Frankly, it terrifies me.
Deep water has always scared me and I know exactly why: there might be something down there. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the world isn’t as thoroughly explored, as completely known, and as neatly explained as the scientific establishment tells us. The attitude that modern man has uncovered all the earth’s deepest secrets—that that are no mysteries left on earth—that is so universally displayed by the major scientific media is pure hubris.
I find it incomprehensible that every time an animal that had been label ‘extinct’ is found alive and well, every time a once legendary creature is found to actually exist, every time a remote volcanic crater is found to host a dozen new species that coexist in an entirely unique ecosystem, the scientific community somehow manages to spin the story to communicate that the last great mystery of the world has been found and that we know everything there is to know and that there can be no more new, undiscovered creatures anywhere in the world, when each and every instance of discovery proves just the opposite!
Thus it is that I have never outgrown the fervent hope and the niggling terror that one day I might encounter one such unknown entity. That possibility has always seemed the most likely, and thus the most terrifying, when I’m in or on deep water. I have never allowed this fear to stop me from enjoying the water, however. Despite the ever-present fear that something dark, silent, and powerful might drag me under anytime I was in water over my head, I grew up fishing, swimming, and canoeing on the Tennessee River, and I have thoroughly enjoyed every trip I’ve made to and on the ocean. The river grants a peaceful restoration of the soul through its serenity, and the crash of the ocean surf mesmerizes me into a restful, trance-like state of mind through its ceaseless shushing.
Tonight, though, something new happened to me. The water, as nice as it is, is not a human’s natural habitat, and being on terra firma has always provided me with the sense of security which comes from being in one’s element. It was only when I was in the water that I feared that something might get me—until tonight.
It was quite late and I sat on the shore of Oak Island under the dark of an overcast and moonless sky watching the Elizabeth River surge into the sea as I silently and sleepily pondered life and enjoyed leisurely smoking my pipe. Because of the current of the river and the shape of the bay, there was almost no surf where I was and the water was surprisingly calm—until the wake of a boat long since out of sight finally reached the shore. The long wake lines were at an angle to the beach in front of me and as they crashed in they created an illusion of a long procession of great, dark fish rushing along the beach in the shallows, each one leaving behind a thin foam wake that slashed up the beach in front of me. Without interrupting my thoughts, these huge, illusory ‘fish’ reminded my subconscious of the life teeming in those waters.
A cold fog rolled in across the water from my right, reducing visibility to a few feet and suddenly the constant, rapid pounding of the surf on the shore became the synchronized steps of thousands of feet, and the numerous, rising ripples of the boat’s wake became rank upon rank of soldiers marching forward out of the water to capture the beach after having been dropped, like paratroopers all in a line, in the shallows by the great fish speeding by me. As the fog thickened the organic, steam-like sounds of a pod of porpoises blowing became the sound of mermen breathing and the phantasmal army was upon me.
Never before had the thought occurred to me that something might come out of the water and get me, but suddenly my comfortable illusion of safety disappeared as completely as my pipe smoke in the fog.
It required every ounce of my will power to refrain from running screaming back to the lodge.
As the wake passed up the beach the army marched inland until the sound of their footsteps was no more and the fog slowly cleared. Never before had my imagination so completely terrified me; and as the last patch of fog, which had seemed to linger around me feeding off my smoke, finally wafted away leaving me alone I sat perfectly still and trembled in the silence as I contemplated an idea for a new story.
© Andrew J. Goggans 2012