sharing him with his passion.
For his own part Roland seemed inclined to not speak of his daughters all that much when they were not in his presence. Each of them had attempted as much and had been rebuked for their efforts. Roland was not a man to be trifled with when it came to family. He would talk about sports, he would talk about fishing, hell he would talk about the latest rerun of whatever sitcom had caught his fancy, but when it came to family he was quite close-lipped.
“So he can stock this thing full of fish heads and pig parts but he can’t keep the damned fridge stocked with enough food for all five of us? I’m tellin’ ya man, that’s just screwed up.” Justin said, smiling in jest as he popped open the lid of the cooler, wincing as the smell of the bait inside hit him. Whoever was daring enough to say that frozen fish and pork had no scent would be in for one hell of an argument from anyone on the Black and White. There had been weeks when each man had gone home reeking of fish or some other equally foul stench.
“You could always munch on a raw herring. Plenty of protein.” Kevin said as he carefully continued to fold the net away into its convenient floor panel. Closing the panel Kevin stood to his feet, rubbing his sore finger as he went to help Justin with the traps.
“If you’d shut yer yap and look in the fridge you’d see I took care of you boys like always.” Roland said from the cabin. Looking into the slightly darkened space Bear could see the man looking over a series of navigational charts that he most likely already had memorized. Their captain had been over each part of the Pacific coast and knew very well where he was heading on any given day be it in rain or shine. Considering the normal climate of the northwest it was fortunate that he was so knowledgeable since rain was among the few trademarks that this area was known for.
There had been days when they’d been out on the open ocean that had been positively miserable, though sometimes that seemed to bring in a good haul more often than nice days. Roland was the type of captain that would often go out as early as he could and not come back until the sun was almost past the horizon. His dedication to his trade was inspiring at times and just tiring at others. No matter what though he always made sure his crew was taken care of. And if that happened to mean that there were a few six packs in the fridge then so be it, not a one of them were virgin drinkers at this age. Each of them had downed their first beer when they were still freshmen in high school, so it wasn’t a stretch for any of them to down a few brews while out on the water. Roland’s only rule concerning drinking was to not get sloppy, that by itself was a one way ticket off his boat.
Thus far no one had dared to break that rule except one crew member that was no longer with them. The man’s name had been Jeremiah Piten, a twenty-something year old man that had lasted all of one week before he’d gotten too sloshed to even bait a crab trap. Roland had let the minor incident go, but when Jeremiah had almost heaved himself overboard along with a trap Roland had sat the man down and explained to him just what was going to happen. In the end Jeremiah had been let go with a week’s pay and Roland’s word that he would never, ever hire him back. The crew they had now had been together for the last two summers as a unit and they were in effect Roland’s boys, his trusted crew that he would always look out for when they were in his company.
“So did you get somethin’ good this time or did you buy more of that pig slop you call beer?” Justin asked, laughing as he pulled out a frozen package of herring.
“I’ll have you know kid that back in the day Pabst was one of the best beers around. So it doesn’t have that fancy shmancy taste you young’uns like, at least it goes down smooth.” Justin turned his gaze towards Kevin who in turn merely rolled his eyes, shaking his head.
“Yep, goes down smooth as rubbing alcohol.” The two young men laughed as Roland looked up from his charts, his eyes narrowing as he glared at both of them. Kevin and Justin just laughed harder as he made a shooing motion with one hand, dismissing Justin’s comments out of hand as he went back to his charts.
“The problem with you Justin is that you wouldn’t know good taste if it bit you in the ass.” Roland remarked. Justin rolled his eyes as he went to baiting the traps, tearing open the packaging on the herring before opening the first trap.
“Well when I’m your age I’m sure my taste buds will be so shot that I’ll be unable to tell the good stuff from horse piss too.” That got Kevin to laugh again as Roland merely ignored them both.
