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Sea of Sickness (1 Viewer)

Walt1093

Senior Member
This is a Christian allegory set in the 1920s that I have been working lately. Let me know what you think.

Coastal California, 1922 Sea Of Sickness
Chilled fog crept through the morning air, hovering over wooden docks. The steam was so thick that it blurred vision all around. In the middle of the cold harbor, the sound of footsteps interrupted the peaceful silence, their knocks echoing throughout the pier. Captain Bradford Pierce looked up from his book, and saw two dark figures coming toward him. He leaned forward to get a better look. The morning fog was bad this time of year.
Pierce still could not see well enough. He slid off a crate that he was sitting on, and stepped onto the dock. The two figures halted.
“Is that you, Galloway?” he asked. The tallest of the figures put up his hand and waved.
“Hello there!” The man shouted cheerfully. “No, I’m afraid not; but I’m certainly glad to see someone out here this morning.”
As they came closer, Pierce saw fishing rods in their hands, and he could see that they were male. One of them was a boy, about seven years old he figured. The older man wore a joyful smile on his face, melting ice that might make the conversation awkward. Pierce trusted them now. The man shook his hand.
“Keith Cobb!” He said. This fellow did everything with great excitement and energy, making Pierce stifle a chuckle.
“Brad Pierce.”
Pierce noticed that Cobb had a southern accent, and might be lost in this fog-filled harbor.
“Lost your way, mister?” he asked. Cobb snapped to attention.
“Oh heavens no!” he pointed to the boy. “We missed our boat, and I promised little Tom here that I’d take him fishing.”
“Oh…. That’s too bad.”
“Do you know of any boats that would take us out?”

“To the fishing grounds?”
“Yes.”
Pierce knew what Cobb was suggesting, and hoped that he could dumb his way out of it.
“Just go along the docks here,” he said. “I am certain that you can find a boat to take you.”
Cobb’s eyes opened wide.
“For free?” he asked.
“No.” said Pierce. “For a reasonable price.”
“I’m willing to pay.” Cobb pulled out a wad of hundred dollar bills out of his shirt pocket. “The oil business has been awfully good to me!”
Pierce shuddered at the sight of such money. Now he felt foolish for trying to get rid of him.
“The oilfield you say?” Pierce asked, hoping to keep Cobb’s attention.
“Oh yes! I’m from Oklahoma,” Cobb became very animated as he waved his hands around. “It’s been shooting out of the ground like a rocket out there!”
“That’s something! What brings you all the way out here?”
“My wife’s visiting her relatives. But, like I said before, I promised little Tom here that I would take him fishing at least once.”
The conversation paused. Pierce looked over the Father and son, wondering how much Cobb would be willing to pay. If the price was right, maybe Pierce could skip a day of hard work on the seas, and read his book while the two okies fished.
“I’ve got this old schooner,” Pierce said. “Would you like me to take you?”
At this, Cobb stepped back and shook his head strongly.
“Oh no! We wouldn’t want to put you through any trouble.” He said.

Pierce felt his catch slipping off the hook.
“It won’t be any trouble at all.” He said. “I know where you can haul in some terrific snapper.”
“Really?” Cobb said with the wide-eyed innocence of a child.
Now Pierce had him.
“Yes!” he said. “We can catch enough to cover my whole deck.”
Little Tom finally spoke.
“Please Daddy!” he exclaimed, gripping his pole with excitement. Cobb looked at Pierce with pleading eyes.
“Would you consider a twenty for your troubles?” Cobb asked. Pierce’s eyes flashed open.
“I’d sure appreciate it!” he said.
As soon as Pierce took the twenty, he hurriedly untied the ropes from the dock, getting ready to cast off. Cobb and his son hopped onto the boat, each carrying a tackle box and sack of lunch. It was going to be a long day on the water.
Cobb’s fancy fishing gear caught Pierce’s attention. The oilfield must pay big money, he thought. Maybe enough money to quit this fishing racket. It sounded nice. No smelly fish, and no rough waters to deal with. Maybe someday Pierce would go back east and try his hand at it. In the meantime, his blue and white schooner set sail for the fishing grounds nearby.
After a four hour journey, Pierce had reached a good spot for red snapper. To his knowledge, none of the other fishermen in the town knew of it, except for an old man in the tavern who told him a week ago. Quite handy information for the time being. Pierce tossed a heavy anchor into the water, letting it sink to the ocean floor. The two Cobbs were baiting their hooks on the deck of the stern.
“Is this the place?” Cobb asked. Pierce nodded, marching up to the stern while looking out at the sea.

