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Fish Stocks Limited

anchor plunged down into the mist, rope streaming out behind it like a flagellum. The
crew were jerked to the floor by the sudden release of tension on the capstan.
“You crazy old rat, you've just severed our only hope of surviving,” roared
Mungo, picking himself up off the deck.
“Have not a shred of doubt, Mungo, we are hell-bound, and we shall pay the
underworld's boatman with this fish's blood! Now make ready the jolly boat and grab
ye harpoons. We lower for the fish.”
Mungo, Ambrosius and Stan were on their feet now.
“You think we would set out in the same boat as you, Fishmael? You are on your
own.”
“Blast ye!” shouted Fishmael. “Then if ye want rid of me, lower me alone and I
will go after the fish myself. Perhaps it is best that I alone am her nemesis.”
The crewmen hesitated. They wanted rid of Fishmael, it is true, but now they were
about to meet their end they had each become urgent philosophers and theologists.
Perhaps helping some crazy captain kill the last embodiment of goodness was not
such a sensible final act, after all.
“None of ye will help me?” bawled the captain.
“No,” said Stan. “You're on your own.”
Fishmael shuddered with rage. Up above dark clouds were gathering, as though
they too were being sucked towards the vortex. The moon was temporarily hidden,
but a pale light still bathed the ship, only this time coming up from the mist below.
The small phosphorescent creatures in the vapour were being agitated by the swirling
torrents of mist, and, in their distress, they were glowing softly just as they did in the
wake of the ship. There was a flash and thunder pealed from above, cutting out a
particularly foul curse from Fishmael.
“Very well then, ye scumbuckets,” said Fishmael. “I shall make my own
chances.” In a trice he went below and emerged again with his harpoon gleaming in
the moonlight. He tested the edge with his finger, which testified sharpness by
yielding forth a droplet of blood, black in the moonlight. Fishmael laughed, and with
that the captain jumped into the jolly boat and, drawing his cutlass, slashed the ropes
that held it in place.
****
Chapter 32 – Into the Maelstrom
The jolly boat fell into the mist and was swamped by the greenish-white foam
before the swim-bladder buoyancy tanks, stimulated by the vapour, kicked in and
brought the boat bobbing to the surface. Everything was slanted. The roar now was
deafening and Fishmael, being light and easily carried along by the current, was
carried ahead of the main ship.
“Here, fishy fish!” was his cry as he tied the end of his harpoon rope to one of the
thwarts. He turned to stare the fish, now swirling round and round on the ever-
steepening sea, his eyes rolling in nystagmus like a drunk as he followed his prey. “I
am so happy to see you again, my very own worst enemy. Can you see my harpoon? I
will pierce your belly-button for you, but I have no diamond stud to put in it.”
From the deck, Mungo, Stan and Ambrosius watched, and Jerry called out from
the topmast.
 
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