Rising Tide
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In the very bowels of the earth, up against the hard heat of the rocks and the cool of the abyssal water, emerges a creature of born of darkness and stone. Covered in spines of rock and mud-brown scales, it rolls about on the floor of the ocean, covering itself in the long-forgotten sludge. It is not great in size, but it is one of many. Around it thrash others, some like it and others strange beyond description. But they are there, there where life consists of bacteria and slime, and the idea of light is not even a memory passed down through generations. They are there, and they are rising. The singular creature opens its minuscule eyes as it is propelled by random vents of heat, up towards the dark depths of the water, away from the rolling sea floor and its myriad kin. Crawling and clambering through the ocean currents, its very being crushed by the enormity of pressure, it ascends past the drifting things and the dark shapes in the water, the slow shells and the quick little fish. It rockets from the depths, seeking out the light and life it knows should be above. It knows it is close, as it passes a shoal of shiny grey creatures, close to the ceiling of the sea and the warmth of the light above.

A great shape moves above, a staining shadow on the horizon of the depths. It is enormous, all-encompassing and all-reaching within the creature's sight. The light from on high is obscured by the great trundling shape as it meanders by, sucking and pulling at the sea with a might beyond the creature's limited imaginings. The newborn thing continues up, up towards the great shape, drawn by both the pull of the water around the towering thing and its own infantile fascination with its vastness.


The creature twists away from the massive thing, recoiling at the shock and sound of the impact, seeking purchase against it with which to escape. The behemoth thing sucks and pulls at its flailing limbs through the thick water, drawing it closer and closer still to some horrible maw in its gargantuan surface. Dragging and tearing through the water, the creature that had been so close to freedom is drawn into the terrible gullet of this massive expanse of obstructing ocean-shadow. Twisting and spinning, bleeding and suffering, the creature is drawn in. Into the maw of the shadow. Into darkness.

It awakens alone within the great thing that has consumed it, surrounded by substances and materials and biles foreign to it, covered in the slight sludge of the sea and its own blood. It stretches its sinews and joints, testing them slowly with pain and stiffness. It feels, or perhaps knows, that something is wrong. That this place is not right. That the cold dark box it has found itself in is not the warmth and light at the top of the ocean, far above and yet so close to the place of its birth. This place is too close. Too close to the hard and shadow that it was born within and of, the sharp pains and rancid smells. Too familiar.

The wounded and frightened thing moves slowly, casting about in the utter darkness for some means of escape, or at least for something new. Its simple and singular mind is lost in a jumble of experiences and pains for which it was not prepared, for which it has no natural response. There is nothing in this place for it to wonder at, to learn from and of. Only the damp and darkness. It wanders through the dark, prodding at walls and the fetid air with its hard snout, hoping to find escape from its prison of blindness. It searches and searches, all the time crawling deeper and deeper into the heart of the thing that has consumed it. Finally, it strikes something new.

Surrounded by a rasping, slick scrape that accompanies its every movement, the thing from the sea floor slinks down corridors and byways of some abysmal maze. Every movement it makes causes a pain in its ears beyond any other, and the light spilling through the cracks in the cold walls is nearly blinding within the darkness of the labyrinth. It struggles through the tiny passageways, voices and strange metallic sounds resounding through the tunnel that has become its brief home. After a time of slowly dragging itself along, its fibers and muscles aching as they settle into its rended form, the creature arrives at yet more cracks in the lining of its passageway. It slides towards the light on the floor of tunnel, knowing instinctively that it must follow the brightness regardless of the pain caused to its maladjusted eyes. Blood and bile seeping from the cracks in its outer layers, it peers into the painful glow and stares in wonder.

Below, great pink and brown creatures with freakishly long limbs and some strange, fur-like coating move about, chattering at each other and staring at giant lights. Some sway about, their forms caught by an unseen breeze and forced to twitch and flutter, speaking all the time both to their companions and beings that are not there. Suddenly, from the side of the strange box in which the creatures seem to reside, burst yet more alien oddities. These ones, different from the rest - low to the ground and with great teeth and nails -, leap and bound through an opening in a wall. The beings inside jump and scream as the new things appear, producing strange metal tubes filled with flame and light as the bounding things tear through their ranks, rending flesh and breaking bone. So much sound and horror surrounds the wounded thing in its tunnel from the carnage below. The thing watches in horror as many of the creatures and the monsters below fight and die, and it watches still as the conflict ends and the tall things rush around in the darkness. It watches as one turns and looks into the darkened labyrinth, raises its roaring weapon, an—

The creature from the ocean floor scampers slowly through alleys, dragging its broken form past shadow and light and heat in the darkness, the shouts and shatters behind it spurring it on in its terror. It is afraid now, afraid that it will never see the light above the water that it so longs for. It flees, from the monsters and the sound, into the darkness of the tunnels. Running on broken limbs, it propels itself ever forward. Ahead it sees a shift in the light, some shape obstructing the patterns of shadow. And then it sees only darkness.

The creature awakes once more surrounded by fluids and discomforts foreign but familiar. It casts about with unresponsive limbs, clawing weakly at the green-yellow fluid that it is engulfed in, trying to make sense of the strange shapes and colors working their way through its body. It is suspended, trance-like, within a casing of brightness, surrounded on all sides by clear stone and, beyond that, white floors. In some part of its half-conscious mind it is reminded of its birth, of the living rocks at the bottom of the dark sea. It casts its half open eyes around its liquid cage, vaguely aware of a great many such prisons within the bright chamber. Within the other cells are creatures and beings of myriad structure and form, each a product of a chaotic birth. In the center of them all, all the wondering entrapped creatures, stands a single greyish-brown one, covered in long white fur and holding some metallic structure. It leans toward the structure, and speaks.

"Research log five dash twenty dash eighty-eight. Samples recovered on-board remain inactive following application of preservative agent, although life signs persist in four of twelve subjects. Organisms six and eleven show signs of rapid decay as a result of injuries sustained prior to and during recovery. Sample nine is absent from containment for testing purposes. All samples accounted for."

The barely-live creature blinks once at the jailing thing, and slowly falls back into the darkness.

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