Friday, October 5, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Year of the Inkanyamba

Inkanyamba linocut by Kate Rowland

Foreword: T.S. Bazelli introduced me to this beast. The Inkanyamba is a South African folk monster, reported to be a giant eel, possibly with the head of a horse or dog. Its anger is said to conjure storms. It’s only ever seen at Hosick Falls in the summer – which led me to ask what it does for the rest of the year.

Also, anyone who knows how the equator works will recognize that these dates are all wrong. I've "translated" them to reflect how the northern audience experiences the seasons, though this is about the exact opposite of the South Africa seasons.
This story is dedicated to T.S., and to homesick giant eels everywhere.

September 4th:
Went to sea today. Will miss Howick Falls, but it's good to stretch again. Inland waters grow cramped. And while the Falls are pleasant, I never have a better meal in the year than snagging flying great whites off the coast.

September 12th:
A megalodon invited me to a party on one of the four corners of the world. It's that part of the map where all the dragons and sea serpents live. Those sea serpents are total attention whores; it makes no sense that they're still cryptids. Two of them were pretending to be lesbians just to catch the Kraken's attention. The seven seas' social circles can be depressing.

October 5th:
Wearied at last of that undersea kegger, tripping the currents north to Atlantis. Only place you can hear yourself think, because no other monsters live in those ruins. They call it "quaint" and "played" and "touristy." The tides of popularity recognize not real culture.

October 11th:
I wish I could take in a play at Atlantis's amphitheater. No mermaids left to perform. Damned Japanese poachers are industrious. Looking forward to visiting their home surf.

October 26th:
Got drunk and paddled around Atlantis like it was Venice. Italian drinking songs carry well underwater.

October 30th:
Got drunker than I anticipated and wound up in the real Venice. Scared the shit out of some janitors. No one will believe them, but there's an off-chance their story will be optioned as a SyFy Original Movie of the Week. For the record, I didn't eat any of them.

November 20th:
Just barely made it to Greenland on time. Made a nocturnal appearance on a whale watch; the guide had no idea. I think she called me a beluga, so I conjured a freak squall and soaked her. Almost time for sleep.

November 23rd:
Icing up well. Taking longer than it used to. Am I getting fatter, or is this global warming?

November 25th:
Can feel the chill in my blood now. Will hibernate a long time. Wonder how many skeptics will debunk my presence at Howick Falls while I'm dreaming under a glacier.

March 1st:
What day is it?

March 15th:
It's too damned early.

April 9th:
You know that point at which you've fallen back asleep as many times as you can, and you toss and turn in your bed, and hog the covers, and keep closing your eyes telling yourself you just want five more minutes, when your pulse is clearly telling you it's time to get up? Well I don't know anything about that because I'm not human.

April 10th:
I ate a human today. He'd already drowned, but I needed to reacquire the taste.

April 28th:
Thought about taking the African/Indian route. Never liked Marco Polo. Going north of Russia instead. Making good time for Asia.

May 8th:
This day feels important. Can't tell why. Been swimming too long.

May 11th:
I think I passed Japan a few days ago. I get a little absentminded when I travel south. Caught the currents, though, and found a whaler route. Let one ship spot me, guy lost his shit. Have not interfered yet. They don’t know what’s coming. It’s spring time for Inkanyamba!

May 12th:
The first catch of the season is always the best. Whaling ship was pursuing the sperm whale for two hours. Their harpoons kept failing to take, and she kept diving. On her third dive, I entangled her and she never came up. Those humans were so confused. Radar kept showing she was down there - they didn't realize that blip was actually me. I love sperm whale almost as much as I love confused poachers.

May 20th:
Think a conservationist photographed me. Asshole was protesting the whalers. Had to eat his whole boat, now I have a steel rudder lodged in my colon. Think I'm subconsciously making it hail out of impotence. Thanks, ecology

June 13th:
It's not that I'm tiring of sperm whale; it's that they're almost extinct. It's not that I'm tiring of confused whalers; it's that they all taste like beer and secondhand coats. Every year I get this way. What am I doing with my life? This isn't existentialism, of course. It's...

