The sea was finally calm. The creature lay low and out of sight. Pieces of human flesh, along with other debris, floated about the bloody surface. The vesselís two steam pipes were cracked, but still managed to expel steam in their regular fashion. The one sail was completely destroyed. It was early morning, where the day was already long and hard. Captain Colin Limmerick wrapped a wool scarf around his broad neck, while casting the nets into the sea. The ten-man crew worked endlessly at staying alert, hoping to overcome the incident from the previous night.
The Atlantic Mermaidsailed along the Irish coast, while still trying to make the catch they should have made hours ago. The sharp winds made their sail a difficult one, where the usual temperament of the sea had worsened. The crewís knees buckled with exhaustion. They stunk of ale, sweat, and the sea. They watched the scarce rays of light beam upon the hull as the morning fully set in. The distant screeching of a plump dirigible floated above them, which gave them a sense of ease. Eddy, the first mate, woke from his bunk making his way to the deck where he saw his captain hang his torso over the gunnels in the midst of rising sun.
"Captain, havenít ya slept at all?"
The towering captain turned to Eddy. "Slept?"
"Ya look awful; get some rest. Weíre docked at the Dublin Quays. Go, clean yar self up ín get some sleep."
"That I canít do just yet, because I found this on the ship," the captain said, holding a gigantic tooth with both his hands.
Eddy stepped back. "It looks heavy, Captain."
"Iíd say itís a good weight."
Eddy examined the tooth with his eyes. "It donít resemble a shark, nor a whale."
The Captain lowered it to the deck. "Surely, it doesnít. I bloody donít feckiní know what attacked us last night, but this is what it left us."
Eddy stepped closer. "The crew, Captain, are feeliní a wee bit rattled at last nightís incident. Donít show them that tooth. Yar crew could quit on yaz, ín then what?"
The captain raised his soaking cap and flicked back his lengthy forelock. He nervously tied back his long wet hair.
"And then what? Iíll sell me boat ín move permanently to London."
"Now, yar talkiní nonsense. Címon, let me buy ya a pint. Ya sure look like ya need it."
"Ed, we docked at Rosslare some hours ago to get the reel fixed with a new net. Why? Somethiní is still out there. Somethiní devoured our lifeboat. Ed, whatís gone on here?" Colinís complexion was pale. He found himself in an endless shiver. "Our Mermaid, she needs loads of fixiní. She canít sail over shore; sheís all broke."
Eddy gave Colin a pat on the shoulder. "Captain, yar starved; maybe we could go for some grub, eh? I remember when yaz was a wee lad workiní on yar uncleís ship. Ya always took everythiní too serious, even then."
Colin sighed. "I need to return to London. Get her fixed somehow. Just canít stick íround here now."
"London? The weekendís not over yet. London wonít give ya the answers yaz lookiní for."
Colin pulled his soggy cap from his head. The dark circles under his eyes over-powered his handsome face. He stood on the deck, drenched with the sea as blood dripped from his inner thigh. He scanned his body to below his groin, noticing his bloodstained trousers. Eddyís eyes widened with shock.
"Captain, ya need a doctor?"
"As long as me balls ín cock are still hanginí low, all is well," Colin forced a smile and unbuttoned his trousers to check. He ran his fingers along his testicles and penis. "Itís all there, thank the good lord." Eddy stood in silence and smiled. Colin smiled back at his first mate. "I besí get to work. Weís so bloody behind."
He moved several large crates of fish onto the peer. The rest of the crew reluctantly helped. After their work was done for the day they decided to relax at the nearby fishermanís pub.
Colin and his crew staggered in feeling their exhaustion and stress get the best of them. They sat at one of the largest tables. They ordered food and several pints of ale. Colin sat with his head buried in his arms. His tweed cap was pulled down over his eyes. His pint sat in front of him with the froth bubbling over top of the glass. His ears were perked, but his eyes were closed. A group of fisherman sat at the next table. They were drunk and loud.
