Extract translated by John Minahane

The One-Eyed Monster

The disco ended. The wild dancing had stirred up the sea, but now it calmed down again, the surface fell, the waters washed away from the flooded islands in the Indian Ocean.
First to wake was the copepod, the “oar-legged” creature. She stretched out all her little oars and rowed away, bumping against little legs, fins, tails, moustaches and tentacles of the creatures lying all around. On her way she woke up a grumpy red crab, who – worn out from the dance – just dragged his big claw along the sandy bottom. She also woke up a sea cucumber, a whole cluster of sea urchins and two small nautiluses, who, half asleep and all tangled up, banged into a chimera. The chimera with quiet dignity rose in the water and swam off, no one knows where. The arthropods, “jointed-legged” creatures, who’d been sleeping under the chimera’s fin, also woke up, as did little fish, cephalopods or “head-legged” creatures, and comb jellies. The hermit crab did some sweeping up and crawled deep into his shell. Gradually all of them somehow hobbled off and were lost in the darkness. They were feeling “in bits”, aching all over, their heads were spinning, their little lights were only weakly glimmering, their limbs were not obeying. But in spite of this they were happy, because they had never before known such a festival at the bottom of the sea.
They left only their tracks on the sea floor. But by the time Biba the fish and Rado the sea-sea-snake woke up, the sand had gone over the traces and there was nothing left on the seabed to remind anyone of the festivities.
All that remained was the beautiful teeth in Biba’s jaws. Teeth that were sharp, and as straight as the masts of a yacht.
– I’ve never in my life seen lovelier teeth, Biba, – Rado said, and Biba just contentedly spread her mouth wide, to let the plankton flow in.
They were lying together at the foot of a dune, with sand scattered over them, leaning one against the other. Silently and fuzzily they were looking round them, pondering whether the celebrations, the lights and the dance were only a beautiful dream or had really happened.
In the silent darkness suddenly a tiny white thing appeared, a clearly shining dot. The dot grew bigger, the light came closer.
– Do you see what I see? – Rado asked.
– I don’t see anything, I’m sleeping, – Biba said, turning over onto her other side.
– Whatever can it be? It’s got a strange colour.
– Hmm, indeed, – Biba said, but she didn’t move from the spot: she couldn’t, all of her was hurting. That dance had been real after all.
– Shouldn’t we get out of here?
– Buzz off, Rado, leave me alone! The sea is full of strange things.
Biba shut her eyes and stopped glowing. The sea-snake fearfully watched the light coming closer and growing bigger. Whatever could it be, he pondered silently. What kind of animal has such a white light, shining harshly and with no interruption? The lights that animals have are flickering, pulsing. And what living creature gives out such a smooth purring and buzzing? The bigger the light grew, the louder it buzzed. Vrrrn, Vrrrrrn, Vrrrrrrrn.
– Biba, it’s coming close, wake up Biba! – Rado whispered, filled with dread. All around was the black-black darkness; the currents had settled down and all the deep-sea creatures had crawled away somewhere. The water seemed to have turned cold and heavy. Only this mysterious creature was approaching and buzzing ever louder. VRRRRN, VRRRRRRRRN, VRRRRRRNNNNNN, VRRRRRNNN.
– Biba, Bibushka, wake up now, – and Rado nudged Biba with the end of his tail. – It’s quite close now, and I’m scared!
– Shhh, be quiet, Rado, and shut your eyes, – Biba could not be disturbed.
Rado didn’t know what to do. He was shivering all over with fear. The light was so close that it was lighting up both himself and Biba the fish; he could feel that light on his skin and he had a feeling that his own little lamp at the end of his tail was itself, against his will, beginning to shine. They ought to crawl off somewhere, he thought, but he couldn’t move: the strange light nailed him firmly to the seabed, and fear paralysed him.
At that moment the white light suddenly went out. The buzzing stopped and the darkness and silence once again poured over the bed of the deep-sea channel. A strange darkness and a still stranger silence.
– Biba, – the sea-snake whispered in a trembling voice. – Biba, it’s here, it’s still here, I can feel it, but I don’t know where we should vanish to, Biba.
– Rado, no panic, I can’t see anything here, – Biba said calmly. Her eyes were shut, her fins limp.
– It’s here, I’m telling you Biba, it’s still here and it isn’t an animal, I feel that! – Rado insisted.
– You’re gibbering, Rado! Now let me alone, I’m in pain all over. Chrrrrr.
