300 Word Writing Challenge #45 -- VICTORY TO VICTORIA SILVERWOLF!

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Ursa major

Bearly Believable
Staff member
Aug 7, 2007
The inspiration image for Challenge #45 is:

monster made of sea creatures.jpg

Image credit: Chris Green


To write a story in 300 words or fewer
by the image provided above
in the genre of

Science Fiction, Fantasy, or other Speculative Fiction

The winner has the option of having his/her story published on the Chrons Podcast


Only one entry per person

All stories Copyright 2022 by their respective authors,
who grant the Chronicles Network the non-exclusive right to publish them here

This thread will be CLOSED until April 10th 2022
As soon as the thread is unlocked, you may post your story

Entries must be posted no later than April 30th 2022
at 11:59 pm GMT

Voting will open on May 1st 2022 and close on May 15th 2022 at 11:59 pm GMT
(unless moderators choose to make an extension based on the number of stories)

We ask all entrants to do their best to vote when the time comes
but you do not have to enter a story to vote
as we encourage ALL Chronicles members
to read the stories and take part in choosing the winning entry!

You may cast THREE votes

NO links, commentary or extraneous material in the posts, please
The stories must stand on their own


For a further explanation of the rules see Rules for the Writing Challenges

This thread is to be used for entries only
Please keep all comments to the

** Please do not use the "Like" button in this thread! **
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Go Home

It’s the drifting particles that fascinate me. I love watching them go by. We’re nearly ten kilometres underwater, and every day we beat our own records. Everything we do adds to the knowledge of how to live at this depth.
I’m beginning to think the air mixture is off. My mote watching has turned into some sort of paranoid sentry duty. I saw something outside! It looked humanoid. Doctor Silver reassures me it’s nothing to worry about, and has adjusted my supplements. She’s also told me to restrict my watching time, because it’s clearly becoming obsessive.

Stepping away from her surgery, I find Ellis waiting at the corner.
“You saw it, didn’t you?”
His eyes are wide.
Do I? Don’t I?
“Damo says it’s a ruse by the Chinese.”
“They’re two basins over, and twelve kilometres away. I don’t think it’s them.”
“Then who?”
I have a few ideas. None of them good, and all from what’s supposed to be fiction.
The speaker above us blares: “Attention! Watch your nearest screen.”
We look at each other. Doc Silver opens her door. We rush in. She points to a monitor.
There’s a bipedal figure walking towards the habitat, a milling shoal of dark fish acting like a shrouding cloak. It stops a few metres away. Clawed feet sink into the soft floor of the trench. Something appears from within the roiling shoal. A chela clutching a piece of metal. I can make out scrawled words!

Go Home
Last Warning

What the…? How will the department heads respond to this?
The figure turns and walks away. Five minutes pass.
“Attention! Move to evacuation stations.”
We exchange looks of relief.
Ellis nods: “It’ll take days, but showing willing may help.”
I hope so.
The Uprising

The wreck of the SS Seabridge was thought too deep to search for.
In reality it no longer existed. Nor did over 100 million tons of sunk shipping.

Seven miles deep, in the volcanoes of the Mariana trench, they were being melted and reformed by an intelligent species of bipedal lobster.
Not only were the hulls melted but their cargo removed and organised. The 6000 ships sunk by U-boats providing a considerable explosive armoury.

After eighty years they were ready. The pressure sealed vessels, that would enable them to safely reach the near vacuum of the ocean surface, were complete.

They had no idea what was up there, but it had been dropping enormous quantities of pollution and garbage on them for a century. It had to be stopped.

Reaching the incredibly bright surface a rapid reconnaissance took place. The infestation of billions of 'surface creatures' was studied. Their main nesting centres noted.

Although the lobsters lacked information about dry land they had a huge knowledge of volcanology and plate tectonics. Sensitive crustacean antennae knew the tensions and trigger points in the earths geology. Strategic charges were placed on fault lines and near magma chambers.

