The darkness slithers. It is choked with the scores of newborn, and stillborn spawn. They wriggle and squirm against the thundering of the tide, and the gravity of an foreign shore thrust upon them. I can hear the weak splashes of fluttering tentacles amongst the kokino as the waves rolls inexorably away from where I stand. The moon sleeps behind a thick blanket, greedily counting the stars. I wish for even pale illumination in part of my mind, and thank whatever god is listening for the absolute darkness with another.
The sand underfoot is slimy, caked in residue from the lowering tide. The slime is cooler than the sand, not my much, but enough that you could feel the deadness of it. I can't even begin to imagine the charnel in the water, as they scream silently, suffocating in the blackness before me.
I grind my toes deeper into the sand. Pustulent grit slides between my toes. My grimace makes the jagged red lines scoring my face ache. I reach up to brush my hair out of my eyes. The tie which normally holds it out of my eyes is history. I gag at the pain that shoots up the stump that had been my right arm, as my brain moves muscle before memory can intercede. My knees kiss the sand like a tired lover.
Gone below the elbow, Right. No hair moving with that hand.
I try adjusting my bangs with my left hand. It is impossible to rety my hair with one hand.
I take a deep breath, to steady myself, and find my feet. Instead, the fetid air of the tidal abortion waters around me turn the bitter nausea of my pain to a hot gush of burning bile. Vomit would have be a relief, but my stomach is long since empty, even of the endless gulps of ocean water I sucked in. I don't want to dry heave again. Standing up from a huddle with one arm is too hard.
The crucifix around my neck feels cold against the skin of my chest, impotently plastered beneath a thin veneer of brine-soaked tee-shirt. I feel cold all over. I wish I was wearing the flannel I had tied around the stump of my arm. Tying with your teeth is no fun, especially in the sand. I can feel the grit between my teeth still, as I force the grimace from my face.
Have to keep moving before the blood loss gets me.
As I stumble towards the sound of the oncoming surf, I realize for the first time that the air is still. Vaguely, I remember reading somewhere that there was always supposed to be a breeze at the shore. I also remember that someone who loses a limb or a lot of blood should be properly treated for shock to avoid further complications. Perhaps tying torn fabric with one's teeth counts for shock treatment? Maybe shock is why I am stumbling towards the center of the poisonous smell overwhelming the air around me.
When the first rush of water washes over my foot, the images came back, like broken glass glued together. I fall to my knees again as the tiny armlets adhere to my exposed flesh; first below the ankle, then on my side when I completely collapse into the reeking waves. Maybe losing the arm was treatment for the shock of watching my daughter ...
Dozens of tiny beaks uselessly gnaw against my skin, like angry carpenter ants trying to find purchase where there is none to gain. The slime thick on my skin is keeping them from me somewhat, but for how long, I'd rather not gamble. Soon I am up to my knees in water.
Light refracted through glass shards held together with rubbery cement...
The beach trip. A wonderful morning. The picnic. The sailboat. The squall. The whale. The kraken. The tip over.
The squid killed the whale. It killed the whale by strangling it, covering its blow hole with thick coils of rubbery tentacle, and crushing the air from it. The whale thrashed in frantic barrel rolls, doing a dance that created walls of water in the sea about us, ribs cracking like ship timbers in an old pirate movie. My daughter clutched to me like a barnacle clinging to the nose of that whale, howling for me to make it go away, as titans struggled in the stormy sea before us. Our boat was a leaf in an aquatic tornado. It was miracle alone that kept my daughter and I together in the water. Miracle and the oar, which kept me afloat as she doggie paddled (good girl, come to daddy) towards me.
The oar had saved me, but did nothing for her..
The fiery orbs of the squid seemed impossibly huge, framing its oblong head perched just below the jaw line of the whale. It looked like an enormous cancerous bulge - a shifting prismatic growth at the center of a spinning nest of tentacles. I swear it was thinking of us as a meal even before it knew it had the whale dead. Maybe it had known, somewhere deep within the walls of rubbery flesh that encased its brain. The whale, after all, had stopped thrashing. The eyes pulsed
with the whale's slowing pulse as the squid paralyzed us with alien hypnotism.
I had been trying to make it to shore. My daughter in her orange life preserver, and me fighting the waves around me, the blinding rain of sea spray, and hanging on to the damned oar for all I was worth.
