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Archive for August, 2012

One of the the…

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One of the themes for Septembers Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Speculative Fiction Writer’s Group meeting was ‘sea monsters’.  And several members of our group did prepare stories featuring a sea monster.  My story was “Anomalosity II”, a continuation of the story I began the previous month.  I’m posting it below.  If you read it, I hope you enjoy!

Anomalosity II

August 2012

 

 

 

On The Baltic

 

 

Loud hissing spray obscured Sven’s observation of what was happening close along the starboard side.

“Bjorn! Something is dragging us to starboard! Are we caught on something?”

Bjorn leaned over the starboard railing of the antique 35 foot lapstrake double ender. It was the pride and joy of Sven Svensons’s family. As family patriarch Sven manned the helm in the tiny wheelhouse, peering out the starboard side window trying to see what the problem was. The fishing vessel’s boom stood out perpendicular from the hull, straining over the starboard side, and the ancient 2 cylinder engine labored against the drag of the net.

“Bjorn! What’s the matter! Bjorn!”

Thomas, Bjorn’s cousin, released the clutch on the boom winch, allowing the net to slip away. The vessel arighted as the stress was relieved. Sven staggered and grabbed the wheel to keep his balance.

“Thomas! What are you doing?”

“The engine can’t take it, Uncle. There’s something big in the net. It’s not just dragging – it’s pulling!”

“Watch out!” Bjorn cried.

A solid thud against the hull knocked them all off their feet.

Sven struggled to get up, blood streaming from his nose. He pulled back the throttle control and the engine revolutions slowed. He steer slightly to starboard, careful not to cross the net lines.

“What was that?” Sven yelled.

“Look!”

Sven locked the wheel and rushed out of the wheelhouse. He immediately saw a long black ridge, longer than the 35 foot boat, that rose above the vessel’s gunnel. Gradually it descended below the waves. With some trepidation Sven moved to the starboard side and looked down.

A huge form lurked just feet beneath the dark green seas.

“Bjorn, Thomas, this is a whale?”

Bjorn was speechless. Thomas stood gape mouthed but managed to say, “I don’t think this is a whale.” His face suddenly lit up and he drew a cell phone from an inside pocket.

“What’s it doing? Bjorn! What’s it doing? Let go the net! Lose the net!”

The great creature arched the back half of its body downward, and as it did the great length of its head rose above the waves. The vertical slit of its bright green eye squarely met the startled gaze of Sven. Its long serrated jaws opened in the semblance of an evil smile. Sven backed into the wheelhouse and felt for the vessel’s radio. He spun the dial to the emergency frequency and yelled at the built-in mike:

“Coast Guard! Coast Guard! We are the fishing vessel Altmark. We are in distress!”

On Campus

“Professor, what do you make of this?”

The faculty head of the Marine Biology Department gave a studied double-take at the contents of the bio-box. Inside the sealed container with the clear top, cradled with packing, was a piece of wood pierced by what looked like a broken tooth, flattish with a keen edge and widening to a thicker core. A pinkish interior was revealed where the tooth was broken..

He pushed his glasses up onto his head and said to the graduate intern, “too bad we only have a piece. I’d like to see what the whole thing looked like. Big. Why don’t we take this to the lab and have a look at it under the microscope.”

They left his office in the faculty building and walked across the busy campus. The fall semester was in full stride and there was a brisk nip in the air. Sweaters and jackets were in evidence everywhere.

He was tall and long legged and his pace was rapid. She skipped just to stay close behind him. They rushed up the front steps to the science building and clattered down a stairway into the basement where they approached a security door. With his left hand on the door handle, he punched a security code into the keypad with his right. She placed her hand over his on the door handle and tried to catch his gaze.

“Please, Claudia,” he said. “Not now.”

Lights came on automatically as they opened the door. The lab was bright and clean: tables lined with glass vessels, hoses, tubes, water taps, and shelves of specimens behind glass fronted cabinets.

“Bring the specimen box over here, Claudia. Let’s get a sample of the dentine into a petri dish.”

They darned lab coats and pulled on laytex gloves. She broke the seals on the specimen box and removed the clear sealed plastic bag containing the piece of wood and tooth fragment. She pulled a red tab that opened a seam on the bag and coaxed the contents into a specimen tray.

She then opened a package of dissecting instruments and picked out a scalpel with a blue plastic handle.

“Where did this come from?” he asked.

“The Coast Guard retrieved it from the site of a ship wreck.”

“At sea or on shore?”

“On the open waters, miles from shore. They noted there was a fuel slick on the surface, but this was floating free from that.”