“Yep.” He replied. “You should be able catch your fill in a few hours, the little devils bite like mosquitoes this time of day.”
Cobb slid his bait on a long hook, finally ready to cast his line in the water. He told his son be patient before he casted. But Tom did not wait for his father. With a flick of the wrist, he whipped his pole around, sending the line sailing through the air, landing in the ocean with a splash. The zip of a reel spitting out fishing line filled Pierce’s ears; an odd sound that he had never heard. But then again, he had never taken anyone fishing before either.
Now, Pierce had nothing left to do but sit and read. He grabbed his book from the top of the crate, and thumbed through the pages to the chapter he had left at. The sound of paper slipping through his fingers reminded him of the zipping reel. Pierce grinned. It was a pleasant sound. But such things did not matter now. All that mattered was finishing the story.
He concentrated on the words, and soon raced through the novel’s climax, his heart beating as the hero faced the villain in a showdown for the ages. The two fought intensely through chapter after chapter, the villain having the upper hand. But, in the final chapter, the hero escaped by a miracle, arising victorious.
Pierce set down the book, looking out at the rough seas. They looked especially strong today. Breakers crashed as the wind pushed them ahead, splashing hard against the ocean, covered in white foam. Mounds of water passed beneath the schooner, lifting it up, and lowering it back down. Enough to make even the most seasoned fisherman feel dizzy.
Suddenly, little Tom yelled with excitement. The young boy was fighting with a fish, and a very big one at that. It bent the pole downward, diving to escape the hook. But the hook only dug deeper. Tom gripped the reel tightly, trying to twist the crank. The crank would not budge. Pierce decided that the boy needed his help.
He yanked the rod and reel from Tom’s arms, grabbing the crank with all his strength. It barely turned. The fish was enormous. Filled with excitement, Pierce stepped back, using his arms to pull the fish to his schooner’s edge. The line felt heavy in his arms, slowly giving in to the pull. But the fight was not over yet. The fish swam in frantic circles beside the boat, and yanked at Pierce’s pole until he thought it would break.
Tom’s father arrived at the scene. He saw that Pierce was struggling with a monster, and used his strength to aid him. Cobb grabbed the top of the fishing rod, placing a thumb on the line to keep it from breaking. He planted his feet, and pulled against the strength of the giant fish. The tug-o-war lasted fifteen minutes; a large fish pulling two across the deck, the men fighting back with sheer muscle and determination. Little Tom watched in awe as his father and the Captain fought a battle between man and creature.
A red shadow appeared beneath the water. It moved slow, creeping next to the side of the boat. Tom leaned over the side of the schooner to get a better look. As he watched the red shadow, he noticed a line coming from its mouth; this was the fish. From its tail to its head, it was bigger than little Tom.
“Daddy!” he shouted. “It’s huge!”
The adults were busy with bringing the fish on deck.
“Mr. Cobb,” Pierce said. “Do you think you can hold this pole till I get my gaff?”
“Go ahead.” Cobb said.
Pierce raced across the deck, reaching the place where he kept his gaff. He ripped it from its holder, trying to balance the other end with his hands. It finally steadied as he lowered its hook to the deck. Pierce moved his hands up the shaft, getting a better grip around the handle; it was heavy and hard to use.
Little Tom tried to touch the fish as he leaned over the deck, something Pierce would not advise, but allow for the moment. Rich children did not like being told what to do.
Suddenly, the fishing pole slipped from Cobb’s hands. Their giant fish was getting away! Pierce dived for the edge of the boat, and lunged forward with his gaff, slapping the water with an iron hook. The barbs ripped through red scales, lodging themselves inside the fish. Pierce pulled up with a jerk. It didn’t budge. The fish was far too big to be brought up by one man.