* * *
Two hours later Kevin and Corey were comfortably settled upon the deck of the boat, each of them nursing a bottle of beer and watching their poles bob up and down with the gentle motion of the waves. The day around them wasn’t clear but it was definitely bright, justifying the sunglasses each man wore. The four crew members had learned their first summer with Roland to bring anything and everything they could possibly need but only as much as would fit in a pack. Roland was good about stocking his fridge below decks, but he wasn’t particularly fond of keeping a supply of sunglasses, hats, rain gear or other such items that would be needed occasionally.
At the moment it was nice enough that shorts and t-shirts were the order of the day. Each crewman’s gear was stowed below in the crew cabin in the two bunks that the men took turns using at times. Some days they were out on the water long enough that one or more of them would find the need to take a nap if Roland didn’t need them for anything. The captain used his wheelhouse for such concerns, though no one could understand how he was comfortable sleeping in the same position he sat in to read his charts.
“It’s one of those days, nothin’ bitin’ except the gulls.” Corey said, grimacing as he looked skyward. Several seagulls hovered not far from the boat, as though sensing that a meal might soon be forthcoming. Reaching down to take hold of a sandwich that rested upon the corner of their large Coleman cooler Corey brought his ham and cheese sandwich up to his lips before taking a huge bite, grinning as he looked at the gulls. “Maybe they want a snack.” His words were a bit muffled thanks to the food between his teeth, though Kevin shook his head at the man in response, grinning despite himself.
“I wouldn’t man, you remember what Roland thought about that the last time.”
“What, that gull guts would give the fish indigestion?” Kevin rolled his eyes at Corey’s quip, he knew exactly what the other man wanted to do. It was a widely known fact that the prank of wrapping a chunk of alka-seltzer in a piece of bread could fool a seagull. The greedy birds would gobble the morsel up without a second thought, though eventually they would learn their mistake. By that point though it would be too late.
Kevin had never learned exactly why, but an alka-seltzer would cause a seagulls stomach to explode for some reason, causing the bird a very painful death. He didn’t’ partake of such practices no matter how much of a nuisance the birds were, it just seemed cruel to take any kind of pleasure in causing another creature that kind of pain. Plus as his father had taught him if you killed something it had better be for food. He couldn’t imagine eating a seagull. They’d been called many things, “shitbird” being among them. It was a vulgar name but it adequately described their diet since they ate little more than garbage and whatever was given to them. Unlike crows though Kevin had never really seen a seagull scavenge dead animals. A crow would literally eat anything.
“I wouldn’t, Roland will catch you. You know that.” Corey waved one hand in dismissal as he took another bite of his sandwich, groaning as he complained that Kevin was just no fun.
“It’d be a waste of food anyway.” Corey said between bites. Kevin could only smile as he continued to watch his pole, silently willing something to hit his hook. He’d settle for a damn tuna even, he just wanted to be doing something other than sitting here all day watching his pole bob up and down. He liked to fish, but at times it could be really boring. Behind the two of them the radio that Roland had allowed them to keep on the boat belted out a song that Roland had called “nothin’ but noise”. The younger crew members enjoyed it a great deal, though the captain just shook his head whenever he heard it.
“Do you ever think of getting out town Corey?” Kevin asked, panning his gaze over to the other man. Corey looked as though he was deep in thought as he chewed his food, though without taking off his sunglasses it was kind of hard to tell. The man could have just really been enjoying his sandwich for all Kevin knew.
“Not really. Why?” Kevin didn’t really know why the question had occurred, though it was one he’d been thinking of for the past year. He’d thought he was perfectly happy moving to the peninsula right after high school. He had a good job with Pacific county that let him get most of his summer off, he was paid well enough that he didn’t have to worry for money and he’d started dating a young lady that had just graduated this year. Abby was a peach, she had a bit of a mouth on her but otherwise she was fine as all hell.
“I don’t know, just asking I guess.”
