I laid on my bed with my eyes closed, listening to the rain pounding on my window and the wind blowing through the tree branches. Ida had run off as soon as we’d returned, supposedly taking care of things. Her father had seemed a bit off-kilter back at the pier. If there was any sort of emergency, I didn’t think that he could really do anything useful.
I kept thinking about the creature that I’d seen in the water. Had I imagined it? Did creatures like that still exist? Would it wreak havoc on the boats, on the town? Scenes from Godzilla flipped through my mind and I almost laughed.
I shot up to sitting, eyes open immediately. Ida was standing just inside the door. I hadn’t heard her come in.
“Goodness, you made me jump out of my skin!” I said, a little too loudly.
“Sorry,” she said. “It’s just that there’s an emergency. That thing you saw in the water.”
I nodded, fear creeping into my heart.
“Well, you were right. It’s a huge creature of sorts and it’s come into town. It’s wrecking things, eating people.”
I wrinkled my nose in disgust at the mental picture of a sea monster ripping people apart.
“What are they doing about it?” I asked.
“They have the military on it,” she said noncommittally. I could see that there was something more.
“What is it?” I pressed, feeling a horrid sense of urgency flood over me.
“It’s my father. He said that this is his fault. That Neptune is punishing him.”
“Punishing him?” I repeated. “For what?”
“He wouldn’t say,” she replied. “But he won’t do anything about it. He’s hiding in his study, all huddled up like a scared animal.”
She shook her head, closing the door behind her and moving further into the room.
“Neptune must have sent the storm, too,” she said. “I can’t believe that this has to do with my father. What could he have possibly done? Neptune has no quarrel with our family. Why would he start now?”
She began to pace, hands clasped behind her back. She started thinking aloud, saying,
“It can’t be a coincidence that the storm started just as I was boarding the ship to leave. Maybe this is connected to me somehow. Or maybe it’s only because I’m his daughter and Neptune is punishing him through me. I’m not sure. I feel like I should be able to figure this out. I’m just missing something. If only I could put my finger on it…”
I let her talk, unsure how to help anyway.
Ida paced for a minute more, silent and tapping a finger against her pursed lips. I loved to watch her do this. In this moment, she seemed to lose all self-consciousness. I felt like a voyeur, finally seeing the real Ida: the girl who existed when no one was watching.
Suddenly, she stopped and looked straight at me, saying,
“I have to go fight it.”
Horror stopped my heart for a split second. Then I sputtered,
“This monster—it’s sent from Neptune, so it might be indestructible by common means. Maybe it’s something that my father himself has to fight. But he’s in no shape to fight now. Maybe his blood could suffice. I’m his blood, his only blood. I need to go fight the sea monster.”
“No,” I insisted. “That’s insane. You can’t be serious!”
“I am,” she said and I saw her determination in her eyes. She was going to go through with it. My heart sank in my chest, my thoughts darkening. I rushed from the bed to her side, grasping her arm as though I could physically keep her from running into battle.
“You can’t,” I said.
“I must,” she said. “Innocent people shouldn’t have to pay for my father’s mistakes.”
“But you’re an innocent person and so am I. Why must we suffer further for your father’s cause?”
This seemed to register with Ida. She paused, looking out into the middle distance. I waited, hoping that my words had changed her mind. Then, she shook her head and said,
“He was only going to send me away anyway. I don’t have anything to live for if I’m separated from everyone I love. At least I can die for a good cause. At least I can help people in the process.”
“What are you saying?” I implored.
She looked straight at me and muttered the most crushing words possible:
“Lily, without you, without your love, nothing matters to me.”
I felt as though my legs could no longer support me. I leaned against Ida, my head resting on her chest.
“Please don’t die,” I said. It slipped out and I suddenly wished that I could retract it. I don’t know where the words came from or who let them out, but there they were, floating and translucent.
Ida took hold of my shoulders in surprise and held me out in front of her.
“What are you saying?” she said, the words deliberate.
“I can’t hide it anymore,” I continued, the words avalanching out. “I’ve felt so much love and so much guilt and regret and I can’t stand it anymore. I know it’s against my heritage and against my country and against my family, but I have to admit it. I love you, Ida. I have from the moment you saved me from the waves and it’s only grown with time. Please, my darling, for my sake, don’t die. I have lost everyone that I have ever loved. I couldn’t lose you, too. I couldn’t go on.”
Ida just stared, her eyes wider and more intent than I’d ever seen them.
“You’re serious,” she said, amazement ringing in her words.
“Very much so,” I answered.
She shook her head, a smile lighting up her entire face.
“They say that true love can kill,” she said. “Well, they must be mistaken, because I surely would die right now, on the spot! Lily, dear, am I dreaming?”
I lifted a hand to stroke her cheek and answered,
“No, my love, you’re not dreaming.”
