“Kami Ga Kikoemasu” by Mike Chinn
Each wave reared higher than the Oji-Maru’s rails. Hooked fingers of white spume reaching for the whale-chaser before they collapsed back into the grey sea. Ishimaeru’s guts clenched every time, leaving him shaking and hollow with fear. The next time that clawing foam might hide the gleam of bone, or the time after that, or the time after—
The yell shook Ishimaeru from his thoughts. He pushed himself back from the scarred bow and turned to face Hoshi Kōatsu: the Oji-Maru’s acting captain. The man’s square face was pale and sweating. “You’re not paid to moon around up here—!”
“I was keeping an eye out for—” Ishimaeru gestured out towards the tossing waves. “—the other ships,” he finished lamely.
“There’s nothing out there!” Kōatsu’s white-rimmed eyes gave a lie to his angry tones. “The fleet, I mean – not within radar range. Not even those Greenpeace bastards. Go and help Ani with the lines: the sea’s trying to get our prize back…”
Kōatsu snatched at Ishimaeru’s right arm; he felt the captain’s rough nails digging through the sodden sleeve. A brutal nudge almost sent Ishimaeru tripping over the jagged hole in the harpoon deck: all that remained of their gun. Only chance held him back from going head first down the high steps; but he clung on, managing a degree of dignity as he reached the main deck far below. It didn’t escape his notice that Kōatsu stayed in the bows, staring out over the churning sea exactly as he had been doing.
Ani was amidships, halfway over the port side as he struggled to tighten the lines holding their whale against the hull. His unsteady fingers were losing their battle with the lines. Ishimaeru joined the old man, ignoring the waves of stale booze that even the sharp wind couldn’t clear. Together they secured their catch – though the rising sea hammered at the whale-chaser’s hull, thrashing at the huge minke carcass, giving it a renewed life.
Ani groaned as he straightened, stabilizing himself against the Oji-Maru’s superstructure. He wiped palms on his stained shirt-front and lit a cigarette, offering another to Ishimaeru. The younger man accepted gratefully – wondering how the match didn’t ignite Ani’s breath – and dragged on the harsh smoke. Ani coughed and spat. “And then there were three, eh?”
“Huh?” Ishimaeru didn’t get the connection.
“You, me and Kōatsu. Last of the valiant crew of the Oji-Maru.” He grinned a gap-toothed smile. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say that minke was cursed.”
* * * *
To read more of “Kami Ga Kikoemasu” and other stories by Mike Chinn you’ll need to obtain a copy of Give Me These Moments Back.