The smaller corpses were the first to rise. They came in pairs, thirty-five in total, all mutilated and wrecked upon. Gashes, bites, bludgeoned skin and torn muscle. It would have made the Fisherman freeze had he seen them. But he did not, for the bodies were far off and away from the Fisherman who kept his side to his reel and whose tired face clocked the time spent with the extra black rings underneath his eyelids. Like a tree stump. He had been at Lake New Hope since five in the morning and had experienced the wasting away of hours since the turn of the millennium. An old man.
He raised his hook and bait, not a single bite. Then he dropped it again in calm disappointment.
News reports of the days of terror this last month had worn him down and he figured today, today at least he would relax, on the lake waters. Maybe he wanted to drown into the tepid waters, to wash away the news headlines from his memory, those of the abductions and of the murders. But the more he dozed, the more they came back up. Haunted.
It was ten in the morning. Ten thirty-four to be exact when he got his first bite.
He awoke. The Fisherman put his legs against the timber of the boat and brought up his heavy, whining reel. His tongue smacked against the roof of his mouth and he could not hold his bucket hat from falling atop the water and floating like a brown lily pad. His muscles were strained and he wished he was younger. The metal fishing line cut his palm and moved him, dragged him to the inner walls of the boat. He wrestled, he added new scars. His white hairs stuck past his wet skin, what a thrill.
He fought against the bubbling waters, he fought against the rope and with one final yelp he fought against his strained heart. He collapsed on his back. Something went flying above him and landed in the boat.
It was a shirt.
Striped, a polo shirt. Torn to ribbons. His eyes opened and he felt stress wounding him again with a headache. He felt two more rings chiseled underneath his lids. His rod rolled away from him, on the seat of the boat. The Fisherman leaned back. He yelled into his hands. Yelling until his voice croaked.
He looked up, tired as if coming out of a sleepy haze. His red face felt the cool sting of air. He narrowed his eyes to the spot where he had won the shirt, then past that to the blur of a object that floated on the horizon. It was off in the distance, a bump in his vision that interrupted the blinding morning sun. He rubbed his eyes as the mist and dew often guttered his vision. When he opened again, he saw more bumps. More specks. More black foreign bodies. His heart began to beat wildly. The Fisherman looked down the side of his boat and saw spurts. A collection that grew like cancer and swallowed the hull. Festering, alive almost, as it rattled his boat with white fizz. He looked beneath the depths of the dark waters. Was he in a cauldron? Spun in circles from the wooden spoon? No. There was no witch or alchemist. It was something worse, it was the vomit of the sea.
Curiosity bit him as much as fear. He stuck his hand in the water. It felt warm, gassy. He brought it back inside and saw the pinkish red on his palm. It had a sticky viscosity to it. He stood, walked back and tripped over a cooler. He fumbled back to a seat. The violent sound had become all-encompassing, it sounded like an explosion underneath his small boat. He could felt it from his balls to his brains, the trembling roar of the lake. He was going to die. His face lost all color.
“Goddamnit.” He shouted. A geyser came out, a pillar of foaming white. It was erected fifteen, maybe twenty meters high before it shattered into small wet daggers. They struck him. The Fisherman put his hands on his face and against the spray and screamed for dear life as his boat rode the high tide. It jumped, it clapped down and struck water so fast that he could feel the wood break. His boat nearly capsized and he screamed, screamed at every crack and break of the wood. The Fisherman hesitated to stand up but did after a while. He felt bruises and a compression in his head. An eye, swollen. His body, pained all over. He had been thrown like a rag doll in the tempest storm.
His body was still and cold at the ends of his limbs. And the waters returned to calm prosperity, all the noise and all the movement, dead. He stood. His body felt limp. He wiped the water from his face and looked out towards the horizon. His heart stopped, his pulse went faint. The color in his cheeks faded and his eyes turned to humble grey. He stood dead, staring westward. What did he see?
Corpses. Corpses rising from their watery graves. In gentle rhythm. One, two, three, four, up and away towards the rising sun.