A bank of TV screens in the window of an electronics store on East 180th was trying to get some attention but nobody in the Bronx seemed inclined to watch. They shuffled by, tapping on phones or yelling at cabs, smoking cigarettes or whistling at girls, all the while completely ignoring the chaos unfolding on the 11 o’clock news.
The footage was grainy and frantic, but it looked like a security camera on the deck of a large container ship. The sea swelled in front of the ship and something rose out of the water. Something huge and black. Though difficult to discern in the churning waves, there seemed to be a mass of giant tentacles approaching the bow, and what could only be described as enormous clawed fingers grabbed the deck, wrapping around the ship and lifting it clear of the sea. Here the clip went dark and the news anchor reappeared, her muted words falling on deaf ears until the video played again, this time with a banner scrolling across the top of the screen.
*Breaking news – seismic event recorded in Atlantic – multiple cargo vessels missing and presumed destroyed – unknown aquatic creature possibly approaching Eastern Seaboard – stay tuned for details*
The video caught the eye of a grubby man digging half a Camel out of an ashtray. He lit it and exhaled a gray cloud at the glass, gesturing to an equally grubby acquaintance nearby.
“What do you think?” he asked.
“Let him who would raise Leviathan curse the day,” the acquaintance said. “That's the book of Job. Chapter three, verse eight.”
“Hold on to your butts,” the grubby man said. “That’s from Jurassic Park.”
“I suppose the meaning is the same.”
A man appeared at the door of the store. He stepped outside and made a show of locking it behind him and lowering the security gate.
“You bums run on,” he said. “Gonna ruin my investment.”
“I have a feeling your investment will be ruined without any help from us,” the acquaintance said and the two men shuffled off as the anchor made another appearance.
A bank of TV screens in the window of an electronics store on West 7th was trying to get some attention but nobody in Long Beach seemed inclined to watch. The ground shook again, and the big plate glass window, already cracked and hanging loose from the storefront, fell out onto the sidewalk and shattered. Clay tiles clattered down from the roof of an apartment building while a church steeple across the street buckled and collapsed in on itself. Smoke rose from myriad rooftops. Screams rang out, compounded by the wailing of sirens. The TVs flickered for a moment but came back on.
*Continued seismic activity along the coast from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo – widespread structural damages reported – the Diablo Canyon nuclear facility has suffered severe damage and evacuations are underway – those not in an evacuation zone should remain sheltered – aftershocks will likely continue – stay tuned for details*
A grubby man stepped through the broken window, carefully avoiding the large shards of glass still sticking up. He unplugged a large TV from the display and hoisted it to his shoulder.
“Hey, you can’t do that!” a voice called from beneath the cash register.
“The Lord helps those who help themselves,” the grubby man said and stepped out of the store carrying his prize. The ground shook again but he didn't drop the TV.
The admiral stood on the bridge and surveyed the bustling crew as they tended to their myriad glowing screens and blinking lights.
“Chief Mate,” he said. “The sit-rep, if you please.”
“Looking good, sir,” she replied, brandishing a clipboard. “The entity is continuing northwest at a speed of roughly twenty knots. We intercept in approximately twenty seven minutes.”
“Excellent. And then we will show it what a United States destroyer is capable of. It’s one thing to pick a fight with cargo ships, but this is an entirely different playground.”
“Guns are ready?”
“Yes sir, I have seen to them personally.”
“Excellent. I’d like to see the entity that can withstand our Mark 45.”
“As would I, sir.”
The minutes passed and a deck officer soon called up. “Two clicks leeward, sir. ETA approximately five minutes.”
The admiral nodded. Sirens sounded to clear the deck and then it happened. The thing rose from the sea in front of them. It brought blackness with it, not the blackness of night, but a different black. The sun still shone in a cloudless sky, but it was a black sun glowing in a field of ebony and the whole world had gone silent. There were no sounds of the engines, no beeping computers, no barking orders; there was only the ship and the thing that should not be in front of it.
The admiral wanted to fire the big gun but he could not give the order. His mind had become a landscape of strange buildings rising from the depths. They loomed at weird angles, not because they were old and falling down but because they were built that way, and they were gargantuan in size.
Someone managed to fire the Mark 45 and it erupted in a cloud of flame and smoke, hurling a five inch shell at the atrocity still rising from the depths. The shell struck somewhere on the bulbous head and exploded, blowing a plume of inky jelly into the sky, but the thing took no notice and the wound disappeared almost instantly. The admiral wanted to order a reverse but he had no voice and the ship continued forward. Through the fog of the dream city, he looked around at his slack-jawed crew. There was the Chief Mate, staring in mute horror. Her clipboard was on the ground. There were the deck officers, screaming silently. Someone should reverse the ship but it was too late. The thing had them now.
The anchor spoke calmly into the camera even as a tremor shook the news room.
“We have confirmed via the aerial footage you see here earlier reports of a geologic event in the Atlantic Ocean.”