The whale let out a shrill groan of defeat when it expired. It bobbed weakly in the water as the squid slowly uncoiled itself.
I couldn't have made it more than five hundred feet from where we had been swamped by a tail flap. When the waves raised me high enough, the shore was nowhere in sight.
I was focusing on pulling. Perhaps I could make it. My daughter sobbed hot and hopeless at my shoulder. She was babbling about the squid, and crying for her mother; dead three years in the arms of the Ocean of the Other Coast. I couldn't spare any breath to console her. I wish I had.
The squid attacked from below, and the explosion of its tentacles unfurling knocked me ten feet into the air. The toothed pad at the end of one of those huge tentacles had caught my daughter's life preserver like an olive on a martini toothpick. She bobbed silently in midair momentarily, before her shriek ripped through the wind about me. The twisted umbilical cord attached to the spike pad skewering her tore her away from me effortlessly. It pulled her down into the beaked vulva nested between the demon eyes of the squid, hovering in the water below. Her shrieking ended in a crunch as gravity's hands closed around my upward momentum.
All I could think when I hit the water again was that I had lost her, and still had the oar.
I plunged into the ocean, breathless, and sucked in a gulp of water before I broke surface again. I did so just in time to see my daughter's lower leg drop from between the beaky folds in a gush of crimson. It slipped free with the same carefree tumble a goldfish cracker had escaped her beautiful mouth earlier on the beach. Her fingers had plucked it from he sand, her lips had blown the grit off it. She had popped it into her mouth with a sly smile only a six-year-old could birth.
I understood while the whale had groaned.
I swam towards the creature as best I could, white with rage, as its tentacles coiled around my daughter's leg. The beast was trying to determine the best angle to get the leg back into its maw. Her life preserver, shredded and bloody, floated at the base of the upturned nest of suckered snakes. The squid had no lips. It settled for a slurping gobble, punctuated with the crunch of bone.
When it came after me, it was with no swift strike, it was with the vicious guile of a cat mousing paralyzed prey. Sobbing and babbling incoherently, I clutched the oar with both arms and kicked with all my fury. When the huge tentacle found me thrashing in the water, it was a slow embrace, starting at the waist, and curling towards my head with lazy grace. Heedless, I swam towards the eyes of the beast, ignoring of the noose of sharp suckered pads about to snap shut on me.
When it finally did decide that I had gone far enough, the tension the tentacle's whipping strain put on me was brain-numbing. After being swung nearly a dozen feet into the air, the water felt like liquid cement when I hit it. I felt the oar, and something at the base of my elbow, deep within the coils, snap like a popsicle stick subjected to the mischievous destructiveness of a toddler.
As I was dragged headfirst towards the maw, my left arm flailed freely, brandishing top half of the broken oar like a toy matador sword against an enraged bull. Before what I assumed to be my end found me, I swung at the creature with all my might, just above the bulbous ridge at the base of where the eyeballs sat. As the beast reeled me towards its gullet, the crippled matador struck between the shoulder blades.
The response was immediate, and forceful. I was ejected, like a shell from a mortar, as the flesh around the deeply embedded broken oar began to ooze black ichor. The ocean churned in a frantic spray of ink, foam, rain, and many-limbed writhing. The squid had uncoiled its toothed tentacle as it spun me off into the water. The spiked pad, which had made an appetizer of my daughter, tore my broken arm from me as I flipped away from it like a drunken acrobat.
Once, as a child, I had watched in horror as a dead mouse I happened across in a basement expedition had popped when I poked it with a stick. It had been warm and damp in the basement, and the mouse had been grossly inflated with what I had assumed was rotting bloat. What I had not expected as a response to my morbid sadism was the tiny stream of black spiders pouring forth from the decomposed mass of rotten rodent after my stick pierced it. My horror had covered the whole mess, and my sneakers in vomited kool-aid. Only after many hours of soothing did I get an explanation of where the spiders had come from. Some spiders trap large prey and paralyze it, then lay eggs in or on it, so that when the eggs hatch, plenty of food will be available for the young. I had the misfortune of disturbing that process somewhat prematurely when my necrotic childhood curiosity overtook me.
I never was able to drink kool-aid again.
The ichor pulsing from the wound in the bulge was not ink, or blood, it was a dribble of tiny black squid.
