SILENCE

In a small cottage overhanging a cliff, a shrill screech echoed in the mist. A small girl lay awake in her bed. Lightning flashed across the sky. Sea foam splashed onto the window. 

“Papa!” The girl cried out for comfort. A tired, withered man, hobbled his way down the hall. The door whined as it opened, his small frame backlit by the hallway light. She sat up in bed and reached for her father. 

“Papa! Someone is screaming!” she wildly gesticulated to the window overlooking the cliff. The man shuffled towards the bed which creaked beneath him. Outside the ocean water hit the cliff side. Thunder boomed. He tensed as he looked out the window. Slowly he began to speak in a low steady voice, of a place far away, not so long ago. 

Before the Americas were discovered,  men who sailed far and wide to reach far-off lands had instilled in them a healthy fear of the ocean. The journeys were long and treacherous. Sometimes ships would never return. Occasionally debris: broken pieces of the mast or a ripped sail, would wash ashore. Amongst them would be bones, mangled to the point where no one could identify to whom or what they once belonged to. 

One summer morning, as the sun rose up, a crew of thirteen men set sail on the Santa Delucia. These were God-fearing Catholics. Men who didn’t believe in the ocean being dangerous. They heeded no warning and took no precaution. The ocean was placed on this green earth by God. It was placed there for the men to explore. 

They had sailed all the way around the Cape of Good Hope with no issues. On the forty-eighth night a terrible storm caught the crew by surprise. Lightning flashed. Thunder boomed. The waves reached up and around the ship soaking the men in salt. As the ship rocked back and forth one man saw something in the water. A flash of silver.

“Captain–somethin’ be under the ship!” The man leaned over the edge to get a closer look. He stroked his sun-bleached beard and shuddered. Whatever it was, was gone now. Nobody paid attention to the man as he got closer and closer to the edge. A flash of silver, then a thud. A pool of red. 

Twelve men ensured the ship would not sink. Another man went to tie one of the ropes to the side of the ship. He saw something. A large fish? He thought to himself. No, it’s much too stormy for the fish to be this close to the water’s surface. A flash of silver. The laugh of a bubbling brook. A thud. A pool of red. 

Eleven men ensured the ship stayed afloat. A boy, he was just a boy. Barely old enough to be allowed on the ship yet old enough to be sold, leaned over the ship and gazed into the misty water. A flash of silver. Blood red lips. Eyes black as night with hair to match. It opened its mouth to smile: exposing two rows of straight white razor sharp teeth. It reached its arm out just as the boy pulled back, but he was too slow. Three long lines ran up the length of the boy’s arm. Another thud. 

Nine men and one boy ensured the ocean didn’t swallow them up. This was going to be easy, child’s play. The thing smiled again, revealing the same razor sharp teeth now stained red. A shrill cry filled the air as the boy backed up as far as he could. It was a warning sound. Why was no one listening? Why hadn’t anyone heeded the warning? The ocean wasn’t something you owned. It owned you. The water around the ship were stained scarlet. Blood. A wave leaped over the side of the ship and with it the creature flopped on the deck. A flash of silver – a tail six feet long.The top half of what may pass as a woman scaled and stained with blood. It opened its mouth as if to cry out again: instead, a bewitching sound came out. The wind stopped howling. The waters stilled. As the boy backed up farther and farther, the men approached it. It’s razor sharp teeth peeked out from a blood stained mouth. A reaching arm. A thud. The song stopped. A pool of blood. 

Eight men stood in shock, watching as this creature, this thing, tore into their shipmate’s limp body. More blood dripped down her torso, turning her garish scales a sickly color. The boy screamed in warning as he threw a net over it. The seven men snapped back. Fear pooled in their eyes, adrenaline now pumped in their veins. The creature thrashed beneath the net. It’s black eyes reflecting the now solemn men’s faces. They tied it up with a rage-fueled purpose. 

“Throw it in the hull.” The Captain made the cross on his chest and clasped his hands together. He was old, tired. 

The little girl traced three long scars down her father’s arms. “Papa?” She asked, startling the old man back to the present. “What happened to the little mermaid?” The old man flinched and pulled his arm away. A flash of silver. The old man’s heart began to race. Lightning. It was just lightning he assured himself. A thump. A flash of silver. The room began to spin. The old man’s breathing picked up to a wheeze. 

“Papa?”

A flash of silver. A thud. A thud. Pause. A thud. Blood. A thud. A thud. Pause. A thud. Pause. A thud. 

Silence.

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