After the squid sent two of its dark tentacles into my throat, I fell unconscious.
When I awoke, I was in a most strange location. The room was dark and unsteady. The walls were made of a thick wood and the only light came from a small lamp on a small table. My body was on the floor, pressed awkwardly into one of the room’s four corners. The room’s unsteadiness asserted itself, as my face went from being pressed into the wood to pulled away from it as my body fell back towards the opposite corner. Initially, my brain interpreted this action as the dreamworld’s representation of the saltwater pool and my struggle with the squid.
That was not the case. Gradually, I became aware of my surroundings outside this room – the crackling lightning, the booming thunder, the lashing of rain on the wall to my right – and I realized I was on a ship in the middle of an oceanic storm.
A violent swell caused the room to hover several inches off the floor before crashing hard. The small lamp on the table overturned, spilling onto the floor itself. I was about to put the fire out when the door burst open and a handsome man in his early 30s entered.
“Blazes of Hell, Mary!” he yelled, thundering into the room and stomping the fire out with his boots. A small window on the right wall provided light only when lightning cracked, but when it did I saw a very wet, but very kind and concerned man. Where his last words were harsh, his next words were kind, “Are you okay, my love?” he asked, helping me to my feet.
I gladly took his hand and found it somewhat easier to stand despite the ship being tossed on what was undoubtedly large waves. The man was well proportioned, tall and strong, but in neither attribute was he excessive. More than the tousled wet hair, the unshaven face, the dark eyes, what I felt radiating from this man was love.
I felt both warmed by it and jealous of it, as I knew his love was not for me.
“I am fine,” I assured him, though the words I spoke were not mine. Certainly, the voice was not mine and thus it must have belonged to Mary.
Lightning lit the room again, and for a moment this stranger’s face was familiar to me, and as the darkness conquered the room, I knew the players on this dream stage.
I was looking at Captain Eugene Wallace Shepherd, and I was Mary Williams Shepherd, his wife. The physical resemblance to Lord Shepherd was not overwhelming in the elder Shepherd (or rather, given the time of this dream, the younger Shepherd, who appeared a decade younger than his son). He looked at me quizzically but then shook whatever thought aside.
“Has he contacted you?”
I could feel Mary start to say, “No,” but I forced my own soul into this conversation and asked, “Who?”
Captain Shepherd was clearly concerned. “The medicines Shiro gives you have addled your brain,” he whined, his rough hands stroking my face.
Shiro? I wondered. Shiro Wabanate, the butler of Kraken Moor?
“I am sorry,” I heard Mary say. (I wonder now, though the thought was absent in the dream, if what I felt then was not unlike what Lady Coraline and Patricia Valmont felt when the deceased woman merged with Captain Shepherd’s sister.) “It is … it is … what day is it?”
Expecting to hear something banal like, “Saturday,” or “Tuesday,” I was equally surprised and confused to hear the captain reply, “Nine. It’s day 9,” as his eyes dropped to the floor. “Has he not contacted you?” he asked, raising his head in hope.
“No … no,” Mary replied weakly. I could feel her fear and disappointment.
“Are you … are you still committed?”
“Of course!” Mary said. “I would do anything for you, my love!”
“And I would do anything for you!” he replied. “If only the Brute would take me instead! Only you can save the ship!”
With that, Captain Shepherd kissed Mary/me and fled outside. I could feel Mary’s conflicting emotions – she wanted to do what was right and yet she also was afraid of doing what was expected of her.
The recurring pattern was obvious to me – Mary had been placed in a situation where she was being forced to agree to a demon’s demands in order to save the life of her loved ones.
“No!” Captain Shepherd yelled from the hallway. “No! Stay back or I’ll-!”
“You’ll do nothing, Captain!” a harsh voice yelled back. A moment later Captain Shepherd was tossed back into this room and several members of his soaked, tired, and injured crew forced their way into the room. “Women bring their own doom!” the first sailor yelled as they approached me and forced me to my feet. “I will sacrifice your life a thousand times to save my own!” the wild man screamed in my face. “Come with us!”
Mary screamed. Captain Shepherd rose to his feet, but a member of his crew shoved him to the ground and drew on him. “Stay,” he ordered.
Mary and I were dragged out into a short hallway and then out into the raging storm. The wind and rain and cold hit me hard and though this was Mary’s experience, I felt all of her fear and all of the worst the elements could manage to throw against us.
The ship rose and fell to great heights and worsening depths. The dark sky made me feel as if the sky itself was against us, and the booming thunder felt right on top of us. The lightning came harder and faster, flashing close enough to the ship that we could hear the bolts of energy sizzle the air and burn the rain.
In my heart, I knew this was done for me.
“Your sacrifice awaits!” the rough man who held me raged. “Come and claim her!”
“No!” a short Oriental man challenged, rushing forward with a long sword drawn.
Shiro Wabanate? I was struck that this was the first time I had lain eyes on both Kraken Moor’s owner and butler … inside a dream of decades long past.
“Stay out of this, cook!” the sailor who held me roared.
“I will not! There is another way! We do not-!”
From behind me, a sailor yelled that his rifle was useless in the wet, and before I could turn, an arrow whizzed by my head and imbedded itself into Mr. Wabanate’s shoulder. So strong was the arrow that the Oriental’s body was forced back into a mast, where it was now stuck. The man that shot the arrow pushed past me, and as our heads became parallel, he glanced at me for only a moment.
