Author: © Keith Rommel
Publisher: Sunbury Press
Publication Date: July 26, 2016
Ordering: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Social Media: Author Website, Press Release, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram
1 – SHAMAN
Akutak knelt down on the hard, cold surface of a mountainous ice sheet that overlooked the valley’s deep ice canyon. A large rivulet carried fast-moving glacial water, and the sound of the running river was loud enough to reach Akutak even at this altitude.
Located in the interior of Greenland, beneath the ice sheet and river flow, was a canyon that snaked around and reached the Petermann Glacier on the northern coast. The water melt also flowed beneath the ice and was released into the Arctic Ocean.
True to old tradition almost lost throughout the centuries, Akutak wore the skins of animals that were captured for their meat. The skins were sewn together by his wife. She was a skilled seamstress and made him kamiks, trousers and anoraks, gloves and a hat. It was her skill that protected him against the harsh elements and kept him alive. Knowing she made the clothing, the frigid cold was of no concern; in Greenland it is said a man is what his wife makes him.
Opening the flap of an animal skin sack that was slung over his shoulder, he peered inside and saw what he had placed there before he left home at first light.
The wind whipped and reminded Akutak that where he was was inhospitable and unwelcoming. But still, he continued to move forward with the plan that took him nearly two years to complete; shrouded in silence even to his kin. What he created and what he was about to do was never shared with anyone else. It couldn’t be because that was the way.
He carefully reached into his sack and pulled out a hand-sized tupilaq. This carefully handmade avenging monster was created to keep people away from his native land, which was shrinking each year because of global warming.
The shaman began to chant in his native tongue of Inuit. He called forth in a repeated rhythmic sound, reciting his desire to make those who caused it to pay for what his country was suffering. He wanted to instill fear and summoned a beast, large and unstoppable, filled with the rage of his ancestors. This beast would do terrible things to keep people away from Greenland.
He looked at the tupilaq, made the traditional way to ensure its effectiveness; the design represented exactly what he foresaw as being the bringer of fear and order, death, and a reluctance to challenge the waters around Greenland. Made from carved bone, dried and stretched skin, woven hair and sinew, the totem even contained parts from dead children.
Drawing himself close to the ridge, each footfall carefully placed so as not to plunge to his death, his chant continued as he looked over the edge and into the clear water. He held onto the tupilaq, looked at his work one last time to make sure it was good enough, and then held it out and released it over the flowing water.
He watched it fall and make a tiny a splash as it hit the water. The flow carried the tupilaq away. The current dragged and pulled it below the surface, twirled it as it spread the shaman’s curse all around, attempting to summon the great avenging monster that would keep others away from his precious Greenland. If his plan worked, it would give his country time to heal.
Akutak turned away, the chant still deep in his throat. He hoped his spell worked, that it was strong enough, and that others wouldn’t figure out what he had done this day; at least for a while. He didn’t wish to battle anyone or forfeit his life. He wanted his land―his people’s land―to be left alone. He wanted to stop the bleeding while he still had a chance to make a difference. And the blood that would be spilled wouldn’t be on his hands.
No, because they did it to themselves. He was merely a doctor spreading out the cure. With all responsibility left atop the peak, he began the long journey home. His chant continued until he reached his destination. His actions remained a secret even to his wife.
2 – A CURSE COMES FORTH
Buried under ice a mile thick and stretching a mile long is a one-half-mile-deep crevice in the center of the large island of Greenland. It is larger than the Grand Canyon.
The bedrock that bears the weight of the massive ice pack shifted ever so slightly and a crack formed and slowly moved down to the bottom of the chasm where the tupilaq was hung up. A large boulder shook and rolled away as if it were being pushed. The displaced boulder uncovered a large black cave.
Bubbles dribbled out of the black hole and raced upward to rest underneath the sheet of ice. An orange-skinned, rounded face with two rows of large serrated teeth came forward. The large rounded nostrils and big eyes appeared to be pulled back. They had no lids and seemed to rest on the nose. The giant beast peered into the crystal clear waterway that rushed past him.
