Tag Archives: Short Horror Story

The Creature – A Short Horror Story About A Sailor Lost At Sea

27 Oct

The rubber floor of the life raft ripples beneath me. It wasn’t the usual ripple I’d got used to over the last few weeks, caused by the waves, the one that undulates gently up and down as the raft is lifted, in turn, by each wave before being dropped again. This ripple is different: it’s faster, more purposeful, as if something big has just swum beneath the raft. Almost as soon as I feel it, it’s gone and the life raft goes back to conforming to the slow, laborious roll of the ocean waves. Maybe it was just my imagination; maybe I’m starting to hallucinate: after all, I haven’t eaten in more than a week, and the single sip of water I now ration myself to each day is barely enough to keep me alive, let alone sane. Then I feel the ripple again. This time it’s slower, more deliberate and I feel whatever it is pass under my legs as I sit with my back against the inflated rubber ring which forms the side of the life raft. I try to estimate its size by the time it takes to pass under me, but all I can tell is that it’s big: eight feet, ten, maybe fifteen or even twenty, who knows, but something that big and this far from land could only be one of two things: a shark or a whale. I feel around and open the side of the orange tent which forms a roof over the life raft, protecting me from the intense tropical sun during the day, and the rain storms at night, but it’s too dark to see anything. There must be clouds overhead, because I can’t see the stars. In fact, and I know this because I try it, I can’t even see my hand in front of my face. I listen, hoping to hear the tell-tale whoosh and whup of a whale breathing out and then back in again, but the only sound is that of the waves lapping gently against the side of the life raft. I zip the flap closed again, trying to shut out whatever it is that’s outside, and stare down at the floor. It’s as dark in here as it is outside so I know I can’t see anything, but I stare nonetheless, my eyes searching the darkness in the vain hope of seeing something that will tell me what’s underneath me.

I feel the ripple once more, and then I feel the floor of the life raft lift as if something is pushing it up from below. Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be losing interest and if anything it’s growing bolder. A few seconds later, something bumps against the side of the life raft, hard enough to make it shudder and throw me sideways onto the floor. I can feel the panic start to rise inside me, but I don’t break out into a cold sweat. At first, I wonder why; then I realise I’m too dehydrated. My body is shutting down all non-essential reactions to save what little water it has left, and that includes sweating, no matter how scared I am.

For a moment there’s silence, then I hear something slap against the rubber. It’s forceful and sends a shiver across the life raft, almost as if the raft itself is shaking with fear. I try to swallow, but I can’t, again because of the dehydration and my body’s response to it. I feel the floor of the life raft lift a second time as whatever it is pushes up from below once more. If it’s doing that with its head, then the creature which is stalking me in the darkness is truly massive, because I can tell by the movement that its several feet across. I clutch to the side of the raft, not knowing if I should try to move out of the way, or remain as still as possible. Eventually, the floor flattens out again and the creature moves away. Only then do I realise I’ve been holding my breath and I let it out with an audible sigh. A second later, the creature hits the life raft again: this time it’s not a gentle, exploratory push, it’s a full on attack, as if the creature is trying to break through the rubber floor. Somehow it must be able to sense my presence within the life raft and it’s determined to get me, but the rubber holds, thwarting its intent.

The seconds slowly tick by, and nothing more happens. They turn into minutes and still the creature hasn’t returned. Maybe it’s given up, maybe it’s realised it’s too difficult to get me and has gone off to seek easier prey. Maybe … My thoughts are interrupted by something ramming the side of the life raft, pushing it through the water as if it were attached to a powerful engine. I cling on for dear life, worried I might be tipped into the water, but thankfully this doesn’t happen. Instead, after what seems like an age, the life raft starts to slow, and then stop. My heart is pounding, but above the noise this is making in my ears, I can hear something else. It takes me a moment to realise that it’s the sound of air leaking from the life raft. Desperately, I feel around in the dark, trying to find the hole, but I can’t. All around me, I can feel the life raft getting softer and softer as it slowly deflates and sinks lower and lower into the water. Again, the creature pushes up from below, causing the rubber floor to bend and deform beneath me. It seems to be searching for me, trying to work out exactly where I am, and how it can get to me.

