The small boat floated drifted eastward; ships became nothing but blips on the horizon and soon disappeared all together. The shipping lanes behind them now, the five people bobbed helplessly along. A slave to the oceans every whim, thrown in whatever direction the wind and waves projected them in.
The sun was beating down on them, the sky a clear brilliant blue, a few wisps of cloud dotted the sky, but even they seemed to terrified of the suns awesome power to get too close.
They had made a makeshift cover with their shirts, tying them together to create an area of shade, but they couldn’t hide for too long in case they missed their chance of getting rescued.
The three women spent most of the time covered over, while the two men, friends since childhood took control of the rescue lookouts. They had been at sea, drifting in between somewhere and elsewhere for just over twenty four hours, and the day’s sun was just getting to its peak. The meagre rations they had managed to salvage from the charred wreck that had been their luxury yacht were disappearing fast. Three bottles of water and a handful of fruit didn’t get you very far, especially when split so many ways.
Richard Cronin was on watch, while his friend Matthew Sallis – who had taken the hottest hours yesterday – lay huddled up with Sally Jenkins, Natalie McAlester and Dawn Pleasance on the bottom of the boat. The metal base cool from the shade, and from the endless ocean beneath it Richard almost didn’t see it at first, his eyes so busy and focused on the horizon anything closer than that had become a blur. Not to mention the nausea that was tying his stomach into a knot, the sunburn which had worked its way across his shoulders, down both arms and was now searing the flesh of his chest, capped with the salty swell thrown up from the sea. It took a double take and cautions peering through sun squinted eyes before he realized what it was.
“Jesus, Guys, Guys, there is someone over there.” His private education evident immediately in his voice, and while he didn’t like being referred to as a trust fund baby, and had worked hard on his own merit to get to where he was, in some places, his good upbringing couldn’t be hidden.
“We’re saved” The girls voices sounded almost in rehearsed unison. They scrambled to their feet, the small life boat rocking viciously, as they began to spring up and down waving their arms before even looking for their supposed hero.
“No, No, I didn’t mean that. Sorry. Look, over there. I think it’s somebody in the water.” Richard pointed, and they all followed the line of sight he created.
“I don’t see anything.” Nathalie said dejected. “I really though you mean we had been saved.” She slapped Richard on his arm. He winced in pain as his sunburn screamed. “Oh I’m sorry.” She said “I didn’t mean it like that.” She continued, stumbling over her words. She was only young; Richard had been visiting the university giving a lecture to a business class when they had met. She was only in a first year at that point. They had kept their relationship a secret until only a few months before. The trip they had been on in fact had been a sort of ceremony, their first trip as a couple, travelling to visit Richards parents in Carins where they were holidaying.
“It’s okay.” He kissed her on the forehead. “We’re all feeling it. But I’m sure it was something.” He said, his gaze leaving her and settling on the water. The surface was rolling despite the nice weather.
“Maybe it was just a shark or something old boy.” Matthew suggested, smiling at his friend. The pair had grown up together, and now, although working in totally different fields, for Matt (as he now preferred to be called) was an up and coming journalist who had just signed his first book deal, they managed to remain in contact with each other. Regularly going flying either to London to watch West Ham play their games, or ringside seats at whatever Boxing event was being held, failing all else they would be courtside at any Knicks game.
“It wasn’t a fish, I’m telling you. I saw someone.” Matthew insisted. Sally and Dawn had already crawled back under the shade. Dawn, who had been part of the crew on board the yacht had been badly burned on her back and left arm, and was already beginning to suffer from exhaustion not to mention the pain. Sally meanwhile – the on again off again girlfriend of Matthew was a nurse and had taken it upon herself to provide what was looking like twenty four hour care to the poor girl, who at only 18 was working on the ship for the summer before heading off to university. (In fact it was the very same highly respected institution where Richard and Nathalie studied and met.)
“There” Richard exclaimed suddenly, his sun cracked lips were white with dry skin.
Nathalie and Matthew both looked, and this time, riding over one of the rolling waves they saw it too.
“Oh my god, that’s….” Nathalie stopped talking the thing they were looking at came down the slope of the wave and disappeared from view.
