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  • Writer's picturePaul Mouchet

Chapter 3: Sammy

Updated: Mar 11

I stared down at the limp, lifeless fishing line in my hand. My salvation had been so close. That single fish might have been enough to see my family through until the next moon. But like so many other times in my life, I was forced to swallow down the bitter taste of disappointment.

“Triton, why?” I bellowed at the gathering clouds that threatened to blot out the moon. “Why would you give me hope, only to dash it against the rocks?” Yelling at the sea god was a waste of breath. It’s not like he ever listened. My heart ached, my lungs burned, and the pain in my leg had become so acute that I feared I was going to pass out. So what if I did? I was useless. My family would suffer because I was incompetent, wretched bag of bones. My family would be better off if I just left. I could stow away on a merchant ship, travel across the sea, and get as far from this wretched town as possible. There would be one less mouth to feed. One less body to clothe. One less pathetic waste of skin.

I despised giving in to setbacks. “Get a hold of yourself, Sammy.”

I spoke the words aloud. They sounded like something my mother might say to me. If she had heard my thoughts of running away, she’d have been ashamed of me. My family and I waged a daily war against life's challenges. We knew no respite, but we never wavered in our determination to overcome every obstacle that lay in our path. Even when we were belittled and oppressed by overbearing merchants, deceitful fishmongers, bullies, and cutthroats, all of whom discriminated against us because of our disabilities, we never surrendered to defeat. Today was just another struggle, even if it felt so much harder to bear.

I finished making my way to the large flat rock that jutted out into the sea and began the task of pulling in my line, wrapping it around the sleeve of my oilskin cloak. As I did, I moved closer to the edge, doing what I could to stop the line from dragging over the platform’s sharp edges. Even if I was going home empty-handed, I needed to protect my line and hook. They were expensive and the only way I had to make any gold.

The wind suddenly picked up. The waves became larger, crashing upon the shore. The icy sea-spray stung my face, drenching my hair, filling my mouth with briny water. The tiny hairs on the back of my neck sprang to attention. Lightning danced across the skies like fiery serpents, turning the clouds into great beasts, their bellies swollen with the deluge of water they were about to unleash.

A bolt of lightning struck the water with a deafening crack that echoed across the waves, sending shockwaves through my body. In that brief moment of blinding brightness, the monstrous windswept whitecaps became visible with perfect clarity. Driven by howling winds, the onslaught of rain followed immediately after, pelting my skin with icy shivers.

Panic surged through me. I was staring directly into the teeth of a monster that would devour me whole. I needed to get myself off this rock before Triton’s sea dragged me to its murky depths. My heart sank as I looked back to where I had thrown my crutch, suddenly regretting that moment of stupidity for having cast it aside.

As quickly as I could, I continued to bring in my line, wrapping it around my arm as I did. A wave broke over the top of the rock I was standing on, nearly taking my feet out from underneath me. As the water receded, it made the stone slick. If another wave, a larger wave, were to come before I could get off, it would surely sweep me into the water.

With my heart hammering in my chest, I continued gathering in the line. For a moment, despite its value, I considered just throwing it away, but it was so tightly wound around my arm that I’d never be able to get it off. I reached for the knife that hung at my side, beneath my cloak. While I worked my way past the heavy metal clasps, the fishing line suddenly went taught.

A heavy pull on my line threatened to drag me off balance. Footing was difficult on the now too-slick rock. Another crack of lightning split the sky, illuminating a massive wave hurtling towards me. As terror gripped me, my throat seized and my muscles froze. I watched and waited in hopeless desperation, knowing what fate had in store for me.

The fish suddenly yanked me forward, toward the edge of the rock and the raging sea below, toward my doom. Was it all some sort of cruel joke? I finally hook the fish of a lifetime, and in retribution, the sea decides to try to kill me for it. I don’t know why, exactly But I barked out a laugh at the absurdity of the situation.

“I will not go quietly,” I bellowed at the waves. “You will not have me this night.”

Triton and the Gaelinora Sea laughed right back at me. A massive wave crashed over me, sending me heels over head, tangled in the tumultuous tendrils of the sea’s tenacious turbulence. While the water pushed me against the shore’s sharp rocks, the mooneye was trying to yank me into deeper water. Caught in a tug-of-war between two forces, my battered body was banged and battered across sharp boulders.

My lungs were burning from exertion, desperate to gulp fresh air, but the sea continued having other plans for me. The water began to recede, threatening to help the great fish drag me into the deep. Hoping against all odds, I jammed my foot between two rocks in an attempt to anchor myself in place.

Another tug from the fish pulled me seaward, twisting my ankle to an unnatural angle. I screamed out in agony, despite being underwater. When the bubbles I had released from my lungs dissipated, I was nose to nose with the most beautiful vision I had ever witnessed. Just before I lost consciousness, I saw the face of an angel – perhaps the true face of Medeina, the moon goddess, herself.

Chapter 4

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