Eating Boats, Allison Manley
I was at work. My cubicle has a small window that overlooks the lake, and I was staring at the boats, clustered around the shore. It was a Wednesday afternoon. Who can afford to spend their Wednesday afternoons on a boat?
White foam bubbled from an area where the boats weren’t so close to each other. Then the foam grew bigger. Bigger, and more violent. Some boats sped away, creating more wake. From the disturbance rose the head, neck, and back of a monster: it was grayish-green, horned, and fantastic. Its eyes weren’t the yellowish type you see on the sea creatures in the movies; they were dark, murky, fish-like. It was structured like a human: it had two legs, a chest, arms, a head, and a face. It rested there, standing. Warming up its scales in the sun. Observing.
I could hear the distant yelling and screaming from the lake. The lake itself isn’t that deep, nor was it far from my building. The thing was big, so it had to have crawled on the very bottom of the lake to get to where it was, brushing up against beer cans and broken champagne bottles and who knows what else the boaters threw in there. That probably hurt.
Everyone at the office was running out the door by the time I looked around. I’m not that close with any of my coworkers, and I wasn’t offended when none of them told me to get up and leave. I just turned back to the window. I’m sure they weren’t thinking straight.
It was inevitable. It took its first boat. Instead of grabbing it with its fingers, it scooped up the boat in its protohand, carrying lake water with it. It slurped the boat the way you would eat an oyster. It didn’t smile, but something changed in its body, and I could tell it was satisfied. Its posture, I think. Its chest was puffed out, shoulders back. It was one of those power poses they told us to do at the confidence training.
I don’t know why more boats didn’t speed away. It wasn’t going after jet skis or people in their little inflatable tubes—it was just going after the boats. But some of them just sat there. Like they couldn’t understand that anyone would dare eat them. Like someone was going to come and fix it for them. But it—the monster—kept going, scooping the water, slurping up its victims. Its chest puffed out even more…then the chest went back in a little bit…then out again. I’m pretty sure it was breathing. It was taking the kind of deep, mindful breaths they tell people to do in yoga class.
Why did the lights go out? The lights all went out, and it got darker. One of my coworkers probably switched the lights, like we’re conditioned to do when it’s the end of the day and we’re the last one in the office. I was actually hoping to get some work done, and now that all my coworkers were gone, I was this close to finishing enough work to leave early. It wasn’t totally dark, because it was a sunny day and some of the light was coming in. But I didn’t want to strain my eyes working if the lights weren’t on. I’ve heard that’s not good for your eyes, reading and working in the dark. It can hurt you. I don’t want to hurt myself.
It was around lunchtime, so I went to the kitchen and saved my sandwich from the fridge. I felt bad for my coworkers who left their lunches behind. Or maybe I felt bad for the lunches.
The monster wasn’t coming for me. It was out there, in the lake, where it would probably stay for a while, before some special forces attempted to kill it. I could leave, but it felt right to stay inside. It was calm in here. So I sat at my desk, looking out the window, and I admired the thing that kept eating boats.
Allison Manley is an MFA candidate at Queens University of Charlotte. She has written book reviews for Third Coast Review and the Southern Review of Books. She has also been published in the Chicago Reader and Points in Case. She lives in Chicago, IL, where she stares at strangers' dogs longingly.