SHORT STORY – Mare

Mare

by Eric Hanson

 

OIL PLATFORM DM 38416 CONSTRUCTION CONTINUES WITHOUT INCIDENT

FINAL MEMBERS OF SKELETON CREW ARRIVED TODAY

IN PROCESS OF SCHEDULING MEETING WITH SAFETY INSPECTOR

_____

Jack Conners frantically tried to expel the jammed shell from the rifle. The wooden door that lead on deck splintered amidst the onslaught of the fire axe. It wouldn’t be very long before the thing on the other side made it through.

How had a routine fishing run come to this? Monsters. All Conners wanted was an extra bit of pay before he went back east for the holidays, and now he was going to die alone on the Atlantic. It must have had something to do with that damned urn they dredged up.

It had been barely five hours since they brought it in along with a hefty sum of tuna.

Conners had been on the stern of his vessel, The Carpenter, along with the rest of the crew. There was Captain Gary Walters, a man in his 50s who had probably spent more time at sea than on land. There was his first mate, Norris Callahan, a working man who relished the cold sea air as much as any person could. And then there was the second deck hand on the ship, Russ Davids. Walters and Callahan always called Davids a strange one, but they kept him around because his muscle saved them from more scrapes than they cared to mention.

They had been scoping the waters some five hundred miles out from Nantucket for about a week. Davids’ muscle had to substitute for the crane after it broke down for the 3rd time this trip. He just finished pulling in the net when he released the catch on deck. Hundreds of hopping tuna spilled out at their feet.

“Okay boys. Put these poor bastards out of their misery.” Walters said.

Callahan was already at work cracking skulls with a dowel he always had handy.

“So how many of these we eaten? About had it with ramen.” Callahan said.

“This is our take, Callahan. No one eats it but the customer.” Walters said.

“So we be the customers.” Davids cut in. “Dock my pay by whatever number of fish we eat. My treat.”

Conners wasn’t sure about this proposition. “You sure that’s ethical?”

“Company doesn’t lose nothin’. We’re still sellin’ them, just to ourselves.” Davids reasoned. “How’s about a fish fry tonight, captain?”
Walters chuckled. “I’m through with Ramen myself.”

Callahan whooped at the suggestion. He seemed to bring down his dowel on another fish more for emphasis than anything else.

Clang!

That wasn’t the usual sound that came from tuna and wood.

“Hey, all you, come here.” He called out. He dug around the mass of fish until he found the object, and held it up for all to see.

It was an urn of some kind. The urn was carved of stone with the face of a strange aquatic beast. It wasn’t a crude piece either. Whoever had done this was a skilled artist.

“Hell is this?” he said.

“Looks like a burial urn.” Walters guessed.

Callahan’s eyes turned green just looking at it. “Think we found a sunken pirate ship?”

Walters shook his head sadly. “Sorry Norris. This thing is not weathered enough to have been on the sea floor long.”

“Maybe it’s that yacht, the Revenant.” Callahan suggested. “They got lost somewhere around here.”

Conners scoffed at the mention of the ship. “Those rich kids fishing with dynamite? I thought they blew themselves up.”

The young fisherman turned to Davids, expecting him to laugh. But Davids was focused on the urn with an intensity Conners had not seen out of him before. Something about this object terrified him.

“We’re required by law to investigate.” Walters said.

“Come on, guys.” Callahan said. “ I’ve got places to be at the end of the week.”

Walters pat his friend on the shoulder. “Sorry, Norris. Let’s start back.”

Walters and Callahan went back to the wheel house, leaving Davids and Conners alone. As they got underway, Callahan shouted at Davids from the porthole.

“What’s the matter, Russ? Worried we’ll run into your sea monsters?” he laughed.

Davids usually would have answered with a grin and a middle finger. This time though he winced. Finding this object had really spooked him.

“What’s wrong, Davids?” Conners asked.

“Best drop it if you enjoy sleeping.” he answered.

It was a suggestion Conners wouldn’t follow. He was always a curious type. Only a curious type would ever do a job like this.

They must have been going back on their route for three hours before they passed the only landmark on their journey. It was a fresh oil platform, construction just wrapping up. The structure had been rising from the sea for the last year and a half. Callahan scoffed when he saw it. If anything, the sonar signal that cropped up an hour and a half later lightened his mood. The sun was starting to set by then, casting the entire sea a fiery orange when he spotted it.

“Got somethin’ on the bottom, cap.” he said.

Walters approached the screen. “What kind of something?”

“Looks like a ship. Decent sized one too.” he answered.

Conners and Davids joined the two at the sonar screen. It looked like a ship alright, or rather what was left of one. Conners couldn’t be sure but it didn’t look like a yacht, more like an old galleon from the 1700s.

