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"The thing that rocked the boat" By Thomas Stewart

The current was a calming one. The wind complimented this with a brisk breeze that felt to caress Roald’s skin. He sighed, he was content. This was a good day.

What was more was the sun’s rays, which up to the present had been absolutely maddening in their intensity, finally began to die down with the sun’s descent. The sun would set and he’d enjoy the evening breeze on the ocean. That was how Roald liked it. All alone, on the boat, drifting in the middle of the ocean with the cool nighttime air pushing him along.

He wasn’t able to do it too often, of course. Only in the summertime and maybe early Autumn. Those were when he’d have the time enough away from work to make the trip to the coast for one thing. The other reason, though, being that this was just generally the best time for him to take such vacations; right at the tail end of July and waltzing right in to August. Not too hot, but just enough to make the evening’s cool reprieve feel that much sweeter.

Roald was snapped from his happy daydreaming when he felt something tugging at his line. Excited, he began wildly spinning his reel to pull in his first prize of the night. About the tenth frenzied spin, the reeler caught, not allowing him to turn it any further. He began prying and prying, desperately wanting to reel his catch in. When he couldn’t get it to reel any more past a fourth rotation, Roald started trying to jerk the pole itself; trying to fish it the catch out the old fashioned way.

This proved futile, too, however. From the way it started jerking the boat along, he knew, this one was gonna be big. What was it gonna be?! He thought excitedly. A trout? A bass? Hell, would it be a Chinook?!

As the boat started being towed along by the line of the rod, Roald then started halfway seriously considering the possibility he’d hooked a shark! That made his excitement grow. Imagine; Roald hooking a shark. That’d be something he’d have to brag to everyone at the bar about that night for sure.

He could see it now. All their wide-eyes expressions of awe. A good few would probably try to call him out for blowing smoke, sure, but that didn’t matter. He’d show them the beast himself, instantly make them eat their words (and their pride).

That is, until the rod snapped in half. The tension from the way in which he was trying to jerk the rod backward caused Roald to be thrown to the other side of the boat. He cracked his head against the railing along the boats edge, dazing him. Stars rained down from the top of his eyes and everything was one dark fuzzy cloud.

His head was pounding viciously. Soon, Roald could feel vertigo begin working its way up from his stomach as well. This was only made worse when he felt the boat start rocking violently from side to side. It felt like something from underneath the boat — something big and powerful — was shoulder ramming the boat from both sides at the same time.

Roald’s heart hammered at his ribcage. Adrenaline rushed all throughout his body, despite feeling stiff. Still unable to gain his bearings, Roald sluggishly tried finding his feet as another series of blows battered the boat on each side. To his credit, even in spite of the MASSIVE headache he was starting to get a taste of, he still felt more of a sense of pride rather than fear.

Mixed in was also a sense of curiosity. Of wonder. What was down there? What was so damn big, so damn strong, that it was knocking the big ass boat around like it was a little boy’s tugboat in a bathtub? Roald wanted to see it, and bad.

That was, until a massive blow rocked the boat from the starboard side, tipping it over and damn near throwing him out from the port side. He just barely managed to keep himself out of the drink by catching one of the railings. He held on tight, his knuckles turning albino as he clung for dear life. He closed his eyes, trying to steady his breath.

Please, God, don’t let me fall in. he thought as the boat tipped further on its port side. He looked down. His eyesight was still mostly fuzz, but he thought he could see a dark, weird sort of shape in the water below him. As he squinted to try and get a slightly better look at the thing, the port side of the boat was then bashed upwards, whipping the boat back on its starboard side. This caused Roald to get thrown again headfirst into the starboard wall, instantly knocking him out cold.

Roald was gone, darker than a busted lightbulb. He couldn’t see anything, feel anything. He almost thought that one crack on the head had gone and took him out for good. He stood corrected, though, when a bright light caused him to stir awake. His head swam and his vision was blurred, even worse than it was before.

When he tried to move, even just to reach his arm up, sharp shooting pains exploded through his entire body, followed by dregs of dizziness. He felt his stomach grind and twist, making him feel like wanting to throw up. His entire body was essentially one great big muscle spasm with vertigo on the side. In short, he was seasick after whatever that was from last night.

His eyes strained painfully. He saw the sun was out. It was morning. He’d been out all night; at least 7 hours from when it all happened.

