's 2018 Horror Write-off:

Trawled Up

Submitted by The Bee Keeper

Trawled Up

Me pater's been trawling shrimp on these shallow fog blanketed shores since he was a toddler, tromping after his father, me grand pater, who also trawled these frigid silvery waters just like his pater before him and so on.

Three men employ a weighted net from a water horse. My family has been breeding these heavy boar-like draft steeds since before any of the towns popped up along these coasts. Indeed the horses be fed vittles of soaked kelp when winter freezes the good moorland scrub n' herbs. So born and bred for the sea these massive gentle beasts be.

And so 'tis the family. I've been weaned with shrimp soup, shore crab, and kelp stew. We trawl the shrimp up in the barrelfuls. Half the critters become our vittles, the other we haul to the towns. Everyone seems to get a kick outta seenin' us do our business with the horses. I guess I can understand. Horses taint a part o' life for most folks no more. But it still seems a bit funny to me. All them city folks a gockin at me n' me folks on every delivery.

O' course I said three blokes be doing the hard part of the family business; well with me brother off at college learnin maths n' physics, I've taken up the reins. Haha, figuratively and literally. So 'tis I, me pater, and his brother who plow the coast with either Ole Bumble or Dot. Though Dot is a bit of a cranky young mare at times. But her colt Bailor is only a two year old, too young to pull the heavy weights on the trawling net... and way too rambunctious at his age. I mean, all he'd wind up doing is splashing playfully and sloshing in the surf; kind of adorable, but hardly useful for catchin' shrimp.

I took Dot out of her stall and brushed her tatty mane. She gave me the stink eye. "Ya know I'm doin' this fur your own good." I said to Dot as I detangled a patch of matted hair. Clearly Dot had been wallowing in her favorite spot in the pasture again. Horses do that to give themselves a coat of dirt that the flies don't like. But if wasn't fly season no more. Dot just loves rolling in filth. Unfortunately, I have to get it off so she doesn't get the grody ringworm under her mane. That and she's awfully persnickety if'n there be any mud between her hide and the fishing saddle. "Oh Dot, you dirty horse, you do this t' yourself, y'know." Dot brought her face down to mine and retorted with a deep humid snort.

When we finally got Dot in all her gear, we all headed down to the beach. We spent a couple hours trawling with Dot. We had a mediocre catch thus far. So we took her out to the slightly deeper patch to try our luck there. Here we seemed to be getting a lot more shrimp. Dot, however, was givin' us some sass.

She kept planting her hooves and not budging. We had to keep encouraging her to move, but she was still getting worked up. Puffing and snorting anxiously, she pinned her little sharp ears all the way back. It's never good when a horse plasters their ears to their mane. It's like a frown. Well, actually with Dot being the drama queen she be, she was frowning and pinning her ears. Eventually we got the mare moving; but we decided to wrap things up early that day.

As I was cleaning out the net I found something interesting. It sort of looked like kelp. However, kelp doesn't normally form neat squares. And sprawling tendrils trailed from the corners of the olive green box. A mermaid's purse? Yes, yes, a mermaid's purse! O' course I'm not daft enough to believe it was an actual purse of no mermaid. Ha, no, this was the pouch that what came out of a shark or sea butterfly. So neat!

I put it in a pail of sea water and ferreted it off to my bedroom. I didn't know if this strange pod would actually birth a likkle shark babe in merely a pail of salty water, it was hardly the same as the mighty lapping waves of the shore below, but I could hope couldn't I.

Three days past and nothin' happened. I diligently changed out the sea water. I'm sure my pater saw me sneak off to do this. But he didn't really care if his children played with a few sea critters, so long as we had the sense not to be fishin' up the stinging sea nettles, or stickin' our fingers near any creature's jaws. My brother learned the hard way when we were tots. He waggled his fingers in front of a hungry pool sculpin. Me pater had to use the good pliers to pry that stubborn fish off of 'im. I on the other hand was always the sensible one.

The next night, the pale light of the full moon shown ethereally across my room. Below the silver surface of the pail water, something wriggled out of the leathery square pod. But what was this?

It looked like a naked mouse babe with the red feathery gills of a young newt. It rested at the bottom of the pail doing nothing but occasionally pulling its frilly gills back and forth. Hmmm... what was I to do with this? Should I just let it go? If it was a shark babe I would trust it to survive the rough tides of the full moon. But this? It looked so delicate. It would never have a chance out there.

Oh what have I gotten meself into? Now I got to figure out how I'm gonna keep this likkle... thing. None of the guides on my shelf gave me any clue. And that says something since I've got like nearly all them Golden Guides, plus another stack from every park store I've ever gone to. I've breathed brine air since the day of my birth and lived on the sea's bounty all me life. Shouldn't I at least have some clue as to what this critter is? I guess not. So I'll just experiment.

I put bits in the pail. Some crab meat, a shrimp, a kelp louse, and some seaweed. The squishy critter wiggled over to the seaweed and chewed on it. Ahah! Now I know what to be feeding you! So I gave it minced kelp for a week. By the end of the week I had a totally new problem.

