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They say that man’s fascination with the ocean runs deep. It should be no surprise. The ocean was with man before he discovered fire, and thus has long been symbolic of the unknowable.
Even now, as we begin to discover all the creatures that people the sea’s depths, so much remains hidden from us. Just out of man’s sight is a hidden side of the ocean, a side that cannot be seen no matter how deep his machines probe.
If you wish, of course, you may see a glimpse of this side for yourself.
Go to anywhere near the sea, at spring tide. Gather as much sea-water as you can with any container you can find. The size is dependent on how far you want to take this ritual. The bigger the container, the farther you go.
Don’t do this at any time other than spring tide, or the ritual won’t work and you’ll be left feeling like an idiot. Water drawn by a full moon has a special potency, and you’d be surprised by the demand for it nowadays.
Now you’ll want to go to a shore between 12:00 and 3:00 AM. Be sure to bring something made of iron along with your container of sea-water. Don’t bring any electronics with you, not even a radio: that is, unless you want your gadgets to be smashed to bits.
In the sand, draw a circle just large enough to encircle you and your container. Then close your eyes, count to any number you wish (most people use 5 or 10), and say something along the lines of “I have some sea-water to peddle.”
After a few minutes pass, figures will come up to you holding tankards. You must pour sea-water into the tankards, or dole it out using whatever you have on hand. Make sure the iron isn’t visible – not good form to threaten the customers. You can look up, but don’t make any facial expressions no matter what you see.
The souls of the drowned dead know they don’t look as good as they used to, but that’s no reason to deny them your sea-water.
Normally, the story would end here. For many, it does. Doing that in itself is simple. To end the ritual, say something along the lines of “My shop’s closed, come back another time.” at any time. Although some customers might be disappointed, they’ll leave and never bother you again, unless of course you want them to.
By the way, if you run out of sea-water, SAY SO. Pretending otherwise will lead to a very undesirable fate. Sea-spirits don’t like being fibbed to, and flat-out lying to them is a great way to invite all sorts of trouble. Some of them will get rowdy, and will drag you back home to have a stern word with you.
Their home, of course, not yours.
It does say a lot about this ritual that being drowned by angry sea zombies is the second worst thing that could happen, eh?
The really brave, really unlucky or just really stupid will want to continue this little adventure. To continue it past this point, you simply need to have enough sea-water to last throughout the night.
After you’ve passed a certain period of time, stranger things will start happening. The iron in your pocket will start rattling like mad. When it does, keep your head down and DO NOT LOOK BACK UP. You might think you’re some kind of superhuman for looking into the eyes of the dead and not flinching, but your new patrons are in a completely different league.
You’ll know when your new customers are there when you stop having rusted tankards shoved in your face. Some of them won’t even bother with containers. Just pour and wait for the next customer, no matter how grotesque the sights you see are. These beings tolerate impoliteness a lot worse than your previous patrons, and you already know how those folks deal with rude merchants.
Oh, and unlike last time, it is absolutely crucial that you not run out of sea-water. Your customers are so terribly thirsty, and denying them service is the best way to get on their bad side. Whether you lie or not is irrelevant now. What they will do to you will make death by drowning look like a mercy. The lucky ones turn out washed up on the beach the next day, completely and irreversibly insane. Of course, the disappearances are far more common.
And do not under any circumstances break the circle. The undead at least have the decency to respect your boundaries, and it’s not dangerous at all to break the circle when they’re the ones you’re serving. These others aren't as polite – in fact, they’re actively being kept from going in the circle by one of the oldest rules of the earth.
If you want to end the ritual at this point, you’ll have to wait until daybreak. Ending it any time before will dissolve the magic of your circle, and remove what little power there is protecting you. I don’t need to tell you why that’s a bad thing.
At the first sign of dawn, no matter how much sea-water you have left or how many customers are still in line, they will start slithering back into the ocean. Don’t look up until the sounds come to a complete stop. Get out of the circle and get as far away from the sea as you can.
I suggest staying away from shorelines and piers for the next week. I repeat: nothing dangerous will come to you unless you invite it in, but experiences like this tend to leave a mark on normal people.
What you’ve experienced is a glimpse of things we were never made to fully comprehend. And be thankful for that. For if man was to gaze upon the things that you have had a brief glimpse of in their entirety...
Think about what could be while lying in bed, and don’t mind the taste of sea-water on your lips.