THE KRAKEN

One day a small parcel arrived in the post for Sarah. There was no indication who it was from. Inside was an envelope, and written on it were the words: “dissolve in sea water and set someone free.” Inside the envelope was something round, about the size of a pea. It looked compressed somehow.

 

This was exciting. Sarah went down to the beach and scooped up a basin of seawater. When she got home, she dropped the pea into it. At once there was a soft “pop” and the thing started to expand. At first Sarah thought that it was one of those Japanese toys that you used to get in Christmas crackers: they would expand when dropped into a glass of water, and become a beautiful carnation. But it was not one of those, alas. This was alive. 

Inside the basin was a tiny sea-creature, writhing. It had many mouths and limbs which looked like tentacles, but were not quite. At the end of the tentacles were fingers, which were trying to grasp something. The sea seemed to be feeding it, as it grew apace. Within a day it had filled the basin, so that she had to go down to the sea to fill another container. This time she brought back a bucket, and decanted the creature into it. It made a gratified “plop” as it entered the bucket, and settled down for a rest. But it seemed have have developed the capacity to make sound. It wheezed, it tried to roar, and it rapped its sharp fingers against the edge of the bucket. Within a week, it had filled the bucket. So down the the beach she trotted again, bringing back enough sea-water to fill a baby’s bath. She poured the creature in. Within a month, it had grown to fill the bath.

 

Now Sarah had not bargained for this. She was a land-loving creature, and her imaginary paradise contained a meadow, with eagles soaring overhead and rocks warming in the sun. The sea had always made her uneasy: and now she had a sea-creature living in her front room, and one that she did not trust. It was trying to articulate words now, but all that it could manage was “K..K...K”. And was it developing the capacity to hunt? In the mornings, there was the occasional splash of water on the floor surrounding the bath. The house-spiders and daddy-long-legs had gone. And then the cat disappeared. 

 

Sarah sat and looked at the creature. Its sharp fingers had become more flexible, its mouths had grown teeth. Something must be done. She suborned a friend to help carry the bath into his estate car, and then lug it to the beach. They took it down to the water’s edge. It was high tide. The creature flopped and half-crawled into the brine, and then with a scream it launched itself into a wave. 

 

She hoped that was the end of it. But one day, about six months later, she was walking past the same spot and saw this huge creature rearing itself from the surf. It was now a hundred feet high. Its mouth was full of human body parts (it was clearly in the middle of a meal), but it had seen her. In any event, as she ran along the beach, it pursued her, and started to gain. Did it think she was its mother, or its friend? After all, she had delivered it into its true element. And then she knew what the creature was. It was the Kraken.

 

She turned inland, where it could not follow her. Sarah realised then the extent of her own folly.  She had wanted to set the creature free, but in  fact she had unleashed a predator on the world. Or perhaps she had simply wanted to get it out of her front room. In any event, the sea would never be safe for anyone again. Dry land would certainly be the only heaven from now on. For anyone who wanted to survive, that is. 

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© 2020 by Sue Harper

feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | supernatural | fantastic and paranoia | literary female gothic | gothic narrative | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest | portsmouth university | emeritus professor sue harper | feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | outstanding achievement award | british association of film, theatre and television | professor of film history at portsmouth university | film, media and creative arts | british academy and the arts and humanities research council | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest |