Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.
The fishing ship bobbed gently on the waves fifty miles off the shore of South Africa. James thought he knew what bobbing was, a nice slow and steady up and down movement. He was wrong. It was up quickly, pause, down quickly, pause, and then up again ready to start over. A bit like his supper, that had already come up again.
He’d been told that he wouldn’t get sea-sick, that it was much rarer at night when there wasn’t any horizon to notice moving differently from the ship, they were wrong. He’d spent the last four days feeding the fish, first in the hold of the ship, and then once they’d released them, over the side.
A fishing ship was thought to be the best disguise, if you were going to be releasing fish into the sea, then go out on a fishing ship. It was already set up for carrying fish, albeit usually dead ones, and it already smelled of fish, so there’d be no awkward questions afterwards. James didn’t think it smelled so much of fish as stank of them. Every surface of the vessel positively reeked of fish, the thought of which brought up the last of the contents of his stomach and the fish swarmed closer to the ship to feed.
But the fish were free now, bred in captivity and released back into the wild to make their own way. There was only one small problem, they were following the ship back towards the shore. Roughly every half hour James would be feeding them again by emptying his stomach overboard, and they weren’t keen to let such a provident food source out of their sight. With only a few miles to shore, James went back inside to the throat clenching stench of dead fish, and a bucket. They couldn’t risk the fish following them any further.
Two days later and James was able to keep his breakfast down. He was enjoying his first meal since he got back onto dry, solid and above all stable land, when the call came through to his hotel room. One of the local fishermen had caught a strange creature in their nets, and knowing that James worked at a zoo the community at the docks had immediately sent for him. With a certain amount of dread, not least for the renewed acquaintance with the smell of a working fishing dock, James set out to see what had been caught.
As he walked along the harbour wall to where the boat had docked, the fisherman waved up to him and pulled his net out of the keep tank. And there, flapping about and gasping for air was what first appeared to be a monster. A fish that looked more like a dinosaur, armoured scales banging on the deck of the boat and gills slowly panting.
Yup, James thought, they’d only gone and caught one of the coelacanth he’d just released back into the wild.