We dredged something up from deep underwater. It turned out to still be alive. Partly alive. Something like alive.
I wanted to explain how it looked, but every time I thought about how to describe it I got the worst mental block. Everything went foggy and my head started to hurt. Even when I remembered how it spilled out onto our deck with thousands of dead fish, I was overcome with a sensation of nausea that left me gasping for air.
That’s why, once it stopped thrashing – yes, that’s how it moved – by thrashing; I remember how it knocked over a bunch of equipment – I asked one of the guys to start taking pictures. Not a single one came out right. They were all blurred beyond repair and dotted with multi-colored splotches. So all I have is my memory. While I couldn’t picture how it looked, I knew it was nothing like I’d ever seen before. Nothing like any of us had seen.
All this happened last week. The creature is gone. From the best we can remember, it hurled itself back over the side of the boat. None of us are certain of that, mind you. It’s just the best explanation we can come up with together.
All five of us have started getting sick after that day. I told everyone it’s just the flu; that we’re in close proximity all day, every day, in the cold and rain and wind. If anyone’s gonna get sick, it would be us. But deep down, I didn’t think that was the case.
My teeth had started to loosen. There was blood in the sink when I brushed them.
We went about our business and hauled up our catches, brought them to shore, and went back out. Gray waves met the gray sky on the horizon and my ears had grown numb from the endless white noise of the sea.
Two days ago, Vernon jumped overboard. The four of us were working at the stern and Vern was at the bow. We never saw him go in, and he never came back up.
Under any other circumstances, we would have radioed the Coast Guard. We would have been devastated by the loss of our colleague and friend. But a mood unlike any I’ve experienced had come over us. We had to go ahead – forward into the cold north Atlantic.
At night, my dreams were vivid, yet abstract. Colors with shapes and curves, but no edges. No lines. All the while, a voice was singing to me. Cooing. Crooning.
Yesterday, Amal and Billy held hands and jumped off the port side of the boat. Gervaso and I watched them go. We didn’t say a word to one another; we just went back to our respective areas of the vessel. We traveled a good couple hundred miles further out to sea that day.
Last night, as I slept, I poked my tongue around the new holes in my gums where my teeth had fallen out. I pressed against the loose ones, and a few fell back against my throat. I remember the feeling as I swallowed them. My dreams were full of song and color. Opening my eyes to the gray morning made me want to go back to sleep.
Gervaso embraced me after breakfast and stood at the bow of the ship. He made three, deep slits on each side of his neck, then toppled into the water. The last thing he said before he cut himself was “I’m going to hear them sing.”
Today, by mid morning, all my teeth had fallen out. I looked at my new smile in the mirror. It was inhuman. Benthic. Like the mouth of a strange, pink fish. With the boat on autopilot, I stumbled to my bed and began a nap. It was short, but full of the song and color I’d hoped for. There, swimming inside the fountain of shimmering iridescence, was the creature we’d seen. I still can’t describe it, but my feeling of discomfort while trying to recall it is gone. All gone. In fact, the thought of it carries a beacon of welcome and hope.
Ever since opening my eyes after the nap, I can still hear the singing. It’s coming from far below the boat. Miles and miles beneath the icy ocean. As I look out and see the gray all around me, I feel starved for color. As I reach out and feel the icy wind buffeting me, I feel deprived of warmth. I know what I have to do. I know where I have to go. At the bottom of all this water, I can find what is serenading me. All I have to do is jump.