“A person,” Matthew said with alarm, instinctively he kicked off his shoes and dove commandingly into the water. His toned swimmers body pierced the water like a hypodermic syringe stabbing through the flesh of the patient. Matthew had been one of the central figures in the university water polo team, missing out on best player in his senior year because of an injury forcing him out of the last few games which saw his rival score the winning points in both the semi’s and the final itself.
Sally had reappeared, standing beside Nathalie while Richard was gathering up the rope which had been used to hold the cover over the raft when it was still attached to the yacht. “Where?” She asked, her eyes looking for anything. She could see Matthews shadow moving under the water. At least she hoped it was him.
Several seconds passed, Matthew didn’t surface, and they all saw that the piece of driftwood or whatever that the other person had clung too was being swept out of view.
“Come on Matt, where are you?” Richard said under his breath. He was getting nervous already.
“Don’t worry Richie; He can hold his breath a lot longer than this.” Sally said, never taking her eyes from the gently rolling Ocean. A vast giant that until a day ago she had regarded as beautiful, a rich blue unlike anything she had even seen, but now thought of as nothing but her death. An liquid cancer that would wear them all away, robbing them of their bodies long before they died.
Several moments passed and they soon became minutes, each second ticked by and felt as though someone had pushed the pause button, freezing them in their worry.
Suddenly, the boat rocked beneath them and something thudded against the hull. It was a heavy sound, followed by a scratchy clawing noise, as if something was scurrying over the submerged portion of the boat.
The girls gasped, although Dawn’s reaction was somewhat laboured as she continued to weave in and out of shock, jumping the channels between fully conscious, which meant and agony so bad she wanted to vomit, and deep shock, where she would simply sit and shake, the agony not going away, but somehow removed. As though she was watching it rather than suffering.
“Matt” Richard spun around as the water broke behind them. “How long has he been under?” He was almost shouting, panic was rushing through him at a rate he had never in his privileged live experienced.
“I don’t know” Sally replied equally frantic, while Nathalie remained staring the other way. Watching the water; it had changed, somehow. It looked darker; a large patch around about where they had seen Matt’s shadow last looked as though a cloud was passing over head. Thick and threatening, yet she looked up and saw nothing but blue. Rich and powerful, vivid and when added to the turquoise beauty of the ocean she felt her head begin to swim. She closed her eyes and waited, but the faintness didn’t leave.
“Matt. Come on buddy.” Richard muttered again, moving to the front of the boat, peering over the edge.
He fell back with a cry as water erupted in with volcanic aggression. A pair of hands clamped down on the side of the small craft which listed badly from the extra and sudden change in its weight on the starboard side. The girls screamed again, and Nathalie fell to the floor. Sally saw her fall and tried to catch her, bringing her to rest on the base of the boat before looking back over at Richard, who had bellowed from fright. The hands that held the craft were not Matt’s Sally saw that instantly. They were red and saw, open saws wept and sparkled like painful diamonds as the sun glinted from the grains of salt embedded in the exposed raw flesh.
Sally screamed. It was Richard who reacted, grabbing the arms of whomever it was and without thinking hauled the body into the boat. The stranger landed with a wet thud on the floor. His clothes struck to his body like a second skin. He lay still, panting and shivering his body wracked with a fever, his brain shutting down further with each second he spent in the sun. He didn’t speak, he simply panted.
“Where’s Matt?” Sally screamed at the man, as though it was his fault Matt tried to save him. The man didn’t respond.
“Don’t worry, we’ll find him.” Richard said, kicking off his own shoes.
“Where are you going?” Nathalie spoke groggily. “You can’t leave us.” She pleaded. Frightened and confused.
“Don’t worry. I’ve got this.” Richard held up his right hand. In it he clenched the rope that was attached with a good knot to the side of the boat. Richard placed one foot on the side of the boat and was about to jump in when the man on the floor screamed.
“No!” It was a cold sound, one that stopped Richard in mid effort. Everyone looked at the man; it felt as though his scream had taken the air temperature down a few degrees.
“He is my friend. I’m going to get him. I don’t care what is waiting for me.” Richard was defiant, yet he took a second thought one he turned back towards the ocean.
“There. Look.” Nathalie said, it was her turn to point now, although It wasn’t really necessary.
They all saw it, the body floating face down in the water. Nobody saw him move, or heard the splash as he entered the water, slightly less gracefully that Matt but with the same effect. They only noticed Richard was gone when they saw him suddenly turning Matt’s body over and begin to swim back to the boat with him.
