The Dorley Cycle XXII

TO START THE CYCLE :

First segment

It’s only a siren’s song baby

 Part I ; Part II ; Part III ; Part IV

Prelude

Second segment:

Hey there Mr. Cthulhu

Part V ;  Part VI ; Part VII ; Part VIII ; Part IX ; Part X ;

Third segment:

Got some toxic truth?

Part XIPart XIIPart XIII

Fourth segment:

Squid Kings and Greek Fires

Part XIV ; Part XV ; Part XVI ; Part XVII ; Part XVIII ; Part XIX ; Part XX ; Part XXI

AND FOR A LITTLE COMIC STYLE TREAT: Homecoming & Hey There Mr. Cthulhu

 THE DORLEY CYCLE 

squidkingsandgreekfires10

XXII

The water felt heavy and my body heavier, but I somehow was carried inside the prickling cold tunnel of this underwater cave extension. My eyes were red, but I could still see Eli in front of me, his feet kicking as fast as he could make them. The tunnel narrowed and quickly led us out some two hundred meters from the cave to wider waters, bashed on by the full intensity of the storm, now upon all of Dorley. Our heads bobbed out of the water and I heard Eli’s sharp inhales and felt his fingers fighting for a grasp at my collar, but the waves, monstrous and ever-growing separated us and carried us further then nearer, tricking distance and changing depth. And I looked at my pale hands, instinctively I guess keeping me afloat, my broken wrist swollen and in the mercy of the water’s cradle, carrying it left and right.

“Jackson we gotta swim for land!”

Eli pointed at the rocky beach and tried for my body again, but then I heard a sound, a new voice the sea used to talk to me and I found I knew the language already. The sea vibrated like a giant machine just turned on and the sound was so delicate pressed under the erupting thunders and the stammer of the drumming rain, yet building, and it resonated inside my bones and Eli’s too, because I could see his eyes widening suddenly and him panicking, looking to find the source. It was just a warning, like before an earthquake when the sea groans and calls for the disaster about to happen.

And it happened.

The sea exploded, sending us both underwater for a shocking moment, and then scooped us back up to see.

Guy, or fuck whatever was left of him towered above us, a face far scarier than the one glued to the cave wall. This… creature was well alive, gangrene-like skin and all sucking mouths on tangled together tentacles and limbs ending in thorny hooks lashing at the sky. His whole body bent forward and slammed back into the water.  Guy circled us, motoring his disfigured body with the help of all the conjoined bodies and their limbs tying it all together; he mimicked the motions of his former body, propelling fast, creating a whirlpool to suck us in.

The boy ducked beneath waves and I drank a mouth full of the salty water. Then I was sucked in too. All sounds soothed and somehow the water seemed warmer now. Nothing was around me, but then a shadow from atop plunged itself towards me and Guy brought down his wrath, dragging me further down with speed and weight.

One long tentacle slashed the water and caught me wrapping around my chest. Smaller arms sprung to action slapping me across the face, and it burned when they lingered, like a jellyfish touch though harsher. I felt those suckers leave marks, or gashing wounds that stung. The water boiled around me from their enclosure.

I came face to face with them people as he arched his body, limbs pushing it forward, swimming for him, and they were white eyed and empty, just attached now, a piece of meat to help propel this giant. A fuckin’ squid king, I remembered, all ties and knots and just one brain at the center of it.

I tried to wriggle free. Another thick tentacle shot at me and wrapped itself around my waist and stomach, tightening its hold to squeeze at my ribs, my lungs and leave me gasping for breath. I tried to twist my body to escape and swim faster away but the pressure was too much. Then I spotted something. Those that came whipping at my face now fell short, an easy lick and quick withdraw, like they weren’t strong enough anymore to cling to me with their small convulsive suckers. A fuckin’ squid king it is. I should have seen it before, the mantle of naked bodies that entered the water headfirst and now displayed all those arms and tentacles was no mythical creature, like the siren or the mermaid, whose lives I took so carelessly away. It was an abomination that fed on humanity, a predator belonging to another time. It was a thing to kill.

