01 Feb In the Depths of a Portuguese Lakebed
Susan had never been to Portugal in her 20 years of human existence, but when the opportunity for an all-expense-paid studying abroad program came to her, she jumped on it like a starving octopus on a shrimp. She had never been outside the United States at all in fact. The only bit of outside culture she had received was from the occasional message on Facebook from acquaintances from Spain and Africa whom she rarely talked to. Needless to say she was ecstatic to finally use some of her two courses in Portuguese to her educational advantage.
0m – Crest of the Waves
Her arrival into the Aveiro Airport wasn’t anything very special. The people didn’t speak much besides her few classmates, and she spent most of the time on her smartphone, trying to cram any bit of common Portuguese she forgot back into her forgetful mind. The apartment building they were sent to was particularly homely, with wood stained from hundreds of years of fish guts and fiesta-goers’ fluids, carpets made from what seemed to be fresh sheep flesh, and wallpaper that curled at every corner, revealing the Elmer’s glue haphazardly slathered behind it. It smelled of feces from unspecified creatures that they all assumed ran throughout the walls and emerged at night to present more of their waste for passing tenants to experience.
Susan felt like it was just disgusting and flawed enough to remind her of home. It was humbling to find that they were not working to impress you on their looks, but rather how they treated the guests. The landlady approached the lot of college kids and welcomed them in both English and Portuguese, showing them to their rooms and telling them about the history as courteously as she could, given her slightly flawed English.
3m – Shallow Fish
The tenants all waved and gave sincere smiles and welcomes to the group. Susan felt no animosity to her American heritage or her pale white skin. She just felt like she was coming into a neighborhood. She felt comfort on her first night. She unpacked her things with her roommate, picked out the bed she thought wouldn’t feel the most like cardboard, did her nightly routine, and laid down to sleep for the first time in a new country. She felt sincerely happy.
The first thing Susan heard when her consciousness broke the darkness was a sound of sharp cracking just beyond the room she was in.
Crack. Crack. Slice.
Her vision was blurred, her ears rang with shellshock, the thuds from blood smashing into her temples made her cringe when the light smashed into her dizzying vision. She felt chains tightly wrapped around her wrists and ropes binding her legs to the pole behind her, the hard steel floor below on her completely bare skin, and slight rocking side to side, with the resonance of water from underneath her. She smelled nothing but blood.
6m – Pressure Begins
“Is this all my blood?” she wondered as she noticed she was bleeding from several places on her body. She was naked, bound, and feeling nausea building as she felt blood trickling down from between her legs onto the steel floor. It wasn’t her time of the month.
As she tried her best not to vomit at the realization that she had been kidnapped, violated, beaten, and brought onto some strange ship, the sight of the entrails inside a half open cooler overcame her efforts. She vomited the contents of her stomach on a combination of the floor and her own naked chest. She tried her best to hold strong and find a way out of this.
9m – Density
She panicked and began to struggle out of the restraints. The sound of Portuguese speakers from the door on the far side of the room resonated. She quieted herself to hear them say what she interpreted as “take off… skin. Feed… Feed it to him. He’s already hungry again!”
She couldn’t imagine the horror of what was on the other side of that door, and she had no intention of being a part of it. She noticed the chains wrapped tightly around her wrists were soaked with her vomit, and it began to loosen their grip on her. She stretched and contorted her hands, ripping the chains off of her wrists.
This was her chance to find some way out. She looked all around for something sharp to cut her restraints. She eyed a piece of splintered wood in the cooler of entrails she still had trouble glancing at. It looked like it fell off of the shambling roof above from the rocking waves or general wear. As she ripped through the ropes tying her legs to the steel pole, the feeling of the strange fluid from the organs that soaked into the wood made her stomach twist in pain. She could feel her insides squirm with disgust, but she fought her hardest to maintain and act fast.
The waves around the ship began to rock more and more violently, like something was intentionally smashing into the hull, or a large rock from below threw off the balance. She tumbled into the wall beside the cooler and couldn’t help but emit a whine as she felt a crack in her right side after slamming into the hard wood and metal. She scrambled as best she could to her feet given the rocking, the fluids on the floor, and her own injuries.
15m – Compression
Footsteps were heard along with angry Portuguese headed right for the door leading to where she should have been tied up. She frantically looked for anywhere to hide, but only saw the large cooler as something she could conceal herself in. She dreaded the idea subconsciously, but she was in survival mode at this point. She climbed into the bloody, slimy sludge and moved the containing lid over her and the pile of entrails.
She stopped breathing. She gazed out of the crack she left between the container lid and the cooler, and she saw one of the men that greeted her and her friends to the apartment building burst into the room, cursing loudly in Portuguese and examining the pole she should have been strapped to. She felt a sense of contempt that she couldn’t quite describe while looking at the familiar face but something too peculiar to be ignored caught her eye in the now partially open door he came through; a gigantic reptilian arm craned over the top of the deck, grabbing a piece of bloody meat off of a table and pulling it hastily into the water.