“Somebody help me get this fish on deck!” Pierce said, careful not to sound rude. Cobb raced to the scene, still recovering from his previous battle.
Cobb grabbed the back end of the gaff, joining in the struggle. He planted his feet, gritted his teeth, and pulled back with all of his might. Pierce groaned as they lifted the giant out of the water.
The fish landed on deck. Blood poured from its gaff wound, spilling out onto the white deck. At first, Pierce thought that it was a red snapper, but snappers could never grow this big. The fish was roughly four feet long; larger than any fish he had ever seen, except for in pictures. The three fishermen stood on the middle of the deck, staring at the red giant without speaking; except for Cobb. He whistled in amazement.
“Lord have mercy,” he said. “These snappers are a lot bigger than I thought they were!”
The boat captain shook his head, staring at the fish with wide eyes.
“No,” Pierce said. “This isn’t a snapper.”
“It isn’t?”
“No.”
“Well then, what is it?”
Pierce squatted down to have a closer look.
“Don’t know,” he said. “I’ve never seen this kind of fish before.”
Cobb turned to his boy, being the proud father that he was.
“Did you hear that, Tom?” he exclaimed. “You just caught yourself a fish that ain’t been caught before!” Pierce couldn’t help but grin at Cobb’s southern accent.
Pierce examined the red giant. It had the head of a barracuda, and the body of a snapper, with the tail of a tuna. This was a mystery beyond a lowly fisherman. He would have to take a picture and bring it to an expert.
As he turned the fish over, Pierce noticed something that made his heart sink. It would be hard to break this news to Cobb. Black patches covered the fish’s scales; scattered here and there, shaped like giant polka-dots. He recognized these marks instantly. Any fisherman in Coastal California would. Pierce thought that the disease had been wiped out a month ago; however, sitting on the deck in front of him was contrary evidence.
Pierce stood up, and removed his cap.
“Oooooh..” he murmured. “That’s not good.”
“What’s going on now?” Cobb asked. He looked worried, as he should have been.
“This fish has got a bad case of the patches.”
“The patches..”
“It’s a disease started turning up a few years ago.” Pierce squatted down again. “Do you see these black spots?”
“Yes.”
“These are the indicating marks; this old fish is lucky to have made it this long.”
Cobb’s happy mood vanished, replaced by a frightened demeanor.
“What does this mean?” he asked. Pierce stood up.
“Well,” he said. “It means that we’re going to have to return this thing to the water.”
The Father’s reaction startled Pierce.
“Release it?” he shouted. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of!”
Pierce tried to remain calm.

“But Mr. Cobb,” he said. “This disease is contagious; if any of our other fish catch it, they’ll be no good for eating. Just like this one.”
“Then why would you throw it back in the ocean?” Cobb asked.
“Because most fish down there already have it.” He replied.
“Then what’s the point of even fishing?”
Pierce sighed.
“There are a few fish left that don’t have the disease.” He said. “Those are the ones we are after.”
Cobb did not speak, but looked at the captain skeptically.
“If we let this diseased fish mix with the rest of our catch, they will get infected before we reach the harbor.” Pierce explained, trying to be as polite as he could.
“No,” Cobb said. “That fish is spectacular, I’m not going to throw it back for nothing in the world.”
“If you say so….” Pierce murmured.
The rest of the day went on peacefully. Pierce sat at the back end of the boat, watching Father and son cast their lines into the ocean. He listened to the zipping of reels, pleased by the new sound that he found so entertaining. He also liked watching little Tom smile and laugh. It was good to see a young boy fish in the ocean. Every time Tom casted, he believed that he would catch an even bigger fish, or maybe even a fearsome shark.
After a while, the boat captain got bored. He talked to Cobb while he fished. For a man who seemed to be busy, Cobb was a non-stop talker, using his hands to make gestures as his eyes opened wide in the middle of his stories. The okie father sometimes got so excited that Pierce feared he would drop the rod and reel into the water.