Their commander signalled, a triple snap of claws.

The San Andreas fault opened first, destroying Southern California. Then Yellowstone erupted, bringing ink black freezing skies and failed agriculture . The Eurasian and African plates slipped and 400 foot tsunamis washed life from the land.

Pleased with the results, they released lifting gas and sunk to the deep safety of the ocean floor.

The commander spoke.

"Brilliant work everyone, an astounding success. Maybe later we can learn to decompress and live up there ourselves."

"We could use those coastal areas to develop our industry and expand our population," he added, oblivious of the irony.


David Mitchell, Chief Editor of Malver Comics, sat behind his imposing oak desk and stared down at Jenkins. He sighed, touched his fingers together thoughtfully for a few seconds and then spoke.

“So, what have you got for me?”

“I call him Fish-Man.” said Jenkins, nervously.

“Alright, let’s take a look.”

Jenkins slid some sheets across the huge desk towards his boss who slowly leafed through them. Several minutes passed before he raised his head.

“So, let me make sure I’ve got this right. Fish-Man isn’t exactly a man with fish-related powers?”

“Well no,” replied Jenkins. That’s been done; you know, with spiders and such. And to be honest it’s a bit far-fetched.”

“I see. So Fish-Man is, in fact, a man made out of fish?”

Jenkins nodded anxiously. He did not like the way things were going.

“And, don’t tell me,” Mitchell said with a sneer. “Fish-Man dispatches his enemies by slapping them with a wet haddock?”

“Well, no, that would be silly,” replied Jenkins defensively. “He uses an electric eel. By day he is a comic book writer and by night____”

Mitchell got up and walked to the window, turning his back on the startled employee.

“How many years have you been with us, Jenkins?”

“Well, it’s been a few Sir.”

“Perhaps a few too many. I’d like you to go to your desk and get your stuff. You’re fired!”

Mitchell sensed a commotion behind him, incoherent grunts, turning to squeals, and there was an impact on the desk that made the whole room shake. He turned and screamed in horror as the creature rose from the cheap office chair and raised an arm to lash out at him. The last thing he saw was the beady eye of the eel, before everything went black.
Scarlet Eye, Anglerfish

A rushing throughout my chest, a roar fading and I awaken.
A nurse dresses my leg, I’m lying on a hospital bed.
She finishes then backs away to a table. She drops tape and scissors, walks backwards around the room, stops at a washstand, the thermostat, her left profile towards me always.
“Where am I?” I ask. “What’s happened?” She remains silent, gives no indication that she would respond.
I lose the world for a moment and she’s standing bedside. Tubing runs from a device labeled ‘Morphine Pump’ to an intravenous port taped to my hand. The pump’s display reads ‘Interval Dosing Overridden’. She hits the dosage button again and again…

The nurse dresses my leg. I pull the tubing from my hand while she’s distracted, tuck it under the tape so it seems still attached.
She walks backwards, stops to perform tasks, her left profile towards me.
I’ll play possum when she doses me, I think, escape the room tonight, find an exit, but then I act unthinkingly, throw my pillow at her, an urgent need to see her entire face.
She whips around, turns on me fully – half her head is missing, black void, a scarlet eye burning.
The room’s door crashes inwards, a being rushes through, ceiling-tall, doorway-broad, anglerfish head conjoined grotesquely to myriad creatures, all stuck together with luminescent algal goo.
It roars, grabs the nurse’s head, tears it away, hurls the body.
It approaches me and with impossible dexterity for pincered hands retrieves the tubing, reconnects it to the pump. Across the room the nurse’s body rises. Cradling its head it turns that thing’s only true profile towards me.
I study the pump, find the dosage button, close my eyes. I punch the button over and over. “Hurry,” I whisper, “hurry.”
A Daughter Of The Past

She was reborn during a night of snow. An occurrence so rare that the desert tribes gathered to sing praise when the sun rose.
They stood in the frigid flow of the green river while the red stone walls of the canyon carried their voices to the heavens. She listened with rapt attention to the hymns of water and earth, of life and death, and felt their love and joy.