“Why would anyone want to leave all this? I mean look at it this way man, in the city you’d be stuck in gridlock half the time, hustling your ass off to make a few bucks and dying of stress at a young age. Now I don’t know about you but I’d rather live off the sea if I had to then beg for scraps at a welfare office.” Kevin grinned as Corey made his point, nodding in agreement. He couldn’t imagine having to wear a suit and tie to work or trying to keep up with thousands of other people just to make a living. Here he didn’t have that kind of stress. He had his family, he had a home and he had a job that kept him well paid and well off enough that he could go have fun whenever he wanted to. Life was good at this time.
“Whoa, what’s that comin’ up now?” Bear’s good mood was suddenly put on hold as he followed Corey’s pointing finger as the other man fixated on the horizon. The deck of the boat was currently pointing back towards land, or at least Bear though it was since land was a faint line on the horizon. They’d gone out a ways today like they did often, getting far enough away from land that it seemed as though they were all alone in the vast Pacific.
What the two men saw now was slightly ominous in that it looked as though a storm front was actually moving in from the south, which was not altogether usual. Normally if a storm were brewing they’d see it from the west or the north, hardly ever the south. Each of them could see dark clouds moving in on the horizon as they sat forward, their poles all but forgotten as they kept their eyes upon the darkening clouds.
“Roland? Come take a look at this boss.” Corey said, leaning back to yell into the cabin.
“Humm, what?” There was the sound of a throat being cleared as Kevin rolled his eyes, he’d guessed already that the boss had been napping. Most likely he was going to wake up surly as he always did. Kevin had thought at times that perhaps if the man slept on a proper bunk he wouldn’t wake up fit to tear into someone’s hide. Of course it could have just been the way he was no matter what he slept in.
“Looks like there’s a storm headin’ in from the south boss.” Roland, who had seen many strange things at sea, or so he said, grunted as he shifted in his chair.
“And you just had to wake me for that?”
“That’s not the only one brewin’ boss.” Kevin and Corey turned to see Stiles moving along the left side of the boat towards the back deck, using one hand on the safety railing as he walked quickly towards them. Now Roland did wake up and Kevin knew why. The threat of two storm fronts converging on one another was a prospect that not many captains enjoyed seeing, no matter how tough their ship or crew might be. Swells averaging even twenty feet could capsize a boat and were nothing to be trifled with on the open ocean. Even Roland, old sea dog that he was, wouldn’t tempt nature when such a thing was about to occur. As he rolled himself out of his chair he grunted and groaned, rubbing his eyes as he walked out towards the deck, reaching one hand down to scratch his ass before he made it outside.
“You boys have been with me three summers and you can’t tell what to do when a storm’s about to hit? Maybe I shouldn’t have smacked you across the back of your heads so much.”
“I don’t think it would’ve mattered in Corey’s case.” Stile’s said.
“Boys, boys calm yourselves or I’ll toss you both over. Now let’s see what’s got your panties in a twist.” Roland looked out to the south, frowning as he saw the dark clouds moving closer and closer with each passing second. That wasn’t normal, though it wasn’t so abnormal that he would go running all willy-nilly back towards land. He’d ridden out storms and squalls upon the open ocean before, though very rarely had he ever done it with a crew of young men such as he had now.
“Tell ya what, reel your poles in and stow ‘em below. I’m not gonna go in just yet, but let’s see what those clouds do and then I’ll decide. C’mon, pull ‘em in now.” Roland took another look to the south as he ran one hand through his hair, yawning as he turned to the north, seeing the dark clouds that were encroaching upon the cloudy skies far quicker than he would have liked. Walking back into the cabin he figured that all would be well enough, he’d ridden out storms far greater than what this looked like.
* * *
Less than an hour later all four young men were down in the cabin either watching a movie, eating, or doing both. Roland hadn’t been kidding when he said he’d taken care of them as far as food went. There was everything in the fridge from beer to bratwurst, simple meals and delicacies that the boss seemed to enjoy and knew that his crew liked as well. Anyone could say whatever they wanted about the old man and they would probably be right, but he did manage to be fair to his crew.