Once Pierce was allowed to speak, he asked Cobb about the oil business. How much does it pay, how hard is the labor, and how about getting me a job out there. Pierce let his last question sound like a joke, but he seriously wondered what sort of opportunities he might find back east. As a young man, he had drifted from job to job, town to town, and wage to wage until he finally took up the profession of his father; which was commercial fishing.
When Cobb and Pierce quit talking, the fish started biting. One by one, the two fishermen pulled in a full day’s catch. Red snappers, sea bass, and rockfish leaped from the surface, hanging from a hook through their mouths. To Pierce’s surprise, none of them had the patches; meaning that they were all good for eating; not that it would matter to Cobb.
Pierce found a barrel to store the fish in. He put the healthy fish inside, but left out the red giant. There was still a small chance he could keep the catch from getting the patches; if he could just keep them separated for the long trip home. Cobb watched him from the other side of the deck.
“Aren’t you going to put in the big one?” he asked. The captain shook his head and slapped a lid on the barrel.
“No,” Pierce said. “As long as we keep it from mixing with our catch, the clean fish won’t get spoiled.”
“Go ahead and put it in,” Cobb replied.
“But the fish will spoil.”
“No they won’t.” Cobb held his arm out and pointed at the barrel. “Just take off the lid and put the big one inside.”
Since Cobb was paying his wages, Pierce felt no need to argue the point, and figured that it would be another man’s loss, not his.
“I don’t know why you’re so disagreeable,” said Cobb. “Any fish is good to eat, I don’t care what disease it has.”

Pierce felt insulted.
“May I ask you a question?” he asked.
“Oh, certainly.” Cobb replied.
“Have you ever been to the ocean before?”
“No, this is my first time.”
“Well then, let me give you some advice.”
“What’s that?”
“Fishing in a mud hole in Oklahoma is a lot different than fishing in the Pacific Ocean.” Pierce leaned against the side of the barrel. “You’ve only been here once. I’ve sailed these waters my entire life, and I know a whole lot more than you do about the fish.”
Cobb laughed at Pierce to relieve the tension, and shook his head. But he still would not change his stubborn mind.
“I’m going to eat that big one no matter what you say.” Cobb said. “It looks just as good as the others to me.”
Pierce caved in to Cobb’s request, and stuffed the giant fish into the barrel with the rest of the catch.
“You’re going to find out different when you take a bite out of it.” Pierce mumbled under his breath.
At the end of the day, Pierce pulled up anchor, and began the journey back to the harbor. He watched as the wind pushed against his sail, stretching it across the mast. Waters parted in front of the stern as the boat glided over the waves.



Cobb and his son had enjoyed themselves very much. Little Tom had a smile on his face, anxious to take the fish out of the barrel and look at them. He wanted to go fishing again someday, and pestered his father all the way home about making it an annual event. Tom was reminded by his father that money does not grow on trees.
Pierce smiled. It had not been such a bad day after all; he was able to finish his book, hear about new jobs back east, and relax in the peaceful fog of the northern Pacific Ocean. No hard work, no pulling up nets, and no grumbling deck hands to listen to. It had turned out to be a very good day.
The blue and white schooner came close to the harbor. Night had fallen, and steam covered lanterns hung from posts along the docks, welcoming the fishermen home. Silence filled the air. Only one noise could be heard; it was the roar of waves crashing against the cliffs nearby.
The stern bumped against the side of a dock. Pierce hopped off of the deck, and quickly tied his boat off to keep it from drifting away. After this, he walked further into the darkness, grabbing a lantern hanging beside a boat house. He returned to the Cobbs, light in hand, ready to unload the fish.
Cobb had already moved the barrel onto the dock, where he was now busy putting away his fancy fishing equipment. He took both rods, and ran the hooks through a loop, keeping them from dangling free. As Cobb did this, Pierce took the liberty of opening up the barrel.
The lid came off with a pop; startling the Father, and exciting the little boy. Tom ran over to the barrel, peeking over the rim to look at the fish. Pierce lowered his lantern, sending a dull glow into the barrel so that the boy could see them.
“Daddy!” he shouted in surprise. “How come all the fish turned black?”
Pierce saw it first. All of the fish had caught patches on the way home, and now the black spots covered their bodies, making them useless for eating.
“Huh?” Cobb asked. “What do you mean?”

