Sailors are a very superstitious bunch. It could be as something as simple as wearing certain colors on certain days and as specific and as over the top as never washing your coffee mug. Superstitions never really made much sense to me and to be completely honest I still partially think it’s all bullshit. That is until I heard something one night while on deployment, something that came from the sea. My primary job on my ship was as an electrician for the aircraft catapults. I had to maintain them and make sure that they were always in working order, from doing ground and voltage checks to on-the-spot maintenance and troubleshooting. It was a hard enough job as it was, on top of me having to help other departments with their jobs because some people just suck. One night I was voluntold to help out the Aviation Boatswain's Mates (or ABE’s). They usually ran mechanical tests on the catapults at night to make sure that they were operational for day Ops. None of that was really my responsibility, but that night it was. Nights out on the open sea are pretty damn awe inspiring, if not sometimes terrifying. If you've never been out at sea before, there is usually no other light source besides the ship itself or any celestial bodies. Imagine a black canvas with millions of splatters of stars, like flicking white paint, under a pale but silky moon light. It’s pretty incredible, especially for someone who grew up in the city. This night, however, sky was choked with storm clouds so we couldn't see the moon, or any stars and we had to dim the ship lights because we were given word that we were being tailed by an enemy ship. So, to say that it was dark is an understatement. It was pitch black. There was a sparse light source, however, being the disconnected flashes of lightning in the distance. The crackle and rumble of the thunder as it struck the water’s surface vibrated everywhere like the moan of a sleeping giant. It also never helps that we never really know (at least we’re almost never told) where we are. So as far as I knew, we were in the middle of some god forsaken spot in the Atlantic. We did have small flashlights that we used to help us with our work. They weren’t strong flashlights, mostly small handheld pieces of shit that gave off a barely visible cream-colored light. You’d be lucky to see anything with it unless it was in absolute darkness. I was standing near the edge of the ship because I was working on an electrical panel that was acting up, so the ABE’s couldn't do their job yet. With my barely usable and annoying flickering flashlight illuminating my work area poorly, one of the ABE’s, named Carter, stood with me as I worked on it. We cracked jokes every now and then to keep the mood as light as we could, so the job started off on a decently high note. That's when we heard it, something coming from the distance, something almost otherworldly. It was singing. Something was singing out in those distant obsidian waters, its melody and cadence seemingly etheric and ancient almost like it was calling out to something. Or someone. Carter and I turned to each other slowly as the singing became more and more pronounced, almost like it was getting closer to the ship. He took a step back, almost hopping back, as I let out a hushed, “Oh shit!” while we swung our lights down into the black waters almost unwillingly, hoping to God we wouldn’t see where the sound was coming from. “What the hell was that dude?” I asked in an almost panicked whisper. It was dark, of course, so all I could really see from him was his vague outline and I didn’t think to shine my light on him, but I could tell that his eyes were as bulged and wide as mines was. He just shook his head. “I don't know what you're talking about. I didn't hear nothin.” “What are you talking about man? I know you heard it. I know I'm not crazy.” But before I could get out another word, he was already in my face, and I could see his eyes more clearly than anything else. I saw what was in his eyes, the only thing that occupied his pupils, the thing that completely engulfed them: Fear. Not the fear you have when you confess something deep and personal, not even the fear you have that infects you when you're put in an unwanted physical altercation. This was a different type of fear. This was the fear of never believing in something your whole life to then have that conviction shattered in only a few moments, like looking out into an empty and black void and knowing that something is looking back. “Listen to me,” he started. “I didn't hear anything, and you didn't either. Leave it at that and don't ever bring it up again.” With that, he left my side and went back inside the skin of the ship while I stood out there still staring into the blackness. That’s when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. A splash, but not the kind you would see if something fell in. No. It was the splash of something going back into the water that had previously surfaced. A deep and bitter chill raced down my spine as goosebumps glazed all over me. Just like that, however, the singing was gone, leaving nothing but a deafening silence and the moaning thunder. I don't know what I heard that night and honestly, I don't think I ever want to know. I did try asking Carter about it a few times after that but all he did was either ignore the question or deny it. I eventually heard a story from one of my old chiefs about a time when he heard the singing while off the coast of Somalia. A group of locals he was with bolted back to shore when they heard it and told him about incidents where kids and men would go missing while in the waters when the singing happened. Whatever it was, whatever it was doing, I'm just going to leave it there in memory and superstition. Maybe carter had the right idea. I don’t think I’ll every be ready to accept the truth of what we heard that night.
About the Author Mathew Rosario is a creative writing major at Columbia College Chicago. He served in the Navy as an electrician for 5 years and was deployed three times during his service. He was published in the first edition of Frances magazine and is the gold winner of the 2023 GDC narrative competition. His writing primarily falls in the horror and thriller genres.
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