The water was like acid slicing through the dryness that had constricted his airways. It burned even to touch his tongue but called up a desperation for more from deep within him. Crell needed more.
He hacked and clawed at his throat and face, his eyes felt like heavy weights were holding them closed but at the same time, with each desperate attempt to blink the weights tore away.
“Crell?!” Rosie’s voice was panicked and muffled, but she was there, right there, her hands touching his face. “Get more water! Those things don’t like water!” She yelled at his crew.
The vessel shook again with a dizzying tail spin before jerking as if it had been caught be something from beneath. Crell tried to open his eyes again but found himself gasping for air.
His body seized from the stabbing chill of more water, and the burn of his flesh sucking it in again. He growled through clenched teeth, holding tightly to Rosie’s hand.
“They’re almost off. They are all almost-” Her voice transitioned from sounds of relief to shrieks of terror. Rosie grabbed hold of Crell’s shirt and pulled him closer to her, nearly smothering him.
The sounds of fear suddenly broke through the dullness of his once blocked ears as more of the growths fell away, retreating from the water. Even his eyes were free to open. He wished they had stayed shut.
The assaulting scent of the creature from below was bad enough; the stench of stagnant water laced with the body rot of other victims who had plunged beneath the blooms was paralyzing. The first of the creatures boarded the vessel, its leather skin stretched taught across jagged bone and rippled muscles. Its face was the shape of a sharp ‘v’ drawn with dark creases exposing teeth like that of a sharks.
It expanded its long clawed arms and let out a cry that forced Rosie to let Crell go. For the first time ever, Crell wished she was still holding on to him, but now she was covering her ears.
The beast stumbled forward, eyes the color of dry blood locked on Crell. “No!” He shouted as another of its kind crawled upon the vessel from behind them.
Crell could hear and breath clearly now. The water had knocked the growths free from his flesh, but he was still a goner. He could feel it in his bones.
“Rosie,” He whispered her name and clutched her hand, uncertain of why she was pulling away from him. Yes, he knew he was a dead man, but they didn’t want her. She could have at least been a momentary comfort until he was pulled below and torn apart.
But she would not stay put. Instead she shoved him away from her with such force that the creatures that hunted him cried out again lunging in his direction until stopping with a quickness that Crell could not read. It was as if they were hypnotized.
“Is this what you want?” Rosie held one of the bloody growths in her hands with several of the others to her chest. The beast from behind her hissed and caused her to stumble forward, but she did not drop her bait. “Crell, crank the engine…” She whispered as she eased forward towards the front of the vessel. The others of the crew had moved out of harms way. The creatures followed Rosie.
More cries from the predators echoed around them as the scent of blood and growths teased their drawn nostrils. An entire pack was on its way. The two on the vessel began to look at Crell again. He tried to crank faster but he was so weak. One of the creatures began to snarl and ease in his direction again, primed to pounce.
“No!” Rosie shouted, hurling one of the larger growths at the creature’s face. Before it could make its deadly move it was knocked from the vessel by the blunt force of its companion seeking after the growth that Rosie had hurled.
“Don’t stop! Crank faster!” The scrapping sound that had all but ceased was beginning to rise again. As if baiting wild hounds, Rosie tossed what was left of the growths as far away from the vessel as she could.
More pollen began to fill the air with the creature’s violent moves towards their reward, but the vessel was close, so close to North End. They were going to make it, blooms and pollen be darned! “Hold on, Crell!”
“Rosie! No!” Crell managed to push out from his belly.
Taking hold of the wheel, Rosie sent the vessel hurling forward with as much intent as she had the growths when she tossed them overboard. Wind whipped up behind them in a smokey blue trail of pollen before the vessel groaned from an unexpected impact as its underbelly hit against a rock face that was well hidden beneath the growth of blooms.
Everyone on board shot forward in wild arcs in the air, splashing like cannon balls into the depths of North Sea.
* * *
Crell couldn’t help but sip up the salted water, dunking his head beneath for good measure. They were only a mile or so from North End now and he could manage the threat of dehydration. After what he had just experienced he was certain he could manage anything, even the violent slap of Rosie’s hand that had just landed against his back.
He turned to her as the burn of his slapped flesh radiated against the coolness of the salt water.
“We did it!” Rosie beamed. “We made it to North End. Well, we did, your vessel not so much.”
Crell scowled deeply at her before forcing her lips into his with such dominance that he was certain he felt her sinking. The crazy woman had cost him his vessel but she had saved his life and knocked him senseless in the process. “Yeah, we made it.” He said, pulling her back upward, smiling at her lips still locked in a heady pucker. “We did indeed.”
I hope you liked this bizarre story and found the “Ending” to be satisfying. As with all of the stories like this, there is somewhat of a tug to write more, as if what has been produced is only a snippet of a larger body of work, and perhaps this is. Only time will tell in the end.