What happened there? he wondered, trying again to pick himself back up. He thought about the glimpse of the thing, the shape in the water. He tried to think of what he’d seen of it, trying to remember if he’d seen any sort of features or anything he might’ve recognized. He didn’t.

But then, what in the hell was that? Finally back on his feet again, though still quite a bit dizzy, Roald peered over the Port side of the boat. Nothing. The water was calm, just as it had been before. Like nothing was down there.

But then, what was that? What was down there last night? Why was it trying to wreck the boat?

Roald groaned. The sun was out and blazing again, which meant so was the heat. Couple this with the bitching migraine he now had, and Roald was miserable, to say the least. Of course, the silver lining to this was; with all that taking up all his energy, mentally and physically, he didn’t get to really brood on the “What the fuck was that from last night?” question for long.

That said, it still lingered in the back corners of his mind. For the time being, though, he’d decided he’d had enough of the open ocean for one day (or week, perhaps), and went to fire up the motor on the boat.

When he pulled the ripcord, however, nothing happened. He jerked it again, and again; harder and harder each time. Each time, no matter how hard he jerked it, like how he was before with the fishing rod, the motor wouldn’t crank up.

Shit me straight to hell. he said bitterly to himself. He gave the motor one last time for it before saying “enough was enough”? He just sat back down under the shade from the driver area of the boat. From there, he drifted aimlessly along the ocean, carried solely by the current.

Even under the shade though, Roald still felt like he was in a microwave. Admittedly, part of him wanted to laugh. It was kinda funny, in a cosmetic sort of way. Irony tends to be God’s sense of humor, doesn’t it? One moment, everything’s nice and calm, and the next, he’s being ragdolled by his own catch. What a night.

Whether from the heat or from the trauma to his head, he felt dizzy, like the boat and the ocean around it were spinning. Eventually, it spun around so much he thought he was looking at a work of art in the shape of a spiral. He was broken from this, however, by the sight of, at least what he hoped to God he was actually seeing, was a bare naked woman sitting in his boat.

He shook his head and wiped his eyes. What the Fu... He couldn’t even begin to process it properly. In front of him, sat a young blonde girl, bare ass nude, couldn’t have looked any older than 20 or 25, MAX. He reached out to touch her. He had to. There’s no way this could be re—

He retracted. The girl was looking at him now, eyes stitched wide open and wild. For a moment, the two just sat staring at each other; the girl apparently being prone, ready to spring for an attack while Roald was simply frozen in confusion and shock. Neither one, though, appeared to want to be the one to make the first move.

Finally, Roald spoke up, “Um... H-Hello there.” She didn’t reply, just sat there, still boring daggers in to him with her eyes. “I-I’m Roald. I-if you don’t mind my askin’, ma’am,” he chuckled awkwardly, “Where exactly did you come from?”

She cocked her head to the side. Her eyes began to lighten a bit. She seemed to calm down a bit at hearing Roald’s voice. Roald saw this and began to breathe a bit easier himself. “You got a name?”

Despite relaxing a bit, the girl still made no reply. She deaf? he wondered. He decided to test this, as best he could, anyway, by trying to sign out his question (something he admittedly never got the hang of — nor had he ever needed to). This yielded the same response from her, though. He began to wonder then if she was mute rather than deaf.

He began scrambling around in his luggage he’d brought on the boat to try and find a piece of paper and pencil to write his questions to her. Right as he found these items, irony would rear its ugly head when he heard her speak in a voice that was both young and soft, yet wa rm and sultry at the same time. “‘Scilla.”

He snapped back to look at her. “Huh?”

“‘Scilla. ‘Scilla Levi.”

“That’s your name?” She nodded. He stood for a moment, processing this.

He wasn’t sure what to do or say. He was still in shock, as most probably would be. Think about it, how would you feel if; after being tossed about like a pizza, hitting your head twice, and then waking up to find a naked girl in your boat, out in the open blue with no one else around for at least a few thousand nautical miles, what would you do? How would you have processed that.

Well, at least she can talk, and she has a name. “Well there, ‘Scilla,” he began, “you don’t mind my askin’ again, how exactly is it you got here, in my boat, in the first place?” She looked around at the boat before looking back to him.

“I found you last night. I saw you drifting off here and so I thought I’d see if you were alright.” He raised his eyebrow.

“Last night?” He asked skeptically. “The hell you found me last night. There’s no goddamn way you could’ve. There wasn’t nobody out last night ‘cept for me.” He let out a laugh with this, one that called bullshit.