“And why did the vessel wreck?”

She pointed at the tooth fragment.

“This is not a whale tooth. And whales seldom upset boats at sea. From the structure of this specimen I wouldn’t say this is picene at all. Can you get a scraping from the dentine?”

She applied herself to the task, taking firm hold of the piece of wood and pressing the blade of the scalpel to the exposed interior of the tooth. The light tool felt awkward in her hand. She pressed harder. The tooth suddenly came free of the wood and the scalpel slipped and sliced into her finger.

“Shit!” she cried.

“Clumsy, Claudia. Have you contaminated the specimen?”

“I don’t think so.”

He took the tooth fragment from her.

“Give me a fresh scalpel.”

He held the tooth down firmly, scraped out some whitish substance and swiped it into a specimen container.

“Okay,” he said. “I have this in a medium. Let’s put it in the refrigerator and look at it in the morning. It’s getting late. I need to get a few things done at my office before going home.”

“Do you want me to prepare a few slides? Maybe we could come back tonight when there won’t be interruptions.”

“No. Tomorrow. Put some disinfectant on that cut.”

They left the science building and went separate ways, but she turned and watched him go towards the tram stop instead of this office.

That Night

The soft buzzing… How long had that been going on. She heard the answering machine switch on. Moments later the phone was buzzing again. She reached a hand over and shook her husband. He groaned.

“Leave me alone,” he muttered sleepily.

“Answer the phone, Karl. You know it is one of your students. Tell them not to call so late.”

He sat up on the edge of the bed, his sleeping shorts riding up into an annoying wedgy. The answering machine switched on again. He waited a few moments. The phone didn’t ring. He started to lay back down but felt his wife’s hand against his back.

“Listen to the message, Karl. Look. There’s seven messages there.”

He looked at the phone base and saw the number seven in the tiny window. Seven new messages since they went to bed. The time on the phone base said 3:15AM. He picked up the phone and was about to push the ‘play’ button, but he felt his wife’s hand on his back again.

“No. I want to hear. Play it.”

She turned on the bedside light. She was fully awake now and her eyes were fierce. He pushed the play button and prayed it would not be a female voice.

The first few messages were blank. He could feel his wife’s eyes burning into his back. The fourth message was a female voice: Karen, a graduate student who was not particularly fond of him.

“Pick up, please,” came her tinny voice on the answering machine.

Two more blank messages, and then finally, “I am sorry to disturb your slumber, but something has happened to Claudia. If you care, please call my cell phone.”

She recited a number in a hard voice.

His wife hurrumphed.

“That one must not have sucked up to you.”

“I expect a lot from my students,” he said sharply. “They resent it that I hold them accountable for the work I give them. I’m tired of your insinuations.”

She rolled over and turned out the light. He dialed the number and rose to go to another room.

“Don’t leave. I want to hear,” she said from the dark.

He dialed Karen’s number.

“Hello,” Karen answered.

“I’m sorry. We were both asleep and it took a while to deal with the telephone.”

“Claudia is in the infirmary. She’s very sick. She’s sweating and her skin breaking out.”

“When did all this start?”

“Early last evening. She was complaining of not feeling well. Then she vomited. I cleaned her up and brought her here. They’re going to take her to hospital once they’ve made arrangements.”

“I’ll be right over.”

He started pulling on clothes.

“Where are you going?” his wife asked.

“The infirmary. One of the students is sick.”

“And they need you?” she said.

At the Infirmary

The tires of his Saab ground to a halt as he pulled over on the street outside the infirmary parking lot. The flashing lights of emergency vehicles illumed garishly the building’s exterior. He strode to the entrance but was halted by a policeman.

“You can’t enter, sir,” he said.

“Why not? What’s the matter?”

“Quarantine. Stay back, please.”

Other emergency responders were setting up barriers, and the police were surrounding the building. He dialed Karen’s number.

“Yes,” came her excited response.

“What’s happening, Karen?”

“No one can leave the building. Some of us who had contact with Claudia are getting sick. I’m sweating and I vomited.”

“How’s Claudia?”

“She’s in the isolation room. I can see her through the window. She’s naked on a gurney and I can’t tell if she’s breathing. There are fluids dripping onto the floor beneath her.”

“Where are the staff?”

“Those that haven’t had contact with Claudia are locked in an office.

“Why isn’t anyone helping?”

“They’re afraid! I have pimples on my face and arms, like running sores. They hurt! Excuse me.” He heard the sounds of vomiting, then, “Ugh, I’m sorry. Can’t you help me? Can’t you get me out… “

Then the signal from her phone went dead.

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