“So much for bringin’ back a good day’s catch.” Corey said, spearing a hunk of sausage on his fork. The movie, there were only a dozen of them in the cupboard beneath the television, was one that each of them had seen many times but still enjoyed watching. The Karate Kid just seemed to be a classic that each of them could watch again and again and not get bored with.
“Oh well, wouldn’t be the first time we went out and got nothing but a sunburn.” Kevin said. He’d finished off the last of the two sandwiches that had been packed into the cooler, filling himself up enough for the time being.
“I’m not sure we even had time to do that today.” Justin said, keeping his eyes on the starboard side porthole that allowed him to look out upon the rolling waves that surrounded the boat on all sides. This storm was no worse than any they’d seen before, though something about the fact that it had come seemingly from nowhere seemed just ominous somehow. Storms were a part of living on the coast, being so close to the ocean carried such a hazard at times. Many people were thankful that they didn’t live on an island, otherwise their situation might have been worse. Island dwellers didn’t often have a mainland to retreat to when the going got rough. Each man there though would not run farther inland when the storms hit the peninsula, that was the act of a sissified mainlander in their opinion.
“I got a little pink.” Kevin said. He immediately regretted the words as the others snickered and snorted with laughter. Corey looked at him as he almost choked on his sausage, using a paper napkin to cover his coughing as he chuckled at Kevin’s use of words.
“What?” he asked defensively. The other men just laughed, saying nothing as they enjoyed having fun at his expense as usual. It took a great deal to anger Kevin, he usually got embarrassed for a while before he would feel even a hint of anger. Many of his friends in high school had known him as the gentle giant, a moniker that had stayed with him from junior high all the way to the present. Despite his size he didn’t always enjoy getting mad just for its own sake.
“Right now you’d just be gettin’ wet, wet and more wet. It’s comin’ down in buckets out there.” Justin said, looking wistfully out the window.
“Maybe it’s about to let up, that would explain why the boss hasn’t turned us around to head home yet.” Erin belched after finishing his sentence.
“Or maybe he just wants to spend some time on the water, hell it’s not a bad place to just sit and relax even in a storm.” Corey’s words were answered by nods as he spoke, not a one of them could think of many places they’d rather be right now. Riding out a storm on the ocean wasn’t always as bad as some would make it out to be. The constant rocking motion of the ship didn’t bother a single one of them as the waves tossed them up and down, relentless in their continual motion as the boat was forced to ride out the constant swells.
The last of them to overcome the seasickness that affected those who were not used to boats had been Justin. His bouts of sickness had been terrible in the first month, the young man had been seen either in the head or leaning over the rail even in calm waters. Justin had fed the seagulls many times by throwing up his lunch or breakfast over the railing.
“I’m gonna go up and see what it looks like.” Kevin said, rising from his seat behind the bolted down table as he moved by Corey. Justin and Erin didn’t even turn their heads to watch him go, focusing instead on the porthole and the movie.
The cabin was just big enough to accommodate the four of them, though with another person in it the space became just a little tight. As living quarters went it could have been worse, there was at least enough room for them all to lay around without bumping into each other. If not for their storeroom that lay near the prow of the ship they might have had even more room. Roland wasn’t about to give up good storage space on his boat though just so they could have more leg room.
The boat lurched suddenly to the right as all four of the men exclaimed shortly, holding onto something as a few dishes and other loose items went skidding across the counters and table. Justin and Erin were thrown to the floor with the sudden jolt as Corey merely held onto the table, his meal sliding several inches away from him as the plate stopped on the other half of the scarred and worn surface. Kevin had already been close to the iron steps that led up to the wheelhouse and as such was able to keep his place even as his body canted to the right.
“What the hell was that?” Justin asked, rising slowly from the floor.
“Sandbar?” Erin asked.
“There’s no sandbars out here this far dummy. Are there?” Corey replied, grabbing his plate once more as he looked around the cabin. Kevin said nothing as he looked up at the hatch, seeing that it was still closed. He frowned as he thought that Roland should have at least been yelling down to them to see if they were okay.
