The wind nibbles at his fingers, and the rain closes around him like sheets. The tiny boat is rocking beneath him, uneasy, fidgeting in the waves. The rod is tight in the man’s hands, and his belly is hollow. He’s hungry, hungry and relieved as his arms strain against the pull of the line. It’s going to be a big one, he thinks. He might be able to eat this for a week. As the cold shakes his jaw bone, he thinks of the smell of hot, fresh fish filling his bare little cabin, and grins against the darkness. It’s a heave-ho, heave-ho, as he reels the line in to the boat. And that’s when he sees it. White in the moonlight, rushing towards him, hollow eyes and bared teeth. The rod drops to the bottom of the boat with a bang he can’t hear over the wind, and he scrambles, slips against wet wood, tumbles down with the rod. He knows it’s not hunger or exhaustion, he knows it’s not a trick of his mind – there’s a thing in the water, a something, not a fish, but something all bones cutting through the water, straight for the boat.
He clambers for wet oars, struggles to get them in line, and begins rowing against the tide with all his might, battling through the sea’s rough pull, biceps straining beneath his wet furs, his coat of seal leather, breath huffing from his lungs in big sharp gasps. Terror floods his face – the thing! He thinks he can hear it clattering against the side of the boat! He imagines bony fingers climbing in, grasping for purchase. The thing! He whips his head around, and there’s no such thing. Just darkness and rain hammering down like silver arrows. Apprehensive, he drops the oars, and crawls to the back of the boat, looking slowly, carefully, into the water. His heart drops to his belly and it’s there! With the hook in its mouth. He smiles to himself, embarrassed and chortling into the dark as he reels it in. In his arms lie the neck bones, shoulder bones, and rib bones of a woman. It has a woman’s spine, a woman’s face, a woman’s arms and hands. But below the hips are the spindly, sharp bones of a fish. He drags her long tail into the boat, and she’s nearly the length of it, six feet of woman bones and fish bones.