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Beyond the Sea

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It was our anniversary yesterday; we've been married for twenty years, now. A lot of couples would have had a fancy dinner to mark the occasion, or maybe pop the cork off of a bottle of champagne to celebrate.

But those people aren't us. Instead, my husband and I rented an eighty foot boat (it was our own little kind of extravagance) and sailed from Biscayne to the deep Atlantic - no land in sight for miles - to spend the day deep-sea fishing.

Frank had been a merchant seaman for going on ten years, and it gave him a permanent taste for the salty tang of oceanic air. I swear, the man spent more time at sea than a lot of people spent on land. For him, it was almost a home away from home.

For me? Not so much. There was always something about that great body of roiling, swelling water that put me ill at ease. It was like spending time with a maniac, or some dangerous animal with a mind of its own. The sea can kill you in a split second without a hint of exertion or remorse, and there's a tremendous, frightening power in that.

The morning went by without incident. Frank, in his summery Hawaiian shirt and khaki fishing jacket, set up all his pricey rods on the edge of the bow and unfolded his fishing chair. Sitting there, sunlight caught on the lip of his baseball cap, he looked like a Hollywood film director.

I was unpacking lunch in the cabin. It was a pretty spacious little room, all in all; a nice double-bed for the evenings, no TV, and three porthole windows on either wall. I kept telling myself that we were staying in a little hotel room to ease my nerves, ignoring the boat's gentle rocking and the sound of waves licking at the hull.

Frank cracked a beer outside and called in, "Happy Anniversary, baby!"

He sounded content, at least. That lifted my mood a little.

Once I'd finished peeling Saran Wrap off all the sandwiches I'd made the night before, I stepped out onto the stern and took a better look at the ocean. It seemed like a calm day, and the sea was relatively peaceful. What struck me was strange, though, was that there weren't any seagulls hovering ahead, nor were there any behind us in the distance.

I'd always hated the feathered rats, sure, but the sea felt too quiet without them. There was nothing to distract me from the hiss of waves breaking on the sturdy metal of the boat.

However, in the silence, I caught a familiar tune coming from my husband's radio.

"Somewhere...beyond the sea, Somewhere...waiting for me..."

The Bobby Darin song had been playing when we first met.

Frank leaned over his chair, rod in hand, and threw a cheeky grin my way. He was wearing his knockoff-Armani sunglasses from Bimini, so I couldn't see those lovely blue eyes of his.

I walked over to him, one hand always clasping some part of the boat to steady myself, and we shared a long, slow kiss - like young lovers. In that moment, and for a few hours after that, everything was just fine.

Later that night, when the dark was setting in, the air felt a lot heavier than before - almost like the salt was condensing in it. A chill crept across the ocean and fog was starting to blow in, so I decided to return to the cabin after sitting with Frank for a couple of hours. He hadn't caught a thing all day.

"Get me another beer would you, honey?" He called to me as I left, dejection clearly weighing on his voice.

I looked off the stern once more before heading into the cabin. The sea looked different at night, not blue, but black - like shimmering tar, or blood in the moonlight.

My skin went cold at the thought of it. In the hushed darkness, every wave felt like it was reaching for me.

But, eager to cheer Frank up after such slim pickings, I popped another beer from the six pack, and went back out to give it to him.

But he wasn't there. No, not at his seat, or anywhere else. The breath left my body as I scrambled to look over the edges - Frank had always been a strong swimmer, and I knew he had more sense than to just jump in.

It felt awful, it felt impossible. I checked every inch of that boat; inside the cabin and out. There were no lights in the distant darkness, so he couldn't have got onto another boat. His rods were undisturbed. I never even heard a splash.

In those moments all I could do was panic. My husband of 20 years was gone without a trace: vanished completely. Not a speck of blood, not a drop of water, not a single thing was out of place. An empty beer can stood at attention beside his chair, my husband's disappearance (or abduction) hadn't disturbed it one bit.

Frank was gone.

After taking a second to stop hyperventilating, I realised that there'd be no hope of getting back to land without him - at least not at night. We'd been on smaller boats together before, and Frank had shown me the basics. But to make a boat move an inch is one thing, to sail it from the middle of the ocean to a serviceable port at night is a totally different situation.

There was no phone service, barely any internet, and I couldn't say with any kind of certainty where I even was. It'd become a living nightmare, or at least, I thought it had at the time.