To her that had been moments ago but it was generations since. The tribes had left and all around was nothing but dust and emptiness. Alone, she grieved.

Her father had been wise. An oracle. He had seen a distant future of pain and blood and ashes and dirt. It was he that had given her the second birth. A messenger for those that would be. But even a heart as strong as hers can falter. Her mind was made for a lifetime, not ages. Emptiness turned to grief and grief to hate. She cursed what she was a thousand and a thousand times.

When the wanderers found her she was as empty as the desert she was created in. They placed her in a fortress of stone as smooth as water. People as many as the stars in the sky passed by, but she was silent. Even as the stones fell from the sky she was mute, watching their towers and mighty tribes topple and fall.

She stood in ruins covered in snow as survivors came. When they sheltered in her shadow, there was peace, at last. She told them of what had been and what was to come. She guided them to the desert and as their children sang the hymns of water and earth and life and death she saw her father’s smile and was content.
He called her Ariel as if everything else wasn’t enough. Ariel the perfect. Ariel the higher being that did whatever Prospero wanted. Well, what happens when Prospero is dead? Don looked around the empty room. His father’s life. Every moment he’d spent tinkering. Every time his eyes lit up at a new creation and every time they darkened at a new failure. The man never left. Not since Cali’s mother took him away. He let them come over. He let Cali him Prosp. He stopped calling him Caliban. Everything bit of Prosp’s life had been chucked out or auctioned off.

But not Ariel.

was an eight foot metallic monstrosity that couldn’t be hauled out by a pick up truck. Everything Cali’s father did ended in this. All those whispering thoughts and rants. All those pitiful appeals to an iron statue.

It isn’t working Ariel!

It isn’t right Ariel!

Nothing! Nothing! Nothing can overcome you Ariel! Why?

Bloody mad man. Cali looked around the statue again for a switch, a levor crank or a key to wind her up like a jack-in-the-box. It was hard to think of Ariel’s real purpose but Prosp had made toastie machines that interogated you on your cheese choices. There was no rhyme let alone reason.

“Ariel?” Cali found himself murmuring as he looked it up and down again. “Where for art thou Ariel? Is that in the stupid play?”
“The Tempest,” a tinny woman’s voice boomed.

Cali’s heart dropped to his feet.

“You are three men of sin,” the voice echoed from deep in the metal work.
“What?” Cali exhaled.
“Upon your heads is nothing but heart sorrow.”
“You speak? Why? What’s so important for…for you to say?”
“The first man that leap’d cried: ‘Hell is empty. And all the devils are here.’
The School

Nurse Evans interrupts my sleep for the thousandth time, cold fingers on the leads under the saline. My tank smells like ocean. I feign sleep, dreaming of swimming free.

Alone again, I move the only parts I can to eye my hand. It's not mine anymore.

Seingard laid it out: “The virus ate your peripheral nerves, but left the myelin sheaths. Shellfish nerves will grow in their place, forming colonies that link up to your brain. Eventually.”
“Doesn’t sound Kosher, Doc.” No sense of humor.

The hand is moving. On its own. The fingers wag in unison. If not for the listless arm it would swim my little sea. I can’t feel it or control it, but the barnacle of nerves growing against my cerebellum keeps letting me know it’s there.

Seingard is back; Evans leers from the corner. I’m thrashing. “All this movement is excellent. It only looks like a spasm because the different clusters are still independent.”

“I can feel them, but they’re not mine.”

“Good!” “Good.”

I touched my nose yesterday. Something touched my nose. Too soon for steps, but I tried to paddle my feet, and they honored my request - with emulation of sensation.

This morning's dream was a forest. Bare feet feeling their way through leaves; hands caressing bark. A brand new place.

