The Climb of the Ancient Mariner by Ainsley Katz

Winner of Thunderdome Flash Fiction Contest 2018: Day 1. View the video prompt here.

The Climb of the Ancient Mariner:
        an odyssey from water bottle to potted plant,
or, there and back again by Mr. Carbuncle the Second

Mr. Carbuncle had a lousy day. And by lousy day I mean there wasn’t a single fish to be caught. The ocean was oddly empty and perfectly transparent. Instead of bearing fruits, it upchucked seafoam like a young apprentice after a night on the town.

Eventually Mr. Carbuncle washed up onto some plot of earth, sea-sprayed and righteously salty. His crooked grimace — as if he’d suspended a clothes hanger of heavy garments from his lip — told all there was to tell.

He pulled the water from his whiskers. Pluck, prim, tic-tac-toe.

The old man had a dismal disposition and just loathed being heaved onto terra incognita. It was truly a nuisance. On such days he'd miss the misanthropic glee he felt when, shuffling back to his fisherman’s cottage, townspeople all along the way dispersed as if he were Moses parting the Red Sea.

This particular no woman’s land was sparser than the hair on his head. A single tree was centered upon an infinite plane of dirt. He could no longer even see the sea, so far had it receded.

Because Mr. Carbuncle was too portly and stout to hitch a ride on a seagull — or (as he told himself now) because there were no gulls this far from the ocean— the only way out was down.

Out from his galoshes Mr. Carbuncle retrieved a spade. Fixing his pipe in his clothes-hanger lip, he dug and dug till his arms felt like jelly without the peanut butter glue.

As he dug, he delved into his hole until, suddenly, he found he was digging up rather than down. Out he popped from beneath the surface, to find another single-tree, soil wasteland. Exhausted and enraged he lapsed into a fitful rest, waking to the hands of a giant.