Here’s my first short story of the year. This one came from a vivid dream during our power outage a few weeks ago. Although it wasn’t from a word and then chosen image like my past challenges, the dream gave me lots of pictures to work from about an old man, a cage of dead fish, and a pier. So, in that way, it offered me a new dream challenge.
I’m not sure if this story is done with me yet. We will see.
I’ve been adding my short stories posted here into my upcoming short story collection that I’ve been working on for the last couple of years. Not sure if they will all make the cut or not.
A MAN ON THE PIER
On a wooden pier that ended over the ocean, a man carried a thin, long cage full of dead fish. The familiar tall and lean person was dressed in brown cloth pants and a blue shirt with brass buttons. His stringy gray hair was tied back with a slice of tanned leather, and his brown boots were scuffed and worn. The man known as Captain Randall set his contraption across from where I sat on the newly painted white bench.
Maybe nothing would have happened that day if it hadn’t been for someone out jogging.
The jogger in gray sweats and a shiny blue fitted shirt skidded to a stop in front of Captain Randall. Before I could warn him, he spoke, “Hi, I’m Bob. New to the area. What’s that for?”
Captain Randall smiled, exposing a mouthful of rotten teeth as he skillfully sliced open the rotting fish. “Come see. Follow me.” He gripped the cage and jumped into the icy waters.
I leaped up to stop him, but Bob followed Captain Randall into the water with no hesitation.
“Hey! What are you doing?” Bob called out as he swam faster.
I froze at the edge of safety and watched both men swim away from the pier. My heart raced like I was doing laps at the high school pool. That was where I spent most of my free time on the swim team and had been the team captain in my senior year. Right now I didn’t want to cross the finish line but longed to be in that water, too. It took every ounce of my willpower not to jump in.
Then the long cage opened, and all the dead fish floated to the top of the water with their blood seeping out of them. Captain Randall calmly swam back to the pier.
Bob looked around with his mouth hanging open. I knew what was about to happen. I’d seen it all before in my dream and heard the stories told around campfires. There was nothing I could do.
Captain Randall spun around when he got to the pier at the same moment realization flowed over Bob’s face. Black fins appeared on both sides of Bob.
“Help me!” Bob’s hands waved frantically in the air.
Captain Randall calmly climbed out of the ocean. There was no helping Bob as he disappeared under the blood-red sea in one giant tug.
Captain Randall nodded to me. “Guess they are biting today.”
I gulped down any response. I didn’t want to end up in the ocean too.
With a slight smile, he walked off humming a tune that I swear was from that shark movie. I watched the water become inflamed with death.
My dream came back to me. “Never, never speak to him. He’s cursed, Sasha.” A beautiful woman with long black hair and a fish’s body for legs had warned me. “Stay out of the water, no matter what you see. Then I will come to you when there is a victim.”
Too bad no one told Bob that the ghost of Captain Randall fed the sharks every day at the same time. If you were foolish enough to speak to him, and he answered you—your fate was sealed. The frenzy only continued for a few minutes.
I wasn’t really surprised when the mermaid from my dream swam up to the pier when the waters cleared to their crystal blue beauty.
“That’s the evil we battle, Sasha. It didn’t recognize you. I am pleased. Now go back to your land home until you are needed.”
“You battle evil? Why would it recognize me?” I dropped my pink glitter backpack that landed on the dry wood with a hollow thunk.
“When it is time, I will come for you. Go back.” Then she disappeared.
That was three years ago. I moved to the city, and never returned to that pier or the ocean. Thankfully, there had been no more dreams. The only water I ever got into was full of chlorine. But that all changed last night when that dream returned, calling me to the sea. Foolishly, I went to do my morning laps in the pool at my apartment building. It was early, and the pool was usually empty, so I set my white towel down on a blue lounge. I stood on the edge, ready to dive when I saw the mermaid there. She waved, and I ran.
No one can make me go back to the sea again. I just won’t. Even when I ran past Captain Randall carrying his fish in the middle of my apartment lobby. I convinced myself it had nothing to do with me. I threw clothes into my new green suitcase and left the shabbily furnished studio apartment and server job behind.
A year later, I’m still running, but my dreams beckon me every night to come back. I won’t be fooled or tricked into those waters. Nope, not me. I learned you can only trust yourself growing up in the foster care system, and that included mermaids. With no place to go, I moved to the desert. The dreams might come, but let those water people try to find me there. Just let them.
NOTE: This month got away from me for many reasons. My Monthly Newsletter will go out later tonight or tomorrow.