Foreword: Why I Wrote This
I’d just been invited to Liberty Hall Writers–an awesome forum for writers. They had a Flash Challenge up, and I was itching to write.I read the criteria:
To receive the trigger (the theme) and start the timer for your 90 minute writing window, email us. We’ll email you back. Reply with your finished, under 1000 words, flash piece. If you submit it after the 90 minutes, it will still be available for viewing but disqualified from the challenge.
I’d been writing for years, but I’d never entered a challenge before. Not because I was scared. (No. Of course not. Why would you think that?) But because I’d never found one that sounded like fun.
This sounded like fun. I cracked my knuckles and sent the email
The reply contained one line:
Here there be monsters.
So… was that the theme? It must be. What should I write? Something about monsters. Has the timer started? Oh crap, it has. Okay… Okay… Um…
I hit my keyboard. I pulled on my hair. Ten minutes passed, and I had an idea.
I wrote fearlessly. (Wait, was that an adverb? Should I have used that? Crap, the timer.)
I edited as I wrote. More foreshadowing… more descriptions… more awesomeness. How much time left? Two minutes. Okay. I finished and pressed send.
Did I make it? I sent an email to the admin. He replied:
I just got it. Yeah. It says disqualified. Sorry You must have submitted it one minute too late.
NOOO! Curse my slow fingers.That’s it. I turned my computer off and went to bed. If this were a story, I would have cried myself to sleep.
The next day, my flash went up. The comments said:
Great job. Awesome ending.
Wow. Great foreshadowing and descriptions.
I think if it wasn’t disqualified, it might have won.
I read on and smiled. I hadn’t won. No. I’d gotten something better.
And I wish to share it with you. Because it deserves to be read. Because you don’t care about whether something won or not. In the end, you just want a great story.
Here it is. It’s called Kraken. I hope you enjoy it.
By Dmytry Karpov
I turned away, the smoke like poison. “I heard about it.” I sat on my own barrel—one of many on the ship.
Bill stared at me with his one good eye like a hungry fish. A black eye patch covered his other—a souvenir from his last kraken hunt.
The air grew thick with smoke as he nursed his pipe. “We all hear about it.” His eye drifted away to the ship’s deck. “I had a friend who heard about it so much he couldn’t wait to go on a hunt.”
I brushed back my black hair—slippery like an eel—waiting for Bill to go on. But he just kept staring at the deck as if he were peering at the ocean below it. The wind sent cold waves at us, but Bill sat still like sails with no wind. I kept myself steady like wood. I mean, I tried keeping myself steady like wood.
“So, did your friend go on a hunt?” I asked. My breath turned into smoke like the pipe’s only paler.
“He did. Him and I.” Bill chuckled and adjusted his red hat. “Those stories, they don’t tell you everything.”
“I hope they leave out more of the good than the bad.” I wrapped my arms around myself. Other crew ran around, keeping the ship heading north. I should have been below deck in this cold, but Bill always stayed on top. He had hunted more krakens than anyone. I was hunting my first. I could use his help.
“How’d that hunt go?” I asked.
Bill frowned. “My friend, he was never strong. The weak…” he waved his hand like slapping something, “get wiped out.”
“I see.” I swallowed, moving the barrel under me. I managed to drag it closer to Bill; I wasn’t the strongest myself. “Did you kill that beast?”
“Yes.” Bill finally looked back at me, smiling. “We knew when it was coming. We killed it nice and fast.”
“But your friend still—”
“The kraken’s quicker than falling water, boy.” Bill titled his head at a barrel overflowing with dead fish. “And it don’t play with its food.”
The fish smelled like the vomit being forced up my throat. I shivered and breathed through my mouth. “I guess that’s why the pay is good. This job is like going to hell, trying to get back, and killing the Devil along the way.”
“The pay is good cause the kraken corpse sells for lots.” Bill stood up, his back cracking. “But that’s not why I hunt it, boy.” He walked starboard.
I followed. “Why? The glory?” I passed the dead fish barrel, and then another. My hands shook, my stomach twisted like a fish on land. I held bile back as I reached the side of the ship.
“Glory?” Bill scowled, his red coat like blood smudged on the deck. “You ever lost anything at sea, boy?”
I nodded. “My father and I went fishing once. There was a storm that threw him overboard.” I was stuck at sea not knowing what to do. Fish we had caught all around me, rotting for days. Rotting like me. Except I was saved a few days later.
“There be nothing glorious about that,” said Bill. “Do you know when you can tell you’ve found a kraken, boy?”
“The smell, boy. The smell.”
“What’s it like?”
Bill looked at the dark water and sniffed. “Like death.”
I closed my nose shut with an unsteady hand, the wind bringing the rotten fish smell at me. “Do you know if we’re near then?”
“I know.” Bill turned to face the crew. “Boys. It’s time. Bring out the plank!”
“What you use that for?”
“We need bait for the kraken,” said Bill, as sailors set up the plank. “And we need it out away from the ship.”
I pointed at the barrels. “The fish?”
Bill walked up to me and put a hand on my shoulder. “No. It likes us men more. I’m sorry, boy. The beast needs fresh meat. We always give it the weakest.” He looked at the deck. “Always.”
“NO!” I yelled, trying to scramble away, trying to run to the middle of the ship.
“There be no use.” Bill grabbed me with both arms and pushed me to my knees. “The beast is already here, boy. Can’t you smell it?”
I smelled only rotten fish. But that was only…
Bill smiled. “You do, don’t you?”
My stomach turned hard.
My body shook.
The kraken was here.
It smelled like death.
It will be self published.
It won’t have the backing of a publisher or thousands of dollars of marketing. It won’t be reviewed in the New York Times.