The Light Show
A chill wind swept across the water as Ed adjusted his fishing poles. “Become a wildlife forensics specialist they said. It’s a cool sounding job title and you get out in the sun they said,” he grumbled as he crossed the small ship’s deck. “What they don’t tell you...” he continued talking to himself “...is that when there is a missing person on open water, the Wildlife Forensics expert has to fish up the local wild life and cut them open to see if you can find any people bits in them. And because that is so nasty, people think you are crazy and you start talking to yourself.” Making sure the last rod was secure, Ed shuffled into the wheelhouse to make some coffee.
His ship, “The Free Spirit”, was a small fishing/research boat that would have been the height of technology in the 1980s. Sonar, long range radio and an Amiga 1000 was all part of this technological relic. The green glow of the Amiga's monitor cast an eerie shadow upon Ed as he poured his first cup of hot coffee of the night. As he sipped he went over the case files again. The case was odd enough to have grabbed his attention. A charter fishing vessel had come to this area two nights ago for some night fishing. Next day, after only one night, the boat was found adrift, with no sign of the crew or the guests, no sign of struggle, nothing stolen and without damage to the boat. Fifteen souls mysteriously vanished, leaving no clues as to what happened.
A click sound from one of the rods caused Ed to forget the files and put his coffee down. Another click caught his attention enough to where he walked out on the back deck to investigate. As he checked each rod, there was a high pitched squeal of line being pulled out and Ed knew he had a fish on. Grabbing the rod, Ed pulled hard to set the hook. At first Ed thought he might have hooked a shark, but whatever it was didn’t fight like a shark. It was big enough to bend his rod, though. After a 30-minute fight, Ed was greeted with his prize, and a look of confusion and curiosity spread over his face as he pulled it onto the deck.
It was a squid. Which Ed found strange because there was no native squid in this area that grew this big. It was about five feet long, blue in color...no wait - red. Ed was astonished as he realized the squid was changing colors in front of his eyes through bio-luminescence. Going from blue to red to green. Ed reached for the camera phone in his pocket, as most squid could only change from one color to another. But this one was exhibiting three different colors along a set pattern. Blue, red, green. Blue, red, green...blue...red...green. Ed couldn't remember what he was trying to do. All his senses focused on the beautiful light pattern before him. It was so peaceful and so calming, he could feel the colors in his skull. Pulsing with such a warm and loving glow. He wondered if he touched it what it would feel like.
A loud splash from the port side brought Ed back to reality. Blinking a few times to clear his head, Ed tried to remember what had just happened. He knew he caught a squid but he could not remember what had happened after that? When he tried to find the squid, it only added to his confusion as he realized the creature was nowhere on board. Squid are not like octopus, they couldn’t crawl on land and only lay flat and helpless. Ed scratched his head as he tried to figure out how the squid could pull itself overboard. In the end, he knew there was only one way to get the answers to his questions. He must catch another one. Ed knew this wouldn't be hard. Squid were pack hunters so if there was one then it was a safe bet that more were close.
Ed baited his hook and cast the line out. He placed the rod back in its holder and a flash caught his eye in the distance. As Ed adjusted the line, he watched with interest and saw it again- a dim light under the dark waters. It was answered by another off the port side of the Free Spirit. Ed involuntarily counted as each flash was answered by another. He counted fourteen different individual flashes that seemed to be signaling each other in the water. At first it was a jumble of colors running along the spectrum. But as Ed focused on it, they began to mix together and, in unison, began to flash the same pattern as the one he caught earlier. Blue, red, green. Blue…red... green. Again, Ed's senses were assaulted by the dazzling display. He felt a sense of euphoria come over him, a feeling of unity and purpose that he had never felt before. The overwhelming desire to be a part of that unity, that brilliant display of color, was as alien feeling to Ed as it was compelling. He had never beheld such beauty in three simple colors. He had never realized the meaning of such things. He had to understand more, he had to...
