Concepción buzzed around me as dusk settled upon the city like a mantle. Bright city lights ticked on one-by-one, illuminating the streets and shops in the small district. I watched two young artists from one of the many universities set up canvases on tripods while musicians found their corners, instrument cases open to accept donations.
It was a young city full of beautiful men and women. Alive with a frenetic energy that was contagious. I smiled as a man took his date by the hand, twirling her away before pulling her back into her arms and hugging her close. A grandfather, relaxing in a well-worn chair by an old shop, shouted out encouragement. The girl blushed and pulled her lover through the growing crowd.
I watched them for a moment before turning back to the letter in my hand:
I'm sending this letter back with the captain. I don't have much time as the captain seems eager to be off. We weren't greeted at our arrival but we have a map and your father and I are well suited for finding our way. If we were able to survive our time in the Amazon then I'm sure we'll be fine here.
It's an interesting area (and now I have to write faster, the captain is already trying to leave, he's grumbling behind his scarf about storms and spitting quite a lot like a fat old, angry llama) with broken, weathered columns overgrown with moss and ivy. A light mist covers the ground but the sun should burn it off shortly. There's a certain smell but I think (hope) it will lessen as we move inland.
Oh, the captain is yelling at me now. I have to go. Give my love to Delilah and I can't wait to see you both in three days!
I couldn't hear the distant sounds of the port but I could see it from where I sat. The ocean lay beyond and, somewhere over the horizon, the island of New Raleigh waited for me and my sister. I checked my watch and sighed. Delilah should've been here by now. She'd last texted that she was touring the library at the Universidad de Concepción and I had no doubts she'd lost herself in the depths of it.
With a last check of my phone, I texted my sister to let her know I would go meet with the captain. I folded my mother's letter, placing it as a bookmark into my Bible and then left, apologizing to everyone I bumped into on the crowded street.
The old streets in this district were cobblestone and made for foot traffic. The amount of noise was nearly overwhelming: laughter and loud, fast conversations blended with enthusiastic music. I passed a slim young man quietly singing what sounded like a love song and then, later, a quartet blaring the local flavor of Chilean rock. A crowd gathered around the latter, singing and dancing and I had to squeeze through all of them.
I was sweating by the time I left the largest of crowds behind. A cool breeze wafted from the nearby water, bringing with it the salt of the ocean. Far into the distance, I swore I saw a bright flash of lightning. My sister and I had waited two weeks for Captain Agustin to return. Port Authority told me a bad storm had hit shortly after the captain had dropped my parents off. They'd only regained communication yesterday.
The captain should've arrived this morning but I didn't want to harass the man until he'd had time to unwind from his extended travels. Someone from his crew had left the letter at my hotel with a note to see the captain in the evening and so I made my way to where he'd docked.
It took only five minutes to find the Pampero. In the darkness, I could only see a few crew aboard, moving slowly at whatever tasks they had. The ship had been a yacht before (so I'd read while waiting) the captain purchased it and refitted it. Now it served to ferry people along the coast or for longer distances when needed.
The ship looked worn. Barnacles clung to the sides, just above the water line and a scummy patina covered the sides. The ship's name was nearly completely covered by a slick green film that seemed to glow in the light. I shivered and pressed my palm against my nose as a sudden chilly wind sliced through me, carrying a foul stench with it.
A loud popping sound startled me and I caught a shower of sparks from the corner of my eye as one of the nearby lights went out. A few men shouted behind me and I watched them walk to the lamp, pointing and arguing over it.
When I turned back to the Pampero, a dark shape stood on the dock next to it. Water lapped at the dock and it swayed but the man (or woman) stood preternaturally still. Unmoving as if rooted to the planks. I saw him from the side and as my eyes slowly began adjusting to the darkness, I saw clothes that hung loosely over a thin frame. As if a child wearing his father's clothes.
I waited for a few minutes, unsure of what to do. I felt unnerved for some reason, shivering again. The figure never moved and I began to wonder if my eyes were playing tricks on me, confusing a large sack for a person in the darkness. Yet, it wasn't there when I'd turned to watch the men working on the light.
Clasping my hands to my mouth I called out, "Hello!"
It, He (for it surely was a man), turned to me. First his head swiveling on neck and then shifting, his body turning. I took a step and then hesitated.
"I'm- I'm looking for Captain Agustin!" I said, loudly.
The man said something but I couldn't make out the words. I swallowed, took another step and then nearly laughed at myself for being foolish. Shaking my head, I walked forward.
And then stopped. Facing the man. My sweat turned cold and I shivered involuntarily.
He stared at me through milky, unblinking eyes. Even in the dim light, I could see how white his skin was and I swore it glinted in a distant light. Despite the heat, he wore a thick, ragged scarf that covered his neck and hung to his waist. His dark hair clung to his scalp in odd patches and I couldn't tell how old he was. He looked as if his skin was stretched over another man's frame.
"Is," I swallowed hard. The man's gaze was unnerving. Could he even see me through his cataracts? I clutched my Bible close my body as if it were armor. "Is Captain Agustin h-?"
"Are you the boy?" the man rasped.
"I'm sorry?" I asked.
"Are you the boy?" the man said again, in the exact same tone he'd just used. Water dripped from the man's scarf and it hung heavily on his shoulders. I swore I saw it shift around his neck for a moment.
"I don't know who you're looking for," I told him. "I'm Elijah Brooks and I'm looking for Captain Agustin. I'm supposed to meet him tonight to plan my trip to New Ra-"
"I'm Captain Agustin," the old man replied, cutting me off again.
I opened my mouth to reply and then closed it again. Fat angry llama, my mother had written. The man before me seemed withered and unable to rouse any kind of emotion but he had a scarf like my mother had written. I shifted my weight and saw dull silvery light shining at the back of the man's eyes but when I blinked, it was gone.
The hair along my neck seemed to stir and I swallowed. Some instinct pulled my gaze and I looked up to see six men standing at the railing of the ship, staring down at us. They moved as one when the ship rocked and I could feel their eyes upon me as if it were a physical pressure.