Ooh-ah-ah-ah-ah! Rado yelled when the light once again unexpectedly shone out, and not somewhere in the distance but directly in front of them, within three fins of their jaws – so it was quite near, so near that the light entirely blinded them. By now Biba could see the light even through closed eyelids; there was nothing for it, she had to wake up, whether she wanted to or not. The buzzing shook the whole dune, it was so powerful; the dune began rearranging and scattering its sand. The entire seabed was shaking. Ooh-ah-ah-ah-ah! Biba the fish was shouting too, but she was unable to move. The light was shining straight into her eyes, the earth was trembling, and a huge creature was reaching out something like tentacles to them, some sort of frightful hollow pipes, feelers and claws.
– What’s… what is that, Biba?” Rado cried, trying to coil himself round Biba.
Both of them saw one enormous circular eye, bigger than the largest medusa they’d ever met, and something was moving inside that eye, some other creature. It was looking at them and blinding them, and they were unable to move. Biba wanted to cover her eyes with her fins, but they were too short, so she turned her back. Rado saw that that thing had an arm sticking out of it and there was a needle at the end of the arm, a sharp point; it was going to skewer him, it was going to skewer Biba. Suddenly a quacking and hissing began and he saw how sand was disappearing from the seabed, he saw approaching the hollow pipe that was drawing the sand into it and he felt that it wanted to pull the two of them in too, the enormous sucking thing, the creature that sucked in and filtered the sand. A monster of immense proportions, more terrible than the most terrible devilfish. Weakened by his extreme fear, Rado felt like a bundle that someone was violently untying. Against his will his tail came close to the pipe, his tail-lamp clinked against its cold hard edge, the needle at the end of the second arm was going to pierce him…
– Bib-ah-ah-ah! Save me!” Rado screamed. And now Biba did not hesitate. She cast off her fear, opened her mouth wide, bared her teeth, and bit the monster ferociously in the arm. The arm was tough and some of Biba’s new teeth did not stand the strain. One of them pierced the arm through and remained there; others fell on the seabed, smashed and twisted, together with the broken needle. But there was no time for crying, as the monster was roaring, its arms were creaking, and the sucker was already dragging both of them into its guts. They were flying towards the mouth of the pipe as if the most powerful sea current had seized them.
Except that Biba was such a fat fish. She stuck in the pipe like a stopper, her tail in the pipe, her gap-toothed head outside. And Rado the sea-snake too collected his wits, swung his tail and caught one of the white lights with his tail-lamp. Whasssss! The light burst, splintered into a thousand pieces. At that moment the pipe stopped sucking and Biba fell to the sea floor, the monster began whistling whee-whee-whee-whee, and it drew back all of the arms that it had meanwhile thrust out, pulled away and then remained motionless and silent, fixed in one particular spot. Rado’s gills were shut tight with fear. He had seen that thing in all its monstrosity, but he had no idea what it was. He’d never seen anything like it. An elongated rounded light-green monster that had sucking arms with cables sticking out of them, several lights, and a great round eye where some sort of thing was moving.
For a long time they were looking at each other. The eye of the unknown creature observed the two small isolated animals on the seabed and they, paralysed with fear, observed the enormous unknown thing. After a while the thing suddenly started buzzing, turned about and swam away. Biba and Rado kept watching as the little white spot diminished, until finally it vanished completely in the darkness.
– Ufff! But we gave it a hammering, right? – Biba puffed contentedly.
– Come on my friend, for some reason you’re quite stiff with fear. Haven’t you ever seen a bathyscaphe? It’s a machine and it doesn’t have much more life than a stone, but you can sit in it. They say it gathers samples, shells, sand, coral and the like. Now and then it catches a fish. But I don’t want to be a sample. I’d rather be toothless, but no, not a sample. I won’t let myself be caught.
– Biba, and have you seen a bathyscaphe before?
– They only rarely come down so deep. But I know this one already, I had the honour to meet it last Wednesday. I bit through its cables and look how it comes making trouble again, the pest!
– But what about your teeth, Biba,… see how you’re looking, – Rado said, and he tried to light them up, but he didn’t have the means. His lamp was likewise broken.
–  Look, my friend, nothing lasts forever! I’m gap-toothed again, and once more your light isn’t working. And I’ve got hungry again. So we can go straight back to page five and continue reading. Just the bit about wandering alone on the bed of the deep sea, we can skip that.
I’ve got you, and you’ve got me. And that’s the most important thing.