Walters sighed. “Not a yacht, but it is something. Drop anchor and we will call after dinner.”

Conners and Davids left the boathouse and dropped the anchor when Callahan called out.

“Wait a minute! Saw something on the sonar.”

“Like what?” Walters asked.

Callahan squinted his eyes at the screen to get a better look. “Not sure. Looked like a pod of dolphins.”

“There are no dolphins in these waters.” Davids said. “Cap, I think we should get out of here. Drop a marker and bring back a salvage crew.”

“Russ, don’t bring any of your fish stories into this.” Walters said.

“Gary, please…” Davids was just short of getting on his knees and begging.

“Enough.” Walters silenced him. “Let’s get some supper.”

The mood seemed to lighten once dinner was on. Callahan threw a brick of frozen fat into his fryer before Walters even flipped on the lights. He got to work frying the biggest, juiciest tuna of the catch, plenty to handle the crew from here to Nantucket. The first mate thought the strange artifact made a decent centerpiece for the dinner table, so he set it there as he handed out all the fish.

“Keep that up, you’re gonna gain back all the weight you lost on this trip.” Conners joked.

“My wife likes my belly. Calls it her personal pillow.” Callahan said.

“So your wife has a fat fetish. Great. Get that grub over here.” Conners said.

Yes, everything was more festive, save for Davids. He had not said a word for the last half hour.

“Cm’on, Russ. Live a little.” Conners said.

“Yes, Russ.” Callahan cut in. “Try to get upset about shit that actually matters for a change.”

“Are you still on about that platform back there?” Walters laughed.

“This is the best route we have ever had.” Callahan complained. “That construction scares away all the best fish. We used to get giant swordfish out here, and now we have to go twice as far to catch them because some tycoon wanted to renovate his yacht.”

“Thing will get decommissioned in a few years, probably. After that it will attract a lot of fish.” Walters assured him.

“How the hell would a platform attract any good fish?” Conners asked.

“Ever see an abandoned platform? Cities in the sea.” Walters said.

“If there isn’t a spill first.” Callahan quipped before biting into his friend tuna.

Through it all, Davids didn’t say a word. Hell, he didn’t so much as touch the dinner he suggested they have in the first place. He just glared at the urn. Fear. He was filled with fear. Conners wanted to know why.

“What’s wrong, Davids?” he asked.

“Fish stories.” Callahan said as he picked a rib from his teeth.

Davids finally answered, but not with words. Instead, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a small object, and set it on the table.

It was a medallion of some kind, carved from sea stone. It must have been underwater for a long time. Sculpted onto the disk was the same monster on the urn, a bi-ped finned beast with fins and webbed feet, its hands pressed together as if in prayer. Around the beast were words. It was a language Conners didn’t recognize.

“It’s Latin.” Davids said, before reciting the passage himself. “Abyssus. Vivo ego a te. Vobis enim mori. The deep. By you I live. For you I die.”

“That some old viking thing?” Conners asked.

“My grandfather gave it to me. It’s five hundred years old. We still don’t know where it comes from.” Davids said.

“Come on, Russ.” Callahan said. “Your old man just got lucky and found an antique.”

“Old Pop didn’t find this in the water.” Davids said.

“You guys keep talking about fish stories.” Conners said. “I’m kind of curious to hear these.”

Davids chuckled nervously.  “I used to think Old Pop was joking with his Atlantis stories.”

Callahan grabbed a piece of tin foil and mockingly fashioned himself one of those conspiracy theory hats. “Please, Davids. Do tell.”

Davids pulled the hat off Callahan and threw it into a waste basket across the room, then he told the fish tale.

“Not a city. Everyone thinks of Atlantis as a city, but it was just some small island somewhere between New York and Africa. One day quake came and the entire island sunk into the sea. Locals said there were things that lived there. Fish men. Old Pop said they were big, and strong. They glowed from living in the deep sea. Them lighting up was a good way to tell whether you pissed one off. They lived in the water so when the island sunk they didn’t care. Atlantis was just a place where they traded fish for metal and tools, things they didn’t get a lot of in the ocean.”

“Then why did they stop trading?” Conners asked.

“You seen the size of our ships now?” Davids asked. “One would be enough to supply them with metal for a hundred years.”

“And you drew all of this from some piece of rock your grandfather found?” Walters asked. “Come on, Russ. You’re a reasonable guy. You laughed when that one college kid said he was abducted by a flying saucer.”

“That kid was high.” Davids pointed to the medallion. “This right here isn’t an acid trip. We checked and never found this design referenced anywhere.”

“So it was a costume piece.” Callahan argued.

Conners however was interested in this fish story, if only for the entertainment.