“Well we must’ve hit something. A boat doesn’t just skid across the waves like that!” Erin said, running one hand through his hair. Kevin headed up the ladder steps, raising his left hand to push the hatch open as he kept climbing. Pushing the hatch up and away as he came high enough to step from the ladder Kevin looked around the wheelhouse only to find that Roland was not present. His charts were still lying across his desk, his coffee thermos was still atop them and the tiller was unmanned. It wasn’t like Roland to just leave his wheel unattended unless they were in port or he had the four of them above decks to help out.
As Kevin walked around the wheelhouse he looked out the windows to each side and front and back, finally seeing Roland standing upon the back deck with his hands clenched over the port side railing. The older man was frowning intently at something in the water as Kevin approached, seeming not to even notice his presence. Kevin frowned slightly, confused as to why Roland was standing so absolutely still and quiet when he was normally the first to notice anything that seemed out of sorts with his boat. As he exited the wheelhouse Kevin finally noted that the storm had seemed to abate a bit, though the waves still lashed against the sides of the boat as they’d been doing for the past forty minutes. The skies were still a dark grayish-black, promising not even a hint of sunlight as the dark clouds continued to roil and churn above, threatening dire consequences for anything or anyone that dared to show their faces in their presence. Kevin felt not a drop of rain falling from the sky though. The smell of ozone was strong just as was natural for such a storm, though Kevin could have sworn that he smelled something else, something that just didn’t seem quite right.
It smelled not unlike copper, that astringent scent that seemed to overtake anything it was placed against. Kevin knew of only two things that smelled like that, though as his heart began to pound he found himself hoping that what he was smelling was a matter of little importance rather than something far more dire. As he came closer and closer to the captain he could see that Roland was unhurt as far as he could see, though the smell still persisted. Roland’s eyes were glued to something that lay just below them it seemed, his eyes never wavering as the frown upon his face seemed locked into place.
“What’s goin’ on boss?” Kevin tried his best not to sound concerned in any way, though Roland could no doubt hear the slight quaver in his voice. Again the older man didn’t look up, seeming for all the world as though he wasn’t even paying attention to Kevin.
“Damned if I know kid. Normally I wouldn’t ask your opinion for anything, but right now I’m just as stymied as the rest of ya. The boat came up on somethin’ the depth sounder couldn’t read, all it showed was that it was risin’ fast, a lot faster than anything in these waters has a right to unless they’re attackin’. I did my best to steer out of the way, hell I even thought I was out of the way, but you can see that I didn’t quite make it.” Kevin frowned as he faced Roland, not understanding at all as the man finally looked up at him. Irritation flooded Roland’s features as he rolled his eyes at Kevin, frowning heavily as he gestured over the rail.
“Just look dammit! Tell me what the hell you think that is!” Kevin was startled just a bit by the man’s sudden vehemence, though he did as he was told, looking over the side in order to figure out what had rattled the captain so badly. What he was nothing like he’d expected. He couldn’t help but amend that thought since he’d had no idea what to expect. Like Corey said, there were no sandbars out this far, at least none that any of them had ever heard about. There were plenty of shipwrecks off this coast, but none of those were close enough to the surface to threaten any craft that plied the waters.
What he saw was not a shipwreck in any way, shape or form. It looked not unlike the ship had run aground on a large copper surface, the deep color of the strange platform reminding Kevin of a well-polished penny. He didn’t know how to react in that moment, his mouth hung open like a landed fish.
“Yeah, that was about my reaction to it too.” Roland said, still leaning over the railing slightly as he continued to look down, “Damndest thing the sound the hull made when it came up on whatever that is. I’m surprised you boys didn’t come runnin’ when you heard it.” Bear turned his head slowly to Roland, his eyes slightly haunted as he looked at the older man.
“We didn’t hear anything.” Roland pulled back from the railing just a bit, scowling now as he looked at Kevin.
