16 Jan The Leviathan’s Grin
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"The Leviathan's Grin"Written by
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Estimated reading time — 14 minutes
Sean woke up in his modest bedroom to the sound of his wife Doris cooking breakfast, just as she did every morning. Wiping the sleep from his aged eyes, Sean sat upright in his bed for a few minutes before finally getting dressed. After suiting-up, he looked through his cabinet in an attempt to find his favorite cap, but to no avail. He shrugged to no one and deduced that he had probably left it on the dining-room table after supper the night before. Sean looked into his beside mirror as he did often out of habit and noticed his age. He was getting too old and sickly to continue living the life of physical labor he did, but such rationalizations would have to be left alone. Despite his graying hair and wrinkling face, money was still necessary for survival. Sean immediately laughed to himself out loud at such an implication and mumbled that “Nothing will ever change that.”
It was at this particular point in time that Sean looked out the lone window over his bedpost to peer at the weather conditions at sea. A storm was coming, but he would set sail regardless of that fact; he had been doing it for thirty years, after all. Suddenly, Sean clutched his forehead in pain. “These fucking headaches have been plaguing me for too long,” Sean said as he gritted his teeth. Propping himself against the wall, he waited several minutes for his mind to settle before rising and attempting to head downstairs to the kitchen. Even though he had been suffering from these headaches for months now, Sean refused to tell his wife about them. He didn’t want her to worry about him, seeing as though she was already stricken with grief on a daily basis due to Sean’s dangerous line of work. Sean also came from a sickly family and he never wanted to remind Doris of that fact, so he decided to keep all of his ailments to himself. Just as he was prepared to descend the steps, his wife called him with a noticeable tone of stress. “Come on honey! Your food is going to get cold!”
Sean walked up to his wife and kissed her, before sitting at the table and admiring her. Doris had a homely look about her that reflected the coziness of the house. She was a few years younger than Sean at the age of forty-two. Although the two had wanted children, Doris was a bad carrier. She had lost every child conceived, unable to carry any of them to term. To many other women, this would be irrevocably devastating, but Sean helped her through the grieving and they soon discovered that their love was strong enough to overpower her depression. Doris had fading blonde hair and a slim figure; she dressed casually, only leaving he house for groceries. She had offered to work many years ago, but Sean refused to let her – saying that he would provide for the both of them. Doris contested for an entire decade before realizing that Sean would not budge, he was simply much too stubborn and proud.
Sean very much believed in the concept that the woman should take care of the household and homely affairs. He enjoyed coming home to a loving wife who was not stressed and to an excellently prepared dinner that was not rushed more than he would ever enjoy the extra income she would bring in. As it turned out, Doris loved taking care of the house and preparing the food; she knew she was good at it and appreciated the simple lifestyle. The two were happy together and never fought over trivial things. They knew they were far better with each other than they could ever be apart and so when the seas of their relationship became tumultuous, they would solve the problem civilly.
Sean closed his eyes and meditated on the day ahead of him for a few seconds before smelling the hot plate of food being gently placed beneath is nose. Every meal from Doris was better than the last, a feat Sean had never been able to comprehend. He ate it slowly and appreciated every bite, smiling at how expertly it was prepared. Often times, Doris would stand behind the kitchen counter and watch Sean enjoy his food for a while before joining him at the table herself. Sean never noticed, of course, because he was too busy eating.
This particular morning, however, she sat beside him immediately with a concerned look on her face. “Sean, I am worried about your health. It seems like every morning it takes you longer to come down for breakfast. Is something wrong? Are you having trouble getting out of bed? Are your joints ailing you? Is there anything I can do?” The barrage of questions was too much for Sean to handle and he was too shocked to answer promptly. He stared at her blankly for a moment before regaining composer and saying that “There is nothing wrong with me Doris! You over-worry about everything, love! I think with age, you must be imagining things.” Sean lied, but masked it with lightheartedness; knowing that it would be the most effective way to dissipate Doris’s worries. Sean was never proud of lying, but he knew that telling her the truth would only cause her to be more concerned. There was simply no reason to do such a thing, Sean thought to himself. Even if there was, in fact, something serious ailing him, he simply did not have the monetary resources to get it checked out thoroughly. Because of this, Sean discerned that the only reasonable solution to the matter would be silence. What Doris didn’t know, wouldn’t hurt her.
