Original Work, writing

Elemental Short Story-Water

The water was warmer than he expected. His diving suit seemed to keep away the chill that should be spreading through each limb in this deep of water. As a researcher, he knew that the darkness was natural, the glimpses of fish floating around him caught in his flashlight shouldn’t spook him. But something about being this far down with his crew so far above, floating on the surface sent shivers down his spine.

After years of research, his crew was nearly positive they were in the correct location of the Patriarch’s final resting place. The ship had disappeared in the 1700’s and only a handful of crew members had survived. They told harrowing stories of sea monsters and treasure, but after nearly twenty days lost at sea, nearly dying on a rowboat until a fisherman spotted them, no one believed the stories.

But the further down he went, the more he started to believe.

Static blasted in his ear for a moment, breaking the eerie quiet of the ocean.

“Parker, do you think this is it?”

They were a small crew, just Parker and his two friends from college. He was a marine biologist, Maria was an archeologist, and Ben was a historian. They had hatched this idea to join forces his junior year and discover underwater treasure but he had never expected to get a call from Maria stating that she and Ben had actually gotten a location. He had given her bits of information over the years. How the currents tended to run in this area, what fish and larger predators would be swimming around.

“I don’t know, Ben,” he responded. He spun around, trying to get a three sixty. His flashlight cast a wide net of light, but the water was filled with particles and each one shone brightly. Gleaming fish moved around, each more beautiful than the last. His speciality hadn’t been deep ocean diving, but he was the only one of the three with any experience diving so here he was.

He wished he could just stay still for a few moments, basking in the feeling of being in the water. Despite the heavy load he was carrying, he floated and glided, his flippers guiding him however he wanted. There were jagged rocks poking up and he slowly followed them down. They were beautiful and he watched the fish swirl around the points and crannies. He loved the water and the things that lived in it.

“I’m going deeper,” he said and started descending slowly.

The rocks became more numerous and he wound his way slowly through them, trying to stay in open water as much as possible. He didn’t want something to surprise him or for him to startle something. While most underwater animals in this area were harmless, surprising something, especially something large, could provoke aggression. And the dark swirling water seemed to hint at something dangerous.

“Parker?” Maria sounded concerned. He wasn’t sure how long it had been since he last spoke, but he guessed it must have been a bit.

“I’m still here. No sign of a wreckage yet.” He swung the flashlight down, illuminating a fair distance. He could see fish fleeing the light and more rocks, but he couldn’t see the bottom yet. “It’s deeper than I thought here.” They weren’t that far off the coast.

“Be careful,” she responded.

Something crossed his flashlight for a moment and was gone before he could blink. He whipped his light around, trying to find it again, but he saw nothing but the same fish scuttling away.

It had been large and quick. His breath quickened.

“Did you guys see that?” he asked. There was a camera that was feeding back to the boat.

“We didn’t catch anything,” Ben responded. The static felt almost quiet compared to the blood pounding in his ear.

“There,” he said as it swam past again. This time he was able to get a better look. It was at least a hundred yards off and that comforted him, but it was definitely something large, greyish, and keeping to the edges of his light.

He was still pointed downward and he slowed, halting his descent. He wasn’t sure he wanted to keep going, towards something he wasn’t sure he could identify. He had always been rational, scoffing even at the idea of treasure because that seemed so unlikely. But all he could think of was the sailors’ stories, full of teeth and brutality.

“I…I think it was a fish,” Ben said, full of hesitation.

Maria let out a gasp while the line was still open before static cut out. There in front of him was a fish. He wasn’t sure what type because it was larger than any fish he’d ever seen. It had three black stripes on its body and was nearly the size of a great white shark but looked nothing like one. It was like the numerous other fish swimming around, only they were all the size of his forearm.

“It’s okay guys,” he said, taking a deep breath. The fish was gone again, but he was sure that it wasn’t aggressive. He had studied the smaller versions and they weren’t aggressive fish. “There’s strange things that can happen this far down, but I can keep going. I’m fine,” he said and he tried to believe the words. His hand still shook, causing the light to waver, making the water seem almost like it was rippling around him.

“Is that…?” Ben trailed off. Parker searched for what Ben might have seen. He was still calming himself and scanning for any other giant fish. There, between two rock crags below and to the right, was a piece of weather-worn wood poking up. If he was right, that looked like it may have been the top of a mast once, worn down by water over the years.

