From the Continuing Adventures of Grant McSwain, Maritime Global Circumnavigator, Menace of German Cretins, and Master of Gargantuan Creatures
Accompanied as always by his hapless assistant Teagan O’Daire, the Ginger of Galway
Wind rustled through Teagan’s hair and saltwater sprayed droplets across her face as she leaned over the rail of the swift-moving vessel. The afternoon sun blazed and the heat and humidity of the Caribbean thickened the air.
The fuel for the vessel’s engine ran out two days earlier, so nothing broke the silence other than the crash of waves against the bow. A sense of tranquility refreshed Teagan’s weary spirit so long as she paid no attention to the choppy motion propelling the ship through the swells.
She looked away from the water’s rough surface. Best to avoid considering the source of that power.
But Teagan had to admit the plan Grant devised worked better than anticipated.
Grant on the other hand remained incapacitated. The large man hung doubled over the handrail on the port side, far enough away from Teagan that the splashing water below her drowned out his much less pleasant sounds.
He straightened, and clutched the railing with white knuckles and a quivering arm while wiping his mouth with a rag. “God, Teag, how do you do it?”
She took a deep breath of the ocean air and grinned wide. “I used to go on fishing trips with my brothers, out to the Aran Islands just beyond the bay. This feels so much like home.”
The vessel suddenly cut left, across the current. Teagan wobbled but steadied herself with ease, her sea legs quickly returning after far too long on land. “Well, almost like home,” she admitted.
Near the stern, Grant clung to the railing like a soon-to-be shipwreck victim. He stared at the churning waters behind the boat, his breath ragged. “We passed Antigua days ago,” he moaned. “It can’t be much longer to the Florida coast, can it?”
“Avoiding the Bahamas makes the trip a little longer,” Teagan said. “And keep in mind that the roundabout navigation was your idea.”
“One I deeply regret,” he replied.
Teagan strode across the wooden deck to the stern of the vessel and put her hand on Grant’s shoulder. “Watch the horizon, not the water. And try to take slow, full breaths to calm your nerves. We’ll get through this.”
The vessel lurched and picked up speed. The thick ropes at the bow creaked and the ship’s hull groaned with added strain. Teagan grimaced. “At least I hope we will.”
They travelled in silence for a time as the sun crawled beneath the horizon. The ship bounced on the ocean swells at a speed the vessel’s shipwrights would never have imagined possible. As the sky turned shades of red and purple, either Grant managed to overcome his seasickness, or his body gave up the fight.
Teagan ran her fingers over the jagged wood of the broken mast, and the twisted hemp strands of the thick ropes, then shook her head with amazement.
On the horizon, Grant spotted a shadowy mass. “Land ho,” he cried, with a proud fist raised into the air.
“Aren’t you still on the Federal Bureau’s Most Wanted list?”
Grant turned and flashed Teagan a smile. Unlike Teagan, who covered up head to toe after the first terrible sunburn, Grant’s skin darkened to a light caramel. Proper color had returned to Grant’s stubbly face, and the sight of land seemed to revitalize him. He posed like an Old World explorer, leaning forward, one foot on the railing at the bow, as if he propelled the ship forward by sheer force of will.
“Bah. The FBI,” Grant scoffed and dismissed Teagan’s concern with a wave of his hand. “‘Removing protected cultural relics’ is a made-up offense. I don’t think such a law even exists.”
“What about the part where you robbed the Smithsonian?”
“Oh, that. There is that. No worries… this is my ticket to get back into Uncle Sam’s good graces.”
“Please tell me you mean the satchel of classified documents and German submarine blueprints you recovered from the ruins of the base.”
“That’s the icing on the cake,” Grant said. He looked down at the massive shadowy figure beneath rushing waters and laughed. The taut ropes stretched below the waves and wrapped around the hulking body of the leviathan.
“A really, really big cake,” Grant said, “with tentacles.”
The vessel groaned and shuddered as the bow crashed through a powerful wave that splashed across the deck. Grant and Teagan gripped the slick rails, but the water pushed them from the bow. The silver plates used in the Ixthacan summoning ritual clattered across the wooden boards, torn from the tiedowns Grant fashioned when they’d embarked.
Teagan watched one of the plates with wide eyes. “Grant,” she said, “aren’t those part of what’s controlling the creature?”
Grant’s face blanched. “Well, Teag,” he said with a gulp, “Let’s be honest. Can you really claim to know how the ritual works in the first place?”
The vessel lurched, dead in the water. The ropes, once taut, hung limp over the bow.
Grant looked over the railing and frowned. “Hey, Teag? Back in Ireland, did you do a lot of swimming?”
“Some,” she said. “But we generally tried to stay in the ship.”
Four black, scaly tentacles burst from the surface of the water and stretched dozens of feet into the air, two on each side of the ship. They lashed the wooden vessel, shattering the railings and the deck with loud snaps. Teagan and Grant stumbled as the vessel’s hull cracked.
“I don’t think that’s an option,” Grant shouted, then dove over the side.
The front half of the vessel rose into the air, lifted by the leviathan’s twisting tentacles. Teagan gasped as more of the creature’s limbs crushed the ship’s stern beneath the waves.
She shut her eyes and leapt into the waves below.
To be continued in The Voice of the Vixen