Saga of Bohok -Chapter 1

Chapter 1

The river was freezing, even this late in the summer the water was fed by glaciers high in the mountains and never truly lost its chill. Bohok climbed up onto the sandbar and did his best to shake off the water. Soon the sun would warm the black sand and the shallow water surrounding it but now the sand squishing up between his toes was as cold as the surrounding waters.

The swim had been miserable but necessary. The best place to catch fish was in the deep channel along the sandbar. The river was too low everywhere else for his nets to work properly.

The sun was slowly peeking over the mountains to the east as he readied his nets. His father had told him once that the hour before the sun rose was the coldest of the day, as his quaking fingers tried to untangle the fine ropes of the his nets he believed it. He could hear his teeth chattering over the rushing waters around him.

With his nets straitened and untangled Bohok tossed them expertly into the river just beyond a series of ripples and into the deep water beyond. He hauled in the nets hand over hand then examined the contents. Several yellow perch and two decent sized trout struggled within the confines of the net. Disgusted, Bohok reopened the net and tossed the fish back into the river. While all the fish were large enough to make a meal it wasn’t what Bohok was after.

The travelling fish were going to return soon. They always did this time of year. Bright red and hook jawed they came up the river in endless hordes.  Their arrival marked a time of plenty for the Fish-Eaters, who relied on the spawn to feed them through the winter.

While the fish always came around the same time each year the fisherman who brought home the first traveler was honored by the tribe and granted a boon from the chief. It was that honor and that promise that had pulled young Bohok from his warm blankets before the sun rose everyday for the last two weeks.  He was determined to be the first to bring a travelling fish to Chief Yoosin.

He heaved the heavy nets back into the current and repeated the haul. He would repeat it all day if he had to; repeat it for as many days as he had to. It was the only way he could erase the stain of his heritage, and he would not fail.

His body was strong and his muscles were used to the labor of hauling the nets. It didn’t truly seem like work anymore. His calloused hands hardly ever bled anymore; they were nearly impervious to the scourging ropes and lines. The rhythmic action of throwing, hauling and dumping allowed his mind to wander as he worked his nets.

He thought about the reaction of the chief when he arrived with the first traveler.  All the other men of the village would be so surprised when a half blood brought home such a prize. He would finally end his isolation and torment.

With his mind adrift he didn’t notice the black form making its way up the deep channel. He tossed his net out with a great heave, smiling to himself when he saw the distance of his throw.  As he began to retrieve the net the line went taught in his hand. His first instinct was to wrap the line around his hand and yank as hard as he could. The net had obviously caught on a rock or a branch. He quietly prayed it was something he could pull the net off of from the shore. He dreaded having to dive into the frigid waters to untangle the net from a log.

He was taken aback when the rope pulled back on him, hard. It snapped his arm out straight and his heels dug furrows into the sand. Bohok struggled against the pull of the rope, the fisherman suddenly becoming the fished. The rope slackened for a moment then pulled again. He was yanked off his feet and fell face first into the river.

Under the water Bohok could see what his net had caught, but he couldn’t believe his eyes. The creature was massive; its body almost taking up the entirety of the channel. He looked up and saw that his net barely covered the tip of the monster’s nose. It was a fish, he thought, as he looked down its dark length but different from any fish he had ever seen. Its gargantuan tail was sideways and moved up and down rather than side to side. Each powerful stroke pulled Bohok through the water at astonishing speed. The fins on each side of the creature were huge and flapped like eagle’s wings in the water.

Bohok was so stunned by the great beast that he only remembered he needed to breathe when the burning in his lungs became so unbearable that it felt like there was a weight on his chest.  Frantically he kicked for the surface, trying to move up the current in the direction the rope was pulling him.

He gasped for air when he broke the surface of the water and saw that the creature too had come above the water.  A huge gout of water streamed from the top of its head.  Bohok saw its body expand and heard the rush of air being sucked into the creature.  It breathes air, he thought, as he struggled to stay atop the water.

 The current and the speed of the creature fighting against it pulled him closer and closer to the beast. Bohok was a strong swimmer, like most Fish-Eaters he spent much of his life in the water, but he couldn’t keep himself from being pulled into the beast. 

A bare foot touched it first. Its body was smooth and hard, like wet stone.  Bohok put both feet against it and pushed off, pulling in rope as it slackened. It was like climbing a cliff, only sideways. Slowly he began to pull himself up to the nose of the creature. He had to untangle his net, it was his only hope.

He climbed for all he was worth; kicking off the creature each time they were pulled back together. 

Then he saw the creature’s eye, and the creature saw him. The eye was bigger than Bohok’s head, and was like no fish eye he had ever seen. The eye had depth to it; it was like looking into a man’s eye. Bohok saw fear in those eyes; fear deep enough to match Bohok’s own. 

He stood transfixed; staring into the beast’s eye until he heard and felt a rumbling. The river channel was getting shallower; too shallow for such a massive creature, its belly was scraping along the rough bottom. Its eye widened even farther, Bohok saw a look of utter terror.

He saw the tail of the beast rise high above the water then come down with tremendous force.  He was knocked off his feet as the creature rose into the air then came crashing down. Not into the river but up onto the sand bar.

Bohok too landed on the sandbar; the force of the fall knocking the wind out of him. Fighting to breathe he rolled away from the creature as fast as he could, terrified that it too may roll and smash him into the sand. 

Once he had rolled clear of the beast and as far as the rope that tethered them together would allow Bohok let his head sink into the sand and he lay panting and exhausted.

Finally he looked up. The great fish had flung itself almost completely out of the water. Its tail and fins were flapping uselessly in the air; the flippers had dug deep trenches in the sand to either side of it. Bohok could see the sides of the creature expand and contract in panicked breaths. He picked himself up and walked back up to the beast’s head. The fear in its eye was gone; it was replaced with despair and sorrow. Bohok reached out a hand and placed against the creature. He could feel each shuddering breath; he could hear each breath roar from the hole in the top of its head.

Bohok didn’t know what to do. He knew the creature was dying, each breath became more ragged and labored. He didn’t know why a creature who obviously breathed air couldn’t live on land, but it couldn’t.  It took a long time; the sun reached its zenith above his head. It burned down upon Bohok’s skin but he did not move. He felt like the creature was trying to talk to him, communicate with him somehow as they gazed at each other. He wondered what it would have told him if it could talk.

Even without words the connection was stronger than any Bohok had known since he watched his own father die of the fever so many years ago. He stood there, his hand resting on that hard smooth skin, staring into that sorrowful gaze until the breathing stopped; the great eye closed, then Bohok kneeled in the sand and cried.

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Published in: on October 7, 2009 at 1:18 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 Comments

  1. Sure have missed your writing,
    now darn, hate waiting for the rest of the story!!

  2. so it has started. I love it you express yourself
    so well Weldon has a dad to be proud of

    i have a son I am soooo proud of


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