Thursday, March 1, 2018

Friday Flash: Leviathan in the Fog

Gradually getting back into the swing of doing flash fiction, as the MS for Death By Adverb has gone to the proof-reader and I have a little space (not much, though--too many things to do!). So I grabbed a title from the flash fiction challenge Chuck Wendig gave us last Friday, and put together a little story using the village and characters who show up in my story in the Tick Tock Anthology. No story hints or spoilers here, just a bit of a story that might need a second installment...

Leviathan in the Fog

Lira gazed from the doorway of The Golden Jug, her wiry frame loose with tedium. Behind her the fishermen nursed their drinks, quieter and more morose than usual after a week of thick fogs. Before her, that same fog that had beached the fishermen wrapped the village so completely that all she could see was a wall of grey.

"Not a breath of wind," she muttered. Behind her someone called for another drink. Lira didn’t turn. "Hold your patience, Owain! You'll not die of thirst. I want to study the weather."

A few chuckles sounded at that, and a voice from the back corner said, "What's to study? You can't see a bit of the weather for all that fog." That got a bigger laugh, including from Lira herself.

"Well, you're right there, Dai," she said, giving up and shutting the door. Retreating to the bar, she began pouring drinks again. But Lira’s mind was on the weather, and the need to get these men out of her bar and catching fish before the whole village went hungry.

Lira was ready to give last call and start closing up the bar when one of the village youths came in. Before she could tell him he was too young to buy a drink from her, he blurted out, "The leviathans are here!"

"What? How on earth could you know?" Several voices asked the questions on the tip of Lira's tongue.

"We was up on Goblin's Head, a bunch of us," the boy began.

Again he was interrupted, this time by a stern-faced man Lira thought was his father. "You shouldn't be going up there in this weather. It's dangerous."

"Aw, Da, we're fine," the boy began, and his father scowled.

"Well, don't let your mother know."

"Anyway, we were up on the Head and the fog lifted for just a minute, and I saw the spout."

"The fog lifted?" Lira let her skepticism show. This fog hadn’t lifted in days.

"Well, more like it just got a little thin. Enough to see a spout just off the Head."

"And where have you been all this time with this news?" Lira asked. "It's been dark for hours."

"An' the tide's been up for hours, too," the boy, a little too pertly for Lira's taste, but that could be forgiven in a boy his age. “We couldn’t get back until just now.”

That brought on another stern lecture from the father, who rightly pointed out that a fisherman couldn’t be so heedless of the tides. Lira thought the boy’s small smile suggested that the oversight had been more intentional than careless. She wondered which of the girls had been on the Head with him. Not her problem.

Lira’s problem was that the fishermen were starting to grow restless. If a leviathan had been sighted, then they had little time to waste in waiting for the weather to clear. The giant beasts did not live along their coast, so they could be hunted only for the few weeks, or even days, they lingered on their way past.

“We have to go out.” Dai made the declaration, and no one could say he was wrong. But no one failed to understand that going out might not lead to coming back, even if they got the harvest.

Protests came at once. “No one can go out in this weather.” “You’d never find the beasts, when you can’t see your hand in front of your face.” “Even if you got one, you couldn’t find your way back.”

“Without the oil, we won’t make if through the winter.” Dai’s simple statement silenced them all, including the excited youngster. “I sail at dawn, if there is a dawn in this vile fog.”

After that, no one said anything as they all filed out and went home.

Lira rose before dawn, breakfasted, and took a basket of the rolls she had baked overnight down to the beach. About a dozen of the fishermen milled about, trying to decide how to tackle the problem. Another dozen hadn’t come, probably because they had wives with the force of will to keep them home.

Huw, the old fisherman who always fished alone, stood looking on until the discussion of who should go in what boats grew heated.

“Seems to me,” Huw spoke abruptly, “seems to me that any what has families needs to stay home. Let us without others counting on us go out.”

“You?” Dai looked at him in surprise. “You never sail with any of us.”

“There’s a time for everything. And this is a time for you, with your six youngsters at home, to stay ashore. I’ll go, and Evan.” He considered the crowd and selected three more, men who either had never married or whose children were grown. “We’ll use your boat, Dai.”

The younger man seemed about to argue, but he closed his mouth abruptly. His boat was the best, and had best chance of taking the great beast and making it back. He turned with a nod and walked into the dark and the fog, back to his weeping wife.

Huw looked at Lira. “Coming? We should be six.”

“I’m no fisherman,” she said.

“You have a level head and a knack for solving problems. We’re apt to need both. And, you brought the food.”

Lira looked down at the basket she rested on her hip. The smell of fresh bread and meat rolls wafted up. She laid the basket into the boat and joined the others in pushing it off the sand.

Only Huw noticed that Lira had been wearing a fisherman’s breeches and boots all along.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

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