My free hand reached and grabbed. I pulled, twisting the limb around my arm, ignoring the burn of the suction disks, and it came off, a spray of black blood coming in spits. The pale twins of that one, I made aim for them too as they came for me, madly grabbing and kicking for them. Guy dialed up the pain and closed completely around my body.  Breathing became impossible. The beat of my heart hammered in my ears, while red spots danced before my eyes. But I took them, all I could reach in the last moment I probably had, tearing them off of the purple veined faces they came from, and letting them fall to the bottom. It bled, dark ooze floating in clouds around me. Lifeless limbs abandoned their engine function and sprang to life, swinging at me, clawing at me, a desperate way to hurt something.

Guy whipped his own large tentacles for the first time fully extant, like two anacondas compared to the others in thickness and even larger circular disks with pointed teeth inside them, but tapped at his own body now at a halt under my attack and missed me among the meat and dancing tongues of the people of Dorley who were people no more, just marionettes for Guy to feed off.  He was so wrong, unnatural and undone in this quick-tempered attempt to be king. He preached for wanting to create a new family, but all I could see were innocent people used as parts, inbred fuck-ups of his that would go to waste and detached be buried in water graves. I had burned down his town and jeopardized his kind, and now, oh now desperate as he was, he had created this freak. His movements were difficult, not precise, his whipping charges uncoordinated and mad.

Let go Jackson.

My chest clenched, ripping flesh and excruciating pain.

Let go boy.

His voice crept in my head, the same pleading tone I had heard before; that poison living inside me ever since Guy first attacked me on the pier. Let go I won’t.

You are never seeing another day, Guy, I thought, hoping he’d hear me.

My mouth opened to search for air at last, but inside I screamed. I drank like I was thirsty filling my body with buckets of new pain. Guy’s tentacles unwrapped from me, lifting the weight, but leaving the ache, and I floated, light and unable, faint and almost, almost gone, catching just a glimpse of Guy planting himself on what was that, a shipwreck below me? He took hold of it and pulled with his four strong tentacles like he wanted to dislocate it and squash me under it; the metal corpus that was still whole groaned and little fish scattered from inside of it as he released it, lifting it slowly.

He wouldn’t need that now. He wouldn’t need any second now.

 

To be continued!

The Dorley Cycle XXI

TO START THE CYCLE :

First segment

It’s only a siren’s song baby

 Part I ; Part II ; Part III ; Part IV

Prelude

Second segment:

Hey there Mr. Cthulhu

Part V ;  Part VI ; Part VII ; Part VIII ; Part IX ; Part X ;

Third segment:

Got some toxic truth?

Part XIPart XIIPart XIII

Fourth segment:

Squid Kings and Greek Fires

Part XIV ; Part XV ; Part XVI ; Part XVII ; Part XVIII ; Part XIX ; Part XX

AND FOR A LITTLE COMIC STYLE TREAT: Homecoming & Hey There Mr. Cthulhu

 THE DORLEY CYCLE 

squidkingsandgreekfires9

XXI

 I caught the clingy smell of burnt and received the touch of a shiver, running from him to me. The light left my peripheral vision and fell to the stone floor with a clink!, rocking back and forth creating a shadow twin of the creature and imprinting it twice the size.

I was frozen on my own, not heavy enough to swing back, not fast enough to run. But then he spoke.

“What the hell is that?”

Eli gave the question to the whole of the cave, walking around me, like I wasn’t really there in that moment. His voice was croaky, like he’d drunk too much of the sea, and it was still sour inside his nose and down his throat. I knew how that felt, how it made you bitter and angry, but I also knew how after a while when it had lingered enough it made your spits greenish and the taste on your lips, the one your harsh tongue scrapes,  the only one you’ve ever had. You were what you were.

He almost reached like me inside the break of light to touch the creature, but withdrew his hand in the instant.

“Is it alive?”

I almost reached for his shoulder to comfort him, or hell to  just grab and hold onto.

“Eli..”

“Is it alive, Jackson?”

“In a way.”

We both turned, me kicking the flashlight Eli had put down, till it stopped at the feet of Guy.

Guy picked up the light and steadily pointed it at the colossal squid, gliding it up and down its body.

His striped vest was gone and his face was dirty and bruised where the explosion had caught it. He aimed the light at Eli.

“When I came out of sleep inside that blue hole and came here, the first real contact I made with Guy was in this very cave. I brought him of all with me, this kid with a monstrous sparkle in his eye and emptied him entirely, admiring now I remember, everything about his being. Funny, I had seen your kind before, but they stared from afar with fascination I think, and gave me names. This was different, more thrilling. I induced him for days before putting a part of me inside, my soul, my brain, my own being, removing all that was Guy, because hiding in this cave with this boy who came and went made me realize the need of exploration, of knowledge.”