Sally and Nathalie hauled Matt’s body into the boat. He was breathing, and his eyes were open, but they were milky white, as if they had rolled back into his head. He hissed and thrashed around on the floor of the boat, his arms flapping, nails scratching at his skin.
“It burns.” He shrieked, and as they watched his skin began to blister, giving off the heavy stench of decay. The flesh on Matt’s arms and face was beginning to blister, it bubbled as though the fat beneath it was boiling. He writhed in uncontrolled agony.
Sally screamed, everybody stared, frozen with fear, not just because of what was happening to their friend, but also with fear of the damage they could cause by intervening.
“Pass me the water” Richard said at last. The words were muffled in the ears of the others, but still registered. Naomi, who had risen out of her shock, was kneeling in the shaded area her own buns forgotten for the moment as she watched what was going on, grabbed the remaining water bottles and threw them at Richard.
He opened them and began to pour the water onto his friend’s body. He had expected it to hiss from the temperature, but all it did was cool him. Slowly his screams settled down, and he slipped from the agony of his consciousness into the deep and much more traumatic unconscious world, where he was trapped in a dreamlike state swimming through a field thick with the stinging tentacles and bulbous bodies billowing up and propelling them through the water.
“What’s happening to him?” Sally screamed, tears flowing freely down her cheeks, her breaths coming in sharp jagged gulps.
“I don’t know.” Richard answered, crouching down to check on his friends. “He must have been stung by something, because I was in the water and I feel ok.” He stopped. In truth he felt terrible, but that was only from exposure and the encroaching dehydration.
“There is something out there.” The stranger’s voice spoke.
The others jumped at his voice. They had forgotten he had arrived. “Wh...What do you mean?” Sally whimpered.
“Before you rescued me there was something, I could feel it.” He said, coughing badly. When he pulled his hand away there was blood in the palm; thick and clotted.
“What was it? Jesus, is it sharks?” Nathalie shrieked, clutching at Richards arms.
“Sharks wouldn’t do that. He’s been stung. If I didn’t know any better I would say it was a Jellyfish.” Richard said, but it’s not even close to Box season.” He said more to himself. His eyes were surveying the ocean, which was simply continuing to roll, pushing their little craft wherever it wanted.
At their feet Matthew began to convulse. His chest rising and falling with an irregular rhythm, his hands balled into fists as his whole body tensed. Veins all over his body began to swell with blood until it looked as though he had a network of small snakes living under his flesh. Then with that, no final words or screams Matt died, his body contorted into one of pain and anguish; the look on his face, the white eyes, the reddened skin and the blood tracing its scarlet snail’s path from the corner of his mouth down over his cheek.
“Matt no nonononononononoNO!” Sally screamed hysterically, in her weakened state she was balanced on a knife-edge psychologically anyway. She was a tiny woman who had battled personal problems ranging from eating disorders to drug use. The later being the reason behind her and Matt’s multiple breakups. She dropped to her knees and threw her arms around the body.
“Sally don’t.” Richard moved fast, the boat rocking viciously from side to side as he pulled Sally’s limp body away. “We don’t know what happened. You might get hurt.” Richard spoke softly to her. He was more worried about hurting her underweight frame as he held her.
Behind them the stranger began to cough again, a rattling sound which seemed to emanate from deep within his body. He spat over the side of the boat; a bright red ball.
“You okay buddy? How long have you been out there?” Richard asked, still holding Sally in one arm. She had stopped resisting.
“I don’t know. My boat was sunk, not sure what happened. I found this piece of wood or something then I ….um I don’t know. The next thing I remember those creatures or whatever grabbing at me and then you guys came.” The man struggled to speak. It sounded as though he was drowning inside himself.
“Richard” Nathalie called her voice full of worry.
He looked over and saw something, he wasn’t sure what, it was long and thin like an antenna. It was soon joined by another, and another, they continued to appear over the edge of the boat until there were almost a dozen, each on a white transparent colour. The seemed to extend like elastic until they had reached the bottom of the boat and were feeling slowly towards Matt’s stiffened body. A strange liquid seemed to be coating him, it was the colour of diluted pus yet slightly thicker.
