Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Audrey's Coat

Thiri curled up on the couch, legs folded lithely at the knee, his chin resting in quiet repose lids heavy against the evening light, all irritation in his life now gone, the peace surrounding him as exquisite as his gentle Asian face. 

Gus liked Thiri, and despite him being slightly swarthy and oriental in appearance, a look he normally would not trust, he did, implicitly.  Thiri had become his closest friend, confidante and support. Gus accepted Thiris's dark moods, black as pitch. He knew and forgave that he was pretentious beyond belief and vain as a teenage girl, constantly preening and obsessing about his appearance. He adored that his friend was a creature of sartorial elegance, deep-voiced, highly eloquent and unafraid, so unlike himself. Thiri walked with an air of grace; languine legs stretching each sinewy muscle even at the pace of poured treacle. He stared with authority causing adversaries to cower in submission. He commanded respect, attention, affection and always received it.  Even she, cow-towed to his every whim, caressed his body with a tenderness Gus had never seen but longed to feel.  Yes Thiri was what he wanted to become, someone to emulate and imitate. He'd like her hands upon his body, tapered fingers through his hair, her lips upon his cheek he craved such love even for a fleeting moment but he repulsed her and knew not why. He'd tried so hard to please. 

His senior by 12 years, Thiri possessed a worldly, calm, almost sage demeanour. A sanguine diplomat his Svengali influence hung huge over his diminutive prodigy. The two friends had become ‘tight’ almost intimate with each other yet neither was gay.  Their relationship was sometimes physical without being sexual, as one stroked the other with gentleness and affection. They wrestled on the floor, made chase in the sunshine.  They’d even shared a bed on occasion for warmth and comfort, companionship. Bodies entwined but not aroused. Such was the closeness and connection between them.

The elder advised the younger on the ways of the world and the minutia of life:  How to hone his many wiles, how to win over the opposite sex, how to prepare a nutritious meal, how to voice an opinion assertively and with a voice that demanded to be heard.  He’d warned him about life’s tests, the 'predators' and 'stalkers'. He'd told Gus whom to trust and of what he should be wary.  Yes, he’d been a mentor to his constant companion and for that Gus was grateful. Thiri was an incredible friend, trustworthy and true.

As a stranger introduced, Gus' place in the household had never been secure, just little more than a half way house until he 'found his feet' and through necessity he was adept at avoiding conflict. He tried so hard to retain the status quo despite the overwhelming urge to rebel on occasion when his lust or love or sheer instinct fought to be released - like any male, he had 'urges' after all. 
There was one issue that perturbed him yet he'd lacked the courage to broach the subject, even with Thiri. He never understood why Thiri's companion, the woman with the smooth caress, disliked him so much. 

When he’d first arrived, he’d been made welcome, given a place to stay and admittedly he was in a desperate state, unknown to her and less than appealing in his looks.  Short and well-muscled but one of those aggressive faces with beady black eyes that sank like pools of crude beneath his eyebrows. He knew the fairer sex found him menacing no matter how hard he tried flirt and sate their fears, they feared him. Inside he was a prince, outside little more than an ugly waif.  His looks became the bain of his life and the cause of all his woes. She’d scowled at his manners, run him out once or twice for the slightest misdemeanour and his warm room had been seconded by another while he, an unwelcome guest was relegated to a temporary bed on the verandah - separated from contact, comfort, and companionship. 

Sure he'd been a slob, made a mess from time to time, wasn't politically correct and proffered some oddly begotten gifts - all ultimately unappreciated despite the risk taken during their procurement. But this? To be relegated as an outsider in such a short time. He didn't understand the minds or machinations of women.

His ostracism wasn't the worst of it, nor the hanging offence, it was his one loss of control that sealed his fate.   He'd stood mesmerised when the visitor entered their illustrious home.  She was older, that didn’t faze him, slender and to be frank he can’t really remember her face or even her voice but something akin to love washed over him like a warm and wondering wave, he was smitten, suffocated, obsessed, impassioned beyond control.  He first noticed the coat. A stunning full-length fur, rich and luxuriant - sensual.  The colour of sex and sunshine; soft as angel's hair. And her smell!  God, the scent of that woman, drove him into a frenzy of distraction and debauchery. He knew he had a fetish. He’d suppressed it often enough by sneaking a surreptitious whiff of used towels and dirty laundry but not this time. Control it as he tried, this one temptation was far too much and he approached  with voracity, such sexual aggression, such hormonal force, such raw emotion - the display was beyond inappropriate and shocking, it was unforgivable.

