|The Feast of the Iron Whale
Author: sophiesix PM
A shark awaits a feed as a ship flounders in a storm...Rated: Fiction T - English - Horror/Drama - Words: 1,175 - Reviews: 11 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 01-19-10 - Status: Complete - id: 2766055
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Feast of the Iron Whale
The surface of the sea churned thick and swollen with heaving waves, the usually clear window above their world turned opaque. In the depths, peace reigned. The sapphire blue of the underwater world had flattened to a slatey shade; shafts of sunlight no longer mined the depths. But this was the only difference noticeable by people. Otherwise, the violence of the surface was a far distant, separate thing.
Not everyone ignored it. Not everyone was as blind and deaf as humans. For some, the storm brought opportunity. Undulating far below, the shark kept her senses tuned to the waves, for a metal whale was crying its death whines. Like scales shed in stress, the iron hulk had dropped a spreading trail of jetsam; boxes, ropes, chairs, smaller orange offspring cocooning their living occupants. Every splash landing had been a slap to her senses, electrifying her mind, jolting her heart and stomach. But as yet, nothing unshelled had fallen, nothing that a shark's jaws could sink into and satisfy her gnawing hunger. Nothing yet. She waited.
The storm above beat on. More shadows gathered below. The congregating predators danced around each other, edgy at their unnatural proximity. Rare was the prey that would satisfy so many. And as yet, not even a scent of blood had promised them satisfaction. The cobalt world grew strained with their desires.
The shark paused. All the sharks paused. Hovering. Listening. Something new. The signature pull of a different wave was tensing the fabric of the water. A bigger wave. A much bigger wave, approaching silently, unseen through the bedlam of the storm. The predators' dance knew a moment of frenzied excitement, then slowed to a steady beat marked by confident swipes of tails.
Everyone listened towards the boat.
Everyone tasted the water, hungry for the first drop of blood. The first frantic four-chambered heartbeat submersed into their world. The first thrashing limb: beacons to signal the massing crowd.
Nothing excited these sharks more than the promise of sweet, warm, mammals.
The growing wave hauled at the side of the boat. Joy sparked through every heart present to hear the scream of metal strained beyond its capacity. Fins flicked faster. The boat groaned a terrible groan. On its heels, a thunderous crash, a sonic boom punched through the water, deafening the denizens of the deep.
Then. That wondrous noise.
Panicked limbs thrashing the water like egg beaters. The staccato beat wound the sharks up into an instinctive arousal from which there was no return. As one they turned and honed in on the signal, like water rushing to a plughole.
Another massive wave beat at the tortured sides of the ship. Mammal bombs began to rain into the sea from all sides as the ship spilled its contents. The sharks spun around on themselves, a tight pirouette of shock, their senses overwhelmed by the bounty. Some dived, frightened out of their attack. But the older sharks were not so easily perturbed. They knew the mess of stabbing limbs carpeting the roof of their world meant nothing worse than days and days of uninterrupted feasting. Nothing would blunt them from their hunger drive. The hunt resumed.
Above the surface, the wind whipped waves into confetti, and every breath was as much water as air. Breath by breath, lungs filled incrementally, bodies sank deeper. White of eyes flashed. White wave tops crashed. Beneath the roaring of the wind a thousand throats bellowed their terror. Every second, thousands more joined their herdsfolk in the water, slipping from the stricken hulk. The cattle ship lay on its side, breathing its last breaths before the waves gripped its gunwales and pulled it under forever.
The crew saw none of this. Crammed into the blind sanctuary of the lifeboats, they knew every human life was safe. As safe as they could be, anyway. But a larger certainty ground at their thoughts: they knew every bovine life was doomed. The cattle were destined for slaughter anyway. They tried to tell themselves it didn't matter. But the countless voices raised in endless terror around them forced their hearts to acknowledge the truth.
Did it make it harder that they could not see? That they sat, hunched together, in gut twisting orange silence, as their pod swung like a pendulum in the waves? Was it worse to lock eyes with the doomed, or have their imagined eyes watch you forever?
Outside, a wretched scream pierced above the patchwork bellowing. The cry was short lived, cut off quickly as the cow's head jerked beneath the waves. Blossoming red joined the fetid brown soup. The cow's head breached the surface, a strangled squeal escaped. The depths reclaimed her once more. The cow's head broke the surface again, silent. It drifted without the weight of its body to slow it.
The bellowing reached another level of terror.
From above, the wind lashed the water, and from below sinuous dark bodies shredded it. Caught between, the cattle bled and drowned and died.
The storm's darkness was long, but every darkness must eventually give way to light. The wind sighed its last sigh and vanished, the waves rocked lower and lower, the sky cleared. But the azure waters did not return: the sea was stained with brown and red. The swelling surface was dotted with thousands of carcasses, stretching to the horizons. An archipelago of bloated meat. Too many for even the hundreds of sharks gathered below to conquer. Single ears, orphaned hooves, chips of bone, strips of tail and intestine lay littered between the bodies. A dark fin sliced through the burgundy. The shark bathed her senses in a heady marinade of blood. Her brethren lounged beneath her, bellies stretched taut, blood-thirst quenched, brains dulled with gorging. Still, she cruised the mauve waterways. Near drunk with contentment, she picked at the smorgasbord with a satiated lethargy. The sun shone happily above, lighting the edge of each wavelet with reflections as sharp as glass.
Four bright orange eggs floated amidst the carnage. The cattle transporter's globular lifeboats had weathered the storm without mishap. Inside, the human cargo lived on, the sweat of their breaths coating each other's faces. Reassured by the quiet surrounding them, their white grips loosened from the shirts of loved ones. Breathing heaved a little less frantically. Ears strained for a whisper of the danger that had engulfed them hours ago. There was nothing. Silence.
As the dark fin sank forever beneath the waves, a crack outlined a square piece of orange shell. The square fell inwards, opening a patch of light into the lifeboat's darkness. Inside the orange-tinted gloom, round faces hovered. One after another the crowd of faces grew. One by one they edged forward til they could peer outside. And they stared. And they stared.
This one's for the Gossip Forum's Writing Challenge. The theme was animal stories. Go check it out: Forums/General/Gossup Forum/Writing Challenges :)