Content warnings: Death, gore, some very weird imagery, near-drowning, discussion of slavery

The Speaker sat on the sofa across from Monica and Leonard. They were a short, stout figure that looked an awful lot like jellified Bird’s Custard in a suit, thanks to the fact that they were only an imitation of human form. Their skin was sallow and stretched too tight, their eyes were like glass marbles that had been dropped into pits slightly too big, and their shoulder-length hair was the dull color of the dead leaves that skirted across the paving stones in fall. All over, they looked like the imitation of a person, like a human created from scratch from someone who had only ever had humans described to them by unobservant people who were bad at describing things.

“Good morning,” the Speaker said. “Duke Mephistopheles. Senator Monica.”

“Good morning,” said Monica. She shook the Speaker’s hand. “What should we call you?”

“Speaker Delta, thank you.”

“Are you… male or female right now?”

“Neither, thank you.”

“Good morning, Speaker Delta,” Leonard said.

Speaker Delta shook his hand, then sat back against the cushions of the sofa. “I understand that Senator Monica has invited me here today to speak with you on the aims of the Shaw-Captains during wartime in America.”

“Do we have confirmation for this war yet?” Leonard asked.

“Yes,” said Monica. God Himself had told her. 

“Alright, then.”

Speaker Delta pulled a folio out of their jacket and took out some papers. “Here I have the general logistics of the proposed strategy among the Shaw-Captains in the event of a civil war in America. We mostly rely on southern plantations for the production of cotton and tobacco, both in very high demand in Faerie, and on the North for the manufactured goods of textiles, leather goods, and firearms. Slave labor also drives most of the South’s economy – they have a deep economic investment in this war. The North does too, of course, because their merchants’ exports to Europe account for so much of the national income from exports. Who was it that said a few years ago, ‘cotton is king?’ He wasn’t wrong there.”

“It was James Hammond, a Southern senator,” Monica said. “What he really said was ‘What would happen if no cotton was furnished for three years? I will not stop to depict what everyone can imagine, but this is certain: England would topple headlong and carry the whole civilized world with her, save the South. No, you dare not make war on cotton. No power on earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is king.’” Monica prided herself on having an almost picture-perfect memory. She could memorize whole speeches having read them only once or twice.

Speaker Delta looked impressed with her. “Well, I see that you keep up to date on politics, then, Senator Monica.”

“Yes, I do.”

“That’s very good. Continuing with what I was saying, there have been several proposed solutions to the issue of slavery, such as the federal government buying out all slaves – which would take an incociveable amount of money, by the way – complete emancipation, sharecropping, et cetera, but I don’t see any of them as feasible, and looks America agrees with me, because war is presumably the direction America is going in.

“So, what does this mean for our trade? Well, we expect the borders of the South to be tight in particular, because we expect that if and when war happens, it will be fought on Southern soil. The North will probably be consumed with manufacturing goods for the war, which means we won’t be able to purchase many things for our own trade. The Shaw-Captains intend to stay out of this mortal war, as they always have, and are at the moment considering buying from sources other than America for the goods America would normally provide. We expect trade to be slower for a while, though I can’t even dream of a day where trade among the Shaw-Captains halts entirely. In fact-”

Caro threw open the door to the parlor. “Mama, a murder, a murder!”

Monica and Leonard both stood up at the same time and spoke simultaneously. “A murder?”

“Yes, yes, Mrs Phebe Fuller, the ole’ widow who lives on Silver Street, she’s been attacked, maybe killed! You know Ca’pin Fitzgerald? The old man?”

“Yes,” Monica said. She was deeply confused by the entire turn of events – especially the part where it was Caro who somehow knew what was going on.

“Well, see, one of Mrs Fuller’s friends came in to see how she was, since it’s Thanksgiving, you know, and well, she found her knocked out with an old whalebone fid. She got Ca’pin Fitzgerald, and the doctor, Dr Sherman, and this other guy, Mr Macy, and I followed them, and because I’m very small I got to see what was what, and, oh, Mama! Blood everywhere! I never knew that a human head did such a funny thing when split open!”

Monica practically ran Caro over running for the door. She was out on the street in an instant, shoving past the gathering crowd to get to the front, where Mrs Fuller’s front door was thrown open. 

“Doctor,” Monica said, seeing Dr Sherman coming out of the house. “What happened?”

“I told you-”  Caro began to say.

“Hush, Caro. Doctor, what happened?”

“Mrs Fuller has been attacked.” Dr Sherman wiped off his bloody hands with a rag. “She’s still alive in there, though. Barely.”

