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Ocean Dweller

Water and darkness.
That’s been the past few days.
Submerged in both. Drowning in the latter.
I’m the only one left alive.
That’s why it’s still here.

We thought it was a storm at first.
The radar didn’t pick anything up, and the satellite system we had hacked into had shown nothing for miles. But there it was, waves slamming against the deck, and a clenched fist of wind booming against the hull.
It wasn’t a storm.
Storms don’t tear through ships like a clenched fist.
Storms don’t crush the blood and breath from a man.
Storms don’t intend to kill.

We didn’t realise until a couple men went overboard. Men who’d been standing in the middle of the deck.
And then Strauss was levitating in the air, wheezing a death rattle.
He looked possessed.
The deck lights came on, and we saw the shadow black mass that was wrapped around his chest, shattering his ribs and stifling his screams.
A tentacle.
It seemed such a stupid word at first. Too childish, or sci-fi. But that’s what it was, a tentacle. As wide as a man and rippling with muscle.
It whipped back into the sea, while more burst from the water and lashed around the deck.
Men were ensnared and dragged beneath the waves, leaving an epitaph of panicked shouts.
I heard the frenzied crack of a machine gun, and saw Cooper firing an AK at one of the tentacles. He’d broken it out the crates we were transporting. Survival outweighed the debt we’d incur for one less rifle. Cook joined him, and then Paice, the three of them a guerrilla force against an unreal foe.
Tiny screams of flame illuminated the surrounding darkness in front of the frenzied firing squad, and the gunfire revealed the detail on the tentacle. There were clusters of sickly white circles the size of tyres bursting from it, like the suckers on an octopus. It was dripping with sea water and a thick slime, and the skin on top had barbs contorting in every direction, like dozens of spider legs bursting outwards. The bullets did nothing to it. I’ve seen full metal rounds rip through cinder blocks and tear apart men hiding behind them, but against the grotesque appendage they were flies on a windshield.
The bullets ran out, and then the men were gone.
It left Paice’s legs on the deck.
The ship jerked, and I was thrown against the side, my breath crushed as I hit the railings.
Over the edge and saw the shark fins below. Dozens of them, piercing the water like jagged rocks in a bay. And then I saw the churning void below the fins. A rippling, red abyss, bulging in the ocean.
It was a mouth.
They weren’t shark fins.
They were teeth.

A tentacle whipped past my head, and I saw the pale flash from the eyes of the man caught inside.
It unfurled in a spasm above the mouth, and there was a scream of terror.
And then one of pain.
The man disappeared into the red abyss, and then I knew why it was here.
What we were.
A wall of darkness rose from the sea, and the creature unveiled one of its eyes. A yellow moon, with a jagged sphere of darkness inside. Streaks of silver and gold swirled around like a cruel galaxy.
It didn’t seem real, the uncanny surrealness of it. The eye hung in front of me like a dread painting and though its gaze must have covered miles, in that moment, I felt like I was the only thing it saw.
I’m trapped in darkness but can still see it.
The eye.
Can It see me now? Through the mist of the ocean and the metal of the bulkhead?
No. I don’t think so.
It would have come for me already, and it wouldn’t be infesting every corner of the ship, hunting for cold meat and what’s left of my friends. It’s just making sure the carcass of the ship is picked clean.

After rising into the night, the creature than crashed back below the waves, and launched all of its tentacles at the ship.
Some men were crushed, while others were killed when those frenzied fingers pierced the sides of the ship, and a flood of ocean water screamed its way into the lower decks.
The ship snapped like a bone and sunk below the depths.

I’m in the supply room, trapped in an air pocket that seems more of a cruel taunt than a lifeline.
I was thrown in here when the ship buckled and broke, the door slamming shut in the rush of as seawater.
It knows I’m in here.
Why else would it stay?
It knows there’s still bodies left.
At least one.
I stopped calling for help after a couple of hours; all I heard was my voice falling into the water.
Nobody’s going to be looking for us.
All we’ll have are some pissed off buyers who think we’ve stolen the product for ourselves.
The glamorous life of a smuggler. It used to be wool, spirits, and tobacco, now it’s cocaine, heroin, assault rifles, anything you’d be willing to travel across whiplash waves and lonely seas for.
The water isn’t cold anymore.; I’m pretty sure everything below my waist is numb.
Water below me. Air swimming above me.

An hour ago, I tried to drown myself.
I thought of the men ripped apart.
I heard the screams.
I saw the eye.
I’d rather go out on my own terms than be swallowed alive and linger in whatever hell lies inside that creature.
I buried my head under the salt water and tried to let the breath run out of my body. I tried to ignore the burning cramp as my throat contracted. I tried to ignore the panic; so uniquely brutal.
I tried to resist the screaming urge to raise my head and swallow mouthfuls of stale air.
But I’m weak.
I’m human.
I couldn’t do it.
I don’t want to drown.
I don’t want to die

I’ve been rationing my phone battery, mostly the flashlight to grab anything floating around me.
The supply room is rather small, everything within lunging distance. Most things are floating softly on the water like cartel flotsam and jetsam. I managed to grab a box of energy bars.
My sustenance. That and Air. I’ve got plenty of air. Torturing me by refusing to dissipate and let me drift off. I’d rather that than drown. I imagine I’d panic less. I’d be less aware of what was happening.
I ate and then tried to sleep. I couldn’t. The banging on the hull and the screams of metal saw to that.
I’m not getting out of here.
I am going to die
Resting on the shelf next to me is the first aid box. It was watertight and secure. I thought maybe it’d have a radio or a flare gun or something of absolutely no use in it that I could trick myself into thinking had any importance.
Just bandages and needles. I never liked needles.
It’s why I only ever smoked or snorted. The irony is I’m not putting anything in the syringe.
Just Air.
Air in the blood. An embolism. To stop the heart. To cause my breathing to fail.
The syringe was wrapped up in a plastic container so it’s bone dry.
I wipe my hands on the bandages and take the syringe out.
I can’t risk any water.
I just need air.
God knows I’ve got plenty of that.
A banging from nearby, and a rush of water.
The metal door to the storeroom is ripped away into the darkness.
There’s a throbbing current as the tentacle probes the room.
I put the needle above me and fill it with the air that’s been taunting me with life.
The alien limb starts to curl around my leg.
I insert the needle into my neck.
I just need to push the plunger down.
The pistons of flesh on its tentacle bury into my skin, tearing at the skin and unearthing the bone.
The pain is galvanising.
I scream out an epitaph of blood and spit.
The limb wrapped so tightly that no water can seep into the wound.
The syringe slips from my fingers. Full of air.
It sinks into the darkness.
Alien muscle stretches and slithers backwards, dragging me slowly through the water.

I hope I drown first.



Pete Smith graduated Lancaster university with a degree in English, creative writing and practise, and immediately put it to zero use.
He writes short horror stories, and has worked freelance for sites such as cracked.com and https://thenewsdump.co.uk/.
He once got paid by the BBC for a joke about putting your finger up your bum.

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