It was just too awful. Too unbelievable. People would think I got scared and made something up because I was a kid at the time and that’s what kids do. Everyone knows he had a few too many beers while he and I were fishing. Everyone knows fell out of the boat and drowned when the weather got bad and the water got rough. Everyone knows I couldn’t pilot the thing by myself and it went into the rocks. That’s what I told the police and that’s what they believed. Didn’t matter that they never found the body. Fishermen go missing all the time. Their bodies don’t get found, either. The current around here sweeps everything away. Blood included.
We’d been fishing out by Goliath’s Head near that little island with all the seagulls on it. The last few times we’d been there on windy, raw days, we caught more fish than we could carry back to shore. It was a pretty dangerous spot, but Liam knew what he was doing. It didn’t matter that he was five beers in at 8 in the morning – the man could handle a fishing boat.
I’d caught about 7 or 8 different fish in the first hour we’d been out. I didn’t want to admit it to Liam, but I was starting to get seasick. The chop had gotten progressively worse and there were some shards of ice mixing in with the constant drizzle. To make matters worse, we were downwind of the seagull island and the smell of birdshit and dead fish and seagull carcasses was revolting. Liam couldn’t care less, of course. He was drinking his beers and casting the nets and telling me jokes that, if my mother heard them, would ensure he’d never be allowed near me again. Usually I loved being out there, but on that day, with the weather and the waves and the smell, I’d rather be anywhere else.
Liam noticed my energy level was lower than it had been on our earlier outings. When I told him I was seasick, he just laughed and punched my shoulder. Then he handed me a beer. Being nine years old and unwilling to have my first taste of beer when I was about to puke my guts up, I politely declined. As he chuckled, we were hit by a smell that made even Liam retch. We both pitched our heads over the side of the boat and heaved for half a minute; sometimes dryly, sometimes not. The boat shifted hard, as if it had run aground. I held on to the side, but Liam fell backward in the direction of the shift.
The boat leveled itself quickly, and as I turned to ask my uncle what the hell happened, I heard him scream. I whirled around, but before I knew what was happening, my head and shoulders were grasped by something enormous and strong. I was lifted into the air. I looked over and saw Liam, too, dangling from a strange, webbed claw. As I screamed, I felt the grip loosen and I crashed onto the rocky, shit-covered surface of the seagull island.
The fall had knocked the wind out of me and I hit my head hard. I choked and coughed while trying to get my vision to unblur. I heard Liam moaning. As I caught my breath and tried to take in my surroundings, he screamed. The sound came from behind me. I turned around, pain exploding through my shoulder from what I knew had to be a broken bone, and finally saw it. It was a seagull at least 10 feet tall. The thing stood above Liam and was pecking at his chest with its thick, heavy beak. Every time it impacted, I heard a sickening, wet crunch. My uncle was flailing at the creature and raining blows on its head, but they did nothing to stop the assault.
I dragged myself to my feet and stumbled across the 20-or-so feet separating me from Liam and the bird. As soon as I got close, the thing swung its head at me and drove me back onto the slippery rock. The blow had struck my shoulder, aggravating the break and sending constellations through my vision as I gasped with pain.
Liam’s legs were being held down by the left foot of the seagull. It had stopped battering his chest with its beak. While I watched, trying to figure out what I could do to help, it brought its right foot up. I saw the thin, sharp claws at at the tip of each webbed toe. It brought the foot down across my uncle’s body, from face to groin. Liam’s movement stopped. So did his screaming. I knew he was dead.
The monstrous bird started pummeling Liam’s chest and abdominal cavity, coating its beak and beige feathers with bright blood. I heard cawing coming from all directions as countless, normal-sized seagulls swooped in on the kill. The world blurred again as I dove headfirst into a panic attack; my senses overloaded by the stench, the sound, and the pain.
Moments passed and the birds, having eaten their fill, began to disperse. All that remained were me, the corpse of my uncle, and the horrible giant seagull. My fear, while still brimming, no longer overflowed. I felt resignation sweeping over me, knowing I’d be next on the menu and there was nothing I could do about it. I dispassionately stared as the sound of crackles and snaps cut through the wind while the bird broke through Liam’s bones to get at the tender meat inside. Loops of his intestines dangled off its beak like gristly seaweed hanging from driftwood.
The crunching stopped. The horrible bird shrieked out a call. Its wings extended. It was a truly colossal creature; easily 40 feet long from wingtip to wingtip. The wings folded back and for the first time, it stared at me. I was ready. I just stared back at it, clutching my painful shoulder and trying to stand up to face it like a man. Like Liam would’ve wanted to.
The seagull strode toward me and knocked me onto my back with its head. Just like it had done with Liam, it held me down with its left foot. I said a quick prayer as its right one came up, knowing it was going to be over soon. The claws moved closer and closer to my face. Then, instead of slashing my guts out, it used the tip of a claw to pry open my mouth.
Before I knew what was happening, it brought its beak to my face. Its mouth opened, and a torrent of gore erupted from its throat. I choked and sputtered, but the seagull wouldn’t allow me to move. It waited for a second or two while I squirmed, then it vomited more Liam and fish pulp into my mouth. I struggled to breathe through the thick, hot sludge, but there was no way I could turn my head to the side. No way unless I let it feed me.
So I did. Once it determined I’d had my fill, the giant seagull flew away, grabbing the husk of Liam as it went. I stayed and shivered as the weather got worse. Waves battered the island and I was getting soaked. While I was glad to have Liam’s blood washed off me, I knew I’d freeze to death if I didn’t get any help. The shore was a quarter mile away. I figured if I jumped in and tried to swim, I’d drown. So my choice was to either stay and freeze to death or swim for shore and probably drown. I guess it’s obvious which choice I made.
There was a house not too far from the beach, and I made it to the front door. I managed one knock before collapsing on the steps. But one knock was all I needed.
So that’s how Liam died. I guess you can see why I haven’t said anything about this until now. Call it bullshit if you want, I don’t really care one way or another. I just want to get it off my chest. Maybe it will help with the nightmares. But still, 45 years later, I taste my uncle every time I see a seagull. I don’t think there’s much that can help with that.