I had a good breath diving under…good for at least 3 minutes. Fifty yards out from the dock, I angled down deep for about 35 feet. It was exhilarating. The fish were strange today. They weren’t acting right. It was just my instinct but…they seemed to crowd me instead of scattering at my approach. Pensive.
Weeds were thick but I liked swimming through them, like parting curtains…..until I saw the eyes – big eyes – cunning eyes. I stopped, dead. Froze. They were staring at me with unnerving intelligence and all the little fish began darting about frantically – and I nearly lost my breath.
Through the gloom, I began to make out the long, hulking form behind the eyes; Strange limbs, sharp fins, long feelers, fleshy lips with menacing barbs, monstrous teeth…..smiling at me?
Now I was afraid! In one swift motion my hand swept down to draw my knife from it’s ankle sheath – but lightning fast, the creature’s arm shot out from between the weeds and wrapped its long scaly fingers around my throat – my jaw – my entire skull.
I lost my air…and then, lost consciousness.
I woke up…breathing. I started to remember…..swimming through weeds – fish acting oddly – then the eyes…and a massive claw, engulfing my head. And as it all went dark I thought I heard a sinister, gurgling “Peek-a-boo!”
I was inside now. It was stifling and smelled like cat food mixed with burning tires. I sat up in a lumpy soup of viscous bile and big bloody chunks of meat. My hands and face burned but my wet suit protected the rest of my skin. A sphincter opened behind me and sucked me out, like a dumpling in a steaming meat-soup, down a tube whose bulbous nodules bathed us in a spray of acid. It stripped the fur and skin from the meat and dissolved my hair along with a painful layer of exposed skin.
I dropped into a bony chamber in which long, razor sharp blades shredded the meat into hamburger (along with most of my wetsuit). I was quickly evacuated into another chamber which flooded with thousands of tiny, finger sized worms (with very sharp teeth), who consumed every speck of the remaining meat sludge before I alone, the squirming, inedible lump, was expelled once more, through slimy bowels, into a vat of solid waste.
This wondrous fleshy sack looked and smelled like the inside of a rotting, bloated elephant carcass. Minutes passed, possibly hours, while a steady stream of sticky, gloppy gunk filled the space, until there was no more room. I thought this must be the end. With goop filling my ears and covering my mouth, I took my last full breath of air (a three minute breath?) before black sludge covered and consumed me. One minute…two minutes…nearly three minutes passed before I felt a great shuddering shift, followed by a resounding (satisfied) grunt….and I was suddenly shot, like a torpedo, out into clean, cool lake water.
I surfaced near the shoreline, gasping for air. Although I emerged from the lake a raw, tattered and thoroughly disgruntled piece of fish poop…I was alive. It was, perhaps, not my greatest adventure but surely a ‘fantastic journey.’
***The only thing better than a giant fish swallowing a dude and crapping him back out is doing the same thing to a great old Asimov concept (like I just did here). Aaaaah, fish poop!…one of the great mysteries of life. The image was originally a cover John did for the May, 2011 issue of Analog Mag. -Marsha