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Chicken of the Sea
To the old woman he was like a scientific anomaly: something that should not have existed but stood there in front of her none-the-less. He was, to put it bluntly, the most beautiful man Mary Robinson had ever seen.
When he entered the small room where the retirement seminar was being held he couldn’t immediately find a seat. He stood in the aisle for a moment which allowed Mary to guess his age – probably 32 - and his height at well over six feet. This was head and shoulders above the seniors who were already seated comfortably in the resort lecture hall.
His skin was flawless, a deep coffee color, his jet black hair was curly and swept back away from his face. His black eyebrows framed deep eyes that were as dark as a cloudless night and yet as shiny as black pearls. When he took the seat in front of her, Mary wondered if she should say something, anything. But she decided to let it pass.
She checked her watch. It would be another fifteen minutes before the meeting started. To distract herself, she decided to call her niece. She heard Jill’s phone trill three times before the teenager answered.
“Hi Aunt Mary,” her niece said with a rush. “I don’t have many minutes left – but what’s going on?”
“I’m here in Buff Ledge, at that seminar I told you about.” There was a pause as Mary listened. “I know you didn’t want me to come but I’ll be fine here all by myself…No, I don’t know how long I’ll stay, I might stay for a couple of weeks. I like the beach and the marina…Okay, okay, I won’t keep you. Bye.” The phone on the other end had clicked off before Mary finished her sentence.
It was then that the mysterious man turned around to her and smiled. “Don’t you just hate that…when kids rush you off the phone because they’re in a hurry? – What’s so important? – Getting to level 89 on Candy Squash?”
She allowed herself to chuckle, probably too loudly.
“I’m Franklin,” said the amazing man, holding out his hand.
Mary gladly gave him a handshake. “I’m Mary. But are you certain you’re in the right place? This is a seminar on retirement.”
“I’m thinking about becoming an instructor in this field, so…”
Mary smiled, relieved. Plausible enough.
“I’ve had some success in business and would like to pass the how-tos along. In fact, I have a boat parked in a slip at the marina, the one you said you enjoy so much. I’m having a small gathering over for dinner tonight, some friends my age and half-a-dozen seniors from these groups. You should come. You’d enjoy Lake Champlain even more from the deck of a yacht.”
Mary surprised even herself when she actually took advantage of the young man’s invitation. She was wearing nice slacks and a white linen shirt as she walked down the peer to where Franklin’s yacht, the Chicken of the Sea, was located.
“I’m so happy you could make it,” he told her, taking her hand and welcoming her aboard. There were other seniors there, about a dozen, mulling about on deck and in the galley, where dinner was ready to be served eventually.
"Are there enough guests, Franklin?" Mary overheard a crew member ask. She thought this seemed odd as the question would usually have been was there enough food for the guests. Maybe she had just overheard the question incorrectly.
Franklin smiled and nodded. "There should be plenty for everyone. No one will go away hungry, I can assure you. Ring the bell, when the meal is ready." Obviously Mary had misunderstood the original question - her hearing wasn't as good as it used to be.
With a flourish, Franklin announced that dinner was served.
The menu was full of fresh seafood and wine. Mary felt the boat pull away from the dock. The conversation around the lavish table was lively, which the old woman enjoyed.
“It’s a shame it will be too cloudy tonight to enjoy the alignment,” said John, one of the seniors, midway through the meal.
“Ah yes! Jupiter and Venus. It would be an exciting viewing if the skies were clear,” answered Franklin. “It’s good to have another scientific mind aboard.” The host smiled at his guests, obviously pleased. “You know, I have always held to the notion that life under the oceans has continued to evolve, just as life on land. I believe, in fact, that during the millions of years that surface creatures dragged themselves onto the beaches, life below the waves continued to evolve at an amazing pace.”
John took up the gauntlet, gladly, eager for a good debate. “There is no evidence of any intelligent creatures in the sea. At least, no more intelligent than dolphins, perhaps.”
“By intelligent I assume you mean a lack by undersea creatures of Descartes’ el Cogito. ‘I think therefore I am’.”
“Exactly! If there were creatures who were self-aware in the oceans there would be cities, immense populations that we would have discovered during the past century.”
There was a small distraction at this point as something seemed to swipe a guest's leg - although the waiter's body was clearly to the right of the chair. "Are you dragging something behind you?" asked the elderly man. "What was that?"
Franklin immediately jumped in. "Since Vernes has offended you, he will withdraw." The waiter quickly backed out of the room, leaving only two wait staff in the room. “Sorry about the upset, John. Now where were we? Oh yes, you’ll have to concede that scientists know less about the bottom of the ocean than the surface of Mars. I'm just saying that if life had continued to evolve in the Seas, they would be so advanced that they could easily hide their cities.”