“You’re deaf then, it sounded like someone hittin’ a big ol’ gong when we came up on it. That kind of noise could wake the dead boy.” Roland went to the rail once more, looking over at the strange surface once more as though trying to figure it out.
“What the hell was that?” Kevin looked back to the wheelhouse to see the rest of the crew coming up, making their way one by one towards the deck. Corey, the one who’d posed the question, spoke again as he gestured with his arms, “Why aren’t we movin’? Did we run aground on somethin’?” Roland laughed curtly as he pushed away from the railing, not answering as he walked slowly to the starboard side. Kevin didn’t know what to say, shaking his head as he gestured down at the strange object the boat sat upon. The other three came forward then, each of them looking over the rail as they fell immediately silent.
There were no words as all five men stood at opposite sides of the boat, the captain on one side and his crewmen on the other. No one knew just what to say as they looked at the strange surface they sat upon. Roland knew in his own mind that he should be the one to formulate a plan for getting off the strange, shining copper plate, but he would be damned if he could figure out a way that didn’t involve him or one of his crew jumping ship and finding a way to lever them back into the water. He didn’t know a single way to move a boat this size by manpower alone, meaning that until something else happened, they were stuck here.
* * *
Two hours later the situation hadn’t changed, though the five men had tried several times to power the boat off the strange surface. They’d had no luck, the hard surface beneath them seemed to have no give at all, as though it were a solid iron plate being held by the hand of a giant. They weren’t moving until something decided to let them. The waves had calmed thankfully, but the skies had lightened only a little, the black clouds fading to charcoal grey as several light rains had come and gone.
Each of them had stayed above decks the entire time, confused and just a little bit frightened but not willing to show as much. Kevin and Roland had been the only two who had seemed truly interested in the large thing beneath them and had found that it unfortunately lay completely beneath the boat, offering several feet of its hard surface on all sides. Kevin had sat near the stern railing for much of the past two hours, staring hard at the strange plate beneath them, wondering idly just what it was and where it had come from. It wasn’t part of a ship, it was far too flat for that. Even if it had been a piece from a ships hull it would have born at least some recognizable signs of wear and perhaps even a few legible markings or letters they could decipher.
The copper-hued surface beneath them did not move, it did not sway along with the waves that lapped at its edges, it stayed absolutely still as though it were somehow locked into place. Justin had offered to dive into the water beyond the surface and see just what was holding it up, though Roland had berated him soundly for such a stupid idea, telling him that if he went in he might well not be coming out. There was no telling what the strange thing that held the boat was, nor was there any reason to go below the waves and see.
Not another boat could be seen in any direction, giving the impression that they had this stretch of ocean all to themselves, which might well have been accurate. Kevin couldn’t help but entertain the thought of blaming Roland for not taking them straight back to land once the storms had been spotted, though in the same breath he couldn’t say much since the five of them had ridden out worse storms in their time together. To just go home when it started to rain would have been a sissy move.
Each man had entertained his own thoughts of what was going on, though as of yet nothing had made good enough sense to bring their theories forth. They were stuck in the middle of the ocean, they weren’t sinking, they weren’t in any serious trouble that they knew of, though they couldn’t go anywhere. It was hard to know whether to panic or simply sit still and wait. This seemed a bit beyond a matter of high and low tides.
“Well boys, I guess we-“Roland’s words were cut off suddenly as the world around them began to shake and rattle, the riggings on the back of the boat trembling as the men held on dearly to the railings, fearful of falling over as the tremors increased violently with each passing second. Kevin kept his lips clamped shut as he looked first left and then right, his eyes widening as he saw what looked like a hundred foot wall of water moving not too far from the boat, advancing rapidly as he watched with horror-filled eyes. Corey and Erin noticed his look immediately and turned their gazes in the same direction, each of them holding tightly to the railing as they too looked wide-eyed at the advancing wave that would surely crush them as soon as it hit.
