Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Tide, Rising

I sat on the dock awaiting the tide’s return. A cool breeze blew across my face, beckoning me to fly away with it under my wings, but I resisted the urge. Patience would be the key tonight. Above me, loons and geese passed by, headed to wherever they might roost under the full moon, and I turned quietly to await what I felt was coming.

After a seeming eternity of falling darkness under a starry sky, the rhythmic lapping of the rising waters lulled me into a kind of slumber, neither truly awake nor sleeping. Dark memories passed before my mind’s eye, the setting sun, the clouds clearing away and exposing the infinite stars, and the scent of dead things on the tide. I could feel the water calling, and I knew it would soon be time to rise above it all and watch the scene unfold before me in boundless wonder. The once-dead rising onto the weather-beaten boards, clutching to recollections of a given life, now lost for all time. A deep, sonorous whump broke my slumber and I took wing, spiraling up into the night sky on wings the color of coal. I beat hard into the wind, finding the last remnants of warmth to carry me higher. I was free on the open sky but bound in my heart to the docks below.

I saw the first shapes in the foetid waters below, vaguely human yet not entirely. Their pale luminosity breaking the surface and wallowing against the floating piers and rigid pilings of the harbor town. The sleeping inhabitants unaware of the evil approaching, and ignorant of their own doom foretold by the inbound waves.

A hand, or what could be loosely described as a hand, flailed up and found purchase on a buoy left tied to the dock, a heavy, flaccid arm pulling a nightmare from the sea to flop in wet, gelatinous comfort. It rose as others repeated the motion, one after another they came to gather on the dock. I spun, gaining a new vantage point and witnessing the event without danger to my own self. I had no threats here in the sky, save for the need to be mindful of the moon’s location, and the chance my shadow would blot out the baneful light from the eyes of one of these horrors.

Still, they rose and gathered, lumbering onwards toward the sloped ramps and crooked, worn stairs that now separated them from their quarry. Each of these nameless things seemed unaware that time had passed them by. Aeons had passed as they were born and died, to be reborn again in the watchful eye of their master. A master I could only imagine as being just as hideous as they. Were these descendants of Dagon, perchance? Could these be relatives of some long-lost Old One living in squalor beneath the waves as the age of man marched onward without memory of the horrors that once might have ruled this plane? Could these be things that a madman once spun wild seafaring tales about? Mermen or mermaid, or some other far-fetched imaginative creature only drunken sailors from a bygone era might understand when faced with the isolation of the open sea? I didn’t know. I only watched as the night grew colder.

I could see squid by the thousands in the waters, eating whatever detritus was churned up by the coming of these creatures. Flashes of luminescence broke the surface again and again as they fed. Worse still, there was squid feasting on the loose flesh of several of the things, tearing off chunks before returning to the frenzied waters. Black ichor flowed from the wounds, running in rivulets down the bodies, leaving a trail from the water’s edge to where a horror stood under the moon. It was maddening, and if I were a man I might be driven mad by the scene. But I am not a man.

The unholy horde moved en masse towards the lobster traps piled upon the pier, they clambered over them and continued on to the buildings imprisoned on the sea by more pilings. Rusty tin shuddered under the clawed hands, and doors gave way as the things flowed across the pier and into the violated space. They made no sounds other than the muted grunts and scuffling of webbed feet against the wood and concrete and fallen tin. That was when I turned again to improve my view. I tipped a wing into the night and came lower, alighting upon the weathervane atop a nearby inn. I blinked to clear the salt air from my eyes and listened to the glamour being emitted from the darkness within the open building. It was as though they were singing, if one might call it that. Rhythm and meter were lost on these creatures, but the sounds were repetitive enough to qualify as a dirge. The distinctive noises of tearing nets and wood creaking and failing could be heard from within, as though purposeful work was being performed. Then it came, a peal that only a broken mind might recognize. It was ageless and fearsome, and as it ended the roof of the building caved in upon itself as though a giant foot crushed it from above.  Whatever these things had unleashed from its bindings, I could not see. And then there was a flailing and rattling from beneath the fallen roof before the entire building fell from its pilings and returned to the sea in a mass of waste, floating momentarily before the hungry waves lapped it up eagerly.

What manner of creature the men of this town had caught in their nets and placed under lock and key was loose once more, and the flabby horde had seen fit to take the evidence back into the dark depths, never to be seen by men again.

I flew high into the night as the cacophony ended, circling and spying for any trace of what I had just seen with my own black eyes. But nothing remained - not a trace. Men came with lights and curiosity as men do, probing the wreckage on the pier and making up excuses for the damage, but there was none to be had. Any possible explanation could not truly fathom what had transpired. Only my witnessing the event would allow me to believe it, and my only response to the noisy men seeking reason was “CAW! CAW! CAW”