This story is by Kerry Heath and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Within an hour of taking our bunks, the ship started rocking. When all but the few on watch had laid down their heads, the Norwegian Sea was almost still as a lake, and there wasn’t a cloud in the night sky. It was too peaceful to believe, and I knew better than to close my eyes for sleep tonight. I waited. I listened. I returned on deck. I’d been taken by surprise once before off these shores of Norway, but this rocking was the result of no storm! I heard it loud and clear while the other men lay sleeping. The shrill underwater shrieking of the eight tentacled beast could be heard for years, I’m certain, if you knew what to listen for. I did.
I saw one limb reach over the port side, then another graze the starboard. I’d been here before; December 2, 2024, only three short years ago. The torment from that cantankerous creature never escaped my dreams, or rather, my nightmares. That fateful night had haunted me ever since. I should have said I now feared for my life, but trepidation entered no fiber of my being. I had a plan, and had decided those years ago to ready a crew and seek out this beast, to end the nightmare for myself and for the world. Using a custom lure, we outfitted the underwater cameras to mimic the blue bioluminescence of jellyfish. Catching its enormous eyes, it navigated to us. Now surfacing, it would fear me instead, if it managed to survived at all.
We sounded the alarms, set the lights afire, armed the torpedoes and the missiles, but the undertakings did not deter the beast. Its tentacles wrapped across the stern and the forecastle. It felt like the ship was levitating until the waves crashed again against the deck, but the water dumped back into the ocean just as quickly. Each time it tried to take us under we managed to resurface. I sensed it was only taunting us, teasing us in jest, laughing to itself as with so many ships before. It wanted a fight for mockery, but we were ready for the war it was waging. The firing solution had manifest. The sonar had found our target under the water and the radar had sighted in above. I looked my son in the eyes, perhaps for the last time, held the Navy’s youngest Commander in my arms, and said a prayer that this wouldn’t be the last he’d know of me. I was ready to sacrifice myself to save him if I had to. I had promised his mother, her dying breath spent bringing him into this world decades ago, that I’d do whatever it took to raise him to manhood, and that he would be as strong as she’d been giving him life. I had made good on that. I could meet with death tonight, but my boy had yet had his mark to leave upon this Earth.
The stories I’d shared with my crew over the years were rumored to have come from a madman. Even still this night, my men swore at first this was merely a giant squid, until they saw the spikes on the cephalopod’s suckers. Now they understood it was not mere legend or fiction, but as real as the black water before us, stained with ink so thick you were unable to see your own thoughts before you. The ravings I’d wailed into their minds were now verified, not certifiable, and their terror was the only reasonable retort. I didn’t care about redemption for my sanity though. I only desired provision for my crew. I would sacrifice myself for them, this, they never doubted. They’d followed my every order, no matter how insane they felt it was. I wouldn’t lose another ship – another crew. Not one man would go into the belly of this monster as long as I had my way – and tonight, I would. It should fear THIS TRUTH as much as men have feared IT!
There were no plans I had made it could unravel. I had discerned every possibility! Should it come forth in the shallowness of the sea, by the shore, or deep within the bowels of the North Atlantic Ocean, I was ready…would it be? I didn’t have a care for my own destiny, only that of my son, only that he be granted the chance to be the husband I wasn’t given the opportunity to be, to be the father I hoped I had become. Not hope for my child alone, but for the 396 men who had families, or future ones to return home to. This inky barbarian had finally met its match. Tonight, was an historic night for us two. I saw it rage when catching my familiar scent, yet I did not shirk. I knew no matter what, this would be the end of our paths crossing. I wouldn’t go down without a violent struggle, a battle to the death, for at least one, if not the both of us.
It attacked the hull with a vexing slap, but we’d taken defensive measures and were ready with reinforced planks. It stripped my men from the ship, a dozen at a time, trying to swallow them whole, but they’d all strapped themselves to life vests and tanks of oxygen before resurfacing on deck as in our drills. My son, scarcely missing its grasp, left me conflicted as a leader and a father. He sensed my longing to send him below deck and headed off a potential order with a stern declaration. He would be fighting to the end, his or the Kracken’s. Willing to be bait, I wore pockets full of bombs, to blow myself up from inside the beast if I had to, but no man had to make the ultimate sacrifice tonight. Missiles blew off each appendage before it had any success of a meal. The pumps we’d installed kept us from being waterlogged, and the creature was becoming wary in defeat. I wasn’t giving it a chance to retreat. The Kraken wasn’t going down in history tonight, it was to BE history. We were here to obliterate its legend, and we had heard its final visceral cry. It would listen dejectedly as we roared victorious, all the way down to its deep, dark death. It had met its match. This was its last attempt to charge fear in the hearts of men. NO MORE! We declared this momentous evening. With one last effort to bring us down it wrapped its bloody appendages around the ship, but we buoyed triumphantly with the stability of the ballast. It had nothing to do now but sink, to bury itself on the ocean floor becoming food for parasitic barnacles. Every part of it would soon be consumed by the seawater’s less feared organisms. Exhausted were we all, but none of us anxious for sleep. Instead we rallied in celebration, ready to take on the wakening world minus one hostile most have never known. The stars began to dim, as if to wish an eternal goodnight to the Kraken, and the sun rose on the horizon.
Preparing for years, “I had discerned every possibility.” Famous last words as they say. That was at least true regarding matters of defense. I had discerned every possibility…save one. Little did we know the shrieking that had startled the ship’s slumber that night was not of a creature seeking revenge against a recognized scent. Not that of a hungry beast lured by a false jellyfish. No, it was more daunting than any of that. The shrill cries were of a mother disturbed as she carried the 22 pound clutch of 100,000 eggs in her arms; a warning to all the sea contained to steer clear. Lured, yet threatened by our craft, and as willing to protect her own legacy as I had been to preserve those under my watch, she came forth.
Martyred for a cause she was, and her spawn we would soon come to know as we returned unprepared every anniversary of what is only known as our “try-umph” in those bloodied waters. We naïvely toasted the creature’s demise, as her babes lay in wait, garnering strength and growing to behemoths, studying our weaknesses year after year, preparing to leave their mark on mankind long before their maternal blood is ever forgotten. Its dying breath, like that of my wife’s, was spent beseeching a promise that its spawn would not succumb to the world, but make their mark upon it. These weeds of the sea had inherited a duty and the nightmares have yet to begin.