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The Poseidon Pact
Lisa Criss Griffin
The artificial coral reef off the coast of Oak Island, N.C. was teeming with nocturnal life. Feathery fingers covering the various corals growing on the sunken trawler waved gently in the soft surges of saltwater. Sponges dotted the reef, hiding sleeping fish from predators. A small octopus quickly changed colors to match the coral around it. The cephalopod’s camouflage was amazingly successful, considering the clientele the reef had drawn that night. Morgan gazed up at the full moon through the clear water, appreciative of the bright illumination of the silvery world under the calm sea. He coasted over the top of the reef, noticing the shapely form of his beloved Maree hovering above him, her beautiful long blonde hair fanning out above her head.
A pod of spotted dolphins had noticed her too. They approached Maree, clicking and whistling as they playfully swirled around her. Morgan heard her delighted laugh as one friendly fellow played a version of follow the leader with her, matching her, head tilt for head tilt. Both Morgan and Maree had always loved dolphins. Even the juvenile dolphins exuded immense intelligence. All you had to do was look into their eyes to be aware of it…and something else. They were kind. They looked after their own and sometimes others.
The trauma of an evening of foolishness long ago was forever seared into Morgan’s memory. Dolphins had saved him from certain death that night. His buddies Douglas and Hurley had dared him to float on the surface of the ocean, just beyond the breakers from sunset to moonrise. He was just a young fellow, but certainly old enough to know better. Still, he was an adventurer, and he felt invincible at the time.
It was a calm evening. The water gently cradled and rocked Morgan as he lay face up on the ocean surface. He recalled the beauty of the scarlet-golden sunset, casting colorful rays across the deceptively still water. The gold-tipped lavender waves close to the shoreline rose, crashed, then slid serenely back down the beach. He could barely make out the scarlet tinted bubbles left trailing behind in the warm, white sand.
The tranquil water beneath him unexpectedly exploded into a roiling froth. Morgan felt something smooth and rubbery slide underneath him, tossing him upward, out of the ocean! The impact thrust him sideways into the air, seconds before a large, gaping maw of serrated teeth sliced through the empty patch of water he was just thrown from. Morgan froze in the water a mere fifteen feet away, watching in horrified fascination as his rescuers surrounded the predator. Intense whistles, aggressive clicking, and sounds of multiple thuds filled his ears. The pod of dolphins rammed the shark relentlessly. The ocean was a boiling cauldron of fins, bubbles and large, rubbery bodies pounding the predator harshly, driving the shark away from its intended prey. Needless to say, after that experience, nobody was a bigger fan of dolphins than Morgan.
The distant purr of a ship’s motor brought Morgan back to the present. Both the dolphins and Maree turned towards the approaching sound, curious as to why such a powerful boat was running so close to shore at this time of night. The commercial traffic was either already in port or anchored at sea, awaiting instructions from the port authorities. Due to the heavy military presence in these waters from the base up the coast, Morgan doubted the ship was foreign.
The engine slowed and idled. The sound of a hefty chain rattled ominously, then stopped as the anchor plunged into the sand. The running lights were off, or at least not visible. Maree looked over to Morgan and shrugged. She turned to resume her play with the dolphins, but they had lost interest and were searching for snacks in the reef.
Maree swam towards Morgan, rejoining him above the reef. The normal chatter of fish and aquatic mammals suddenly went silent. Something was wrong. A percussive sonic blast rolled them both beyond the sunken trawler towards the shore. They grasped their heads in agony. Intense vibrations sizzled through their bodies, convulsing them both as they spun helplessly above the floor of the ocean. Morgan collided with one of the dolphins. Their eyes met for an instant before the dolphin rolled away. The fear and agony in the dolphin’s eyes matched his own. Morgan was aware of being caught up in the pull of the surf, but he was completely disoriented. As he slowly regained the use of his body, he struggled to make his way back to the relative safety of the reef.
The next thing he recalled was the grating of sand on his belly as the waves washed him up onto the shore. The world was spinning before his eyes. He closed them to avoid being sick. Another wave rolled in. Something slid up close to him in the surging water, bumping his arm. He looked quickly, nausea clenching his belly. It was Maree. He grabbed her and held on to her, pulling her close to him when the next wave flowed over their bodies.
She groaned, afraid to open her eyes. Soft whistles of distress drifted past the couple. The pod of dolphins was beached along with them! Their poor friends. They would be helpless until the tide came back in. At least it was night and the sun wouldn’t burn their rubbery skin. Morgan lay heavily in the sand, his arm wrapped around Maree, clasping her mottled blue body to his own. They had no choice. They would have to wait for the painful effects of the sonic blast to resolve enough for them to help their friends back into the ocean at high tide. Morgan closed his eyes, praying to his Creator for mercy on them all. He finally succumbed to the welcome relief of unconsciousness…unaware of the passage of time.
The dim light of dawn was all Billy and Baxter Erwin had been waiting for. They carried their fishing poles, tackle box, and bait bucket down the short strip of road that led to the entrance to the beach at the point. Sometimes they were early enough to watch the fishing boats make their way past the end of the island, out into the cobalt blue ocean. The young brothers spent almost every waking hour on the beach, fishing, hunting for shells or just exploring.
Billy was older and was required to keep his cell phone with him so he could check in with their parents regularly. He had discovered a love for photography and was always looking for things to photograph and video if the fishing was slow. Baxter was several years younger and was happy digging holes and poking various things with the long, stiff reeds that were strewn across the sand.
