Here it is, the beginning of Part III! Hoping to get through all of this by the end of November. If you have a chance, check out the crowdfunding site for my first novel due to release early next year. We’re raising money to help the independent publisher, Aberrant Literature, cover editing/marketing/distribution costs.
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. Trials of the Guardians
Despite our suggestions otherwise, Ike was insistent on leaving the second we got to the surface. It was a lucky fact that Bertha happened to have two life rafts. We had offered to drop Ike off at the nearest port, but he had preferred to go it alone and get away from what he considered to be ‘bad luck friends’ as soon as possible. Whether he was able to escape the assassins that were no doubt still hunting us, was a mystery, but I choose to remember my last image of him as a man bobbing up and down in a bright yellow life raft, paddling away from the Isle de Tortue.
For James, Lopsang and I, our final destination was in reach. It was a clear day, but as usual, looking toward the Bermuda Triangle, there were clouds on the horizon. Bertha chugged slowly through the calm ocean chop, away from shore, and into the great mysteries that lay beyond it. Even in the broad daylight, I found myself checking the water quite often, expecting to see the black hump of the kraken rising from it once more.
While James directed us to the center of The Triangle, I laid out the weapons we had bought from Steve’s and explained the plan to Lopsang.
“So, the plan is, if we see a sea monster, shoot it until it’s dead?” he asked.
“Pretty much,” I admitted, “but make sure you use the right shells.”
“Nice of him to color code them for us.” Lopsang strapped on one of the bandoliers, feeling its weight. “Not bad. Certainly better than all that gear we had to haul to Shangri-La.”
“I’d still take the mountain over the jungle any day.”
“Not sure about that.” Lopsang thought about it.
“Hey, you got to crash land in El Dorado. I had to trek my way there and fight a damned river serpent.”
“Ah yes, and a jungle full of Scottish natives if your story is to be believed.”
“I’m telling you, new Glasgow was real!” That part of the story had never gone over well with anyone. Usually, that was where they wanted to call bullshit.
“So what is that thing?” I asked changing the subject and motioning to the pyramid Lopsang had brought on board. It stood about knee height and had several outlets where electric clamps had been placed. The surface was smooth metal, with etched lines running from the points of electrical contact to its point.
“This, is a device I created from the book you were so quick to dismiss.” He unloaded a bag filled with electrical cables and began to spread them out over the ship’s bow.
“It’s based on alien technology, and is supposed to create an electric beam strong enough to open portals to other dimensions.”
“Does it come with a tin foil hat?”
“Laugh all you want, but this is what’s going to get us through the gate.” Lopsang clamped several of the wires to the pyramid and then ran them along the deck to batteries he had strategically placed along the edges. “The trick is, I don’t know how long we can sustain the power for.”
“What, haven’t you tested it?”
Lopsang didn’t respond and continued to mess with the cables.
“Lopsang, have you ever turned this thing on?”
“Well I didn’t want to bring a bunch of aliens down on Tortuga! It’s a very delicate procedure, and requires open air to work properly anyway. The guide said that it takes the static electricity out of the air and focuses it.”
“If you electrocute me, I’m going to haunt you for the rest of your days.”
“Based on our past experiences with the dead, I do not doubt it,” said Lopsang.
“We’re coming up on the border,” said James from one of the cabin’s open windows.
Looking out over the sea, what lay ahead looked no different than what laid behind. Without a map, there’d be no way to tell we were entering The Triangle at all. “Well, I suppose we better armor up. We hadn’t even crossed before when the kraken hit us.” I strapped on a bandolier and began loading one of the rifles.
Lopsang tied off a final pair of cables to the deck, ensuring that they could not be easily moved.
I brought the third gun bag to James just as the first set of clouds began to pass in front of the sun. What had been a beautiful, clear day on the ocean, quickly became an eerie twilight. “Let’s hope whatever Lopsang has built is waterproof. If last time was any indication, we’re in for rough travels.”
“The sailors said this tug is built to withstand hurricanes. She’ll hold together.” James patted the ship’s console as if it were a longtime friend. He looked at home behind the ship’s wheel.
Along the dash were a series of tracking screens, far more advanced than those that had been in Samuel’s boat. One was a traditional green radar screen, which pulsed every second or so, scanning the water for objects around us. The others monitored weather, the ships vitals, as well as a host of other functions I did not recognize.
“You know what any of those do?” I asked.