My hands pull out the leads - I smell iron. I think about leaving, knowing I won't. Then out of the tank, negotiating being upright for the first time. Steps are taken.

“C’mon! What’re you doing outta there!” My disgust of Evans travels to my limbs instead of my compliance.

“Sorry, I’ll…” But I’m already across the room, moving faster than when I was healthy. New nerves strike out with predatory expertise, crushing his sternum.

We walk out onto the land.

I hate Grimsby’s Saturday market. Bored, I entertain myself by moving as a crowd of girls passes. One screeches ‘that statue’s alive!’ Another minx wallops me with her bag.

I go back to standing statue-still. Acting like a robot is bad enough. Here, I’ve got a lobster on my shoulder. Neptune, I’m supposed to be.

At the bandstand fake sea-nymph dancers start on the half-hour, arms waving. They’re supposed to be seaweed, I think.

A tiny girl watches them, licking ice-cream like a cat, pink tongue darting as if she doesn’t trust herself to enjoy the treat. There’s no one caring for her, that I can see. I wink – I see you; I had a sick childhood too. Her eyes widen but she doesn’t tell anyone. She likes secrets and so do I.

That little minx; tonight’s secret. Behind my fake-breastplate-crab I have her driver’s licence, filched from the bag she swung at me. Tonight I’ll go around and see to her.

The kid’s staring at me, freaking me out. If it wasn’t for the money, I’d walk over and tell her to get lost. Well, clank over.

Instead, she runs to me. No-one stops her. Anything could happen to her. She grabs my hand.

“I see you.”

I try to retreat but I’m stuck. Heat travels through me, white warmth in, the redness inside flowing out. The sadness, the fear, the pain. The things they make me do.

The driving licence falls to the ground, bringing relief. I don’t want to go to the minx’s place. I don’t want to hurt her, or anyone.

The girl lets go and dances back. A patch of water outlines her feet. She retreats into the sea-nymphs, as free as the sea.

Tears rust against Neptune’s mask. As free as she’s left me.
He Shall Not Be Mocked

Benedict had come upon the isle of Tuwani in a storm in the West Pacific. The natives were very brilliant but very humble; they learned his language in a fortnight. For their character, Benedict cared quite little; his only desire was to "educate" this poor folk, which, of course, began with converting them to his faith.

One day, he stood by the idol of their chief deity, the Good Fisherman. He began catechizing the Tuwanese before they could get ready for their Festival of Goodwill.

"Love for Yahweh is the only way one could hope to enter His kingdom. You who believe in this Good Fisherman are in fact worshipping the Devil himself. Yahweh is a jealous god, and He will permit no alternatives to worshipping Him alone."

"Where did Yahweh come from?" Chief Hwumi asked amidst some of his fellows' quiet protests, "The Good Fisherman was hatched from an egg laid by the Celestial Bird when it fell into the sea."

Benedict made a broad gesture, pointed to the sky.

"All things come from Yahweh. He is the beginning and end of the universe. He has always existed, beyond space and beyond time."

Hwumi moved his mouth several times, then fell into silence.

"And," Benedict continued, "He sent His only son to come to Earth and save us from our sins and the sins of our fathers. He died on the cross for our survival into heaven."

The Tuwanese were grave. Only Hwumi spoke.

"But the Good Fisherman is real."

"He is not!" snarled, "There is only Yahweh!"

Just then, a lightning bolt struck the idol, cleaving it horizontally. The upper half descended on the preacher and cut short his scream. The Tuwanese screamed in turn.

Exit Benedict the Martyr and the first Christian Tuwanese.
Museum Piece

Because Egg Father and Egg Mother had appointments at the Cellular Reconditioning Center, Seed Mother and Seed Father accompanied First Child to the Hall of Alien Artifacts. Eager to taste and smell the many strange objects from other worlds, First Child extruded an extra pair of locomotive tendrils, even though this would mean more time spent in hibernation next cycle. The seed parents let the youngster rush ahead, slithering through warm tunnels to the cavern that held the exhibit.