He swiveled the light from Eli to me.

“Then after sometime I wanted to go back to the sea, but found I couldn’t. My body had decayed, left neglected and lifeless. I wanted to somehow return to my birth form and tried desperately at first, but then in time it seemed pointless. Why would I return to empty seas when there’s much more on land? When I can adapt and survive and have much, much more? I can live, unlike those of my kind that died with the warring tribes of mermaids and sirens. What if I stayed like this and made it possible to co-exist, to find a way to sustain myself inside this new host, like a parasite that inflames its entire system; to grown me back out of him? Then one day perhaps many more would carry a piece of me and of the sea; in a way I would re-create what I lost. A legacy, you know? And perhaps one day the seas will rise up and cover the cities like in the time before. Then who do you suppose would survive, Jackson? Surely, I won’t be alone.”

Guy moved the flashlight under his chin and grinned his perfect white smile, like he had just told a scary story.

“Why are you telling me this?”

He chuckled.

“Isn’t this what you wanted to know, secretly? How things are the way they are? I bet you asked yourself the same question since the day you bashed that pretty little mermaids head with a rock. You wasted a whole town selfishly.”

I guess in a way it was my scary story too, always has been.

“Hear now how our beloved Dorley burns, how it sizzles in the flames your hatred inspired. Listen.”

But what I heard where thunders, growing waves flooding the upper parts of the cave in their attempts to consume us all and send us where we belonged.

“There’s a storm coming, Guy. And you’re all alone. Dorley has burned down. Everyone is dead. Time to go back at the bottom of the sea.”

I waited for Guy to wipe the tears I could see in his eyes; I waited to hear the cry he suppressed biting his lip; I waited for him to fall to his knees and beg. Instead his pupils widened and he showed me, showed us how the light can be scarier than the dark.

“Mr. Jackson, I am never alone.”

Behind him one by one appeared trembling circles of light that expanded to full shapes held tight in a yellow beam. I could half-see their faces, but their numbers where enough for me to recognize the group of people I had followed down the beach.

“I will have my legacy.”

And he did, proving me wrong at my brief success. The cave danced with half-lights and shadows as the town’s people stripped their bodies from their clothes and clawed at Guy to have him naked among them. His limbs bulged at his throat and inside his belly, protesting against the constraints of his disfigured body. He opened his mouth and released thick and black tentacles. The corners of his smile dripped with blood at the stretch, but he carried on, expanding them fully. Those whiplashed upon his followers, who reached for them and he planted hungry succors across their breasts and held it tight around their scrawny bodies until impatient they too moaned and screamed and hurt, pulling out their inner monster to appear perhaps for the first time. Dozens of wriggling limbs bit with succors into his skin and drew blood, and Guy gathered close to him the bodies, like he wanted to be one with them. And they tore at him, puncturing wholes with sharp ends inside him, making way for something greater to exist, allowing space for it to grow. A fucking squid king. My fucking nightmare.

Eli dug his fingers in my arm and pulled at me.

“Jackson we have to get out of here!”

I shook my head, gesturing towards the wall of limbs and tentacles and beyond it the only way in or out of this cave, now bashed by angry waves.

“No! “

He screamed in my ear and pointed where the arc lamps were brightest. The wall was a kaleidoscope of bluish-green, mimicking vibrations from bellow. A reflection.

We both ran, and I felt at my slowest, tripping in the dark, but Eli had me by the hand and led me to what was a deep pool.

I held my breath and jumped, the heart clenching water brushing past my ears as I swam after Eli down the freezing cold tunnel. But the cave still close above rattled, a new weight moving through it; a weight that splashed inside the pool, creating torpedoes underwater.

Chapter XXII

The Dorley Cycle XX

TO START THE CYCLE :

First segment

It’s only a siren’s song baby

 Part I ; Part II ; Part III ; Part IV

Prelude

Second segment:

Hey there Mr. Cthulhu

Part V ;  Part VI ; Part VII ; Part VIII ; Part IX ; Part X ;

Third segment:

Got some toxic truth?

