WARNING: This particular story is much darker than any of the others I’ve posted so far. Don’t read it if you’re a strict no-creepy type. (On the other hand, if creepy is your thing, this’ll be weak.)

Haimo lifted the spear above his shoulder. The boar rooted at the underbrush. Haimo stood perfectly still but he knew it wouldn’t take the animal long to notice him. When he felt sure he could strike true, he thrust his spear forward and let it fly. It struck the boar’s shoulder. The wounded beast squealed wildly and turned on Haimo, rushing at him, dragging the spear along with it. Haimo jumped and caught the branch of a nearby tree, deftly lifting his legs to avoid the cruel tusks. He cursed loudly at the bad luck of striking the creature without killing it and called out to the other hunters nearby. They followed his warning with a series of their own curses, but came bursting through the jungle throwing their own spears at the boar while it was distracted with trying to gore Haimo. Three spears hit the pig. One of them penetrated to the heart for the kill.

Haimo jumped down. One of his companions gave him a good punch in the arm, but all in all everyone was satisfied with the hunt. They hoisted the boar and carried it back to their village, where the women waited to cook it. That evening Haimo and his people feasted on the meat of the boar. They went to bed full and satisfied. It always felt good to be full, especially since the feeling only happened once in a while.

The next morning dawned. Haimo and his father collected their weapons and went out to join his uncle and cousins in the hunt for the day. His father’s wives carried jugs to the river to fetch water, keeping the little ones as close to them as possible to ensure they would not stray into the tiger infested jungle or attempt to swim in the crocodile infested water.

Haimo hoped to find another boar. After trudging through the jungle for several hours, Haimo’s father lifted his hand to signal their small hunting party to turn around. Haimo sighed and wiped his nose with his arm, heedless of the snot that smeared across it. He’d go to bed hungry tonight.

Haimo hung back a bit as his father led the way home. He knew better than to let himself get separated, but he hoped he might see another boar by chance, like yesterday. As they neared the village, he trailed further and further behind, looking slowly in every direction, keeping his eye out for the dangers of the jungle as well as supper. Something flickered in the corner of his eye. Haimo turned his head quickly, being careful not to turn his body or make a noise, and studied the spot where he thought he saw the movement. Nothing obvious popped out at him, so he stayed very still, studying. Whatever caught his eye never moved again, so Haimo turned to face the village. To his horror, he no longer saw his father or uncle or cousins. His eyes darted wildly about, trying to find some sign of any of them, but no movement or flash of color greeted his glances. He knew the way back to the village, that was not the problem. The problem lay in the lack of back-up should anything dangerous attack him. He squared his shoulders and pressed forward slowly, praying not to meet any tigers, snakes, or spiders along the way.

He breathed a sigh of relief when he heard the village noises a few paces in the distance and moved forward with more confidence until something flashed by the corner of his eye again. Haimo halted and stood very still for just a moment. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. This time, Haimo knew that whatever moved meant danger. He bolted toward the village without waiting to find out what kind of danger.

He heard the creature move toward him, matching his speed. It made very little noise, but Haimo’s fear-heightened senses heard it all the same. A steady swoosh-swoosh that sounded neither like running nor flying followed closely behind him, threatening to overtake him at any moment. The strangeness of the noise frightened him more than the hunt-cry of a tiger.

He saw glimpses of the village through the thick foliage ahead and pressed his feet harder into the ground, heedless of roots and thorns, caring nothing for the possibility of tripping over a snake. He yelled out as more of the village came into view. His family turned in the direction of his voice and moved toward it, but just as Haimo was about to burst into the village clearing, the thing pursuing him wrapped itself around him to envelop him entirely. He stared out from inside of it, helpless to reach the family that looked vaguely into the jungle. He tried to call out to them, but his voice bubbled and disappeared within the monster. It turned, carrying Haimo within itself.

As the thing carried him away from his last hope for rescue, Haimo’s adrenalin rush ebbed quickly out of his body, allowing him to feel his prison fully. He stood, or rather floated in a standing position, in a thick, clear, sticky substance. Whatever carried him lacked skin, or rather, it lacked skin that kept Haimo from seeing his surroundings. He watched several familiar landmarks go by as the thing transported him further and further into the jungle. His lungs inhaled and exhaled naturally enough, but they sucked in the sticky liquid and blew it out in bubbles that traveled slowly up the inside of the creature and collected near the top of it. Haimo wondered about the shape of the creature. From inside, it seemed amorphous, although it kept Haimo in the same upright position the entire time it travelled.

The creature carried Haimo to the next village. Although Haimo knew the people of this village hated his people, he cried out at the top of his lungs, shouting and even beating against the sticky fluid trapping him. The whatever walked through the center of the village, two children ran right through it. Haimo felt them brush past his legs and tried to touch them, but they ignored his presence and the presence of the thing carrying him. It made its way through several villages. At each one Haimo called out for help. At each one, the people seemed unable to see either him or the thing.

The creature carried him very far. At nightfall, it began to sway slightly. At first, Haimo panicked and tried once again to break free of it, but the rhythmic motion of the swaying gradually lulled him to sleep. When he awoke, he found himself in new territory. Although the plants were all the same plants he knew back in his village, the river ran so clear, Haimo saw the bottom of it. More alarming, though, he saw the many crocodiles swimming in it. At the bottom of the river, one enormous crocodile stretched out on the riverbed, appearing to notice nothing. It held incredibly still for so long that Haimo wondered if it were real.

