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๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐— ๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ด๐—ฒ๐—ฟ

๐˜ฃ๐˜บ ๐˜™๐˜ฐ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜—๐˜ฐ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ

I got the message Dink would send a boat. The name on the hull was Good News, which made me wary. The captain and the mate were womenโ€”a blonde and a brunetteโ€”in t-shirts and bikini bottoms. I took off my shirt, lost my shoes and socks, and dropped into a chair on the little deck at the back of the boat, wearing only shorts as I watched them work.

Dink once loved to say, โ€œIโ€™ve got good news, and Iโ€™ve got bad news.โ€ He was notorious among those he employed for the legend that he once told a man who owed him, โ€œGood news: itโ€™s square between us, no debts and no regrets. Bad news: Iโ€™m killing you.โ€

After he lost his voice, the scar appeared on his throat, like it had been removed surgically. He wore gold to cover it, a long chain and a choker, and took to mouthing what he wanted to say. We all had to hear it anyway. He had hand signals for good news, bad news. What made me nervous was that Good News on the hull looked like fresh paint, a few drips sliding down.

Was I in for my share, for services rendered, or something unimagined? We had no operational memory of anyone who escaped his influence and lived to tell the story. What niggled at my brain was this: if this was the Good News, what was the bad?

Two-thirds to the little island, they stood over me with dire expressions, blondieโ€™s arms crossed over her breasts. The brunette stomped a bare foot and pointed at the deck. โ€œDown, boy!โ€ she shouted.

โ€œAll right,โ€ I said, โ€œI get it.โ€ The brunette moved around behind me. When I glanced over my shoulder, I saw clenched teeth. She gave me a ferocious kick that knocked me forward on my face.

I struggled to catch breath. My nose bled profusely. I shouted, โ€œWhat the devil is this?โ€

Each one took an arm and leg, lifting me over the side as if I weighed no more than fish guts, and flung me in the lake headfirst. When I came up, they stood where they pitched me with rifles at the shoulder, taking shots that hit somewhere around me.

I kicked and pulled at water to escape the fate that Dink had planned for me. With the prow of the boat coming on, the brunette at the wheel, I knew this was it, the bad news. I closed my eyes, waiting for the impact with stoic resolution. I would die one way or the other, just not screaming.

At that moment, something clamped my ankles, and with a mind-numbing tug, pulled me down into the depths of the lake. When I came to, I sat in a grotto enclosed in rock, the creature in water, me up to my waist. She brought her face to mine, serpent or prehistoric fish, I could not tell which.

This much I knew: the beast was female and angry. The face became human, reverted to beast and back again as she studied me. I hoped for sympathy from that in her which was a woman, dreading what the beast might have to offer. As she looked into my eyes, I saw what she had in mind: revenge.

Good news was the creature had it in for Dink, not all of mankind equally. Bad news, in her present form she could do little more than make the fishing difficult. Dink toyed with her, wounding her nonlethally to preserve the game, to keep it fresh. With two good legs and lungs designed for sucking oxygen from air, I made a promise and survived.

It was night when she released me on the shore. I climbed out holding a rough spear she showed me, an ancient, barnacle-encrusted whaling harpoon. I knocked at Dinkโ€™s door and hailed a bodyguard, a fellow by the name of Jinx with whom I had shared many a drink. When I ran the harpoon through his guts, he seemed surprised. Less so as I withdrew it and stepped over him.

I made my way into the bedroom, shook his nibs gently. When he woke, I said, โ€œI have good news, and I have bad.โ€ I whispered this: โ€œGood news? I survived your attempt on my life. Bad news?โ€

I showed him the harpoon which by his expression he seemed to recall. I set the point against his throat and pushed until it skewered him to the bed. His eyes and mouth came open wide, and when I pulled it out, they closed.

Thus, I carried the harpoon back to her, found the dinghy and rowed out far enough to drop it down into the lake. The water swirled, a waterspout rose, inside of which I saw the beast triumphant, as beautiful as any dragon met on the plains of another age.

I had a strange hopeโ€”strange to meโ€”that all my sins could be forgiven. She plunged into the lake and disappeared forever, as far as I knew. I was bereft until she swelled beneath. I rose, riding waves like a messenger of the gods. โœฆ


Robert Pope has published stories in many magazines and anthologies, and some of these have been gathered in two recent books from Dark Lane Books: Killers & Others (short stories) and Shutterbug (flash fiction). Several stories first published in Granfalloon were included in his 2022 book entitled, Not a Jot or a Tittle: Sixteen Stories by Robert Pope (Dark Lane Books). His latest offering, Disappearing Things will be published in April.

Speculative fiction & POETRY ZINE
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