"Three vessels went down last night," one of the fishermen said, to the others at the next table. "Three, I tell yaz... three bloody vessels!" Colinís head rose as he repositioned himself to sit straight in his chair. "It happened íround 3:00 in the morniní. Gone, I tell yaz - all gone. Not a nibble of debris was even found."
Colin took a swig of ale and glanced at his crew.
"What was out there?" one of the other fishermen at the next table asked. "Not a shark, nor a whale - not even the Scotsí Nessie. Sometiní is out there."
Colin gulped his ale. He glanced at his crew. "Shite. What have I done? Shite."
Eddy tried to smile. "Done? Ya havenít done anythiní, Captain. Yar not in charge of nature."
The crew chuckled and agreed with the first mate. Colin stared at his first mate and then his crew with a serious expression on his face.
"Yeíd be surprised. Shite, what the feck?"
That following Monday morning London was dim and chilly. Colin made his way to the Natural History Building at The London University; bound up in his vested suit, coat and bowler hat. He used his umbrella as a cane, where each step was painful. He appeared more awkward than he felt, because the umbrella was so much smaller than a fitted cane would be for a man his size. He hoped he wouldnít be noticed by anyone he knew.
He made his way into the building and proceeded to squirm up every step, which led to his office. He flopped in his chair, not bothering to remove his coat and hat. A lanky fair-haired, young man appeared.
"Mr. Limmerick, so here I find you looking not so fresh and not so professional in your so nice office. You have big drunk last night on high seas with your crew, nyet?" blurted Dr. Sasha Dimitrikov, peering through the doorframe.
Colin sat straight in his chair and fiddled with his crooked tie. "What the feck are ye goiní on about now? Shite, man, weíve got us more problems. Will this mess ever end?"
"Last time I see you, you so happy man with Miss Amoli - why you so upset now? I know, you have fight, da?"
"Donít even think about dragginí Amoli into this conversation. I had a rough weekend on the Atlantic Mermaid. Some kinda monster is teariní up the waters."
Sasha quickly shut the door. "What happened on your ship?" Sasha asked, searching his blazer pockets.
"I donít think we completely closed the vortex openiní." Colin blinked his eyes several times with fatigue; he had lost his usual zest. "Our last prehistoric expedition was a failure, donít ye think?"
"Shto?" Sasha asked in Russian, as he pulled a cigarette box from his jacket pocket. He sat down and popped it into his mouth. "What you say? Sorry, I sometimes forget my English."
"We was at sea this weekend, close to home, the Irish Sea ín Saint Georgeís Straight - ye know, not far at all. Somethiní shook the bleediní feck out of the Atlantic Mermaid, so much so it tore away at me trawliní nets, the reel, ín even done away with our lifeboat." He recklessly reached for his leather bolg and grabbed a small flask of whiskey. He drank from it with conviction. "I havenít slept the weekend. Weíve got a serious problem, so we do."
Sasha puffed on his cigarette. "Why you act like all so terrible? You all survive?"
"Then, you not know my Russia. I leave my Russia at beginning of Revolution. You not know how we live. All workers work eleven-hour days. We have poor wages, you not know. All Russian goods very expensive. That is serious problem, da?"
Colin rolled his eyes back with a sigh. "Oh, mother of God, would ye stop compariní everythiní to Russia? This is not Russia. Weíve done some expeditions through time ín now weíve opened a Pendoraís box, donít ye think?"
"I walk these streets of London, I do not see so much suffrage as my streets of Petersburg. You not know, Mr. Limmerick. I think Czar will soon be in great trouble. There is movement happening now."
Ye like yer Czar?"
"Nyet! I hate him. I hate all politicals."
Colin shook his head. "Howíd we get onto this topic, I donít know?"
"You mention serious problem. You not know serious problem. You are big strong Irishman. You have so easy."
"You visit my Russia and you see upheaval."
"Ye certainly know bullocks about Ireland, donít ye?"
Sasha had smoked his cigarette to its butt. "And, now, Mr. Limmerick, you sit there in comfortable university office, dressed in so nice suit, and so many women ogle for you."
