Chessie (412 words)

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The first sightings of the “Chesapeake Bay Monster” were in 1936. If that seems a little recent for genuine monster folklore, especially in a place where written history goes back almost four hundred years and Native Americans were fishing these waters for thousands of years before that… well, yeah.

Someone in a position of power in the region looked at the tourism industry at Loch Ness and Lake Champlain and decided the Chesapeake Bay needed a monster of its own. It was the Depression. Money was tight. Don’t judge. It wasn’t the first time people in this part of the world had conjured up a local legend out of whole cloth ***coughcoughChestertownTeaPartycough***

But how do you arrange sightings of a monster? Pay somebody to claim they saw it and hope they stick to their story in the face of derision? Take the Scooby-Doo approach, building something out of papier-mache and wire, towing it through the water, and hoping everybody’s too scared to take a closer took… but not scared enough to try and shoot it?

Or do you find an old grimoire in some forgotten bookshop? Do you wait until the right night of the year, then go out onto a dock with candles and dried herbs and perform some ritual? Do you think the best way to make sure people are talking about seeing a monster is if there’s a monster for them to see?

I really couldn’t say. But summoning a real sea serpent would’ve been a stupid thing to do. There are so many watermen out on the Bay, fishing and crabbing and oystering, that the ecosystem can’t really support a creature that size. If there were a giant sea serpent in the Chesapeake Bay, at some point it would have to leave. Which would be bad for tourism.

Did they find some other way to keep it fed and happy? Do they take a skipjack out once a month, under the new moon, up to that one buoy that rings like a gong whenever a boat bumps into it but otherwise seems to serve no purpose at all? Do they stop the boat and tap the buoy once, twice, three times? Do they wait in the darkness for the first sign of twisting, sinuous motion in the water? Is there a splash, and then muffled screams, and then silence?

I really couldn’t say.

But there’s always lots of internship opportunities opening up at the Maryland Tourism Development Board.

So I binge-read "Maps of the Lost" and it inspired me to try writing some Eastern Shore folk horror.
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