The terrible storm subsided, the eversea’s bid for the sky’s domain once again denied. The last rays of the setting sun speared through the clouds, turning the waters a liquid gold.
Alisbeth stood on the seaside porch of her fisherman’s hut, wondering as she always did about the limitless greed of the eversea. It kept pining for the skies. It had already claimed all the land save for a few small islands. It had taken her husband along with his fishing skiff.
And two years ago, her only son. Beneath a bloated moon had the drowned angels come for the town’s boys. They were to be taken to the depths, to join the angels in eternal battle against the fathomless gods. Parents wept as their children were locked in stone coffins. Forcing her sweet little Zemuel into the coffin’s cold embrace haunted her every dream. Even awake, she could recall his terrified face and hear the sobs wrecking his body. In his fingers he clutched a plush octopus she had sewn for him. Yet she could not watch the angels take him away, for to look upon them was to invite disaster.
The tears came unbidden, droplets of water as salty as the eversea slowly cascading down her cheeks. She wished to grieve in peace, no matter how long it took. Perhaps until the day I die, Alisbeth thought.
Wiping her tears away, she looked across the beach that spanned miles in both directions. The waves lapped gently against what small land was yet to submerge. The pebbles glistened like a field of precious jewels.
‘What is that?’ Alisbeth murmured and squinted her eyes. It looked like the stone coffin from her nightmares, its broken lid lying next to it. As she continued to stare in confusion, something shifted next to it on the beach.
‘Zemuel? Is that you?’ she asked, hope flaring in her chest.
Muscles rippled beneath wet skin as the thing rose on trunk-like legs. Its hulking form lurched forward unsteadily, taking one faltering step after another towards the small hut. The seaborne wind brought with it a chemical musk.
With a sinking feeling, she realised how wrong she had been. She could make out more details as it approached. The horror was twice as large as her late husband’ fishing skiff had been. Wicked claws adorned its webbed fingers. Gills quivered on its flanks, mucus oozing from between them. Rows upon rows of serrated fangs filled its mouth. Its pitch-black eyes were that of predators spawned in the lightless depths.
‘By the Emperor’s tears, it’s a Tideborne,’ Alisbeth breathed in disbelief. The creatures were supposed to be nothing but myth, yet such a monstrosity shambled towards her with a keening groan. On shaking legs, she retreated into her hut, bolting her door firmly shut. She grabbed an old harpoon from the rack, but its rusted metal offered scant protection.
She crept to the window and peeked out from behind the curtain. The horror from the eversea was nowhere to be seen, but the creaking of the porch’s floorboards heralded its arrival. Each step made the wood groan ominously.
The abomination made a sound no human throat ever could, trilling and ticking and hissing. The stink of spoilt fish and stale seawater wafted into the small hut. The monster’s claws raked the door with surprising tenderness. Alisbeth clamped a hand over her mouth, waiting for the door to be ripped open. The creature’s shadow disappeared from beneath the door. Was it leaving?
Alisbeth dared another peek from behind the curtains and looked straight into the Tideborne’s face. It had the appearance of a deep-sea predator created in the likeness of a man. It was utterly alien and abhorrent and disgusting and yet… when it smiled with its eyes and mouth closed, she saw the kind and loving face of Zemuel. She gasped in surprise. Had her boy come back to her from the cold dark? Was this just another trick of the fathomless gods?
A loud crash announced the arrival of a new horror. The face that resembled Zemuel’s so much snapped up in surprise, just as a fist made of the sea’s bedrock crashed into it. Blood spattered on the window. The monstrosity wailed as it fell back. Alisbeth stared in disbelief as one of the drowned angels stepped in front of the window with a mechanical snarl. Water was still cascading from his colossal form. Barnacles stuck to his massive ceramite pauldron opened and closed. The two-headed cephalopod on his armoured chest gleamed dully as he raised his fist for another strike.
The titanic hit sent the naked creature smashing through the porch’s rail. The angel followed in its wake, kicking aside splinters of wood as he descended on his quarry. Predator and prey clashed on the beach, their impact shaking the very foundations of the hut. Devastating blows were exchanged, but while flesh yielded, ceramite did not. Bones broke and organs ruptured beneath the angel’s relentless onslaught. At last, the Tideborne was defeated, its grotesque body twitching upon the glittering shingles. The eversea greedily lapped at the spilt blood.
The drowned angel unsheathed his trident, sunlight glinting on its sharp tips.
‘No, please, don’t, not again,’ Alisbeth begged in a hoarse whisper.
With a swift stab, the Tideborne was impaled and hoisted on the angel’s shoulder. For a moment, the angel stood motionless, before glancing back over his shoulder. The baleful green eyes bore into Alisbeth’s. Without a word, the angel turned and hauled his prey back into the golden waves.
An hour passed before the mind-numbing terror subsided and Alisbeth found the courage to pick herself up. Her mind was still abuzz with questions that could not be answered. Unbolting the door, she kept a fearful eye on the sea as she stepped out on the porch. Amidst the wreckage, something soft pushed against her heel. Lifting her foot, she looked down.
It was a plush octopus.
About the Author
Daniel was born on a sunny, peaceful spring morning in Budapest, Hungary. He preferred watching television over reading books. That changed when his school took him to the public library and everyone was forced to pick a book to read. He chose The Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Despite his initial disdain, our hero devoured the book in a few days and hasn’t stopped reading since. If you got this far, please send help, his budget (and shelves) can’t handle more books! Oh, and he occasionally entertains the idea of being a writer. The fool.