“Hey Hey Get away from him.” Richard called out, kicking one of the water bottles at the arms. It hit them and bounced over the side into the water. The feelers withdrew slightly, but short forward again with a speed that almost beat their eyes. They wrapped around Matt’s neck and with a sickening wet dragging sound the body was hauled out of the boat and entered the water with the grace of a falling boulder. It was all over with before they could react. Sally opened her mouth to scream but nothing came out. Her lungs were paralyzed; she was unable to breathe even. Her chest felt as though it had been placed inside a deep freeze over night.
“What was that what was that?” Dawn shrieked, breaking the silence that had fallen. She was scrambling to her feet. She made her way clumsily to the middle of the boat, suddenly convinced that she could feel the things crawling over her skin.
“I don’t know. Jesus Christ what was that.” Richard ran his hands through his hair, and both Sally and Nathalie clung to him. “I need some space ladies. Please. Let me take a look.” He pushed their clamping hands away.
“Richard.” They said in unison, before exchanging a quick look.
He inched his way over to the side of the boat, carefully shuffling with his feet so as not to lose contact with the boat. There was a strange smacking sound coming from the water. It was the sound of waves gently lapping against a boat moored at a small jetty. Leaning over cautiously, Richard watched as his best friend’s body slowly bobbed up and down, spinning around in slow circles as the spiny arms worked their way over his body, stripping away the flesh in small grooves. Out of nowhere, the blue water, which was now being stained with blood a large white bulbous mass about the size of a football appeared. A small hole opened in the front of it, showing spiny teeth as thin and deadly as a mouth full of needles. The mouth continued to open and it engulfed Matt’s body. Gripping his hand in its mouth and disappearing beneath the surface pulling the body smoothly with it.
“What. What happened? What do you see? Richard.” Nathalie shouted the final word. Not out of anger but to shake Richard out of whatever horrified trance his facial expression showed.
Richard turned to face them. He saw Sally’s fail body, her blond hair dirty and knotted her skin stained with Matt’s life fluid. His eyes moved to Sally, she looked tired, her skin tanned bordering on burnt despite the shelter, her freckles showed up, highlighted by the darkened flesh, her face looking gaunt, with large bags under her eyes. The makeup from before the fire smeared her cheeks making her look like a tragic clown in a black and white production. Her hair was still pulled back, she cared deeply about her hair, it was her weakness in life, and Richard knew she didn’t want to have to face the damage it had suffered. And so she kept it back. Out of mind, out of sight.
He didn’t want to think what a state he must look, he wasn’t as young as he used to be, and not in as good a shape as Matt had been. His two-day-old stubble was already beginning to irritate the sensitive skin of his face, and the salt water was playing havoc with his eyes, and the lenses that clung to them. He didn’t want to take them out because he felt defenceless, his vision poor at best, and with the similar tones of sea and sky he was quite certain he would go made long before the sun burnt his sanity away.
“Nothing, it was nothing. Come on let’s just get into the shade. I think we have had enough sun for now.” He spoke the words, but they sounded hollow in his mouth. Foul tasting almost, like a lie you know will catch you out.
“What about him?” Dawn asked, throwing her head in the direction of the stranger.
“I’ll bring him over. Now come on. This sun will cook us all if we don’t get out of it.” He made his way along the boat. Squeezing nervously passed the women who themselves were moving in a mass huddle.
“Leave me. Get away.” The man spat, swiping out at Richard as he bent to help him up.
“It’s ok. Come on; let’s get you into the shade. I think there is some water left.” The words were cautious. He didn’t really have any idea how much they had, not after dousing Matt with a large amount of it.
“They will come for me won’t they?” His voice was shaking, his body was wet not just from the water but with the same thick sweat pus mixture that Matt was coated in.
“Listen, we’ve been out here for more than twenty-four hours now. People are going to be looking for us. So long as the sea stays calm we will be fine.” He led the man, whose name he still didn’t know over to the shelter where he curled up with the women. Dawn sat still, her knees pulled to her chest in the fetal position; the burn wounds were open and saw from the movement.
There wasn’t much room left under the shade for Richard and so he sat on the bench that dissected the craft. He looked out at the sea, the small waves undulated endlessly, monotonously. He was so thirsty, his throat was parched. Each swallow was like trying to force sandpaper down his throat. His stomach was rumbling and his head felt lightened, but he knew the only chance they had was diminishing with each passing wave that took them further away from their course.
“Richard, what was it. Tell me please.” Sally begged, “Are there more?”