He’d broken boundaries, got too close, been too intimate too soon and too publicly. He'd grabbed her, she’d screamed, he’d panicked. He'd displayed his manhood, he thought he may have even growled, she was sure he did. Thiri’s woman had grabbed him by the neck and swung him round then stared with hatred in her her eyes, it terrified the little man. “That’s it! Final straw!” The venom in her voice stung his palpitating heart, although he really didn’t understand. “You’re outta here, damn waif!  Gone! Forgotten, good riddance!

Years after his banishment, a conversation stirred up the sore subject of his disappearance, “Mum, whatever happened to Gus, I mean really? I know you told us you’d ‘found a home’ or he’d ‘gone to the farm’ or something lovely – I forget which now - but frankly, I’m not buying it!” 

Thiri momentarily looked up from his slumber at the women but refused to join their conversation.  He knew the truth. Her mother had  told everyone that Gus had left for greener pastures -  only the flush of red in her complexion and the lack of eye contact convinced her daughter that she was hiding something sinister.  “Oh alright . . I took him to the vet!” she finally submitted.

“You what? You didn’t! You sent Gus for a green dream? How could you? I told you I’d take him back?”  her daughter sat mouth agape in abject disbelief.

“Well you didn’t take him. You left him here to be a bloody nuisance!”  And so began the tirade of self-defense, “He was stealing food, peeing and shitting all over the carpet and bringing rabbit entrails into the laundry.  He ate the crutch out of my knickers for God's sakes.  He barked and yapped at everything that moved, shagged the towels and tore up anything left on the floor. Then when Audrey turned up in that bloody lapin coat he went apeshit.  Made a b-line for her, grabbed its hem, shagged her leg, stuck his nose in her crotch, growled like a demon and wouldn’t let go. Poor woman was beside herself! He had to go and I had to buy her another damn coat!”

Then unexpectedly as if the inquisition had struck it's final torturous blow the real justification for poor Gus’ disappearance was confessed -  the coup d’cat!  “Thiri was terrified of him you know?" her voice lowering to an adoring tone, "Weren't you my darling puss-puss? Mwah, mwah" as her tapered fingers lovingly caressed his thick Burmese fur.  Ah yes, clarity at last. No man, woman, child or dog was to upset the mighty Thiri. He was her mother's cat even though in his old age, he’d developed a nasty drool whenever he was touched. 

Thiri purred and posed with claws extended. Every muscle rippling from shoulder to snaking tail before rubbing his woman's chin with drool-dripped jaw and whiskers then curled sanctimoniously satisfied within the warmth of a human lap.  She swears she saw a smile - enough to make a Cheshire proud - before he settled and relaxed his devious head.  

Had she listened harder, she may have heard his thoughts:

"I taught him how to hone his many wiles, how to win over the opposite sex, how to prepare a nutritious meal, how to voice an opinion assertively and with a voice that demanded to be heard"







Posted for The Tenth Daughter of Memory "White Lies Belie a Darker Truth"

Sunday, May 22, 2011

In Some Small Corner He Made Dried Flowers Bloom

As a gentle heart like a shot bird falls, so does the silk of her dress. Slid gently over golden arms, it pours, unfolds, cascades to kiss the floor. Diamante trim reflecting, dancing in effervescent rainbow light.

A bracelet of gold lover's knots, passed down for generations, will be her 'something old'. New - is the silk she wears for a day, remembered for a lifetime. Borrowed is the tiny diamond dancing on her decolletage; her mother's engagement ring threaded through a cord of gold. And 'blue', the ribbon in her hair, pulled loose to tame thick auburn waves.

The observer in the corner sets free a longing smile. This moment whilst well-orchestrated, is for her so bittersweet.

The lover she once loved, now loves another. A creature of her making, her flesh and blood and she is ecstatic for their union. She has passed the gauntlet, nurtured the seed, planted faux memories in his head. She whispered the words and watched them flourish, while her sun sank beyond a dark horizon. She shares her angel's joy, laments her own great loss.

