I can only recount this tale under the effects of the neon green cocktail of various drugs, the grasping terror of it having destroyed my very soul, and indeed will come to claim my life very soon.
I was a seaman some ten years ago, working aboard the container ship The Proteus. It is on this ship that my life truly ended. The people who found me later said that I was a wreck, frozen in shock and locked inside a store cupboard, my face ghost white and holding the head of my Captain.
I’m not even sure on this stronger dosage I will finish my tale, just going to that night briefly tightens my chest like a noose around a neck, but I will do my best. It was October 3rd, 2004 and The Proteus was half a day into our journey from our British port to a Malaysian destination. The night was cold. The wind whipped the rain into us ferociously and blackened waves tipped with white battered the ship’s hull. We were a superstitious lot, and hadn’t wanted to sail under a half moon but Captain Reynolds was persuaded into our voyage.
We had no trouble until the deep night fell, when two of the deckhands vanished from their inspection rounds of the containers. A small party of us, five I think, went out to find them between the containers. Me, the First Mate Mills, Williams, our engineer, and two deckhands, Kent and Vega. Our powerful torches barely let us see five feet ahead of us, so we linked hand to hood and pressed on slowly into the mass of a thousand containers.
We weaved down the narrow passages, peering between the containers expecting to catch a glimpse of two sickened and lost sailors, or less surprising to find them in each others arms. Ten minutes into our search and we found nothing. Mills radioed the Captain on his handheld and pointed us on without him. The four of us carried on down the passage, Mills disappearing into blackness.
I never saw him alive again. A ragged, depraved scream echoed between off the metal around us from behind us. We raced back to Mills’ position as quick as we could in the darkness. Williams wretched straight away and collapsed between two containers lit by Mills’ torch. Where Mills had stood there was now only his torch, cracked and blood spattered. The stench was horrific, I can still taste it all these years later. It was a rotten, oozing, wet smell, and it encircled us all. These containers, there metal walls felt like our prison.
We screamed out his name, frantically waving our torches all around us, desperate for a glance of the man. The whole ship would have been alive to our wailing if not for the storm that pursued us. With no luck, I grabbed Williams and yanked him up, forcing him, Kent and Vega ahead of me, racing back to the bridge. My mind was alive with all thoughts. Of the monsters of legend, of the criminals we had found stowed on our ships previously, and of how quickly Mills vanished. He wasn’t anywhere. His torch left. The blood. The spatter. The stench. God, what was that awful stench.
We were almost out of the maze that terrified us now, when the containers above us rattled and the whole ship swayed. Behind us, metal was being torn apart from the inside. It groaned, creaked and almost squealed. An almighty bang thundered in the black, and something sailed over our heads, smashing terribly off the containers in front of us and dropped into the sea.
What went through my friends minds I don’t know, but mine was blank, frozen with terror and confusion. No man could do something like that. A piercing squawk ripped through the night. We dropped to our knees in agony, gripping our ears in the hope of sweet relief. It was an unnatural sound, a high pitched tone vibrating with white noise. I wish to never hear it again, and I would not wish it upon my most hated enemies.
We ran straight ahead without a single glance back or even knowing where we were headed. Our legs were just carrying us. My heart pounded heavily, adrenaline flooded my veins and surviving was all I thought about. Reaching the edge of the graveyard of containers I felt some relief, but then something black and slimy dropped ahead of us, only briefly, and gutted Vega before vanishing. He stopped dead in his tracks, gurgling and fumbling with his torso. He stumbled around slowly, his eyes painted with horror and bleak awareness. I couldn’t stop myself from vomiting. Vega was ripped apart from his neck down to his groin, blood and guts spilling into his hands. He looked at me, for a second, and then another piercing sound crippled me and I dropped once again. My torch light flickered and died. I heard Williams scream from his core, my eyes betrayed me and glanced up. Vega was being devoured in front of me, and a second creature carried Williams into the air and away. Even in the darkness and the storm, his scream rang out.
I fumbled for my own handheld, tried to raise an alarm. I was shivering to my bones, I couldn’t even see the outline of the radio. I just dropped it and ran, I couldn’t do anything, it was the only choice I had. I fumbled in the darkness, scurrying like a rat between the containers. As the storm died down in the hours that followed, I could hear the agonising deaths of my colleagues. I’m ashamed to admit that I did nothing. I hid where I hadn’t been found and hoped to God that those slimy, black, hellish creatures of flight didn’t find me. All I thought of was their shape, so unnatural, like nothing of the natural world.
There bodies were angular and jagged, made of a scaly carapace covered in a slime. They were thin and sinewy. Two sets of arms protruded from each side of them, and spindly, jagged talons at the end of them which flexed disgustingly, almost with a life of their own. What I can only suggests as their legs were spider-like, sharp and pointed, with a shorted bend at the bottom serving as a foot, and pointed like a blade. On their back were wings like that of a fly, with hind wings and forewings. They were massive, leathery looking things, bigger than the monstrosities bodies. What burned in my mind the most was their heads. Four eyes pressed into a scaly skull, and mandibles over a stretched, almost split looking hole serving as a mouth, the mouth which devoured Vega’s head. The eyes, serpentine and sanguine, tore into my soul and destroyed it. And they were as black as the night. Only the moon’s pale light glinted off their slime. No longer was I in God’s realm.
Only when dawn broke hours later, and light peered into my hiding spot did I dare move. I moved as carefully as possible, slow and terrified and slipped among the ship to the bridge. I heard and saw nothing of the creatures, they had only left the dismembered and utterly broken bodies of my friends, strewn everywhere. I slipped going up the staircase to the bridge, my hands landing in a thickened pool of blood and flesh. I scrambled quickly up the stairs, afraid to admit to myself what I was covered in and tripped despairingly. My Captain’s body lay across the doorway, the reason for my tripped. His limbs lay limp and lifeless, pale as if the blood had been sucked out of him. And headless. The skin around the remains of his neck was stretched and hanging. I bit down on my lip so as to not scream, something had pulled his head off. I shook to my core, disturbed and desperate not to think anymore of being alive and feeling your neck stretch…
A noise shook me to the world, but in my terror I only flailed for a hiding spot. The cupboard where they found me clutching Captain Reynolds head.
I make this audio recording as a warning to the people I love. I hope I make it to the post box, and these creatures do not find me before I get there, or ever again, but I do not hold out hope. For as I finish this now, I can feel a chill wind rising and see a storm creeping toward my flat. I think the stench has returned.