“I don’t know. It looked like a jellyfish, but not like anything I have ever heard about.” He spoke honestly; he had not the energy within himself to keep up the lies. No matter how needed they were.
Sally say back down, sitting closely between Nathalie and Dawn, whose back was turned to them. Her eyes shut, holding back the tears that were tumbling from them. Richard wasn’t sure when, but he fell into a sleep, a troubled uneasy sleep.
He was swimming, the yacht was still there, anchored just off shore from a small island, The water was clean and fresh around him. He could see down into the deep, where fish darted playfully along with each other. He looked up and saw the others, Matt included lined up on the edge of the boat. They jumped after him one by one, the splash of their bodies covering his face with cool water. Their laughter turned however, into a primal shrieking, the sound usually left behind in torture chambers or prisons late at night.
He opened his eyes and the water had turned red around him, and chunks of skin floated on the surface like soggy cornflakes in the bowl. His friends were thrashing in the water which was bubbling around them, white froth capping the waves they created. When their struggled ended Richard was surrounded by them, floating upright in the water, their skin stripped away, leaving just skeletons, coated in areas with the wet meat of their muscles. Ligaments hung from their bones like loose shoelaces.
Richard opened his mouth to scream and was pulled under the water, something wrapping around his leg, working its way up under his shorts. He fell deeper into the water, which get murkier and murkier as he descended. The pressure building in his ears made it feel as though his head was trapped in a vice, his lungs ached and his body began to feel alien. He struggled and tried to escape, but the tentacles had wrapped themselves tightly around him and with each jerky movement they sliced further through his flesh. He opened his mouth, unable to hold his breath any longer. No water rushed in. Instead he felt a thick, pulsating tentacle work its way quickly down his throat. He began to choke.
He woke spluttering, he could still feel the pulsing arm reaching and squirming through his windpipe. He looked around. He had no idea how long he had been asleep, but the sun had moved a considerable distance across the sky. The air was slightly cooler, but his skin was on fire. Luckily his head had been in the shade, but his body had been ravaged. It was red and sore, weeping in places where the blisters from the previous day’s exposure had burst.
He winced and got to his feet. The others were also sleeping, the boat was rocking, the water more agitated than it had been all day. Waves now broke against the hull with the same smacking noise that brought back the image of both the dream and the reality of Matt’s death.
Richard looked around himself, there was a wind blowing now also, and the boat wasn’t just bobbing on the ocean but riding it, the waves were larger than he had thought and while not stormy, the ocean suddenly appeared a lot more fearsome.
He looked under the blanket of clothes. The stranger, the man whose name he then remembered he was yet to ask was lying still, his eyes rolled back in his skull, mouth open, dried blood crusting over on his skin. Richard paused, unsure if he should wake the girls. He knew it would be cruel and pointless, but something within him, bubbling under the skin thought, why not. Why should he have to suffer alone. He forced it down and instead dragged the body out from the shadow. It felt wrong what he was going to do, but there were questions he had and also space he needed should the weather worsen and more.
He looked up at the point and saw the clouds slowly marching across the sky; some white some darker, opposing forces charging into battle. One that he just knew would be waged above their heads.
“Sorry stranger.” He said as he began the painful process of moving the body. He could feel his raw skin being to tear apart as he moved the body which seemed a lot heavier than it had been earlier.
Collapsing back on to the bench, Richard sat and waited, bury the pain he felt within himself, he waited and watched. It didn’t take long; the tentacles appeared over the edge of the boat, not shyly this time, but with confidence. The reached along, and grabbed the man, taking a firmer hold this time. Richard prepared to move, and as soon as the body was pulled into the water he leaned to the side, expecting to see the same beast. He was shocked to the point that he gave a startled cry. There wasn’t just one jellyfish, but several, their floating heads gathered together, bumping against one another as the waves rolled, they were fighting or so it seemed, tentacles waved above the water whipping this way and that like a cat’s tail when cornered. The body was torn apart, mouth gouging chunks of flesh from the body. More and more appeared, stretching almost the length of the boat now, queuing up for their turn to pick at the bones. He moved backwards, almost tripping over the plank. He fell, throwing his arms out to catch himself on the side of the boat. The craft listed suddenly and severely. The beasts reacted, some turned and tried to climb into the craft; its tentacles grasping the wood, hauling the gelatinous body out of the water.