“Not in the slightest. This one,” he pointed to a screen showing a bird’s eye view of weather in the triangle, “is pretty easy to understand.” It showed a green arrow where our boat was, and then a series of dark grey swirling clouds a few miles ahead of us. “Could just be that it’s hurricane season, but my bet is we’re not very welcome here, and it didn’t take them long to notice an intruder.”
“Well let’s prepare for a party then.” I handed James his gun bag. “Black is for kraken, blue are long-range slugs, and green are buck shot.”
“We sure these are going to work?” James held up one of the black bullets which looked puny in comparison to the caliber we would normally use.
“Not entirely, but the man I bought them from seemed to know what he was talking about.” The way I saw it, Steve had no reason to lie to us, and customers don’t tend to come back if they don’t survive. “Oh, he also said stand back as they tend to make a bit of a mess. Whatever that means.” It seemed hard to believe that such a small bullet could make a mess with a creature as large as a kraken, but I wasn’t going to question it.
Outside, Lopsang was looking off the bow, keeping an eye out for anything approaching. In the distance there was a bright flash of lightning followed by the boom of thunder. “Déjà vu much?” I asked.
“It’s never too late to turn back.” It was obvious in the resolute tone of his voice that James knew we had no choice. Sure, there was time to turn and run, but whatever lay in the storm would catch up to us eventually. By crossing the invisible line, we had invited a fight, and we weren’t going to leave until it was finished.
“Turning back is no fun anyway. Besides, I want to see how these things handle.” I cocked my rifle, loading in a blue, long range shell. For the smaller, kraken ammunition, Steve had also included a revolver a piece. I had put mine in a side holster and took it out, loading in the shells carefully one-by-one. Under normal circumstances, I would have asked for more ammunition, but our shopping trip had been cut short.
I clapped James on the shoulder. “Just don’t let the kraken break this boat like the last one.”
James laughed. “As if I have any choice.”
“Just drive better than our dear old Samuel.” With that, I walked out onto the deck once more, feeling the warm sea rain falling upon my face. It was the worst conditions possible for a fight, but it was par for the course when going against a vengeful god.
“How far into The Triangle do we have to be to test this thing??” I asked Lopsang.
He looked nervous, and fiddled with a control box in his hands. “Theoretically anywhere in the triangle will do.” His voice was filled with uncertainty, but I couldn’t blame him. Everything from that point on was uncharted territory, not only for us, but for the world as a whole. Even in the mythical communities of the world, writings on the Bermuda Triangle were very slim. Most of them just said traveling inside of it was a terrible idea and should be avoided at all costs.
I looked out into the ocean swells which were growing in size at an alarming rate. The bow of Bertha began to rise and fall in great heaves, making it difficult to stand. Lopsang’s contraption rattled on the deck, but held firm in its position, centered on the bow. “No time like the present.” The less time we had to spend waiting to be bait for the monsters of the deep, the better.
Lopsang nodded, grimly. “Here goes nothing then.”
I pulled one of the harpoon guns from the bag and strapped it to my back. Don’t fall in, Steve had said. It was sage advice, but I wanted backup just in case.
Lopsang bustled over to the pyramid, flipped a few switches beside it and then backed away. “You may want to cover your eyes,” he yelled over the growing wind.
I turned away to focus on the water, and saw a black hump rise from the crest of one of the waves. A part of me wanted to believe that it was just a trick of the light, but the smart part knew that the time had come. “Hit it, Lopsang, we’ve got company—”
The end of my sentence was cut off as the air filled with a loud hum, followed by an incredible bang. I looked behind me just in time to see a bright beam of electrical energy bursting from the top of the pyramid and shooting into the sky above. Where it hit the clouds, the broke apart, briefly revealing daylight, but then quickly reforming as the beam passed through. A red glow persisted where the beam had cut through, but eventually faded back to darkness.
“Did it work?” I yelled to Lopsang.
He raised his arms showing that he was not sure.
I would have berated him about faulty technology based on idiot conspiracy theorists, but in the same second, I saw a black tentacle raise behind him in the air. “Lopsang, behind you! Use the black ones!”
Lopsang rolled to the side just as the tentacle slammed down on the deck in front of us. I pulled the revolver from my side and fired a single shot into the tentacle. It hit with a satisfying thud and a small squirt of blood splashed onto the deck.
I started to say “Well that was disappointing,” but barely finished the first word before the tentacle gave a heaving shudder, lifted slightly off the deck, and then exploded. The sheer force of it knocked me into the ship’s guard rail, taking the breath out of me. I looked up, and immediately regretted it, as the remains of the tentacle showered down on me in ugly black globs.