A serrated bone bonnet protected gills and a spiny body with protruding spikes atop its back. Thin arms and clawed hands were set in front of the exposed ribcage that bulged from lack of nourishment.
The nostrils moved as it sniffed the water. The monster grabbed either side of the rock opening and it pulled itself out. Set just behind the ribcage, the monster’s body had eight tentacles. The massive, muscular tentacles with huge suction cups were pulled close to the body and bunched together, seemingly tangled. In a quick snap, the tentacles straightened and propelled the goliath forward. Forty feet or more of a beast that just wanted to kill as its master commanded darted out into the river.
It traveled through the canyon at impossible speeds. It ate anything that crossed its path, sometimes swallowing its prey whole. Once it reached the Petermann ice shelf, it paused, worked its nostrils at a depth of nearly one thousand feet, and shot out into the Arctic Ocean. It remained close to the ocean floor to get the lay of the land, its eyesight superior and its sense of smell more acute than a bloodhound. It seemed to be looking to find its first target: that which plagues Greenland.
The creature looked up toward the surface. Whatever it saw or smelled, it didn’t hesitate. It pumped its tentacles and shot straight up as fast as a bullet from a gun. The speed it moved at made it appear to be just a blur. It cut through the water with its giant mouth open.
3 – LIFE’S JOURNEY
The medium-sized fishing vessel called Life’s Journey bobbed in the water. A crew of four: Boas, Eko, Fina, and Illaq, all the men were best friends and had invested in the boat equally. They had been fishing these waters together for ten years, and through hard work the boat would be paid off at the end of this season.
Fishing was the main source of many people’s livelihoods in Greenland, which employed a staggering sixty-five hundred people out of a population of about sixty-thousand people.
The men readied their nylon, grid-like net and cast it overboard in search of cod, halibut, and salmon. The boat trolled the waters and the men waited for it to fill. They prepared to receive the payload, get the fish into the belly of the boat, return to the dock, unload, and get paid. All that to go out and do it again.
A heavy pull on the net made the nylon groan and the boat jerked hard. The men staggered and Eko fell, grunting as he hit the deck. Illaq helped him up and the men moved to see what the cause might be. To their disbelief, the water that surrounded the boat turned red. The men looked at one another, dumbfounded.
Boas ordered the net up and the men heaved with all of their might, moving as quickly as they could. The net had little to no resistance.
“What is going on?” Fina asked. “Never in all my years of fishing have I seen anything like this.”
Then another sudden, powerful tug on the net moved Life’s Journey’s stern and they almost took on water from being tugged down. The violent jerk and motion of being pulled down and popped up tossed Fina overboard, chucking him fifteen feet away from the boat.
The men threw life preservers over and shouted to their friend to grab onto one. They all knew, especially Fina in this moment, that someone couldn’t survive very long in water this cold. A minute at the most.
Everything had already gone numb, and his strength was quickly waning as if the water had the power to steal his energy. Although his arms felt like heavy weights, he managed to grab a preserver.
“Hang on, Fina,” Illaq said and stepped up on the ledge on the starboard side. He motioned to jump in and Eko grabbed him and pulled him down.
“What the hell are you doing? We already have to worry about getting him out alive,” Eko said. “You going in wouldn’t help, and it’s not heroic. Get yourself together and tend to Fina.”
Illaq fell into place, and the three men who remained on board started to pull the line in and began to drag Fina closer to the boat.
“Hang in there, Fina,” Illaq shouted. “We will have you out in a moment and give you the heated blanket. You’ve got to help us! Move your arms and try to kick your legs―it’ll help against the cold.”
Fina clearly couldn’t move or kick what he couldn’t feel. As Fina neared the boat, his expression changed from hope to dread.
He didn’t look like a man overboard in frigid waters, concerned about hypothermia or determined to escape the blood he found himself floating in. He look worried . . . like he was going to become a part of the blood.
