The beast had been chasing them across the seas, though everyone knew it was pointless to run. Its size alone meant that it was impossible to escape. The waves surged around it in a churning rush, and the deck of the ship became slick with saltwater.
But what had they expected? After all, they’d enraged the Goddess of the Ocean, and this was her retribution for their hubris.
“We should’ve left her an offering before we set sail!” The first mate called; his words lost in the fierce gale.
“Stop your blubbering and tie the lines!” The captain roared back, using the full force of his voice to be heard over the elements. They’d already lost several men, both to the ocean’s wrath and the beast’s hungry maw. “Keep your wits about you, gentlemen!”
But it was hard to keep that in mind when a giant whale hovered behind their ship, so big it was incomprehensible. It was like something out of a nightmare.
The creature lunged again, diving under the waves and soaking them all with a huge wave.
The first mate, Lionel Fredricks, began to hastily tie the lines so each member was secure. But this normally easy task was made that much harder by the storm, and Lionel’s own fear. His hands were shaking so badly he could barely tie a knot.
His hesitation cost him, as two men were forced to let go of the ship’s sides. With terrified shrieks, they disappeared over the side of the ship.
Lionel looked down into the bubbling soup of the waves, trying to track the massive beast’s shadow, but it was lost in all of the chaos.
Then it reared upwards, a lightning strike illuminating its huge girth before it struck; long scars and pockmarks marred the whale’s side, and Lionel wondered, with horror, what kind of creature was able to cause such agony to an animal so gigantic.
The blood sprayed across the deck; Lionel imagined that he could hear a vicious, ugly crunch as the whale feasted upon his friends’ bones. His throat tightened.
Those deaths were his fault. His, and his alone. His stomach clenched, and he worried that he would heave his water and hardtack onto the already slippery deck.
Death was already a constant companion on these waves, and it would strike at any time. He wasn’t afraid of it; it was simply a fact of life. Especially for a sailor. But in all the ways he’d imagined dying, he’d never even come close to this.
Lionel could sense the monster growing tired of its games. Then the whale rammed its head into the ship, splintering the wood and causing a huge hole to form.
At this rate, they’d either die of drowning, or they’d become an appetizer for this monster.
He thought he would’ve preferred drowning: It had always seemed to him a peaceful way to die.
The world narrowed to a single, sharp point: Dimly, he could hear his comrades screaming, scrabbling for purchase upon the deck breaking under their feet.
The monster reared its tail, and another icy wave broke over them. But Lionel barely felt it, because the whale was staring at him with a dark, glittering eye.
Had the Goddess turned Her back upon them? Or was this creature merely hurt, frightened over the ships that were unlucky enough to sail into its domain?