He swam closer and the giant fish appeared again. It seemed curious, this time only fifty yards away. It darted away from the rocks though as if it didn’t want to get close.

Parker frowned but kept moving forward.

“I can’t believe it,” Parker said and Maria started to rattle off facts about the wreckage so they’d be able to identify it. He still couldn’t see more than the mast sticking up, but the closer he got, the more his smile grew. He ignored the giant fish, swimming closer and closer, popping in and out of the flashlight beam. Unless it suddenly grew sharp teeth, he had nothing to worry about.

He swam around the final large chunk of rock and the ship presented itself. Much of it was worn away, but it was definitely a large ship from an era long gone. Fish swam around and through the hull, which had large holes in it. Some seemed natural, but there seemed to be a few that were almost perfectly circular as if something had punched through the hull. He wondered if maybe it had gone down by cannon fire rather than bad weather as was the general guess, though he’d never seen what a cannonball would do to wood.

Unable to contain himself, he spun around and thrust a fist up in victory, swinging his flashlight with the other.

He stopped as quickly as he could. He had seen something.

He slowly swung his flashlight in a grid, trying to figure out what he caught a glimpse of. It had seemed like his giant fish friend, but different. The rocks could easily have hidden something else.

“What is it?” Ben asked, noting his behavior.

“I think I saw something,” he answered, trying to keep his breathing even.

He landed on the giant fish and it started to dart away as usual. But this time, it stopped and swung back into the light. Fascinated, Parker swam closer. It was still an easy twenty-five yards away, but the distance didn’t feel like very much. A large outcrop was behind the fish and Parker watched as something slowly made its way out, keeping the fish in the middle.

His hand began to shake badly as he realized what he was looking at. Whether it was a giant squid or some other marine animal, the only thing his brain could think of was ‘sea monster’. It’s tentacles surrounded the poor giant fish.

Parker turned and started swimming as fast as he could, praying he’d be as lucky as the delirious sailors who had survived hundreds of years ago.

 

This story was in response to The Haunted Wordsmith’s Elemental post. I encourage you to check it out!

https://thehauntedwordsmith.wordpress.com/2019/04/16/elemental-writing-challenge-april-16/

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Sunday Story Segment, writing

Asena; Chapter 1

Welcome to Sunday Segment. Each week, I will post another chapter from the ongoing novel. If you have an idea, story prompt, question, or direction you’d love to see the story go, either comment or send me a message using my contact page and I’ll see what I can do.

Today you’ll meet Asena, a 23 year old PI. Let me know what you think.

grayscale photography of person with knit pompom cap sits in front turned on light post at night
Photo by David Bartus on Pexels.com