The boys unloaded their fishing gear at their usual spot. Seagulls swirled overhead, hovering above the young anglers in their eternal quest for a free meal. The boys sat on the sand as they chose the proper weights and hooks for their morning fishing. The gulls moved on, too impatient to wait for them to pull out their bait. Billy and Baxter stopped what they were doing to watch a shrimper navigate through the channel towards the open ocean. The men on the boat waved to the boys, having seen the little fishermen there many times over the last few years.
“Look! There’s Captain Redbeard and his mates Pegleg Pete and Pirate Joe!”
The boys waved back enthusiastically. They had no idea what the seamen’s real names were, so they gave them fun-sounding names that only the two of them knew. They continued to wave and watched the boat head out to sea.
“Hey, Billy. What is all that stuff on the beach over there?”
“Hmmmm? Over where?”
“Around the bend a little. Don’t you see it?”
“Yeah. That is strange, Baxter. Wonder what it is?”
“Maybe a pirate ship washed in overnight!”
“Maybe…do you want to go see what it is before we start fishing?”
Baxter nodded his head enthusiastically and found a long, sturdy reed…good for poking things with. Billy removed the cartons of shrimp pieces from the plastic bait bucket, placing them in the shade of the dune behind their fishing poles. Their fishing poles were already upright in the pole holders driven down in the sand. Billy joined Baxter, the empty bucket swinging in his hand. One never knew…they might find something collectible. The boys made their way down the beach, noticing it was close to high tide. They had to walk single file between the dunes and the strip of beach that was yet unclaimed by the water for a short way. The beach widened out as they rounded the bend. Billy ran into Baxter, who had stopped dead in his tracks.
“Oh no! Look at all the dolphins. They are stranded. The poor things! Can we help them, Billy?”
“Maybe. Look how dry their skin is. We need to wet them down and get some help for them.”
“I love dolphins! What do you think happened to them?”
“I don’t know. Let’s wet them down and then we can decide what to do next.”
The boys started with the dolphins closest to them. Billy poured water over the animals and Baxter spread the liquid over their rubbery skins, murmuring encouragement to the stranded mammals. They had doused the last dolphin when Baxter noticed something else a little farther down the beach. Billy had gotten his phone out and was taking video of the dolphins to send to their parents. Baxter picked up his reed and began walking down the beach.
“Hey Baxter! Where are you going?”
“There is something else down here. Come on!”
Billy sent the video to his parents along with a quick text, before catching up with his brother. They approached a couple of elongated, mottled blue lumps partially buried in sand. The curiosity of the brothers outweighed their caution. Part of the colorful heap had long blonde hair fanned across it. The tide was beginning to wash up over the end of the iridescent blue figures.
Baxter poked the side of the closest blue lump gently with his reed. There was no reaction. He poked it again in several places before moving up towards the hairy area. He turned around and looked at Billy.
“I don’t know what this is, Billy. Hey, take a video of me!”
Billy laughed and started the video. Baxter was an interesting kid. He did wonder what in the world Baxter had found. A large wave rolled up the beach and splashed over the iridescent blue mass. Baxter poked the lumps through the silvery blonde hair with his reed.
A mottled blue man with a large dolphin-like tail and webbed hands unexpectedly rose up from the sand, grabbing the reed from Baxter’s small hand while screaming in an oddly beautiful voice. His large, expressive eyes were a deep cobalt color mixed with flecks of gold. Baxter stumbled backward in surprise and ran for his brother. The merman pulled a lovely female version of himself from the sand and together they rolled over and over into the sea, her long blonde hair floating in the water before disappearing into the gentle waves. The brothers stood together in shock as the video continued filming the ocean, forgotten in Billy’s hand.
“Are you okay, Baxter?”
“Yes. It just, it just…surprised me. It could have hurt me, but it didn’t want to. They just wanted to get away, that’s all. They were really pretty. I liked them. Were they…mermaids, Billy?”
“I think so, but I don’t really know. Sailors used to see them a long time ago. There are a lot of stories about them. We may be the only two people alive who have seen them recently.”
“I wonder what would happen to them if we told everybody we saw them?”
“Aww, nobody will believe us, Billy!”
“I have them on video, Baxter.”
“Oh yeah? Let me see!!!”
Billy restarted the last video on his phone. The boys watched the whole experience with the mermaids replay before them.
“They will be hunted down if we show anyone this video, Baxter. They didn’t hurt us. I don’t think we should let people chase them.”
“Yeah, they were nice. We need to protect them.”
“This means we can never tell anyone about them. Not even Mom and Dad. Not ever. Can you, will you agree to keep this secret with me?”
“Yes, I will.”
“Let’s make a pact. A blood pact.”
Billy picked up the reed the merman had thrown on the sand. He broke the end off and pricked his finger and Baxter’s finger. The brothers pressed their fingers together, their secret pact sealed. The boys walked back towards the beached dolphins.
Their father and mother appeared around the bend on the tiny strip of sand by the dunes. They were followed by a group of officials, who immediately began an organized rescue operation for the dolphins. The boys were allowed to help with the rescue until their mother recognized they were getting tired. The little family made their way back around the point to collect their fishing gear and bait. They trudged back through the sand to the road that led back to their beach house. Somebody had erected a road closed sign, and a military officer was stationed nearby to keep gawkers off the beach until the dolphins were taken care of.
It wasn’t until years later, that Navy Seals Billy Erwin and Baxter Erwin learned of the Sonic Weapons developed by the military. Records revealed a Sonic Weapon had been tested off Oak Island, N.C. around the time the young brothers found the dolphins, the merman and his mermaid. The secret childhood pact of Billy and Baxter Erwin remains intact to this day.
Copyright © 2020 Lisa Criss Griffin
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