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The Ripple on the Sea

the ripple on the sea


Estimated reading time โ€” 7 minutes

“The sea absolves all things, so too does the passage of time. The sea allows us to understand time and see it as the Gods do. Forever swirling, twisting and flowing above a bed of darkness”. The old man’s voice tremored slightly as he spoke those last words. ..a bed of darkness, It had haunted the young man every time he thought of it since, even now, sitting on the sands and staring at the setting sun on the horizon, the old mans words evoked the most vivid imagery. The inky black darkness below the depths, that feeling of hopelessness as in his mind, he plunged deeper and deeper as the pressure all around him became insufferable, and then….

A nightmare. The young man lay covered in sweat on his bare mattress bed. His head ached and his mouth was parched. He reached a hand out over the side of the bed to the floor. He had at least had the forethought to bring water to bed with him. It was almost sunrise he noticed as he sat to the side, drinking all of the water in about four mouthfuls and placing the glass on the floor. He rose and stretched and by now the vividness of the nightmare was diluted and all but gone from his conscious mind. He knew he would have to get the old man out again and the mere thought of doing so vexed him completely. The old bastard made the job worse than it had to be with his antics. The young man had understood that hangovers became worse with age but was still annoyed that they just didn’t do the aul lad in and give him a lie-in.
The young man left his cabin and proceeded down the beach toward the old mans abode. Though the young mans cabin was dingy, he had tried his best to tend to the water-damage and rot that had presented itself to him on his first day as fisherman. However bad his own was, the old man’s was a shitty sight to behold. The damp was so extensive that the young man could have sworn that the door bent in as he knocked on it. The door creaked open and on the floor behind it lay the old man, face down in his own vomit.

The young man breathed a hefty sigh and gave the old man’s stomach a nudge with the toe of his boot. “I’m up!” the old man protested. As he turned to face the outside world, he winced and held his hand before his eyes to shield them from the rising sun. “So you’re not only a bollocks but a vampire too now?” the young man asked, proud of his quick wit. “Shut your hole!” the old man shouted, holding his head in his hands. He’d clearly had enough guffawing in one comment and his fractured cool would take no more. ” I’ll have the boat loaded in five minutes if…” The old man cut him off with a wry, humorless laugh, “Have you not that done yet lad? Christ, and I thought my head was fried!” The young man was hurt at that most, not the bullshit the aul fella spilled from his putrid mouth, but the attack on his wits. He’d had that kind of treatment all his life. Now, some old prick parading over the last shite job the lad could get was looking down on him! That stung. “No worries Pat! I’ll sort it all out good and quick, you just sit there in your piss and remember what day it is, Alright?” The young man turned and made began a fuming march towards the boat.

The fishing went the same as any other day, The young mans calloused hands pulling empty nets from the depths and the old man tutting as though the boy was to blame. That was all it would take. Some day the old man would tut once too much and the final shred of resilience that the boys psyche strained to hold would snap, and then some fisherman’s boat would raise their net and be greeted by the aul bastards melted face, all milky eyed and bloated. Hopefully they’d tut, throw him back and try again. The boat wheezed and creaked as it swayed as though waltzing on the sea. The boys eyes unfocused as he sat and looked out over the horizons. By the time he’d be back at land, the sun would have dropped, its last image diluted over the ripples of the black water. He thought about being back on land, about drinking, and about Avril. Her long blonde hair lifted on a sea breeze. She was a doctor’s daughter from the town. An intelligent, beautiful young girl, but with a nervous disposition. Jack had been seeing her for around 3 months now and in that time he’d learn a few things. Most important was that Avril was empathetic to his position but not to his temper. She would ask and ask for some emotional resolve on his part but that was off limits. A classic bravado trick that Jack had seen drown his father in a flood of repressed trauma that culminated in him checking out. When they reached dry land Jack assisted the old man in carrying the boat back to its resting place. Their silhouettes must have looked like grave-robbers from the towns view. After they finished up, the old man passed a few tattered notes to Jack and left him for the weekend. Jack watched as the old man creaked and strained as he walked back to his hut. He looked feeble and almost admirable, but Jack knew the reserves the old man held, the strength in his knotted arms like calloused lumps from too much hard labor. Jack would go see Avril, but not tonight, tonight he had to sleep.

