It’s Day 5, the final day of A Gathering of Horror and Dmytry Karpov has a short story for you today, Kraken. Read, comment and enjoy the free stories this week.
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By Dmytry Karpov
“You ever seen a kraken, boy?” asked Bill, sitting on a barrel, dried up hands caressing the tobacco pipe at his mouth. He pulled it away, and his cracked lips shot smoke at me like a cannon. “Ever heard its roar?”
I turned away, the smoke like poison. “I heard about it,” I said, sitting on my own barrel—one of many on the ship.
Bill stared at me with his one good eye like a hungry fish. His other was covered with a black eye patch—a souvenir from his last kraken hunt.
The air grew thick with smoke as he nursed his pipe. “We all hear about it,” he said, his eye drifting 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,” said Bill. “Him and I.” He 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,” I said. “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, sniffing. “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,” he yelled. “It’s time. Bring out the plank!”
“What you use that for?” I asked.
“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?”
Biil 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,” said Bill, grabbing me with both arms and pushing 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.
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UPDATE: THE WINNER HAS BEEN CHOSEN
We promised a FREE SIGNED copy of our Amazon bestselling book, Seduced: Rose’s Story, and we have a winner! Erin L. is our winner. She has been emailed. Congratulations, Erin! <3 And thank you to you all for your comments and participating in our fun week of scary stories!