Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Marine Encounter


My first short story:

As far as my eyes could wander, ripples of blue-green tinted with orange surrounded us. It seemed quite some time back when Tony had navigated our ferry slowly away from the coast for our sun-downer trip. I had felt a slight chill down my spine when I realized Anjan and I were the only ones on the ferry --- apart from the spooky captain. It was Anjan’s idea in the first place to vacation at this god-forsaken coastal strip. It was his idea to agree for a ferry trip when the lanky Tony emerged out of nowhere and said we could experience the ocean as few had before. I had shrugged the doubts away with Anjan’s comforting arm around me. Now I was not so sure.

Tony had stopped the ferry in the middle of nowhere --- he said it would be the perfect spot to watch the setting sun. Nervous as I was, a part of me could not ignore the beauty around me. Serene limitless waters mirroring the sky as it changed its hues. It was a humbling feeling, a feeling of complete submission to the enormity of the ocean as compared to our tiny presence. My reverie was broken when I heard a splash. We had not seen Tony change into a diver’s suit attached to an oxygen tank. He mumbled something about studying corals and before we could protest he was nowhere to be seen.

I could see Anjan was trying to put up a brave face. He immediately took to a careful study of the ferry. I was numb with shock --- with some effort I pulled myself together. No, nothing is the matter; Tony will be back shortly. We were safe; we had food and water to last a few hours. The resort management was surely to miss us at the dinner table. It was Anjan’s idea to leave both the mobile phones back in the room --- “who swims with gadgets strapped”. How I wished I had carried mine.

The setting sun now looked distinctly eerie. Anjan called out for Tony from time to time, despair creeping up in his voice. My mouth turned dry --- I had seen a pair of tentacles coming up the hull. Was I hallucinating? One look at Anjan told me he had seen them too. Instinctively I drew farther away from the “thing”, pulling Anjan with me. The tentacles grew bigger and numerous as a four-feet-long octopus climbed aboard. I pinched myself --- no, this could not be happening! Octopuses do not come out of water. But this one just did that --- it was now sitting with its limbs sprawled all around and carefully watching us. Anjan pulled me to point to another set of tentacles that were climbing aboard on our right. I screamed as the head of a squid appeared. Three fourth the size of the octopus, the squid took up a position on our right. We ran to the third corner of the ferry, keeping a safe distance from both the octopus and the squid. Anjan took out the torch he had carried in his pocket and started blinking it in random directions. Would somebody find us?

The breeze was getting colder. We held our breath as we waited --- not certain what lay beyond. The octopus and squid did not move after they had settled down. It was Anjan again who found the next creature as his scouting eyes saw the new set of tentacles --- or were those claws? I could no longer find my voice as a lobster, twice as large as my arm, perched itself on the ferry. Anjan dragged me to the middle of the ferry --- the boundaries weren’t safe any more. After that we lost count and identification, as marine life --- one after another joined us on the ferry. Were those barnacles, was that a clamp, was that a giant conch? I clung to Anjan --- too petrified to move --- in an ever-shrinking space that we could claim as ours.

Time stood still. We could feel our sweat dripping on each other. The light was just enough right to see our outlines. Was I conscious? It was only Anjan who held my body from slumping down. Why did the creatures keep staring at us doing nothing --- were they waiting for a cue to attack us? Their inaction was suffocating me.

I do not how long we would have stood listless on the ferry. Suddenly there were voices. Were they “real”? Anjan was quick to take out the torch again and continuously blink towards the direction from where we thought the voices were coming. It was indeed a medium sized fishing boat; four sun-tanned men in waist -length lungis rowing towards us. They were responding to the blinking torch. I hung close to Anjan --- uncertain as to what to expect next.

The fishermen called out to the water deities loudly while approaching us with caution. With the men barely inside audible range, Anjan burst out --- pointing hysterically to the creatures. But wait --- where were they? All of a sudden, the ferry was left exclusively to us --- no squid, no octopus, no lobster, no tentacle. The fishermen knew without our telling them what had happened.

After they had helped us climb aboard their boat, the eldest of them told us how five years earlier a middle-aged diver named Tony had died by drowning due to unknown reasons not far from where we were stranded. He was an enthusiast in the study of marine life and often took people on diving trips. Post his death; we were the third set of tourists who had been shown the unique eyeball-to-eyeball experience of the ocean life. On all occasions the visitors were unharmed. I murmured an inaudible vote of thanks. I felt relieved to get back my simple freedoms of wiping my brow and stretching out my legs.

Next day one of the ferries that belonged to our resort, which had gone missing since late afternoon the previous day, was found floating along the nearby shoreline.


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