So many strange scents and flavors! First Child used as many sensory tendrils as could be produced safely, always aware that excessive somatic rearrangement carried the risk of complete exhaustion. Seed Mother signaled caution, an aroma that blended the sweetness of affection with the sharp scent of warning. Seed Father, more indulgent, used a manipulating tendril to direct the child's attention to the prize of the collection.

First Child's tendrils revealed it to be very tall and slender, with a shape that suggested someone turned sideways. A squat, rounded tendril sat above a thin body, which possessed only four tendrils, long and thin. It tasted like metal and had no detectable scent. With a mixture of curiosity and a little fear, First Child placed a sensory tendril into the vat of thick liquid that explained the weird thing. A complex combination of flavors and aromas, far more interesting that anything offered at school, entered First Child's nerve center.

Alien used object to shield its body from environment. Sample taken from only known visitor of species. Failed to regenerate after transport landed.

First Child was amazed. The being had actually been inside the object! First Child vowed to discover the home world of the mysterious creature that had died so long ago, when it was time to become a gendered adult.
A Space Freighter Pilot’s Journal

Day 14

I gave up trying to repair the supply vessel, Arkenstone. Frustrated, I took a walk on the unknown planet. Miles from the ship, I spotted a metallic hand protruding from the sand. Immediately I began to uncover what I thought to be another ill-fated astronaut. Instead, I discovered the body of a hideous robot. I stood staring, wondering what the purpose of this mechanical nightmare was.

A distant thunder storm urged me to return to the Arkenstone.

Day 15

Sipping my usual morning coffee, I glanced at the gloomy sky from a bay window, smiling mildly at the flickering lightning. For me, a perfect atmosphere for story writing. It was then I noticed that ugly robot standing outside, eerily facing my direction. A chill crawled into me. Grabbing my gun belt, I went outside to meet my visitor.

Approaching slowly, I tried communicating with it. It didn’t respond to the seven languages I knew, and hand signs weren't working either. I noticed a burn mark on its chest. Lightning probably reanimated it.

The seven foot metal monster stood like a statue. I began to think its brain might be damaged or it needed programming. As I pondered, my hand rested on my holstered weapon. At that moment, it attacked.

Grabbing me by my upper arms, it lifted me up. I screamed.

Suddenly, the robot set me down gently, then floated upward into a spacecraft below the clouds. A buzzing sound drew my attention. I noticed two strange beings ten meters away, observing me. They were half my size, wearing purple environment suits with black bubbled helmets. Nodding in appreciation, I waved to them. Appearing to understand, they waved and nodded back, before leaving me.

Day 16

While I wrote about my adventure, a rescue vessel landed nearby. Hallelujah.
The Continuing Adventures of Agents Irene, Spatula and Special Agent Sockenpowder

Welcome back to the adventure.
If you're just joining in you should know that Irene and Spatula are on a mission to civilize Earth.

Oh yeah, along with Special Agent Sockenpowder.
Who spent the first week of the journey sitting by a communications panel. He barely grunted when Spatula told the story.

‘The Darangula is the most fearsome weapon in the human arsenal. She’s a one woman army. With Crumnuntical Flails protruding from her torso. And one of her arms is a steel Grappling Squid. Plus she never goes rusty. We should turn back.’

‘That’s terrifying’, noted Irene, ‘will she be there when we arrive?’

Spatula winked, tapped his forehead, and pointed to Sockenpowder. Irene shrugged. Spatula leaned towards her and whispered.

Can’t ya tell I’m trying to convince that muppet to bring us back hom…

He was distracted by an incoming signal.
Sockenpowder leapt up and saluted the com panel. He then flicked a switch.

‘Special Agent Sockenpowder reporting’, he announced.

‘Sir’, interrupted Irene, ‘that signal can only have come from Earth, we may have lost the element of surprise.’

Sockenpowder’s face reddened, frowned, and then beamed happily.