Before another mirror, muscled arms slide through cool white linen. Musician's hands which once played her like a cello, smoothing from nape to hip, now pinch and press and preen and fold a collar. They buckle belt once unbuckled in lust and ravish now waiting to be released upon another in their nuptial bed. Nerves are raw as his dream comes to fruition. That which he thought unattainable will soon be his. His great love, his companion, the object of his desire.

How the other misses the stroke of flawless skin, the pressing of  lips, tongue. How clear her memory of his breath, his body, his hair and hands. How lucid the image of tumbled lovers. This had been his greatest gift and in her lonely corner, he had made dried flowers bloom.

"I love you, know that," he had once said and she believed his words, "I would marry you" he twice said but she knew that was a lie. "You are my fling" he whispered, and she knew it to be truth. Their affair was brief, their friendship everlasting. He was her last love after her first and greatest. But how this tryst was flawed. Chasms opened before them, precipices too tall to scale, rose high and mighty. Their embrace wrenched and wrecked. Each left teetering above the the abyss.
 
So, she led his heart towards another with her sombre blessing. She couldn't have him always but she could keep him close. She loves him and it aches to set him free. He is perfect but not for her.

Dark secrets known and understood by only them, will never be from lips released. Love held still, never broached or revealed. They make a bond, a pact, a seal, impossible to break.

Beauty walks the stretch of seamless sand as waves lap upon the shore, she is linked lovingly within a mother's arm. They, two women, adore him as he stands there beneath the arbor, breeze disheveling his hair. That smile they both have come to love beyond all smiles, the body both have touched but only one can keep.

Today she gives away her daughter, releases her last love and abandons all foolish hope.

Created for The Tenth Daughter of Memory "White Lies Belie a Darker Truth"

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Suspicion

She doesn't lie; never has, not in her own mind anyway, other than a little lie of omission or one to make someone feel good. She sits, looking at the left over cereal bowls. He's' gone, all that remains is the evidence of him being there but she remember, she may have misled him slightly.  "Wasn't me!" were the last words she'd said before he left as he raised his nose to the air in acknowledgement of an errant fluff, leaving its odoriferous evidence; so familiar were they that comment on such things was left unuttered.

She has suspicions, despite such intimacy, that something isn't right. He doesn't touch her the way he used to; there's a coolness about him that makes her not want to ask the question for fear she might already know the answer - Is he cheating?

They'd been to the Dawn Service together then on to the pub for a game of two-up when she noticed him glancing sideways, not at her, but at HER. Tall, curvy, tanned, bedroom eyes and  paying him obvious attention with a 42inch chest and 34 inch 'come hither' hips. They seemed to recognise each other but barely passed a knowing glance; he's at that wondering age, she guesses, 43 in June and looking for some excitement outside the safety of their marriage.

He'd been self-centred lately, forgot her birthday, no flowers on Friday, preening in front of the mirror before he left the house but not for her; for her he remained unshaven and unkempt. The suspicion begins to grow and she regales past conversations, imagination running wild as she tries to find evidence of white lies or little points of omission.
He blushed when she quizzed him about coming home late from the office, knowing full well he hadn't been there when she called at 8pm.  He left the house on Saturday, dressed like James Bond, suited and handsome for a 'business appointment' but she wasn't convinced.   Perhaps it was her driving him away with a little extra weight or being a bitch about his long hours.  She'd tried hard to keep in shape but hard exercise wasn't her thing and yoga simply didn't help the pounds recede, just made her fart in some positions, not quite the relaxation and contemplation she'd anticipated.

Long gone were the halcyon days of their  honeymoon, riding in teacups and yellow submarines at Disneyland, lounging on beaches at Big Sur, these days she can't fit into her bikini but apart from a little dash of grey, he looks the same; is she driving him away?

Still staring at empty breakfast bowls, she remembers hot nights in hot places and the prolonged love-making in La Paz. The effect at altitude heady and euphoric. Sex as adventurous as the Andes. Her eyes glance sideways towards the his home-office door, he's left his cell phone. The iPhone, garish in its orange cover, companion to the other items on his anally organised desk; a three hole punch, a role of invisible tape and a blotter, smattered with scribbled phone numbers.

