The eyes were big… REALLY big, as was the face behind them.
That’s all I could tell them really, I didn’t stay around long enough to find out what was wearing that sharp-toothed face. I was in such a hurry to get to the surface that I didn’t even think about decompressing. I never knew how I got back.
Three days in the chamber and two more weeks in the hospital and I was ready for their questions, even if I really had no answers. It was just a routine report, some careless diver who probably messed up his mix and ended up almost killing himself by surfacing too fast after panicking and hallucinating. As a matter of fact, part of me was happy to believe their version too. I’d almost forgotten about the whole thing until the old man arrived.
I found him sitting on the deck of my boat, smoking an old pipe like he owned her. Before I could ask him what the hell he was doing there he raised his hand to quiet me.
“Hello, lad. Hope you’re feeling better. It was a good thing I found you before your brain burst.”
“You brought me back to the port?”
“Aye, you were all cramping up. I towed you back.”
“Oh my god! I have to thank you, without you I’d be…”
“Dead?” He interrupted me coldly. “Yes, indeed you would.”
I stood frozen in place, taken aback by his response. Eventually he spoke again.
“I did not come here for your thanks. I saved your life and now you’re in debt with me. I’m here to collect.”
His voice had a strange hollow ring to it, like something old and deep.
“Don’t worry yourself, my price is not too high. All I want from you is the charts and records of your last dive, every single copy.”
“But the port master has a copy in their files too.”
“That has been taken care of. You just hand me everything you have and I’ll call your debt cleared.”
“What do you want them for? There’s nothing there. I just messed up my mix and saw things, that’s all.”
“Aye, you keep thinking that, much better for your health.”
I stared in horror as the old man stood up and extended a huge, webbed claw towards me.
“The logs, if you please.”
I hastily found the documents and gave them to him. As soon as he grabbed them, his wrinkles peeled back to reveal a pair of huge eyes and a sharp-toothed smile.
“Speaking of your health, in your place I would also abstain from doing more diving… for the foreseeable future. We don’t want you to go missing and have people looking for you where they shouldn’t, do we?”
With that he turned and walked back to his boat.
It’s surprising how the right motivation can make the harsh life of an Arizona rancher so incredibly attractive.