‘Nonsense Irene. I’ve been studying humans, and they frequently use a devious technique called lying. It alters the recipient's perception of the Universe using words alone. And I’m about to give those humans a taste of their own medicine.’

He flicked the switch again.

‘Attention humans. I am not Collective Special Agent Sockenpowder, and I’m not on a mission to Earth.’

Sockenpowder grinned with pride.

‘That was the first time any member of the Collective has been able to deploy a lie.’

‘Brilliant work Sir’, noted Irene, ‘but will the Darangula still be there when we arrive?’

Agent Spatula covered his face with his hands.
Possibly’, he muttered.
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A Spacefaring Captain

Upon the bridge of his space vessel the captain traveled. He was not a corporeal being, but a convergence of energy, the intersection point of 20,000 independent dimensions. Born eons ago in the deep oceans of the third planet from an unknown star, he’d learned to incorporate the milieu of creatures around him, to utilize their physical bodies to form his own. When he’d risen to the surface, he found a land dominated by a bipedal species, thin of skin but thick with hubris, dwelling in giant cities and living busy, pointless lives. He tried to assimilate, but they abhorred the grotesqueness of his aggregate shape and destroyed his borrowed body. So he left for the vast emptiness of space.

For uncountable time he traveled the universe, finding lifeforms both civilized and not, incorporating many shapes and experiencing many varied existences. But his thoughts always came back to the sea from where he came. Eventually, he found a ship that would allow him to transport his physical form. He searched out planets with oceans similar to his, and found uncountable examples. From them he incorporated hundreds and thousands of species into a living shell, shared in their energies and maintained their physical forms as his own. They traveled as symbionts, and together had experiences inaccessible to each as individuals.

Alas, the captain’s end drew near. Ever enthralled by his birthplace, he returned to the small planet, third from the unknown star and long dead from hubris. He traversed the surface among the crumbled reminders of an ancient civilization, saddened by the silence. Finally he returned to the salty depths, where one by one the 20,000 individual dimensions collapsed. As the captain passed beyond time and space, he released his collection of species into the water, replenishing the dead planet.
Tom Crabbielocks

My dear Perry,

The storm's relenting and I hope to send this letter on tomorrow's boat. Some days remain for me to tie up loose ends on the island, but, though no body has turned up, I'm now sure my uncle is dead. Among his remaining effects I found a patch of manuscript, in his hand, which I copy out to you below.

'As the shark longs for clouds of blood, so longs my soul for you. Beneath the fallen chapel, steps lead me to your dripping sanctum. Upon a slimy pedestal you regard me from below your lobster brow and crab-leg locks. Your way is in the sea, and your paths in the great waters- who shall don this kelpen girdle, and go forth with our chitinous hosts? My soul waits in the darkling trench for the sinking shipwreck feast. The eel swims in and out my eyes, and whispers in my skull, "Your footsteps are not known." Deep calls to deep with the longings of the drowned. In the sunlit air there is none who knows you but me and the child who cries to me each day, "Have you met again with Tom Crabbielocks? I see him in my window rainy nights. All night his song is with me." Who shall descend to your deep, and behold your holy phosphorescence? The tempest comes- lift up your heads ye coral gates, that we may enter.'

He also left a charcoal rubbing on paper, evidently from some old stone inscription that I haven't found:


When I'm back on the mainland I must tell you a few other things I found, which I cannot bear to think of or write now.



Children of a Foreign Sea

From the burning, baneful heart of the realm the outlanders came.

Cocooned within their steel skiffs, these flat facers with their glass heads had sailed the Immeasurable Beyond to encircle our home. With savage ignorance they harpooned our frozen sky. Countless friends of the Great Ultramarine died as the frozen winds poured through the rift. Into our rapidly cooling waters they chased us, probing, hunting, driving us ever deeper, toward our world’s molten heart.

