Chapter One – 001
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He woke up on the beach.
He didn’t even have to open his eyes, just the loud surf and soft crunch of the sand beneath his head was enough. He groaned as he brought his hands to his face, feeling the all too familiar surge of pressure behind his eyes, the dry swollen feeling in his mouth and throat, and the barest hints of heaving nausea.
He must have had a good time last night. He didn't even remember going to the beach.
A small peek of his eyelids and he decided blindness was preferable to the unbearable light. He reached out his hands, slowly and with excruciating effort flipped himself onto his belly. Sand mushed into his face, and he smelled something weird.
Whatever it was, it made that pool of nausea turn into a tidal wave. He poured out all of his bad decisions in two or three heaves, then curled up into a ball and laid there.
Let the beach patrol find me, he pled. Let me be their problem.
But no one came to escort him off the beach. No outraged mother shrieked about degenerates in broad daylight. He wasn't even bothered by any vagrants, looking to bum a smoke.
Despite his pain, he was curious. He slowly opened his eyes, ready to endure the blinding sun in order to get his bearings.
This isn't Fort Lauderdale.
The sky was pale, a hazy white that seemed to curve all around him. Small waves of dark green water lapped near his feet, crests murmuring incessantly. He stood on a small spit of gray sand, barely more than three feet wide, that extended into the horizon. The sky was lighter there, as if something was leaching the color out of everything. It was early morning, the sun barely above the horizon, and the moons hadn't yet set.
He rubbed his palms against his eyes and peered again at the sky. His eyes told him the same thing again. There were four..no, five moons in the sky.
"What the fuck?" He half-laughed, looking around himself for someone to explain the joke. There was no one.
He took a shaky breath. "Ok so there are five moons. Ok. I'm on a sandbar in a weird ocean and the sky has five moons. I can deal with this. I got this." Six more breaths later, he was feeling better--not great--but better. He suspected he still had some alcohol in his system. He stood up and looked around again, hoping he'd missed something.
The sand spit was a perfectly straight line that disappeared into the hazy horizon, a roiling fog hiding it from further sight. Behind him, the stretch of sand connected to a much larger body of land an uncertain distance away. It loomed large in the dawn semi-dark, and he couldn't make out many details, but it was way more inviting than the vanishing horizon.
Step one, he thought. Get away from the creepy green ocean.
He'd always feared the open sea, the idea of dark cloudy waters hiding sharks made his back itch and palms sweat. He hustled down the sandbar, moving as fast as his achy body allowed. He'd only made it twenty yards when he felt the sand shift beneath him. "Whoa, that's dangerous," he muttered as he adjusted his footing. Then a portion of the sandbar gave way and his leg buckled. He plunged into the dark water.
The water burned, like fire sizzling along his flesh. He thrashed in pain, blindly grabbing for the sandy shore he knew was nearby. He felt his hand sink into gritty sand for moment before something suddenly tugged on his leg.
His eyes snapped open in surprise, the caustic waters biting at his eyes as he was spun toward something in the deeper water. A giant orange eye the size of a basketball blazed in the murky depths, and the tentacle tightened on his leg painfully. He screamed, bubbles flooding his face as he tried to pull back on the sandbar, trying to escape. The shape in the dark depths was hard to make out but it had too many writhing limbs to be anything except a monster.
A second tentacle whipped out of the darkness and latched onto his left wrist, constricting painfully and yanking his arm backward.
He was barely hanging on, the tips of his fingers losing ground in the slippery sand. He spared a second glance backward and immediately regretted it. A dozen more eyes had appeared and all were oriented on him. He could see the dark silhouettes of dozens of more tentacles writhing in the water, hungrily reaching out for him. His left arm was pulled again, inch by inch tearing him away from his perch in the rocky sand. Desperate, weaponless, out of breath; he did the only thing he could think of...
He bit it.
Acrid blood flooded his mouth, tasting like rotting seaweed and brine, just as the acidic water ate away at his tongue and gums. Blue flashes assaulted his vision, flares like fireworks in his mind. Before he could focus on them, the creature's tentacles pulled back in pain, loosening their grip in the process. Frantically, he scrambled up the slope, kicking his legs in a spastic doggy paddle. His head broke the surface, and he gulped the air greedily even as he pulled himself onto the thin spit of land.
His heart hammered in his ears and fear raced in his blood. He stumbled to his feet even as a shapeless mass broke the still waters with whipping tentacles.
"Holy fuck!" He stuttered into a run, heading toward the dark landmass as the tentacles lashed at the spot he was standing in just moments ago. His clothes were waterlogged and burning, the awful acidic water raising welts on his skin even as he dried rapidly in the warm air. "WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK!"
An explosion behind him threw coarse grey sand over his back and pelted his exposed calf, but he didn't turn around. He wasn't sure he'd be able to handle seeing what was behind him. He just kept running, helplessly counting the seconds until he was eaten.
Sixty seconds, and suddenly the sounds ceased. It was another half minute before he collapsed on the pale sand of a much larger beach, the tree line dark and green ahead of him. He was exhausted, mentally and physically. He finally managed to turn his head, and saw that the sandy spit was torn to shreds. Whatever had chased him had ripped it apart as it thrashed toward him. Dull horror twinged in his chest, barely registering in his exhaustion. If that thing had caught him....
Something glimmered in the dark green waters, a few hundred feet out. A thick, lashing tentacle swept into the air before diving deep into the now still waters. A sharp trilling noise sounded in his ears, and he twitched in shock. Then a bright blue box appeared before him.
NAME: THE DREAD
LORE: THE DREAD IS ALL CONSUMING, ALL POWERFUL, AND UNSTOPPABLE.
"Huh," he breathed.
Then he passed out.