Part XIPart XIIPart XIII

Fourth segment:

Squid Kings and Greek Fires

Part XIV ; Part XV ; Part XVI ; Part XVII ; Part XVIII ; Part XIX

AND FOR A LITTLE COMIC STYLE TREAT: Homecoming & Hey There Mr. Cthulhu

 THE DORLEY CYCLE 

squidkingsandgreekfires8

XX

Previously: Jackson made his move: the town of Dorley is burning; the monsters are on the run and Guy is nowhere to be found; Paulie is presumably dead and Eli is missing in the raging sea; Jackson found a hidden cave and hoped to find vengeance most of all in there. Now..

I sat down working a way with shaky fingers to strap my broken wrist. I tore at my sleeve and I continued shredding it till there was a reasonable looking piece that I could tie and swing around my neck. I rested the broken bones, flinching at the injection of pain and stood up, feeling the throbbing of snapped bones slightly eased.

Behind me swelling tides were reminiscent of the storm that was so near I could smell the sweet strong aroma of fresh ozone. I took that remarkable scent of new beginnings and filled my lungs with it.

Then I climbed the steps and disappeared through the jagged fissure of the cave.

Inside the moist quickly damped my clothes and stuck them to my shivery skeleton. In some fury of their own the waves threw themselves inside and bathed my numb feet. I walked in cold pools of water, slipping to hit hard stone, scratching at the wall, my only solace to steady myself up again. For what was darkness in my first blind steps, which led mostly down, I lost the break of the waves and above all the deep gulping voice of the sea groaning from its core. This cave was the silent pass, the ritual chamber of Dorley’s people. Bad memories and ill fates stormed the air along with the fragrance of moist and sweat.

I started hearing my own blood hammering inside my ears, trying to fill in the emptiness, which seemed impossible and delusional, or maybe I was those. I coughed and thought it be someone else standing behind me, his coarse throated whisper brushing at my earlobe. I rushed along the uneven path and discovered in the echo someone else’s footsteps catching up in the dying splashes. I stopped unable to move, forgetting distance and time in the pitch black. My eyes adjusted as much as to find stalagmites and stalactites looking like the sharp teeth of this monster mouthed cave. I shut them close sinking into my own darkness which seemed more familiar and comforting. Then I heard a buzzing sound and with wide opened eyes found the faint flicker of electricity.

The light burned out when I stood before it, but in a chain along the wall the others were working, old timey electric arc lamps modified from their floor vintage selves to those, deeply nailed into the stone. Their rusty enclosures were ancient. I wondered if Guy had put them here once upon a time.

Now with the light on my side the cave seemed shorter, but casting me shadows I didn’t want to see. I thought about man’s ability to find faces in objects. I thought about how diverse that shared horror power was, because all I could see where monsters with spread whipping arms. Ain’t something one would want to walk among. Dragging my chains, without a body to hold my hand to the bottom of this journey, I walked, a prisoner of twisted fate and the good lord I presumed.

The light showed me the cave was after all just one large chamber which walls wept in small rivulets. The slippery slide that guided me to its center was nothing but 200-300 meters in half of which I had lost and baffled myself. The suicidal arc light beamed here and there, just enough for me to walk a circle.

If the group of people I followed came in here they were either long gone or hiding in the shadows my artificial lights couldn’t reach. But there was only one spot which caught my attention, crawling along the far wall of the cave which slept in total blackness. So then, I was open prey. I was in a spotlight from which any of them could steal me in the dark and induce their poison down my body. My face stiffened. I was, in this state, vulnerable to be have and be killed.

Killed…But the darkness lured.  The longer I stared, the less emptiness I found. Suddenly the opposite stared back.

I crossed the chamber balancing my numb and heavy body, the sensation of solitude lifting up from me. I had something here with me, without a breath, without a heartbeat, but definitely present.

The whole of the dark smelled foul; the closer I got the stronger the odor got.

My trembling hand, outstretched fingers fumbled in the ghost air, penetrating the curtain which I tried to blink away; but it was unforgiving now and it no longer molded me and guided me. I grazed with the tips, my nails scraping at something soft and mushy and I pulled my hand back quickly feeling my fingers sticky. I stepped closer, determined to examine more.

I got the idea of something growing on this wall, something I was certain I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. I ran my hand up and down measuring in my mind the size of this parasite, shaking with tremors genuine fear of the big and possibly asleep, possibly alive. But then a brighter beam of light from behind me bathed the entire wall and mouth agape, not caring of who stood there, I saw it.

