What little light pours through the hole in the ice fades as the eel swims further and further into the deep murky waters of Monksville’s Lure Cove, by far the deepest cove south of the submerged Wanaque Riverbed. A few slow-rising air bubbles glug past the eel as he dives; the lake is otherwise devoid of motion. A cold chill which has little to do with the temperature of the water suddenly swims through the eel’s spine – this Reservoir has an eerie sense of isolation about it. It’s as if the eel is among the last of the living lakebreathers to flap their gills in this lake. He eventually reaches the bottom, then tries to swim along the downslope to leave the dim corona shining from the hole above only to be tugged back by the barbed hook The Giant pierced through his ribcage.
In the distance the freshwater eel picks up two shafts of light shining down from the ceiling of ice just like the beam illuminating him. Tiny, bony little shiners swim in these shafts, shiners that would make a wonderful meal, as the eel hasn’t eaten anything but bland mushy pellets for as long as he can remember. Granted, the memory of the average freshwater eel isn’t the greatest, but to forget the taste of fresh meat is a travesty regardless of how well one can recall what has come to pass. He slowly waves his ray-finned tail in an attempt to coax the fishing line into stretching, perhaps to bring it to breaking strain, but the eel has no such luck. The fishing line, a Black Smith special, is made of metal, three iron wires of a minuscule gage woven together into an unbreakable rope. The Giant means to draw forth a grown muskellunge from these frigid waters; though the muskellunge is a mighty apex predator, it is just a lakebreather all the same. A simple lakebreather cannot snap a metal line, and though the eel is no simple lakebreather, he cannot snap the line either.
But he tries. Oh does he ever try, he tries and tries and tries some more until his long, slender body is gripped by the hand of exhaustion and the barbed hook of lost hope is thrust firmly through his ribcage, narrowly missing his spine. At a certain point even a baitfish knows when its day is approaching its long endless night; after spending enough time tethered to a fishcatching contraption, even a shiner will realize it would have been far better off if The Giant’s hand slipped and its spine was severed – at least in that case the death would be immediate, not drawn out at the mercy of whatever may fancy a free meal. The eel could perish at any time down here; he’s trapped, a sitting duck; no, a floating duck, Rhyac afloat in The Sticks, the proud leader of The Early Birds in the fleeting moments before Sea Hawk Hilaetos, Lord of The Sticks swooped in and decapitated him for little reason other than the fact the mallards chose to take a rest in the north end of the Res’ instead of the south.
Not a current flows by. The floor of the Reservoir is bare here, devoid even of coontail weeds.
What’s worse, the snakefish won’t just die a terrible and unpleasant death in the belly of Mother Monksville – first he’ll be stalked, watched by a lame predator, made to play a sick kind of mind game until the lucky finwhipper decides it’s time to eat, then, schluup. Down the hatch he goes. It’s all a matter of time.
But this thought doesn’t immediately occur to the eel, not until he’s exhausted himself fully. He’s a wily bugger; perhaps if he played the waiting game from the get-go he could dodge the snapping strike at the last moment, get the iron line caught between the hunting fish’s jaws and hope for a miraculous stroke of luck, or at the very least he could use the metal line to bring a reversal of fate upon his slayer-to-be. Then the eel could win his last meal, and maybe, just maybe, if the corpse didn’t immediately float up to the ceiling of ice or drift daintily out of his spotlight prison, maybe he could eat it, too.
Dreadful fatigue grips the eel’s gills as he realizes his time has run out. A pair of hollow, ghostly eyes stare him down from the edge of the cone of light. He doesn’t see a mouth, nor a fin, nor a tail, not that he would see the tail – he only sees a ghastly pair of dead, emotionless eyes staring at him from the inky blackness, the dark grody orbs reflecting what little refracted shinelight they can catch down here in the murky depths of the Monksville Reservoir. There’s no telling how long those eyes have been staring at the eel, no telling how much longer they’ll be staring at him. He only knows his time has come, or at least it is coming, slowly but surely until it ramps up and then, well… schluup. The owner of the eyes clearly means to devour him on the spot, why else would it be stalking him from the edge of concealment like a mountain lion does a small giant when dusk gives way to darkest night?
But the eel has one final trick up his gills, a last resort he was hoping not to use – to be slain by a lakebreather larger than himself is one thing, but to convene with it? To converse, to share thoughts sent across the channel? So much is unheard of to a lakebreather… then again, the eel was ripped from his river just as he meant to close his jaws around a particularly plump and juicy nightcrawler who tunneled until the dirt got suspiciously wet. Once a predator made to eat pellets and now reduced to prey – yes, so much of what goes on in this world is unheard of, but yet it goes on all the same.
Normally the channel will only open for the likes of wingflappers and those they deem worthy of exchanging thoughts – it is a metaphysical tool commanded by the pair mystics and wielded by all those who flap on wings around the greater keep of the Monksville Reservoir – never for a fish; but the eel is not just a simple fish, he is a mighty snakefish, a charmed sort of lakebreather, and as that ghastly pair of lifeless eyes floats ever stiller outside the doors of the eel’s perception, the channel opens and thoughts are duly sent.
‘I see you there, brother, fellow flapper of the gill and breather of the lake. Yes, I see you very well. You mean to bring an end to my life, do you not?’
The being behind the empty eyes offers no answer, no indication that it has received what the eel has sent.
[to be cont’d]
This has been the beginning of the twelfth subchapter of the third chapter of the book The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:
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