"I'm sorry," I explained, looking back at the man. "I don't mean to be rude but I was expecting someone else. Captain Agustin was described to me by my mother and-"
The man before me suddenly animated at the mention of my mother. He blinked and I swore I saw his cataracts shift as his eyelids closed. He clasped his hands together beneath heavy sleeves and bowed his head, giving me a good view of the mottled skin of his scalp. He began rocking back and forth before me and I turned as I heard the crewmates beside us murmuring.
The men on the ship had their heads raised, swiveling back and forth while they hugged their bodies. I struggled to hear what they were whispering but I was certain they were just repeating "The mother" over and over again.
"We leave in two hours," the man told me, jerking my attention back to him. "You will come with us, boy."
"I- but, captain," For who else could it be if not the captain himself? "It's night. Surely it'd be better to leave in the morning? I don't mean to tell you how to do your job but sailing at night seems reckless."
"Kek," the man gasped, as if his tongue had rooted itself to the top of his mouth. He touched the scarf along the side of his neck, pressing water-wrinkled fingers against the fabric. Water welled around his fingers before being sucked back into the thick wool. "We leave in two hours."
I watched the captain shamble up the simple plank leading to his ship. His crew had settled and continued to watch me until I turned and made my way back into the city.
"I'm telling you, Delilah, something's wrong." I sat in the room I shared with my sister. My Bible was open and I held my finger to mark my place in the middle of Matthew, chapter three.
My sister stood at the side of her bed, arranging her clothes. Barely thirty minutes had passed since I'd left the port and I still felt out-of-sorts. I'd been reading my Bible to calm myself until my sister came back. She seemed unperturbed by the news and was excited to be off.
"Elijah, you always worry about everything," Delilah said. Her voice dropped deeper as she mimicked our father. "Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always."
"You didn't see him," I said. "The entire thing was just incredibly creepy. I think we should write to mother and talk to the officials in the morning. Maybe it was the wrong ship."
"There is no other Pampero, just the one. You know that, Elijah," Delilah replied. She turned to me and sat on her bed while placing a few of her smaller clothes in her backpack. I sighed as she assumed the exasperated older sister look. I was very familiar with it. "Look, I know this is your first mission. I remember mine when I followed mom and dad to Africa and I remember how terrified I was. It's okay to be scared, truly. But New Raleigh isn't Africa. Or the Amazon."
"I'm not scared," I lied. My things were already packed. I'd spent the morning arranging my things to rid myself of the nervous energy that had overcome me when I'd received word of the captain's arrival.
"They asked us here," Delilah said, zipping up her backpack. She set it on the floor with the rest of her luggage. "We're expected and wanted. We're not walking into some... some... hostile village trying to convert anyone. New Raleigh was founded by Americans back in the early days. I read about it at the library today. There wasn't much and the book was very old but a little before the 1800s, back in New England, a group of Methodists broke from the church after receiving some sign from God. They came down through South America before sailing off to found New Raleigh."
"We're not Methodists," I reminded my sister.
"Neither are they," she answered. "Not anymore. I didn't see the letter they wrote to the church or what the church told mother and father but, from what I gather, they've lost their way. They've been cut off a long time. Honestly, I'm excited about going and not just to spread the Word. I just really want to see what they're like now. How they've changed and adapted over the, well, the centuries."
I chewed on that for a moment, feeling my anxiety twist my stomach into knots. Although it was only for a moment, I couldn't stop seeing that flat silver light through the captain's cloudy eyes.
"Pray with me, Elijah, before we leave," my sister said. She knelt at the side of her bed, turning towards it and bowing her head.
I placed the letter in my Bible to mark my spot and knelt next to Delilah. Her presence was soothing. She'd raised me while our parents were gone, spreading the Word of the Lord as missionaries. She'd been firm but fair and never complained about her duties, even the times when I'd misbehaved. The many times.
"I'll lead," Delilah said, her hands clasped before her. "Dear Lord, please look over us as we set off on our journey. Watch over the captain and his crew as we cross the ocean to-"
I repeated the words in my head, feeling myself calm. And yet, twin tarnished silver lights stared at me in the darkness behind my closed eyes.
The ship groaned around me, rocking and swaying and swooping on the open water. I lay in my bunk, my sister asleep above me. Her breathing was strong and steady with the occasional snort that was immediately followed by her twisting in her sleep and mumbling a sleepy "sorry".
The captain had met us without a word and barely acknowledged Deliliah. The ship was utterly dark and no crew members seemed to be aboard. We followed the frail man along the deck until he brought us below and to our cabin.
I couldn't help but plug my nose a few times along the way. And, even now, I could taste the faint scent of the ship at the back of my throat. I couldn't place my finger on it, whether it was sewage or swamp or just the smell of a ship constantly on the water but it was strong and sometimes made my eyes water.
Turning to the side, I stared into the dark. Pale shafts of mossy-green light flickered from the floorboards as the ship rolled. I looked for dust particles floating in the light but saw none. I expected the ship to be louder and was surprised at how quiet it was overall. Especially since I thought our cabin was located in the stern (I'd asked my sister what the proper word was) and, therefore, near the engines.
I lay in my bed, feeling the worm of anxiety twisting in my stomach. The darkness was heavy on my shoulders. I closed my eyes and whispered fierce prayers to the Lord to keep me and my family safe.
Eventually, I drifted in sleep.
And I dreamt.
I was alone in the cabin and the ship thrummed around me. I was surrounded by the same green light from when I was awake. Standing in it, my stomach twisted and I tasted bile in the back of my throat, mixed with the cloying stench of the ship. The light seemed to caress my skin with an oily touch that made me shiver.
I looked for Delilah but she wasn't there and so I left before I vomited. I ran up the short steps and stood on the heaving deck, gripping a metal handle set by the door.
The sky was black with red outlining gigantic ominous shapes that coiled and moved in ways no clouds could. Watching them made something deep within me - some ancient animal instinct, perhaps - recoil in fear and hatred. I wanted to find the nearest rock to cower under.
