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The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meaning is unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.

— Rene Magritte

His reaction, emotions and feelings were quite in line with those that any ordinary fisherman would experience if he discovered a mermaid in his nets.

The splashes, the sound of a fall, and soon-to-follow blows to the door indicated that the creature had rolled over the edge of the barrel, crawled to the aisle, and now wanted to get on deck. Supporting the shuddering door with his back, the man brought a shaking cigarette to his lips and, drawing down, recalled how he had discovered an unusual creature in the middle of the catch just recently. Then, he had hit it with a beater — more out of fear than malice.

At first, the fisherman spotted a mighty tail that stood out against the background of relatively small fish. This tail had no scales and looked more like the dolphin than a fishy one. Though it could be called dolphin’s tail only at a stretch. That was somewhat surprising, but not alarming yet. But then the body crawled out, and the seasoned man barely crapped his pants with fear. He saw waxy skin; disproportionately small head resembled dried apple; from it, a horse mane stretched along the entire spine; piranha-like teeth; two creepy eyes with shape and appearance of small jellyfish; four limbs, vaguely similar to something between amphibian legs, fins and tentacles. It was ugly indeed. Or maybe, she was ugly, because the breast, represented by two completely unaesthetic mammary glands (if it was them, of course) unambiguously hinted at the female sex of the creature.

When the initial shock passed, the involuntary monster catcher started to ponder seriously about what to do next. And the blows that shook the door didn’t contribute to the clarity of thinking.

On the one hand, the beast turned out to be quite strong and tenacious. For example, the fisherman would not have been able to recover so quickly after stunning with the mallet. It was possible to knock out the creature again and, not bothering with complicated issues, throw it overboard and forget everything like a bad dream. Such an outcome would indeed seem to be the solution to all problems.

But on the other hand, the man already foresaw how bitterly he would regret the missed opportunities later, when he would lose not only the chance of boasting to the locals but also his chance of becoming famous all over the world. Yes, he had already imagined the front pages of global media, full of his photographs alongside with the beast (caught by his own hands, captured in unequal battle). The scientific community would most likely name the creature in honour of its discoverer. Though he considered the latter privilege somewhat excessive.

However, there were other aspects besides fame. One way or another, the creature, whoever or whatever it was, dwelled peacefully in these waters until it became entangled in his nets. Somehow, it was born and lived to its age, having grown to such a decent size. Maybe it even understands everything. Probably, he had a mom (or whoever they, the monsters, have). Perhaps, he has some relatives, friends or acquaintances. And now they’ll place him in a large aquarium, putting all sorts of sensors and cameras around, the crowds of scientists, journalists and gapers will surround him, they’ll begin to study his behavioural features and conduct experiments on him, and when they’ll squeeze out everything that can be found in preliminary research — they’ll dissect him like a frog in anatomy class.

Mentally imagining himself in the creature’s place, the fisherman involuntarily shivered: perhaps it is a monster, but he is still a man. And if you are an unworthy person, it doesn’t matter how wonderful your poems and novels are, how many prizes you’ve won in sports competitions and what scientific degrees you’ve been awarded. No fame can replace ordinary human decency.

On the other hand, having returned to the starting point of his reasoning, the fisherman couldn’t decide how to act. Turning the creature loose, without finding out what he was dealing with, seemed very short-sighted at least.

Perhaps, it was an alien from outer space. Perhaps, it was an obscure species of animal undiscovered by biologists. Or the result of new Doctor Moreau’s secret scientific experiments. And maybe that was how real sea maidens and other strange beasts from folk beliefs and medieval bestiaries looked like. Maybe it was a resident of the sunken Atlantis. Or a rare relic of the prehistoric period, such as once sensationally discovered coelacanth. As an option — it could be a descendant of an ordinary marine mammal, mutated from water pollution caused by chemical and radioactive waste of hazardous industries. Or it could be a new military development of the enemy, aimed at undermining the combat capability of the navy: a specially bred diver-saboteur! A secret weapon, preserved from the Ahnenerbe times! Well, maybe the fisherman’s last assumption was too bold, but at the same time, knowing what was on the other side of the door, he wouldn’t be surprised at any potential outcome.

On the other hand, what he, a man with no special education, could do on his own? Of course, it was possible to pack the weird creature in one of the barrels, and deliver it with all the other barrels to his fish shop, and then unload it into the pool and then take care of secrecy. Another matter was that it would be tough to conceal this monster in the place, clearly not intended for such things. In addition, it was unknown what exactly and in what quantities it should eat daily and how much excrements it leaves behind. And what about his wife? She might not be that understanding if she discovered his ‘’happy’’ find.

