Christmas With A K
By A.S. MacKenzie
“What the hell are you staring at me for? I said RUN!”
The car blared its horn at him, swerving at the last moment to avoid him, nearly hitting the railing. The stream of expletives went unheard as he ran further down the bridge. The next car to see him slowed down and waved for him to get out of the middle of the road. He was running down the twin yellow stripes of the last bridge that connected Key West to the mainland just before it unloaded the Northern escaping tourists onto the island. The oncoming car, an SUV filled with people already red-faced from the Florida sun, hit the horn repeatedly as the passenger waved for him to get out of the way.
“Run! You have to run! It’s coming! It’s coming! Don’t you understand?!”
“Get out the damn way,” the driver yelled from his now open window. “You’re going to get killed out here, you crazy drunk bastard!”
Running up to the car, he placed both hands on the hood and yelled again they should run. The driver responded by laying on the horn and jolting the car forward a step. He jumped back and stepped to the side, which the driver took advantage of to accelerate quickly away, but not before calling him a bastard again as he passed.
The chirp of a siren came behind him and a voice over a bullhorn gave instructions for him to move to the side. Complying, he started waving his arms and yelling, “Officer! You’ve got to get everyone out of here! It’s coming! It’s coming and we’re going to die!”
Stepping out of the car, a young officer held up one hand palm out to him, the other resting on the handle of his taser. “All right, buddy, you can tell me all about it over here, OK. Just need to get you off the bridge.”
“Officer, you don’t get it! We have to get out of here, now! There’s no time to wait and these people gotta turn back. Do it! Do it now!” he yelled, taking a step towards the officer.
His next words cut off by the pain of arcing flechettes and the voltage coursing through him from the grip of the officer. He fell to the searing hot pavement of the bridge. Through the rippling haze of the heat rising off the asphalt, the water in the distance looked turbulent and violent. His heart raced from the jolt and sped up with the thought. He had a brief moment of thanks when the voltage stopped, but then felt the handcuffs click into place behind him, so his thankfulness extended to lifting up off the road.
“Alright, buddy. You’ve been in the sun too long today, OK? Let’s get you cooled off.”
He tried to speak but his tongue felt fat and heavy in his mouth. He let the officer lead him to the back seat of the patrol car and felt the cool, air-conditioned seat on his back. He turned his head to lower the still burning skin of his cheek to the seat material, a sigh releasing from him. They were just pulling off the bridge and heading to the station when he got some more of his senses back. Throwing his face against the partition to the front seat he said, “Officer, you don’t understand. It’s coming. It’s real and it is coming. I’m not drunk, dehydrated, or suffering the ill effects of the sun. My name is Dr. Hitchins. I’m a marine biologist with Woods Hole and I found something. It’s bad and we got to clear this island now!”
Not responding, but keeping his eyes forward, the officer continued their route to the station. The silence continued the entire way to the station, where the only words the officer now spoke were, “Come on” and “Sit here”.
The officer held his wallet, which he didn’t realize was taken from him, and handed it to another officer. “The good doctor here seems to not be in his right mind.”
The second officer took out the license from the wallet and examined it. Holding the picture ID in his hand up to compare it to the man seated in front of him, he said, “Right, Dr. Hitchins… OK, son, what’s a Carolina boy doing here?”
“First, Officer, I don’t appreciate the derisive tone of ‘son’ and second, I already said I’m here for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. They had me come down to take some sand shift readings off the shelf to the southeast. It was sliding at an alarming rate, so they sent for me. I found something big and terrible out there and we’re all in danger.”
“Uh huh,” was all the officer replied. Silence stretched for a few moments before Dr. Hitchins said, “You don’t believe me, do you?” He slumped back into the seat. “No one believes me. Single biggest event to take place in our time and no one believes me.”
“Well, Doctor,“ the officer said, his tone not holding deference for the title. “I will call who I want what I want, and second, no, I don’t believe you. I think you got hopped up on Corona’s and conch fritters and are having a bit of a thinking problem. Sane folks don’t go screaming down the bridge.”
“They do when they know what is coming.”
They stayed in silence for a couple heartbeats before Hitchins added, “And now we’re all going to die.”
The officer sighed and shook his head as he stood and took the cuffs off, gave him a tray and said empty his pockets, take his belt off, and remove the shoelaces. Since the officer had his wallet, the only other item he had was his cell phone. His shorts held up by draw string, which they took, and his shoes were sandals. He followed the officer to a white room with built in benches and a drain in the floor. As he turned to leave, the officer said, “Go ahead and puke. We’ll just spray the room down after.”
With a sigh, he sat on the bench and put is head in his hands.
“Great job, kiddo!”
Tanner held up the sheepshead he just caught and smiled a huge grin.
“Let me get a picture!” his mom said as she rushed inside the cabin cruiser to get her phone. Tanner’s dad beckoned him to come over and let him get the hook out. With the hook safely removed, his dad showed him how to hold the fish up so his mom could get the picture.