“You said natives told stories.” Conners asked.

Davids nodded. “Tribes on the shore say they seen them swimming out on the reefs, harvesting.”

“Probably just schools of plankton.” Walters reasoned. “Ever been to Cardiff California? The red tide brings plankton to the shore that light up the entire ocean. It’s just about the most beautiful sight in the world.”

“These things glow a lot brighter than that.” Davids said.

“You ever meet any of these people?” Conners asked.

“Oh, I knew one of them. Jabari. “Davids explained.

“He emigrated to the states after Old Pop helped him get a work visa. Would come over to our house a lot back when we lived in New York. Jabari had this big scar on his abdomen. He told me he was out fishing on the reefs there at night when he saw one. It had a harpoon and attacked him with it. He was able to fight it off, but he remembered that is said something in a language he never heard before. It said ‘ambulans unum.’ That is Latin for ‘Walking one.’  Only Latin he ever heard.”

“Probably read a text book and tried to scare you.” Callahan said. “Did he tell you this one around Halloween?”

“Why do they speak Latin?” Conners asked.

“I don’t know.” Davids shrugged. “They must have picked it up from us during trade and learned it to make things easier.”

“Okay, so why did this thing stab your friend? Was it trying to pick his pocket or something?” Callahan laughed.

“Jabari found something in the surf.” Davids said. “An urn, like that one.”

The sailor shuddered when he looked at the object.

“The fish man left after taking it back. Jabari said it was so angry.”

“He was just trying to scare you.” Walters laughed.

“Jabari was no fibber.” Davids shrugged. “Even after that story I didn’t really believe Old Pop. Not until the Brimley.”

Davids picked up the mysterious medallion and looked it over. Conners could tell that the conversation was greatly unsettling to him, but he had to know what happened next. Walters was right. Conners had known Davids to be a reasonable guy, so what was it that made him believe these crazy stories?

“What was the Brimley?” Conners asked.

“Old Pop was on fishing run, three hundred miles off the coast of North Carolina. He found this trawler, the Brimley that had been missing for a year after it left Nantucket. Five man crew, all of them men who had fished all their lives. Old Pop pulled up alongside, and no one was on board. Every instrument panel was smashed. The door to the main cabin still had a rusted axe imbedded in it. Dried blood was all over the walls below decks. No sign of anyone, until Old Pop checked the freezer. The body of one of the crew was in there, frozen solid. The freezer was locked from the inside, so the kid could have left anytime he wanted. Old Pop always thought he was so scared, he just sat down and let himself freeze.”

Davids held up the medallion. “This, still clutched in the dead man’s hands, and a word smeared on in blood on the door in Latin. ‘Bellum.”

“What does that mean?” Conners asked.

“War.” Davids answered.

“I remember the Brimley.” Callahan said. “Didn’t they figure one of the crew went crazy and killed the others?”

“But why the Latin?” Davids asked.

“Why not?” Walters answered. “People so all kinds of strange ritualistic crap when they crack.”

“Yeah, Russ.” Callahan pointed to the medallion. “Maybe the trawler found a wreck where that trinket of yours came from and fought over who got what. Entire gangs have offed each other to get a bigger cut.”

“I thought about that.” Davids said. “But then there was the blood on the freezer door.”

“What about it?” Conners asked.

“It was blue. Not human.” Davids answered.

Not human. Conners remembered thinking it was straight out of an episode of that old Robert Stack show. He had heard fish stories before, but they were always told for laughs. Nothing like this. This one Davids truly believed, and it frightened him. It frightened him just to be here. And the way Davids told it, even though there was no way it could possibly be true, it was starting to scare Conners.

The sonar machine started to ping and something swam directly beneath the Carpenter.

“What was that?” Walters asked.

Conners rushed back up to the boathouse with Davids and the rest. Callahan looked over the sonar screen.

“Something pretty big just swam right underneath us.” he said. “About nine feet long.”

“Probably a shark.” Waters said.

“Yeah, probably.” Callahan said. “This place is teaming with hammerheads this time of year.”

Davids noticed something else though.

“Where are all the fish?”

Callahan looked to the screen. As Davids had pointed out, it was completely still. Nothing so much as a whiptail.

“Well that’s strange. Usually shipwrecks are teaming with fish.” Walters said.

“Must be the fucking platform.” Callahan quipped. “We probably got bumped by a shark that got attracted to the vibrations.”

Then Callahan paused. He looked to the sonar screen again, with a far greater intensity. A new, much larger signal was bounding back.

“Hold on.” He drew his gaze to the windows of the boathouse. “There’s something else out there.”

Callahan activated the Carpenter’s floodlights and turned them out to sea, and found a ghost. There, softly swaying in the water, was the Revenant.