But their obliviousness was their undoing, for they knew not of our vast ocean’s special conductivity, nor the symbiosis all friends of the Great Ultramarine share; crab and coral, whale and whelk, shrimp and sponge alike. And via this same intrinsic link did The Great Ultramarine absorb all their knowledge, through the skin of their metal molluscs. We learned our enemy’s name – Man – and their name for our home – Europa – and from their mythical texts we drew the inspiration with which to defeat these children of a foreign sea.

So, with Man looming at the very gates of the Great Ultramarine’s inner sanctum, we did rise as one, conjoined in the horrific visage of their legendary Leviathan, but of a bipedal form befitting their egotism. With a claw of a thousand tusks, we punctured their submarine flagship.

But then a wonderous thing happened: Man touched the water, and his eyes were opened to the Great Ultramarine’s plexus. And through it we communicated. Soon, Man appreciated his reckless abandon, and our world’s delicate majesty. Man begged forgiveness for the lives he'd unwittingly destroyed, agreeing to seal the rift and withdraw, never to plunder our resources.

But in its infinite grace, The Great Ultramarine permitted one metal mollusc to remain.

To survey. To learn. To bridge our myriad divisions.

And so began the third age of Man.
Fish Food

Lou stared out at the East River. Opposite, the lights of Stuyvesant Town barely reflected, but to the left, luminous Lower Manhattan offered a striking juxtaposition to the dark and dilapidated warehouses surrounding him and Jimmy Weasel. Lou thought it poignantly mirrored the differing wellbeing of the onetime colleagues.

Jimmy was looking with dread at the inky-black waters below, not least because he was tied to the anvil he was currently struggling to hold; Lou had told him he’d shoot both knees if he made him carry it.

“What was that ice cream you was always eatin’ Jimmy? Fish Food?”

“Phish Food.”

“Yeah.” Lou chuckled. “That’s what you’re gonna be soon.” He’d been hoping that he’d one day get to say that to Jimmy, ever since the first time seeing him eat it.

“Why you doin’ this Lou. Just let me go and say you did it. I’ll disappear. No one’ll know.”

“Can’t take no chances. Them fishes are waitin’ Jimmy. In you go.”

“Damn you to hell Lou. I’ll be back for you.” Jimmy stepped off the edge of the wharf.

Lou waited till the last of the bubbles subsided.

“Good luck with that.”

Later, returning to his apartment on Upper East Side, the first thing Lou noticed was a smell of rotting fish. Momentarily he was puzzled, then remembered the remains of the salmon from the night before that he should’ve thrown straight in the trash.

Later still, waking, he smelt it again, stronger.

Realising there was something in his bedroom, Lou clicked on the light. He was horrified to see a large, glistening, man-shaped conglomeration of fish and crustaceans looming over him.

“Jimmy sent me.” Its voice was glutinous, ancient. “Now you,” a hand, bizarrely made of small, snapping piranhas, reached toward him, “are fish food.”

The floor is different here. Again. Spongier than before. The change in terrain catches Oleander by surprise.


Instincts tell Oleander to stop, gauge the material underfoot, test how loud it is. The walls and the ceiling also consist of this spongey texture, like sable-soft calves’ leather, bloodied pink like the dark indoor cupboards of an oversized serpent. He takes the time to catch his breath, taking long silent sniffs of air, pulling in oxygen and the gentle scent of flesh. This is good. This passage is soft. If he’s careful, it’ll muffle his footfall. He’s just turned a corner. With desperate naivety, he thinks perhaps it – it – will be unable to detect him here. He gingerly walks forward, one hand upon the wall, with baby-bear delicacy.


In the silence, soft as a lullaby sung by the swing of a sickle–

Tick tick tick

Oleander catches his breath, and stands stock still.

Then comes the other sound – a bloody, slavering growl, and the pad of enormous feet, just around the corner.

Tick tick tick

He bolts. Flying along the squashy corridor, he follows the labyrinth around, turning this way and that, propelled by the frantic tick tick tock of his heart.