Just then, his mouth opened wide and a primal scream came out before something unseen pulled him under. He disappeared, lost to the other men in the cloudy water of blood and guts, bubbles the only sign left.
“Fina!” Illaq shouted, and chaos erupted on the boat. “You see what you’ve done? You should have let me go in after him!”
“You would have been pulled under too, Illaq, don’t be a fool.”
“He’s right,” Boas said. “You don’t know what’s going on down there.”
The men continued to scramble to find their fallen friend but were helpless to do anything. The water held its secret, and time was quickly running out for Fina. His minute was almost up.
Then, suddenly, Fina popped up some thirty yards away.
“There,” Boas said and pointed. They saw him, and Boas worked the engine and pulled the boat up next to their friend. His driving was so precise that the other two men were able to grab Fina under the arms and pull him on board.
His right leg was missing and Fina shouted out in pain. Blood painted Life’s Journey into a tragic sojourner.
“Eqalussuaq,” Illaq said and pointed into the water. It was filled with sharks known as the gurry shark. The massive hunter was one of the largest species of shark still alive, comparable only to the great white.
“What are they doing at this depth?”
“Hunger will bring anything to the surface.”
“Not these guys! They stay deep.”
Boas floored the throttle on the boat and headed for the coast. Illaq found a blanket and applied as much pressure to Fina’s leg as he could. Eko grabbed the warming blanket and worked on pulling off Fina’s clothing. Fina grunted in pain, always tough, but hypothermia and shock were a real danger as the men worked on him.
“Hurry!” Illaq shouted over the roar of the engine.
“I’m going as fast as she’ll move us,” Boas shouted back. “Stay with him and don’t let him close his eyes!”
“Eqalussuaq,” Fina mumbled. His blue lips and pure white skin were an indication that hypothermia was indeed setting in.
“Yes, the mad beast got you good,” Illaq said. “But we’re going to get you to a hospital. Get you fixed up. You just need to concentrate on staying awake.”
Fina patted his friend’s hand, knowing he was in trouble. He tried not to think about the pain or the cold that was deep inside his body. He knew the injury was bad but didn’t want to look. The blood all around was enough. He was better off not knowing.
Instead, he wanted to tell Illaq about the strange bright orange thing he saw when he was pulled under. He looked at it with his own two eyes, and he if hadn’t seen it himself, he would think the person who told of the encounter had gone mad.
The pain brought blackness, and Fina sought it, knowing that place was much better than this. He could tell his tale later if he survived the trip home.
A slap shook his head, but he didn’t care. He wanted to go where he was being called.
The frenzied sharks appeared to be about ten to twenty-one feet long and had the thickest hide of any shark species and also the most inedible meat. The massive fish had short, rounded snouts, small eyes, and tiny dorsal and pectoral fins. The creamy-gray or blackish-brown gurries continued a frenzy of the fish that had been torn from the net. It seemed, indeed, that hunger had brought them up from the depths.
The sharks rolled and wagged their caudal keels and caudal fins to get their fill, seeming to wrestle with their own kind to find proper positioning among the crazed bunch.
Then without warning, the Tupilaq Octopus came up from underneath them for a second time and scooped three of the large predators into its mouth in one pass. The momentum propelled the goliath out of the water and onto its side as it rent the sharks to shreds of meat with its serrated teeth. The creature made a third and final pass and fed on all remaining sharks. Once it was finished, it dove deep, its hunger only beginning, its strength building, its mind sharpening.
Keith Rommel is an award-winning novelist and screenwriter. Having written thirteen novels and having won awards for Best Novel of the Year for The Devil Tree, Keith has also garnished two different awards for two screenplays adapted from his novels. The Lurking Man has won Best Feature Screenplay of the year at ZedFest Film Festival, 2015, and semi finalist at CineFest in Los Angeles 2016.
The Cursed Man movie will be released Halloween night, 2016, and The Lurking Man will be released 3rd quarter 2017. Keith’s writing has been called “Horror for the Curious Mind” and has been compared to the great Stephen King–a comparison he humbly denies but is honored as he is Keith’s inspiration.