I retreated to the cabin and locked the door behind me. I couldn't sleep, hell, I could barely even breathe, but I had to wait for him or morning, whatever came first. I staid like that, staring at shards of moonlight through the portholes, for a few more hours.

Suddenly, the boat seemed to tip almost sideways and my mind flooded with horrible thoughts of capsizing, but we levelled out with a thud.

Something had crawled onto the deck. Something big.

My body tensed up, folding up in fear like human origami. I could hear heavy footsteps through the thin walls of the cabin, moving up towards the bow. The moonlight shards were broken by something walking in front of the portholes outside; I caught an inch of khaki fabric as it passed.

Frank.

I darted up from the bed and unlocked the cabin door, bursting onto the deck. I followed Frank's wet footprints from the stern to the bow - calling him several times, and being met with no response - until I saw him, staring off into the sea, at the very tip of the boat. I could only see him from behind.

My footsteps slowed as I got closer to him. Something was wrong, I could feel some inkling of ineffable dread tugging at me, telling me to run.

Frank wasn't just soaked, he looked truly ragged. Like he'd been gone for weeks. Tufts of hair were missing from the back of his head - from what I could see, the baseball cap and the ugly knockoff shades were gone too. His whole body looked turgid with water, like a corpse that'd been dredged from the sea.

"Frank, are you okay?" I said, speaking no louder than a whisper.

He was humming. It was the unmistakable tune of "Beyond The Sea", again.

The skin of his hands seemed pale, almost waxy, like the light didn't agree with them. The tips of his fingers looked ragged and fleshy, they were dripping with something dark. I had to choke back the urge to vomit when I realised something had torn off his fingernails.

Frank didn't seem to mind.

"They...took me," Frank suddenly hissed in a voice barely his own. It felt garbled, drowned, like he was speaking from underwater, "They showed me such wondrous things."

He was clutching his old fishing knife in his trembling, wet hand. The blade looked worn, dull, and stained with blood. It wasn't old blood, either: it dripped in generous globs from the cold metal onto the deck.

"Frank, I need you to calm down," I told him, his breathing felt like the roiling ocean, like a snake uncurling in his belly, "I think you fell off the boat. Maybe you're a little shocked. Just come to bed, it'll all be fine."

"I didn't fall." He said in his drowned voice, "They took me. They showed me Their world."

"Their world?" I asked, frightened. I was starting to cry.

"The Deep."

I'd always heard that we know more about space than we did about the deep ocean, but that still didn't account for Frank's ramblings.

"Please, honey, you're scaring me. This needs to stop."

"Shut up, woman." Frank barked.

It wasn't like him to be short like that.

"Let me show you the things They showed me, sweetness," Frank said as he began to turn, "They need witnesses to their glorious kingdom. Let me take you to The Deep with me, darling."

When I saw Frank's face I screamed. You could probably have heard it all the way back in Biscayne.

"But first," Frank said, lifting up the knife, "I'm going to need your eyes."

Frank's eye sockets were bleeding craters now, as though the eyes had just been plucked out. Black blood ran in rivulets down his scarred cheeks. His mouth dangled open, as though his jaw had been snapped, now full of black blood where his tongue had been torn from its root. His face was like a violent, ugly cartoon.

"Come with me, dear." Frank said. His slack jaw never moved when he talked, but then again, it didn't seem as though the voice came from his mouth at all.

That monstrous, cursed voice seemed to bleed like black blood from every pore.

With that, I felt a surge of adrenaline, and darted towards the cabin, while the thing that was once my husband - now this huge, hulking gorilla of a man with his wide mouth and eyeless stare - lumbered quickly behind me.

The boat trembled under his heavy footsteps as I bolted into the cabin and slammed the door behind me, locking it frantically as he approached.

I collapsed onto the ground after that, aching and sobbing in fear, while his big, meaty fists hammered on the door outside.

"Come with me, darling, to Their world," Frank called, his voice bleeding in through the walls until the whole cabin felt like an echo chamber of insanity, "Come and see the delights they have in store for us."

He was going to do to me what They had done to him. I saw the torture on his face and hands and skin. His body looked like a portrait of agony.

I knew that the thing out there was not my husband. It couldn't be. It may have been wearing Frank's clothes, it might even have been wearing Frank, but that was not Frank. Frank would have known instantly that his key to the cabin door was in the breast pocket of his jacket.

And it's only a matter of time until whatever is wearing Frank figures that out too.

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