“All of the fish have black patches on them.” Tom said.
Cobb looked at the fish inside the barrel. He whistled in surprise, and leaned over the rim in silence. All of them were covered in the same black spots. Scales that once glimmered in the sunlight were stained by a black disease, spread by the giant which had no place being inside the barrel. Cobb’s lack of caution had ruined an entire day’s catch. All was lost because he allowed the diseased to mix with the healthy.
“Well, they’ll still make good eating son.” Cobb said weakly. His son cried.
“Why didn’t you listen to the captain, daddy?” Tom sobbed. “That big fish ruined the whole barrel!”
With the last words, Tom kicked the wooden drum of fish, sending it into the murky waters of the harbor, where all of the diseased were trapped beneath a dark barrel forever.
“Those aren’t the fish I caught!” Tom cried, in emotional denial. “I’ve never seen them before!”
 
N

namesake

Is this a short story, or is it a novel? It could help a little more but if it is a novel then maybe it could work better. I don't know much about novels though since it takes a lot of experience to learn to write one plus I need to read more novels to get a better idea of what to do. Writing short stories will help you out more since there is a huge time investment for writing a novel. But maybe you know more than me, but I'd keep a copy or two christian books to see where they get their ideas from. I know there's a book on the illuminati, that was based on a conspiracy a long time ago. Maybe you can tune into discovery channel since they are brilliant researchers. I remember a documentary on the illimunati on their channel. Lastly I would study the criticism of christian fiction. There are probably books of it on amazon.
 

Walt1093

Senior Member
It's a short story. And yes, I've done all my homework on Christian fiction; especially allegories. What I've written is actually pretty typical of allegorical fiction from a Christian's perspective. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker; I've read em all, and this isn't much different. However, I think that the message in this story is a little hard to digest for a secular reader.
 
N

namesake

Maybe you did a good job but not from the a non-christian's perspective. Who are not that knowing of christian images in my opinion. I know what fish means as a symbol. However I can't explain it. The deadly part of the fish probably is the scale and something of that nature or maybe the act of fishing. Maybe you need find out more of what makes a fish a sin and so on. Maybe the act of fishing needs a dangerous side, as it stands it is too supernatural, and might need some more clarity. Maybe there was a law on fishing finally but I have no idea. There has to be a history perspective on this too.
 

Walt1093

Senior Member
To put it simply, the "patches" disease represents sin, and the story is about allowing sin inside the church. Say there is a pastor of a church that is having an open affair with a married woman, but yet no one says anything about it, because he is an excellent speaker, and also because they are trying to avoid being "judgemental." So, I'm guessing that you can already see that such a pastor would be like the diseased fish, which was allowed inside the barrel(representing the church.) Pretty soon, the rest of the church members feel that they can do whatever they want, being that their pastor is openly sinning without repentance. Thus, the disease of sin spreads. Pretty much every object and character in my story represent something to do with this hot-button issue in Christianity. Cobb and Pierce represent the opposing factions in the church, the ocean represents the world, and little Tom represents Jesus Christ, but that would require even more explantion. This story has been a hit with a small Christian audience that I've been able to show it to, but I was hoping I could get some more "professional adivce", if you know what I mean.
 
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namesake

Well since it it has very good coherency maybe the workshop would be a good place for it? I don't have much experience with this genre though I know a little bit about research.
 
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