It’s cold. It’s really cold. You’d think witnessing the majesty of the open sea from such unknown depths would change a man, but it doesn’t. It was there, underneath the sweet blue waves, the sparkling water, the windswept sprays, that he truly felt alive. This was a different world, a world drenched in muted colors and far off sounds. He liked it. He liked the feeling of drowning.
“What are you telling me?” Charles looked out the too small of a round window near his too small of a bed while he ate too little of a meal. He pulled one leg up behind him as he tried to make room for his other to stretch out. It never worked. He could barely make out a foggy outline of a creature he’d been following for three days. “I know you see me.”
Years earlier Charles looked out to sea from his father’s boat, just off the coast of the city. He watched the sun rise over the endless expanse, he clenched the railing and let out a sigh as his gaze turned to the waters just beneath the boat. The sunlight rippled in beams as it lit just enough for Charles to see the flecks of dust and algae that floated beneath the ocean’s surface. His fishing pole twitched. “Dad! I think I’ve got one!”
“Pull it in!” Charles’s father yelled from behind. Charles gripped the pole and reeled in the line with all his strength. 20 minutes past and finally he could see the shadow of a deep-sea creature touch below the visible field the sun created. Then it vanished as Charles let his strength fail at his success. With a renewed effort Charles pushed harder on the reel and the fish came onto the deck. It was a tuna, no bigger than Charles’s leg. He wondered at it, amazed at how such a beast could be lurking below the surface of such a vast sea. Then his father pulled his own catch aboard. A giant fish, one he’d never seen before, its fins flapped in the air and its scales dripped with clear water yet still the same silvery blue as the sea. Charles’s father reached in the fish’s mouth, careful to avoid the rows upon rows of jagged serrated teeth.
Charles stepped over to get a closer look, intrigued by the monster that struggled to live without the sea’s embrace. He stepped over the massive tail and peered at the fish from all angles. Then the fish seized and knocked Charles over the railing of his father’s boat and into the rolling waves of the sea. He wasn’t in the water for long, but in that time, Charles first felt the clutch of death as water seeped into every open crevice of his body. He felt trapped, unable to control himself as he was tossed too and fro at the whim of force much greater than he. His breath loosed from his lips, trapped in a prison of water same as him. His feet found no ground, his hands found no grip, yet he felt more alive than ever before.
At the edge of the forest, just North of the city, Charles stalked his prey. He entered the water with no suit, no breath, and only a spear in hand. There was a dread that hung over the water there. There was mystery he did not understand, but he reveled in it. He reveled in the thrill of discovering the unknown and there, deeper than he’d ever gone before, he found his greatest mystery.
The dark image of the beast pushed further ahead; outrunning Charles’s too small of a submarine.
“Get back here you damn beast!” Charles yelled. He sat at the helm in too small of a chair, with too dirty of a window, with too short of a ceiling. His neck kinked and his legs cramped, Charles pushed ever onward.
The beast stopped.
“There you are you coward. Now come and get me!” Charles screamed into the stale air.
The beast turned.
“Come on. Come on!” Charles rolled out of his chair and pulled himself through the too small of an entryway into the only exit the submarine had. He grabbed his harpoon and pulled down the locking doors on either side of him. Even in here he had no room to stand. He pulled himself up into a glass dome and tucked his legs underneath his back and twisted his head to press up against the top of the dome. Then, with magnificent effort, he pulled closed a locking hatch and sealed himself within the dome.
The beast came closer.
“I’ve got you!” Charles yelled as he turned a handle and the dome sprang open pushing Charles out into the open. The water rushed in, filling every crevice of his body. The weight of the sea compressed Charles’s bones. He straightened himself out, happy to be free of the too small of a submarine, though even with his body freed the pressure of the water pushed his neck down. He felt just as confined as before.
The beast moved into Charles’s short-sighted view.
He screamed into the water, his imprisoned breath floating into the dark blue void, as he pulled up his weapon and aimed it at the beast. He was poised to fire. He was ready to end his weeklong hunt. He could see the red eyes of the monster, eight times his own size. Its mouth agape and ready to put an end to its pursuer. Charles fired.
The beast’s mouth closed and stopped just short of Charles, dead.
Charles’s lungs cried for air, but his job wasn’t done. He swam around to inspect every inch of the beast, to glory in his kill, but something was wrong. The harpoon was nowhere to be found on the beast’s body. He kept searching frantically as his vision began to fade and his body could barely hold on. As he reached his limit, Charles found the source of the creature’s demise. Halfway down the back, it had been cleaved in two, the other half nowhere to be seen. With no more breath Charles was forced back to his cramped space.
He climbed onto the submarine and curled up onto the hatch, tucking his legs beneath his back, pulling his head to his chest, and with enormous effort he pulled the dome over his body, barely missing his toes as the dome snapped shut. The water drained, the air returned, and the hatch below him popped open. Charles took in a deep breath of stale air and lay on the floor, his legs curled up over his back, his pelvis pushed against a closed door, and his neck craned to the side against a bag of food. When he finally regained his breath, he rolled upright, opened the doors to either side of him, and crawled back to the helm.
As Charles maneuvered the submarine in every direction to search for the monster that killed his prey a bright white light, same as the one attached to his own vessel, came down upon him and blinded him through his window.
The radio crackled to life, “…Did you… son?”
Charles picked up the radio and made some adjustments to the tuning. His wet skin shivered on the ice-cold metal chair he sat in. “Can you repeat that? I’ve got some static on this end.”
The voice came back over, clearer than before, “Did you see that son? Biggest fish I’ve seen! Just came right out on top of your own. You want to get a good look at her? I’ll do a drive by.”
The other vessel, a submarine that seemed to be just big enough to be comfortable, pulled around towing a magnificent monster nearly three times the size of the one Charles had been hunting. He put his head in his hand and sighed while picking up the radio, “I guess you win again, dad.”
“I keep telling you son, there’s always a bigger fish.”
“I know, dad. I know,” Charles said, wet, shivering, cramped, and hanging his head in shame.