Continuing the occasional series of deleted scenes from Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl…
Chanzira liked to fish at dawn. He liked to put out his skiff from the banks of the Nile at first light, allowing the warm breezes to fill the ragged sails and take him out into the middle of one of the many tributaries that marbled the delta. He liked to throw out his nets and sit back and think.
Chanzira was a big thinker. He thought too much, his wife said. Thought about all kinds of things that weren’t about how to put food on the table or buy clothes for his children or procure spices from the markets. That sort of thing, said Chanzira, anybody could think about. An idiot could spend his days thinking about those things.
You would know, his wife often said. You would know what an idiot thinks about.
I was an idiot for marrying you, Chanzira often thought. But he knew better than to say it out loud. So he would take his skiff out as the sun rose, cast his nets, and think. Think about the moon and the waves and the darkness, think about who made them and when they would come to an end, and what life was like in England or France or Australia.
This morning, Chanzira was thinking about the waters that fed the Nile, about how they crawled over the world like a living thing, about what creatures survived in their depths. He had heard tell of whales and sharks, and blind things that had never seen sunlight. Chanzira peered over the lip of the skiff and saw his own reflection in the dark water, the rippling of the tides distorting and shaping it into something other than human. He grinned and pulled a face. His reflection did the same. He scowled. His reflection did the same. He winked.
His reflection opened an impossibly wide mouth and bared a row of pin-sharp black teeth.
Chanzira yelled. That wasn’t his reflection. His skiff was surrounded by faces, gray and bulbous, just beneath the river surface. Terrible things, with elongated bodies. They were swimming beneath his boat. Monsters.
Then Chanzira gasped. In the middle of them, looking at him with imploring eyes, was a girl. A white girl, with blonde hair that flowed around her like seaweed. Then the monsters, and the girl, were gone, down into the black depths. Chanzira sat for a moment, his eyes wide, then felt for his paddle and began to drive the skiff back to the bank. He had to get to Alexandria, to tell someone that monsters were in the river.
For the first time in his life, he didn’t know what to think.