Hours had passed since the slaughter ship had been ripped from the sea's surface, dragging three hundred men with it to the ocean floor. Fewer than nine hundred of the remaining crew pushed against the Philippine Sea, willing themselves to stay afloat. As the minutes dragged on, the water claimed its victims. Warriors of death clutched the lower halves of men, piercing the fine skin, trapping the prey between their grinning jaws. One by one, the sea took the fortunes of humanity, reducing those who waited to paralysing fear. Searing agony punctuated the hollow air as desperate cries for help blasted into the atmosphere like gunshots.
As the sky became veiled with night, the men linked arm in arm. Leaning into his comrades, Max looked up to lights that burned against the dark heavens, wondering if his fallen friends had joined the stars above his head, if his brother floated among them. Fruitless yearning flickered while Max imagined the conflict’s end, praying that death would cease. Most of all… he wished for freedom.
Morning once again came, waking a day of painstaking desire to leave the sea; though it was left unfulfilled. When day bled to night the air thickened. Shaking, the men waited for the attackers to arrive once more. The stars hid behind grey clouds, leaving the men in the abyss - no longer were they able to see the creatures that lurked in the water, they only felt the movement that accompanied the sea stalkers.
Molten pressure built in Max’s boots, rising through his legs, burning at his waist. The invading sense of mortality crescendoed in his head as fatality seemed merely inches below the surface. He clutched to James, the Utah soldier beside him, groaning as heat rapidly swarmed through his whole being.
“You okay?” James questioned.
A strangled gasp shook Max’s lips, “It’s…It’s got me. God!” he moaned “One of those bastards has got me.”
His cries added to the sea air as he curled into James, desperate to stay atop the water. The man to his left held the wailing man tighter, gripping his arm as he breached below the water’s top. Max’s screams were lost in the waves, becoming inaudible pleas of vibrations and bubbles.
The surface was no longer in reach as a power that could only be that of Poseidon tore Max further into the sea. Max dared not to look down, not wishing to see the beast that led him to the ocean depths. Instead, he witnessed the finned warriors shredding other men too young to be considered soldiers.
Max’s descent ended, suspending him meters beneath rows of black boots that tiredly tread the water. A colossal creature charged passed him as if he were not there, like a miniature spec not worth the time. It swam up barely missing the soldiers above it, changing route as it discovered a weaker group that splashed frantically in the bloodied water. The beast was ready to feast.
Though, Max thought, mankind has done much worse, and was going to do much worse. This was survival. Like dangling a free buffet in front of the starving. The beasts were hardly monsters compared to the men that, in less than ten days, intended to drop the ultimate weapon on Japan. The creatures fought the war of nature. They lived the life of kill or be killed and chose the former.
Max continued to float in the channel. Not once did the pressure rise in his chest, it was as if he was breathing properly for the first time. Everything was clear, his senses, his heart. Something had clicked and life made sense; however, Max was ignorant to its trigger. His change was past his mental state, past comprehension.
It was not human. And nor was he.
His limbs had doubled, no longer covered in minute hairs but a thin layer of goo. Max thrashed in the water willing his legs to work, but he could not control what he did not have. Gone were his arms and legs, in turn he had eight tentacles that stretched from his centre. Each one covered in thin blue rings.
He continued to shake his sickly yellow core, trembling in the changes. His mind cursed with the thoughts of never seeing his mother again, and the questions of how on earth he would live as a… how he would survive? The burning unknown fed on his soul, until.
In the eye of his storm freedom waited.
Max could learn to hunt like an animal just as he had learned to fire a gun. He could find shelter. This new life, though excitingly frightening, could provide him with liberty. Never would he see another comrade shot down for war or fear the next bullet would be his.
This was his chance. This was his escape. The confines of humanity and society vanished as Max propelled his body further into the sea.
Now. Now he was free.