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A scream. High and piercing through the night ripped Jack from his sleep. He threw on his clothes and bolted out the door. He looked out over the sea and saw an orange light flittering in a cave across the water. His heart was thumping and the last holds of sleep had slipped now from him. He debated going back to the old man and get his opinion but thought better of it. He’d have to do it himself. Another scream pierced his eardrums and carried across the water like the call of a siren. He knew it was from the cave. He turned the boat over and tracked it through the sand, grabbed a paddle from the beach and plunged it through the inky black water and out to sea. As he approached the cave, he saw a large silhouette dancing and jerking spasmodically in the lantern light in the cave projected on the stone walls like a shadow play of horror.

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When he reached the shore, he decided to pace slowly toward the mouth of the cave. He was breathing heavy now and the initial adrenaline rush had produced the most intense anxiety, making his eyes feels like they would burst. He crossed the entrance and saw the back of a man flailing his arms in violent motions up and down. The wet sounds of pounding on flesh attacked Jack’s ears and reminded him of throwing his catch into a full basket. The figure was now in full view and he realized, to his terror, that it was the old man. He had ceased action now and was panting and heaving in deep breaths like an ox. ‘Pat’ Jack called, and the old man grew still. He slowly turned and Jack could vaguely make out a figure at the old mans feet. The smell of spoiled fish was rancid and polluting Jack’s senses. The old man faced him, covered in blood and fish scales. His eyes bulging and bloodshot. His face a pale, gaunt mess. He threw his head back and laughed a bellowing, theatrical laugh. “You know when I was your age, I was stuck in the same shit position that you’re in now. I had the same dreams and the same foul luck. Then one day, when it all just got to me and I couldn’t stand the old bastard I was under, I struck him on the boat. I cracked his fuckin’ skull like a ripe melon. And as his brains and blood pooled in the water, I saw a beautiful face below the surface of the sea. She told me I was free and that I would rule the seas. She told me everything was fine and that nobody would know.”. The old man began a soft sob, his hand shaking as he brought it to his eye. Jack was frozen still, still trying to make out the figure on the ground, the rotten smell growing stronger. “It was a mermaid Jack! I swear, with God as my witness. She saved me Jack. Saved me from harm. She told me what to say when I returned to land. I saw you Jack, I saw the way you looked at that girl from town. I knew she’d never accept you for who you are. I’ve been there myself. So I wanted to give you your own savior, Your own protector, Your own way out. Your own mermaid!”. At this, the old man stood aside, allowing Jack to see the figure behind him. It was Avril. Her face so badly swollen, but he knew it was her. Her hair now stained red with blood, caked to the side of her face. And her body. He had stripped her, beaten her and then changed her. Her legs had been removed and in their place, the old man had stitched a mess of fish flesh pulp and speckled them with scales. Jack’s own mermaid. At this Jack snapped. A collection of guilt, shame, disgust, all the repressed resentment flooding forth now in this, the most spectacular of twisted fate. He grabbed a loose stone from at his feet and lunged for the old man. He felt in the old mans arms that he would not protest this act of aggression. Jack had no idea how long he had been striking the old mans head but, when he came to, there was only only pulp left. He stared, dazed, at his reflection in the old mans blood and began to cry. It was all fucked. So fucked. But Christ! How typical. The cyclical bullshit that he’d wrapped himself up in. The decisions he’d made and everything he’d blamed them for. Everything and everyone but himself. But now it was over. Jack rose to his feet and approached the old mans destruction. He laid his cheek atop Avril’s head and whispered “I heard your call, but just too late”.

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Credit : edf123

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