“Free Spirit, this is Base Control, over,” the radio squawked loudly. Ed caught his breath as reality crashed back on him. He instinctively raised his arms out to catch his balance as he quickly realized his position. He was teetering on top of the railing on one foot. The other foot was precariously held over the cold sea waters. And Ed was shocked to discover that his next step would have plunged him into its icy embrace. “Free Spirit, come in,” the person on the radio demanded. Ed threw himself backward onto the deck of the boat. He scampered away from the rail drawing in deep breaths like a drowning man finally reaching the surface. With wobbly knees, he stumbled into the wheelhouse and snatched up the radio mic. “Base, this is Free Spirit, o...over” he stammered into the radio. “Free Spirit, you missed your hourly check in. Everything ok? Over.” Ed pressed the send button and then released it as he thought about if everything was indeed ok. “Free Spirit to Base, something odd is going on out here. I’m going to call it a night and head home. Over.” “Roger that, Free Spirit. We will make a note of it, see you in a couple of hours. Base Command out.”
“Enough of this weird shit,” Ed said to himself as he quickly reeled in his rods and secured them. Moving quickly to the wheelhouse, Ed fired up the engines and set a course for home. But as he got underway, the ship lurched violently and Ed discovered that he had lost control of steering. Cussing to himself, Ed grabbed a flashlight and went to the rear of the boat to check the rudder. He cursed his bad luck. This was not the night for him to have mechanical troubles. As he shined the light over the side, Ed's breath caught in his chest and his heart skipped a beat. Wrapped around the rudder was a large squid, its bulbous eye contracting as the light hit it. It was larger than the one he caught - had to be ten feet. Fear crept up Ed’s spine as he realized the big squid was using its powerful water jets to push the boat. A sudden wet thump against the hull caused Ed to dash to the port side and shine his light in the water. He watched, horrified, to see dozens of squid hitting the side of his boat as if steering it in the way they wanted it to go. Ed ran to the wheelhouse, he had to call Base Camp, he had to tell them what was going on. But as he picked up the radio mic, he saw something out of the front glass. Flashes of light under the water. Hundreds of them. And they were all pulsing in the same pattern. Blue, red, green, blue...red...green. With a soft clatter, the radio mic slipped from Ed's limp hand to the floor as the lights unveiled how beautiful and wonderful it all would be. It was as if the universe beckoned and he longed to be a part of it.
Sergeant Bill Donahue of the port authority grumbled as he exited the wheelhouse of the Free Spirit.
“Anything?” his partner asked.
“Nothing,” the old Sargent replied. “Same as the last one. No boat damage, nothing stolen, no sign of a struggle. Just one Edward Singleton missing without a trace.”
Bill's partner flipped through the missing person’s report. “Says here he is a wildlife forensic specialist. What the hell is that?”
“Glorified fisherman that gets paid too much.” Bill said with a laugh. When his partner didn't reply to the joke, Bill looked at him and noticed that something had caught the other man’s eye. Hopping back to his boat, Bill walked over next to his partner and asked, “Ya see something?”
His partner pointed to a part of the ocean, and after a few seconds Bill saw a sudden flash of light in the darkening landscape.
“Is it some kind of emergency signal or is it organic?” his partner asked, adding, “Seems to be some kind of pattern.”
Bill nodded. “I see it, I’m making out blue, red, green…”
“Hey get out your camera phone,” his partner said suddenly excited. “I bet if we put it on YouTube, it would go viral!”
Joey Payne enjoys writing post-apocalyptic novels and horror short stories. His first release, a book set in a grim future world, entitled Love and Radiation (Book 1 of his Radiation Tales series)
was published in October of 2012 and is currently available via Amazon's Kindle and Kindle App Store.
Joey is a Georgia boy and lives with his wife and children in his beloved home state. He also loves river boating, fishing and collecting antique firearms, which he shoots often to help him concentrate.