“It is clear from the reports received over the years from Stronsa, St Augustyn – indeed photographs in this case, HMS Daedalus and other impeccable sources such as naval vessels rather than the rantings of drunken fishermen just awoken from a rum delerium, that there are indeed creatures of the deep as yet unknown to us, perhaps with the capacity to destroy ships and devour sailors.”
“The categorisation of these entities may be organised as follows…serpent types, as seen from the Daedelus…kraken – giant squid – as so nearly captured by a French vessel – and the lusca, a giant octopus with tentacles as long as a ship with suckers the size of cart wheels.”
Aristophanes Brown was speaking these peculiar words into the pewter horn of an Edison type Baraograph device. As he spoke, the sound was transferred to a rubber drum, the vibrations of which etched his speech onto a wax cylinder rotating under the power of electricity. He flipped a chunky dipole switch to stop the rotation, gathered his thoughts, then signalled “shusssh” with a finger at Lady Alexia Laplace as she entered his office. She nodded her understanding, then stood quietly, clad in a pair of moss green climbing breeches and black silk shirt.
Aristophanes resumed his recording.
“Serious experts regard the lusca as the greatest threat of all to life and limb. In the Indian Ocean specimens have been seen to tear shipwrecked men limb from limb with their tentacles, before devouring the heads and torsos of their unfortunate victims. By grasping round the hull, they have dragged even large schooners to their doom in the depths, before settling down to feast on the flesh of both the living and the dead, using powerful crushing teeth within their mouths.”
“They have been reported in both the Pacific and the Indian Oceans, with evidence that they have spread even into the colder waters of the Atlantic. It may be that Lloyds of London comes to refuse insurance to vessels because of the dread of the lusca, and so the giant octopus may come to dethrone the British merchant navy from its formerly powerful position.”
With finality, Brown stopped recording, the wax cylinder slowed to a stop, and he took out a cigarette from a silver case and went to light it, before remembering his manners and throwing it to Alexia.
“All rubbbish, of course,” he said, as he took out another cigarette, tapped the end on his desk and lit it. “The Stronsa beast is a decayed basking shark, the sea serpent an oarfish, and the St Augustine monster is a mass of blubber.”
He sat right back in his chair, and blew out smoke with satisfaction.
“The lusca is such a load of the proverbial cobblers.”
“Then why do you record it, you fool?” asked Alexia flatly.
“Devilment Alexia. People want to hear of terror, of creatures of the imagination made flesh. A world of dead sharks and whale blubber holds no excitement, or profit, for anyone. I’m going to get these cyclinders copied, and sell them. It amuses me to tell tall tales.”
“Really?” Alexia sighed. It was both a question, and a sigh of resignation.
“Indeed dear Lady Laplace! I shall call them “Aristophanes Brown’s Mysterious World” and write a book too! I’m sure it will do well.”
“I’m sure you’ll end up being belted about the face by angry shipping agents and insurance brokers Ari. But nothing shall dissuade you I’m sure.”
“True that. Oh Alexia, the world is tedious. Why isn’t it filled with monsters, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be.”
Alexia took a long look at him. “I think a man with a Picare machine should never, ever, be bored.”
This was written in a total of about 25 minutes in two stints, inspired by my current studies in Oceanography, and my long term interest in Cryptozoology. I like the mischief element of Aristophanes, and the long suffering practicality of Alexia