Blackfish

Words || Cade Turner-Mann

The air is thickly salted. Waves crash around our knees. The rocks are slick, covered in baiting weed. The storm rolls in, over the tankers on the horizon, murderous and vengeful. Our skin is ionised. We are self-destructive, as our people have always been. Our meeting place was always at this headland they now call Snapper Point. 

The blowhole mists the air. Our lines are tightly anchored to the sea floor. Pilchards on one hook, weed on the other. One for the snapper, one for the blackfish. A monument of concrete stands defiant on our left. A headstone, and a warning. Twenty lost in ten years. Washed from the rocks, battered on the reef, deposited in the underwater caves. It doesn’t mention the suicides. Our cousin. Throwing himself from the headland.

Our father is with us. The father who drove us to isolation. Yes, he is here in his pathetic little urn. A man of colour reduced to the contents of a bottle. When they find us, all colour will be gone. We are all grey in the end. We are sprinkling our father on the baits, drying them out with ash. The dry baits hold to the hooks in their backs better than the fresh.

A wave is building. Sucking back the ocean from the rocks. We can see the carcasses of seabirds where they were caught in the hollowed rocks. There is always a smell when the seafloor is exposed like this. Like stale piss. A warning sign.

The rod bends nearly to the ground, and we’re on. There’s something big on the end of the rig. It runs for the reef, looking to break the line, or knock the hook out. The wave is beginning to move back towards the rocky point. There’s a dark flicker like a knife in the water.

A gull cries in the wind. We can’t tell where the ocean spray ends and the rain begins. Or where we end and the ocean begins. The wave crashes and the water is around our chest.

We’re still on. The spool spins wildly, screeching with shock. We hold on to the rocky outcrops. Our shins are slashed to ribbons by the oysters. Blood is in the water, dark red like the setting sun.

The wave recedes.

We wildly spin the reel, wanting to get the fish in before the next set. It breaches the surface. Blackfish. We get him on land. He tosses wildly, cutting through the air with anger at being caught. Like a black belt, snapping and cracking. He is truly alive. We net him and leave him tormented in a rockpool.

We look around. Our father’s ashes are gone. Washed away with the tide. The blackfish writhes in his cage.