Doctor Johann Faust, one of only two of the people in the crash who had been able to move out of Monica’s house for the time being, shoved past her to speak with Dr Sherman. “Sir, I have medical training. I attended several prestigious schools in Europe and I know- well, let’s just say I know a trade secret that you don’t, shall we?”

“I have this under control,” said Dr Sherman.

“I think you should let me help you,” Faust said.

“No,” said Dr Sherman.

“Please, Dr Sherman, let me give you a second opinion on-”

“No, and if you don’t stop asking, then I’m afraid I’ll have to remove you.”

“No police force on Nantucket,” Faust said.

“No, there isn’t, but don’t think I won’t beat the living daylights out of you if I have to.”

Monica should have stopped this conflict. She wasn’t supposed to let the humans fight each other. But, she did sort of want to see Faust get punched in his smug, atheistic face, and she also had Caro with her, and she should get Caro home and away from the scene of the muder. Caro… where was Caro?

“Caro?” Monica asked. She’d slipped out of her grip, and Monica didn’t see her anywhere in the crowd or along the street. “Caro?”

Down the street, at the edge of the dock, she saw a flash of golden hair. Caro and another boy were pushing each other back and forth at the edge of the water. Cathy the doll was abandoned on the ground. Monica’s heart just about stopped. 

“Caro!” She shouted. The boy she was fighting with looked like he was Maxwell, the blacksmith’s son. They were good friends, weren’t they? Why were they fighting?

Monica made her way as quickly as she could through the crowd to the side of the dock. Caro had the boy’s wrists in her grip, and she was slowly shoving him off the side of the dock.

“Caro!” Monica shouted. She grabbed her shoulder and pulled her back, trying to get both her and Maxwell away from the water. Instead, she made Caro overbalance, and Maxwell flew backwards into the harbor.

Monica shoved Caro backwards and jumped off into the water without a second thought. She cut through the water easily, swimming down, down, down, much deeper than she should have been able to under the dock. The bottom, where the boy lay prone, was eternally right in front of her, just outside her grasp. Too late, she realized that she wasn’t going after a human boy. 

Monica tried to swim for the surface. She wasn’t sure exactly what had taken up residence under this dock, but she knew it was hungry for anything it could get its teeth into, up to and including one of God’s own angels.

Walls of darkness closed in. Monica’s lungs were about to burst. Why weren’t angels able to breathe in these human vessels? She cursed this fallen world and tried to keep swimming, but found that her limbs were sluggish, and she couldn’t think straight.

The surface was right next to her. The surface was there with its green – no, blue, remember your numbers – sky. Monica should flap her arms up because that would propel her to the sky. Or, she could stay here and let the blue blackness of the ocean swaddle her forever. 

There was a long pole above her. Monica grabbed it inquisitively, and found herself being ripped out of the ocean and thrown onto the dock, where she promptly lost consciousness for a few seconds.

When she awoke, it was because Leonard was pumping her chest up and down to get the water out. Monica vomited up more seawater than she would have thought her lungs could hold and sat up.

“Th- tank you, Duke Mephisto,” Monica said.

“Actually, you have Miss Sylvia to thank for your life,” said Leonard.

Sylvia Sapping waved from behind him. She was on crutches, because it was her leg that Monica had taken a broken piece of wood out of, and her chest was bound up from her broken ribs. She must have stuck one of her crutches in the water to pull Monica up.

“Thank you, Sylvia.”

Sylvia shrugged. “I only put my crutch in the water.”

“We have to kill whatever that was in the water,” Monty said. “I’ll sail out on the the water to find and kill it. Who will-”

“It’s off the dock, idiot,” said Sylvia. “We can kill it right from here.”

“What is it?” Deirdre asked.

“Bad,” said Monica. “Leonard, would you take Caro home?”

“I had Johann take her so that he wouldn’t fight with Dr Sherman.”

“Thank you.” Monica groaned and vomited up more seawater. “Ugh. I hate this.”

“Don’t worry,” Deirdre said. “We’ll kick that thing’s arse for you.”

Sylvia gave her a shocked look. “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard you swear!”

Deirdre shrugged. “I thought the situation deserved it.”

“Clear the area,” said Leonard. “Anyone without combat abilities needs to leave. Someone get the civilians out of the way so that we can deal with whatever the hell this thing under the deck is.”

Monica stood up, shaky at first, but getting stronger. She wasn’t supposed to harm anything in God’s creation, but something told her that this thing was outside of the Lord’s jurisdiction. She walked home, only to get her flaming sword out of the attic and strap it to her waist. 

“What’s going on?” Clarissa Janson asked.

“We’re going to fight a nightmare beast,” said Monica.

Clara’s eyes gleamed. “Let me get my shoes.”