Its eye, the size of a basketball, weak in color, a white pupil rotated upwards, glowed somewhat alive with the light on it and I saw myself inside it, shivering uncontrollably now. I traced its full length, from the mantle to the very tips of those whipping tongues – it covered the entire of the wall glued to it in a slimy cocoon, the massive bleak reddish- purple body of the creature preserved in some final charge, eight arms wild and spread, crimson-red veins mapping the semi-transparent skin. The same limbs as those Guy and Paulie had shown me, but ten times the size and ornamented with subspherical suction cups bigger than my palm; its two long tentacles though, were clubs hiding enlarged suckers gifted with rows of small sharp teeth.

I stepped back from this colossal cephalopod creature that extended beyond 20 meters and beyond any of my so hated childhood stories. I fell back, my body pressing against that of another, who still held the light high. 

Chapter XXI

The Dorley Cycle continues 8/15 with chapter XX!

squidkingsandgreekfires7

AND  

ALSO:

BIG MONSTERS

LOTS OF MONSTERS

TENTACLES

SCARY SEA DEPTHS

ORIGINS

MYTHS

BLUE HOLES

BLACK HOLES

FIGHTS

SECRETS

HORRORS

DEATH

SALVATION

DESTRUCTION

PAIN

LOSS

TEARS…..

and possibly more!

In the mean time you can start the mythos, monster, horror flavored cycle here:

The Dorley Cycle

I

The Dorley Cycle XIX

TO START THE CYCLE :

First segment

It’s only a siren’s song baby

 Part I ; Part II ; Part III ; Part IV

Prelude

Second segment:

Hey there Mr. Cthulhu

Part V ;  Part VI ; Part VII ; Part VIII ; Part IX ; Part X ;

Third segment:

Got some toxic truth?

Part XIPart XIIPart XIII

Fourth segment:

Squid Kings and Greek Fires

Part XIV ; Part XV ; Part XVI ; Part XVII ; Part XVIII

AND FOR A LITTLE COMIC STYLE TREAT: Homecoming & Hey There Mr. Cthulhu

 

THE DORLEY CYCLE 

squidkingsandgreekfires6

XIX

The whiteness bleached and blended back to color, the pier reappearing engulfed in flame. The ringing in my ears though remained so as I was flung away from the blast, the burning heat pushing my body, I watched, deaf, how part of the pier collapsed into the sea, and how Ferris wheel caught fire. It was in an instant that I hit the water with a force that left me breathless and invited a mouthful of water inside my lungs.

I sunk along with floating pieces of coal-black wood, but I was alive.

Slowly my limbs came back to life, brushing the heaviness of the sea in a mad churn in search for up, but finding down, facing what I couldn’t see. I felt raindrops like bullets rain over me.

I swam frantically, kicking fiercely to push myself upwards and find the surface. Not long after my fingers dug into wet, hard sand, and I crawled into the very shallow, breathing in the salty water that clung to the whole of my body, biting into my open wounds. I vomited blood and water till I had those to vomit, feeling my stomach hurt and my guts shrunk in my belly. Then I just lay in it, cold as the water was, warm as the air was, harsh as the rain was.

Noises came and went around me, my eyes finding seizures of bright explosions swept away by black skies that expanded in bursts.  I smelled the smoke and choked on it, fits of confusion and alarm overcoming me. After heartbeats, clearance came, having me hear sirens loud and clear and thunders dry and overhanging. I stood up, whiplashed by the rain that did nothing to stop the spreading disaster.

Dorley was burning.

I watched mesmerized the sight, admiring the aggression I had set free. I let ash stick to my face and I welcomed the heat of nearby fire, letting it dry me up. To my right ol’ Dorley was in flames too, puffing out the blackest of smokes and combusting in the brightest orange that reflected dark red in the water.  At first I couldn’t tell where the fire had started but there was one place that could have ignited such a beautiful spark. I wondered who had set the fuel shacks on fire.

Kicking sand and half-running I tried to get myself back on the street. The fire had caught on the entire length of the pier and had spread, taken by the wind to the buildings across the street. The bottom of the hill was fiery speckled and I had no doubt it would soon spread further and climb up to the hotel.

The Ferris wheel protested, its lights popping out. The cables sizzled and snapped free from the arm of the wheel, flapping electrical tongues that transformed the air around into a sparkling net, charging the raindrops as they fell, absorbing. The wheel flickered and went dead, the leather seats shedding in lumps of stench down through burned holes.

