It felt like the world spun, reeling from a collision and the awful silence was cast aside by a terrifying roar. Bill was catapulted from his bunk by the thrust which caught a sudden stop. He hit the wooden ground which creaked like old bones. He looked around, eyes stinging as sleep still hung in them. The dream he was dragged from, still very much clear in his mind. He blinked rapidly, focusing through the dim light to see that he was alone.
A beam of light poured in through the stairwell as the end of the gangway and tiny shoots filtered in through the openings in the wooden ceiling.
A second cataclysm shook the world again, taking Bill’s footing from beneath him.
From the deck above he heard the shull of water as it threw itself over the ship and the skirt of it washed down the steps. Following the water came a metallic clang and calls of men.
A high-pitched scream.
Bill scratched his beard before he kicked open his footlocker and picked up the splintered wooden scabbard that sat in it neatly amidst the loosely thrown pieces of junk he’d collected along the travels. The scabbard itself was old and barely held together, but it held its duty and as he unsheathed the well preserved and impossibly sharp sword, it sang as it awoke from its hibernation. Light reflected off the blade and appeared as though it emanated it itself and as he caught a glimpse of his reflection of himself in it, he felt as though the eyes of his forefathers who also wielded the blade were staring at him too, their spirits and their vigour rested in the blade, as would his when he would pass it on.
Bill ran up the steps as Mills was flung down. Cuts and strange punctures covered his chest and he muttered something through bloodied lips. His eyes screamed as he looked up at the sky before he fell silent and still.
Bill reached the top deck and looked around as his crewmates all stood, swords and spears in hand. All along the deck they fought what he first thought were trees emerging from the sides of the ship, but then as they curled and twisted they revealed themselves as something else.
Bill was almost forced down the stairs as one of the creatures assaulted him from his right. It knocked him over, the sword skidding along the deck. He turned to it. It impossibly stood on several tentacle appendages, its bulbous face, marked with tiny spines like hair grimaced at him, bearing an array of fangs that dripped with a mixture of saliva, sea-water and blood. It slithered after him.
His sword lie out of reach and he knew that if he tried to run, it would easily finish him from behind. The monster pounced on him, spines protruding from suckers on its tentacles looking to pierce him and suck his bodily fluids until he was dust and bones. Bill’s heart raced as he frantically patted around him, praying to grasp some heavy object he could strike with.
A pop erupted and the creature was knocked off course. It fell, stunned, by Bill’s side. Bill’s hand clasped around a piece of chain and he hauled it over him, thrashing and pummelling the monster over and over until he was pounding a wet sack on the deck. Hands pulled him back and he turned, flinging the chain around towards the body that owned them.
“Bill!” Yelled Howards as he dropped his musket and drew his sword. “Watch what you’re doing!”
“Sorry!” Bill dropped the chain to the deck and ran to retrieve his sword. As he turned back to Howards he saw one of the monstrosities was behind him, swinging its clawed slab at him. Bill called out, but ultimately there was nothing he could do except watch as Howards was almost cleaved in two. The final look in Howards’ eyes said more than any words could have.
“Where’s the Captain?” Bill yelled as he crossed the deck, fighting off the creatures that seemed endless in number. Wave after wave of them clambered over the sides and now the combined blood of man and beast slickened the deck planks.
“Captain?” He yelled again but his voice was blanketed by a huge wash of water that crashed over the port bow, pushing his to his knees. He rose and ran to the Captain’s quarters. The door was ajar and the small panes of glass were broken. Bill cautiously entered, sword held in front at the ready. Sunlight entered through the windows at the stern, all were smashed and broken in, but there was no sign of the Captain.
Bill approached his desk where their maps lay. He sieved through them until he found their last recorded position. He estimated their trajectory with the compass and with the sun’s birds-eye glare.
“My God…” He dropped the compass when he saw where they were. His finger had traced their trajectory a foot and a half… The map ended after a foot.
“We’re off the edge…” His chin quivered, his eyes widened as he recalled stories of what lie in the uncharted parts of the world.
He wiped his face with his wet palm and he tried to calm himself. Got to turn the ship around. He thought. Men aren’t supposed to come here. We must leave!
He ran from the Captain’s quarters and made for the wheel above it. He reached the top step as a beast dragged itself on board in front of him. Bill gave it no chance to react and thrust his sword into it. It shrieked like a frightened rat as a piece of its watery body seemed to burst like a punctured water skin. Tentacles flailed at him and he withdrew his sword from it. From inside the thing dropped purple fluid, too liquid to be blood. In it were pieces of long, thin matter like jellyfish strands which writhed for a moment as they landed on the deck.
Several bulbous black eyes bulged from the sides of its head which itself was a hardened lump of meat which served as a nexus for the many tentacles. All of them focused on the man who had mutilated it and as it urged to pounce on him, the man’s sword swept in a horizontal arc and the head of the creature disconnected from the tentacles it stood on and dropped to the deck. Bill placed his boot on the head and stared into a bulging eye as it stared back in anger before popping like a squeezed grape from his sword.
Bill grabbed the handles of the wheel as he slipped on the soaking boards, almost swept overboard by another wave. The ship rocked from side to side as the weight of the creatures climbing aboard pulled it every which way it could swing. Screams of men filled the air as they fell before him.
There was not many left.
Above, carrion birds circled, awaiting the silence which signalled them to descent and the sickening ululations the monsters made, made an unhealthy addition to the air along with their pungent smell of ill fish.
Bill pulled the wheel to starboard as hard as he could and slowly the horizon began to shift. A slow, tense moment passed and Bill saw salvation. On the precipice between sky and sea, barely even there at all sat the telltale sign of land. It was almost not there, a mirage conjured by desperation and if he had have blinked he would have missed it completely. He locked the ship in the direction and prayed that they would pick up speed.
Bill felt the poison inject into his shoulder before he felt the pain of the claw’s penetration. His right arm instantly went numb and he dropped his family’s sword. Needled teeth dug into the small of his back as the creature that had crept up behind him attempted to suck out his fluids. He felt his blood being drawn away from him and into its evil maw. It was a chilling twinge mixed with a pulling sensation and his entire waist felt suddenly hot as his blood was drawn there. His left hand shakily reached for his blade. He felt himself slip as his fingers touched the hilt. He dropped to his knees. His scream was sucked through his back, unable to pass his lips. He held his sword and closed his eyes.
His sword pierced his own body and stabbed the beast in the mouth. It fell slowly and Bill weakly managed to rise a little.
The beasts seemed to flee.
He had saved his crewmates.
Land was approaching and they’d be safe.
A terrible thunder roared and the ocean split in two. The air cracked and obscured the sun, sky and the horizon as it emerged. The Leviathan, mother to the creatures that boarded them roared between them and land.
Sailor wakes up to finds his ship an crew assailed by Lovecraftian creatures.
Published by the Lancashire Evening Post 13/11/10