I held up my boarding pass and walked through the gate. My wife, Harper, was right ahead of me, and we both were so loaded with bags and suitcases that we could barely fit between the doorways. Our 10th anniversary was in a couple of days. We both had come into agreement that there was no better way to celebrate than to go on an all-expense-paid cruise to Hawaii.
As we made it up to the deck, we marveled at all the entertainment. There was a band playing to greet us. Pools, water slides, mini-golf, a drive-in sized screen that was displaying boarding information, bars, and restaurants, and that was just what we could see while walking in! This was definitely the right choice for our anniversary vacation. I couldn’t wait to get these bags unloaded and start to enjoy ourselves.
We went into the doors that led to the cabins. There was another beautiful bar down below us. There was a sports bar to the left showing the games on different screens and a small library to our right. Before we made it to the cabins, there was a coffee bar that served specialty coffees and desserts. If religion has it right, I hope that heaven is something like this. You couldn’t walk through a door anywhere without finding something exciting.
Once we made it to our cabin, we dropped all our bags and looked at each other with stars in our eyes. I pulled my wife close for a kiss and then kept my arms around her. I asked eagerly about how we should begin.
“Well, what should we do first? The casino? The arcade?”
She smirked before replying.
“Such a man, don’t forget about the fine dining at 6, followed by the show at the Theatre.”
I drew back and acted faux offended.
“Are you insinuating that I have no culture? I made our reservations before we even boarded, don’t worry. Dinner isn’t for a long time though, how about we go get some of those tacos and a coffee to get ourselves going.”
“Now you’re speaking my language.” She replied with a grin.
“Let’s unpack later. I am starving, and I think that coffee bar right there makes caramel macchiatos.”
Her eyes lit up yet again as I grabbed her hand, and we rushed towards the door. The coffee bar did have macchiatos, which I got with an extra shot of espresso. She ordered a frozen drink that was more sweetness than coffee, and we made our way back onto the deck where the tacos awaited.
The weather was beautiful. It was Fall time, and the sun was just warm enough to be inviting, accompanied by the blissful breeze that blew along the top of the deck. As we drew near to Tito’s Taco Shop, we heard the captain coming through the loudspeakers announcing takeoff. He reminded us about the mandatory safety meeting in a couple of hours and then wished us to have a great time aboard the ship.
It was still strange to be in large groups of people without wearing a mask. The pandemic was finally eradicated once the vaccines were distributed. The cruise and tourism industries were hit hard, as were many others. It seemed that people were at last willing to come back out again, and there was no shortage of cruise-goers ready for a trip to the islands.
I had my phone out and was looking up things to do in Honolulu for the days that we were in port. Scuba diving was a must. I had heard that sometimes you could see sharks or even hold an octopus on your hand if you got lucky enough. I wanted to do some hiking near the volcanoes if we had time. All the spam was going to be strange, but as much as they cook with it, I bet they were able to make it taste like a delicacy.
They were in the process of building a new aquarium. It looked like it was going to be a huge one. Sadly, it did not look like it would be done in time for us to check it out. The black sands beach looked incredible, though. Instead of sand, it said that the whole beach was covered in smooth black lava rocks. We would definitely have to make a stop there.
“Ethan! Do you want salsa on your tacos? Chicken or steak?”
I put my phone away and looked at the meats before responding and did so to the guy who was making them as he finished up my wife’s two glorious looking tacos.
“I’ll take one of both with some of that green salsa. Thank you!”
All the free tacos that you could eat, why couldn’t life always be like that?
“Let’s sit over there by the side, so we can watch the takeoff,” Harper said, before taking a big sip of her frozen coffee.
We took a seat and took in the last sight of land that we would see for about 4 days. Once we arrived, we would tour the different islands, stopping at each port and having a day to explore. There were some people on land waving towards the ship. We joined many others who were near the side waving back. I couldn’t help but feel bad for all of those poor people stuck on the land.
“Bon Voyage to us, I guess.”
I held up my coffee for a cheers, and Harper returned the gesture. Her face was glowing. I couldn’t remember seeing her so happy since the day of our wedding.
“This is really going to be a nice break from reality.” She said as she picked up her taco to take her first bite.
“Yeah, it will. Nothing like this in the world.”
We took our time, enjoying each bite as our view of the coastline became a thing of the past. When we were finished, we looked into each other’s eyes. I reached across the table to hold her hand. She sounded a bit anxious as she spoke.
“It is a lot to take in, isn’t it? There is so much to do that I’m afraid of missing out on something. Where should we go first?”
I squeezed her hand and spoke in a reassuring tone.
“We have plenty of time to take it all in. Let’s just make sure to relax and do whatever makes us happy. It will all work itself out.”
Once we had our fill of gazing into the ocean, we decided that we would head back to the room and get unpacked, while we waited for the safety orientation. The time flew by, and before we knew it, they were calling our section over the loudspeaker.
We arrived with all the other passengers and waited for a moment until the crew member made it so we could begin. They gave us the spiel about the life jackets. They explained how the evacuation process works in case of a problem and let us hear a sample of the siren that would be played if there was an emergency.
I was zoning out and staring out of the window. We were near the bottom of the ship, and you could see the water moving beside us. It put me in a bit of a trance, and I kind of lost myself in it for a moment. I was snapped out of it when I saw something I couldn’t quite comprehend.
It happened pretty fast, and most of the people were looking at the crew member as he spoke. I could have been mistaking, but It looked like a giant tentacle had moved by the window and curled out of sight.