The snow was cold, the wind biting, and the frostbite a little too close for comfort. I wiggled my fingers deeper into my pockets as I scanned the sidewalks around me. I desperately wanted to enter the coffee shop just a block away, heat and steam rushing out the door every time someone entered.
But, I knew that for a meeting to be clandestine, it couldn’t have a dozen nosy college students listening in to every word in a desperate attempt to avoid studying. Instead, I waited on the bench which opened into Milmones Park, a small patch of land in the middle of the city.
I hated winter in this business. Anyone who wanted to talk to you would want to meet outside where the wind would rip the words away before anyone might overhear. Or being forced to hunker down in a dozen blankets in the front seat of your car because you needed that photo but turning your car on would send up a literal smoke signal to the guy you were tailing.
The guy I was meeting was an informant for the most part, though he’d call himself a friend. He had sold pot to afford his schooling when I was at college and after I tipped him off that the cops were on to him, he’s owed me ever since. You’d think with studying Criminal Justice for four years, my morals would stop me from helping the criminal, but unfortunately, my dad’s lessons ran too deep.
I saw him long before he saw me. He had his head down, avoiding the light snow that was blowing. He walked down the street, busy with cars but barely another person in sight. His jacket was thick and reminded me of a gray Michelin Man. His face wasn’t covered, which I thought was ridiculous. My face was covered with a scarf all the way up to my eyeballs and a hat shoved down so nothing was exposed but my eyes, which I had covered with a pair of bulbous sunglasses to stop the glare coming off the snow.
He was handsome, stupid, and annoyingly good with information. People tended to tell him things, which he took to be part of his charm and I took to be part of the job. It’s a lot easier to get info from someone who’s stoned than someone who’s on their guard.
He stopped at the corner and looked around, his shaggy brown hair standing up as the wind got a hold of it. He saw me and I raised my mittened hand for just a second before he started hustling over.
“Damn, couldn’t we have met in there?” he said, gesturing with his head to the coffee shop.
“You really wanna talk about your clients in there?” I asked, pulling my scarf down to reveal my lips.
“Hey, the government’s making it so things are legal, Asena. I won’t need your protection much longer,” he said, rubbing his face.
“Well, Emmett,” I replied, “when you start telling the government about your business, we’ll talk. Until then, you should be a lot nicer to me.”
He laughed and his dimples showed. I gritted my teeth. “You sure are one feisty lady,” he said. “Bad guys don’t know what to think when you show up, do they?” His teasing annoyed me, since I knew that he was right. As a five foot four woman, most criminals didn’t think twice when I pulled up and explained they would be going to jail. It was beyond obvious I wasn’t a cop, from the ease which I picked locks to the way I had no problem breaking a guy’s finger if he tried to get fresh. But, I had a degree and a PI license which meant I was a problem, even if they didn’t know it yet.
“Shut up,” I snapped. “I need to know about the robbery on thirtieth street two days ago. Have you heard anything?”
“Well isn’t that vague.”
“C’mon, the Pembrook case. Thieves stole a couple hundred in cash, some family jewelry, it’s been all over the news,” I answered. I crossed my arms over my chest, but I knew it simply made me look cold rather than intimidating.
“Oh that one,” he said. “So what? Pretty straight forward, shouldn’t the cops be able to handle this without you?”
“One of those jewels was stolen fifteen years ago from an antiques dealer,” I replied. “Whoever took it seems to know a lot about my client.” His eyes widened.
“Well, I may have heard something,” he drawled. He stuck out his lip, giving me that perfected puppy dog pout.
“The cops have been watching eighth and Broadway, they think there’s been somebody making deals there,” I offered the information I had overheard last time I had been at the precinct. My dealing with the cops put Emmett in a precarious situation. He knew that the moment someone overdosed or got hurt from his dealings, I would become his worst nightmare. But until then, I was his best chance of staying out of jail. So he kept meeting me and letting me know what was going on in our city’s seedy underworld.
“I don’t think you want to get involved in this one,” he said, shrugging.
“I’m already hired,” I retorted. He gave a deep sigh as if to say ‘I warned you.’
“The guy’s name is Francis, I don’t know the last name. But he hangs around the Blue Benjo.” I narrowed my eyes at him. This was specific and very helpful, neither of which Emmett tended to be.
“Someone hired him and he made a good chunk of change off this. He’s tight-lipped about the who, but he showed up at the Benjo a few days ago, talking about this job he pulled and how he’s got a stack of unmarked bills now burning a hole in his pocket. Bit of a creep though, he kept feeling up his waitress. She finally smashed his hand with an empty bottle. Nothing broken, just some bruising but should help you spot him.” He smiled wolfishly and I could tell he was happy the guy had got what was coming to him. I knew he had a little sister and tended to get protective, a feeling I had for years done my best to dodge every time it was focused on me. “But, this guy he’s working for, he’s bad news. Francis won’t say a word. I thought he was just trying to keep the cash cow for himself, but he’s scared. And he’s too stupid to be scared by anything small.”
“So someone is pulling the strings?” I mused. “I hope Francis is as stupid as you say. I’d love to get this wrapped up before the holidays.”
“Asena, this isn’t a joke. This guy is dangerous,” he said, staring at me with a seriousness I hadn’t seen before.
“I’ll be fine,” I answered, smiling and patting his arm. “I’ve dealt with worse, trust me.”
“I’m not so sure. I’ve seen some scum around this city, but nothing that could scare someone like Francis this much. He was drunk and not saying a word.” He stood up, rubbing the tips of his ears to regain some warmth. “That’s all I know. Stay safe out there, Asena.” He gave me a roguish grin, but I could still see the edge of worry.
I watched him walk away, giving him a few minutes before I decided to walk into the coffee shop to unthaw and figure out how to best to become friends with Francis.