“Holy shit.” Walters said.

“Well, looks like we found that yacht after all.” Callahan said as he picked up the radio.

“Coast Guard, this is the Carpenter. We have a confirmed visual on the missing vessel the Revenant. I am sending you our coordinates. Please send a vessel out here immediately.”

Callahan didn’t waste any time sending out the coordinates.

“How the hell did we miss this?” Conners asked.

Davids already had an answer. “Look at the sides. Worn down from the water. It must have turned over then righted itself.”

“Poor bastards.” Walters shook his head. “They probably got broadsided by a wave and dumped them out into the water. We’re going to have to board it.”

That suggestion did little to ease Davids’ tension.

“Now hold on Walters, I don’t think that is such a good idea.”

“Nearest guard ship will be days away. We supposed to wait?” Walters said. “I want to see what’s on that ship.”

The captain unlocked a desk in the boathouse and withdrew a rifle. He quickly loaded it and slung it over his shoulder.

He gave Davids an assuring smile. “Don’t worry Russ. We’ll be well prepared for these monsters of yours. Norris, put in a call to that oil platform. We’re going over to check this out.”

“Sure thing, cap.” Callahan said.

As Callahan got to work on the radio, Walters inflated one of the ship’s safety rafts. Though Conners was not superstitious like Davids was, he still couldn’t help but find himself agreeing. This didn’t seem like that good an idea. The rifle helped though. Knowing they were armed helped him feel at least a little more comfortable.

The three gathered up some flashlights, some walkie talkies and a rope, then took to the raft and made the short voyage to the Revenant.

The few yards to the derelict was just about the longest voyage Conners had ever sailed. The Revenant was not a little ship. It was a large yacht, plenty of room for its crew. Just the kind of thing a rich set of parents would spoil their kid with. Even adrift out here all this time, it was still in better condition than the Carpenter. At first glance anyway. The wood was soggy when Conners first stepped on it. His boots actually left faint imprints in the deck.

“This deck is soaked.” Conners said. “This thing must have been turned over for some time.”

Davids tied the rope to the Revenant, nearly slipping on the now slick floor. “We once found another ship like this one. Had been capped for so long you could sculpt pictures in the deck with your bare hands.”

Walters removed the rifle from his back and readied it. “Okay. Lets check inside.” Conners, Davids and Walters entered the boathouse. Walking inside did away with any ominous feelings they met have had before, and replaced them with straight up terror.

Someone had flown into a rage in this room. A fire hatchet was imbedded in the instrument panel hub. The rest of it had been punched, slashed, stabbed and smashed. Several bolted down chairs had been ripped clear from their spots and thrown into the windows. They had somehow not drifted out to sea while the vessel was capsized.

“Jesus.” Conners lamented.

“I wish.” Walters replied. He went over and looked at the embedded axe. It was buried in right up to the handle.

“Someone really swung this.” he said.

“Could this have been pirates?” Conners asked.

“Could have.” Walters answered.

“Why didn’t they take the ship then?” Davids put forward.

Walters looked over the damaged instrument panels. Davids was much more interested in what was left of the chairs. He picked up one of the cushions and turned the damaged side towards Conners. Conners didn’t have to look very long to see why.

Four deep gashes cut into the fabric. They looked like claw marks.

“What you make of this, Walters?” he asked the captain.

“Nothing yet. Let’s go search below.” he ordered the other two.

The inside of the cabin looked only marginally better than the outside. All the cabinets in the mess hall swung lazily open, soggy boxes of cereal and noodles littered the floor, their contents long since eaten away by the fish. Again, there was damage to the walls. Stab marks as if by some sharp implement. Davids approached one such marking and withdrew his pocket knife. He dug a piece of a tattered plad shirt out of the hole, still stained in blood.

“I have blood here.” he said as he showed the evidence to Walters.

Walters pulled out his radio and called Callahan.

“Norris, you there?” he asked.

“Where else would I be?” Callahan’s voice crackled from the other side. “What you got?”

“This ship was attacked. All of the instrument panels have been smashed, probably so the coordinates couldn’t be traced. Have their been any pirate attacks here recently?”

Callahan paused briefly before answering. “If their had been, those people wouldn’t a built their damn platform out here.”

“Fair point.” Walters said. “Have you been able to reach anyone from the platform or the coast guard yet?”

“I did get in touch with someone from the platform. They’re gonna relay the message, but looks like the closest ship is four days out.”

Walters sighed. “Okay, we’re going to have to tow this wreck in. Get the equipment ready. Davids, Conners and I will be right back over.”

From the radio, silence. Then Callahan spoke again.

“Did you say Davids and Conners were both still with you?” He asked.