Every sailor in the history of sailing has known to respect the waves they glide so effortlessly upon, since the time of the first and most rudimentary crafts it had become a knowledge passed down from one seagoing soul to another. The ocean was a treacherous mistress, she asked for much and gave little. Her ways were not the ways of men, nor were they meant to be understood by any who dwelled upon the land. Even those who claimed in the old legends to be descendants of Neptune himself knew better than to trifle with the power of the fickle mistress. The ocean was a thing of unfathomable force, a piece of nature that could not be done without though would give nothing unless something was given in turn. It was a cold place, filled with danger for the unwary and wonder for the few.
A hundred foot wall of water was nothing to be trifled with, nor was it something that any sailor, be they new to the sea or an old salt, would care to see in their path. Thus as Roland and Justin finally turned their heads, noticing the sudden shift in the wind, each of them followed their fellow crew members in staring agape at the destructive force of nature that swiftly began to bear down upon them. The wave seemed to grow as it loomed ever closer, as though something was behind it, forcing it forward as it came upon the tiny speck within its path.
The world continued to shake as the five men held on for dear life to the railings, knowing that they would not survive this. Roland knew that even if he were to fire up the engines now there was no way he could hope to outrun the onrushing wave. They would be overtaken in less time than it would take him to gun the engines and throttle ahead. There was no use in trying, they would go down with the ship, they had no choice.
The spray of the swell was the first thing to hit them as the five men held on tightly, their knuckles turning white as they each closed their eyes, not caring to see their doom. Each of them could hear nothing but the roar of the water as it came ever closer, taking away the world around them in a horrid cacophony of noise that demanded their utmost attention. Their death beckoned to them, demanding that they look, that they face their end with as much dignity as was possible. Not a single man opened their eyes though.
Thus it was a surprise as the boat began to rise, moving swiftly enough that the wall of water was soon enough only a few feet above the railing, washing upon the startled men as they suddenly found themselves thoroughly soaked and somehow still alive. Kevin was the first to open his eyes as the shock of the cold water forced a startled gasp from him, almost causing his hands to spasm open as through a force of will he kept them wrapped around the metal railing. Water sloshed all around him and the others as he heard them cry out as well in surprise, no doubt wondering just what was happening.
The view that he was afforded made no sense in that moment as Kevin cocked his head curiously, looking out upon a shifting copper surface that was segmented not unlike a beehive. He frowned in utter confusion as he rose to his knees, his mouth hanging wide open as his gaze blurred in that moment. Looking a little closer, or as close as he could from where he knelt, Kevin could see that the copper surfaces were linked together in a tight, interlocking pattern that greatly resembled the scales of a snake. Shaking his head Kevin found that his mind could not accept this at that moment, rebelling against him as he tried in vain to make sense of what he was seeing.
Turning his head he could see that the other men had come to their senses as well and were just as confused. Each of them had let go of the railing to gawk at the shifting scales, it was hard to think of them as anything else, that blotted out all but the sky and the water directly below them. As Kevin dared to look over the railing he pulled back just as quickly as he could see that the water was far, far below them, far enough that simply dropping back into the waves would undoubtedly tear the boat apart and them with it. No one seemed able to say anything as they stumbled around the deck aimlessly, looking from one side to the other. The world had seemingly become a mass of gently shifting scales that were larger than the boat, their rasping sound as they grated against one another surprisingly soft for objects so large and so solid.
MARINERS. The voice boomed into their minds in that moment as each man was knocked to the deck, writhing in pain as the single word seemed to echo in their brains. Kevin winced as he and the others recovered slowly, pulling themselves off the deck as he and Roland turned to view the front of the boat, each of them holding their heads as though expecting another such booming word at any second.