Colin sat forward in his chair behind his desk. "Mate, thereís prehistoric marine life roaminí about our waters. Iím feeliní rather responsible for it."
Sashaís eyes widened. "Did you see what was in water?"
"I didnít. Somethiní much bigger than any whale we know was definitely before us that night."
Sasha gazed at the floor while he lit his cigarette. He paused, and slowly scanned the room.
"You blame it on vortex?"
Colin sat back in his chair, causing the springs to creek. "Oh, feck, why wouldnít I blame it on the bloody vortex?"
"You imply something here? Shark do this."
Colin hung over the table to get a closer view of Sasha. "And... thereís more. Somethiní else happened," he said, his voice trembled. "Three fishiní vessels went down last night."
"How you know this?"
"I heard other fishermen chattiní about in the pub."
Sasha pretended to be interested in the academic journals sitting on the desk. He smoked in silence. Colin was anxious, but silent. Colin folded his arms in front of him and took a deep breath.
"Sasha, I understand yer theory is beyond any scientistsí comprehension, but it has a shite load of bugs, so it does."
"Bugs? What you say?"
"Itís all gone wrong is what Iím sayiní. We mayíve destroyed the world," Colin huffed, as he rubbed the inseam of his leg. "Almost lost me tanker in the midst of the attack."
Sasha smiled, and pointed at Colinís crotch. "You lose that, you lose everything." Colin eyes widened.
"If you see doctor he will say you have shark attack. All people know this."
"That was no shark. Prehistoric it was. It had to be."
"Prehistoric? Why? You not have prehistoric attack, you have big shark with so many teeth."
"That was no shark."
"Show me your wound, I tell you if it is shark attack."
"First, Iím not removiní me trousers here in me office. Second, this creature didnít touch me. It was when I returned to me vessel after beiní in the lifeboat, this monster attacked me ship almost capsiziní us in the process. It swallowed down the lifeboat. The rigging boom fell on me cuttiní the inside of me leg. Iím in pain every time I walk."
Sasha appeared to be engrossed in one of the scientific journals on Colinís desk. "A shark can do that."
"In all me years at sea Iíve never spotted a shark. Why would a man-eatiní shark be in these cold waters? Their primitive fish, not the most adaptable." Colin reached for his whiskey-filled flask and took a few relentless gulps, and then took a few deep breaths. "Besides, this beast lost a tooth on me ship. By the looks of it, itís no shark."
"Show me this tooth."
"It wonít mean anything to yez. Yer a physicist."
"I know these things."
"Ye donít. Iíll show it to Rosa. Sheís the archeologist, sheíll be able to make heads or tails out of it."
"Fine, you think woman can examine it. Go ahead," Sasha said, with his arms in the air.
Colin slapped his hand over his face. "Oh, dear God, whatever made me want to live in two different worlds? Why didnít I just remain a fisherman, ín only that?"
Sasha stood up. "Because you want so bad to prove how Megaloceros came to be extinct."
Colin ran his hands through his long crimson hair. "Aye, me thirst for the impossible got the best of me. Iím a Darwinist, ín me belief in natural selection had to be proven with me research on Megaloceros giganteus."
"You were bored of fishing life, da?"
"Never bored of me life as a fisherman, but I wanted more, so ye see."
"You get your degrees, and you still fisherman."
Colin chuckled. "Here I am, a workiní class fisherman from Ireland, no doubt. Me academic advisor hates me bleediní guts, ícause of who I am."
"You no look like scholar, either."
"Aye, me biggest problem is I stick out in a crowd, thatís for sure."
"When I first saw you, I think you were lumberjack."
"Iím cursed, so I am."
"You not, but you work too much. Take vacation and relax. Rosa say me you like Portuguel coast."
A brisk shadow passed by the doorway. "Colin! In my office, please!"
Colin tensed. "Cushing, thatís all I need just now."
Sasha tiptoed to the door. "You must go to your Dr. Advisor and please him."