The thing holding Haimo stood on the edge of the riverbank. Haimo wondered why it stopped so long, but in the same moment the thought crossed his mind, the massive crocodile turned its head sharply in Haimo’s direction. The sticky creature jumped into the river and moved directly toward the crocodile. Haimo kicked and thrashed inside his captor, desperate to stay away from the monster that stared so hard into his eyes that he felt them burning into his mind. The strange fluid only morphed to contain his frantic motions. It swam inevitably toward the huge crocodile. Haimo’s panicked struggle ceased as the monster seemed to grow with every forward motion of the captor. Haimo’s mind went numb as the creature loomed larger and larger below him until he passed beside it and had to watch it grow even larger as his captor sunk further down.

The crocodile held Haimo’s eyes captive. When the captor finally came to rest on the riverbed and Haimo felt sure his neck would break with the strain of looking up, the crocodile slowly lowered its head until one giant eye bored so deeply into Haimo’s soul, he felt it burn through his consciousness. Haimo waited many hours for something to happen. At first he feared to be eaten, then he began to fear that he would instead be held under the water until his captor dissolved and he drowned in the great depth. Many horrors ran through his mind, each more terrible than the last, until he no longer cared what happened to him. He only wished to be done with it.

When Haimo’s mind ran out of horros to plague him, the enormous crocodile began to shimmy slightly. Haimo watched without emotion. The water around the creature rippled with it. Slowly Haimo became conscious of a noise in the water. A deep, rumbling noise that awoke some emotion that seemed vaguely familiar to Haimo, “Fear, perhaps?” he thought, but the feeling faded. As the sound continued, Haimo traced the line of the crocodiles mouth. It curved maliciously into a toothy smile. Slowly the mouth opened wide, wider than the trees grew tall. Haimo waited to be gulped by the monster. Instead, it spoke.

“That’s right, little man. You have nothing of yourself left. Now you will suit my purposes.”

Haimo waited.

“Do you have any questions for me, little man?”

Several ran through Haimo’s head, mostly concerned with how the thing intended to kill him, but it mattered very little now, so he kept quiet.

The crocodile nodded its head slowly, looking satisfied. “Then I haven’t lost my touch. Well, little man, since you cannot ask, and you certainly will never have the opportunity to tell, I will answer the questions you would have asked if you had your wits about you any longer.”

The crocodile nestled into the bottom of the riverbed, closing its eyes. “I am Leviathan. I once ruled the salty waters of the sea, something you have never seen. I cannot explain it to you except to say that it is like the sky, but of water instead of air.”

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Haimo knew this “sea” must be an impressive thing, but the new information failed to evoke any wonder. Leviathan didn’t seem to mind and pressed on. “I ruled that vast place until Jormungandr, the Midgard Serpent, and I quarreled. We fought over the waters of the earth and shook it so mightily that islands collapsed and were swallowed by the depths. The peoples of the sea sent a delegation of water dragons to us, to beg us to end our struggle. We agreed and cast lots. To me fell the lot of the rivers and lakes of the earth, while the sea, which was rightfully mine, fell to the worm, who only wishes to sleep until his time of destruction comes. After a time, I made a deal with Jorm. Each week for a thousand years, I was to send him a man to sustain him in his long slumber. In exchange, at the end of the thousand years, I may return to the sea to reclaim it as my own until the worm’s day to destroy comes.” Leviathan opened his eyes and turned a bemused smile on Haimo. “Jormungandr never wakes, so my tributes must make the journey into his mouth of their own accord.”

Somewhere in the deepest caverns of his mind, Haimo heard himself railing against Leviathan. The feeling pressed forward, slowly gaining strength, until it suddenly fell away, disappearing back into the darkness that covers lost memories.

Leviathan nodded sagely.  “Very good. My rakasempur made an excellent choice in you. Begin now.”

The substance of the rakasempur began to burn its way into Haimo’s skin. The pain swelled exponentially as the fluid seared through his flesh and into his bones, finally working its way through his entire physical being before scorching his soul and eating away what remained of his self. Just before death promised to swallow him into darkness, the pain subsided, flowing out of him like sweat or urine, taking with it the last traces of Haimo’s will. Water flowed in and out of his nostrils as he breathed. It felt strangely familiar and quickly eased the pain still lingering in his bones. He bowed in obedience to some unheard command.

Leviathan lowered his humongous head in acknowledgement. “I am sorry about the pain, though it is not half what you will experience when you meet Jormungandr. You see, you are to be my last offering, but I know the worm will not honor his bargain. I have made you a poison to the serpent. You shall truly be my last offering, for he will suffer as long as you walk his entrails, and you will never stop walking. Now go.”

Haimo turned. He took one step and then another, the water pressing against his heels as though he were climbing a steep hill. As he emerged from the river, his lungs expelled the water, racking his body with pain. Steadily he trod, ever closer to the sea. Somewhere inside him, or perhaps beside him, something clamored for his attention. Something screamed and fought against every step, pressing against his chest and belly to turn and go the other way. Haimo walked on, never turning, never blinking, never stopping.

Destruction of Leviathan by Gustave Doré, 1865

Destruction of Leviathan by Gustave Doré, 1865