My friends and I are challenging ourselves to weekly writing prompts to varying degrees of success. We aren’t required to share any of what we write but I like to, if only to have something to post while I’m in a reading slump.
This week’s prompt got so far away from me that it comes in parts. This will be part one as I have not gotten super far into part 2. I think I will work on this as a side project for a bit. It is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth which is one of my favorites.
Also forgive the lack of formatting. I’m on mobile for the first time and trying to figure it out.
Week 9: “The islands in the sky are real!”
The legends say that there are islands, populated by monstrous beasts, high above the clouds. No one alive has ever seen one but mothers still warn that the winged monsters from the sky islands will swoop down and snatch up naughty children who stray too far from home. Picture books depict these creatures beside unicorns and lorelei, they are children’s stories from times long past; it is the Kraken we must fear.
The day is clear when the people of my city come for me in the home I’ve made myself. It’s in an out of the way place, where three buildings meet at odd angles, no one wants the tiny alley it creates and no one wants me. We fit together quite nicely. I am asleep when they come, as I always am during the busier parts of the day, and the rough hands that grab at me catch me unawares. I screamed and kicked, but there were more than I could fend off.
“Finally going to be rid of this one.” some says, as if I am an old piece of furniture they have finally found a replacement for.
When my head clears and I blink the sun spots from my eyes I see that I have been dragged out into the street and around me dozens of people are watching as my attackers bind my legs and arms with rope.
“What is this?” I call out at them. “Why are you doing this?”
I know the men binding me, they are the blacksmith and his apprentice. I know all of those come to watch my torment, yet few look at me with any regret or shame. I meet eye after eye and no one gives even a look of sympathy.
“Not enough sheep this season Portia,” the smith says as he drags me to a cart. “Feeding it pig this time.”
As I slam into the bottom of the cart I can hardly feel the thump. Our city is built atop a cliff, the ocean sits many yards below except for a handful of times each year when the tide washes up, almost lapping at our fields. This is when the monster visits.
It is like a squid but larger than any we know of, it climbs the short distance between the water and our grazing fields, it’s weight crumbling the rock as it feasts on our sheep. It is destroying the cliff face where our sheep are safe, and so, years ago it was decided that instead we would lure the monster to another area with excess sheep. If it is not fed the creature has been known to crawl overland snatching at anything that moves.
They mean to feed me to it.
“No!” I shout when I find my voice. “Please no! I’ll leave, I won’t beg anymore I’ll go far away!”
Someone laughs at my pleas but I cannot see who. Tears blur my vision and I flail against my restraints.
“More like a fish than a pig it seems.” comes a woman’s voice. I don’t recognize it in my panic.
They laugh at her joke, they laugh at my tears, they laugh the entire way to the far rocky cliff. There the laughter and my tears both stop.
“It has to be done, “ the smith says. “For the good of us all.”
“Any of us would go in your place if we didn’t have families to think of.” the woman who called me a fish says. She adjusts the babe strapped to her back to emphasize her point.
Words don’t come as I try to speak and I end up gaping at them all. They will justify this to themselves like they justified turning me out on the street after I became orphaned, like they justified keeping food from me, beating me; I am just a pig after all, and pigs must go to slaughter eventually. I have no response for them. No last words for the people who have hurt me so much.
One of the men hammers an iron stake in between some rocks and once they have tied me to this they all depart with sad farewells and backwards glances. They will sleep poorly tonight but tomorrow, when the sheep are safe, and no monster has come crawling for their wayward children they will tell themselves it was worth it.
Once they are gone I stare out at the endless sea before me, swollen and angry even on such a beautiful day as today. Gulls fly in circles above, screaming at themselves, or their food, or the wind. Gulls are simpler creatures; they eat, and mate, and when that no longer suits them they fly far away and do it all again.
My back begins to ache as I stand on the uneven rocks. As a final cruelty they have tied me standing up with no way to move or sit. At this angle I will be able to see the monster as it crawls out of the ocean towards me. I am sure they have thought of this. I stare out at the ocean, waiting, mesmerized by the unbroken blue around me.
As the Sun shifts in the sky the terrible gnawing in my gut gets stronger and I find myself crying again. I want to go home, not to my little alley with my hard earned blanket and harder earned shoes. I want to got back to the cottage where I was not a pig but a little girl who had a name, a real name, and parents who loved her. I know that life was real, even if I only remember glimpses. I hold on to them. If I am to die today I want to die remember a woman in a yellow dress, and a cottage of white stone.
Then I see it.
I cannot stop the screams that pierce the air, I scramble with my feet on the rocks trying to move backwards away from the thing I see emerging from the water but the bindings on my body are too tight. I throw my body to the side hoping to loose the spike keeping me in place but nothing works. Nothing at all works.
“No!” I call in vain. “Please no I promise I’ll do anything. Please!”
The tentacles keep emerging from the waves, with no regard for my pleas or my tear stained face. They are as thick around as my body and they grope for the rocky cliff like a blind man until at last one touches the rock face. Four, five pink arms come out of the water and attach themselves to the rocks. Then, like a nightmare come to life, it began to climb.
From my place at the top of the cliff I can look down and watch the slick legs climb towards me until, at last, the head emerges from the water.
“No no no no, PLEASE NO!”
My feet slip trying to find traction but there is nowhere to go. It’s head is a giant sack with two black eyes the size of my head staring straight at me. Worse is its mouth. It is not the fangs I feared but a beak; instead of being torn apart I shall be pecked to death.
“Please! Anything I will do anything you ask please don’t leave me to this please!” my words are little more than sobs. There is no one to hear me, and no one would risk themselves to save me if they did.
One of the tentacles reaches over the cliff edge, groping for a hold, I can see the large cups it uses to stick itself to the rocks. It’s so close.
The next arm that reaches up comes right for me, the monster knows I am it’s meal today. It doesn’t hesitate but wraps around my body like a snake. It is cold and the slimy feel makes my skin crawl. The air is squeezed out of me as it tightens it’s grip. I cannot even scream.
Then there are long metal arrows on the arm, they appear like magic right before me but I am too out of breath to react. A sizzling noise and the smell of burned fish fills the air and the monster lets me go. I gasp, sucking in so much air I choke on it and cough.
Before my eyes more arrows pierce the krakens body and legs, each causing the creature to flinch and lash out. It opens it’s mouth and lets out a shriek as it’s body burns. Then, one by one, the large cups holding it to the rocks begin to fail and it can no longer support its own weight.
I watch as its legs peel back and it scrambles for grip before a final arrow pierces one of its eyes and the entire head erupts. It’s body slide down into the water below while I watch open mouthed.
I begin to look around for my savior, waiting them to free me so I may run far from these shores and never return. There is no one in sight, they have left me still to the mercy of the sun and the gulls.
I feel a touch on my arm and swing my head around to thank the archer who saved my life. Yet there is no one. Invisible hands tug at the ropes binding me and I see them begin to fray as if they are being cut. I have gone mad.
The rope continues to cut, when it finally breaks through will I fall to the rocks or will it simply begin again to tease me forever with a freedom that will never come?
I do not fall, though my legs wobble and beg to collapse; instead, as the ropes fall down around me, I feel an arm ease around my shoulders supporting me. My heart is pounding in my ears. There is still nobody there. Another arm snakes under my knees lifting me up off of my useless legs. The body I lean against is solid but does not feel warm like a person, and I can see nothing there.
“I have gone off.” I say aloud just to test my voice and the chuckle and breath that comes from the invisible man makes me jump.
“That may be, but will you keep your promise?” comes a deep male voice that rumbles up from the chest that is there and not there.
“I-” I begin before, mercifully, I pass out.