I cannot see it, but I sense intelligence in its actions. Not human intelligence, but something colder, more analytical and more predatory. This is a creature that’s used to getting its own way. I feel the first wave slop over the side of the life raft; it won’t be long before it sinks and I end up in the water. I unzip the flap in the roof again so that I won’t be trapped inside as the raft continues to collapse around me, but I’m unwilling to abandon it quite yet. It might not offer me much protection, but it’s better than nothing and outside in the inky blackness, it will be just me and the creature. Humans are used to being top dog, but out here, to it, I’m nothing more than prey. It bumps against the side of the life raft again, impatient to get at the tasty morsel it knows is inside. I try to think of something I can do, but my brain has frozen. I know I’m going to die, and my brain can’t cope with it. The creature rams the raft again, and I hear more air hissing out into the night. There’s now so little of it left in the raft that it’s not much more than a flaccid mass of rubber that’s barely keeping itself above the waves. I can hear the creature circling me, splashing the water with its tail as it turns. While I can’t see anything in the dark, it seems to have no trouble knowing exactly where I am. It’s toying with me, and we both know it. All I can do is hope that when the end comes it’s quick, but somehow I know that this isn’t the end the creature has planned for me. Somehow, I know it wants to make me suffer. The very thought of what’s going to happen makes me want to be sick, but I have nothing to bring up, so all I can do is dry heave. The longer the end is drawn out, the more I lose control of my body, the fear of what’s to come is tearing me apart, ripping at my very soul.

I hear myself yelling at the creature, alternating between begging with it to leave me alone and urging it to hurry up and get it over with. Unsurprisingly, the creature doesn’t respond, it just continues to circle. It’s in total control, and I know it’s the one who will decide when I die. All I can do is wait, cowering in the darkness, trembling with fear, until it decides that I am finished. I try to block out what’s going to happen to me, but I can’t. I can hear screaming, and even though I know it must be me, it seems like it’s coming from somewhere other than my own body. I feel the life raft finally start to sink beneath me and I claw my way out just as it disappears into the depths. Instinctively, I find myself treading water, but I don’t know why. The creature brushes against me, and I can feel the roughness of its skin tear at my flesh as it passes, but still I cannot see it. Death is coming for me and yet I’m blind to it. Somehow this makes it worse. If I could see it, I could prepare, but I can’t. I don’t know why, but suddenly a calmness settles over me and I lie back, floating on the surface, arms held out, almost as if I’m offering myself to the creature, giving myself to it as if I’m some sort of sacrifice to a god I don’t believe in. At least this way, death will be on my terms and not its, and I will meet my fate face on, with open arms. I know I won’t survive for long, but at least my death will be my own.

***

This isn’t quite my usual type of short story, particularly as it lacks even the slightest hint of the undead, but it’s an idea that has been floating around in my head for sometime and I finally had time to get it down on paper. I don’t know quite where it came from, but I liked the idea of a lone sailor being stalked by something unseen that’s lurking in the darkness beneath him. It provides an interesting perspective from which to explore the concept of our own mortality. Unseen, it haunts us, just as the creature in the story haunts the lost sailor, lurking in the darkness that is our future. Yet, we shouldn’t necessarily fear it, for a life lived in fear is no life at all. Instead, we should embrace it and use the knowledge that we will, one day, die to ensure that we make the most of whatever time we have left available to us: enjoy life, do good, be nice to others, make sure you leave the world a better place than when you arrived in it, and don’t let the fear of what fate might have in store for you get it the way of living your life the way you wish to live it right now. Happy Friday!



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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

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The Creatures In The Fog – A Short Horror Story

26 Oct

The greyness swirls around me, so thick, it feels like I could reach out and grab it. It had been bright sunlight when we’d entered the forest, or maybe that should be when we were forced to flee into it, but within minutes the fog started to descend. At first, it was just the slightest tendrils of mist, snaking between the trees as we ran for our lives, but as time passed, the tendrils started to merge, forming ghostly islands that brought the visibility down to a few hundred feet. That was okay, it was still far enough to see the creatures that were pursuing us, allowing us to stay ahead of them, to stay beyond their reach, but then the misty islands began to drift together and coalesce into a fog that grew denser and denser until I could barely see my hand in front of my face.