“Yes. So what?” asked the captain.

“Then who the hell is on deck?”

After that, no more words.

“Norris?” Walters called into the radio. “Norris, come in please.”

Walters crammed the walkie talkie back into his pocket and readied his rifle. “Let’s get back to the Carpenter and get the hell out of here.”

“I’m fine with that.” Davids answered.

The three ran back on deck. As they prepared to board the raft again, something caught Davids’ eye.

“Captain, look.” He shined his light down on the port side of the hull. There, cut deep into the metal, were gashes. All of them in sequences of four. Claw marks.

Walters was speechless, trying to find some explanation for what he was seeing. Conners in the meantime found himself more and more convinced of Davids’ so called fish stories.

“Maybe they ran aground.” Walters said.

“There are no rocks for hundreds of miles.” Davids said. “Look at them. Looks like something hit them below the waterline and turned the ship over.”

“That’s for the authorities to figure out. In the meantime we have a long way to drag this ship.” Walters was just about to get onto the raft when something caught Conners’ attention.

A patch of cloth. It hung outside of the hatch on the ship’s bow. Conners nudged Davids and gestured over to it. “Look there.”

Davids stopped Walters from boarding the raft, and he too saw the cloth.

Conners didn’t want to open the hatch. Just the thought of what the elements would have done to the body inside was enough to make him shudder. But they had to. Davids was the one who eventually did the honors.

The body was not as bad as any of them expected. It was worse. It was barely recognizable as male. Some of the fish that had been nibbling on him lay dead beside him, trapped when the ship righted itself. His eyes were gone, the skin on his face sagged off like a glove that was not all the way on a hand, and the smell. It must have been bottled up in the hatch until someone decided to open it. The body was covered in gashes, a deep one in his neck and several more in the abdomen. They looked like they were from a harpoon.

“God!” Conners turned away and wretched onto the deck.

“He must have crawled in there after being attacked.” Walters theorized.

“What is he holding?” Davids asked.

In his hand, he held something. Some small object. Walters leaned down, and careful not to disturb anything else, removed it.

It was a medallion. Carved from sea stone. Sculpted into it was a sea creature of some kind with its hands pressed together as if praying. Around it were carved words in Latin.

Abyssus. Vivo ego a te. Vobis enim mori.

It was exactly like Davids’ medallion, only this one was not old. This one was in such perfect condition, it looked to have been carved yesterday. How on earth could that be?

“What is going on?” Conners asked out loud.

Walters instinctively reached to his radio.

“Norris?” he whispered into it, but there was no answer.

“Norris!” Walters shouted again. This time, someone, something answered back. It was a deep, guttural voice that didn’t even sound human. It said one word, a word that before tonight, Conners didn’t know.

“Bellum.”

A stream of static followed right after.

“Norris? Norris!” Walters started to panic. “What the hell does that mean?”

“That wasn’t Callahan.” Davids said.

“Bullshit. Of course that was Norris! Who the hell else…”

The conversation was interrupted by a loud creak of wood. The three spun around to see the source of the noise.

At the stern of the Revenant, concealed in shadow, was a figure. It was big, maybe seven, eight feet tall. Conners didn’t know what it was, but it sure as hell wasn’t human. A tail dragged behind it on deck, it walked on two legs, had two muscular arms, a spiked fin that ran down its back, and clawed, webbed feet and hands. It looked like one of the monsters on Davids’ medallion.

A large harpoon hung at its side.

Walters almost whimpered when he saw it. Davids had been expecting to see it all along.

“What is that?” Walters cried.

“Shoot it, captain.” Davids commanded, but Walters was too frozen with fear.

Conners backed towards the railing. He was ready to hop over onto the raft whether the others joined him or not.

“Shoot it!” Davids yelled.

Walters pulled the rifle off his back and prepared to fire. Davids’s shout and the rifle must have blocked the noise, because Walters didn’t see or hear it, but Conners did. As he backed into the railing, he spotted a second figure crouching behind the boathouse. It held something in its hand that caught the light. A lethal meathook.

“Captain!” Conners tried to warn him, but it was too late.

The charged the group, and buried the meathook into Walters’ belly. It must have pierced a lung when it hit, because Walters immediately started coughing up blood.

Patches of the monster’s skin flared up with blue light, pulsing on and off and lighting the creature up like a Christmas tree. Its face was a bizarre cross between a crocodile and a deep sea fish. Looking at it now, Conners couldn’t tell if it was a fish, reptile, or some combination of the two. What he could tell for sure is it was smiling as it held Walters off the ground.

It held the dying Walters close, and hissed something at him. From the sound of its voice, Conners thought it was insulting him.

“Fur.” it said.

