Brine

By J. W. Wright

“The lighthouse should be right on that island over there.” 


I look around, knowing full well that it was pointless in this complete lack of light. I call back to him. But he doesn’t respond. He knows what we need to do.


 “I’m going to toss you into the water.” he states so plainly that it may have been an everyday occurrence. 


“When you hit the surface, don’t think about it... just start swimming.”


I nod, even though I know he can’t see. I’ve always been a good swimmer. Mom always said that I’d make the olympics one day. My parents spent a lot of money on swimming lessons after all. I felt like I owed it to them, to at least be good at something. And I knew I had to make it. I was the only one who could.


He didn’t waste any time. He lifted me up, and threw me over the side of the boat we were on. I’d have never jumped into the water on my own. They all knew that.


I hit the water with a loud splash. I made sure to take a nice deep breath right before I hit the surface. I felt myself going under, the cold water sending a shock through my whole body, causing me to expel some of the air I held in my lungs. I strained. It was ice cold. But I couldn’t think about that now. I raced for air; the black void around me threatening to swallow me up with every second. I breached the surface. I listened in the darkness. The only sound I heard was the crashing of the waves. This was it. I was alone now.


I always fancied the breast stroke. I found it to be the quietest of all the strokes. If I did it right, it didn’t make any sound at all. I always called it the “ninja stroke”. I had to be quiet.


Ever since the sky went black, the things that used to be at the bottom of the ocean all started coming to the top. And with a lot more room and a lot more food to eat, they got a lot bigger. And I say “coming” to the top because dad told me they didn’t all swim. He said there were some things down there that walked just like us. Walked on the bottom of the ocean floor. And they walked right out into the land. Killed a bunch of people. Almost everyone I knew. They had these hard shells that... the bullets didn't work. That’s what dad kept screaming. “The bullets don’t work, god damnit!” He was a fisherman. Always used to being at sea. I guess they smelled it. Smelled the sea on him and knew he didn’t belong. He didn’t put up much of a fight. There were too many of them. My brother, Eric... he’s the one who took me. Picked me up and carried me. Carried me into our hiding spot. We hid until we ran out of food. Until we absolutely had to move. And then... we ventured out to dads boat at the dock.


You may think we’re foolish to come out here in a boat. And you’re right. That’s why Eric threw me overboard. He told me I had to go to the lighthouse and turn on the generator. That it would turn the light on. These creatures... they don’t like the light. And since the sun doesn’t shine in the sky anymore... we figure that lighthouse is the brightest light around... and the light rotates around so it will keep me safe from all sides. Eric told me that if I turned the light on I’d finally be safe. But I just had to make it there. Eric knew when he threw me off the boat he’d never see me again. He knew the boat was a sitting target. A decoy. He jammed the throttle to full as soon as he threw me off the boat. He couldn’t see where he was going. But it didn’t matter. No matter where he went he’d still end up in Davy Jones’ Locker.


I heard it in the distance. The boat, cracking and splintering as it was dragged under the waves. I thought I heard a scream. But I hoped it was just my imagination. 


It’s hard not to imagine things in the darkness.  When you’re swimming in a pitch-black sea, with a black sky, you start to lose your sense of direction. All sense of your own self is just gone. You exist in nothingness. Your destination exists in nothingness. With each passing stroke you wince as you just swear you feel something brushing your foot. Perhaps it’s just some bubbles or sea foam. Maybe a piece of seaweed. But maybe it’s not.


I make my way in the general direction that Eric told me to go. I feel like it’s the right way. He told me the waves would be coming from behind me, and well, that’s where they’re coming from.


The waves crash louder and louder as I make my way towards what I can only pray is the shore of the small island that contains the lighthouse. I know from the increasing volume and rocks that I am arriving at least at some type of land mass.


As I rush to exit the water, I scrape my leg on a piece of jagged rock. “Son of a bitch!” I whisper through gritted teeth... that’s what my dad would have said if he sustained the same injury. I feel my leg. It’s wet. Of course. But it feels different. It feels like... blood. Oh god. Not now. You see, just like our beloved sharks of the deep, these creatures... though mostly blind, have an exceptional sense of smell. They can smell a drop of blood up to five miles away. And I didn’t know how many of these things were in five miles... but I knew it was a lot.


I bounded up the shore. Stumbling and sloshing as I trudged through the sand. I felt the white powdery substance sticking to my clothes and scraping against my skin as I made my way up the shore.


I felt in the darkness, feeling for any kind of sign of a lighthouse. After a few moments of doing so... I felt a man made path under my feet. A good sign. Now I just needed to follow it away from the water and hopefully this would get me where I needed to go.

A few dreadful minutes passed as I cautiously but briskly made my way up the path. I felt my foot knock into what felt like a set of stairs. I jammed my toe and wanted to cry out... but I already had a trail of blood... I didn’t need a sound giving away my location as well.


I reached out and felt a hand rail. I walked up the stairs as fast as I could go, feeling in front of me for any sign of a door. My hands suddenly smacked right into what felt like a solid piece of wood. I felt around. Fumbling in the darkness. I found a doorknob. I went to turn it and... locked.  Of course. And I didn’t have a key. So what was I supposed to do now?


I started to make my way around to the other side of the stairs. Feeling for some sort of a window. Maybe I could break it and get in.


I started to reach out to touch it when I suddenly stopped. I noticed something particularly eerie about the moment I was experiencing right now. The waves... had stopped. The sound all around me had completely stopped. And suddenly, the smell of brine was... overpowering. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I knew something was very wrong.

I decided to stand very still. Maybe if I tried to be quiet and slow my breathing it would go away. I sat there in the silence. Slowly... miraculously... the sounds of the sea resumed. Things seemed to be going back to normal. I breathed a sigh of relief and began to make my way back around the lighthouse. I was determined to find a way in. I reached my hand out in the darkness and felt something... squishy. Something undoubtedly fishy. My heart stopped. A tentacle reached out, and wrapped around my neck. It began to squeeze. My world that was already black, began to get ever blacker as I fought for air.

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