Appeared in Perpetual Magazine 3/2008
…not that it matters, but this story is based on an actual event…
You’d have thought everything in the world was going to go just right. The sky was crystal clear, the waters in the Gulf of Mexico were a shimmering emerald green and a light fresh sea breeze kept us all just cool enough.
Yeah, were we ever fooled.
The year was 1962. Me and three of my friends, Vick, Jack and Marty were bored with summer jobs and girls that said, ‘no’ too much. We decided to spend a day out snorkeling in the waters off Pensacola’s beach.
We packed up the cooler with as much beer and water as it would hold, stuck it in Jack’s big, inflatable army raft and headed out for the Meyer Mancel, one of the oldest wrecked ships in the bay. I think it went down around the time of the not- so- Civil- War and a good chunk of the hull still breaks the water’s surface. Amazing, you wouldn’t think it would still be there.
It wasn’t a bad time, lot’s of talking and drinking, laughing about who was and wasn’t making it to college in the fall; who’d got laid and who was lying about it. You know, the usual crap.
But this was before the days of Doppler Radar and the weather man was some guy who relied on aches in his big toe to make a prediction. So there we were, yucking it up and this storm comes out of no where and hauls us out to sea. We wound up way closer to the wreck than the shore. But then, as the storm ended, the fog rolled in and that’s what gave us pause. We couldn’t hear the water on shore from where we were and couldn’t make out any land marks. Worse yet, it was getting dark and we worried about paddling the wrong way.
“Shhh!” I can still see Vick standing there, waving for us all to hush up, just like we were going to be rescued. “I hear something!”
Silence. The water lapped against the raft and splashed out in the gulf, but that was all.
“What was it?” I asked.
Vick shook his head. “I don’t know. I thought maybe…”
And then we heard it: a long low hiss out somewhere in the fog. It chilled my heart. I heard it and thought, I’m going to die.
Jack’s eyes were the size of dinner plates. “What the hell?”
I froze, petrified. The sound was big and close and like nothing I had ever heard before or since.
My mouth fell open, my heart raced, cold sweat beaded on my brow.
“Guys,” Vick whispered. “Grab a paddle and let’s get the hell out of here.”
Good idea, but too late. From out of the fog I saw a creature straight out of hell. Its neck rose a full eight feet out of the water, its head was like a blunt triangle. I remember seeing a dark ridge on the top of its skull. I couldn’t scream, I could barely move. All I could do was watch this creature glide towards us. In its last few feet, great flippers rose out of the water and the beast gave itself an enormous push forward. It never stopped; there was no mercy, no compassion. The monster opened a gaping mouth and with a deafening roar dove onto the raft.
I shrieked, “Jump!” and leaped into the water. I swam as far away from the thing as I could until my nerves backed off. I stopped. The guys were gone. I didn’t want to lose them, not like this.
“Vick? Jack?” I called into the fog, “Marty? You guys out there?”
“Here!” I thanked God. I didn’t want to be out there alone. “I got Marty with me, Steve! I…I…I don’t see Jack.”
I was sick. “From-from where I am,” it was hard to talk all of a sudden, “I can see the wreck. Follow my voice and we’ll swim for it.”
Vick’s choked response was, “Yeah, yeah…”
I heard them swim towards me and rejoiced for a second when I saw their faces. But it was only a second. The monstrous head split the surface and suddenly Marty was gone.
Vick screamed. I grabbed him and shouted, “SWIM, DAMMIT!” I shoved him forward, but it did no good. The long neck came up again and crashed down on Vick.
I made it to the wreck, and managed to find a little space in the bow where I wedged myself in and waited.
You know what it’s like to be hunted by a big animal; something that would rip your insides out while you’re still screaming for help?
I prayed a lot before morning, I begged, I pleaded and I guess God heard because the thing finally went away.
The Coast Guard got me the next morning, shivering and jabbering and took me home. I spent six nights in jail because no one believed my story and they thought I killed my friends. But they couldn’t keep me forever. No bodies.
Besides, they all thought I was crazy once I told them what ate everyone. It was a dinosaur. Yeah, go on and laugh. But that’s what it was. I know they’re not supposed to be around anymore, but that one didn’t get the message. Tell me different all you want, but I know what I saw that night.
Man, I need a drink.