It showed up around seven. On the button because Charlie and I had just left the wharf about to start the last whale tour of the day. We were barely at the edge of the bay where it connects with the rest of the ocean when it first peered through the fog. The fog looked as if it was moving with it. Never once revealing too much of it. At first, we assumed it was some offshore ship coming in for unexpected repairs or supplies. That happens from time to time. You’d be amazed by some of the crazy-looking vessels that drop anchor in this harbour. It’s because of how deep and wide the harbour is, and how world-class our shipyard is known to be.
Anyway, when a vessel shows up like that, we reach out over the radio and connect with the captain and plan a potential drive-by for my passengers. It’s a bonus for us. Whale watching can be hit or miss some days, so if the captain gives way, we’re already up a photo-op. I radioed out and listened for a response. Nothing. Waiting enough time, I radioed again. The huge silhouette shot back nothing…silence. I radioed again, and again, silence and silence some more. My initial calls were to say hello, though, the last few, a request for a need for assistance. As eerie as it was all playing out, we as fellow mariners also have a duty of making sure they were not in any danger or experiencing trouble. On my final attempt, and as I depressed the call button on my radio, the fog-draped anomaly sounded this deathly horn that stuck me to where I was standing. I could not move; my feet were planted. Rooted. My whole body working against itself like every muscle was asleep at the same time. It began to sting. The sound was unnerving. The reverberation in my body felt like every bone was being played like a piano key. It felt like it was shaking my body away from its soul.
The horn went on and on. My ears felt like they were shooting sound needles through the drums. The whites of my eyes felt like they were crying sand. My blood switched from bitter cold to extreme hot, both excruciating in their own right. I still have no idea how I managed use one arm enough to floor the throttle and steer back to shore. Back to port and towards safety. The further the boat got away from this thing, the more life returned to my body. Like we were breaking away from the fog like the dark vessel seemed to be doing when I first laid eyes on it. I was so confused. Confusion on the water is not good. I remember just keeping my focus on heading toward shore. Get everyone back to land. A full two minutes later and past the harbour buoys, the horn stopped. I still could not focus for about twenty seconds more. By then, my muscle memory must had kicked in and I idled the boat toward the dock gently. Free from the danger I thought. Free from whatever that sea trance was all about. My head was still hurting a lot.
For some reason, I felt as if there were eyes all over me. In that moment, I looked up right away. Along the pathways and roadways strung throughout the hillsides on either side of the harbour, I met the gaze of flocks of fellow residents. Stopped in their tracks. All staring at my boat. Cars were pulled over, kids were straight-legged on their bicycles, and old ladies were turned sideways pinning socks on clotheslines. There was terror and shock in every last one of their faces. In as much confusion, I begin to look around the boat. Through all the commotion, I failed to look once at the cameras. Not since we pulled up, just before the sound. I was so focused on getting everyone the damn out of there in this God-forsaken wheelhouse, I never checked the passenger decks. Or on Charlie for that matter. When I finally did as the whole community looked on, I too became shocked. My face filled with the same terror displayed on their faces. There were sixty-five people on my boat including me and Charlie. I’m the only one that returned.