It had grown. Grown way bigger than I thought a few pieces of kelp should allow. It wasn't exactly whinsome either. It was like a babe, like an actual babe, not a fish babe. It still had gills, but its body was now quite pudgy with well developed arms and legs. It didn't have feet or hands though, just stumps. Its legs bent crookedly, not like a normal babe's, but more like a goat. A skinny rat-like tail trailed from its rump. It turned to look at me whenever I came into the room. Its head a strange naked lump with giant owlish eyes sealed over with semi-clear vein filled skin. Two little ears lay flattened like the closed ears of a new born leveret. No nostrils to speak of, just a large lump of skin. Its gums lacked any teeth, but it was far from toothless. It would excitedly stick out its tongue and lap at the air as it surfaced from the pail. Its knobby parrot-like tongue was bristling with layers and layers of sharp yellow dagger-like teeth. I'm glad it only ate kelp.

Ok... I think it's time... I snuck out the next night and tried to haul the heavy sea critter back to the shore. Me mater was out still milking the goats. I tried to get down to the trail without her noticing me. I mean, I wasn't doin' anything wrong. But like, what was I going t'do if my poor mater saw this... thing. And then I'd get in trouble for making her fall into a faint. Gaw! This thing was just too much trouble. And o'course I had no luck this night.

Me mater asked if I could wash out me pail and help her finish up with the milking. Uhhhhh... an excuse, an excuse?! What was I gonna do now? Uhhh, uhh, yes sure mater I said. I dumped the sea critter into one of the troughs, pretendin' I just had a pail o' water. I scrubbed it out with soap n' water and milked the goats with my mater. Then she just had to say she wanted to make formage tonight. Oh no, not cheese!

Well, y'know, normally making cheese is kind of fun. But not tonight. My mind kept drifting off into worries about the trouble I could get into. Oh yeah, my pater's gonna be real pleased when he finds a horrid monster in one of his troughs. Haha, oh my god...

Later I tried to sneak out again that night. And... there be my uncle sitting out there drinking something astringent. Oh so you couldn't sleep tonight either lass, he says. "Somethin' strange about this night doncha know? Can't put me finger on it, but something just feels foul. You can grab a drop o' grog too if'n it will help ya calm your nerves, just don't tell your pa I said ya could."

I declined the offer. My uncle is usually a reasonable man, but he's a bit into the licker moreso than the rest of the family. It's his cure for everything so he says. Anyway, this made things a bit more complicated. But before I could concoct another excuse, an ear splitting wail came from the stable. Dot was screaming and snorting her head off. No not her pretty little whinny. This was down right banshee screams.

I ran full speed to the trough. Uncle came stumbling at first before he found his legs again and then bounded immediately to Dot. All the lights flicked on in the stable and the house. Clearly me pater and mater were up too now. I had to think fast.

Dot kept on caterwauling wildly. However, her trough was empty. Well, not empty, there was clean water to be sure, but my creature wasn't there no more. Eventually Dot calmed back down. But I think she only stopped braying because she wore herself out several hours into the night. Me pater was baffled as Dot wasn't hurt, colicky, or otherwise ill. In the end he had to conclude that she got spooked good by something prowling about in the night. A fox or a stoat m'be. Oh if only he knew.

The next morning we were all weary but still had a job to do. We took Ole Bumble out and saddled her up, as Dot wanted nothing to do with the shore. Ole Bumble slowly and steadily trundled along. Our catch was mighty great this morning! Until the net snagged.

We checked the length of net weights. Nothing but smooth sand, a bit of slimy kelp, and then... ahah! There in the middle, something hard but slightly yielding, a sponge covered rock? No it extended further into the soft sandy sea bed. And then suddenly the murky grey water sloshed around whipping all of us in the eyes.

A thrashing figure rose out of the sand and surf. Nearly as massive as Ole Bumble, this creature stood on its hind legs as it twirled powerful forelimbs, like that of a horse but with dangerous shards of barnacle shells in place of hooves. Ole Bumble snapped her leather trawling leads and dashed full gallop down the beach. We were left on our own to escape this bizarre peril.

The creature snapped its head to face me. Two huge skin covered eyes locked their glare with me. The long veiny jackrabbit ears pinned tightly to the creature's wrinkly morbidly grey skin. Its long bony tail lashed back and forth, whipping sea foam into the air and letting out a reverberating whip crack. The creature bore down upon me. Surely this was the end for me.

Two massive barnacle encrusted feet grazed my shoulders as I fell backward. I choked as brine invaded my nose. I was blinded by sea water, but I could still make out the general shape of a bulky long grey face bending closer and closer to mine. My entire vision was filled with teeth. Sharp pointy teeth in endless rows. I held my breathe more in fear than for preservation.

The visage of teeth moved back and forth, or rather side to side. Coming not closer. Oh come on! If'n ya gonna eat me, just do it already! I thought morbidly. Or what? You want to be drownin' me? Is that what you want?! My soft water logged rotted carcass?! How long can I hold my breathe before this dreadful thing drowns me? Its feet had snagged my clothing and were firmly holding me in place. So drowning is it? Not they way I thought I'd go out. And and I'm too young n' pretty to die!!!

The teeth moved out of view. I felt tugging at my hair. A piece of slippery kelp slipped off my scalp and was pulled across my face and then up and out of the water. The beast shifted and I bursted out of the surf, gasping for air. The beast was just standin' there chomping on kelp.

Long story short, that's why we have that small barn on the beach.