About to pass 30,000 words as of this morning for NanoWriMo, and thanks to a very generous contribution to the crowdfunding campaign, we’ve just passed $4,000! We’re almost half way and we’re just over a week into the campaign. Help us keep it going by sharing the link below anywhere and everywhere!
Just a reminder, this is unedited, a rough draft, is the product of too much caffeine and CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR WHITEOUT AND DOWNPOUR. You have been warned!
Links to previous chapters: Prologue,
The Bermuda Triangle
1. Like a Drowned Rat
“Two coffees. One for my partner, and one for our most talkative guest,” said Murphy as he entered the room. The grin he wore looked unnatural and forced.
“You’re not going to pour that on me, are you?” Nick asked, unnerved.
Murphy placed two to-go cups on the metal table stiffly and slid one of them across to Nick. “Sometimes I forget myself,” he mumbled, as if being coerced. “This is a house of law. Innocent until proven guilty and all that.”
It took all of Nick’s effort just to stop his jaw from dropping open. He reached out and noticed thankfully the coffee cup was just within reach of his shackled hands. “Well thank you officer Murphy.” He grinned and bent down to take a sip of the coffee, wondering what foul trick he might be playing. There was none. The coffee was hot, not good coffee, but hot, and it did the trick.
“Thanks,” said good cop.
Murphy nodded and left the room once more.
“What the hell was that about?” Nick blurted as soon as the door was shut.
“I may have sent a little message to the chief.” He smiled and held up a cell phone. “My apologies for the coffee, it’s not good, but we can afford it.” He sighed and took a sip. “Still, it’s better than the sludge that comes out of the machine here.”
Both men sat drinking in silence for a moment. For Nick, it was the first time he had begun to feel truly clear-headed since waking. Remembering the sleek black skin of the sea monster had awakened something within him. It was not a full memory, but more like the ghost of one. The further he got in the story, the more that came back to him, and the caffeine pulsing through his veins brought more back by the minute.
“You know, you could have been a pretty good writer, telling stories like these,” commented good cop. He fixed his spectacles absentmindedly. “It’s one hell of a tale, but I’ll be honest, so far there’s not a sentence of it that feels real. Aside from you being in another interrogation room of course.”
Nick could feel a loss of hope building at the back of his brain, but pushed it away, trying to focus on the memory of what happened after the monster instead. Come on, think. You’re almost there. What happened after? An image of white sand spread out before him almost as if he were experiencing it in the moment. The island. Of course! The island!
“However, I did say I’d hear your tale all the way through, and that offer still stands.”
Despite not wanting to, Nick felt a kinship forming with good cop. You can see all the tricks in the book, and yet you’re still falling for them. “Memory is still a bit hazy, but unless I’ve missed my guess, it only gets weirder from here.” Even he was having trouble believing the memories flashing before his eyes.
“Weird I can handle, so long as it’s weird with a purpose, and you’re not just wasting my time.” It was clear in his voice that Good Cop believed that he couldn’t see a way it wouldn’t be. He looked down his nose at Nick, expectantly, and relaxed back in his chair. “Where last we left our hero, I believe you thought you were dead.” He chuckled slightly.
“Yeah, when a ten-ton beastie is hell-bent on killing you, and you’re unarmed, it usually succeeds.”
“I suppose that would be true.”
Nick thought back to a goliath he had taken down with a serving fork. “Not always, but most of the time. I don’t remember much. There’s a lot of dark blue. Just the color, nothing else, and then, waking up on the beach…”
When I first tried to open my eyes, I found it quite difficult. They clamped tight, unmoving, but a slit of light came through, telling me that I wasn’t blind. Numbly, I reached my hands to my face, peeling off layers of sand and salt. Almost immediately I turned on my side and wretched what had to be half of the ocean. Salty bile and seaweed filled my throat and I coughed heavily trying to get them out. I don’t think I had ever been closer to death.
Through the sickness and the aching pain in my lungs from being filled with sea water, the landscape around me began to clear. I could see a beach, littered with the wreckage of what presumably had once been Stanley’s ship. I felt a wince of remorse as I remembered the image of him sliding off the deck and made a mental note to memorialize him in some way.