To the fore were seven dark shapes. Six of them arrayed in a semi-circle at the bow while the seventh stood behind them, facing forward. The thrumming that I thought was the engine was coming from them. Powerful chants that cut through the night, causing the not-clouds to twist and roil overhead. The lone seventh figure had its arms raised, screaming into the night. Something was wrong with its arms but when I tried to focus more clearly, the ship crested a wave and I lost my grip on the handle.
I slid and cried out, sure that I'd be lost overboard but I slammed against the railing and clung to it.
The ocean glowed a sickly green that made my bones ache. Bloated dead fish floated on the water, pulled along in the ship's wake. A few burst when they surfaced, spraying red blood that the very air seemed to absorb. My stomach heaved at the smell of them, thousands of dead creatures weaving in the water as if they were the trailing tentacles of a kraken.
And then the ocean opened.
In the dark beneath the green, a single baleful eye, wider than the ship moved. Focused on me. It knew me in a way I couldn't understand. I screamed, tearing my throat from the force of it. I tasted blood and the chanting filled my mind until I knew nothing else.
I woke, sitting in my bed and drenched with sweat. My throat was sore and I could hear a torrential rainstorm outside.
Stumbling, fearful, I made my way up the stairs, opening the door that led to the deck. I held the handle while my heart hammered in my chest. Before I could stop myself, I wrenched open the door and stepped out.
The deck was empty and the sky was clear and full of stars. I still heard the rain so I rubbed at my ear. And felt wetness. My own blood was smeared along my fingertips, thick and red and speckled with black flakes. I touched my other ear and felt the same.
I heard a whisper above me that drew my attention but the sky was clear and quiet. Away from the city, the sky seemed afire with points of light. I found myself looking for the constellations. To find anything recognizable that I could anchor myself against.
Turning in a slow circle, I only felt my heart race faster.
No, I thought to myself, turning again. My fingers turned white while I clenched my hand on the handle by the door. No, no no.
Stars filled the sky but none were the constellations I'd always loved to find.
Where the North Star should shine was a single red star glaring at our world.
I woke, terrified that I was still dreaming. Every muscle in my body ached.
"Hey, you're up," Delilah said. I startled and looked over at her. She sat at the small desk in the room, reading again.
"What," I rasped. Swallowing, I tried again. "What time is it?"
"You slept through the day," my sister told me. "Tossing and turning. I almost woke you but I thought you'd know how much sleep you needed."
I touched my ears, expecting to feel blood but my skin was smooth.
"I had the worst nightmare," I told her. I tried to remember it but it was all gone. Chanting. I remembered chanting. And a red-eyed monster. My head throbbed and my throat was incredibly dry. "Is there any water?"
Delilah handed me a plastic bottle and I gulped it without pausing to breathe until it was completely gone. I was still thirsty but I'd survive. I rubbed my temples and then my neck, massaging the tender skin while rolling my head.
Only then did I realize I had an erection. I shot a glance at my sister as my face flamed bright red. I quickly pulled the blankets up around my waist and sat there awkwardly, waiting for it to go down. It throbbed beneath the blankets, in time with the pain in my head.
"Is," I cleared my throat, looking at the stairs, away from my sister. "Is it still light out?"
"No," Delilah said, distracted by her reading. "You literally missed the entire day. The sun set nearly an hour ago. Are you hungry? I couldn't find the captain but I didn't look too hard. I've mostly been keeping inside the cabin except to go out and look at the water for a little bit. I have some food I brought with us."
The thought of food turned my stomach so I shook my head. I couldn't stop staring at the smooth curve of my sister's neck and I cursed my hormones while telling myself what a disgusting person I was. I didn't want my sister. It wasn't that. It was just that I was a young man and I couldn't help it. My father had taken me aside when I was younger to explain things. And he'd talked to me since then over the years. Sex was natural. Our bodies betrayed us. Hormones forced us to act like animals. Uncontrollable. But we weren't animals. And we could restrain ourselves. There was no shame in acknowledging that we had the urges but to act on them, that was the sin.
So, no, I didn't think of my sister in that way. But I also couldn't help a last glance at her smooth neck and collarbone and the way a few strands of her beautiful hair had escaped the lazy bun she'd made.
I found my Bible and read from Matthew, chapter 4 in order to remind myself of Jesus' temptation by the Devil.
I lost myself in the Word until I felt something thud against the hull of the ship. The ship rocked up and then down but was still.
Delilah turned to me, blinking rapidly to adjust her eyes away from her book. "We can't be there already."
I closed my Bible and stood as my sister did, following her up the stairs and onto the deck.
A vast island stretched out before us and, even in the dark, I could make out tall trees and a large spire (a mountain? I couldn't be sure) at the center of the island. The gangplank was down but I couldn't see any crew. I saw a large orange glow somewhere between us and the mountain.
"I'll get our things," I told Delilah, heading back to our cabin. I'd packed light (too light, my sister had said) so I was able to carry both of our gear together. By the time I was back, my sister said she'd found the crew - waiting for us on the shore.
The crew were in a line beside the captain. They were all hunched and rocking slightly. I suppose too long at the sea or ocean might do that to people. My sister and I walked down the plank and then stood on the pier. I thought for a moment that it was swaying under me until I realized I'd grown used to the ship's movement in the short time I was aboard.
We stood together for a moment, waiting for the captain to say something. The moment grew longer and more uncomfortable until Delilah cleared her throat. She moved her arm as if to offer a handshake but then seemed to think better of it.
"Thank you, captain," Delilah said. "I have no idea how we got here so fast but it was a pleasant, short journey. I hope you have a safe trip back."
"She waits for you," The captain hissed, his face hidden in the dark.
"She-?" Delilah half-turned to me. "Our mother?"
The six crew fell to their knees, arms outstretched before them. "Mother! Mother!" they cried, heads down against the ground. The captain trembled and bowed, backing away.
"L- Let's just go," I said nervously. "Come on, they'll be waiting."
We made our way inland. When we reached the treeline, I paused and looked back.
The crew, captain included, were wading into the water. I watched for a moment as, one by one, the disappeared beneath the surface to leave their clothes floating above them.
"They just-" I said, swallowing again. I really needed more water. "They just swam off into the water!"
Delilah looked backed and shrugged. "Probably untying knots and whatever. Come on, I want to find them before it gets too dark."
