J. S. Welch
In the water, the murky water, Bohemut rose. The lagoon was so dense that the darkness echoed upon itself as Bohemut’s snout broke the oily surface and sent up two plumes of salty mist into the early morning air.
“There he is!” Steven hissed. He pointed, squinting through his stylish horn-rimmed glasses.
“Where?” Michelle whispered.
Steven put his fingers on her binoculars and guided her to the subject’s location.
“Stop it!” Michelle’s voice rose in frustration.
“Shh.” Steven said quietly. “He might hear us.”
Both of them backed a step deeper into the heavy boughs of the forest that towered over the banks of the lagoon.
Bohemut seemed to have heard them, indeed. He lifted his head above the water, his skull alone was the size of a small herd of cattle.
Steven and Michelle held their breath, gazing in awe at the ancient magnificent of the breathing, supple mystery before them. Suddenly, with a whoosh, Bohemut dropped back into the lagoon and disappeared far into its smoky depths.
“Shitake mushrooms.” Steven muttered.
Michelle sighed, disappointed in herself. “At least he stayed a little longer this time.” She inspected her binoculars to make sure they were still clean, then stowed them in their case and absentmindedly handed them to Steven. Steven secured the case to a modified tool belt over his shoulder. “Yeah!” He grew excited “His head was huge!”
Turning, they walked side by side beneath the canopy of the forest. A carpet of grass dampened their footfalls, and they breathed in the sparse fingers of sunlight that crept softly through the morning mist.
“Yeah, massive…” Michelle’s voice trailed off as she gazed up thoughtfully at the fabric of leaves overhead.
Abruptly, Steven gripped her shoulder. She stopped alongside him, and they both saw a shadow step into their path.
“Going walkin’ on an early morning, are we?” asked the shadow.
Michelle glanced at the shadow’s shoulder, trying to discern if the golden patch of a park ranger was knit onto the sleeve.
“What’s it to you?” Steven challenged. Out of the corner of her eye, Michelle saw his hand stray up to his tool belt he still carried over his shoulder. His thumb casually flipped out the butt end of an orange extension cord, its three holes staring innocently out at the forest.
“What’s it to me?” The shadow repeated. “Well, nothing I suppose.” He stretched out his arm towards Michelle, and pointed at her wrist. “What happened there?” He asked.
Michelle shrugged. “I tore my sleeve on a chain link fence the other day.”
“The other day?” challenged the shadow. “Or, more likely, you tore it on a chain link fence this morning entering the park to visit a certain lagoon, “The shadow chuckled, and lit a cigarette.”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about.” Michelle’s voice quivered. She glanced side long at Steven, but he appeared calm, his hand still fingering the cord in his tool belt.
“Who are you?” Steven asked the shadow.
The shadow exhaled heavily, two plumes of smoke rose from his nostrils. “Me? Well I am just a concerned citizen.”
Michelle felt certain that his tone implied something far more menacing.
Still obscure, the shadow managed to lean against a tree trunk. Cigarette in hand, he gestured behind them. “I’ve heard folks say that all sorts of creatures have been spotted in that lagoon; mollusks, shellfish, invertebrates, bony fish, and even the head of the family, so to speak. Some say, at least.” The shadow brought the cigarette back up to his lips.
“Well,” Michelle began, when she saw Steven’s hand suddenly flick out towards the shadow, and the orange cord curled in a wicked coil, holding a braided metal cord with fish hooks woven in. The makeshift whip struck on target, cutting the cigarette in half, and hooking deep into the shadow’s face.
At least, it was supposed to. Michelle blinked. The shadow was gone. Steven’s cord lay upon the grass, and two plumes of smoke rose up from the cigarette halves.
Startled, Michelle looked fearfully at Steven. He looked back at her, and whispered “Michelle! Michelle, wake up!”
Michelle opened her eyes, feeling Steven’s grip on her shoulder. “Look!” He whispered, and pointed towards the lagoon.
Michelle looked, and saw two plumes of smoke (or, mist? She wondered groggily) rising ominously above the oily lagoon.
“Bohemut.” She whispered.
© 2014 J. S. Welch