The kraken was the same as the spider.
The whale was the same as the mouse.
Once again, I had disturbed the cycle with a stick...
My mind spins as I struggle to keep my balance. I have to move forward, and leave the memories to the past. I am up to my knees in the surf, time to move forward.
As the salty water burns the gashes in my back, and the ragged tip of my stump, I began feeling ahead of me in the surf with my good arm. I follow the smell to the strongest point in the still air around me. Ammonia is what the kraken smells like, a leaky janitor's closet. I can't recall any Greek mythology ever saying anything about that. The tide pulls at me, and exhaustion makes my legs feel like over-boiled pasta.
I have to finish what I started.
It knows I am here, I can feel it in the water around me; probing currents I can't even register. It is dying, and I robbed it of its progeny, as it robbed me of mine. I wonder if its alien brain thirsts for the same thing mine does.
I want it to take me.
A tentacle slaps the water just to my left, throwing up a spray. It must not be able to see me either! I dive after the sound, and manage to grab a handful of plastescene flesh in my hand. As I am hauled forward violently in reaction to my grip, I release the tentacle when it tries to lift me out of the water. Providence is with me finally, as I land in a belly-flop any third grader would have been proud of. My feet strike the thick trunk of the thing floating in the water just
Before it can coil a whip of a tentacle, I gather all the strength I have in my left arm, and spin about in the water down towards my feet. The tumor-body of the beast is probably three feet around in diameter near where I grasp it in an arm lock. Which way do I climb? Do I have enough air to finish this? My wounds burn horribly as the ammonia in the slime grinds into my face. I am fighting towards what I hope is the oar, as the squid pulses beneath me, trying to speed me off of it
as it rushes through the water.
Instead, after three clambering slithers, my clawing fingers find purchase at the base of an eye. The one-armed pink parasite has managed to crawl in the correct direction!
The eye is like a warm watermelon before the vengeful probing of my hand. The water seems alive with the silent pain and outrage of the creature as my fingers try to break the hard outer coating of the eye. My stump is numb, chilled to the bone at the base of my shoulder. My lungs burn.
I have ten heartbeats at best.
My middle finger, the bird, slips past the shell of the dinner plate eye, and into the fetid jell-o behind it. As I exhale the last of my air, I realize I am going to die. This is a horrible contrast to the electric exultation of squid-eye jelly beneath my fingertip. Hooking my finger tear against the shell, and shred it, as well as my finger.
My hand, milliseconds after the pain of my torn finger registers, is thrust into the blood-warmed gel past my crude incision. Three excruciating heartbeats later, my arm is embedded up to my elbow into the innards of the eye, and the brain in the tumorous trunk beyond.
What I thought had been explosive thrashing at earlier assaults turned out to be little more than minor undulations compared to the tornado that followed my Odysseus blow against the beast. When the blackness of my reflexive suck of salt water overtakes the blistering pain of my dislocated shoulder, I know I have won, despite my losses.
In the middling depths of the Pacific Ocean, between the lighter upper reaches of the sea, and the endless darkness below, the man and the kraken slowly sink, both dead.
The kraken's spawn still leak slowly from her pierced egg pouch, and her ruptured eye oozes thin white fluid where the base of the man's arm reaches into it.
His body reflexively kicks now and again, just as much of its own accord as well as in response to the probing jaws of the first scavenger fish, looking to peck at easy morsels around ragged wounds.
Of all the creatures who find opportunity in the feast the mid-waters provide in the last cycles of the falling tide, one, in particular, finds special solace. Squirting from the crude cesarean caused by an oar handle, the last of the brood catches a slight current, and works her way towards the dissipating blob of heat her supersensitive eyes register in the waters around it.
With the last burst of birthing energy, the ebony broodling of the lady kraken darts through the water. She finds safety in the perfectly sized nostril of the man. His head bobs against the trunk of her mother as she wriggles deeper, into his sinuses. His skull will serve as a safe place for many days, after it comes to rest on the ocean floor. She can smell the -rich brain, which lies just beyond the thin walls of a few layers of flesh and cartilage.
In the twilight depths of the Pacific, darkness slithers. Slowly the newborn broodling starts burrowing into her first meal, her mother's last.
I was surprised I won one with the golem piece!