We hiked through the forest for a short distance until we reached a village. I'd expected something large and at least a little modern but was surprised to find something more akin to ramshackle buildings. Worse, the entire little village seemed to be empty.
A large fire roared at the center of the village and I shielded my eyes against the enormity of it.
"Hello?" Delilah called out. "Is anyone there?"
I thought I heard a twig snap in the distance. I rubbed at my neck nervously while looking around. I could feel the moisture being drawn out of me by the fire.
"Hello! We're the missionaries that-"
"I know who you are, child," a voice spoke from our left. Delilah gasped and we both turned to see an old woman, bent by her age and hidden behind a heavy cloak that hung to the ground to cover her feet. She walked with the aid of an old stick and I could only see the edge of her chin from within the hood. "Come, we have rooms prepared."
"I'd- I'd- We'd like to say hello to our mother and father first, please," Delilah said, stepping forward slowly.
"It's late, child, and they already sleep. There is time in the morning. Come, come, I have your rooms ready." The old woman turned without waiting. She moved quickly for her age, her cloak swishing around her.
I moved away from the fire as we walked, on the other side of Delilah. I couldn't understand how she could stand so close to it.
The old woman stopped at one small shack and pointed. "Girl."
"We'd prefer to stay together," Delilah said, looking over at me.
"No," the old woman said. "It is against our- our faith that you should. You'll sleep apart."
"Please," I whispered, my hand going to Delilah's. I was suddenly terrified without knowing why.
"It'll be okay," Delilah answered quietly. "Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. We're safe in his light."
I watched Delilah going into the little hut and then followed the woman to another building, further along.
The old woman watched me. I saw her eyes shine under her hood and I shivered at a memory. She seemed to be taking my measure until, finally, she said simply, "Boy."
I entered the small room and closed the door behind me. It refused to stay closed until I found a simple leather strip to hook around the frame. There was a bed and a desk and a pot that smelled bad. The bed was simply a frame raised off the ground with a hide of some kind stretched between the slats. There was no chair for the desk but there was a stone cup and jug.
Licking my parched lips, I dropped my backpack and poured a cup of water. I swallowed the entire cup of water before wondering if I should've smelled it first. But then, would I know what bad water smelled like? I finished the jug and then lay on the cot, feeling it sag beneath me.
I wouldn't be able to sleep. Not after the ship. And the nightmare. Not in a strange, unwelcoming place like this. With a sigh and a regretful look at the empty jug of water, I grabbed my Bible from my backpack and found my place.
I remember dozing through some of the night. On the edge of sleep but not entirely. The huge red eye stared at me every time I thought I began to drift off.
When dull morning light crept through the holes in the wall, I groaned and swung my legs over the bed. My joints were sore and hot and so I stretched to work them out. Groaning against the pain. Leaning against the wall, eyes closed.
The red eye stared back at me. Knowingly. I gasped, stepping back from the wall so fast that I fell, landing on my ass. My heart raced and I blinked several times until the image faded. I looked down to see my pants straining against my manhood. The memory of pale, soft, smooth skin flared in my mind's eye clear enough to make my teeth ache and my cock throb. I grit my teeth and pulled my knees to my chest, holding them there until I was flaccid. I don't know how long it took but I recited the Lord's Prayer again and again until it was over.
I unhooked the simple door latch and stepped into the open, breathing in the humid air as if I were drinking it. The fire had burned down to ash. I glanced around to get my bearings and then made my way to where Delilah had stayed. The door was ajar and I pushed it carefully.
"Delilah," I called softly. I peeked inside but it was empty except for her belongings.
I turned and then cried out as a cloth bag was pulled forcefully over my head and powerful hands gripped my arms. I kicked instinctively but found nothing to hit.
"Let me go!" I cried out, panicking as sharp nails dug into my skin. I tried to work my arms free but the hands holding me seemed as strong as chains. "Let me go! Please! I've done nothing wrong!"
I waited for my captor to say something. Anything. No words were spoken but a sibilant laughter filled the air. The hands pulled me and I found myself being pushed, stumbling on my own feet.
"Please, oh God, oh Lord above, please, listen to me," I said, hot tears running down my face. "My family and I are missionaries. We're harmless. We're just- oh God, where is my sister? What have you done with Delilah?"
No-one answered me. I kicked back, finally striking the person holding me but didn't even elicit a grunt. I winced expecting a return strike but, again, nothing happened.
"Please," I moaned, slumping as my legs gave out. "Please just tell me what you want. Please."
I felt myself lifted and my feet dangled free from the ground. Carried as if I weighed nothing at all.
I sobbed most of the way, occasionally begging for the person to tell me what was happening. To tell me anything instead of just the silence I was served. My voice ran out as my throat went dry and I hung, defeated.
Eventually we stopped.
"Let him go!" Delilah cried out. My head snapped up and in her direction when I heard her voice.
"Del-" I called and then screamed as I was flung in the air. My hands went up over my head and I curled into myself, expecting the worst. It hurt when I hit the ground but I rolled and sat up, pulling the sack from my head.
I was in a simple metal cage made of thick metal bars. Four huge, cloaked figures stood at each side, armed with a large staff. I couldn't see their faces but their arms and legs were massive. Delilah and I were separated by a line of bars through the middle of the cage. She pressed herself against the metal, reaching for me with her hands. I ran to her and clutched her hands to mine and we cried together.
"She- she's here," Delilah whispered.
Still holding my sister's hands, I turned to find the old woman standing by the door to the cage.
"What do you want?!" I yelled, emboldened by my sister's presence.
"You, boy," the woman answered. My heart sank. "You will complete the ritual. You will be the seed to breed the children needed to free Father. Glory be to Him."
"I- Never!" I screamed as Delilah's fingers clamped painfully against mine. "I walk in the Light. The Lord watches over me!"
"Are you thirsty, boy?" The old woman asked.
The odd question stopped me, confusing me. I swallowed and licked my dried lips and answered, voice cracking slightly. "No."
"It grows," she says. "You've seen it, haven't you, boy?"
My fingers went to my throat. "S- Seen what?"