She's sure he's doing more than monkeying around and the ludicrous 70's riff from that band start playing in her head in time to stem the welling tears. She remember seeing them at Festival Hall as a child, screaming wildly whilst standing on her chair, unaware that they too were cheating, lip sinking to padded drums and useless guitars.  Her mind moves to more sinister thoughts - what would she do if she found out, confront him, leave him, kill him? She remembers the syringes, pre-filled and packed with calming green fluid, once used to euthanase pets, now sitting in her veterinary surgeon's bag, dust-covered in the garage.  She rises and walks outside to check its contents, warm rain frizzing her hair and cooling her skin as the neighbour's TV blares strains from "My Fair Lady." She was fair once she thinks and twirls, holding out her skirt, an unlikely Audrey Hepburn now contemplating the worst.

She stops short of the garage door and glances at the orange phone in her hand and begins to scroll the 'recent' messages as contemplation turns to confirmation and the text messages spill into her heart, piercing and stinging like a thousand tiny daggers, she feels nauseus and disgusted.

There on the garage shelf is the trusty bag surrounded by boxes full of magazines and books, neatly hung tools on a pegboard when her eyes cast down towards a fallen Lonely Planet guide knocked from it's perch, "Melbourne!" She remembers, he'd extended his last trip, one of many and with little explanation.  Its pages stained by water leached from the roof onto a Ratsak cube, streaming slowly along its spine like a trail of blue urine.

Melbourne was the key, she harks back on the woman travelling with him, the one with sensible shoes. He'd said she was gay but now the doubt is seeping in; perhaps it was a ruse to avoid lipstick on the collar, put her mind at rest.

The phone still on, the message tone sounds and there it is, "Missed you the other day Rob, see you at the Windsor at 3, I've something special for you, very romantic." The letters followed by emoticon lips in passionate purple, this was no lesbian or business colleague, this was HER.  She can't resist the urge and dial's the return number, "Hello, Paradise Travel, this is Heather speaking?" She's confused and the fragments of a hasty conclusion begin to split, "Er, I had a message on my husband's phone about a meeting at the Windsor and a surprise, was that you?"

"Oh Mrs Carter, yes but the message was intended for your husband"

"Forget it! I know about you, the Windsor, everything!"

"No, no, Mrs Carter, you have the wrong end of the stick?"

"No, I don't! He's my husband!

"I'm well aware of that Mrs Carter, I'm his travel agent. He's arranging a surprise second honeymoon for you. I've just confirmed the itinerary for Tahiti but I don't think you were supposed to know."

She drops the book. Embarrassed by the blackness of her thoughts, the suspicion in her mind and dusts off the treadmill.

Written for the Tenth Daughter of  Memory "White Lies belie a Darker Truth"

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Baby in the Box

The parlour is bathed in light. Large panes of chamois'd glass allow the warm glow of afternoon sun to dance dappled shadows on the perfectly polished mahogany table. Heavy red velvet drapes frame the window. They remind her of the capes of queens and how she'd love to parade around the house wrapped in their regal warmth. Dressing up and immersing herself in other worlds is what she does.

She doesn't understand why the parlour is only used for serious occasions. It's the 'special'  room, the 'front room', the room to where those of great import are ushered such as the Vicar and distant relatives. Here, they take tea in delicate Shelley China, nibble salmon and cucumber sandwiches, diced into small triangles, pinkie fingers extended, and begin concerned conversations that she doesn't understand.

It  was one of those memories that slept the slumber of giants and was never explained. A  small child, dressed in her Sunday best stands leaning against a darkened oak doorway staring at her new, shiny patent shoes. Her mother weeps and people she doesn't know pinch her cheek, lovingly stroke her hair and smile sadly at her.

Upon the table is a box. She doesn't know it's name but it's a special box. Small and white with gleaming brass handles on the side, its lid now resting gently against the sill. They stare into the box and their eyes moisten. Backs of gentle hands stroke something out of view. They hug her mother and wipe their leaking eyes with lace trimmed hankies. The hush is deafening and she wonders why nobody speaks above a whisper.