"You have bad attitude, Mr. Limmerick."
Colin hoisted himself from the chair. He clenched his teeth at Sasha and limped from the room.
"Canít ye ever address me as Colin? Why ye always so damn formal?"
"Formal? I not formal? Good luck with your advisor, Mr. Limmerick," Sasha said, as he watched Colin leave the room.
Sasha sighed and continued to smoke his cigarette. Colin poked his head in Dr. Cushingís office.
"Ye needed to speak with me, sar?"
"Colin, yes, do come in," Dr. Cushing said, placing his glasses onto his nose. "My, my, you do look dreadful."
Colin leaned against the doorframe. "I had a challenginí weekend, one could say."
Dr. Cushing showed no concern. "Iím wondering where that chapter is on your time-travels to find the Horseshoe crab. Is 10,000 years suitable for your geologic time-frame?"
Colin took a deep breath, rolling his eyes back. "Wasnít really planniní on time-traveliní again, but who knows? Also, wasnít really planniní on wastiní me time-traveliní in search of yer mate - the Horseshoe crab. There really isnít space in me dissertation to devote a chapter on that bleediní crustacean."
"Speak English. Are you saying you will be time-traveling some time soon?"
Colin took another deep breath, puffing his broad chest. "Soon, sar? Aye, it may very well be, but Iíll be enroute to find Megaloceros giganteus, or perhaps some of the Irish Deerís neighboriní community, like a large threateniní whale. Iím afraid there wonít be time for the Horseshoe crab, forgive me."
"Oh, yes, you will very well make time for the Horseshoe crab. This is where you and I can collaborate an academic paper. I think this will impress the chancellor of this academic institution."
"Ye ín me, write a paper together?" He chuckled loudly in a deep tone.
"Are you aware we have a new chancellor?"
"New chancellor, ye sayiní? Didnít the university just get a new chancellor?"
"That was last year."
"Itís not an annual position, is it, sar?"
Dr. Cushing grunted and snorted. "Oh, God, no. These positions are very valued in our academic world. They donít come along everyday, you know." Colin rose from his chair. "Do not express these outlandish thoughts to anyone on this campus, Colin. It could stand in the way of your academic reputation."
"Do I even have an academic reputation, sar?"
"Reputation? Yes, of course you have a reputation." Dr. Cushing laughed.
Colin gave another deep chuckle. "Reputations ín new chancellors, whatís this to do with me? I donít know."
"This is extremely important to all of us who produce the work we do." He lifted one eyebrow. "But, I suppose you are too absorbed with your silly boat, when your thoughts should be here with this academic institution."
Colin placed his hand over his mouth to yawn. "If yer done chattiní with me, sar, I besí be on me way."
"Not so fast. The concept of time-travel is astounding, donít you think?"
"Astoundiní, ye put it? It has its pros ín cons; I think Iím feeliní closer to the cons."
Professor Cushing gathered some notes and handed them to Colin. "I have created a time-travel data scroll. It will be on this that you will record the geologic time frame in which you travel, and if you run your eyes down to the bottom of the page you will see there is a section for you to record your Horseshoe crab findings. On the blank spaces you will write the leg count."
Dr. Cushing stood up and waved the form in Colinís face. Colinís head hung down and he shut his eyes.
"Leg count? I told ye I wasnít goiní after researchiní this ridiculous crustacean of yers. Sar, if ye could excuse me, I left me specs at me flat ín I must really go fetch íim."
"This is the problem with you as a graduate student - you spend too much time and energy on that damn boat of yours. You cannot afford to be rushing off here and there. This has got to stop, or I will see to it that your research funding is cut."
Colinís posture became more erect. "So, I either write about this crustacean or yer goiní to bloody well cut off me fundiní? Whatís this to do with me ship, I donít know? Youíve gone too far this time."
"I donít think Iíve gone too far, no not at all. In fact, not far enough."
"Excuse me whilst I go fetch me specs."
Dr. Cushing watched Colin exit his office in a rage.