Merc Rule 8

Written by J. D. Wiley --- Art by J. D. Wiley

Merc Rule 8: Shitting your pants is the first sign of courage.

We’ve all heard the old adage, you can’t have courage until you’re afraid. Truth is, it’s really as simple as that.

But in the bloody business, being piss-down-your-leg, quivering-in-your-boots scared is just the tip o’ the iceberg. When killing is in the job description you’re bound to find yourself in hair-raising situations as often as not. And eventually, unless you quit before you make much of a name for yourself, you’ll wind up in an infamous brown trouser situation. If you smell what I’m saying. Until you’ve fought your way to the other side o’ one of ’em, well, you don’t know a damn thing about being afraid. Or courage.

I thought I knew about fear. That was before I went to Atlantica de Mer, out on the open water with the Deep Riggers. Those ol’ boys are crazier’n a sack of rabid foxes. They go out on ragtag skiffs to delve the Blue Miss.

Oh… the Blue Miss. There’s a reason she’s still single. That gulf is a mean bitch, swallowing ships whole and spitting men back up on the banks pale and bloated. Assuming they come back up at all. And that’s to say nothing of what horrors may be swimming ’round in her shadowy depths.

But those Deep Riggers, bless their hearts, they tie off to their skiffs and dive right in without so much as a breathing tube. Freedivers, the whole lot of ’em. Now, why would anyone wanna do something like that? ‘Cause as dark and cold as Blue Miss is, she harbors boundless treasures from the old world. Entire cities of relics just sleeping a few hundred feet beneath the surface. Green with rust and covered in seaweed. But according to the Deep Riggers, “Nothin’ a blowtorch and a lil elbow grease can’t solve.”

I still ain’t sure what possessed me to go out there with ’em. Wasn’t like they were paying me. Maybe it was just for shits n’ grins. Maybe I was drunk or did it on a dare. Might’ve been all three. Regardless, my land lubber arse went out on the choppy waters in the dead of night to go spotlighting with them boys.

I strapped on a headlamp, tied a rope to my trousers, and dove right in. I saw buildings down there, tall as any I’ve ever seen on the surface. And I saw something else too. A shadow moving in the deep. A shark, and a big’n. Lucky for me I saw it far enough off that I had time to tug my line. So them Deep Riggers could start hauling me back up to the boat. With them doing the work, I could keep an eye on that shark on the way up. I got out my knife and made ready for the worst. You know, just in case.

Only, the closer that big shark got, the further away I realized he was. Until the damn thing was so big in front of me I couldn’t see nothing else. I was tugging on the line harder and harder, but there’s only so fast you can haul a fella out o’ water. I must’ve been twenty feet from the surface when I saw three more lamps bust through the surface around me. Harpoons started firing. Gouts of blood whisked out from that beast every which way, and it turned from me at the last moment. Caught up in the proper spearing them other fellas were giving it.

I hauled my ass up on the skiff and found the captain laying the throttle to the floor. We were dragging the other tree fellas away from that mammoth creature as fast as that little skiff would take us. I picked up pole darts and harpoons and hurled ’em into the water. Don’t know how many I landed, or how long it went on. Just know I saw fins and teeth and blood, and I didn’t stop until all three left me the hell alone. 

It wasn’t until we’d made it back that I realized the foul smell on the boat was me. O’ course they all had a good laugh about it after. But in the moment, staring down that evil creature, I was too damn scared to even care.

Hell, that monster almost got one of them boys that dove in to my rescue. Got a hold of his leg and tore it clean off. We managed to haul him out, and he’s still hobbling around these days making jokes about it. He might’ve shit his pants too for all I know. Might be that everyone there that day did. And I ain’t ever seen a braver crew of men in my life.

O’ course, that don’t mean shitting your pants is a requisite to courage. It just means you don’t know a damn thing about real fear. Real fear. 

If you wanna find out what that means, take a ferry to Atlantica de Mer and flag down some Deep Riggers. They’ll sort you out.

Coyote Joe, Memoirs of a Merc

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