Acipenser -- Here be Sea Monsters

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17 of The Bestiary A sea monster witnessed by a group of sailors.

The Bestiary

Acipenser -- Here be Sea Monsters By: Tyvara

A sailor spends much of his life on the open sea. A pirate has his sea legs until the day he dies.


Daniel gripped the side of the ship as he vomited into the ocean. His long ears flopped forward, but clear of the trail of sea sickness that he dumped into the water. When the moment passed, his legs shook and he gripped the wooden floor with his large rabbit toes, so he wouldn't fall when he pushed away from the railing. He turned around and slumped against the ledge and slid to his rear. His knees shook, and his empty stomach gurgled. Maybe the life of a privateer isn't as glamorous as I thought it would be.

While he waited for the rocking to subside, he took in deep mouthfuls of air. His long ears drooped to either side of his face. The smell of spew tinged his nostrils with an acrid odor that permeated down his throat. He looked up at the sky, but the mast traced sweeping lines across the vast blueness above him, only intensifying the constant swaying of the ship. So Daniel hung his head between his knees.

"Oh, Danny Boy!" The gruff salty voice of the boatswain, twanged with a melody. He thumped his thick otter tail against the mast to get Daniel's attention. "When yer done yackin' up yer breakfast, yer on deck duty." He tossed a mop and bucket at Danny's feet.

Looking at the mop and the empty bucket, Daniel's lip curled of its own accord. More because of the sloshing soapy water he'd have to fill the bucket with, which would only reinforce the ship's motions. Not like anyone really cares when the cabin boy gets seasick. It just serves as more fuel for the mocking.

"Come on boyo." The boatswain came to the railing, leaning against it on his arms. "Ya can't let the ocean get to ya. The sea knows when yer unsure of her, and she'll take ya for a ride."

Pushing from where he sat, Daniel stood and picked up the mop and bucket, leaving the boatswain to chatter to himself. I don't need some old sea dog telling me anything about the ocean. My dad spent his life out here, and seasickness will pass. Once he filled the bucket with soapy water he began the day long task of swabbing.

Without food in his stomach, the swell of the ship affected him less. Yet every time he dunked the mop into its bucket, the splosh of soapy water caused a tinge of bile to creep up his throat.

Working from one side of the ship to the other, he did his best to avoid looking over the edge, fearing of the ocean's constant slapping against the ship as it sailed through open water. Lords only knew what's down there, and Daniel saw no rush in catching a glimpse of those mysteries. His father had told him enough stories to keep his eyes firmly fixed on the deck.

On one of his passes, he neared the edge, and a heavy thump against the ship sent the bucket toppling. His heart pounded in his chest as he scrambled to retrieve his equipment.

A few deck hands, lounging around, perked at the sudden motion. "Hey, Danny Boy." A wolf called out with a swat to his friend, a scraggly rat. "Dumpin' yer bucket won't getcha out of deck duty. We all had our rounds of cabin boy. Just 'cause yer daddy lived for the sea, doesn't make you exempt."

Daniel glared at the two as they chuckled. "I didn't do anything. Something rammed the ship."

The rat nodded. "Of course, Danny Boy. It's always something stepping in your way."

He shook his head, but before he could utter a retort, something rammed the ship again, sending Daniel sprawling into the puddle of spilt mop water.

From above in the crow's-nest a sharp whistle sounded, and a strong voice rang out, "Stand fast! Secure the rigging. There be demons in these waters!"

With that, the entire crew swarmed onto the deck. Daniel took his mop and bucket, and retreated to a spot out of the way. If they needed him, they'd call, but it wouldn't save him from teasing if he stood around like a lump. As he made it to his shelter by the cabin's stairs, the ship lurched again.

"It's an Acipenser!" Someone shouted.

"Shit," Another voice from farther off, "I see fins. We're sailin' through a whole pod of 'em."

"Get those sails down!" The sentry from the crow's-nest shouted. Over the rim of the nest, Daniel saw the distant figure hanging. "Looks like we may have a jumper. Everyone grab on to something!"

The ship pitched hard to one side, sending an ocean wave onto the deck. Daniel gripped the thick banister as the rush of water pulled his feet out from under him. He watched a few sailors slide across the deck and hit the side with a gut-wrenching thunk. One, a small mouse, spun over the edge into the sea. Immediately, the ship dipped in the opposite direction sending another wave onto the ship.

As the wave washed onto the boat, a huge black form sprung from the water. Its gigantic head emerged and launched into the air, dragging its huge black body with it.

Daniel wrapped both arms around the banister, watching the huge fish monster sail over the top of the ship. Its scales glinted as he cleared the mast, and the beast opened its mouth wide showing rows of pointed teeth. The eyes, bulbous, yellow and close to the front of its head, held pupils that dilated while it scanned the ship. For a split second, Daniel could have sworn their eyes met.

When another wave followed the motions of the jumping Acipenser, Daniel simply stared. His mouth hung so low a splash of salt water washed down his throat, which he vomited.

Once its tail sailed over the mast, its head submerged into the sea. As its tail hit the water, it smacked against the ship's railing, the force cracking the wood and taking a chunk with it into the deep. Afterward, a few more Acipensers rammed the ship, but no more jumped the mast. Daniel continued to grip the banister, his eyes darting to either side of the ship. Please, just don't let that happen again.

Moments of silence passed before the sentry in the crow's-nest blew his whistle for the 'all clear'. Only then did the crew regroup, milling about the deck.

Their awestruck chatter didn't register with Daniel. His mind remained mired in images of the gigantic Acipenser and the mouse lost over the side. If I couldn't have hung on, that might have been me -- lost at sea, food for the monsters. He continued to cling to the banister.

His mind reeled, while the sailors all chuckled over their near escape. They joked, but Daniel didn't hear their words. As much as he admired his father, sailing hadn't turned out quite as wonderful as his father had described.

After all this I don't think I want my sea legs. A life on dry land sounds far safer than a lifetime at sea. At the next port, he planned to disembark; any manual labor had to be better than dealing with the demons of the deep.

The End


Author's Notes:

According to the book, Acipenser was the name given to a giant fish in the 16th century. They had scales on backwards (opening toward the front instead of the rear), so they swam slower than other fish, but because of their huge size, no one hunted them. Apparently, these sightings were probably whales or giant sturgeon (the fish caviar comes from).

I don't often write stories about sailors, so this was interesting. Also, it's hard to write about boats when you know little to nothing of boat terminology. Fortunately I've at least been on quite a few boats.

Thanks for reading. There are still more creatures to be had, check in a few days for the next ones.