With a sudden upward thrust, it opened Walters’ belly wide open, spilling his guts all over the deck. The fish he had eaten earlier was barely even digested when it sloshed on the spoiled wood. Walters convulsed, dropping the rifle at Davids’ feet.

Then the first creature stepped into the light, brandishing its harpoon for Conners and Davids to see.

“Sordida fur!” it growled at them.

“God damn!” Davids grabbed the rifle off the deck and threw Conners overboard. Conners landed right in the raft as Davids hopped in right after. He was in such a hurry to leave that he pierced the bottom with his boots.

“Fuck! Fuck!” Davids screamed. He grabbed the rope and as fast as he could, pulled the raft back towards the Carpenter. Water already started to pour in from the hole.

The creature that had Walters called out after them.

“Et tu non effugies, gressibilia!”

In a cruel gesture, the beast hurled the body through the air, Walter’s insides still attached to him. It struck the raft in the side, its head bouncing away as if the neck had been broken. The monster may well have twisted Walters’ head to finish him off.

Davids shoved the body back into the water, but the guts still hung loose at their feet.

There was no time to get rid of it though. Both of the monsters hopped in the water after the raft. Their glowing bodies swam below the surface, gaining on the raft with frightening speed.

Conners got up and pulled the rope.

“We’re almost there, kid!” Davids assured the young man, then the rope went limp. They pulled, and all they got for it was the other end, but the rope had not been undone. It had been cut. Someone, something on the Carpenter had cut it.

“Oh shit. Row!” Davids ordered.

Conners had already grabbed an oar. Davids was so panicked that he didn’t even bother, instead running the handle of the rifle into the water to push the raft along. The water was now past their ankles and getting deeper.

The lights of the monsters’ bodies shined below the surface, blinking on and off rhythmically as they grew closer and closer until finally…

They went out.

“Keep going!” Davids shouted.

“They’re on top of us!” Conners warned him.

Davids stood up in the raft and aimed the rifle at the water.The black, tarry sea taunted them with its soft lapping water, concealing the horrors that swam beneath it. Not so much as a ripple alerted them to where the monsters were hiding.

Where were they, Conners wondered? Where they still behind them?

Or were they underneath? The thought terrified the young fisherman beyond words. As he rowed frantically back to the Carpenter, he looked to the puncture in the bottom of the raft, expecting to see a horrible yellow eye looking back at him. Even the deep abyss that greeted him now was a relief to see.

“Davids, I need help!” Conners begged him, but he was too focused on the water to hear him.

They were almost at the Carpenter now, just close enough to grab it. Conners stood up, basking in the refreshing light of the ship’s floodlights. The beams pierced the water and revealed what was underneath. Right at the bow of the raft was one of the creatures. Bearing its teeth at him, it smiled. It smiled a cold, cruel smile, ready to grab Conners’ ankles and drag him down the moment he touched the water.

Conners fell back and screamed uncontrollably.

“It’s here! It’s here! It’s here!”

Davids turned and saw it. He rushed to the bow, aimed the rifle, and fired.

The moment before Conners fired, the creature moved. One, two, three, geysers of foam and salt shot into the air. Conners hoped that with them would come the corpse of the terrible thing, its life leaking out of it in three gaping bloody holes. But when the water settled, it stayed settled. No blood. No body. Apart from what was left of Walters, which still hung off the raft by its guts.

The two very quickly rowed the rest of the way to the Carpenter. Conners hopped off at the stern. Davids threw the rifle on board and started over.

“Let’s start the engine and get the hell out of here.” he said.

Before Davids got on the stern, he slipped. He accidentally stepped on Walters’ intestines and lost his balance. When he fell, his elbows struck the stern with a loud clang. Just before he went into the water, Conners grabbed on to him.

“Come on! Come on!” Conners pulled his friend on board.

Davids turned back to Walters’ gutted corpse. “God damn it, captain!”

Just then, a splash of blood flew into Conners’ eyes. The crimson stung so horribly, but he couldn’t let go of Davids. He shook the blood away as quickly as he could. Then he saw it. Piercing out through Davids’ chest was the tip of a harpoon.

Davids didn’t scream or gasp or show pain in any way. He just looked down to the metallic point that protruded from his chest with a sense of confusion. With his free hand, he touched the tip, as if checking to see if the thing was actually there.

“Davids!” Conners shouted, pulling the rifle closer. Davids wasn’t budging though, at least not the way Conners wanted. He was only succeeding in pulling him off the harpoon. The head of the spear dug back into his skin, and Davids groaned in pain.

“Old Pop.” He groaned.

“Hold on Davids! Hold on!” Conners said again.

Conners grabbed onto the rifle, hoping the strap would give him some kind of leverage.