“Get away. Go.” Richard shouted at it. It spied, tied to the inside of the boat the paddles, items they had all forgotten about in their panic. Hastily he grabbed one and swung it for a perfect cover drive. The creature, whatever it was flew through the air; its body created a whistling sound as it flew, crashing into the water.
“What’s going on?” Nathalie spoke up from behind him. The boat was rocking once more, the wood not just creaking gently but calling out for help. A series of buffeting sounds preceded each list.
The girls screamed.
“We need to get out of here” Richard said, his mind spinning. He grabbed the oar and pulled the second one free. His body was screaming at him to stop but he pushed on. His vision was blurring and his eyes stinging from having not removed his lenses.
He pulled the boat lurched forwards, slowly. He cried out, he could hear his skin tearing in places. Behind him the women were screaming, Dawn was still curled up, unable to move, Sally and Nathalie were both crouched down hugging each other. Frozen in panic.
“Hurry, Richard come on, hurry.” Nathalie squealed.
“Shut up. I’m doing my best.” His teeth were gritted and the sea was beginning to dot with the whitened caps of stormy water.
He pulled again, it was like rowing through treacle, his arms were weak, and his hands were burning from gripping the paddles. He saw that as he raised the oars for another strong there were jellyfish clinging to them. He dropped them into the water and pulled. Something snapped, he felt it give, yet he continued to pull, the strokes slow and heavy, but the boat was moving, the wind working in their favour and blowing them over the waves.
“Get in the shelter. NOW!” Richard bellowed at the women. Ordering them rather than asking. Sweat had broken out over his body, removing what precious fluid he had still. He hauled again; the boat rose on a wave and shot forward riding it before coming to rest again.
Richard raised the oars, but felt his heart drop when he saw that they were nothing more than sticks. The fattened end had been removed, broken away somehow. He pulled them in to him and examined the ends. They had been cut through, rather than snapped.
“Jesus. What the fuck is this.” He grabbed at his head, taking handfuls of hair in each fist. “Ok, calm down, come on think. There must be something else. Come on old boy THINK.” He chided himself.
“Dawn.” Sally’s voice suddenly called out. Richard looked around and saw both women holding onto Sally’s legs as her body was slowly being pulled over board. Richard, abandoning the oars moved to help. It was beginning to rain, the clouds settling large and thick in the night sky; the waves growing, throwing the boat around like a toy in the bathtub.
He took a hold and pulled, his effort not adding much, but eventually after a short game of tug of war they brought Dawn’s body back into the boat. She was screaming, kicking her legs. They turned her around, and saw immediately why. A number of tentacles and forced their way through her mouth and were no protruding from her eyes. They hadn’t pushed them out of their sockets, but rather emerged from the expanded pupils in the centre. Her nose was bleeding and bright red lines were visible on her neck as whatever poison it was surged through her system. A green foam was bubbling between her lips.
“Do something.” Nathalie begged Richard. “You have to help her.” She screamed, tugging his arm to get him to move.
“It’s too late; there isn’t anything we can do.” He said in a whisper.
“No it’s not. Help her.”
Richard thought, and then realising there was nothing else for it he grabbed Dawn by the legs and threw her body back over the side of the boat. Her screams were soon drowned out, the sound of her head bouncing off the underside of the craft were a haunting message of her displeasure at her demise.
“What did you do that for? You bastard,” Nathalie screamed slapping furiously at Richard, who had no energy left to protect himself.
“I did what was best for us. She was already dead, but maybe we bought ourselves a bit of time. “ He said to her, but Nathalie didn’t listen, she had turned her back to him and was searching the ocean for Dawn.
“Get her back. We have to rescue her, it’s not too late.” She was frantic, clawing at her skin, her neck and throat red from the scratching. Her eyes were wide with fear.
The boat continued to rock, as the wind increased. In the distance the sound of thunder could be heard; ominous and oppressive.
“Come on. The best thing we can do is hide, we can’t go anywhere not now.” He cast his eyes towards the oars. “Best thing is to try and ride out this storm or whatever it is and hope for the best.” He crawled under the covering and held his hands out to steady Nathalie as she crawled down.
She batted them away refusing to even look at him.
“I understand” Sally spoke, her skin was white in spite of the sun that had been beating down on them. Her eyes looked as though they had been blacked so intense were the blue bags beneath them.
