By Emma Kierans
Charles was fascinated by sea creatures, extraordinary creatures from the deep. He absorbed himself in strange fables about huge whales, flying fish, and terrifying beasts that lived in the submarine abyss. He studied specimens in his pickling jars for hours, collected from fishermen on the quayside.
He was particularly captivated by stories of giant squid, depicted in drawings of ships being overpowered by huge tentacles.
Charles wanted nothing more than to capture a giant squid for all to see. He was blessed by having a rich Auntie who financed his obsession and chartered a robust sailing ship crewed by notoriously tough crewmen. The captain was weather-beaten and scarred, bearing one eye and one arm. His crew were skilled in hunting and capturing dangerous sea brutes.
They sailed through calm, sun-drenched days and wild, rough storms. At last they reached the habitat of the mysterious giant squid, over a deep sea trench, and dropped anchor. The men were prepared. Throwing the bait overboard, Charles quietly knew that it was really the ship and the men that were the bait. He watched the surface and waited with agonizing anticipation.
Suddenly, one of the crew called out as massive tentacles slithered up the sides of the ship. They curled around the mast; the ship lurched from side to side. Charles made his way to the side of the ship, and there it was: the leviathan. Its massive, scarred body partially emerged from the frothing water as it wrapped its tentacles around the ship.
Showing no fear, the men set to work. They shot a harpoon into its body and stuck spears into the tentacles. While the Captain shouted orders, the men worked skilfully as one to overpower the huge beast. They bound the tentacles with ropes and nets, deftly avoiding the thrashing tentacles that could kill a man with one blow.
In no time, the tentacles were bound and the giant squid was secured to the stern of the ship. The squid thrashed and rocked, but could not escape. Charles and the men hollered with triumph. He marvelled at the creature, its huge bulk and extensive tentacles trailing in the ship’s wake. Unnervingly, its black eye trained on Charles with a penetrating stare, and Charles felt a chill despite the sun beating down on him as they set sail for home.
“Land ahoy!” shouted one of the crew. A cheer echoed around the ship until it was cut short by a cry of alarm. The same crewman observed that the water around the giant squid was suddenly thrashing and foaming, as if they had sailed into a shoal of fish. The others ran to the stern, where they could make out hundreds of small bodies, pink and white, writhing around the squid. Some of the creatures had attached themselves to the ropes that bound the squid, biting and gnawing through the strands.
One by one, the ropes snapped and the nets ripped. The men cried out in surprise, but there was nothing they could do. None of them could swim and they couldn’t reach the ropes. The giant squid was free. Charles watched as it sunk out of view.
Then the mass of squid and octopus turned their attention to the ship. Hundreds of tentacles worked their way into the gaps between the planks, pulling and twisting. Holes were ripped in the hull and the ship began to sink. Chaos reigned as the panicking men fell into the water.
Charles plunged into the sea, grabbed a floating plank, and kicked furiously towards the shore. Pure terror drove him forward without a pause. At last he reached the shore and staggered out of the water. Exhausted, he crawled up the beach to the sand dunes. Sobbing with fear, he clung to the grass as if expecting any moment to be dragged back into the sea by a huge tentacle.
“Oliver!” The boy looked up sharply, shaken from his play. “ce cream!” his mother called. Oliver jumped up and ran to her, leaving his pirate ship and toy squid bobbing in the rock pool at the beach, his action figure lying face down with arms outstretched in the sand.