In a flash of blue light, the monster flung him away into the water. The leather strap of the rifle snapped, sending Conners back into the boathouse where he cracked his head on a porthole. A splash of white sea foam streaked with red.

Conners reached into the water to grab him, but he was too late. Davids looked up at him, his eyes wide with pain and fear. They were the last thing that vanished into the darkness of the sea. Only bubbles broke the surface as somewhere down in the deep, Davids’ was drowning and bleeding to death. It was just a matter which would kill him first.

“Callahan!” Conners called out, hoping that a familiar human voice would answer him.

There was none.

“Norris! Norris! Answer me! Please answer me!” Conners begged the silent night air.

There was no answer apart from the water and the breeze. Conners wished he could say he was alone, but even that terrifying thought was wishful thinking. He picked up the rifle and ran back to the boathouse. Maybe he cold start the ship and get away from here.

No such luck. Not only was Callahan nowhere to be found, but as on the Revenant, the entire instrument panel had been chopped into a mess of wired and metal shavings. The emergency fire axe that normally hung on the wall was nowhere to be found.

Is that what happened to Callahan? He must have heard the thing coming. That is what he said on the radio. It must have come right at him and split his skull in two.

Maybe that is how they will get me too, Conners thought.

No. No, he wouldn’t let that happen. He wasn’t going to let those things get him. Conners was going to get away.

Thud. Thud.

The sound rang up from deep below the waterline. Something was punching against the hull. Filled with stark terror, Conners felt his senses grow more acute. Acute enough so that even from that deep in the ship, he could still hear the sound of spraying water. They were chopping through the hull. They were sinking the ship.

Conners rushed out of the boathouse to the side of the Carpenter. In the water he could see them. The glows of their bodies broke the surface. They were not gathered in one place. Instead they were attacking different areas of the hull, so the ship would sink that much faster.  There were still just the two. Conners aimed the rifle and fired at the closest one.

When the bullet struck the water, both of the creatures retreated underneath the ship. After that, silence. The attack on the hull had stopped. Had they retreated back into the deep? Conners doubted it. They were probably waiting for him to lean too close so they could pull him under.

“C’mon up here, you bastards! I got something for you!” Conners cocked the rifle.

But there was only silence, at least from the water.

The same blue light flared up, only this was not below the surface. It was right behind Conners. He turned to see a third creature. This one had one arm in a sling, as if it had been blasted with something. In the other it wielded the fire axe from the boathouse, its body pulsing with light as it held the weapon up to strike.

Conners fired in a panic. His aim was poor, but it hit the mark. It grazed the creature’s side, spraying a deep blue blood all over the deck.

“Irrumabo!” It exclaimed as it clutched its side and dropped the axe on deck. Conners was about to fire again, but the expelled shell became jammed in the chamber. He would have to clear it up.

Two sets of webbed hands grabbed onto the railings of the Carpenter as the other two creatures hoisted themselves on deck. The big one with the harpoon was enraged.

“Audes haurire sanguinem ipsius?” it roared at him.

The monster threw the harpoon clear across the deck to the boathouse. It flew past Conners’ head, shattering the porthole next to him before smashing into the instrument panel inside. A shower of sparks lit up the boathouse as Conners ran inside and below decks.

The big creature picked up the discarded axe and took after Conners.

“Veni huc, bestia formidetur!” it shouted as Conners reached the kitchen and slammed the door behind him.

Below decks was dark. They must have destroyed the generator. A strange crackling noise summoned Conners to shine his light and see where it was coming from.  It was the fat fryer. Callahan must have been preparing a second serving of fish down here while they were on board the Revenant.

Crack!

The monster was going to work on the door. The blade of the axe was cutting through the wood as the monster cursed at Conners from the other side of the door.

“Tu mortuis! Tu mortuis!”

So there he was, trying to expel that shell before the door gave. This was how he was going to die, and all because they wanted to find where that damn urn came from. But he wouldn’t have time. The monster already had made a big enough hole to pull the door down. If only there were some way to give himself an extra couple of seconds. If only there was something like…

The fat fryer. That was it! Conners went for it just as the door gave.

The monster charged in, and got a face full of the scalding fat for its trouble.

It completely soaked the right side of the monster’s head. Its flesh popped and sizzled as the boiling fat seared it off. Blue blood gushed off of the monster’s face as the smell of its burning skin filled the room.

“Irrumabo! Oculis meis!” it roared in agony. The few seconds it took to wipe away the liquid was more than enough for Conners to expel the shell. He aimed the rifle at the monster’s head.