The storm grew harder, and the rain lashed down, the boat was thrown this way and that, waves crashed around it and over it, filling it with water and washing away the last of their supplies. It was all they could do to keep hold themselves. At one point a jellyfish was washed into the boat, its tentacles thrashing around wildly, not hunting but in panic.
“They don’t like the storm.” Richard shouted over the wind, and even then was only just heard by the others. Even Nathalie looked at him now. She hadn’t spoken to him since the incident with Dawn, although she had moved closer once the storm hit.
The next wave crashed down and washed the creature back out into the sea.
The storm last most of the night, and even once the worst was over, the sea remained agitated, the boat taking the brunt of the problems, and several cracks appeared in the wood, but thankfully all above the water line. The seat was broken and the oars washed away. At some point just before it broke the clothing was ripped away exposing them all to the elements. The huddled together and waited, fully expecting the boat to simply come apart or turn over, spilling them all into the foaming rabid looking ocean like rubbish down a chute.
It didn’t come, and by the time the sun began to rise again, the waters around them calmed once more. The three remained huddled together, shivering from the water, their bodies beaten, hunger raged within them. The boat creaked with more and more effort as it bobbed again on the water, only now if sounded less calming and more like groans from holdings itself together.
Finally, once the sun was shining on them again, beating down incessantly Richard rose, shakily. His muscles screaming at him, his left thigh cramped violently, he looked and saw the muscles pinching together creating a bulge under his skin. He grimaced and tried to ignore it. He looked around, there was no sign of the creatures. “Maybe the storm drove them away.” He said, not wanting to assume anything as they had appeared out of nowhere before, but having nothing to test the water with other than his own arms he decided a judgement call was the best idea.
“Great, so now we can cook to death in this fucking boat. That’s just great.” Sally snapped, before spontaneously bursting into tears.
Nathalie remained sitting, her mind scrambled, so much had happened to them in two days she was struggling to process it all.
She was trying to say something when Richard suddenly called out.
“Holy shit. I don’t believe it. Come here. Quick. I don’t fucking believe it.” He spoke in short quick fire sentences, breathing sharply between each of them.
The girls tried to rise, but instead opted to simply peer over the top of the boat. They soon were on their feet, rubbing their eyes, ignoring the blisters that her erupted over their bodies from where their sun burnt flesh had been pounded by salt water.
“It’s . . . . . . “ Sally began.
“An Island, We’re saved. Ha!” Nathalie sung with a shrill enthusiastic voice. “Come on; let’s get this boat over there.” She said looking around for the paddles. “Where are they?” She asked, temporarily forgetting the incidents of the previous night.
“Don’t worry. I think we are drifting that way. When we get a bit closer Ill jump in and pull us to shore.” Richard volunteered, but he was unsure if he had the strength to do it.
“What about those things. Whatever they were?” Nathalie asked him, once again holding his arm
“It’s a chance we will have to take. We won’t survive another storm, or a day in this heat for that matter.”
They waited as the island slowly grew larger, until they could make out the sandy beach and the thick row of palm trees which actually threatened to lead into something dense, offering shelter in the very least, and the chance of food, wild fruit or whatever they could forage.
Finally, they were about 100 yards from the shore Richard prepared to make his dive. He had been studying the water more than the island until this point, and was fairly sure that they were free from the monsters that had been hunting them. “Right, I’ll pull us to the beach.” He said as he swung his legs over the side and into the water. The boat leaned heavily but none of them minded.
He let himself go and was surprised when the water only reached his chest. “Oh, that makes it easier.” He said, clamping his hand on the boat, he began to walk to the shore. It was heavy work on dead legs, but he made it before collapsing onto the sand exhausted. Not caring about the grating sand rubbing over his sore over exposed skin. He could wash it off whenever he wanted to now.
He laughed to himself, a little maniacally but he didn’t care.
The women jumped out of the boat and both crashed to their knees in sheer delight.
“We’re safe. I can’t believe it. We made it.” Sally was the first to speak.
Richard sat up, hating to do so but knowing he must. “Well let’s check out the this beach a bit, see how far it goes, get an idea if anything else is here. The beach curled around in either direction, meaning the Island was either tiny and long and narrow with them standing on the point.
They waited a few more moments, enjoying the rather unusual sensation of being on land, listening to the waves crashed on the beach, while the gentle breeze rustled the trees. Never had something so remote been so welcoming.
