He sailed into the darkness. They watched him go, mesmerised. The kraken was out there somewhere, waiting for him.
They didn’t expect him to come back alive.
Alexander straightened his bow. They’d insisted he take it, but he didn’t plan on using it. He knew something about the kraken that they didn’t.
These waters had been its hunting ground for over two years now. The first attack was only six months ago, and everyone in the village assumed that was when the creature had appeared, but Alexander knew better.
The attacks continued after that, always at night and always under a crescent moon. None of the survivors saw its full form. They described a fish-like creature with scales, something large and ferocious.
But Alexander had seen the kraken before.
He had seen its face.
“The storm’s getting worse,” Captain Reynolds grumbled. “Alexander, get all hands on deck. We’re retreating.”
Alexander peered through the rain. He thought he saw lightning flash in the distance. He opened his mouth to shout the order, then stopped.
“Captain? There’s something there… on the rocks.”
There was a crescent moon tonight, and the waters were dark and silent. He knew the creature was waiting.
He had formed an idea of how it hunted, by piecing together different survivors’ tales. The seas would be calm. There would be no movement for miles. Perhaps someone watching would see a glint in the water, the reflection of a scale.
Then it would explode from the water, emitting a high-pitched scream, and in mere seconds someone would be dragged to their death.
Alexander watched the water now. There was a glint, barely noticeable, right next to the reflection of the crescent moon.
There was something on the rocks.
The captain let Alexander steer closer so they could get a better look. A form, half in, half out of the water.
It was moving, ever so slightly.
The water exploded. Alexander threw back his hood so the creature could see his face.
It froze, recoiled.
“Do you remember me?”
It was a woman.
A woman, Alexander realized, and yet not a woman.
She was human from the waist up, with tendrils of emerald hair trailing into the water. From the waist down she was scaled like a fish. Somehow, miraculously in all this rain, those scales still caught the light of the crescent moon. They glittered in the darkness like coloured ice.
“It’s a siren,” the captain said, horrified, “They lure men to their deaths…”
“It’s hurt.” Alexander could see it in the way it gasped for breath. It could barely sing.
The captain grabbed him by the shoulders. “Listen to what you’re saying, boy!” he shouted, “It’s not a woman, it’s a monster. It’s a monster!”
Alexander hesitated. “She can’t hurt us, not in her state. We could haul her in -”
Anger flared in the captains eyes. “Boy, I swear to you, if you say one more word about that damned creature I’ll have you thrown overboard! Hear me? I will throw you overboard! Now give the bloody order before we all die in this storm!”
Alexander took one last look at the woman.
Her gaze caught his own before he turned away.
It was amazing, Alexander thought.
She was larger, her nails and teeth like claws, her eyes bloodshot.
But her scales still managed to catch the light of the crescent moon.
They glittered like coloured ice.
The kraken watched him, silent. Alexander couldn’t fathom the look in its eyes.
“We should not have left you,” he said. He looked the creature dead in the eyes when he said it. “I wish we had helped you. But I was weak. I was a coward.”
The kraken remained silent. It continued to watch him. Its gaze fixed on his water-streaked face.
“Were the legends even true? Did you ever lure men to their deaths? It doesn’t matter, does it? You do now.” He sighed. “You died that night, didn’t you? In the storm? And yet, you didn’t truly die. Bitterness keeps one alive in one way or the other.”
Alexander wished he knew what the creature was thinking. Could it even understand him? Was it simply playing with its food?
“I have not come here to kill you. I have come to ask for your forgiveness.”
There was a change in the creature’s eyes.
Anger, hatred, sadness?
He didn’t know.
It gave a soft grunt, and all the while never taking its gaze off Alexander’s face, retreated back into the water.
Alexander watched it slip under the surface with barely a sound.
Did it…she…accept his apology?
Or would the attacks continue?
If he had killed her, the villagers would be safe. But he couldn’t, not a second time. They would hate him if they knew.
It wasn’t a woman, they would say.
It was a monster.
Simply a monster.
And yet, it had let him go. It could have killed him, but it let him go.
Alexander drew his coat around him. He thought of that limp form lying on the storm-battered rocks two years ago. He thought of the kraken’s eyes, watching him as it slipped beneath the water.
And somehow he knew that it was over.
(Image courtesy of Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo)
Written for Sue Vincent’s Writephoto Prompt: Sails