The creature recovered and lunged at Conners. Its giant webbed hands wrapped around the rifle and tried to pull it away, but Conners wouldn’t give. It’s face still steamed from the fat that dripped off. Some of it even ran down onto Conners’ hands, burning his skin. He looked into the monster’s face, its right eye now swollen shut, maybe even burned out by the fat. He couldn’t tell. Its left eye though, its left eye was unscathed. It looked to Conners, filled with hate and contempt. Then it smiled at him.

Pop.

The rifle went off. Pain shot through the young sailor. He looked down to see the creature had forced the barrel of the rifle into his chest and pulled the trigger.

Weakness overcame him as his blood poured out of the wound. Conners slumped against the wall, looking up at the horrible creature as it looked over the rifle, not with any sense of confusion. Even on its horrible face, Conners could see a kind of recognition.

“Vos et vestri toys creaturis.” It said. Unbelievably, it cocked the rifle and expelled the shell.

It knew how to use the gun. The monster actually knew how to use the gun.

It aimed the rifle right at Conners’ head to shoot him, then stopped.

It stopped. It saw the urn on the table. The creature paused, the rage leaving it momentarily. It slung the rifle over its shoulder and walked over to the table.

What followed was a strange ritual. The monster knelt down in front of the urn. Though it was obviously in pain, the beast seemed to ignore it for a moment. It ran its fingers tenderly down the side of the urn. Though the visage was horrible, Conners got a sense of warm recollection from it. Then it kissed the damn thing. Kissed it. What was going on? Was this a religious totem? A headstone? A burial urn? Had this been the motive for the entire thing? Was this why Davids’ friend had been attacked all those years ago? For this?

It must have been, because seeing it there really pissed the monster off. The thing turned back to Conners, its one good eye swelling with hate.

“Fur!”

The monster picked up the urn with one hand, and with the other aimed the rifle square at Conners’ face.

The young fisherman shut his eyes and waited for the gunshot to come. Only it didn’t. He opened his eyes back up to see the creature looking curiously at the weapon before hurling it into the corner with such force that it cracked in two.

“No.” it said. “Non deservire.”

It reached one of its massive webbed hands around Conners’ waist and picked him up off the floor. Slinging the frightened sailer over its back, the monster walked up onto the deck of the ship towards the water.

It was taking him over the side, into the sea, into the darkness. It was taking him down into the deep to drown just like it had done to Davids.

“No. No!” Conners screamed. He clawed at the walls to try and stop it, losing every one of his fingernails in the process, but the pain didn’t bother him. The thought of what was coming, of seeing what was below the surface, that terror numbed his pain. He punched the creature in its burns, but that only made it walk faster.

They reached the deck where the other two monsters waited at the stern. The one with the meathook tapped its weapon against the stern in a threatening gesture. The one with its arm in a sling still held its side. They stood silently, watching as the monster carried him to the stern to sacrifice him to the sea.

“Please!” Conners begged, screaming out his words along with his blood

“Please, no! No!”

The monster stood on the rails, and dove out into the sea.

The monster hopped over the rails, and took Conners over the side.

The water was so cold. It was thousands of tiny needles, stinging his skin and swirling into his open bullet wound. And they went down quickly. This creature was fast in the water, even without using its hands, it weaved its body down into the deep, propelling itself and Conners into the blackness.

The pressure was already starting to press against Conners’ body. It only added to the agony of the water. He felt ready to burst at any second. The young fisherman tried to hold his breath. Maybe he could break free somehow. Maybe he could still escape if he just stayed…

Then he saw Callahan. His dead face was twisted in agony, suspended in the groping dark of the sea. A fourth monster held him down by his ankles, casually waiting for its companion to arrive. The sight was horrifying enough for Conners to scream away his last chance of escape.

Before Conners’ life was torn from his tortured lungs, he could see it. Thousands of them. Their bodies pulsing with sinister light amidst the sunken galleon Callahan had found. But that was not the only vessel down there.

It was a mass grave of ships. Trawlers, antiques, yachts, sail boats, barges, too many varieties and types to count. Some were old and falling into ruin, some were young and still had fresh paint. Among the ships swam the monsters, hundreds of pulsing glowing blue bodies swimming through the graveyard. Further beyond the ships was a field, a field stacked with the same urns that they had dredged up. They lined the sandy bottom of the sea, neatly stacked one after the other.

The creature that held him spoke, its voice strangely unmuffled by the water. It was the last thing Conners would ever hear.

“Abyssi nostra.”

_____

OIL PLATFORM DM 38416 CONSTRUCTION COMPLETED

SAFETY INSPECTION SCHEDULED FOR JULY 15th

MISSING VESSEL REVENANT ANS SHIPPING VESSEL CARPENTER SPOTTED BY HELICOPTER

BOTH ABANDONED

EVIDENCE OF FOUL PLAY

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