Their hands dropped from their ears as their eyes widened once more, their jaws dropping even lower as through the mass of shifting scales they could see an enormous eye, strange and terrible, as it peered at them from over the front of the boat. No, the scales were not simply shifting, Kevin could see as the scales seemed to slip away at a rounded edge here and there. His mind dimly registered that they were not looking at a shifting screen of metal discs, they were looking at coils, not unlike a serpent of sorts, one that was perhaps large enough to stretch from one end of the coast to the next and further. His mind whirled as he attempted to take in the scope of the strange creature that now surrounded them. Nothing one earth was that big, though he could not deny what he was seeing with his own two eyes.
YOU WERE NOT MEANT TO BE HERE. The voice hammered at them again, though softer this time, as though the speaker had decided to tone down their voice. Kevin stared straight ahead as the great eye seemed to penetrate him to his core, laying bare his every iniquity and strength as its snake-like pupil contracted slightly. Roland opened his mouth to say something, though the voice boomed once more, silencing him effectively as his mouth shut with a snap.
YOU WILL NOT REMEMBER. Bear frowned as he wondered at what the voice had just said. How did one forget something like this? Even as the thought crossed his mind though the world suddenly dropped away, spilling them all to the deck once more as the boat plummeted back towards the water, dropping like a stone.
* * *
“What a wasted day, first we don’t get anything, then it decides to storm, and then our captain manages to put a hole in the hull by not watching where he’s going.” Corey looked around to make sure that Roland was in fact off the boat. The four crew members had been left to tidy up and make sure everything was in its place for the next time they went out or had a group to entertain. To be honest none of them really liked entertaining tourists that knew almost nothing of fishing in these waters, but it paid. Plus, some of the folks that came out to spend their money were pretty nice.
“Oh well.” Justin said as he stowed the bait for the crab traps back in the freezer. Roland didn’t like wasting good crab bait, especially when the hard-shelled buggers would eat damn near anything. It was odd that they hadn’t even pulled up a few baby or juvenile crabs, that was pretty common no matter if they did or didn’t get any keepers.
“It is kind of strange that Roland managed to not look where he was going to put that hole right in the side. That’s not like him. You think he’s losing his touch?” Kevin asked, almost sensing what was to come. Sure as he’d expected it a slap came upside the back of his head as he stiffened in response, watching as Roland walked by him on the dock, inspecting the nice five foot long gash he’d put into the hull. For some reason he’d not turned in time to avoid the corner of the dock, puncturing the hull easily. There were bumpers on many of the other docks, though Roland had always tied up his boat on this one dock where there were no bumpers, stating that the day he needed such help bringing his boat into dock was the day he would sell the damned thing.
“The only thing I am is pissed off right now boys. Gather up your stuff and get goin’, I got some explainin’ to do to my insurance rep when he gets here.” Kevin was the first to make his way down the hatch to the living quarters, grabbing the gear he didn’t plan on leaving behind as the others went about grabbing their own belongings. When Roland was in this kind of mood it was best to be away if at all possible. The man did not appreciate gawkers standing around when his boat was the main concern. Each one of the crew were more than happy to oblige the man. Besides that it was getting on towards late afternoon, their families would no doubt be wanting them home eventually. As they departed each of them gave Roland a small wave which was not returned. The man knew they would return when called or on the next day, he didn’t worry about them coming back.
As Kevin made his way off the dock though towards the gravel parking lot he couldn’t help but wonder just how Roland had managed to put such a gash in his boat. In truth the damage looked as though it had come from compression, as though the boat had been squeezed by something with enough force to buckle the very boards that were so carefully crafted together. It didn’t look like a fracture that would be caused by a hard impact with the dock. As troubling as this thought was though it didn’t cause him to hesitate for more than a few seconds as he unlocked his truck, slinging his pack to the far side of the single bench seat before sliding in. As he turned the key in the ignition the roar of the engine brought to mind something that Kevin felt as though he’d heard just recently, a booming sound that seemed as though it should have been familiar. Shrugging again he threw the truck into gear, hearing little more than the crunch of the tires over the gravel as he made his way out of the parking lot. As he switched the dial of the radio to ON he forgot the vague feeling completely as he headed for home.