The Isper Sea was what swept unsuspecting fish and sea creatures to the shores of the Fiume, and with its faithfulness came a life of boats, docks, and well-kept harbors. Through the dawns and dusks, it shifted in and out of focus. People trod along the shorelines, counting waves, staring at the red glare of the sky. When night fell, only the gulls could be heard above the whispers and shouts of the sea.
At first, there were only fishing poles. Lonely men gathered their rods and reels and stood at the edge of tides. The sun beat until their skin was rough and tan as leather, and their eyes crinkled from squints into the horizon. A man would set his pole into the thick sand and count his bait. Two, four, six. Licking his lips, he took a sturdy line and swung it far out, watching the end sail over the mellow waves. Then, placing himself carefully behind the pole, he waited. His muscles softened, his brows furrowed, his hardened feet dug into the sand, and he waited for the subtle tug, the innocent grip. He would wait for hours.
Then came the boats. Hand-carved canoes, rickety rafts, painted rowboats, wooden gems. People were hungry for bigger fish and bigger dreams, and they drifted outward, eyes searching and hearts swelling. The seascape became dotted with multicolored figures bobbing along the cream-colored coast. People brought thicker nets and meatier rods. Soon, every day, bulging sacks of bug-eyed fish were hauled across the hot sand like sacrificial processions. The beached fishermen gazed in wonder, but they kept their delicate rods, licked their lips, and swung their lines back even further.
Once the boats filled the harbor, merchants and salesmen rubbed their thin hands, smiling. A stubby pier was built, followed by floating docks and jutting poles. A cramped general store appeared across the beach and housed a dedicated rack of fishing equipment. A café opened up serving jet-black coffee and hearty biscuits. The first seafood restaurant offered three items on its menu: pink halibut, striped mullet, golden trout. Food carts rolled in, lining up neatly across the span of rock and grass. It only took a few months for the real construction to begin.
The sea kept on, loyal as ever. The waves continued their timely rhythm, and the fish humbly stayed put in the food chain. Gradually, hoards of families flocked to the famed harbor. Men grew greedier, women became busier, and children felt hungrier. And so, the fishing village grew into a community, which grew into a town, which grew into a bustling city. People began to forget the sea in lieu of its gold coins, rising profits, trimmed roads, and metal structures. People began to forget that seas are full of secrets, and secrets can be dangerous things.
It would not be long before a certain, growing darkness was discovered in the murky waters, far out in the depths of hidden caves and jagged trenches. It would not be long before the people realized that the words rot and decay had strayed far from the meanings they had once been.
[something I’ve been working on of late. subject to revisions and intense scrutiny.]