Doris shook her head in disbelief, but felt that pressing the subject further would only annoy Sean. She took a moment to ponder and then began to second-guess herself. “Maybe there really isn’t anything wrong and I am just worrying over nothing,” Doris thought. There was no way to be sure, she realized, but pestering Sean about something that he didn’t want to tell her would not solve anything. She decided, rather, that the best course of action would be to change the subject. “How are the conditions at sea looking today?” Doris partly asked because she couldn’t think of anything else to say, but mostly because bad weather could mean making Sean’s already dangerous job all the more life-threatening. The worries always consumed her, she simply couldn’t help but ask. Sean responded honestly, but only because he knew that Doris would inevitably look out the window to see if he was lying later in the day; otherwise, he would have spared her the stress. “I hate your job Sean, every day you leave me and I am always unsure if you will return home. Do you realize what that kind of stress can do to a woman?” Sean smiled, knowing that Doris only worried because she cared. He kissed her once more, picked up his favorite sea-cap, and reassured her that he would return home that day just as he always had. “It will take more than a few over-sized waves and some drizzle to bury me at sea, darling.”
Sean, without saying another word, briskly walked out of his front door and descended the hill on which his abode stood. He was already slightly late for work, but since he was captain of the ship, there was not much anyone could say about it. “It’s good being the boss,” Sean said before chuckling to himself. As Sean walked into the harbor, he looked back at his home once more and professed out loud how grateful he was for his life. He did this every day before setting sail to make sure that he had no regrets. Should the worst of the worst occur, Sean made sure that could lay at peace. Sean had also heard once in a shady pub during his youth that “it’s bad luck to have a voyage at sea with an ill temper,” and because of this statement, he always boarded his vessel, “The Final Offer,” with a grin on his face. He greeted his deckhands and apologized for being late, knowing that he would inevitably hear the same – “you are getting too old for this” – jokes as he had heard countless times before. Sean laughed, knowing that the young sailors were right, but he also knew damn well that he would never admit that fact to anyone but himself.
Sean ordered the lower ranking members of the crew to take care of the grunt work before anchoring aweigh, while he took account for the weather and how it would affect the day’s fishing. The sky ahead looked grim, but nothing the old sailor hadn’t faced before. With determination, he exclaimed to the crew that he felt luck on the horizon. Sean had always believed that the best fishing occurred when the ocean was in a rage; it assured that the best catch would only go to the most experienced hands.
The crew set sail and the day’s fishing would commence just as it always would, with sea-salt and grit. Sean approved of his men, knowing that each and every one of them had been hardened by the sea. He puffed a few plumes of smoke from his pipe and observed the deckhands for mistakes from the captain’s quarters. The crew’s aqua uniform blended in almost perfectly with the swirls of blue and green produced from the waves crashing against the boat. Sean saw that the weather was as cold and sharp as murder, but the deckhands were stoic in their work. He had much pride in seeing that the tenacity of the sea-salt mist was equaled only by the sweat of the crew’s brow – who labored tireless for hours. Sean wanted to feel the adventure, so he descended from his quarters to join the crew.
Even though Sean didn’t have to be on deck, he sometimes did it out of principal to show the other men that he was not just an empty crown. During these periods, Sean would send his most experienced deckhand, a young lad by the name of Colin, to the helm for steering. Colin would eventually succeed Sean as captain of the ship; he was also the deckhand that had been on “The Final Offer” with Sean the longest. Because of this, Sean saw him as the only appropriate choice for future captain. To pick anyone else would be a considerable disrespect. Even though Sean trusted Colin the most, being the first mate was no easy task. Sean had made Colin work for the position rigorously in his younger years and would occasionally give Colin the most strenuous tasks of the day in order to see if his skills were still honed.
Nevertheless, on this particular day, Sean decided to give Colin a break. “Why don’t you take the steering-wheel for a while Colin, this old sailor wants to test his sea-legs on this fine day!” Colin smirked warmly, and set off for the helm without questioning his captain. Sean worked on deck for a few hours, noticing that the weather was getting worse. The waves became more ferocious and the rain had an acute sting of sorrow to it. The clouds were as black as night and the only light in the sky was produced from thunder arcing across the entire horizon. The wind shear chilled Sean to the bone, a stigma that he had not felt for many years. Sean began to question his decision to set sail on this day, but quickly ignored his worries. It would be no use turning back now, by the time they reached the harbor, the storm would be over. Besides, Sean thought, they were pulling in a tremendous amount of fish. He looked back towards Colin in the captain’s seat to make sure that he had the wheel under control before suddenly clenching his forehead in agony.