June 14th:
It's homesickness. I miss its waters, pregnant with heat specific to South Africa. All humans are skeptical, but home-humans are my skeptics. All locales have pollution and wildlife, but if I'm going to tread water, I want it to be waters I've helped pollute. Even giant eels get homesick near summer.

June 26th:
Passed the Indian Ocean in almost record time. Am in awesome shape; passed some sea serpents who absolutely whistled as I went past. Sounds like bawdy whale songs. Will be home and terrifying drunk locals in no time.


  1. And I am sure that the drunk locals will have the subject matter to stay drunk - for at least a week. Thanks John. I loved this.

  2. This was fabnulous. For some reason I imagined an attendant creature, maybe a remora fish, fulfilling the role of Boswell to the Inkanyamba's Dr Johnson

    marc nash

    1. Haha, some ramoras on a sea monster would be a fine beginning for fiction.

  3. So much fun. Like Jaws meets Dawson's Creek. Possible typo on November 20th. Me instead of be?

    Anyhow, this made me smile. Folklore is my favorite.

    1. Thanks for catching this, Aaron! I've corrected it now.

  4. Great perspective, John. I especially loved the spring thaw waking up.

  5. This was great! I especially loved the Venice detour. Absent-minded sea monsters for the win.

    1. Booze mixes extremely poorly with sea water. Just a tip for your future pet care needs.

  6. That was awesome John! My what an exciting life an Inkanyamba leads.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it! Was nervous ever since you gave me the idea.

  7. I'm confused. South Africa is south of the equator. It's only going to 10-15C on land in June. Wouldn't it make more sense he'd go north to stay warm? Nit-picky, I know.

    I loved the bits about the flying great whites and the whaling ships!

    This guy and Nessie and Ogopogo -- all these giant eel creatures, all spotted in fresh water. Hmmm...

    1. Your confusion is quite warranted, not a nitpick. It was a coinflip decision I made before posting last night; the majority of the audience is north of the equator and has certain associations with these months. But of course, it's not going to be Summer in South Africa in June/July. It's going to be winter. I labeled the dates for the ease of the "northern" readers, wanting it to be a breezy read, and thus flipped the global accuracy. I'm wondering if I shouldn't post it a second time on a later date, with accurate dates as the Inkanyampa would experience them, or just revise this post to be accurate. What do you think?

    2. It always depends on how much revision you want to do on a story that's already working on so many levels. For me as a reader... I work with people from South Africa (and other places), and I've always said my dream retirement would be spending half the year in Europe and the other half in New Zealand. You know your audience -- whatever works for them.

  8. Fantastic John -- that inkanyamba might need a colonoscopy but then he's not human. This should be on TBS because its very funny.

  9. I like the way the giant eel sounds familiar. Take out some of the storm making (and maybe people eating!) and this isn't far from regular journal.

  10. I enjoyed the read, whilst trying to work out what kind of creature it was (it had to be HUUUUUGE!!)

    I ended up googling Inkanyamba, and then read through again, good fun John. :)

  11. So a drunk local would maybe compare to the worm at the bottom of the tequila bottle?
    Happy to be introduced to the Inkanyamba, never heard of it before. It's always nice to be entertained as well as educated.

  12. I may be a little nit-picky too, and this addresses the same issue that Katherine mentioned, but there's no particular reason why I would expect such a creature to know anything about our calendar. I wonder if you could make references to changes in the angle of the sun, local water temperatures, and numbers of days passing rather than specific dates and have it work that way? At any rate, this is a great piece.

  13. This was a lot of fun...The creature is interesting in itself, and I liked the adventures it got up to in it's migration away from home.

  14. This was a lot of fun...The creature is interesting in itself, and I liked the adventures it got up to in it's migration away from home.

  15. Really enjoyed this piece! The diary of the Inkanyamba( new to me, already a fan) is a fun read. I wouldn't want to meet this eel when it's drunk though. Seems like a proper prankster.

  16. aww. such a sweet inkanyamba. LOL

  17. Release the Kraken!

    This was a lot of fun for me John. I lived in Howick growing up. Used to love visiting the falls. I thought the lesbian sea serpents were funny and liked how he was conscious of the environment.

  18. That was extremely entertaining! I wonder how he or she keeps track of the days? :)


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