The Deep

By Jordan Gerdes. Illustration by Nick Tofani. 

The rain pelted the single pane windows from seemingly every direction. The storm had rolled over the bay in minutes, boiling over and into itself like some nondescript churning mass. He lay awake, staring at the ceiling, ears picking up every sound that was one iota out of the ordinary for the small house. All the shades were drawn, a customary practice at night to keep out the boogeyman’s prying eyes. Still, the moonlight would peek out of a cloud and dance some branches’ shape across the window, and his heart would seize up all over again. 

He had lived alone for the better part of the last two years, pecking away at a novel that he doubted would ever be finished or worth shopping. His days were filled with reading, combing the beach for treasures coughed up from the deep, and drinking heavily. He had polished off another bottle of no. 7 when the clouds came in. 

When the storms come in from abyssal waters and steam over the breakers, there is a small window of calm. Everything becomes still and quiet, the sound dwarfed and drowned by the gargantuan force of nature. It becomes dark as the light is swallowed by the most dreaded hues of black. And then at once, it becomes chaos. The wind howls through the dune grass, shrieking in the most unholy of registers. The rain comes down hard and fast, as the floodgates of the heavens let loose. A simple flash lights the sky and its report rattles the glasses in the cupboard, shaking the foundations of both house and man to their core.

He had retired to his bedroom and sought solace under the covers. The rain continued to pound and the wind began to speak. Like voices from another age in unison, “He has come.”  It permeated his skull, echoing it’s way through his body like the foghorn of the coastal barges. He knew it was the alcohol. No. He hoped it was the alcohol. He grabbed his pillow and wrapped it around his ears, in an effort to deafen the world. His eyes shut tight, and still trying to ignore the voices of the night, he didn’t notice the lightning. It wasn’t flashing white, but new hues of purple and green, an almost diabolical spectrum of color. 

Above the wind, the scratching at the window began to etch its way into his brain. His heartbeat was in his ears, and the cold sweat of fear formed across his brow. Finally, unable to halt his natural urge for a forbidden knowledge, and the curiosity of the soul, he opened his eyes. The purple glow of the night was no longer flashing, just emanating from somewhere beyond the glass. The windows themselves were adorned in red, inscribed glowingly with some ancient, indiscernible text that he thought must predate God himself. 

Gathering the last of his courage he could summon, he felt his way through the hallway, avoiding the glare of whatever might be outside the windows. The glow of the fireplace remained, though the wind has extinguished any flame long ago. The embers dully lit the room, dancing shadows, both real and fantasy across the walls. He gripped the handle of the wooden bat that was kept in with the umbrellas. He raised it, feeling the weight in his palms and steadied it against his shoulder. Finally he reached for the handle of the French doors that opened to the beach. 

At once, a few observations became quite apparent to him. The rain had stopped altogether. The wind had become but a whisper. No voices. No howling. And the lightning wasn’t flashing, just the purple green of the air. It should’ve been enough to make him rethink his decision, but he was steadfast in his madness. 

The doors opened flew open at the slightest touch of his hand, almost inviting. The ocean had gone red. It churned, not against the shore, but circularly around… that thing. The clouds were not rolling masses any longer, but columns that framed its elephantine maw. The gargantuan tentacles, too many to count, rose high into the purple green air, wriggling in praise of the cataclysm at hand.  Its titanic legs emerged out of the blood red ocean, towering to unfathomable heights. Its dead eyes both saw and looked through him all at once. Its heinous roar cracked and split the air in a way thunder was unable to. The only earthly sound to survive that moment was the clank of the bat as it fell to the porch.

By Nick Tofani

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