Sean looked down and bent his knees to stabilize himself under the tremendous amount of pain he was experiencing. He had dealt with the headaches before, but they had only ailed him in the morning when he woke up. It was much easier to cope with the migraines in the comfort of his own home; out at sea, it was a different story all-together. Sean looked at the wood of the deck to discover something strikingly uncanny. Sean was seeing through a monochrome lens. He closed his eyes tightly to shake off what he was sure was only an illusion, but when he opened them he perceived only a black-and-white existence. Sean fell to the deck and saw that his crew laid brutally murdered and strewn across it. Their blood painted the deck black and many of their organs were plastered on the mast. Sean turned his head sharply to the helm to see if Colin had befallen the same fate; what he saw caused him to vomit profusely.
The glass window to the captain’s quarters was shattered and the upper-half of Colin was hanging out the broken orifice. Colin’s upper torso was connected to his lower only by his elongated spine and intestines, meanwhile his wounds still were spewing blood erratically. Sean could see that Colin’s head had been forced completely backwards from its natural position. Colin’s lacerated and lifeless face peered directly at Sean from a distance, but the most terrifying quality it possessed was an eerie smile that went from ear to ear. Disgusted, Sean looked to the sky and began to see millions of black droplets falling from it, he made no mistake in perceiving the droplets as having the same shade of black that was shooting out of his deceased deckhands. The blood-rain covered “The Final Offer” in its endless opaqueness which inevitably caused Sean to scream in horror, only to find that his voice produced no audible sound. He looked to the sky once more, cringing in terror at the myriad of lightning strikes that were as silent as death’s embrace. The only thing that Sean could hear was the sound of his own heart pounding against his chest, an occurrence that began to increase in rate with every second. Soon, his heartbeat reached inhuman levels of force and pace, before sharply changing into an agonizingly slow rumble. Looking out at sea, Sean saw a single entity – a colossal leviathan staring directly back at him … grinning.
Sean made sure to note of the leviathan’s every detail on the hopes that he would pass his tale upon surviving. Yet, for obvious reasons, he failed to see in the plausibility of such a scenario. Nevertheless, it only took Sean a matter of moments to realize that he could never forget the abhorring sight before him even if he wanted to. The creature had thick white scales that covered its entire body in a serpentine pattern. The scales, worn and covered in barnacles, were a clear indicator of the beast’s ancient age. Sean followed the scales from the titan’s base in the water, all the way skyward to its eyes which were large feline masses of gray tissue. Sean attempted to count the seconds that it took for the creature to blink, but his heart soon deadened at the realization that the eyes remained opened for as long as he peered into them. It was then that Sean observed the monster’s enormous size, which easily towered over “The Final Offer’s” mast three-fold. If the beast wanted to, Sean thought, it could thrash its reptilian body in the waves and cause the ship to capsize with ease.
The leviathan housed a gigantic mouth which had three rows of teeth that grew in size as they radiated forward. The teeth were jagged and curved inwards, but did not seem terribly sharp (an observation that was impossible to feel positive or negative about). Sean could see that they were stained with black blood and strewn with bones, articles of clothing, and a vast amount of flesh. Here, Sean began to notice the leviathan’s face, a flat, almost human-like visage that didn’t seem to fit the rest of its body. Adding to the sinister vibe of the creature was its statuesque stance. The waves, nor the wind could shake the beast from its posture. Equally ominous was the wretch’s grin; Sean could not understand what the creature could possibly be contented with until he realized that the ship was heading straight for the it. Sean didn’t notice it at first, but the demon’s grin was slowly widening as the boat drew closer.
Sean counted the seconds as they passed, praying that his demise would be quick and painless. Hopefully, he thought, the boat would simply crash into the statuesque creature, casting it away – or at the very least knocking him out unconscious. The boat started to move towards the leviathan with increased speed, eventually reaching momentum that would be impossible under any normal circumstance. Sean realized that the impact would shatter the boat, so he closed his eyes awaiting death. To his surprise, however, the vessel stopped abruptly for no apparent reason. The sharp stop caused Sean to fall forwards and hit something directly in front of him. Not understanding what could have possibly happened, Sean opened his eyes to find that the ship had stopped directly in front of the leviathan – who had now lowered its face to meet his. Sean silently screamed as the beast’s nostrils blasted hot, moist air onto his face. The force of the monster’s breath knocked Sean’s cap straight off of his head. The sea-devil then opened its mouth, showcasing the rows of dagger-like teeth it possessed as a final act of torture before swallowing Sean whole.
Sean suddenly awoke to find himself in the medical room of his ship. He was being taken care of by Colin who had a very stern look on his face. Sean tried to speak, but at this time he was too physically worn to mouth anything. “About three hours ago, you fell unconscious out on the deck. You had us scared for your life Sean! You should have told us something was wrong and you never should have volunteered to work on the deck if you had the slightest inclination of being sick! Did you go out there because you have some sort of death-wish?!” Colin was infuriated, a fact that made Sean feel appreciated as a captain. Sean responded to Colin with a gesture to come closure, to which Colin agreed to. Sean whispered into Colin’s ear slowly and deliberately. “I’m fine, don’t worry about me.”