The old women leaned close, her face nearly touching the bars. She whispered in reverence, "Father's gaze. The Red Eye."
It flashed before me and I fell back, pulling my hand away from my sister. Heat coursed through me and I choked, gasping for air as I tried to scream. When I came to, I was on my back and the old woman was gone. My hand was tight on my own throat and I hissed through my teeth as I relaxed my fingers.
My throat was swollen and hot and I licked my dry lips. I rolled to my side and groaned as my erection rubbed against the ground. My traitorous hips rocked once before I went to my knees, hugging myself.
"Elijah?" Delilah asked carefully. "Are- are you okay? What did she tell you? Are you hurt?"
I'm fine, I tried to say. Shame burned in me and I shook my head.
"Elijah, you're scaring me," Delilah said. "Talk to me. Please."
"I'm okay," I whispered. Was I talking to her or myself? "I'm okay."
"What did she say?" Delilah asked again.
"Nothing," I lied. Soft, pale skin from her neck to her collarbone. And the hidden swell of her breasts. "I don't remember. It's nothing."
"Come here. Please. Sit with me, Elijah."
I shifted, feeling my manhood. Hard and thick against my thigh. Groaning. I shook my head and then, out loud, "No. I'm sorry. Give me a little bit. I- I feel sick. Give me a minute."
Delilah clutched at the bars, watching me with tears in her eyes. I wanted to go to her for the comfort she always gave me but I couldn't. Not with my shame apparent for all to see. Not with the dirty thoughts whispering in my head. I moved slowly, pushing away until I felt the cage against my back.
I breathed deeply and slowly, swallowing to taste the moisture in the air.
"Do- Do you remember when you found father's matches?" Delilah asked. She stood and walked to the same side of the cage I sat against. I chanced to look in her direction and saw her looking ahead, toward the mountain piercing the sky. "And you accidentally started the fire in library? All I heard was you scream and then run. I put out the fire and hid everything but we didn't find you until bedtime. You were so young that you don't remember, do you? I told mother and father that we were playing hide and seek and that's why you were missing."
I only remembered it vaguely. Hiding in the dark. The fire. Thinking I would be sent away.
"I protected you. I always will, Elijah," Delilah told me. Her voice trembled. "I raised you and protected you. We'll make it through this together."
A whimper escaped my lips and I hugged my knees close.
"Is your throat okay?" Delilah asked me. "You screamed so horribly and then you choked yourself. Your face turned- Are you okay?"
I touched the side of my throat. It was still sore and hot, as if I were feverish. I had no doubt that I was. I breathed deeply, shuddering at the edge of sobbing and I felt something shift within my throat. An alien feeling that made me gag. I ran my hands along the nearby grass until it was wet from the morning dew. The water was cold and soothing as I rubbed it against my neck.
"I'm okay," I lied again. I desperately wanted to change the subject. "What was mother like when I was young? And father?"
We talked, sitting apart, separated by the bars. Our captors brought water and some kind of soup, which I ignored, despite the rumbling in my stomach. I could see vegetables but also some kind of meat floating in it that I didn't trust. Delilah picked at her soup, nibbling on a few of the vegetables in the broth before putting it aside. We talked, laughing over stories of growing up and getting into mischief together.
The sun sat on the distant horizon, huge and fat and red. Our conversation had winded down and we sat together quietly, lost in our own thoughts.
"Boy," a voice called. I turned to find the old woman standing behind me. Without another word she tossed something into my cage. My Bible.
I scrambled for the small book, thankful for this one kindness. Feeling a small seed of hope beginning to bloom.
Until I opened it.
The Bible was my own, I'd recognize it anywhere with it's worn edges and notes in the margins. Now the pages were vandalized. Where I randomly opened it was a lewd picture of a woman on all fours being pleasured by a man from behind. Drawn crudely in thick, black ink, I saw the man had three eyes and gills and the woman had rows of sharp teeth and three pairs of breasts.
I picked another random page and found hurried writing in a script I didn't recognize. It hurt my eyes to read it and my head throbbed, forcing me to draw in a sharp, deep breath. I subconsciously rubbed more dew on my neck before turning the page again. More writing around an illustration of a woman squatting to lay eggs while a single malevolent eye looked on. My manhood stirred, sliding against my thigh and I shuddered from the feeling of it. Warm soft flesh tearing biting licking blood forcing her open Dagon opening the way Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu-
I cried out and threw the book, pushing the heels of my hands against my eyes and sobbing.
"Elijah!" Delilah yelled, against the bars of the cage once more. "What is it? What's wrong?"
"They- they- they-" I hiccuped. I couldn't tell her so I just shook my head and cried until there were no tears left in me.
They came for Delilah at sunset. Three of them with the old woman at the front. All cloaked in simple robes with the last fading rays of the red sun casting shadows within their hoods. They stopped in front of Delilah's side of the cage and she fled, pressing herself against the bars opposite. The old woman stamped her staff and the lead figure disrobed.
He, for it had to be a he with his erect penis, stood eyeing Delilah. A monster made real. His skin was scaled and segmented like an alligator, mottled with green and black spots. A long tail, as thick as my thigh curved behind him, the blunt tip little brushing the ground. It - He - licked his lips. His face was misshapen. Elongated with two small slits for a nose and a jaw lined with sharp fangs. His neck fluttered to reveal small gills and I gagged, clutching at my own throat in response. An old, ragged scarf hung around his neck.
"No!" screamed Delilah, pressing herself back as hard as she could. "NO!"
The creature stalked into the cage when the old woman opened the door. Delilah ran to the corner of her cage and crouched. She was hyperventilating, eyes wide and white as the lizard man walked to her. It hissed with a thick, long tongue that seemed to taste the air until, finally, he stood above her.
"Please," I begged. "Please don't do this. Please. I'll do whatever you want. Just make this stop. Please don't hurt her!"
The old woman turned to me and I looked at her. She blinked and I saw not cataracts but a nictitating membrane that slid over her eyes. She smiled warmly.
"Boy," she said, her grin widening until it nearly split her face in half. "You can't stop this. Not any of it. She is lesser and will learn her place. As you will learn yours."
