"And So It Begins." Flash fiction stories of up to 500 words that begin with a first sentence we provide. The first sentence for issue three is "I think I'm in the wrong room."
Catch and Release
By Ryan Masters
I think I'm in the wrong room, but the Duchess ushers me in, so I go anyway. She's got gills tattooed on her neck and carries a filet knife. The place is cold as Bering ice but still smells like fish.
Two large, bearded men bundled in Carhartts and flannel sit on block ice talking about last summer's salmon run. The Duchess leads me to them, her sequined green dress trailing behind her like a mermaid tail.
They turn as we approach and I see they're both blind, eyes opaque and foggy like morning on the bay. "You ever pulled traps before, kid?" the first asks. I tell him no. This was the first time. I can't swim and I am terrified of the ocean.
He nods as if he's heard this story before. "You got to watch your feet. The lines. They catch you unawares."
The large room is an archipelago of men, each isolated and sitting in his own cold, looking listless and forlorn. A few move about, pushing great hooks to one end of the ceiling and back again.
"How old are you, son?" the first man asks.
"You want to get out of them wet clothes, 17? Take some warmth in?”
“I’d rather just go home.”
“Home? Where’s home?” asks the other.
“You’re an island boy and you don’t swim? What in God’s name you doing on a crab boat then?”
“I needed money.”
The two men sigh and lean back, reeling in a little slack in their line of questioning.
“Always money. Need the money. And there’s a woman too, I’d wager.”
“At seventeen they’d jump ice fields for the girl, isn’t that right, Glenda?”
The Duchess nods, cold and slow, her eyes dark and benthic.
“Glenda’s boy didn’t come home, did he? So she went and found him.”
I look at the Duchess a little closer. Her hair isn’t hair at all, but long strands of shiny kelp. Her skin the color of flaking shell.
“You promise me something, boy.”
I nod, wanting suddenly to please these men very much.
“You get back home you love the sun.”
“And never set foot on a boat again.”
Before I can answer there is a roar in my ears and I am being dragged by my hair back over the rail of the ship by a multitude of hands. When I hit the deck, I hear the sound of voices yelling in alarm as a heavy weight pumps the water from me and the storm continues to rage overhead.