Burning rays of sunshine beat at the back of Collin's neck and ran down his body with the rivulets of sweat that accompanied the heat of the day. The beauty of the day was too great for him to worry about the lousy fishing, and the few shades darker he was getting was the proud mark of any fisherman. The water was still and smooth as though God had placed glass over his lively sea. A front was moving in, which meant the fishing should be better, they should be jumping into his nets and The Aegean should be turbulent, but they weren't. He really wanted to be disgusted, but he couldn't be. He was at sea, and any day at sea was a good one.
The Aegean Sea was everything to Collin. Everything. It was his home, his family, his living, his life. He knew this sea as though it was a floor plan to a great mansion, and he knew her temperaments as though she were his greatest love. He had been born on this sea, his father a fisherman, and his mother; well his mother––he didn't want to think about.
Rubbing his forehead with the back of his hand, he tried to smooth the frown line from between his eyebrows. Collin had taken the habit from his father. He had many of the same qualities and mannerisms as his father. The largest difference was his father had a country and a people, where Collin did not.
Why Collin's mind kept circling topics he thought he'd long ago left on the shore, buried, he didn't know. He had other, more pressing things to think about. His old Captain for one. He'd injured himself on a big haul last season, and his rehabilitation was slow in going, as his age was higher than anyone would like to believe. The old man was tougher than most, and could work circles around men half his age, but this last injury...well, it set him back. Collin had taken up a collection and paid off all his old Captain's immediate debts. Even though the civil unrest in Greece and Turkey had him staying on the lower ends of the peninsulas more often than not, these last few weeks at sea had been worth it all. His sea had given up thousands of pounds of fish to him...almost enough to pay off the old Captain's hospital bill.
So, a few days without any fish; well, that wouldn't be the worst thing to happen to him. His mind then tried to wander back toward the loss of his mother, then his father when he was only twelve. He had to stop. He must. He'd seen fishermen go mad with less on their backs than he had, so he needed to get his thoughts back in order. There was only one thing he knew which would do the trick for him. Work. Hard, back breaking, sweaty, continuous work.
Of course the work wasn't nearly as hard as it used to be. Nodding once to himself, he turned on his hydraulic net hauler. It was time to get the last of his netting up and find out if he'd actually caught anything before he called it a day.
The machine whirred to life, and the nets came up effortlessly. Until they didn't.
Wasn't that just the way of things today? Half in anger, half in defeat, Collin threw his hands up in the air before locking down and turning off the hauler. The last thing he needed was a burned up motor.
He rolled his shoulders and rotated his neck, and not for the first time he regretted being alone. A deck hand would've been wonderful, a clumsy kid of twelve or thirteen would be Collin's first choice. He'd hire one on his next trip inland. It was hard work, but it was how Collin had gotten started all those years ago with his old Captain, and right now it seemed like the perfect opportunity to allow a youthful deck hand to manipulate the netting into letting go of whatever snagged it. Yet, once again, he was alone, so, he had the privilege of doing it all...alone.
Grabbing the net in his right hand, he felt something tug hard against him, had he not been wearing gloves, the nylon cording would have ripped his hand. A lesson which several scars along both his palms could attest to. Everything in him stilled at the strength of the counter force.
He knew it wasn't a school of fish, experience told him so. It had to be something big and amazingly powerful to stop his hauler. It had to be a shark or a dolphin most likely. He'd rather it be almost anything else. Shrugging out of his chest-waders and the attached rubber boots, Collin double checked his Bowie knife, placing it back into its sheath, and jumped into the water.
Please don't be a shark, please don't be a shark, please don't be a shark. It became Collin's mantra.
Even though The Aegean was always crystal clear, a person who spent any time in the water learned early on that if you began to lose oxygen, you also lost your bearing of up versus down; so, using the net as a guiding line, Collin pulled himself further and further down into the deep. He knew he wouldn't have to dive too deep, the majority of the netting had already come up, it was time he needed, so the pulling helped him not waste any time. The thrashing stopped for a moment, and Collin didn't know if he should be happy or frightened. The creature was most likely getting tired, yet he'd seen some mighty strange happenings from the bow of this ship, and he wasn't much on being surprised. So the opportunity to find out...didn't exactly thrill him.
With the salt water agitating his eyes, he finally got close enough to the netted creature that he caught sight of the tale and dorsal fin of what he was certain was a beautiful dolphin. Just as he reached the animal, a high pitched whistle met his eardrum. Cringing, he bent his chin to his chest trying to hide his ears. He hated to cut a net, damn he hated it! But he had no other choice. He was running out of air and time, which meant so was the animal.
Quickly he went to work on the lines, cutting them as surely as only a fisherman with a razor-sharp knife could. Snap, snap, snap. Snap, snap, snap. His arms were becoming heavy and his vision began to fade, his lungs burned and he wasn't done yet. He put the knife back in the sheath on his belt, and tugged one hard time in front of the dolphin. A wave of water hit him with a force he wasn't exactly expecting, or maybe he was simply weakened. Letting go of the remnant pieces of net, he tried to pull himself up and back to the boat, but darkness surrounded him.