However, at that moment, I was more focused on the living, mainly myself, and how I was going to continue to remain in that state. After the initial shock of surviving a clash with a sea monster and surviving set in, I scanned my surroundings. It wasn’t long before in the wreckage I managed to spot James.
I tried to run to him, but found my legs to be the consistency of jelly. With much effort, I managed to stand, but each step wavered between movement and an accident. The sand beneath my boots was uneven, and shifted with my every movement, making my balance even more precarious.
When I reached him, James’s eyes were open, and he was deathly pale. Not that it made much of a difference from the norm, but he still looked quite worse for the wear.
“James?” I spluttered, hoping that a simple word would rouse him. Despite the dire circumstances, the last thing I wanted to do was perform CPR. Disregarding the fact that I might have broken his ribs, I had just tasted the ocean lungs of a nearly dead man once and had no desire to do so again. God I need a drink, I thought, and for the first time could’ve gone equally for fresh water or liquor.
“James!” This time I yelled at him.
The boy didn’t move.
“God damnit.” I fell to my knees beside him and felt along his neck for a pulse. It was there, but weak. “This makes twice.” I put my hands on his chest and prepared to push down, when suddenly, a squirt of water shot from between his lips.
James coughed, spluttered and sat straight up, accidentally headbutting me.
I fell back on the sand, dazed, angry, and somewhat thankful. The latter, I can tell you, was the lesser of the three emotions by a mile. “Glad to see you’re not dead.” I meant it, but it still wasn’t doing much to quell my anger.
“Same to you,” spat James, going through the same unpleasant procedure I had myself of reclaiming the air in his lungs. After a while, he stopped and sat, staring at the ocean. “What was that thing?”
Truth be told, I hadn’t thought much about it, but I had a few guesses. “Apart from a sea monster? Maybe a kraken.”
“Yes. A bit out of its usual hunting grounds, but it fits the build. Big ol’ dome head,” I mimed the shape with my hands, “tons of tentacles,” once more miming the creature’s movements, “and a bad attitude.”
“Sounds about right.”
“It does,” I admitted, “but the last time a Kraken was seen in the Caribbean had to be a few hundred years ago. So far as I know, there haven’t been any modern sightings.”
“Yes, until now.” The thought of it made my head spin. Sure, the CIA had said sea monsters, but it was widely accepted in the community that kraken had been driven to extinction before the foundation of modern-day America. The fact that they were still out there meant that just about everything we knew was wrong, and given what little we had known to start, it was a bad position to be in.
“New question,” said James, rather cheerfully. “Where do you think we are?”
“That is the million dollar one.” The beach we were on looked neither familiar nor distinct. Not that I would have recognized a great many beaches, but it still was not heartening. “No other visible land.” I scanned the shoreline. “It’s possible, however unlikely that we’re on the ocean-side of Tortue, but I doubt it. Something tells me we’re not that lucky.”
“So we’re on a deserted island, without our gear, and alone.”
I looked down the shore, and had to laugh a little. “Well, one of those things isn’t true.” Getting to my feet and brushing the sand from my clothes in a futile gesture, I walked towards the ocean. Sitting just outside of the reach of the waves, was the book my master had written all those years ago. “I’ll be damned, the spells he put on this thing must have been really…”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. I spun wildly to look and saw a figure staggering out of the water, clutching at his sides.
“Nick!” yelled James. “It’s Stanley, he’s alive!”
I looked at the figure barely making its way out of the surf and already knew it wasn’t true. “Don’t go near him, James,” I warned, approaching slightly and picking up a piece of driftwood. From the looks of it, Stanley had become one of the restless undead.
Now, that’s not to say I have anything against the undead, I mean, technically I work with one, but most of the time, the restless undead are what pop culture refers to as zombies. They moan, they bite, and boy oh boy are they infectious. The book I held contained many passages about the restless undead, but surprisingly few related to helping them pass on. Most were the equivalent of: Kill it with fire. Stanley, while we had only known him a short time, did not deserve to just be killed with fire.
The man stumbling out of the surf finally took notice of me and turned. A look of pure joy spread across the man’s face and he uttered a triumphant exclamation. “Mr. Venter, look we all made it,” he yelled, spreading his arms wide and taking little notice as one of them fell off.
Oh great, he doesn’t know he’s dead. That always made things a bit trickier…