"Go play Pamela . . " her mother urges, turns her round to face away and gently pushes the small of her back. She's confused, she's never allowed to play in her good clothes and patent shoes but aquiesces without resistance, emerging into the garden planted with raspberries, strawberries and rhubarb, she imagines fairies at its end and becomes beguiled in fantasy, oblivious to the sadness within the cottage.

Two women, share a moment.  "There's something I think I should tell  you", says the older of the two, drawing  deeply on her Rothmans Blue and thoughtfully stirring a cup of tea, strong enough to stand the spoon in upright, while the smoke curls suffocatingly towards the ceiling and lingers as a cloud of gloom.

These  kitchen conversations are frequent as she visits her mother each Saturday. The kids running rampant in the basement and stealing crisps from the bar within the private hotel. They help themselves to tiny bottles of ginger ale and bitter lemon  while mother and daughter chatter on about the week that was.

"What Mammy?  What'?"  Her mother was not  one for serious conversation. In her youth she'd been a party girl, a 'flapper', a good  time girl. A hopeless wife, a wayward mother. She'd  maintained her irresponsible ways well into her sixties. This Gin queen and packet-a-day smoker, more child than parent. More bar wench than grandparent. But this was different. Her countenance changed and brow furled, tears began to well behind ornate Dior glasses as she forms the words unspoken for over 30 years.

"You had a brother." The sentence uncharacteristically short.  The ensuing silence punctuated after what seems an eternity by her surprised daughter. "What?" She utters almost inaudibly and in disbelief. Being an only child of a socialite was lonely and the thought of a sibling exciting, disappointing, incredulous. Ivy continues, for that was her name, Nana to us, Mammy to Pam but Ivy to the shallow group of friends she had accumulated, the ones who came and went but never kept in touch.

"I had another baby after you were born." Her daughter now agape in disbelief, this secret held for 30 years and never told has her catching her breath, " . . but he died.", Ivy continues, "It was long ago and before they could stop it."  Glycerine tears slide silently from normally stoic eyes now forced downwards and gazing on vein-protruding hands as she laments with gentleness the loss she'd held inside. Hands that pulled beer for well-oiled punters, hands that cleared the till at 3am, hands that prepared meals, stroked on make-up too thick for a woman of her age. Hands that once cradled a son, now long gone. "What?" The gentle inquisitiveness in her daughter's voice rising to urgency. "I had a baby after you. He was born yellow," her mother continues, "We just thought it was jaundice but he died two months later. There was a wake in Auntie Doris' parlour. You were only three, do you remember?" She feels the phantom push in the small of her back and is transposed to the time of patent shoes and solitary imaginings while women wept in the parlour. All she'd been told was that it was a 'grown up thing' and not to worry, to 'go and play' and hadn't thought of it since preferring to dance with fairies and eat strawberries straight from the plant.

Those were the days when being ARH- was fatal to a second born. The first born child was safe. Successive children died with the toxic melding of mother's and foetal blood. Long before the advent of RHI Immunoglobulin. This Pamela knew, a nurse, a mother RH negative herself, she'd had the shot and produced four children, healthy, happy, loved. The pang of heartbreak barely visible, it made her catch her breath. As Ivy left the stain of tannin in her cup and swallowed the bitterness of her own memory, Pam also remembered.

At once it flooded back like the first time she'd grazed a knee or winded herself falling from a swing. The tears, the parlour, the grief, the reluctance to go and play, the white lies that were never explained. The pinches on the cheek, the sobbing women and dour men. Nothing more was said, the pain shared with a glance, a look, a daughter's open palm on a crying mother's face. Yes, she remembered . . the baby in the box.

Created for 10th Daughter of Memory - White Lies Belie a Darker Truth

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kraken

It's claustrophobic. No, too big a word for what it feels like. Oppressive? Clammy? He can't think of an appropriate synonym but the spray of fire retardant sprinklers is dousing waterproof walls and he's knee-deep in the fridgid water.  "Where's Ally?" His first concern is for her. She was flung into the wall of the craft as it hit . . what hit? He doesn't know but it struck with force. The bridge has gone dark, down, and the interior is illuminated in red as they are immersed in a deep sea concussion, blacked out. For how long? They can't be sure. Everything's dead, except 'it' and they're sinking fast.