Until he reaches a door, inset into stone.

The creature is almost upon him, and he screams. The door opens, sending him crashing through, then slams shut.

But no respite avails him. Two cloven hoofs stand before him, belonging to a creature clad in ancient armor crafted from flesh and bronze. A bull’s head, bloodied horns irrupting from its temples, blankly regards him.

Oleander stands. A knife has appeared in his hand. Perhaps the labyrinth is helping him. Perhaps it always had been.

He growls, finding his courage, and approaches the creature, at last ready to fight.

Ill met by torchlight​

Shadows upon shadows filled the temple, offering comforting blankets of cover for any ne'er-do-well.

Two figures crouched in a pool of one. The first debating divine machinations, the second intent on things less so.

“Never ceases to amaze me how badly lit they keep temples,” murmured the Dark Lord. “So easy to sneak and steal stuff.”

Just ahead of them rose the statue. Intricate carvings of sea creatures formed a hideous shape; its only redeeming feature, and their target, a huge pearlescent orb of an eye.

The Minion pointed.

A mysterious figure inched up the statue with gecko-like elegance.

“Well, that’s not fair. Who invited them?”

Another figure, lowered itself from the ceiling on a rope with spider-like grace.

“What is this? A meeting of Thieves Anonymous?”

The two thieves reached the eye at the same time, hands touching upon the nacreous orb like lovers on a first date. And then, like an old married couple, the fight broke out. In an instant, the eye became that one antique ornament both wanted in the divorce.

The Dark Lord grabbed the Minion, “Quick, they’re bound to drop it!”

Reaching the statue’s base, a vibrant pop heralded yet another gatecrasher. Dressed in clothing of a style unknown that yet reeked of extravagant ribald flamboyance; the figure spoke a soliloquy in a single astonished raise of a well plucked eyebrow.

From on high came twin expletive ridden screams of disappointment.

“Oi, that’s my goddin’ eye!” yelled the Dark Lord.

“Pig’s pizzle, my glacial love spud!” professed the newcomer.

Above, fate heralded its due, hands appearing from an inappropriate hatch in the statue’s crabby groin to snatch the descending eye with aplomb.

“Foiled again!” exclaimed the Dark Lord.

“Egad! My catchphrase!” trumpeted Sir Reggie, popping off in an Old Spice and Marmite suffused cloud.
borrowed armour

"It's a monster," the sunburnt child announced.

Relishing the role of slayer, he wiped his sand spattered brow, took up a baton of driftwood, stepped close, and prepared to strike at the moribund mass.

"Stop right there!" his parents shouted across the sands.

His father hotfooted down from their line of deckchairs. He confiscated the boy's weapon, and messed up his hair. "What did I say?"

"Don't annoy dead things."


"But it's not dead, it's breathing," the boy argued.

As they watched, the person-shaped pile of crab and lobster armour shuddered as whatever rotten bloated thing it concealed deflated a little. His father instinctively backed away. He pulled the boy with him, too late to avoid the foul exhaust.

The boy held his nose.

"Come on,'' his father said.

He set his son on his shoulders and returned towards the chairs. There they conjured moats and fortifications in the sand, fought tiny magical battles, and ate ice cream.

But the boy couldn't stay away.

Late afternoon, slaked with sun cream, he returned to the composite corpse. He set down his bucket, brimming with pebbles, picked out the largest, and aimed it at the shabby assembly.

"Stop," the monster whispered.

The boy held the stone high, and demanded, "Why should I?"

"Because darkness will eat you up."

"My dad says you're just a dead thing!"

"I like to trick people," the monster said.

"Not me," the boy replied, triumphant. He raised the stone still higher, preparing to strike, but when its weight suddenly vanished, he toppled into the beach…

His father examined the stone he'd acquired, then knelt in the sand, and used it to divide the pile of articulated shells, exposing scaly remains.

"What else did I say?"

"Don't listen to dead things," the boy murmured.

"Quite right."

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