This is my entry to Rachael Ritchey’s Blog Battle. This week’s word was ‘Leviathan’, and it took me straight out to sea. I realise I’ve been doing a few of these blog challenges of late, and I think it’s because I need to stretch all my writing muscles before hitting NaNo next month. Plus I’m really enjoying them, and I’m not sure how many I’ll have the chance to do next month.
In the depths it stirred. Great tentacles uncoiled, revealing an eye like a golden lamp, light streaming through the darkness onto fish flickering, quicksilver. It was hungry.
‘So, d’you like it?’
I shrugged. Then, seeing hurt starting to cloud his face, I smiled at him. ‘Yeah, it’s cool! I mean, you must have worked so hard on it.’
‘It’ was a boat. You could call it a yacht, I suppose, if you were being very generous. And he had worked hard. The once encrusted sides were now gleaming, the windows free of caked-on salt, chrome gleaming in the sun.
‘Yeah.’ He grinned, hands on hips as he surveyed his handiwork. ‘It was a slog, that’s for sure. But it will be worth it when we get out there.’
I tried not to grimace. I think I got away with it. But the idea of being at sea for days with him, no matter how much I liked him, filled me with a cold dread I couldn’t explain.
I loved the water. Had lived near it my whole life. Perhaps that was the problem. I’d seen enough to know that its benign blue depths were neither forgiving nor welcoming, stories half-heard coming back to haunt me.
I took a breath in then blew it out. ‘So, when do we leave?’
Rocks crumbled to dust under its bulk as it moved across the ocean floor, black as ink, tentacles curling like smoke, the great beaked mouth opening and closing. It knew it needed to rise to the surface, where the pressure was so light it could move a thousand times more quickly. Ideal when hunting.
‘Leviathan. That’s an-‘
‘Unusual name? Yeah.’ He laughed. ‘I didn’t name her though. The letters were already there when I cleaned her off.’
‘Huh.’ I nodded, my arms folded across my body.
‘Hey.’ His voice had changed, softer and he came around behind me, his hands resting on my shoulders, fingers kneading the knots there. I melted. He could always do that to me. There was no one else, really. ‘Are you all right?’
‘Hmmm,’ I said. Before I could say anything else there was a shout and he let go of my shoulders, both of us turning to see a black clad figure approaching, one arm raised to wave.
‘Hello!’ He went to greet him, shaking hands and I smiled too. I’d known George Bevan my whole life, pretty much, and he looked no different now than he had when I was a child. Same black knit jumper over baggy trousers, ancient leather boots on his feet. His eyes were ice blue and distant, as though searching for an ever receding horizon. But now they were smiling, tanned skin creasing at the corners, teeth white under his beard.
‘A gift for the new boat,’ he said, holding out a life preserver. It was white, stencilled with the name Leviathan, a small image of a many tentacled creature between the first and last letters. I looked closer, then smiled at George.
‘Your handiwork?’ He grinned again. ‘It’s lovely.’ I ran my finger over the delicate paint lines, marvelling at the detail he’d put in, down to using gold paint for the shimmering eyes. ‘It’s too nice to use, really.’ I laughed, but the smile slid from his face.
‘Don’t you be jokin’ about that now,’ he said, waving a finger at me. ‘And,’ he went on, directing his words at both of us, ‘if you’re heading down south stay as close to the coast as you can manage. ‘Tis not the time of year to be out at open sea too long, least not ‘round here.’
He looked out past the curving harbour wall to where the sea glittered, his brows coming together slightly.
‘Um, okay,’ I said. ‘I mean, I’m sure we won’t.’
‘We’ll be fine,’ my companion said, his voice firm. ‘We know the way.’
It had slept for long periods, deep in its undersea cave. Surfaced so infrequently that it was the stuff of legend, a mystery to be revealed on the last day, according to some. But it was very real, and now it rose through layers of blue, reaching out for what it sought.
‘I think that’s it,’ he said, stowing the last of the bags in a cupboard. It was early, dawn just golden above the waves as we loaded the boat with provisions and clothing for the journey ahead. The small cabin space was ready, the tiny bed made up. The deck timbers were polished, ropes crisp and new. It should have been a dream, setting off on a trip like this, with a man like him, and in many ways it was. But I still couldn’t shake the dread that choked my throat, sliding across my skin like a shadow.
‘Are you ready?’ He smiled at me. I nodded.
To be continued at some point…