I heard my sister scream and I looked over at her to see her on her knees, her face pressed against the ground. I saw her sex between her spread thighs just as the monster pierced her. Birds took flight as my sister shrieked loud and long.
I vomited noisily to the side as the old woman laughed.
Oh god. Oh god. I could smell my sister's blood. My manhood stirred and the old woman laughed louder, deep enough to nearly drown out my sister's screaming.
"Stop," I moaned, my lips trembling as my pants grew tight. Each thrust from the creature caused my sister to scream louder. "Stop. Please make it stop! Please! Oh God. Oh Lord in Heaven, please. Please help us! Please!"
The creature was grunting and I could hear him slamming into my sister again and again and again and again. Wet with her blood. My sister's screams had been reduced to choking sobs but I dared not look at her. The old woman's laugh dug into my brain, raising the hackles on my neck.
"Stop!" I felt dizzy. Nauseous. My head spun and the scent of blood filled my throat with every breath. I couldn't fill my lungs. Despite gasping for air, I felt like I was choking. "Stop! Just- Just stop! Just! SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU WHINING CUNT!"
I clasped my hands to my mouth in horror at what I'd said. I gagged. And choked. And gasped and then sweet air filled my lungs.
But my mouth was closed.
The skin along my neck trembled, tickling in a strange way that made me moan. I touched my neck in horror and felt wet, raw flesh beneath flaps of skin. Three rows of gills, drawing air into my lungs.
I looked at the old woman to find her crouched outside the cage next to me. She no longer smiled.
"No," she whispered. "You can't stop any of this. And, soon, you won't want to."
I didn't notice when they left. I sat stunned, my mind chewing on nothing but the horror I was living through. No, no, I had to be Ph'nglui. Had to be. Nothing more than a dream.
Eventually, I came back to myself with a shudder.
"Delilah!" I said, running to the divider. She lay on the ground with her tattered clothes covering her naked body. For a moment, I worried that she was dead but her leg moved and I breathed again. I clamped my hands against my throat, feeling the strangeness of the gills. The air didn't taste nearly as sweet without them. "Delilah! Oh God, Delilah."
She said nothing but I pleaded with her anyway. To talk to me. To tell me she was okay. That she was alive. Instead, she curled herself into a tighter ball and shook quietly.
I grit my teeth and clamped my hands against the thick wood separating us. My gills fluttered and the sharp scent of blood and sex filled me until my knees weakened. I fell and sat, staring at nothing. Feeling nothing. Worn out. I was exhausted but still couldn't sleep.
The night was deep and quiet when three figures approached my cage. I huddled back, trembling in fear. Wondering if it were my turn to be violated.
"E- Elijah?" the lead figure asked. I knew that voice. I would always know that voice.
"Mother?" I asked, going to my knees. "Mother! Oh thank God, you're still alive! Delilah, mother's alive! She's here!"
"No," came Delilah's soft voice but I ignored it and ran to the bars to greet her, reaching my hands out to her.
Long, slim hands reached for mine. Thick, translucent skin connected her fingers together.
I yelled, pulling my hands back to clutch them to my chest.
"N- no, mother," I stuttered. Please, God, no. Please.
The figure - my mother, slowly sank to her knees and her hood slid back. I could hear the pain in her voice when she called to me, hiding her hands in her sleeves. "Elijah, please."
Her face was transformed. Heavy ridges distorted her cheekbones to pull her face wide. Her lips were thin and pale white over a mouth too big and too wide. She tried to hide it but I could see the tiny sharp teeth behind the lips. A clear membrane slid quickly across pure black eyes, a mockery of a blink. Her luxurious brown hair was gone, leaving behind thick skin that glistened in the moonlight as if wet. Her skin had tinted green with black spots and black lines.
Beneath my mother's head, her neck was thick and wide and her own gills fluttered with each breath she took. As I watched, she closed her eyes, leaning against the cage to draw in my smell. Her nose was now merely a bump with two slits for nostrils. The slits widened and something within them opened, quivering as she filled her lungs.
"Ohh," my mother moaned. She gripped the bars with her webbed hands and pulled herself up on her knees. Her cloak slid open to reveal a wide, heavily muscled body. Her skin was slick down her torso, shining in the pale light and I could see the curves of her breasts, small and high on her body. I looked away, feeling my cheeks flood with embarrassment. "Elijah. My son. My boy. They told me you were here. Come. Come closer. Let me hold you. Let me touch you. They said. They said you were here. They said I needed you. And you needed me."
I couldn't move. I watched as my mother shrugged her shoulders and the cloak slipped to the ground. She was nude and now I couldn't look away. She'd been petite before but now she was as wide as father. Wider. Her arms bulged as she flexed against the cage. My gills flared to take in her scent and my cock stirred. It slid in my jeans and I pressed it, unable to stop myself. Grabbing it. Twisting it until I felt the head of it slip from the band of my pants.
And then it grew. My cock swelled and pressed forward. Changing. I groaned at the ache building in my stomach. The head of my cock bulged as ridges formed around it and small bumps formed along the shaft.
"My boy," mother said, rocking her wide hips in a circle. I saw the curve of her ass. Mesmerized. "I understand now. She comes. She comes to purify me. Oh. Oh. Oh, She's so beautiful! A pure red light shining in the darkness and I will be Hers! Yes! Oh, Elijah. My son. My handsome boy. I can see how much you've grown. I can smell how much you want me. My womb aches for you. I want to be filled by you, growing fat with Her eggs. Feeling them slip from between my pussy, knowing they're yours and mine. Father Dagon send it happen soon. I- She-"
She turned to show me, pressing herself back against the bars on her hands and knees. My mother rocked her hips, sliding her sex up and down as if beckoning me. I watched as the skin around her vagina move. It... stretched... and her ass and hips widened, pushing her asshole up as her womb widened.
For me. For me and the eggs I would give to her.
I swallowed. Reached for her. My hands trembling. Wanting her. To fill her with my m'tinh until she was full of it. She moaned, lowering herself and I saw her spine press against her back. The bones pierced her skin and I pulled at my cock, licking my lips at the scent of her blood. Her spine grew into sharp bony protrusions. Her tailbone cracked and slid out and I saw her sex tremble from the pleasure of it. Trails of blood slid down from her growing tail, mixing with her the wetness between her thighs.