As an option — he could transport the creature to some familiar scientist. Of course, no self-respecting expert would believe unfounded statements, and might even give him a referral to a psychiatrist, but if he would show him his catch…

On the other hand — the scientist could simply assign the finding to himself and become an international celebrity as an outstanding author who made one of the most unusual and significant discoveries in global history, the one that would fundamentally change all modern scientific ideas and attract keen interest all over the world for many years. The sales of caps and t-shirts would follow, as well as endless interviews. The sleek smart-arse would begin to tell how hard he’d been working for years to develop a theory and how he’d made efforts to search, until finally, as a result of a carefully planned operation, he caught a merman in the flesh. Well, then would be all sorts of awards, all these Nobel Prizes, and Guinness World Records (in the categories «for the most unusual catch» and «for the most profitable catch»), and other minor perks.

No way, dude! But still, what other options remain in this case? To keep this creature on the ship in the barrel from now on? He can’t hold it for sure. To organize a secret hiding place somewhere? With a swimming pool and various equipment, like in a water amusement park, so that the mermaid would not be bored? Really, man? It’s easier said than done. Besides, his wife will begin to monitor his actions and check where her lord and master is running all the time. And she is so jealous. In any case, we must proceed from the actual possibilities in this situation.

But what if he won’t invent anything and tell her the truth? Of course, she’ll think her husband went nuts. And what if he not only tell her but also shows the creature? In this case, there will be a swoon firstly (and pray God, there will be no heart attack), and then — hysterics and screams will follow, and then, in turn, the whole area will be alarmed, because dear neighbours always need to know everything. Well, and what if he, let’s say, will shut her mouth and ask her to behave quietly, show understanding for the situation and keep a secret from outsiders? No, he won’t be able to shut her mouth. Not a chance, man. And also, how exactly she keeps secrets already has become a byword. The woman feels obliged to tell her neighbours about the fact that her drunk husband somehow failed in bed once so that people could make fun of him in all the taverns. Is there any hope that she won’t call on some TV channel to sell a sensation for nothing? Hell no, you can’t rely on her in such matters: if two people know the secret, then everyone knows it.

Well, speaking theoretically: let’s suppose that he can find a way to keep this leviathan somewhere nearby, without spotlighting it in front of others, and even in front of his wife. What then? Well, let’s say, he will feed him three times a day, regularly change the water, keep a diary of observations. And then what? He won’t be able to conduct any serious experiment for one simple reason — he didn’t have special training. To keep a creature as a pet and spend money on animal care? Well, he hardly needs that. Besides, others can get suspicious. Leaving a sea monster as a legacy to his descendants would also be a strange solution.

Anyway, the man couldn’t stand at the door forever. The fisherman threw the cigarette butt on the deck, slowly smashed it with his boot, and then, securing the door handle with a pike pole, he went to the helm since he decided to turn the boat to the shore…

…Having returned from fishing much earlier than usual, he loaded all the barrels, except for one, into his working van, and took them to the warehouse. Then, he made a short call to one unpleasant guy and, after dealing him a short visit, quickly returned to the beast.

This time he was mentally prepared for facing the sea monster, so he looked at the creature with no great fear, but with apprehensive disgust. The creature, in turn, despite the frightening appearance, didn’t behave aggressively. It just covered its small head with forelimbs, being afraid of repeated blows.

Transporting the intimidated creature, the catcher threw tense glances around and clutched the steering wheel to the white knuckles. On the radio, as if mocking at his worries, sounded the water nymph aria from the immortal masterpiece Rusalka by Antonín Dvořák.

Whoever or whatever this caught creature was, the fisherman feared him less than all those who could discover the beast on their way out of town, to the rented cabin, and those who might see him when he carried the creature inside.

After finding a rusty bucket and bringing the water into the uncleaned bath (the only possible alternative to the swimming pool at the time), the fisherman put the deathly frightened creature in it. Once again, he regretted that he had not thrown the monster overboard when he still had had such a chance. The creature huddled and stared at the man with horror, while the latter one smoked and reflected about why he even started all this and how he should proceed. There were no answers.

«„And what am I supposed to do with you?“» the fisherman asked wearily, not waiting for an answer. He strongly doubted that the monster could hear him, and even if so — it was unlikely to understand his speech. The creature humbly picked up its legs, looking around cautiously.

The cabin’s interior was devoid of any attractive elements and barely met the minimum requirements of extremely uncomfortable living. A light bulb hanging on a thin snot of a wire swayed and flickered faintly from time to time. Plaster fell off the walls to the extent of indecency, exposing all that was possible and impossible for proper decorum. The ceiling, covered with wet stains, crumbled and sagged. The floorboards creaked, and some of them were rotten enough to risk breaking and collapsing. Old rusty battery hid insect colonies behind.


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