Colin sighed in disbelief and frustration. How someone could be so reckless was a question he would surely never have answered. Despite his concern, however, Colin knew that the old captain would never admit to having done anything wrong. Colin made sure that Sean was comfortable and then left to steer (he had left the second mate in charge while he stabilized Sean). Sean rested for ten minutes and then got up, being much too proud to not command his own ship. He assured Colin that everything was fine and then proceeded to steer for the remainder of the day’s journey.
When “The Final Offer” finally reached land, Sean couldn’t have been more elated. Even though he had surmised the encounter with the leviathan as merely a nightmare, he still was contented greatly at the notion that he was safe. After post-voyage work was completed, Sean hurried home to his wife. He rushed through the door and immediately embraced her, telling her that he loved her and that he was so lucky to have her. At first, he was afraid that too passionate of a greeting would leave Doris suspicious. However, he was joyous to find that Doris had not suspected anything from the encounter.
Sean then took some time to look around his comfortable living space and confirmed with himself that he was truly ecstatic to be alive. He sat down to yet another perfect meal and talked semantics with Doris for the remainder of the night in the hopes that he would forget the hellish experience he had while unconscious. Even still, in his own mind, he dreaded the following day’s work, but he also thought that a good night’s sleep would work wonders on his mental status. After showering and doing his average evening routine, Sean retired to bed where he laid with Doris, embracing her. It took him longer than usual, but he eventually fell into a deep sleep; one that was luckily not infested with nightmares.
Sean awoke to the same sounds of Doris cooking in the kitchen below. He put on his clothes with a vigor that he had not felt in many years and peered into his bedside mirror to find himself looking especially sharp. “Today is going to be a great day,” Sean said to himself with confidence. He looked out of the window and into the sea to find a crystal-clear day, “Much better than yesterday, that’s for sure,” Sean mumbled. He began to descend the stairs, but then remembered that he needed his cap. He walked to his cabinet and opened it with excessive force to find that the cap was nowhere to be found. It was then, that Sean realized something unnerving. When he had awoken in the medical room inside “The Final Offer,” he did not have his cap. “Surely, I must have just lost it at sea when I fell unconscious from the migraine,” Sean whispered to himself nervously before falling to the ground in anguish.
Another headache was pounding through his skull with such exertion that Sean could barely breathe; his vision faded to gray once more and soon the only thing he could hear was the sound of his own heart. He regained composure just as he saw a flash of light coming from the window above his bed. Sean couldn’t believe what was happening, but he had to look out of the window for the sake of his own sanity. It was raining. More furiously than the day before and with thunder that was much more alarming. However, Sean was much more concerned with the leviathan staring and grinning at him in the distance.
Doris heard a crash from the bedroom upstairs and instantly knew something had gone wrong. She left the breakfast unattended as she rushed up the steps and through the door of the bedroom to find Sean unconscious, collapsed on the floor next to the cabinet. Although she was frantic with worry, she knew that she had to get Sean medical attention. An emergency response team was at the house in a matter of minutes, but nothing could have been done. Sean was dead before they had even arrived.
“Dead from a massive brain aneurysm,” the team reiterated to Doris, but she wouldn’t believe them. In shock, all Doris could say was “but he told me nothing was wrong,” over and over again. Doris blamed herself for Sean’s death, telling herself that if she had just been a better wife that she could have gotten Sean the help he needed. It was only a matter of weeks before the neighbors found her hung in the bedroom, right over the spot where Sean had died. She simply could not cope with the reality that she was alone. The neighbors had also found a suicide note written by Doris which only consisted of the same sentence covering the entire page: “Nothing is wrong.”
When Colin heard of the news that Sean had died, he went up to the house the very next day. Doris greeted him saying that, “you are going to make a fine captain Colin, it is what Sean would have wanted.” Colin quickly paid his respects and left, a single tear rolling down his cheek and onto the ground – which was soaked from the rain – as he walked down the hill back into town. He looked out to sea as a final gesture of gratitude for what Sean had taught him, but soon became mortified at the sight before him. A monster which had haunted his dreams almost every single night since he became first mate on “The Final Offer” was in the shallows only fifty feet from where he stood. The leviathan was blankly staring at him, just as it had done in his dreams so dishearteningly. Squinting his eyes, Colin could make out Sean’s favorite sailing-cap wedged between two of its teeth. It was grinning wider than ever … always grinning.
Credit To – Taylor Lanson
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