People ran past me, frantic in their own try for rescue. I made my way through their ricocheting screams, tourists, reporters, desperate policemen, children crying for their parents, all black-faced and terrified. I didn’t care which of them were monsters.

I didn’t see Guy’s burned body anywhere near the pier. I didn’t see him limping away. I kept looking, almost tempted to call his name over the roar of everything else.

It had become Hell in less than fifteen minutes and no one knew where to go. No one, except those that amidst the chaos were different. I found them burning in the middle of the street, melting but still alive, their weak tentacle arms darting helplessly from their coal parched mouths as their bodies lurched into a mindless flee in and out the fire. I heard them screech, such a low and hurting noise that would exist otherwise only submerged, and I knew that what I saw in that dream of mine was true – it was weak, and it could be killed.

But then as I walked further, I also saw them hurrying in groups towards the beach over which the pier was collapsing and I followed.

I kept my distance from the path of falling things. Wannabe survivors made a run for the sea and shadowlike I moved with them, hunched in my mess of a figure. My group was making way down the coastline to the end of it where the largest of white stone sea cliffs stood rough shaped. I found footprints, quickly washed away by the ever-growing ill foamed waves and I stepped in them before they disappeared. Treading like this, towards whatever comes I kept thinking of miracles and weighted in my chances of winning right now, because it wasn’t over, that much was clear. Guy was not dead for sure, but he wasn’t human and he was a fast healer. He had lived here long before me, molding Dorley in his own liking. He wasn’t going to let go easily.

The sea-washed my feet. I half expected Eli’s body to wash at my feet and blame me. I was alone again, and that mesmerizing, powerful sensation of being in control evaporated. Realism hit hard; me, bare handed and broken, steamed by the fire, shaken by the cold, cold water, soaked to the very bones.

Soon the sand was gone and I had slippery stone under me. I curled my fingers for a grip somewhere on the slick rock that extended large into the sea. There was a man-sized arch cut into it and I carefully squeezed through it. On the other side there were small inner islands of sharp rocks that led to a piece of land, three steps carved into it which ran to the entrance of a cave.

I watched my way going there and then I stood on toes on the first step looking up into the gaping void feeling the cool breath of its insides.

Chapter XX

Jackson vs Paulie

 

collagedorley

 

 

“I guess everytime I reach out for a friend I shake the wrong hand. I end up being the madman and the other guy the manipulative bastard that tricked me into being one. But as things turn out being a madman can work miracles sometimes. I don’t care anymore about living or dying.  I guess in the current situation I owe him [Paulie] at least that.” 

- Jackson on Paulie

The Dorley Cycle XVIII

TO START THE CYCLE :

First segment

It’s only a siren’s song baby

 Part I ; Part II ; Part III ; Part IV

Prelude

Second segment:

Hey there Mr. Cthulhu

Part V ;  Part VI ; Part VII ; Part VIII ; Part IX ; Part X ;

Third segment:

Got some toxic truth?

Part XIPart XIIPart XIII

Fourth segment:

Squid Kings and Greek Fires

Part XIV ; Part XV ; Part XVI ; Part XVII

AND FOR A LITTLE COMIC STYLE TREAT: Homecoming & Hey There Mr. Cthulhu

 

THE DORLEY CYCLE 

squidkingsandgreekfires5

XVIII

Paulie sat down hard and when I turned to see my damage he was tracing his shaking fingers along his face. In my panic I hadn’t noticed how long it was, but seeing it pierced through his cheek down inside his mouth and out of his chin, a dripping half tip that his finger grazed I understood his shock. His eyes filled with tears and he moaned into the cold glass, his tongue darting to lick away the pooling blood. He wanted to grab at it I saw, pull it out. I picked whatever adrenaline I had and surged into one mighty kick and tumbled Paulie over and left him laying, a close call from falling into the dark waters.

I stood up and limped back, holding what was broken close to my chest.

Eli had just untied the boat. He jumped in and started the engine.

“Jackson, get in.”

There was about a two feet gap between the dock and the boat. I prepared to leap over it.

“Jackson!”

There was a gunshot. I turned. Paulie, dear ol’ broken Paulie had saved the best for last, aiming my own gun at me. His face was contorted.