Rising they made their way in the direction they were facing. Leaving the boat behind them, still on the water, but grounding on the shallows.
The walk was slow progress their sore feet burnt on the hot sand and their legs were heavy. Yet they made it to the turn curve of the island and were confronted by a wall of rock. It wasn’t very high, but high enough to block their view of the beach.
“Shall we go back the other way then?” Sally asked. They had stuck to the shadows for the last few hundred yards, the sand there was cooler and they were immediately feeling better.
“No not yet. It looks like a simple scramble up there. You wait here; I’ll take a look see what there is.” Richard proposed, setting off before either of them could say anything. He was man, he was going to search. It was primitive but it was a feel he couldn’t seem to shake. He was in charge whether he wanted it or not.
Richard began the climb, the rocks were wet but the incline wasn’t that steep so purchase on the rocks wasn’t an issue. He still had his shoes on too, unlike the girls, who had been sunbathing on the yacht at the time of the fire.
He made the ascent relatively quickly. Pausing only once as his grip on a rock slipped and sliced through the flesh of his thumb. He pushed on. Once at the top he looked into the distance and saw the beach spread a long way down, before turning a corner again. He paused, there was something, a sound filtering up to him. It sounded like a gurgling breathy sound. He looked down and almost fell from the rocks.
“What is it?” The girls asked almost in unison.
Richard turned to answer them, and losing his footing slipped and fell backwards out of their view.
“Richard.” Nathalie called out, running somehow onto the rocks, closely followed by Sally. They made slower work of the climb; the pain in their feet was terrible. Yet they made it to the summit, their bloody footprints covering the rocks below them. Nathalie made it first and began to search for Richard. She didn’t see him on the rocks, no sign of him. He was lying on the sand, a little away from them, he was unconscious, lying face down, the back of his head was wet with blood, and she could see it trickling down his back. “Rich...” She began to call, but her voice cut itself off.
As she looked she saw, in the surf on the shore several of the Milky white heads of the creatures that had attached them. She watched, and didn’t head Sally scream behind her as she lost her footing and fell, trapping her ankle in a gap in the rocks as her falling body pushed more away, trapping her knee deep in the cold, slimy rock. Sally heard more than felt her leg snap, the searing pain as the bone burst through her skin just below her knee. Blood spurted up onto her thigh.
Nathalie heard nothing, as she watched the jellyfish float closer to the beach, she gazed on horrified as slowly they began to waddle out of the surf, their long tentacles dragging behind them like dreadlocks. Protruding from their main mass, stabbing uneasily at the ground were legs, like those of a crab, only they were the same spooky colour as the body. First it was only one but soon more joined it , emerging from the sea like a wave of amphibious tanks making their landing.
“Richard. Wake up. Pleeeeeease” She whispered hoarsely, unsure if anything actually came out or if it was just in her mind.
There was more movement, further up the beach, and she stared as more of them appeared, emerging from all places out of the trees. These were smaller, their tentacles not as long as their water loving cousins, but they moved faster, the front runners already had their mouths open, and were snapping like hungry fish. She turned around, looking back the way they had come, her heart heavy with fear. The beach behind them was also filling up with the creatures, hundreds of them spewing from the surf and dropping from the trees. Their scurrying legs amplified by their vast numbers made strange clicking sounds as they advanced.
“What is it Nat. What’s going on?” Sally asked complete unaware of the bulbous head rising behind her.
“Nothing, don’t worry. Are you ok?” Nathalie answered, holding back tears.
“I can’t move. My leg is broken. I don’t know. . . . “Her words turned into a rush of air and the giant mass engulfed her head in its cavernous mouth. Nathalie stood stock sill, not wanting to move in case they hadn’t yet noticed her. She saw and heard the teeth break the skin, she saw blood flow from her friends throat and worst of all she saw Sally head through the skin of the monster. She saw the look of terror in her eyes as the teeth chomped their way through the flesh, until Nathalie heard the bone break and the body fell away against the rocks.
Nathalie turned back to Richard, but his body was disappearing into the sea, being fought over by several larger creatures, whose legs held their bodies more than a foot above the undulating sand. She turned to run, but saw quickly that she was surrounded. The smell of death was in the air and as she watched, she saw floating away with her last remnants of hope the life raft, slowly bobbing its way back out to sea.