The video playing behind her showed an expanse of ocean and then what appeared to be a looming island composed of large, irregular blocks. A ship that had run aground gave context to the massive size of the structures, and when the camera panned left or right the island seemed to stretch to the horizon.
“Earlier reports indicated a large earthquake along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge a few hundred miles east of Bermuda. Scientists believe this earthquake raised the island you are now seeing up from the seabed. They do not believe that this event and the seismic activity off the California coast are related.”
The footage segued to scenes of coastal destruction.
“The tsunami generated by the Bermuda earthquake was estimated at twenty five feet when it struck the Bermuda Islands, causing widespread destruction and loss of life. Though the killer wave weakened as it moved westward, it still retained enough force to inundate much of the coast along Georgia and the Carolinas.”
Someone handed the anchor a piece of paper.
“This just in: California has experienced a second earthquake, this one estimated to be at least 9.0 on the Richter scale. Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and surrounding areas are experiencing widespread flooding and property damage and the reactor at Diablo Canyon is fully compromised.”
There was hectic coverage of screaming people running through city streets, of buildings collapsing and coughing up giant clouds of gray dust, and of the cracked domes of the smoldering nuclear plant. The famed Hollywood sign had lost an O and an L, and the roof of the Griffith Observatory had fallen in.
A loose front page of the Daily News blew across Broadway. The cover photo was a grainy blow-up recovered from the Navy ship’s cameras that showed a mass of tentacles rising from the ocean, and the headline read ‘Release the Kraken?’ in large block letters. The paper caught on the shoe of a man trying unsuccessfully to negotiate prices with a hot dog vendor.
“I’m not paying five dollars for a hot dog,” the man said.
“Then you are not eating a hot dog.”
“Come on man. They’re two bucks around the corner.”
“Then you should go around the corner. His hot dogs are garbage anyway. You get what you pay for.”
The man picked up the paper from his shoe and swatted it with his other hand as he showed it to the hot dog man.
“Would you look at this?”
The vendor glanced at the paper but he did not seem particularly interested.
“What is this kraken?”
“I don’t know,” the man said. “Probably one of them government experiments gone wrong.”
“Yes. Now do you want the hot dog or not?”
“Yeah fine. Four dollars.”
“Five dollars, hot dog and a Coke.”
“Eight dollars, hot dog and a Coke.”
The man counted out eight dollars and put them down heavily. He took the hot dog and Coke and stamped off toward Battery Park, studying the errant Daily News page as he walked and ate. When he reached the walk along the water he sat down on a bench to finish the hot dog. He would not have said so to the vendor, but it was quite good, possibly even worth the five dollars. He looked out over the water and though the morning was foggy he could make out the Statue of Liberty standing tall just past Ellis Island.
What he saw out there caused him to choke on the portion of bun he was eating, not because he was surprised but because his mind seemed to have forgotten even its most basic duties. Something huge rose from the water. It flapped two great, bat-like wings and lurched into the air, swinging one arm to the side and striking the Statue of Liberty. The great monument toppled slowly, twisting as she fell from her base and crashing to the ground with a loud metallic gonging that echoed across the bay. Her head broke loose and rolled down into the water where it collided with a ferry boat. The thing was not concerned with the statue and flapped toward land, its wings spreading darkness as he gasped his last breaths around the bun that had lodged in his throat.
Stearns Wharf and most of Santa Barbara was still soggy from the after-effects of the flooding. Palm branches and other debris littered the road but miraculously a shaved ice truck was parked near the pier and open.
“Look,” a tired man told the shaved ice vendor, “I’m not a tourist. I’m not paying ten bucks for some ice and food coloring.”
“Cataclysm prices, mate. Ice is at a premium.”
“My apartment is five minutes from here.”
“Then you should get walking,” the vendor said.
“Quake knocked out my power. And water.”
“Then walking won’t do you much good. Ten dollars.”
“Fine,” the man said. He slapped a ten on the counter. “Black cherry. And don’t skimp on the flavor. Or the ice.”
The vendor pocketed the money and began grinding the ice. Eventually he dumped some in a paper cup and squirted it with flavor.
“More,” the man said.
The vendor squirted some more flavor, this time missing the cup and landing some on the man’s shorts.
The man snatched the cup, spilling some of it on his hand, and stormed off toward the sand. While he ate the snow cone he inspected all the creatures so recently washed up. He really liked the starfish, especially the bristly ones with lots of arms. While nudging one with the tip of a palm frond the beach fell dark under a shadow, so he turned his head back to see what could be blocking the light.
The hand holding the cup trembled and the snow cone fell, staining the sand a deep purple. Towering out past the end of the pier was an impossible giant. It looked like a colossal dinosaur, like a tyrannosaurus but with tall spikes running down its back, and it blotted out the sun. The beast tilted its head skyward and roared, unleashing a sound that defied description. The man could feel blood trickling from his ears.
When it rose from the below, the beast had created a substantial wave that was now reaching the shore. The man thought to turn and flee, but the water was fast upon him, picking him up and bashing the life from him against the side of the shaved ice truck.