Her face remained serious, though. She meant what she’d said. His cocky grin fell, reverting back to confusion. “Wait, so let me get this straight, you expect me to believe you were out here last night, and that I just somehow didn’t see you? And how could you have found me this far out into the ocean, huh? You ain’t got a boat. What, you swim or something?”

She nodded. “Yes, I swam.” His eyes grew with disbelief. Once more, he couldn’t hold back a disbelieving laugh. Now, not only was there a random girl in his boat, but apparently one that found him in the middle of the night, while he was being tossed around, and all apparently without a boat. How could this get any better? he wondered.

“I always swim.” ‘Scilla said, either not noticing the snide look on Roald’s face, or just straight up ignoring it. “I love the water. It is my home.”

“Your home?” She nodded, parting the right corner of her mouth and looking over the starboard side of the boat. He scoffed, “Pardon me, ma’am, I don’t mean to be disrespectful with this, but what the fuck is that s’posed to mean; your ‘home’?”

She looked back to him, still grinning. Despite his bewilderment, Roald couldn’t lie, she was beautiful. Hell, if he didn’t feel like the large age difference would earn him dirty looks from others who’d see em, he’d likely have asked her out on a date. Well, assuming he could get the damn boat working again, as well.

“Exactly what I said. The ocean is my home. I grew up in it. Flourished in it. Nurtured by it. The ocean has always been there for me.”

“Flourished, nurtured? You hear yourself?” He laughed and said, “Tell me something, ‘Scilla, you takin’ anything?”

She cocked her eyebrow at him. “You know,” Roald continued, “like goofballs or ecstasy or something?” She just kept looking confused at him. It was obvious she had no clue what he was saying.

“‘Kay, well uh... what about parents? You got a mom or dad?”

She shook her head. “Not anymore.”

“Oh...” he said, feeling kinda jackass-y for asking. “What about a brother or sister?” She shook her head. He decided to quit pressing his questionnaire at that, seeing the downtrodden look she was taking on.

“I don’t have any family. They were taken, murdered. I grew up with the others around me, here.”

“Here?” He asked, looking around. “You mean on the coast?”

She shook her head and pointed downward, “No, I mean here. Right here, where we are.” He looked down and back up to her, raising his eyebrow.

“We’re in the ocean. You tellin’ me you were raised in the ocean? What, like a fish or something?” He scoffed, looking at her. He expected her to crack at any second, saying she was pulling his chain and that she was just a local girl out for a swim or something. It still didn’t make sense how she made it as far out as they were, but then, neither did her ‘Little Mermaid’ story, either.

She didn’t crack. She stayed firm-faced. She was dead fuckin’ serious. ‘Scilla was from under the deep blue sea.

Seeing this, Roald was forced to take a deep breath, burying his face in his palms. “Okay,” he said, conceding, “You win. You’re a mermaid, right?” She looked puzzled at him again. He waved his hand dismissively, “Nevermind, you’re some sort of fish person, yes?”

To this, ‘Scilla nodded skeptically. “And you said you “found me”, right?” ‘Scilla nodded again. “When, and why?”

‘Scilla’s face fell again. This time, not in sorrow or grief like he’d seen before, but rather into a cold sort of expression. He could tell she was pissed about something. This started to worry Roald, so he decided to look away, hoping to make it seem like he wasn’t interested anymore and she might spare him her story (Hell, it might even make her leave). It didn’t work, though.

“I found you last night.” She began coldly. “Or rather, you found

me.” Roald snapped back to look at her.

“What do you mean?”

She pointed to his fishing rod, “Exactly what I said. You. Found. Me. And to answer your question, about what I was doing out here, I was trying to gather food. You see, it’s not all the time we find delicious morsels like those.”

She pointed to Roald’s can of worms. “So when it was right there, well, I was gonna take it, of course.” Her glare grew, boring straight through his eyes. Roald almost thought he could actually feel some sort of heat energy or something emanating from them. Like at any moment, he was gonna feel his eyes being melted in their sockets.

“But, of course, then I find myself stuck with a hook. And I gotta say, it was very painful to try wrenching that out.” She then revealed her inner thigh to him, exposing a nasty gash that led all the way from her kneecap and inwards to her vaginal region. Roald seized up seeing this, reflexively closing his own legs.

