3.3.07

A Story Tangentially Related to Superstition

I'm not feeling so well today. This is the dream I had last night. If you are superstitious, you may take it as a warning of the fate that would befall me if I ever ended up on a pirate's ship. It is also perhaps a warning about what happens to those who are not superstitious enough: they displease the monster octopus.

Looking back at this now, I think it was cool that I had such an involved, imaginative dream. But at the time it was pretty scary and all too real.

Obviously, certain parts of this story don't make sense. That's dreams for you.

The Octopus Town
(A Dream)

After forging an uneasy truce with the pirates, I was able to catch them unawares and push them overboard, into the mouths of some hungry sharks. Now I was on the ship by myself, sleeping in the captain's cabin as the waves rolling beneath me grew more turbulent and the skies darker.

As I slept fitfully, a great monster rose from the dark depths of the sea: an enormous octopus with thick, gnarled green skin. It latched onto my ship with its long tentacles and started to drag it slowly but inexorably down into the roiling ocean.

As the deck started to pitch, I awoke and left my cabin. The black sea was already spilling onto the deck - the ship was sinking fast. I was practically in the sea.

And then, from the stormy waves, squirmed some soft-bodied creature, larger in size than me: a cyclopean octopus, with metal hooks on the ends of its arms. It viciously clawed its way up on deck and looked around. I hid beneath the stairs to the quarterdeck, and it fumbled its way up them without noticing me.

Looking around for some way to escape, I approached the side of the ship. There was nothing in any direction but the ocean - dark and angry. Rain beat down from the sky. I had no chance against deadly sea creatures. My world had been invaded by water. It was no longer hospitable to the likes of me.

The first, much larger, octopus - the one still pulling the ship down into the water - grabbed hold of me then, and I was drawn deep into the cold, black depths of the sea.

*

I awoke, lying on the ocean floor, to find a young woman standing over me. Her hair was tied up into an austere bun and she wore a long, high-necked dress. It might have been white in colour, but an endless stretch of murky water separated the sun from us, painting everything a sickly shade of greyish-green.

She checked that I was okay and helped me to my feet, introducing herself as Anthea. Around us were dreary wooden buildings, like something from some dilapidated American prairie town. People stood around, doing little, showing no emotion. The men wore grey suits, the women long, high-necked dresses like Anthea's.

The light grew dimmer, and I looked up to see the immense octopus high overhead, blotting out what little light filtered down to us with its grotesque, writhing silhouette. I was afraid, but none of the townspeople seemed bothered. Not that they seemed pleased to see the octopus, in fact they obviously feared it themselves. It's just that their fear was a hopeless one. This creature was so huge and strong, like a mountain with multiple arms, and so much more at home at the bottom of the sea than frail humans, that they could clearly see they had no way to oppose it or escape.

Anthea tried to explain to me about the town. She seemed to say that it was a town full of people who had murdered close relatives. Murderers! I looked around at the limp, vaguely sinister people around me. No wonder they lived in this town, at the mercy of a demonic octopus.

But I had misunderstood. Anthea explained again, patiently: in the country these people once lived in, there was a ritual whereby people were expected to sacrifice someone they loved. The people in this town were those vilified heretics who refused to participate. The only place in the world they were accepted was in this town, relying on the sufferance of a carnivorous monster.

*

I lived in the town from then on, with nowhere else to go, not willing to risk the ire of the monster by trying to leave. Anthea's kind family took me into their home. It was dry inside and after entering from the slimy deep-sea water, it was polite to wipe one's feet.

*

The first time it happened, I was terrified. The octopus above descended upon the town, its arms spread wide, whirling slowly around and creating a formidable current. The townspeople tramped lifelessly onto a small hill by the town and stood in a circle, the monster directly overhead, coming closer and closer until it blotted out the whole ocean above, stupefyingly vast and fearsome.

Anthea took my hand and led me into the circle. It wouldn't be wise not to go, she said. The townspeople always went. If they didn't, who knew what might happen?

When everyone was present in the circle, the octopus reached down with a tentacle and snatched up one person, devouring them. Then we all tramped back down to the town.

This happened once every week, Anthea told me. You just stood in the circle and hoped that this week it wasn't you.

*

I think it was probably my fault. I didn't take well to the town - to the million little things that you had to do - or could not do - lest you upset the giant octopus. One night, the octopus descended on Anthea's house. It broke into one of the bedrooms and killed the woman sleeping in there - and not in a way that was at all quick or painless. The people in the room next door chose to break down their wall and drown rather than risk experiencing the fate she met. The father ran into the kitchen, hoping to swim up the fireplace and escape, but the octopus had already reached down the chimney. It grabbed him and pulled him up, out of the house, and into its beak.

With people dying and the house creaking and collapsing around us, it seemed that all was lost. The monster wanted to pull us all to pieces and eat us, and we didn't stand a chance. But Anthea saw a way out. After snatching her father through it, the octopus seemed to have neglected the chimney. We swam quickly up through the fireplace, not daring to look up at the monster above us, so close to the roof, and so huge. We swam down the side of the house, hoping to hide from its huge, bulging eyes as they roamed the town hungrily.

And then we ran. Ran across the ocean floor as fast as we could, not looking back or slowing down. Eventually we reached the shore and crawled out of the sea and onto a desolate, rocky beach.

Wet and bedraggled we held one another tightly. For a short while, we could feel relieved. But the memories of the townspeople who had been killed - and were yet to be killed - would weigh on us heavily. And worse still, we knew that the octopus could always come for us, reaching out of the sea with its long, grasping arms. Unstoppable.

8 comments:

Geosomin said...

Wow.
That is an incredibly intense dream.
I have these images of some Lovecraftian creature...deep and ancient.
So, not going swimming for a day or two is what you're saying? :)

paris parfait said...

Amazing you could recall all those details - what an imaginative dream!

sognatrice said...

I'm jealous that you had such an exciting, vivid dream last night; all I had were some weird, boring ones that weren't even worth sharing out loud. Oh well, there's always tonight, although I could do without the pirate thing. Great story :)

Inconsequential said...

of course the important thing is, did you breakfast before writing this down?

'cos if you didn't it'll all come true...

Terri /Tinker said...

Did you eat pickles before bed? That's the sort of dream my grandmother always warned me I'd have, if I ate pickles late at night. Fascinating reading about it - but I'm glad I didn't have to live through the dream experience myself. *shudder*

Michelle said...

Whoa! Even your dreams are sci-fi! That is amazing. The part about the octopus sacrifice reminds me quite a bit of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery. I like the reason the people are there, which of course, make the whole sacrifice thing somewhat incomprehensible, but you warned us!

The fact that stuff like this just streams out of your head makes me quite jealous.

Diddums said...

Whoa - had you been watching the Deep Blue Sea?

gautami tripathy said...

Sometimes dreams come true. I should know.