Only a moment, but long enough for me to realize I knew his face.
Charles Francis Poseidon.
“Kill him!” the sailor who held me ordered.
Poseidon ignored him and patted Shiro on the shoulder. “You will be fine, cook,” he said politely, then turned back to my captor. “Touch the cook, Jack, and your —- will be in the next soup,” he threatened.
Whatever response my captor was going to give was cut off and a solitary black tentacle shot out of the sea and seemed to touch the storm clouds above. I cannot properly describe its massive size except to say that this single tentacle was large enough to wrap the entire ship in its length. A second, third, fourth tentacle joined it, two pillars of black on either side of the ship.
The crew of hardened sailors panicked – all of them, even Poseidon – as the tentacles closed in upon us. The masts were shattered like dry kindling and we were all forced to the deck as the tentacles began to squeeze the ship.
“No!” Jack yelled. “We have your whore!”
The Brute replied only by pulling the ship onto its side. All of us (save poor Mr. Wabanate) slid down the deck to the side wall, where we grabbed anything tied down to save us.
The Brute was not finished.
Wrapping two more tentacles around the ship, it somehow managed to lift the entire ship into the air and turned it upside down! Screams from the crew drowned out the thunder as we were all forced to grab hold of the Brute’s tentacles. I could see now that the tentacles were of the same shape as the scars on Jenson Shepherd and Lima’s bodies, though obviously this massive demonic entity could not have given their scars to them. The Brute’s suction cups were as large as a human, and as we fell onto them with the ship flipped over, it was those of us who fell into those cups that lived, while the others fell thirty or forty feet to the ocean.
I looked for Poseidon but could not find him in the chaos. I (or Mary) turned to look for Captain Shepherd, but the movement of our head was still with a roar that seemed to rumble out of the Earth itself.
Jack was one tentacle over, but he leaped across the short distance to land beside me in the tentacle’s cup.
“Time to spread,” he chuckled and tossed me over the edge.
As I fell I saw the ocean part and a great, gaping maw open. It reached up to me as I fell towards it and I caught a glimpse of the Brute’s powerful, empty eyes as I plunged into its mouth.
I fell against something wet and spongy. There was little light, but as I looked up I could see the ship at an impossible distance from me. I was inside the Brute and I wondered if Jonah would reveal himself to me.
He did not.
Instead, a second squid moved towards me from out of the distance of this spongy interior. I backed away in fear, but a second squid joined him, then a third, and fourth, and more until there were eight squids positioned around my body.
They attacked, but their intent was not to kill me.
Mary Williams Shepherd survived this ordeal because I know from the staff that she moved into Kraken Moor with Captain Shepherd and soon after gave birth to Lord Shepherd. Was he-?
There is a knock at the door. I shall return to my journal when I have the chance.
It has been several hours since I put down my quill and now I sit alone in my room with Poseidon.
“You were placed here after falling into the water,” he informed me. “What did you experience?”
I told him the entire story, including his own presence on Captain Shepherd’s ship. The older man nodded somberly.
“That was nearly a half-century ago,” he explained, now looking incredibly old and tired. “After we tossed Mary into the mouth of the Brute, the ship was thrown back into the water. We were damaged and spent the next four days and night furiously making repairs. Eugene was despondent, thinking his fiance to be lost.”
“So they were not yet married?”
Poseidon shook his head. “We had completed enough repairs to feel safe in succumbing to sleep. Too tired to panic, we simply watched as one giant tentacle reached out of the water and placed Mary Williams onto the deck. Her stomach was bloated and in moments eight squid burst from her loins. Everyone on the ship was killed save for myself, Captain Shepherd, and Shiro Wabanate. The squid slipped back into the sea.” He rubbed his face in his large hands. “I have spent my life attempting to understand them, to fight them, to stop them from claiming this world. Based on what’s happening outside your door, I do not think I will win this time.”
I let his words sit. I could hear an orgy of ecstasy occurring outside the doors and I asked him how many Dolphinae were afflicted with Lord Shepherd’s poison.
“All of them,” he said dejectedly. “I tried to save them … I tried …”
“What do we do?” I asked.
Poseidon ignored my question and continued the story. “Where I thought the Brute needed to be slain, Eugene and Shiro thought it needed to be worshiped. The captain bought the castle and renamed it Kraken Moor, a tribute to the Brute he now served. If he knew that estate was haunted with demons and ghosts and things that go bump in the night, I do not know. Several years later, Jenson was born and I have watched him from a distance for all these years. I believe he serves the Kraken, but does so unknowingly.”
“What happened to Mary?”
“Suicide,” he said, and then said no more.
He sleeps now behind me on the bed, and I sit at the desk. The sounds outside my door have not stopped and I do not know if it is safe to leave the safety of this room.
I want to sleep but I cannot. My mind is troubled. The Kraken wants to conquer the world and will kill anyone – demons included – in his way.
Kadul wants to escape. Kanarl and Tchitok want him to suffer their fate.
My stomach informs me that I am hungry, but there is no food. My eyes keep turning to the tub, and I wonder if I should succumb to its eternally warm waters and seek an audience with Kadul.
Perhaps there is a lesson to the dream of Mary’s experience.
Perhaps I was to learn that the only way out of the darkness is to make a deal with it.