More than this, though, Roald was starting to become very nervous. Sure, he wasn’t exactly convinced of the story ‘Scilla was trying to sell him (and could you blame him?), but even still, he could tell she wasn’t there as a friend, either. He’d spent enough time as a married man to know that, armed or not, when a woman looked at you the way ‘Scilla was looking at him now, it was a good idea to run.

He tried his “look away and pretend not to be interested” trick again. This time, however, he noticed the sun was going down. ‘Scilla continued, “And unlike what you may think, our skin isn’t all that tough. So when you decide to string us up and tear us open like this,” she exposed her leg again, “We can’t easily recover.

“I’m sorry.” said Roald timidly. “I wasn’t trying to hurt you, or any of your uh... “fish brothers”. I was just trying to relax on the ocean. If it makes you feel any better, we’re even. You can’t walk, or I guess swim, with your leg like that, and you broke the motor on my boat last night so I can’t go nowhere, either. We’re both stuck.”

This time, ‘Scilla was the one scoffing. “Even?” she laughed. “That’s funny. Almost as funny as you trying to make me believe you weren’t trying to hurt me or any of my people. I’m sure the same ones that did this with my family would’ve said the same thing if they were in your position now. As “utterly fucked” as I believe you’d say it.”

Roald looked at her, now alarmed. His body tensed up, primed. “What are you talking about?”

She grinned, stretching wide from one ear to the other. “Well, like I said, you’re wrong about how you aren’t meaning us any harm, and you’re also wrong about us both being stuck.”

Grabbing ahold of the starboard edge where she sat, ‘Scilla slowly rose to her feet. She looked out to the horizon and her grin grew. The sun was setting. She gave Roald one last deranged toothy grin before launching herself at him.

Roald threw up his hands defensively, only to find that she’d gone right past him, diving straight over the port side and into the drink. For a moment, Roald just sat there. His heartbeat raced in his chest quicker than a 5,000 horsepower engine. Once that finally subsided, he devolved into a hysterical fit of lunatic laughter.

He couldn’t help it. It was the only way his brain could even remotely process the day’s insanity. Somebody call Ripley’s, Roald’s just had a close encounter with a fuckin’ mermaid (or whatever she apparently was). Hell, get SeaWorld on the phone while you’re at it.

Of course, he would’ve enjoyed that laugh if he’d have known ‘Scilla was serious, too. It started with a violent shove against the port side of the boat, throwing him across to starboard. He slammed hard against the starboard wall.

Then, another push battered the starboard wall, throwing him back over to the port side. This one caused him to hit his head again, even harder than last time. Once again, his vision exploded into thousands of stars among a giant fuzzy cloud. Everything was one giant blur. Except, of course, for one thing; the only thing he was able to see clearly, as well as the last thing he’d ever see.

It was ‘Scilla. Now, instead of a sexy, naked beach broad, she was colossal towering above the boat, covered in dark shiny scales that refracted the early rays of the moon with glints of purple, blue, and green. In place of the long, beautifully luscious blonde hair from before, she now had long, tenebrous webbed fins that ran down from the top of her head and down her back.

Most notably were her legs, which were now large, thick, slippery tentacles. One of which exposed the long, deep red gash from the fishing hook. They rose from the water and, simultaneously, began slamming down, battering the boat. Roald couldn’t even scream. Instead, he only hold out his arms, feebly trying to shield himself as one of them was brought down right on top of his head.


***


“Yeah, I tell you Sully, that was a hell of a catch.”

The patron on the neighboring stool paid no attention. He looked over to him, “Hey, you hear me, Sul? What the hell you readin’?”

Sully looked up from the magazine. “Lookit here, Jerry. Says here another poor bastard’s gone missin’ out in the ocean.” Jerry laughed.

“Another ‘un? Hot damn. I tell ya, almost makes me wanna believe what they say ‘bout there bein’ critters out there under the water.” He chuckled again, “Almost.”

“What if there is?” Sully asked. Jerry looked at him like ‘you shittin’ me?’

“Right, a monster in the ocean. N’ I bet you’re gonna tell me it’s Ol’ Nessie, ain’t ya?”

Sully slammed a 20 on the bar, “Tell you what, you n’ me, we’re gonna go out there tonight where they say all them have gone missin’ and see fer ourselves. Unless you’re too chick—“

“You’re on, Sull!” Jerry exclaimed, slamming a 20 of his own down. The bet was made and the two walked out of the bar and headed for the docks.



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