Ursula drew closer to the open door. The fisherman held his audience in the parlor rapt, as he paused before describing the monster he’d seen, that moonlit night at sea.
“It rose up slowly, a mass of slick flesh, a shape I’d not seen in all my years on the deep. The full moon reflected its reddish color, a sickly red, a hellish red. It’s head, if that’s what you would call it, seemed a shovel, or some such implement. And then, oh Lord, the tentacles. Like thick ropes made of some unholy rubber. From spade to end of tentacle, the beast was nearly as long as our boat. I stood, speechless, wishing to scream but unable to muster a sound.”
He drained the brandy from his glass, set it on a little side table, and, wordlessly, the widow refilled it.
In her mind’s eye, Ursula pictured the monster: the colors, the shapes, the menace of its size, the dread inspired by its silent rise to the surface of the ocean.
“And then it sank into the inky depths, as if it had never been there. My mates, they did not believe my tale. But they saw that I’d been shaken, right enough, and tried to settle me in my bunk. Fishermen get a bad rap, by landlubbers. They’re a good sort, really, brothers at arms against the vast enemy of water and weather at sea. Superstitious and coarse they can be, and I took my share of ribbing until we made it back to port. But under it all, they were kind to me. And when I told the captain that I’d not be back for the next voyage, nor none after that, he simply shook my hand and wished me luck with selling my share of our catch.”
The gentlemen in the parlor absorbed the story, a murmur starting among them, and the widow moved to draw the curtains against the gathering dark. Soon it was time for them all to head home, and as they did so, Ursula helped them to their coats.
“A wild tale,” said one, quietly. “Perhaps meant only to engage our sympathy, and raise the price of his fish.”
“Perhaps,” replied the other. “And yet, his eyes as he told the story. Did you notice? They were not focused on anything or anyone in the room. Turned inward, almost.”
Another gentleman clapped the fisherman on his shoulder, a friendly gesture, and spoke more loudly. “And now, sir? What will you take up now?”
“Mining, I think. A distant cousin of mine settled near the mines west of here, and makes a good living. I’m on my way to see if he can help me get on.”
“From one deep to another, eh? Well, I wish you the best of luck,” said another gentleman.