Incident off Bámbouras

Christopher Bakken

Suddenly, all around us, silver arrows are flashing, colliding with our arms and hair, darting over our shoulders: Sardines have been bewildered into flight by the disruption of our lumpy bodies. This sets off a frenzied reaction from above: A gang of hungry seagulls begins dive-bombing the sardines. The gulls plunge so close that I could reach out and grab one by the neck, if I weren’t busy hanging on to the rock. It’s a giddy, surreal moment (made more so by our oxygen deprivation) that leaves us laughing aloud. I begin to wonder if this is the first in a series of marine hallucinations that will precede my death. It’s easy to feel lulled by such comic beauty, exhausted as I am, and I’m tempted to just let go, surrender to the current. But the sardines also leave me feeling like bait: At what point are we going to be raked over the rocks by a wave and ground into grouper food? It’s time to move on.

Corey replaces his mask and shoves off back into the current, kicking along close to the cliff, and I follow at a distance, not wanting to shoot him. The dinghy is right there, bobbing in the waves perhaps thirty yards away, but it’s impossible to make any progress toward it. We stop once more after several minutes of flailing, wedging our fingers into a seam on the cliff just long enough to fill our lungs with air. I feel my heart racing beneath my ribcage, and my limbs are throbbing with adrenaline. Reluctantly launching myself back into the current yet again, I’m prepared for a bitter struggle, but suddenly the current disappears, and within moments my fingers are around the anchor line of the dinghy, to which Corey is already clinging. We spill ourselves over the boat’s now-sagging sides, too out of breath to speak. Corey points to my hands, which are covered in blood.

***

When Tassos finally does return, we see evidence of what he’s been up to: Several more synagrides and a melanouri (saddled bream) glisten on the floor of the dinghy, entwined in the writhing tentacles of a huge octopus. He pulls the dagger from his ankle holster and hands it to me, laughing at the bloody pulp of my palms.

“Show them how to kill the octopus, Christopher.”
And though my hands are still quaking, I’m able to steady them just enough to plunge the knife between the beast’s glaring eyes, then twist the point until the tentacles begin to relax. I once saw Tassos execute the same coup de grace with his teeth: While treading water, he dispatched an octopus with a single bite between the eyes.

 

 

 

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