In fog like this, running’s no longer an option: the forest floor’s littered with fallen branches, rotting trunks and gnarled roots, just waiting to trip the unsighted, twisting ankles and snapping legs; yet stopping’s out of the question, too. We can hear the creatures pounding feet as they close in on us, but we can’t make out each other, let alone tell whether the shifting shapes we can see moving amongst the fog are friend or foe. All we can do is blunder forward, hoping we’re heading away from our pursuers, and not towards them, as we grope our way, lost and disoriented, through the oppressive grey blanket which encircles and ensnares us. Voices echo through the woodland, muted by the fog, making it impossible to tell how near, or how far away, they are. You can tell the people speaking are scared, though; even the fog can’t swallow the fear with which their words are spat. Then comes the first scream: it sounds close and I can see shadows moving just beyond my limited field of view. Suddenly, it stops: the scream, I mean; it doesn’t fade out, it just ends, and that’s when I know the creatures are among us.

I search around for something I can use to defend myself, cursing the fact that the creatures had surprised as we slept. There’d been no time to prepare, not even time to grab the axe I kept under my pillow for just such an eventuality. They’d swarmed out of nowhere and over our camp in seconds, leaving us no choice, but to run or die. Now, it seemed this apparent choice had been an illusion: the real choice had been die there and then, or run and die later, enveloped by a fog so thick it seems almost unnatural; and for all I know, it is. I’d been a man of science once, but since the creatures had first appeared in my life, in all our lives, I’d been questioning everything I’d ever believed to be true.

There’s another scream, and the sound of someone struggling, fighting for their life. Unexpectedly, the fog lifts, and for a moment I can see them: a man I don’t recognise wrestling with one of the creatures, doing his best to hold it off, then another pounces on him and together they drag him to the ground. Just as the blood starts spurting from the man’s neck, the fog descends again and swallows the creatures that are now feasting on his still-writhing body.

I bend down, feeling around on the ground for something, anything I can use to defend myself. At first, I find nothing, them my hand fastens onto a stout branch, no doubt brought down in a winter storm. I don’t know how strong it is or how long it has been lying there, but it has to be better than nothing. As I straighten up, a shadowy figure races towards me through the gloom and I ready myself to swing. I strain my eyes, trying to work out if it’s one of my companions, or one of the creatures, but there’s no way I can tell: all I know is that it’s coming straight at me, fast. I watch it close: twenty feet, ten feet, eight, five, but still I can’t see what it is. In desperation, I swing, catching the figure across the side of the head. It yells as it goes down, and that’s when I know the figure is human: the creatures never make a noise, no matter what they’re doing.

I crouch down to help the man up, but as soon as I am close enough to see his face, I know there’s no point: the side of his head is shattered beyond recognition, and I can see grey, greasy flecks of brain mixing with the blood that’s seeping down his face. I’m revulsed and I feel my stomach heave, but I can see more figures moving through the fog all around me, so there’s no time to reflect on it, and I force the burgeoning feeling of self-loathing, sparked by what I’ve just done, to the back of my mind. I peer through the greyness, praying for another break in the fog, but it remains as thick as ever and still I can’t make out what the figures are. I raise my makeshift weapon again, but now I’m hesitant. I don’t want to make another mistake, to accidentally kill another person when there are so few of us left. My mind races: is it better to strike out before I’m sure, and risk killing someone else? Or, the next time one comes close, should I wait until I’m certain, and risk being attacked before I can react? Neither option’s palatable, but they’re the only two which are available to me.

Another figure starts to close, but what should I do? As I adjust my grip on the branch I’m holding, I feel it slip in my sweat-soaked palms. I call out, but there’s no reply. Does that mean it’s a creature? Or is it just someone running so hard that they’ve no spare breath to reply? The silence tells me nothing. I need to make a decision, but my brain just keeps going round in circles: to risk killing, or to risk being killed? Which should I chose? The fog swirls and flows around me, around the trees, around the approaching figure, but still I can’t make out what it is: human or creature? Creature or human? It’s now only twenty feet away, what should I do? Ten feet, I shout again – Still nothing. I need to make a decision one way or the other, and I need to do it now, but I don’t want to make another mistake. Eight feet. Do something. Anything. My mind’s yelling at me, but I’m paralysed with indecision. Five feet. It’s now or never. Three feet. Aaagghhhh!

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From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.