Helm of the Kraken | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 16, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 16, 2018

Helm of the Kraken

Mokbul always prided himself to be a level headed person, a little more intelligent than the rest of his fellow fishermen, especially those of his own crew. When the drought had cursed the river, he was the one to suggest taking up alternative ventures, like construction work for the land owners or the share business. When the plague had hit the poor families of his community, it was he who brought the city doctor to treat the sick. And when the bad year had come, when the river dried up of fish, it was Mokbul and nobody else who informed everyone and their kids about the pointlessness of the universe to ease their starvation.

So now, when all the fishermen in the river battled to stay alive against the Kraken without coming to him for advice, Mokbul couldn't but feel the slightest bit humiliated.

For a short while he thought his hiding spot inside one of the fish baskets in the lower storey of the boat was making him inaccessible to his crew members who were busy fighting on the upper deck. Mokbul's frustration worsened as a projectile crashed onto the basket, spilling out all its occupants that mostly comprised of Mokbul and a few fishes.

The projectile was a crewmember, Selim. Almost half his body was caved in, a few limbs missing. He stared at Mokbul, with all the disdain a mutilated human can muster.

“So what brings you down here?” Mokbul asked, lying sideways among the fishes.

“It's probably the most feared creature of the water that's attacking the general vicinity right now,” replied Selim. “It could also be the weather.”

“It did seem windier today.”

Selim rolled his eyes, one of them fell off. “And you?” he asked. “The fish well taken care of?”

“Well, someone needs to watch over the only resources that can save the injured after this is all over. It sure won't be the indomitable spirit of the mutilated, now will it, you sassy ungrateful boy?” Mokbul said, throwing a fish at Selim. It flopped on his face, removing the other eye.

Through the wide opening above, Mokbul could see giant tentacles swinging with brute force followed by fishermen flying and screaming. Orders were being yelled, curses howled. More tentacles swung past, hitting the boat. Mokbul watched eyeballs collide as the boat rocked. “How are they fighting?” he asked.

“Mostly with the smallest bit of courage,” Selim replied, glaring at Mokbul with empty sockets. “Other than that, wooden planks, fishing rods and knives.”

“Very inefficient.”

“We work with what we got. We were lucky to even have that many tools lying about. We aren't meant to fight monsters. Most of the neighbouring crews have already fallen.”

“We're not doomed, right?”

“The knives seemed to be working. The tentacles aren't strong and thick enough. It's probably a rather young Kraken, in its 40s or 50s. Still hasn't completely worked out how to handle humans.”

“Relatable.”

“And I believe the Aechton will come and rescue us.”

“What? You really believe in it? You're expecting the rivers to suddenly erupt with the red glow of the famed sea deity, the eternal embers of the deepness, the glorious flames of the lochs? You think a formless myth will burn down the Kraken and its endless arms of cruel destruction? You think stories will save us from this monster?”

“Yes I do. And the Aechton is not a legend. It's true. My gramps was there, during the last sighting.”

“So was mine. They saw it, felt it, or so they say. Old folks tell many tales to glorify their otherwise pathetic lives”

“You're too entrapped in your pessimism and lack of empathy to trust anymore.”

“And you're too deformed to talk so sensibly.” Mokbul threw another fish to silence him. Immediately, he noticed the absence of noise from above. He looked up to find no swinging tentacles or flinging corpses. He decided it was as good a time as any to see what's happening with his own eyes. He is, if nothing else, a curious seeker of knowledge.

He jumped up on the upper deck to find his remaining crewmembers, five of them, huddled together and standing on the edge. “The fishes are safe!” Mokbul announced, raising his arms. “But what about us?”

Nobody answered. They were too busy looking in the distance. Mokbul peered to find a lone boat being capsized by a dozen tentacles.

“It has learned,” the crew leader said, softly. “It's taking us on one at a time.”

“Then why aren't we fleeing in the meantime?” Mokbul wanted to ask, before the absent engine answered him. He looked around to find all the other boats unoccupied, some corpses swaying in the waves, others hanging from masts and railings, all defeated.

In no time the attacked boat was consumed. The tentacles disappeared underneath. The waves steadied. Dusk was upon them. The sun's red aura sparkled with the tides, little embers in the water. The silence crept up in their skins.

The tentacles burst upwards in one great leap, a dozen of them. No, more. Some broke through the boat with tremendous thuds and cracks, others attacked its last defenders. The fishermen bellowed their battle cry, swinging at the approaching limbs with whatever weapon they could gather. Screams of agony quickly followed.

Mokbul scampered to the nearest shelter. “There's too many,” he shouted. “No use cutting them. They'll come one after the other, ceaseless and without tire. Our only hope is to strike at the source” – he got up, hands on the railing, looking down at the shining river – “the head.”

Nobody listened. There were only two left. Mokbul spotted a knife. His limbs moved before his thoughts. “We” – a tentacle flew overhead, the air vibrating around him – “need to” –it hit the leader, another impaling him, pulling him down in the waves, muffling his shrieks – “attack” – Mokbul slipped, evading another tentacle, which went on to slam the last man, flinging him to the river's wrath – “the core.” He reached the knife, held it up and looked on to find the long arms waiting for him in ceremony. He tightened his grip, closed his eyes, cursed his life decisions and embraced the onslaught.

Moments later he found himself underwater, drowning, amidst corpses and broken wood. He tried not to feel his shattered bones and loose limbs. Knife still clutched tight, he traced the tentacles, to its source. A light reflected on them, on everything, growing brighter. It came from behind, as did the tentacles. Mokbul turned, slowly, against the water and the pain.

Behind him waited the sickening sight of the Kraken's colossal face, distorted and menacing. Its skull was cracked, flames burning through them, embers on bones and flesh. The immense heat was radiating with the light, through the tentacles, twisting around Mokbul. “No, it can't be,” Mokbul tried to speak, shaking his head in disbelief. Around him, horror's grip strengthened. So did his. The monster, the deity, slowly pulled in its last victim, for a feast, for death.

 

Fatiul Huq Sujoy is a tired soul (mostly because of his frail body) who's patiently waiting for Hagrid to appear and tell him, “Ye're a saiyan, lord commander.” Suggest him places to travel and food-ventures to take at fb.com/SyedSujoy

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