There was nothing routine about the trip. He'd wondered what their expedition was when entrepreneur Enda Morgan had asked him to share breakfast in Sydney's Double Bay.  "Cartwright, you won't be able to resist this," as the obnoxiously gratuitous Enda outlined his plan. "We're gonna be the first to bring one back alive. The Japs have filmed them. The Aussies have found them washed up on the beach but we're gonna be the ones to lob one into an Aquarium." Curious about which Aquarium could house such an aquatic fiend, Cartwright sat outside the small Sydney cafe, his protagonist enthusiastically describing the search and capture. "Georgia Aquarium has funded the expedition. You're one of the world's foremost deep sea explorers. You're the man for the job. We have the equipment, state of the art - all you need - everything."  Enda's florid sexagenarian complexion becoming more so with the excitement of the prospect.  "Get your team together, find it and bring it back. I'll make it well worth your while"

The sub, a MIR  copy, Neptune, was a submersible designed to dive to a maximum depth of 6,000 metres. This particular copy only one of the manned submersibles in the world that can dive beyond 3,000 metres.  Although thanks to corporate funding this one sustains a six man crew.  Dragged out into the depths by the Antarctic ice breaker, Southerly Buster, they're ready to drop. Their support vehicle, Poseidan by their side.

They were following and monitoring Sperm Wales in the Southern Ocean and the seas were rough. Even the most hardened and seaworthy of men, Cartwright, had spewed over the side until there was nothing left to hurl other than sea water and bile.   The sub had been prepared as a large whale breached and blew despite the horrendous conditions and they'd taken the plunge,

Now they're down, helpless in the cloying airless cabin and it's lying there, barely alive but contained in a tank. Huge thing but the first one they're to bring to the surface. If they ever see the surface. "Where's Ally!" he shrieks as the groans of compatriots announce their rousing after the almighty collision. "Comms up Vic?" a groggy Victor Stallard brings himself to his feet and brushes down his overalls, "No . . nothing . . gimme a minute to recal and I'll try to contact the surface." They're deeper than they've been before, deeper than the sub's been before. They knew its capability would be tested at this depth but the freefall into the abyss has taken them beyond what's supposed to be humanly possible. "No air peeps, need to keep still, conserve energy and try to get the systems up again." The obviousness of Cartwright's words is taken with wry sarcasm by the five crewmen but their female cohort is nowhere to be seen.

Bennett is first to check on their specimen. There was a time when he'd be repulsed at the idea of harvesting one and surrendering its magnificence to a zoo but he's come across hard times. The bitch he married, took his car,  his money, his house and left him penniless. His bitterness towards her holds no bounds and his desire to get back on his feet has compromised his once biologically conservative scruples. He looks at the monster and perceives dollars, millions potentially, and kudos, recognition, fame. He's already posing in front of the cameras and taking the credit even though he'd done little than ensure the chemical viability of the water housing the leviathan.

It writhes and makes him jump back. The thing curls and it's large, humanoid eye stares into his soul giving him momentary shudders until it relaxes, faces the other end of the tank once again. Caught, submissive, trapped.

"Cartwright!" Elias Maroon, yells from the forward bridge, the console is coming to life under emergency power.  The two men engage in a serious conference, whispering, lulled voices attract the attention of the other three even though words spoken cannot be heard, "We don't have enough power to surface with all the weight. That thing has to be released or we'll die down here." Cartwright is in two minds. He's been in tight spots before and knows that the surface vessel will also be working on their retrieval but air is short, the temperature is dropping and a decision has to be made. "Yeh, but we'll have to be quick, the water's rising and it's getting cold."There's an desperation in Maroon's voice that isn't wasted on Neptune's crew.

The remaining three begin to push the huge perspex tank with it's mega-cargo towards the airlock door, "Wait!" Bennett, dazed by the thump he's sustained but lucid enough to see his future being expelled, begins to talk them round. "Listen, this is it. This is why we're here. This is what we came for. The whole thing's lost, forgotten, fucked up without it. Is that what you want? To go back empty handed? Jesus! Ally's missing, find her. She's probably dead. That's some weight we can eject  . .  right? And there's the zodiac, our bags, loads of shit in here that we can trade for this thing?"