My sister whimpered and I blinked.
"Oh!" Delilah cried out. I turned, the spell broken. She was on her knees, her clothes on the ground around her. "Oh! I see it! I see it! Father!"
I looked around, my heart racing. Father? Father was here?
"Father!" Delilah moaned, tears streaming down her face. Her pert breasts shook as she trembled from emotions. "Father Dagon I see your gaze upon me!"
No, I mouthed. My sister stretched before me, her torso lengthening as black spots appeared beneath her skin. Her breasts pulled into her body, shrinking slightly. She ran her hands along her body and only then did I see the blood along her neck and chest and chin. Sharp little teeth were pushing through her gums, breaking the ones she'd had until her mouth was lined with the deadly fangs.
Delilah hissed with a smile that grew too wide for her face.
I braved a look in the sky but saw nothing. No grim red eye staring back at me.
"Father, no!" Delilah yelled, jumping to her feet to clutch at the bars of her cage. She reached to the dark sky. "No, Father, please! Don't go! Show me! Show me more, please! Faaaaather!"
I pulled into myself. Into a small ball on the ground as my sister sobbed.
Exhausted beyond my limits, I eventually fell asleep.
I awoke with a scream. Senseless dreams of things larger than our world deep beneath the oceans. No. Not beneath the ocean. Beneath the world. Waiting for us. R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn. Always waiting. Swallowing us. Staring. Staring. Always staring.
"Delilah!" I called out.
"Here," my sister answered, dully. "I'm here, Elijah."
"Oh thank G-" I stopped. Her long, lithe body lay against the bars, her back to me. She wasn't covering her nakedness. I saw hints of green in her skin with faint stripes and spots of black. Parts of her skin looked slick and patches of her hair was missing. "Delilah?"
"I prayed," she said. "While you slept. I can't sleep. I can't close my eyes. I see It. I see Him there. Every time I blink. Staring into me. I'm. I'm forgetting the words, Elijah. I'm forgetting them. The prayers. I can't. I can't do this. I feel it inside of me and it terrifies me because I'm starting to-"
"Don't," I told her. "Don't give up. Just. Just give me a minute. Just wait."
I found my BIble in the corner. I took it carefully, closing my eyes. Feeling a strange, cool slick skin slid against them.
The flesh between my fingers was transparent with corpse-white coloring lining the edge. I could see the tiny red blood vessels inside. I swallowed and breathed at the same time and then opened my Bible.
On this page, a winged nightmare wrapped a three foot long tongue around a screaming man's cock. I could still read the text underneath the crude drawing.
"B- But he said to me," I read. "'My grace is- is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast-"
My eyes were drawn to the picture. I swallowed and rubbed myself, staring at the woman's tongue. She had a lizard's fat tail and I wondered, briefly, what it felt like. I looked at the man's horrified expression and then back down to the woman's tongue, seeing how it slid against his length as my hand slid against mine.
I heard Delilah moan and I stopped. She was facing me now, pressed against the bars. Her tongue lapped at the air and her eyes were nearly all black.
"Delilah," I stammered. "I didn't-"
"Elijah, my pretty boy," my sister purred, almost a perfect copy of mother's voice from last night. "Always so pretty. I watched you. Always. Always watching you. Caring for you. Touching you. Do you know why I bathed you every day, Elijah?"
"No," I whispered. "Please, Delilah, no."
"Oh, yessss," Delilah said, her tongue flicking out. "Yes. I cleaned you so well, Elijah. You'd laugh and swat my hands when you were older but I told you to hold still so I could clean you so well. Only in my own bed, late at night did I pretend I was using my mouth to do it."
Bile filled the back of my mouth and my gills trembled. "No, this isn't you. This is- This is the thing controlling-"
"We were so alone all the time, Elijah," Delilah cooed. Her dream-like expression hardened and she grunted as bones snapped in her jaw and face. Drool escaped her mouth as her lips strained to contain her growing muzzle. Just like the creature that had taken her in the night. "Our parentsss off ssssaving ssstupid villagersss in the middle of fucking nowhere. Leaving usss. You were all I had. I almosssst took you ssssso many timesssss. I thought about lying and ssssaying it wasssss a game or a sssssecret or sssssomething good boyssss did for their sssssssssisssterssss but I wassss ssssuch a good giiiiiirl. Sssssinning every night with the thought of you inssssside of me. Elijah. You were alwaysssss mine but now, you're hersssss. Mother'ssss. Mother! Mother ssssee me! I'm your faithful sssss-"
Delilah flailed, clawing at the ground as dull black claws slid from her fingertips. Her back bowed and split and I looked away. Just like mother. Just like last night. Delilah, oh God, Delilah no.
My head swam and I spat into the ground, breathing heavily. Pain flared in my joints and my fingers broke. The clear skin between grew up, spreading my fingers wider and wider and wider. Dagon save me from this pain. Please, god, I can't. I can't be like them. I can't gh'weg like them.
"Elijah," a beautiful voice said. Clear as a bell and sweeter than anything I'd heard in my life.
I turned, tears in my eyes. Mother stood in my cage. Her legs were thick with muscle and hardened skin and small fins. She shined in the morning light of the red sun.
She was a hideous monster with the voice of one of God's angel.
I pushed back, sobbing. In time to see Delilah's cage open. Three lizardmen stood there and she threw herself at them, grabbing one's erection while taking another in her wide, foul mouth. The old woman struck Delilah and Delilah hissed, rocking to her heels.
"Cur!" the old woman screeched. "You dare! You dare act thus before the Mother? Crawl! Crawl worm! Crawl to the pit to join the others!"
Delilah lowered herself, her heavy, scaly tail flat against the ground. She slithered behind the lizard man like a snake. Without a backward glance. Two of the men turned to step into my cage and I pushed away from them, hiding my face away from my mother. No, I thought. No, not my mother. Not any more.