The two of the walked back down to the dock, where Monty, Sylvia, and a huge man with auburn hair were standing around sharpening their weapons. Monty had a whaler’s harpoon, Sylvia a small knife, and the other man… nothing, apparently. He must have been very confident in his hand-to-hand combat abilities. 

Leonard came loping down the street a few minutes later. He had a massive medieval greatsword, the kind typical of demons, who were seemingly stuck in the middle ages. He also had a crossbow slung over his back, and a row of bolts across his chest. 

“Is this all?” Monica asked.

“There’s no police force,” said Leonard. 

“Is anyone else coming?”

“Yeah, one more person.”

“Who?”

Leonard shrugged and murmured, “I don’t know when she’ll get here.”

“We should walk along the beach and wade over to under the dock,” Monica said.

“That’s a good idea,” said Leonard. “Do you want to lead?”

“I’ll hang back. Defend the flank.”

“Alright.” Leonard turned back to wave at the others.  “Everyone, we’re going to wade down under the dock.”

He led them down off the dock, down onto the dark sand. Monica’s shoes sank into it and wet her feet a little, since they were so close to the waterline. She hiked up her skirts and followed the small group into the water. When they were all waist-deep and Monica had given up trying not to get her clothes wet, Leonard stopped and whispered back, “We’ve only got a little ways left to go, so listen to what I say when I say it. This might be quite dangerous, so keep close.”

With that, he started moving again. Monty seemed to dawdle for a moment, before Monica nudged him with her elbow and he jumped back into motion.

“Duke Mephisto,” Clara said, moving up to the front. “What exactly is this thing?”

“I don’t know,” said Leonard.

“You don’t know?” Clara asked.

“I think it might be a Thing,” said Leonard.

“What’re Things?” Sylvia asked. 

Monica sighed. Ah, the innocence of humanity and not knowing what a Thing was. 

A pale white tentacle burst out of the water, grew a face, and screamed at them. At least twenty more around them followed suit.

“Well, the Things usually defy definition,” said Leonard, “but I would say that that’s a Thing for sure.”

There was a moment of presumably horrorstruck silence as more and more tentacles burst out of the water, grew faces, and joined the cacophony of otherworldly screams. Monica tried to stay calm, reminding herself that this Thing could not kill her in any way that mattered, and that she had successfully fought and killed Things before. 

However, the humans presumably had not. They stood there facing these horrible monsters, as the moments drew past impossibly slow, probably waiting to be eaten alive. Even Monica herself was feeling the oppressive emptiness of the Things, and beginning to doubt that she really could win against this Thing. She struggled to silence that part of herself, wrestling the Thing’s mental attacks back away from her mind. If only there was some sound to distract her! The screaming had gone disturbingly silent as the tentacles wove back and forth hypnotically. There was no sound but for the quiet lapping of the small waves, and the silence was crushing.

That is, until Monty began to shout.

“Great hammerheads are an ocean fish. They are four feet long from head to tail tip. They live in warm, shallow seas all over the world. Great hammerheads eat stingrays, squid, other sharks, crustaceans and octopus. They surprise stingrays hidden on the seabed by crushing the stingrays onto the seabed with their “hammer”. All hammerheads use their “hammer” to fight and defend but the great hammerhead is the most aggressive (and the biggest). Great Hammerheads have a large number of ampullae of Lorenzini. They also have very small mouths.”

“What in God’s name?” Sylvia asked.

“Do you hear how quiet it is?” Monty asked. “I have to make some noise!”

“That’s a good idea,” Leonard said. “It isn’t attacking us yet because it’s waiting to see if it can possess any of us. Keep up the distraction, Monty.”

“I- uh- Oh! On April 18, B.C. 100 a cheese fight broke out. Many types of cheese were thrown. It wasn’t a very effective war though: most people just ate the cheese that was thrown at them. Some types of algae would agree that “it was a very tasty fight”.  Even though they couldn’t see it, because they were underwater. The fish  agree with the algae. The astoundingly large number of casualties: -1,000. A riot was started to collect more ammunition (cheese) and many shops were raided. The horrible criminal who started it all is Tarf McTam, [23] captured by detective Whodunnit last night. A picture of Tarf Mctam can be seen above.

What in God’s name?” Sylvia asked again.

“He’s just-” Clara began to say, but was cut short by the screams beginning again and reaching a crescendo. The first tentacle to reveal itself threw back the upper section of its head, flipped itself inside out, and revealed that the tentacle was full of teeth.

Leonard drew his longsword. “Kill it!”

Monica threw a splash of water enhanced with angelic strength that way, and knocked the tentacle back. Almost instantly, she threw her left arm wide, and twisted her sword around to bring up a barrier of holy fire to block a toothy tentacle that was reaching for her head. She held her sword in her right hand, holding it up and ready while keeping up the fiery barrier. If Monica held the sword at the right angle, she would be able to keep up the barrier of fire. If not, that side of her would be defenseless.

