April’s arrived, and you know what that means. It’s a month where both William Shakespeare and I share a birthday. To celebrate, here’s a nice story courtesy of one of my latest meetings with the good folks at Write It Up! Burbank.
The Dark Water Candidate, by Alexander Paul Willging
Word Count: 773
Amy lifted the tape recorder to her lips. She fought to ignore the deathly chill that came with a sudden sea breeze.
“October twenty-ninth,” she rattled off into the mic. “Still no sign of the Great Beast. I fully expect that every pundit back home is laughing their asses off at us.”
She paused to grab at the railing. The bow of the boat tipped forward a few inches and Amy waited for her stomach to settle once more.
On the other side of the deck stood Bill, a silver-haired man who wore his shirt sleeves rolled up. He leaned over the railing to marvel at the deep blue waves chopping against the side of the boat.
“Isn’t this something!” he called out. “I’m sure we’ll find it out here!”
“Ignore the babbling idiot,” Amy hissed into her recorder. “He’s only running to be nominated for Secretary of State.”
This, then, was how her career would end. Amy had hopd that becoming Bill Donaghy’s Presidential campaign manager would be a real feather in her cap. It was only after two years of impromptu camping trips, a 6-hour-long press conference, and one memorable “summit” with the local Girl Scout chapter that Amy realized her mistake.
A senior Congressman from Indiana didn’t have to be sane to run for President after all.
And he knew it, too. That was why Bill had chartered this expedition to the Arctic Ocean. “So that our greatest minds can discover the secret residents of our oceans, with whom our State Department can open diplomatic relations by November.”
Amy no longer cared. They’d lost three interns already and one of the pollsters had stolen a life raft somewhere around the coast of Newfoundland. While the boat—the SS Julius Caesar—was in no danger of sinking, Bill’s campaign almost certainly was.
“Starboard side!” Bill hollered. Jumping back from the railing, he grabbed a young staffer by his life vest and shouted, “Tell the captain! We’ve spotted something!”
“Terrific,” Amy muttered. She added one last message to her recorder before putting it away. “If this is my last hour on this earth, please, whoever’s listening, tell my kids I love them and spit in my ex-husband’s face.”
She moved to join the Congressman at his side of the deck.
Then, she froze.
Something emerged from the water on their starboard side. Something long, slick, and covered in pink scales. With multiple eyes and a gaping maw. When she looked inside the thing’s mouth, all Amy could see were teeth.
Rows and rows of teeth.
Not that this scared Bill Donaghy. As a born-and-bred Hoosier, he put on a winning smile and stuck out his hand. “Greetings! As the Representative of Indiana’s Third District, I welcome you to—”
What happened next was too fast to track. Years later, Amy would rewatch the footage that someone had taken with their phone, but even then, it still didn’t register. One minute, the Congressman was there. Then came a pink-gray blur, a short cry of panic, and, finally, a very meaty crunch.
Amy stood motionless on the deck. She looked into the sea creature’s eye—well, into one of its eyes—and waited for another attack. When it didn’t occur, she calmly turned away and headed down to the cabin.
There, she found the captain and his first mate standing dumbstruck.
Amy said, “We’re done here.”
Neither man responded. They hadn’t even heard her.
But they did pay attention when she picked up the harpoon gun hanging on the wall and pointed it at the first mate’s head.
“As campaign manager,” she snapped, “I am ordering you to take this boat back to Maine. Are we clear?”
“C-clear!” the first mate answered.
“Good.” Amy paused to look out the window, to where everyone else on the campaign staff, men and women of all ages and races (in accordance with their diversity quotas) ran around screaming. All it took was for Amy to lean out and whistle sharply to restore order.
Meanwhile, the sea creature, apparently satisfied with a single human morsel, let out an obscene burble before sinking back beneath the waves.
At the press conference on the following morning, every news outlet from Los Angeles to New York was covering the late Congressman’s final adventure. But every camera and microphone was pointed at the podium, where Amy’s epic closing remarks would soon become the talk of every cable news program and late-night talk show.
“It’s a shame,” she told the press. “If I could’ve taught that beast how to speak in front of a camera, he would’ve been a great Secretary of State.”
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