The deck was slick with the stuff, and I found it hard to stand. I looked over the edge of the boat and saw the water boiling as the kraken thrashed beneath it. I leveled my revolver to try and get a shot at the beast’s head, but it had sunk too far below the water’s edge. Looking at the horizon, I saw no sign of a portal or gate of any kind.
“Lopsang, it’s not working!”
Lopsang was still trying to stand after being knocked down. “I think it is,” he said, and pointed to the pyramid.
I turned to look and saw that it was beginning to glow bright orange, and had grown so hot that the kraken refuse on it was catching fire. “Then why isn’t there a god damned gate yet?” I looked out at the empty sea in fury. The kraken had dove beneath the surface, likely preparing for another attack.
“Hey assholes,” called James. “You’re swabbing the decks after this. Stop getting kraken guts all over my brand new boat!” As he said it, a tentacle rose near his window. He pointed a revolver out with one hand, fired, and shut the window just in time to stop the swath of gore that shot onto it.
I flipped him off and rushed to the other side. Once more the water thrashed and roiled with the kraken’s anger, but it made a fatal mistake. Just above the frothing waves, I could see one of its yellow eyes, staring at me. Without a second thought to caution, I fired my revolver at the eye three times in quick succession. Each shot hitting the mark.
“Hit the deck!”
The ocean water welled up beneath us and Bertha tilted heavily to her side. Sea spray, kraken guts, and foam washed over me like a tidal wave. I tried to hold on to one of the deck’s guidelines, but against my will found myself airborne. There was a brief moment where I was flying above Bertha, kicking my legs, as if it would help get me back, and then I was in the water.
The impact stunned me at first, and I opened my eyes just long enough to see the hulk of the dying kraken sinking to the water below. Then, there was a dull flash, and a circle of light spun open distantly in the water. Panicking, I grabbed at the harpoon gun on my back.
A sharp spear of glowing multicolored lights and tentacles shot forth from the portal, streaking towards me. Stupidly, I raised the harpoon gun, waiting as the creature got closer, and when it got close enough, I fired. The harpoon hissed out of its chamber, carrying the attached string with it, finding its mark and embedding itself in the hide of a giant squid.
The creature thrashed with the sudden intrusion and dove. I tried to let go of the harpoon, but it had caught on my bandolier, and yanked me forward, pulling me into the depths. I felt intense pain as the pressure increased rapidly. Spots formed before my eyes, and the world faded to darkness.
For a while I was only aware of the rushing water going past my face and the numbing feeling that I wouldn’t be able to hold my breath for much longer. Seconds passed like hours. Everything felt slow and numbing. I began to see flashes of past hunts flash before my eyes and batted at them like they were annoying flies. My thought was that if I could avoid seeing my whole life flash before my eyes, I might just live.
My head felt like it was being squeezed in a vice. My ears popped in painful bursts, and I wondered if they would ever work properly again. At first, I tried to struggle with the harpoon gun tangled in my bandolier, but quickly resolved to saving energy, and letting the squid do all the work.
It was somewhere around the memory of my sixteenth birthday, and the time a Krampus had tried to eat James’s parents that I noticed the water around me going lighter. Thinking it was the end, I kicked furiously trying to keep myself awake. Then I saw it, a the flashing blue light of a portal, and then an odd sensation as the squid darted right through it like a trained dolphin in a pool show.
Instantly, the darkness of the deep was gone, replaced by a dim, bright red, volcanic light, and above me, the glittering water of the surface. Beneath me, hot rivers of lava flowed along the ocean floor, and the water started to become increasingly warm. The squid, apparently hell bent on a suicide mission, swam straight for the rivers of lava.
I renewed my struggle, and seconds before collision, the harpoon mercifully came free. The squid launched into the lava, briefly bursting into flames, and then disappearing entirely. The whole sight was confusing, but I quickly felt the returning feeling of burning in my lungs and kicked towards the surface. How I held my breath that long, I will never know, but I will never knock lung capacity as a feat ever again.
As I broke the surface of the water I took a gulp of hot, sulfuric air. The stench was almost unbearable, but the air was breathable, so I didn’t care. After a few moments of life saving oxygen, I looked around and saw that I was swimming off the coast of an impossibly tall and very active volcano. Lava ran down the long slopes in thick rivers, and occasionally gobs of molten rock would shoot from the mountaintop far above.
Not wanting to stay in the water any longer than I had to, I swam for the nearest shore that looked the least on fire. I heaved myself up onto hard basalt, feeling the heat of the nearby mountain, and then, just as I was beginning to catch my breath, another spinning circle of light opened above the water, and Bertha came careening in.