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The Story …
The blessing of the fishing fleet is more than a ritual. It’s God’s protection from the demons of the sea. Captain John Boston has no time for God and blessings anymore. The church has betrayed him, the local priest refusing to protect his sister from a violent husband, while his wife is seriously ill. His boat the Cormorant hasn’t had much luck this season and some people are whispering that God has turned his gaze from John Boston too, because he wouldn’t accept the priest’s traditional blessing. Now the Cormorant is sailing one last time to try and fill its holds with fish. There’s more than bad weather and empty nets waiting for them. The devil has a boat of his own and he’s out on the cold ocean, trawling for dead men and their souls.
You can be excused for thinking this story was inspired at least in part by Sebastian Junger’s novel The Perfect Storm and the subsequent film starring George Clooney.
Wrong. The idea for this tale came from a completely different source. In fact, it was the title song on Sting’s 1990 Soul Cages album. It’s one of those tunes where it isn’t entirely clear what the song is really about, but it has lots of wonderful, dark lyrics about lobster fishermen making deals with the King of the Sea, bartering their souls and sealing these pacts by sharing cups of wine– “a vintage that blessed every ship in the line, wrung from the blood of the sailors who died, young white bodies adrift in the tide” while the reply is “If you lose a wager with the King of the Sea, you’ll spend the rest of forever in the cage with me”.
I always imagined the King of the Sea was this King Neptune-like figure with an impressive beard, bare chest and rather impractical trident fork, who was a fairly helpful chap when it came to sailors and fishermen. The idea that he was a nasty piece of work brought all kinds of possibilities to mind.
Oh, and I’d better admit to being influenced also by a movie long ago called (I think) The Devil’s Triangle where a luxury yacht picks up a man floating adrift in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle–with predictable and fatal results for the passengers when the man turns out to be the devil. It scared the hell out of me.
It just goes to prove you never know what might be lurking under the water’s surface, be it the ocean, a lake or even your own backyard swimming pool. Evil spirits are supposed to prefer water.
Especially at night.