Cartwright is in need of a drink. The timing's lousy but he takes a huge swig of the celebratory whiskey now leaching onto the table top. He wipes his mouth with the finesse of a gunslinger about to engage in a shoot-out and shouts, "Stop!" Those wheeling the tank desist and pay attention. "We've got half an hour of air for the six of us." Bennett can't help interjecting, "Five . . five . . Ally's missing, probably dead."  Cartwright, despite the pangs in his chest continues with faux professionalism. "We have enough air for the six of us. So we need to make a decision. Either we release that thing and surface, or we take a chance, grab everything we don't need, jettison and then see if we can make it."

Despite the rushing of water and the creaking of the sub's shell, there's silence. Just the gentle lapping of rising water and the heavy breathing of five men. All have a story, all have a need, all are there for reasons other than discovery. All want this mission to be successful because it will give them everything, money, recognition, kudos, academic accolade and self-satisfaction. A quiet nod from the four wheeling the tank indicates that they're willing to take the chance.

As they clamour for anything loose and unnecessary for the ascent, Cartwright begins the search for Ally. The sub's small, apart from a separate galley and sleeping quarters for three at a time. There's the tank bay, two airlock doors and the platform housing the zodiac. At this point, he's distracted by the thought, "Why do we need a zodiac at 6,000 metres?" Until it clicks that it's a survival craft in the event they are separated from the mother ship - on the surface - it's useless weight down here.

Maroon yells, "Cartwright, I have radio contact but it's not the Buster" The whalesong is clear, Sperm Whales. A symphonic echo  reverberates around the drowning pod, they listen. "What are they doing?" Maroon, amplifies the sound. "I dunno, I've never heard so many at once but sounds like they're calling, hunting perhaps?" The mournful tunes combine with the creaking hull as a fissure bursts and sea water, cold as a witch's tits spews into the tank bay. "Jesus!" One begins to cry, the others panic and attempt to fill the void with flotsam. "Get it out of here!" yells Cartwright. The Kraken stirs as if begging to be released, One huge eye looking at all four men, and Bennett. As the fissure expands, Maroon prepares the airlock and four men push the tank through the first door. The monster raises a suckered tentacle and grabs Bennett around the waist.  "Cartwright! Maroon! . . For fuck's sake help me!" his screams almost drowned by the amplified whale song serenading his demise and the gush from the expanding fissure in the sub's skeleton drowning his pleas, as blood oozes from his mouth and nose. The tentacle does not let go.

From behind the thing, submerged within the tank, a woman feebly swims into view.  She's grey, pale but alive "Ally!" Cartwright rushes forward hoping the thing is distracted enough with Bennett to be able to retrieve her exhausted body. She swims to the surface but doesn't look at him. Instead, she looks at 'it'. That eye, that human, huge, pleading eye and drops once more below the water line. Treading water and staring, the two beings connect and Bennett, bruised but alive is dropped into the rising seawater on the subs floor. The thing grabs her, gently, even the word 'fondly' strikes the onlookers. It wends it's slippery arm around her waist and elevates her above the waterline as she takes a gasp of air. She looks to Cartwright and signals toward the airlock. He's reluctant. No stubborn, he's not going to see her die in the arms of a cephalopod. She smiles at him, a half dead smile, a half alive smile, a 'let me go' smile and he waves to Maroon. The door is opened, the inner door shut behind them and squid and whale are reunited along with Ally in her asphyxiating embrace.

Cartwright is on deck, an insulation blanket across his shoulders. A glass of Glenfidich in his hand. Bennett is in the infirmary, mindless and mumbling gibberish. The others, exhausted, are downing black coffee as if it's their last. The submersible made it to the surface, locked in a salty kiss against Poseidon's hull before the air gave out and Southerly Buster hauled their sorry hypothermic asses from the swollen waves.

His eyes are bloodshot from the whiskey and his stomach's churning. She's gone. She wanted to go and he's gutted that she did. He looks at the photo in his wallet. A photo from happier times, before the divorce, before the bitterness. They'd remained friends despite the emotional discomfort and she was the best marine biologist he'd known. The old cliche "She died doing what she loved" came to mind. But with the next burning sip, he knew better, he knew why she really surrendered to the sea.

 Posted for Tenth Daughter of Memory "Neptune's Payback"

Posted for the Tenth Daughter of Memory "Neptune's Payback"