“Your friends are going to be so jealous!” she exclaimed, taking picture after picture. “You’re going to go back with a tan and some great fishing stories after Christmas break.”
“Yeah, mom, I can’t wait to show everyone. They had snow yesterday! Billy sent me a pic of he and Oscar throwing snowballs. This is way better!”
Mom and dad smiled to each other, then dad told him to put the fish in the live well. As Tanner reached down to the lid on the deck, he heard his dad gasp. Looking up he saw him standing there, eyes wide, mouth open, watching mom fall over the edge of the boat.
Dad stepped in front of him as he went to the side and held him close. Tanner could feel his dad’s heartbeat against him.
“Get inside the boat!” he yelled, pushing Tanner towards the open door to the cruiser. Tanner felt his shoulder pull back where his dad gripped it then let go. Looking back over his shoulder he saw his dad’s hand outstretched towards him while his body continued backwards over the side. What looked like a large tire was holding his chest. It took Tanner a second to realize he’d seen that type of thing before. But it was the arm of an octopus and this looked way too big to be that. He stumbled backwards into the cabin, tripping over the edge and falling on his back. His head hit the deck hard and stars swam over his vision. He tried to sit up and shake his head, but the stars kept him down. He wanted to see if his mom and dad were OK because he knew he couldn’t drive the boat without them. Lifting his head a little, he saw one of the too big octopus arms come across the deck where he’d just been standing. It landed with a thud then started moving, like it was trying to hold on to something. He could see the pads on the bottom sucking down on the deck, then letting go as the arm undulated in its path across the bow. Then he heard a loud crunch, followed by more crunching, popping, and tearing noises. He saw the deck splinter up and break under the octopus’ arm. The last thing he saw before going under the water was the horizon outside the boat flip upside down and the half of it he was lying in race toward the water.
“Chief, yes, I am sober. I’ve been trying to say that for an hour. We’re wasting time!”
Chief Robbins turned his head to the officer next to him. “What’d he blow?”
The officer looked a little sheepish and said, “I didn’t get that till we were back here. He blew a zero here.” He started to add quickly before getting cut off by the Chief, “But that doesn’t mean—”
“Dammit, man, how many times I gotta yell at you?” Turning to Dr. Hitchins, “I’m sorry, doctor. You’re free to go, but I gotta give you a citation for public disturbance. You understand, right?”
“Fine, whatever, I don’t care. I just need you to listen to me, Chief. Something big and bad is coming this way and it doesn’t care about you, me, or anybody. I know it’s going to destroy everything.”
“Son,” the Chief said, shaking his head a little. “There ain’t nothing out in those waters except sport fishing, shipwrecks, and sunburnt tourists. I’ve lived here my whole life. Worse thing we ever have are hurricanes and we’re still here.”
“This isn’t a damn hurricane!”
“Look, I’m feeling charitable because it’s Christmas Eve and all. I’d like to have a nice quiet day before it gets too crazy around here with all the folks thinking rum and sun make for a better Christmas. Go on now, back to your place, and rest. You’re not making sense and that don’t fly right now. Am I clear?”
Dr. Hitchins looked at him for a few moments, then shook his head. “Fine, yeah, can I have my things? I’d like to get the hell out of here.”
The Officer handed him a bag of his few items. Without a word, he left the station.
He headed to a friend’s house which was a couple of streets away and banged on the door. The colorful wreath hanging on the door bounced on each hit.
“What?” came a voice on the other side.
“Laurence, open up! I need your scooter.”
The door opened and Laurence scowled at him.
“You bang on my door as we’re sitting down to dinner to tell me you need my scooter? Man, it’s Christmas Eve. Go home, get drunk, watch White Christmas and I’ll see you in two days.” He started to close the door and Dr. Hitchins threw his hand against it to block it.
“No, please. I need that scooter and you need to get your family in the car and get out of here. Now!”
“You drunk already?”
“No!” he shouted. Laurence took a step back at this. They heard a woman yell from another room, “Who is it? Tell them to go away. We’re busy!”
“Laurence, please. I’m not drunk. I saw what was shifting the sand. You gotta go. Now.”
His friend looked him in the eye for a few moments then said, “OK, man. Here.” Reaching behind the door, he took the key to the scooter and handed it to him. “Just be safe, OK?”
“I will, but, Laurence…seriously. I mean, you gotta go. Now.”
Nodding a little, he said, “Yeah, I’ll talk to her about it now. You gotta let go of the door, though.”
Moving his hand off, Laurence shut the door. Hitchins stood there for a few moments looking at the door, then turned to the scooter. He hoped they would leave. He liked Laurence and his family. He wanted to see them again.
“The hell is that?”
Crew Chief of the US Coast Guard Cutty Potomac pointed out towards an upwelling of water and a short geyser.
First Mate looked out and said, “I don’t know. Hand me the glasses.”
Taking the offered binoculars, he peered through at the roiling water some three-hundred yards away.
“That’s what I said. You think it’s a sub breaching or something?”
