So this story feels a lot like Things Unspoken, but it wanted to be modern-ish every time I had anything that would set an era, so I’m not sure.
“The fish have been getting mad right before dusk.” Murphy lingered, not yet packing up the gear for the day. “And I swear, when I go diving just as the sunset touches the water, I find the best things. It’s got to be the difference in lighting, but I gotta ask – why don’t you stay a little later? I mean, I see you, and you’re out of here the moment the sun sets. And this is just a summer job for me, isn’t this – like, isn’t it your livelihood?”
Faulkner gave a rueful head-shake. “You’re still so new. You fit in so well down at the pub or up at the gods-house, or at the end of the week at the dances, I forget how new you are.”
Murphy tried not to bristle, but it was hard. “Yeah? You think I fit in – except at my job? I mean, I guess it shouldn’t care, it’s just a summer job-“
Faulkner’s hand landed hard on Murph’s arm. “Don’t think that. Don’t ever think that. Look. you fit in great, that’s what I was saying. The problem is… that means we forget to tell you, me and the others, the things that everyone here knows because everyone here – grew up here.”
Murph settled down; Faulkner released the surprisingly-strong grip and started packing up Murph’s gear. Taking the hint, Murphy did the same. “The thing is-” Faulkner’s voice was quiet, like someone might overhear.
They were the only ones on the pier. They were almost always the only ones on the pier, or diving into the clear, deep waters, or running a drag net along the bottom of the water. Sometimes Faulkner’s sibling Reagan came out with them, and sometimes one of the old town hands – Murphy’d heard a name once, something like “Bandit”, but everyone just seemed to call everyone with grey in their hair “Old Timer” – but for the most part it was Murph and Faulkner.
Nobody was going to overhear, that was the point. But here Faulkner was, whispering.
“So. So the thing is, there’s the other fishers. The Night Fishers. And you don’t want to be here when they show up – blast.” Faulkner gestured at the spot where the water seemed to fall of the edge of the world, an illusion Murph still hadn’t come accustomed to. “We’re running late. Come on, get everything together, sort it out in your cabin.”
Murphy squinted at the dim shape barely visible on the water. “Falk, you have told me over and over again that you do it now or it don’t get done. So what gives? What are we doing- the lines don’t go in that box!”
“Murph, for once just stop trying to learn and listen to me! Get your stuff and get to your cabin. Now. They’re early tonight and they will not want company!”
The shape on the horizon was beginning to resolve into a boat. “But – but what are they? Why are you so spooked?”
It was enough to get Murph moving, even as the questions kept coming. Everything went into the nearest gear box, and the stuff that didn’t come home got locked into the pierside locker.
Faulkner hadn’t answered, just kept looking at the lake then hurrying Murph along.
“The thing is…” Faulkner began, when they were off the pier and away from the locker area, everything from the day packed up into the wagon. “The thing is,” it was a hiss now, terrified, and Faulkner kept grabbing Murph every time Murph tried to get a look at the water, “we don’t know. But what we do know is.. day time is for us. You and me, the Old-timers and Reagan, daytime people. We have the water until the sunset touches it. And then…”
Murph had gotten a good look at the boat. The figures on it seemed wrong, although Murph, neither then nor later, could not put words to the wrongness. Too tall? Too skinny? Their movements too sharp, too jagged.
“-then,” Faulkner breathed, “the water belongs to the night fishers. And they don’t like to share.”
One of the night fishers reached out an – an appendage – towards Murphy. As if being pulled, Murphy began to walk towards the pier, towards that boat. I should turn around, Murphy thought. I should run.
Murphy’s body kept moving.
Only Faulkner’s ridiculously strong grip, only Faulkner pulling backwards with strength that had hauled in nets for years, only Faulkner being Faulkner while hissing imprecations, only that gave Murph the strength to turn, to run, to spring with Faulkner until they were at the little fishing cabins which had, until today, seemed rather far from the lake to Murphy.
“The worst thing,” Faulkner muttered, as they lay on the thin rug in the middle of the tiny cabin which was, for the summer, Murphy’s, both of them panting like they’d never run a step before in their lives. “The worst thing about greedy jerks who don’t like to share – they’re the ones mostly likely to poach. We don’t get many summer workers, we told you. We don’t. And for once, blast it, Murph, I’d like to keep one.”
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