He’d relaxed when he felt the hands on him; he’d thought he was rescued…until they pulled him under.
At first he wasn’t sure if it was their strength or his own exhaustion that made his resistance so useless. An icy snake thicker than a topmast wrapped about his chest, at once both squishy and solid as cold iron, and then there was the sensation of falling through water. A rational part of his panicking mind observed that he should be drowning by now: he had, after all, exhaled his last dry breath. He couldn’t think for all the pain.
Clicks and whines echoed all around him as he was dragged downward, and an ominous intermittent rumble that was nearly felt more than heard. Then he detected a gentle greenish glow about him that almost wasn’t there: if he stared at one spot it seemed dark, but if his eyes relaxed he could make out shadows and forms in the gloom. None of them were human.
Without sun, time had no meaning in these murky depths; he had no way to know how long he traveled. The glow strengthened, punctuated by sharp random flashes as if he was surrounded by stars. He was glowing now, too, as tiny luminous creatures collected on him. Fantastical features of ridges, pillars, arches became dimly visible in the distance: a landscape at the bottom of the sea.
Seeing close about him was easier now but his other senses were heightened also. He sensed the others near him without seeing them. Three swam above him, several more below. With effort he craned his neck to see past the appendage gripping him and got his first look at one’s face. He screamed for all he was worth at the sight of it, but no bubbles emerged from his mouth. The rational part of his mind tried to decide if that frightened him even more.
The creature following him seemed small compared to the rest, perhaps only a little larger than him. Its gleaming face was a grotesque nightmare of fist-sized jet-black eyes, needle-teeth and thin finger-like tentacles. At his reaction, its toothy expression changed to something resembling a grin. It touched his leg and he realized that the “hands” he’d felt were these creatures’ flexible bony fins. A shudder of revulsion rippled through him and he kicked but could not break its grip. Then he heard it speak.
You are one of us now, airbreather.
The sound was not a sound but somehow it echoed through his head, more real than his own thoughts. It seemed childlike and diabolically gleeful. He tried to pray but feared he was too far from Creation now for his God to hear him, let alone save him.
The storm brought you to us as a gift, and now you will live with us and be one of us, it said. Semi-transparent membranes clicked quickly across its eyes.
“I’m not one of you! Let me go!!” His words were muddled by the water such that he barely heard them himself.
No one will hear you like that, silly human, it laughed. You must talk like me. Focus.
Pain, terror, desperation: he channeled that and shot it like a cannon at this grinning abomination. The beast reeled back, pausing as he was carried away from it. Then it darted forward again and grabbed both his legs, showing rows of teeth as it was towed along with him. He saw that a row of spines traveled all the way from the crest atop its head to the base of a wide silver tail, flat like a whale’s but jaggedly striped.
You are so strong! Oh, they will like you!
He focused another burst of emotion, only this time adding thoughts: You must let me go; I’m not one of you! Please, I beg you! I don’t belong here!
But you DO belong here! You are the only one the storm has brought us for many lifetimes. You will bring us much enjoyment.
His eyes closed as his mind whirled in utter denial. He’d been on that island so long he must be delusional. He’d drunk seawater or gone into a starvation-induced, deranged fugue. This wasn’t real, it couldn’t be: his mind must have cracked. Heavenly Father, hear the cry of thy humble servant in his time of need….
The steady downward drag became rough and erratic, then abruptly stopped. The appendage loosened and released him: dozens of toothed discs ripped free from his flesh. While gasping in pain he finally saw his captor for what it was: a mighty beast at least as long as the galleon which had marooned him, with a wide finned body and a dozen massive tentacles—some of which ended in great fan-like paddles. Its skin shifted unnaturally, changing in both texture and color. It flicked him away as though his presence offended it, and promptly vanished into the murk.
Shock took him then and he drifted to the silty seabed's embrace, aware that the Others were waiting over him even as he felt his sanity beginning to slip away. The little one came down, floating just above him so he could see nothing else. It stared through him. If he lived, the stare of those horrible black eyes would surely drive him mad, so his only wish now was to die. He was a child of God, and his Eternally Loving God was merciful. He prayed feverishly to his Merciful Father that he might be saved from this unholy fate, but felt his prayers went unheeded.
Hovering over his face, the creature stared into his soul. The Elders want to know if you can learn to Speak to the depths like we can. I hope you can, airbreather. If you can’t, the Elders won’t eat you…but you might wish they had.
He prayed, and perhaps his God was merciful after all. Even the worst torture imaginable can be surmounted if one isn’t present to remember it.