Sea water stinks.
“So are you here to kill me?” the Sea Hag asked.
“What makes you think I’m here to commit murder?” I asked her right back.
I was standing waist deep in an ocean as warm as a baby’s freshly peed-in diaper. As a rule, we Sasquatch try and avoid the water. It’s just not in our nature. But there had been babies disappearing from the little Nova Scotia town of Port Hood, just in the mouth of St. George’s Bay, and I felt my hirsute heroic duty was to investigate and intervene.
“How should I think?” the Sea Hag replied. “I never met a Bigfoot before.”
I hate it when people call me Bigfoot. I mean that’s just a tacky tabloid nickname thought up by some fellow from Humboldt. I far prefer Sasquatch, which is a derivation of a native term meaning Big Hairy Man, which I figure has got a lot more dignity than Bigfoot.
But I wasn’t going to let her know that.
“Do you know they used to call this town Just-au-corps? Means up to your waistcoat, on account of they didn’t have a wharf way back then. You got off the boat you had to wade on in.”
“You came all this way to give me a history lesson?”
She was looking down at me, which was quite a trick. There aren’t many who can. The truth is I could stunt-double for a poorly carved totem pole. I stood nearly nine feet tall with knuckles that hung down around my knee caps, and I was still standing in her shadow. The Sea Hag was about as large as some islands I’ve visited, the color of rotted peas and newly-picked boogers. She was built heavy, with a rotund belly that spread out into an overblown gown of tentacles and weird wriggling fronds of seaweed nestled around the remains of a sunken caravel.
“I’m fresh out of history,” I said. “The best I can do is to give you a bedtime story.”
“I’m all ears,” she said.
She was that, too, sporting a pair of big finny earlobes that could have easily accommodated a pair of battleship anchors in place of earrings. A fellow could have drowned in her accumulated ear wax and no one would have likely noticed the difference.
“This is the way I heard it,” I began. “In old Port Hood there lived a pair of sisters born eleven months apart and as different as night and day. The oldest sister Myrtle had long golden locks and a disposition as warm as a sunny August afternoon. The youngest sister Mabel had hair the shade of the shadow of midnight and a heart several hues darker. The trouble began when the two of them fell in love with the very same fellow. The oldest loved him from her heart, and the youngest loved him from spite of her sister.”
“Didn’t I see this on HBO?” the Sea Hag asked.
“Do you want to hear this story or not?”
She settled down and I got back into the flow.
“Being oldest, it was customary that the youngest sister should step back from such a tangle and allow her sibling to marry first, only that didn’t sit well with the youngest sister. She took her sister down to the Ring Rock and braided the girl’s long golden hair to the loop of the great iron ring that they used to tie the ships off of. She sang her a weird lullaby that kept her entranced until the tide rolled in and swallowed Ring Rock.”
“How good was she at holding her breath?” the Sea Hag asked.
“Not very well. After the tide had come and gone the oldest untangled the braid and left her sister’s corpse drifting in the shallows. In time the body was found and the man in question, being a practical and callow sort of fellow, wept a few tears of the crocodile over his dead love and then married her younger sister.”
“Men will do that to you, every time,” the Sea Hag added.
“By the time the next summer rolled around the two were married and the seed of a child nestled in the deep lonely harbor of the younger sister’s womb. She called the child Mona, but Mona was born with fins and flippers for hands and feet. Her hair was a long and tangled snarl of seaweed a rusted iron. In remorse her mother carried the baby down to the water and when she got to the water’s edge she kept on walking.”
I saw a tear forming in the Sea Hag’s left eye.
“The only trace they found of her was the beautiful gold wedding band, hung from the great iron ring by a carefully braided strand of long golden hair, or at least that’s what the storytellers tell you. But who in their right mind would trust such false-tongued windbag truth-stretchers?”
By the time I’d finished my tale the Sea Hag had begun to weep — long fat green tears that rolled down her scaly cheeks and splashed in the waves about her tentacled bulk.
I let her cry a little. I suppose if I were a gentleman I would have offered her a handkerchief, but I didn’t see any spare mainsails handy to my vicinity.
“So where did you hide the babies, Myrtle?” I asked her.
For that’s who the Sea Hag was. She had woken from her sister’s evil lullaby just before the tide had swallowed her under, and with her last dying breath she had sold her soul to the devil of the sea in return for five more lives. Two of her debt had been paid when her younger sister Mabel had walked into the waves carrying her curse-stricken child.
“You figure on paying off the devil’s debt with those three newborn children?” I asked. “You know that’s wrong, don’t you?”
Sea Hags are so easy to fool. I knew that my story had touched her heart and that all I had to do was to talk her into giving back those three little children.
At least that was the plan — until Myrtle the Sea Hag raised a meaty fist the size of Utah and smashed down in my direction.
I barely hopped out of the way. Being hip deep in seawater wasn’t doing wonders for my agility. I dove under, swallowing a half a bucket of seawater, caught hold of the mast of that sunken caravel that served as a milk stool for her batrachian bulkitude. I tore off a mast and babe ruthed her in what I’m guessing was her rib cage, although it might have been her assbone.
I might as well have been trying to pummel her into submission with a soggy Q-tip for all the good it did me. Turned out those tentacles of hers were both remarkably prehensile and appeared to have a mind of their own, getting me in at least three varieties of headlocks and a dozen or so arm bars with a pretty good ankle twist.
I figured I had one chance.