“Interesting, but not provable,” said the old man, lifting a glass of wine towards his host.
“Perhaps the proof is right in front of you, but you just can’t see it,” said the beautiful man.
John laughed. “It sounds as if you are saying you yourself have seen one of these underwater cities. How would they produce energy underwater?”
The host almost snarled. “Perhaps they use energy produced by the bursting of bubbles underwater…”
“I’ve seen that,” injected Mary. “Bubbles give off light when they burst underwater. I saw that on the web.” The woman seemed pleased at how web-savvy she was.
“Exactly! The deeper the depth, the greater the energy given off, an unending source of power for gigantic civilizations on the ocean’s bottom.”
John was growing irritated, and it showed. “I’ll ask you directly, sir. Are you professing that you have special knowledge of these underwater creatures, so evolved that they can cloak their existence?”
"The host laughed as though he had been found out, before turning deadly serious. “I tell you directly sir, that I am a member of a race of beings that at one time were kept by undersea masters. I am descended from dinosaurs that millions of years ago were kept in undersea zoos for the enjoyment of the masters, before the asteroid hit. When that chunk of rock ended my kind’s existence on land, many of us continued to evolve inside of vast underwater caverns, cared for by our masters – who eventually reached transcendence – and they moved into a purely spiritual form. We on the other hand are still physical and always hungry.”
"You can't be serious, sir!" demanded John.
"Oh but I am," said Franklin. "Deadly serious."
"You are a madman!" said John, rising to leave the table. Many now thought they saw a scaled creature looking through a porthole.
"What is going on here?” shouted Mary.
The beautiful man smiled a wide grin. “As humans call tuna the ‘chicken of the sea’ – we call humans the ‘tuna of the land’.” He threw his head back and laughed. “Who is going to miss you? I listened closely to your conversations with your families. No one will come looking for you. Your young people are filled with preservatives and additives…but you older ones are still mostly additive-free.”
“Your appearance may be beautiful, sir,” said Mary, “but your humor is ugly!”
At this their host stood up, looking down upon all of them. “Perhaps you would find my appearance closer to the truth if I looked like this!” And saying this, Franklin‘s form began to morph - along with his wait-staff. His skin turned to scales, his amazing smile turned to rows of sharp, pointed teeth, his hands became claws with opposable thumbs.
There was chaos now as the guests ran upstairs, into the arms of the captain and the waiters. Someone was ringing the bell continuously now, as other lizard-like creatures crawled over the sides of the boat, onto the deck in a feeding frenzy. “Yes, no one will go hungry tonight, indeed."
Within the luminous pre-dawn light of a brand new day, a yacht was bobbing in the ocean like a cork on an endless sea of robin-egg blue. Onboard the boat twenty scaled, toothed, and clawed creatures lay on the deck, happily sleeping off the over-indulgence of the night before. If any humans had seen the sight, they would have thought it terrifying – dino-people snoozing away in scarlet pools of human blood.
“I love these little fishing trips of ours,” Franklin said to the dino-captain. “I’m so glad the Alueteans allow us to take these vacations.”
“I’m with you Franklin. Helps to ease the stress of the day to day.”
Suddenly, from the darkness that surrounded them, a glowing orange bubble could be seenspeeding towards them. “I guess our masters still love us,” sighed Franklin. Then he was up and shouting, “Time to wake up! Our ride’s here!”
The rest of the dino-people raised their head groggily, stretched, and walked towards the liquefied craft. Each one hovered over the water briefly before being taken inside, passing through the bubble-esque walls.
When all the others were onboard, Franklin gave a signal to the Captain to set the bomb to explode in three minutes. Then the two hovered towards their ride home to the Aleutean cities, making plans to ‘do this again real soon’. As the glowing bubble sped off over the water an implosion occurred behind them, like a tiny star winking out of existence, vaporizing a very specific area of the sea.
“You know,” said one of the former night’s waiters, “it always makes me laugh when you say that ‘Tuna of the Land’ thing.”
“Yes, yes, yes,” chuckled Franklin. “Did you see how that woman freaked when I said that? What was her name?”
“Oh right, Mary” – and everyone within earshot broke out laughing as the sea-craft plunged into the vast depths of the ocean.
micheledutcher - Thanks JDR - Other writers early on were saying I needed to show more and tell less - so that's what I did. That's a great thing about QM, truly, the ability to get critiqued and change the story before it goes online. Beyond that, chomp!
rt pretty good, HA!
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