“You gotta jump Jackson!”

I jumped and at the same time the gun fired again. The bullet sliced, hot, burning hot. I fell in the boat among red bottles of fuel

I curled into a ball, squeezing my leg, blood seeping between my fingers. I tore at the fabric, clawing my way through the denim. The projectile had struck me in the thigh, living a fresh bleeding wound, but as the blood soaked into the torn piece of cloth, I saw it was nothing more than a deeper scratch.

“Are you okay?”

Eli drove the thing as fast as he could, flying bullets shattering the glass of the cabin.

I managed a positive sort of hum and peeked out from my hiding. Paulie ran along the dock till there was a dock. Then he disappeared out of sight and soon the pier along with the Ferris wheel came into. I heard sirens coming to life in the background.

We had the pier ahead of us and the boat rumbled lowly towards it. The drizzle had turned into a steady rain. A thunder rolled in the distance.

“Okay what now? How do we load this stuff to your car?”

Ahead, the Ferris wheel swam, rotating in a counterclockwise mirage conjured by my pain and exhaustion. Even in the beat down daylight its bright green lights shone emerald. I scanned the pier further on.

“Is there a ladder there?”

Eli nodded.

“Steer her near it.”

Eli aimed the boat for the narrow gap between the widest pillars, just behind the ladder, and turned off the engine. He walked out of the small cabin holding a lighter in his hand. I took it.

I ran my bloodied fingers along the lids of the bottles, unscrewing one of them, reaching for the second before stopping myself. The boat rocked gently in the quiet dark and I rocked back and forth in my own black pit, setting my feet at the bottom of it. I was lead, I was an anchor, I was the skin that made the hole, I was the sea that filled its belly. Washed, I remembered, cleansed, the gentle flesh though no longer hurting, no longer sensitive. It was, beforehand surreal to think me in the pattern of death, but now as Dorley is at its weakest I have a different taste for surviving. I’ve made my peace with the sea and with the constant growl inside my ears. I’ve been cold, but now I’m warming up.

I gestured Eli to climb up. I suffered a little with my one-handed grip, but once up he grabbed me and pulled me onto the pier.

“Jackson…”

His voice trailed off and I could see why when I got to my feet. Guy was there, striped and entertainment like, but no smile.

“Hear those sirens Mr. Jackson? I haven’t heard ones like this in twenty years. Sounds like murder to me.”

He pointed at me like trying to imply my murder.

“Hope they find Paulie where I left him.”

A nerve convulsed on his perfect face at my lie. Paulie no doubt was coming here, knowing we would come, like he knew about us going to the docks before. I’d be more than happy to have them both here with me when I light everything.

“You’ll be dead too, Guy. In fact we all will.”

“By what right?”

“By the one that put us four limbed fucks on this earth and not you tentacle sons of bitches.”

“Primitive of you. Imbecilic. Don’t think of this as devolution of your kind and evolution of ours. We are merely trying to coexist, have some solidity. Merge perhaps, no?”

Guy licked his lips with a crippled limb, one I had vague memory of having bitten into.

“Are you so injured and tormented Jackson that you would waste yourself and that poor boy’s life? Can’t you just give up and go home? Make it a nightmare, nothing more than sweat on your brow.”

He smiled at me.

“Look at you, battered and abused. What now, are you going to die? After all you went through? In fact why don’t you let me help you forget everything and put this lunacy behind us. Let Dorley be peaceful again. Let us keep it safe.”

I shook my head violently, looking at my feet, seeing a crack instead, and through it the bright red of the fuel bottles. Why not now?, I thought, why fuckin’ not?

I smiled back at him.

“This is my home. This is me keeping it safe.”

I showed him the lighter.

“There’s a boat full of fuel bellow me. I let this Zippo go we all fly up.”

Eli pushed away from me.

“You promised no one will get hurt Jackson! You promised!”

“I lied.”

I took him by surprise giving him one hard shove with my shoulder sending him flying off the pier and down to a big splash.

“Swim fast kid.”

I flicked the lighter and dropped it, watching the dancing flame fall through the gap, licking the fumes first and spark a fiery cloud. Guy was already turning to run. Where to, I don’t know; as the pier shook between our legs, I ran too, but the groundbreaking groan filled the space in an instant, and grew into an eruption of fire from below. A second one boomed somewhere near as the explosion made everything go white.

Chapter XIX