“No, it looks like something’s moving in there. Get me closer.”
They powered the cutter forward, the First Mate keeping an eye through the glasses.
“All stop!” he yelled.
“All stop!” came the echo as the order was executed.
“Get on the .50 now!”
The Crew Chief looked at the other faces in the pilot house. All showed the same confusion.
“Now, I said!” he yelled, not taking the binoculars from his eyes.
“Sir,” came a reply as the Gunner ran to the prow and prepared the large weapon. He charged the rounds, ensured the belt was steady, and gave a thumb’s up towards the pilot house.
“Gunner is ready, sir.”
“Go wake the lieutenant. He should see this.”
As the crew hand raced down to get the lieutenant from the crew quarters, he heard the unmistakable roar and pounding of the .50 caliber, twin barrel deck gun fired depleted uranium rounds down range. He stepped up speed, threw the door open to the quarters and opened his mouth to wake the senior officer, but his words cut off by the rush of seawater that overtook the corridor. It swept him out the large hole that had just appeared in the stern. Within a few more moments, none of the crew were able to speak as they met the same fate.
“What’d he say?”
The tourist turned to the person next to them at the table of the open-air café and said, “He said we should run.”
Dr. Hitchins gunned the small engine in the scooter for all it had. As he raced towards the bridge, he yelled to every passerby he could for them to run and leave. Either they didn’t hear him, or they ignored him. None ran.
He made it to the bridge leading off the island, the same one where he was arrested just hours earlier. He knew he had tried to make them listen, but he would be damned if he followed their same fate. Moving the needle of the scooter’s speedometer as far over as he could, he willed the two-wheeled machine to move faster. He barely paid attention to the Christmas lights decking the moored boats flickering along the bridge and out as far as the eye could see as he continued, but then something did catch his eye. It was where some lights in the far distance he really thought had just been but was now dark. He slowed the scooter down and pulled to the railing.
As the sun was due to set within the next hour, many people had their lights already on, ready for the night. The long stretch of water leading off from the bridge disappeared into the gulf and moored boats littered the water the entire way. He watched as some of the furthest boats seemed to turn off their lights. His heart dropped in his chest when he realized the boats weren’t turning their lights off. The boats were disappearing. Transfixed on the scene, he watched as the tiny, distant boats started to move, then blink out. He knew he couldn’t hear them from here, but the lapping of the waves on the pylons of the bridge mimicked the sound of screams to his mind. To him the air was full of the terrified screams of innocent people.
Tearing his eyes away from the water, he hit the scooter’s accelerator and resumed his high-speed escape. He was thankful the drone of the engine drowned out the screams he was sure were going to come closer.
He made it to the far side of the first bridge, which was a small island on the chain of the Keys. Pulling the scooter over, he turned to see if he could see anything. His mind reeled at the sight.
Even though he was a couple miles from where he’d just been, he could see it. The creature that he discovered under the sand offshore. He was certain the last hurricane uncovered and woke it and that this was where the myths about the kraken had come from. It towered over the island with tentacles whipping around from its body. He could make out only tiny details of things flying through the air and couldn’t believe this was possible. A boat, still covered in lights shimmering in the late afternoon sun, sailed high and fell out of sight.
The sound of sirens startled him from the view. Looking forward again, he saw dozens of emergency and police lights racing down the bridge toward him from somewhere north of here. Even a couple of helicopters seemed to be on their way. He hoped it’d be enough but doubted it.
As one helicopter came closer, it lowered itself towards the water and went into a hover about a half-mile offshore from him. He was about to ask himself what they were doing when a tentacle shot out of the water and grabbed the helicopter, crushing it as it dragged it below the waves.
The emergency vehicles were getting closer now. He hoped they would be able to do something, anything, but didn’t know if that was even possible. A car with Merry Christmas written in white paint on the windows and reindeer antlers on the roof peeled past him. Looking back again, he saw several more cars racing up from the island. Grinning in spite of himself, he was glad to see some people were trying to get out while they could.
Hitting the accelerator on the scooter hard, he raced out to join the small exodus now entering on to the second bridge. Their group was nearly even with the first of the emergency responders racing towards the island when the tentacle he didn’t even know was near, came down across the bridge, crushing the concrete with incredible strength and speed. It was as large as a semi-trailer and completely filled his vision. He didn’t have time to swerve, nor did anyone else, and hit the tentacle at speed as it brought their section of bridge down into the water.
A. S. MacKenzie
A. S. MacKenzie is an Atlanta based author who loves all things books, movies, games, and comics. He lives with his wife, spoiled dogs, and an unhealthy obsession with building things. He can be found building worlds in books, building plastic models, or building with wood. Check out his website at asmackenzie.com for ways to join his newsletter and read free stories. Also, he’s been known to frequent Twitter (@a_s_mackenzie) to say something vaguely interesting and Instagram (a.s.mackenzie) for food, travel, and random pics.
Fantastic short story. You got my blood pumping this morning.