Ida just kept watching me, moving one hand to gently touch my neck. Her fingers ghosted up the curve of my skin, settling at the nape of my neck and winding into my hair there. Her other hand fell into the small of my back, gathering me close against her. Carefully, reverently, she drew me to herself and our lips met.
Lily tasted like springtime and all the things that I’d ever waited for. Her lips were impossibly soft and she kissed generously, intuitively. It felt as though we’d kissed a thousand times before and had already perfected a synchronous technique. An insatiable need, kept at bay for so long, surged in me but I quelled it, keeping my kiss passionate yet gentle.
We broke apart and, as I gazed into Lily’s face, the light dancing in her eyes nearly blinded me. I smiled wide enough to break my face and pulled her in close, my arms resting comfortably around her waist.
“I love you, Lily,” I whispered in her ear. I kissed her ear, then her hair, and finally her mouth once more.
I pulled away, saying,
“I’m so sorry, but I have to go.”
“Must you?” Lily asked, grasping my arms. I felt the intense insistence in her hands and saw it in the worried pull of her eyebrows.
“Don’t worry,” I said, stroking her cheek. “Venus will surely protect me. How can she not reward our love?”
“But what if you don’t come back?” she asked.
I didn’t answer. Instead, I dropped another kiss on her lips and left before I could change my mind.
I changed into my worn-in boots, riding jeans, and a t-shirt. Next, I raided my father’s armory, strapping on a Kevlar vest and grabbing one of his outdated swords. I figured that a mythological monster would need a traditional weapon. I felt its weight in my hand, swinging it around a few times before deciding that I was ready.
My Ferrari raced into the middle of town and I parked it arbitrarily, running out when I heard the screams. I ran down the streets, following the sounds of falling buildings and screaming people. I was immediately soaked to the bone from the torrential rain. Thunder roared as I rounded a corner Laundromat and then I saw it.
The sea monster was about 8 or 12 feet high on all fours with a long, whipping tail and vicious spikes running from its head all the way down to the tip of its tail. It was dappled with browns and greens in an uninteresting way and its eyes were jet black pearls in its boxy head. The creature thrashed its spiked tail, crunching through buildings, cars, and innocent bystanders. It bared its needle teeth, a long tongue flicking out occasionally and huge, sopping gills gaping open and closed on either side of its thick neck.
Soldiers surrounded it, shooting all sorts of modern weapons at it to no avail. Just as I’d figured it would be.
I raced toward the fray, my sword swinging. When I reached them, I held up my hands and the soldiers looked at me in surprise.
“Stop shooting for a minute!” I shouted to them. “I want to try something.”
“Are you crazy?” one of them yelled back over the pounding of the rain and the cacophony of screams and destruction.
“This is no place for you,” another added. I ignored them, running straight up to the creature and forcing them to stop shooting with my vicinity.
I struck first, slicing at the creature’s leg with my sword and leaving a deep gash at its ankle. It howled in pain, the sound radiating through the already thick air. The rain was falling harder now, plastering my hair to my head. Thunder clapped overhead and I imagined Neptune huffing in anger.
The monster rounded on me, opening its mouth threateningly and slithering toward me, avoiding its hurt foot.
“Bring it on,” I whispered to it, raising my sword again.
As it ran toward me, I stood my ground. I let it come as close as I dared, and then I moved aside so it would run past me. As it came in range, I stuck the sword right into its open gill, pressing hard so that the cut continued down the monster’s side as it ran. I pushed in harder, letting the creature gut itself with its momentum.
Adrenaline pumped through me, creating a soft glow in my brain and making normal thoughts a bit fuzzy. I felt like I could do anything.
I yelled, taunting the monster. Blood and a sticky, black substance gushed from its side, spilling onto the street. It turned on me fast, catching my arm in its teeth. Pain lanced through my entire body, increasing my bloodlust. The creature stank horribly of seaweed, dead fish, and low tide. It shook its head, trying to thrash me from side to side. I swung my other arm around, burying my sword into its nearby eye. It screamed and released its grip on me. I fell to the pavement, immensely relieved to be free of its teeth.
I got to my feet as quickly as possible, holding my trusty sword in front of me menacingly and expecting an attack. But the creature was splayed out on the concrete, bleeding and gasping. I didn’t wait for it to get up.
I marched up to it, bringing my sword down on its red-stained neck. I kept carving, imagining I was simply sawing a tree trunk, and finally my sword came through the other side. The sea monster’s head rolled the tiniest bit, its tongue permanently tasting the street.
I stood there, staring at my handiwork as the rain poured down my face. A second cloud of adrenaline enveloped me and I could only vaguely hear shouting and cheering through the sound of the slowing rain. Someone was clapping my back, shaking my hand, but I couldn’t register any of it.
My sword bloody and my body covered in monster guts, I ran away from the crowd. As if on autopilot, I returned to my car and jumped in. I threw the sword in the back seat and climbed into the driver’s seat. The leather squished beneath me, but I didn’t care. I started the car and drove home with my one good arm.