Monica twisted her wrist, and chopped at the bottom of a tentacle. She leaned the other way and stuck again, lopping the root off. It flew off to the side, and there was another crescendo of pained screams. A toothy tentacle swung down to knock her head off, but she matched it with her sword, and cut it in half with one clean swipe. That got her more screaming.

For a moment it looked like Monica might have been winning, and she allowed herself to feel a bit of elation. This wasn’t so bad! 

Then the bloody stump of a tentacle flew down and slammed her in the side of the face.

Monica saw stars. She was thrown into the water, sword knocked right out of her hand, which made her fire shield gutter out. Monica rubbed the spot where she’d been bruised, watching how the sky spun and how the two bloody tentacles in front of her swapped sides, in and out of focus, mirroring each other. Vaguely she registered Leonard screaming something as he cut a tentacle in half, but then the image of him was blocked by a toothy tentacle slamming into her arm. It was strangely painless, warmth spreading from that point onward to her entire body. 

Monica swore and rolled away. That was poison.

She heard someone yelling something at her, but she ignored them and dove her head under the water to retrieve her sword.

That was when she had what seemed at the time to be a fantastic idea. Some Things had some kind of heart in their material forms, which was a strange weakness in what were otherwise beings of complete strength. If she could find that, Monica could root it out, and dispatch this mortal form.

Monica grabbed her sword and crawled along the bottom, only coming up for air when she was about to pass out. The tentacles didn’t seem to see her crawling under there even when she slid past the tangle of pale flesh into the center of the monster, where there was a pulsating, throbbing hole that she immediately knew she had to climb through.

Crawling through the hole was disgusting, but when she got to the other side, she was in a room made of living flesh. It was only big enough for her to stand and possibly lay down at full length – which she wasn’t going to do – and in the middle sat a sort of pedestal, with an eye sitting on it.

Monica picked the eye up. She cocked her head and smiled at it, watching as the pupil turned to watch her.

She was not supposed to kill anything in God’s creation. Did this eye count? It looked like something the Lord would create, but it felt distinctly like it wasn’t – but it looked like something He might create. She hefted it and tossed it from hand to hand. Had God made it? Had He not?

They should have sent someone with less limitations to destroy this thing. Monica realised that one of her arms was numb. The poison the teeth had given her was taking control. 

She couldn’t destroy the eye if it was something God had made. Monica crawled back out of the hole, pulling it behind her. Why did it seem so much heavier?

The only person she saw was Clara, slashing and cutting at toothy tentacles like a woman possessed. Where were the others?

“Leonard?” Monica croaked. He had been fighting for sure, because there were crossbow bolts sprouting all over the monster’s tentacles. She spotted a form lying in the water, holding something long and skinny. Was that Leonard? Ishmael?

Suddenly, every tentacle turned towards her.

“Destroy the eye, Monica,” Clara said. “Please.

“I- I can’t.”

“Why?”

“Because-”

A tentacle slammed into her stomach and sent her flying. The eye flew out of her grasp, but a harpoon shot out of the water and skewered it mid-air. 

Thank God for Ishmael.

The monster screamed louder than it ever had before. Monica slammed her hands over her ears and shook her head, trying to drown it out. Her head began to pound, until it felt like it was about to explode. She fell to her knees and plunged her head into the water, seeking some release. It did nothing.

Then, as soon as it had begun, the screaming stopped. Monica tentatively lifted her head above the water and saw Clara and Ishmael picking up an unconscious Leonard. 

In front of them was the bloated corpse of a dead whale. Monica and Ishmael locked eyes, and suddenly something clicked. She knew why he hated whales so much. She knew why he had gone whaling.

“We’ll take him home,” Monica said, pointing to Leonard. It was time for her to play the leader. “Get yourselves home, too. Have Faust attend to you.” 

“And you?” Clara asked.

Monica swallowed hard and turned back to the bloated corpse. It was already starting to stink, as if it had been dead for weeks. “I’m going to take care of this dead whale.”

Notes:

Fun fact! The whole thing with Mrs Fuller actually did happen on November 22nd, 1860 (apart from Johann and the Carters, of course). The murderer turned out to be a woman named Patience Cooper, and the case ended up being a big deal because Ms Cooper was African-American, and a judge was called in from mainland Massachusetts to give her a fair trial, which was huge in a time when slavery still existed. Ms Cooper was still imprisoned, because it was really obvious that she’d done it. At this point, however, Mrs Fuller was still alive, and had not woken from her coma to incriminate her attacker yet.

Thanks for reading!

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