"You still resist?" the old woman asked. "You're strong. That's good, boy. That's good. Mother Hydra needs strong seed. She-"
"Silence," my mother said. There was no malice in her voice but it cracked with authority. "Elijah, look at me. Look upon my body. Look upon my earthly vessel. See your Mother."
I shook my head, not trusting my voice. My traitorous gills drew in her heady scent. She smelled of death and things rotting in the swamps. Of terrible flowers spread open, hiding their poisonous thorns. She smelled of blood smeared with feces and the cold tv'fwig of ph'than. And I'd never felt myself more hard than I was at that moment. I wanted to cry but if I opened my mouth, I knew I might beg. For her.
I felt her draw close. I felt it. Her presence pulling at me. Singing to the very blood coursing through my body.
"I am no longer your mother, boy," she said to me. It took willpower not to face her. "I am Mother of all. Mother Hydra reborn in this vessel. And I yearn for my mate. Locked beyond the stars, weakened by these... pathetic primates and their ancestors."
She lowered herself and I moaned, clutching my sides with my wide, webbed hands. I could feel my nails growing, sliding from my fingertips to pierce my shirt and dig into my side.
"I am She of many," Mother Hydra whispered sweetly, her breath smelling of middens and death and the promise of sex. "I will spawn with your seed. Laying my eggs deep within the pit of the earth until they burst and crawl their way to me."
Mother Hydra leaned forward, her thin lips nearly touching my ear. I shuddered and felt the gentle caress of my hair falling from my scalp in clumps. I was so incredibly thirsty. The veins at my temples throbbed. Below, my monstrous cock ached to be free, bumps and ridges scraping against my belly and the clothes I wore. Fire burned in my stomach.
Only then did I realize she wasn't speaking in English.
"Our children will break the world open like a rotten egg," Mother Hydra promised. "And Dagon shall be born from the wreckage. The ones that remain will bow to us, changed as the one you called your sister. Until our power grows and we find new realms to conquer. I shall set you above them. Do you desire that?"
No. Yes. No, I desired Her. Dear Gods in the depths, save me, I pray to you, Lords. Save me from this temptation.
"Hold him. I'll not force myself on him."
Strong hands gripped my arms and legs and I twisted, kicking and shouting wordlessly, still afraid to speak. Afraid that Her name would be first on my lips. Cold claws shredded the remains of my clothes and I lay naked, my manhood tall above me.
She stepped over me, standing above and I saw Her through the thin membranes covering my eyes. I strained and felt something tear in my sides. I gasped in pain and bucked and the skin below my ribs separated. Oxygen flooded my body from the gills at my throat and, now, the large ones at my sides. They drew the moisture from the air as they drew Her scent. Father Dagon save me, I could feel my strength leaving my body. My hands itched to touch Her perfect, slick skin. I closed my eyes and prayed to the red sun for redemption.
Mother Hydra slid forward and I felt Her cold, slick lips sliding along my cock. I looked at Her then, straining for Her, my tongue snaking out, longer and longer, to lick at the tiny white nipples atop Her shrunken breasts.
Father Dagon, please! I prayed. Clenching my mouth shut, I felt and then heard my teeth crack. Blood filled my mouth and I swallowed it greedily. Please. I can't-
The black streaks in the red sun opened. And focused on me. I trembled from His attention. Bones in my face cracked and I screamed, bucking my hips as my Mother impaled Herself on me.
"HE SEES ME!" I screamed in the Language. I was reborn. I could feel the pull of them in the pit. The feral lower ones. Chanting for Mother and Father. Chanting for me! The creature I'd thought of as the old woman abased herself, weeping tears of joy. Power flooded me as Mother Hydra lowered herself, gripping my cock tightly with her sex. "FATHER DAGON! I am yours!"
The ones holding me released me, unwilling to touch my flesh. As far below as I was to Mother Hydra and Father Dagon (as an ant to a black hole) I was a god to them still and they would never touch me again.
I wept cold tears as Mother took my hands to hold Her body. To explore the skin she wore. I dare not move as she pressed Herself to me, again and again. Her nearly human sex gripped me so tightly, the fish-white lips rubbing against the bumps along my thick cock. The earth moved every time she flexed Her hips. Small quakes trembled deep in the ground at the power from Her. And the promise of what was about to happen. My webbed, clawed hands glided along Her slick body as she raised her wide mouth to sing Her praises and promises to Her mate hidden beyond time.
She was beautiful. Shining like the molten red and gold of the volcano stirring beneath the island. I dare not look too long for worry of my eyes shriveling in their sockets.
I grunted. Feeling the seed within, waiting for release. And yet, I awaited Her pleasure and command. Hissing through razor sharp teeth, I held on as long as I could and the strain split the skin along my back. The earth died where my blood touched it and my spine dug into the ground, sprouting sharp spikes.
The world trembled and, for a moment, I saw my Father's realm. A silver labyrinth from which I could see Him wandering. Searching for the way out. Lost in the twisting folds of space and sliding geometry.
"Now," Mother commanded, drawing me back.
I howled and filled Mother with my seed. The world burned pure red and our servants died, dissipating into nothing while the ones deep in the pit shook in fear and adulation.
The light passed and Mother stood and thick, graceful legs. My cock slipped from between Her sex and a long line of my blackened seed trailed between us, leaving us connected for just a moment longer. She stood back and I struggled to kneel before Her.
Bones from my spine continued to push out, surrounding itself in raw red muscle and thick black flesh. My growing tail lashed behind me. I could feel my toes cracking and breaking to grow fins as was proper. The pain was nothing.
Mother Hydra touched Her belly and Her eyes flashed to red. The taut skin beneath Her hand bulged and She sighed.
"Come," she commanded. I stood, eyes low. Sure of my position far below her and thrilled that She would address me.
The island was bare. Blackened by the power released from her impregnation. Steam rose in thick columns from the ruined edge of the island and the volcano trembled a warning. I prayed to Father that my children would be born before the ch'tull could mount an offense againste us.
I chanced to look at Mother and saw Her full belly. She groaned and I took Her hand when She gave it.
Father Dagon watched from high above as I escorted Mother deep within the earth and into the old city of R'lyeh.
I would guard my children and lead them deeper into the city to break the prison.
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn. The dream was almost done.