The Old Man – Charles Prelle

The old man is born upon the sea, his tiny boat a piece of drift wood to which he clings. His gaze falls upon his reflection as he speaks in tongue to the beast below. A spell taught to him by his father and his father before him. His eyes roll shark-like as he relays his incantation, his voice rippling like a sinking stone.

The old man’s reflection hunts him. It floats upon the surface of the sea like oil. The reflection observes the world of the old man, its long white beard stretched sagely skyward. The beast circles below, stalking the shadowy outline of its adversary. Long has been its wait. Its siren call bubbles upon the skin of the sea like boils.

The old man holds the line carefully, his coarse hands sensitive to each pull and twitch. He counts backward in his mind, steadying himself for the fight. His fists tighten and slacken in a macabre dance with the beast. One thousand sixteen, one thousand fifteen, one thousand fourteen. The beast gives an almighty tug, its flanks writhing below the surface. His hands begin to bleed from the line cutting into them. Drops of crimson fall upon cerulean like rain.

The old man’s reflection smiles up at him with lion’s teeth, its dark eyes trained upon the old man. Five hundred fifty, five hundred forty-nine, five hundred forty-eight. The beast struggles against the force from above, its primal flesh tearing, the barbed steel boring deeper within. It lashes its powerful tail, violently darting toward the deep.

The old man mops pearls of sweat from his brow with a scarlet handkerchief. Salt water laps the side of his boat. His arms grow weary from battle, his lean muscles strain and tear. The air around him grows breathless as the beast rises to meet him. He knows the sea is waiting.

Five, four, three.

The old man’s reflection morphs.

Its eyes roll back. Its ethereal flesh shimmers with glorious emerald scales.

The sea parts.

It rises weightless into the air.



Charles Prelle is a writer and playwright based in London, UK. His past theatre work has been staged at the Bread & Roses Theatre, the Old Red Lion and the Chapel Playhouse. Charles also writes short fiction and has been longlisted as part of the Flash 500. On Twitter @CharlesPrelle

Image via Pixabay

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