Hoax (my first submission and rejection)

So I made my first flash fiction submission about a month ago and got the rejection notification yesterday. I submitted it to an online magazine called Daily Science Fiction, which I read every day (except for weekends), and found that their choice not to publish my story wasn’t disheartening, but exciting. It was exciting because it signified the start of me putting myself out there, the start of my professional career. Today, I submitted a different story to Daily Science Fiction and another different story to Flash Fiction Online. As per the rules of most online magazines, I can’t submit to them anything that has previously been published, and this includes publication here, on my blog. Hoax, however, I’m not going to submit anywhere else, so here it is, for your reading pleasure (it’s approximately 900 words).

A large thanks to Jon, Ty, Christian, Chad, and James (and whoever else I missed; please remind me!) for their feedback and edits.


HOAX

The winds of Berrin Bay rebounded off a salt-crusted window and lifted the rain up and against itself, appearing like snow, and a shark-skinned fisherman on the table beneath that same window I thought dead, until he finished his pint and returned to his dreamless slumber. A family on leather couches before a fireplace spoke less than strangers, and a bartender with a twirled moustache nodded at me when Riders on the Storm by The Doors began to play from speakers buried in corners by foam buoys, swollen ship wheels, and singing fish. It happens every time I wear the shirt.

Looking through the window, through the blizzard of rain, I saw a shadow dash like a hounding seal, though before I could better my view, there was a pint in my hands and a student with a wavy half-afro and non-prescription glasses in the seat across from me.

“I ordered chips,” said Will, sitting and blowing the head off his beer, “so one was free.”

“Not a total loss then,” I said. “The first guy we spoke to — from Davey’s Whale Watching Charters — he said it will clear on Sunday.”

The front door squealed open, pulling a draft through the tavern, and a man in a black trenchcoat walked in and leant over the bar.

“Mmmm,” said Will. “Kind of have to be somewhere. And the mic’s stuffed, bro. I reckon we head back in the morning, do the immigration story.”

Some minutes later, I said, “What about the… thing, the creature? It’s one more night.”

A pretty waitress set a basket of battered chips down between us and winked. At least I think she did.

“It’s a squid, bro.” Will washed a bolus of starch down his throat. “People want stories about people. Not E.T. and the Loch Ness Monster.”

The waitress giggled and left, stopping by the man in the trenchcoat, who renewed her laughter with some of his own.

“Squids don’t drink their prey like that,” I said. “Spiders do. They use enzymes to——”

“It’s a hoax, bro. Your boyfriend at Davey’s Whale Watching Charters is in on it. He’s butchering dolphins for money. He’s butchering them because he’s desperate. It’s a hoax.”

“A hoax?”

A black trenchcoat bent like a sheet of lead over the empty chair at the head of our table, placed there by a storm-eyed man with a scar crossing his chin stubble and lip. It was my “boyfriend” from Davey’s Whale Watching Charters, and he reeked like crab shell left in the bin.

“‘A hoax’?” repeated Davey.

Will pinched his nose.

“You’re welcome to join us, Davey,” I said.

He dragged the chair out and slapped into it like a bag of bycatch. “Dave.”

“So… Sunday?” I said, after half a minute of fishy silence. “For the charter to the canyon?”

He swirled the Guinness and saliva at the bottom of his pint glass. “Won’t see him at the canyon.”

“Won’t see who?”

Dave’s eyelids went lazy on Will. “The hoax.”

“You’ve seen the creature?”

Dave nodded at his glass. “I’m thirsty.”

Smalltalking sixties rock, I bought a pint from the bartender with the twirled moustache and balanced it to Dave.

He took a needlessly loud gulp. “You’re students, yeah? From the city?”

“Journalism majors,” said Will.

“No cameras.” Dave searched over his right shoulder, his left. “An’ make sure I don’t go thirsty.”

Will gave a look of distaste, like he was smelling Dave for the first time again. The winds rattled the salt-crusted window, and Riders on the Storm played on a loop, to my irritation alone.

“He’s a squid,” said Dave.

Will dusted chicken salt from his palms. “Told you.”

“He’s a shark an’ whale. He’s a dolphin — an orca.”

“Don’t buy this guy any more beers, bro.”

“The smell of the canyon changed,” Dave continued, partly out of spite. “Purple grease came up on the surface. Whales ‘n’ dolphins wouldn’t go near the boats. Many went north, up the west coast. Like somethin’ scared ’em. Skins started washin’ up in the bay. All sorts. Guts ‘n’ bones sucked out. So many whales ‘n’ dolphins went north that it bankrupted most the charters. So many that we went out lookin’ for him, hunting. Most the boats in Berrin. Most the men. That’s when the cameras came an’ some of the charters opened up again. They went out lookin’ too. Couple of tourists said they saw a black tentacle come out the water. Said it was black with fins. Nothin’ on sonar. It went round the world, the story of a monster, a thing lurkin’ by the hydrocarbon vents, a thing that broke out of them. Then the oil rig had a little ‘spill.’ Then the Navy shut down the bay.”

Will adjusted his glasses. “I saw it on the news.”

“Some of the Navy boys came here,” said Dave, “into this tavern, an’ sat on those leather couches. An’ old Ernie” — he pointed at the shark-skinned fisherman by the window — “heard ’em whisperin’ about a thing that was a squid an’ shark an’ whale an’ orca. He heard ’em whisperin’ of something that came here out of space, crashed into the waves some seventy kays off Berrin. Started feedin’ on the animals. Feedin’ an’ growin’ bigger. Adding tentacles ‘n’ fins to itself an’ growin’ bigger. Said the purple grease was its… enzymes.”

With a sputter, like he’d coughed or snickered, Dave finished his pint.

Will stood and looked at Dave. “Guinness, yeah?”

“Yeah, mate. Keep ’em coming.”

END


© 2019 Nicholas Stephen Petrou ABN 95 728 609 173. All rights reserved.

 

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