There are 873 different muscles in the body of a Sasquatch, and I flexed all of them at once and then exhaled sharply, sliding loose from her tentacle grasp just long enough to work fingers into her squamous oozing tentacle-pits.
It is a little known fact that Sea Hags are about the most ticklish organism on the planet, ranking second only to certain peculiar centipedes living deep beneath certain unknown antediluvian chasms.
Using a curious Portuguese man-o-war wriggling style of tickle that I had picked up after three years of intensive study in a Shaolin temple located thirty-two miles east of Medicine Hat, I worked my big hairy fingers into her tickle-pits and commenced rooting.
Which was right about when Myrtle the Sea Hag decided to sit down.
Now, I have always wondered just exactly how an ant feels after you step on it on the sidewalk, but that was only in the strictest of theoretical manner, you understand. Experiencing the mega-crush of Myrtle’s be-tentacled butt was a little more than my scientific curiosity was ready for.
I tried taking a swing at her, but from this angle impact was virtually impossible. In fact my limbs were completely pinned.
So I started to gnaw.
On the Sea Hag’s left butt cheek, about three and a half inches west of oh-my-god-don’t-go-there.
Have you ever had a tick stuck to your butt?
A Sasquatch is way nastier.
I started chewing and biting and bearing down just as hard as I could manage — and I had lived one winter off of the remains of a petrified nine-thousand-year-old moose fossil.
I’m telling you I’ve got some serious world-class biting power.
After about ten minutes of pure and unabashed gluteal mastication, Myrtle stood up with an eek that would have deafened a dead man.
I slid out deeper into the water, wishing for a mouth full of Colgate and a whole carton of breath mints.
Now getting this far out into the open ocean was going against every fiber of Sasquatch instinct. Like I said, we just don’t like to get wet. And Myrtle — well, hell, this was her home stomping grounds, so she swam after me like a fat man going after an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet.
I’m not saying it was pretty.
I’d love to tell you that I was following some grand master plan, but the truth is, I was nothing but desperate. In fact, in all honesty, I had actually got confused in my sense of direction and had intended to head for the shoreline when I had got turned around and headed for deeper water.
Which was right about when I saw that second Sea Hag.
It was smaller and younger than Myrtle, and was when it saw it sitting there in the water waiting for me like the world’s most patient floating bear trap I figured that it was time that I hunted up a waterproof pen and fill out my last will and testament.
Not that I had all that much to leave anyone.
“Auntie Myrtle?” the second Sea Hag said.
“Little Mona?” Myrtle replied.
“Momma Mabel says that everything is forgiven. She says you ought to come on home and we can go back to having a happy household.”
“I’m not ready to talk to her,” Myrtle said.
“Well, who else are you going to talk to?” Little Mona the Sea Hag asked. “That hairy fur-ball?”
“Hey, now!” I complained. “I’m not letting your Aunt Myrtle go anywhere until I’ve seen those three babies she stole.”
“And you were doing such a fine job of keeping her contained, weren’t you?” Little Mona said.
I was beginning to get fed up with Little Mona’s saucy lip.
“What about that, Aunt Myrtle?”
Myrtle the Sea Hag stuck out a lower lip that could have easily served as a diving board for an entire squadron of deep-sea pearl divers.
“I wanted to have a baby of my own,” she said.
“Well, you’ve got to give them back,” Little Mona said.
“I want a baby of my own.”
“Aunt Myrtle, you can have a baby. You can have me. There is nothing wrong with a little Sea Hag having two mothers, now is there, fur-ball?”
That last interrogative was directed at me. I still took umbrage with that whole “fur-ball” reference, but I knew enough about human nature and Sea Hag love to nod my head enthusiastically.
“What better way to raise a child than with a double dose of motherly love?” I said, which may have been pouring it on a little too thickly, but Myrtle seemed to like what I was telling her.
“All right,” she said. “Just reach under my tentacles one more time — but lay off the tickling, would you?”
So I reached in and under just as carefully as I could, and aided with a little bit of guidance from Myrtle’s prehensile tentacles, I found the three babies suckling at Myrtle’s sea-dugs.
And then Myrtle and Little Mona swam out to sea and I let them go, telling myself that I was being both merciful and wise.
You say the word chicken shit and I will reach directly off of this page and demonstrate my Shaolin Sasquatch strangulation skills.
Don’t think I can do it?
Just try me.
I dog-paddled back to the shore and was surprised to see how readily those little babies took to the water. I guess the haggis-juice that they had already suckled from Myrtle’s ample bosoms had a little bit more staying power than might have been expected.
I left them at the doorway of the church, not wanting to explain those frilly gill-like structures that had begun to sprout about each baby’s chubby little necks.
I’d accomplished exactly what I had set out to do — perhaps not in the manner that I had originally envisioned. Now all that I needed was to find myself an open-minded hair salon and about six or eight bottles of industrial shampoo.
Or at the very least a pay-as-you-go car wash.
Born in the Northern Ontario Shield country, raised by a pack of unsubstantiated wolves and now residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia, STEVE VERNON has been writing for the last forty years. Someday he figures he will finally figure out how. Steve’s first Bigfoot story, “Three Thousand Miles of Cold Iron Tears,” originally appeared in the pages of Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing’s TESSERACTS 16. Steve’s five-page epic poem, “Barren – A Chronicle in Futility” — detailing the 1820 presidentially-commissioned hunt for the Jersey Devil — took the first-place prize in the 2010 Chizine Rannu Poetry Competition.