She put her bloody, sludge covered hand up to her mouth to keep her from gasping in shock, but only let out a wretch and coughs in response to the taste on her lips and the smell seeping into her nostrils. The man turned and grabbed the top of the cooler, knowing where she was. She sprang from the gory mess wielding the sharp, splintering wood she cut her restraints with and grappled the man. The slices of wood on his dark flesh and the shock in his now blood covered face did nothing to Susan. She kept slashing away at his throat and chest. She glared down at the dying man and shoved the wooden weapon down his throat. He gagged and quickly bled out onto the floor and Susan’s hands. She did not speak. She did not make any more noise besides a small whisper into his ear before he lost consciousness: “Enjoy your stay.”
20.5m – Sinking
She grabbed his body and pulled it as best she could out of sight before anyone noticed, but she realized it was too late. The stabbing, gurgling, and slamming onto the floor was already alerting whoever else was on the ship. She saw a man and a woman beginning to brandish pistols. The woman she recognized as the landlord that was supposedly a part of the study abroad program. Susan ran up to the door and slammed it shut just before they could rush inside. She put the body and a chair up against the door to try and buy time. That’s when she heard shots fired and felt hot metal pass through her right shoulder and left hand. She screamed in anguish and fell to the floor. She had forgotten that the walls were wooden and thin.
She began to cry, thinking of the last time she saw her parents and how she didn’t spend time with them. She thought of all the friends she left at home and would never see again. She thought of all the good things she forgot she could accomplish. A bullet then passed through her hip. She thought of all the times she wondered what hell would be like. She wept and held onto the man she had stabbed to death. She asked him in a desperate attempt to hear anyone talk to her ever again. Then a sound rang through the ship. It wasn’t more gunfire. It wasn’t more Portuguese curse words. It was a bellowing hiss. It was like the sound a Komodo dragon makes when it feels challenged but as loud and deep as a humpback whale bellow. The bullets stopped flying.
Susan heard screams from outside the door. The bulletholes shone the sun’s rays through the wall. She saw glimpses of that same arm smash onto the deck through the holes, and she heard the violent screams of the landlady as it smashed her several times onto the deck, leaving splintered wood and blood covering the outside. The man accompanying her attempted to reload the spent pistol, but he shook too much from the ship’s rocking, the shock of his partner being bludgeoned to death by a beast many times his size, and his clip slid across the deck and into the open water. He frantically approached the door and clawed at it, smashed into it, and pleaded to Susan on the other side, witnessing the horror.
25m – Death
She wrapped her arm and waist in the dead man’s jacket in order to control her bleeding and she laid on the floor, knowing her consciousness was fading. When the beast grabbed the man with both of its reptilian arms and tore him in half, she smiled. She didn’t hear any more noise from anyone on board. She was alone. She passed out.
Several hours later, Susan awoke to the rocking of the ship below. The rotten smell of the familiar body parts she had stowed herself away in, and the vomit staining the floor. She moved the chair and the corpse from the hole ridden door, pushed it open, and walked as best she could to the steering wheel of the mid-sized fishing vessel. She was alone. She began to steer the ship back to any shore she could find when that bellowing hiss rang out again beneath her.
She knew that if she did not calm the beast that it would bash her brains in and eat her the same way it ate the crew. She ran as best she could inside the room she first awoke in, grabbed the cooler of guts and the corpse of the man she murdered and dumped it into the water below. She watched carefully to see if this would quiet the beast below, when it rose up from the depths of the lake.
30.5m – Life Below
It was gargantuan. The head had two large amphibious eyes that were positioned on each side of its head, which resembled an anaconda in shape. It was bipedal as far as she could see, with two enormous arms whose bulky claws grasped the side of the ship. It looked at her from eye level as it hoisted itself up onto the railing of the ship. She almost felt like the creature wanted to observe her. She knelt down in front of its gigantic face and it released a frog-like tongue deep down into the water and grasped a few of the organs she poured into the lake. It chewed them with what seemed like hundreds of razor sharp, foot long teeth that ripped through the organs and smashed them down its throat. It made a humming noise, licked its chops, cocked its head to show her its eye that was as big as her head, and it dove back into the water.
Even though it stank of death, mulch, and algae, Susan didn’t feel fear or disgust. She felt a sense of excitement and wonder that she had never experienced before. She almost didn’t want to leave the fascinating creature. The thought actually made her laugh with a mix of lunacy and surprise that she could even feel anything after her experience. She kept giggling to herself as she steered the boat back onto the shore.
Susan had survived. She was naked, covered in human bodily fluids, committed murder, and fed the most terrifying creature she had ever witnessed, and she giggled as she wandered back into the city. She giggled at the police station when she was arrested and questioned about her experience. She kept giggling when she found out that she was so close to having her skin torn off, her organs harvested, her carcass fed to a salamander, and her remains sold for millions of dollars on the black market.
She kept giggling when she realized the organs in the cooler were from her missing classmates. She kept giggling on the plane ride back to her city in the United States. She kept giggling when she changed her major in college to marine biology.