I looked around to see if anyone else had seen what I thought I just saw. There was a teenaged boy who looked excited and shocked. He was tugging at his father’s sleeve and explaining something to him. He seemed to brush him off and looked frustrated at the interruption. Everyone else was paying attention to the speech and had apparently not seen a thing.
Harper noticed how shaken I was and asked me quietly if everything was alright. I shook it off and said I would tell her about it later. We sat through the rest of the orientation. Nothing else went by the window, other than the waves being made by the ship.
As we arrived back on the deck, we were grabbing a drink from the tiki-themed bar. Harper chose one of those blue drinks with the little umbrella on top. After what I had seen, I opted for a straight glass of their best scotch. I had explained my story to her, and she was busy trying to figure out what it could have been that I saw.
“So, you’re sure it was all the way up by the window? Even at that lower level, that must be pretty high up from the water. Maybe it was something that crawled up the side, and it just seemed like it was larger because of forced-perspective?”
I took a big sip of my scotch and shook my head in confusion.
“Yeah, I mean, maybe. I really don’t know.”
She looked as if a light bulb went off in her head, and she shot back a smart remark.
“You’ve been reading a bunch of that H. P. Lovecraft stuff again, haven’t you? I’m sure it wasn’t Cthulhu if that’s what you are thinking.”
I laughed and felt my tension release.
“No, it’s not that. I just thought it was weird, that’s all. Enough about that, let’s figure out what we’re going to do until the formal dinner and play tonight.”
She responded with a grin.
“I seem to remember someone mentioning the arcade and the casino.”
I must have looked like a kid on Christmas morning because she burst out laughing. We finished our drinks and made our way past the large screen that was now cycling through reminders of all the different events that you could attend. Night club, comedy club, it seemed like there was no end to the number of things you could do on this ship.
We walked through the casino that was already bustling with cruise-goers. It looked like a good time. They even had versions of those toy cranes that were set up to pick up huge wads of cash. That might be the next stop, but I had my eyes set on the zombie shooter game with two green guns. The arcade was right past the casino and was full of all kinds of games to keep us entertained.
Not as many people were eager to jump straight for the arcade apparently. Harper and I had the whole place to ourselves. I went to the coin machine to get out some tokens. There was a door that read “Staff Only” right by the machine. I heard a loud slamming noise that caught my attention, even over the music that was playing in the arcade. I leaned in a little and heard a heated conversation on the other side.
“This is so fucked up. I can’t believe that they got loose. They need to tell all of the people!”
“Can you imagine the chaos that would cause? I get where you are coming from, trust me. It’s better this way, though.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right… People would be going crazy.”
The door opened, and I jumped as I was still leaning in to eavesdrop. This must have been apparent to the two kids who walked out because they looked a bit frightened and then hurried right past me. I grabbed the tokens out of the machine and walked over to the machine where my wife was waiting.
“You look like you just saw a ghost or something. Don’t tell me some fish people are walking around on board now.”
I couldn’t even fake a laugh or smile. I explained what I had just heard as I put the coins into the machine and started up the game. She did not seem concerned about the new development.
“They could have been talking about a mechanical issue or something. Try not to worry too much. We deserve to have the time of our lives on this trip. I don’t want you to start to obsess on this and lose sight of why we are here.”
I shrugged at this and answered in a resigned tone.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Worrying isn’t going to fix anything anyway. Could you please start taking out some of these zombies, though? I’m carrying the whole game over here. You have a power-up to use, hit the red button.”
She smacked me with the gun for talking trash, but the mood felt much lighter after that. Before long, we grew tired of the arcade and decided to play a few games at the casino. I have never been the best card player, and she was no better than me. This being the case, we opted for the giant money claw machine.
I swear that both of us grabbed a stack a handful of times each. The claw would never hold its grip, though. Feeling more than a little bit scammed, we decided to blow a bit of time at the slots until we had to go get ready for dinner. As soon as we sat down, the person who went on the money claw right behind us exclaimed loudly as the machine lit up and started to make a loud ringing noise. I looked over to Harper and gestured towards him.
“That seems about right, huh? We pump fifty dollars into that thing, and he walks away with a jackpot after one.”
“Such is life.” She responded as she pumped some tokens into the slot machine.
I couldn’t help but hear two guys on some machines behind us, as they were beginning to get a bit rowdy with each other.
“You tryin’ to say I don’t know what I saw man?”
His friend responded quickly.
“No, no, no, man. I’m not trying to say you’re seeing things or whatever else. I’m just saying that it’s crazy. There is no way it can be right!”
After this, the first man shot up out of his seat, knocking over his stool as he did. This caused quite the scene, and many people were starting to gaze in the direction now.
“Yeah, that’s alright. You think whatever the hell you want. I’m gonna go find someone to talk to about it right now!”
He stormed off, leaving his friend looking a bit shell-shocked and embarrassed. Harper looked toward me, and as if reading her mind, I pushed my seat back away from the machine.
“Yeah, let’s get out of here. We need to get ready for dinner.”
She raised her eyebrows in surprise at what we had just witnessed and responded.
“Sounds good to me. I haven’t won anything anyway. Let’s go.”
I looked back towards the guy’s friend, who he left standing there. After considering it for a moment, I leaned in towards my wife.
“You go ahead, I’ll catch up with you in just a second.”
She looked a bit frustrated but did not fight it.
“Hurry up, I want to make sure we get a good seat. It’s going to take us a while to get ready.”
She kissed me on the cheek and took off towards the deck, which led over towards the cabins. I walked up towards the man who was about to walk off before I caught his attention.
“Excuse me, sir? I overheard you and your friend. What was it that he thinks he saw?”
He looked at me warily. It was clear that he really didn’t want to discuss the matter.
“Look, he’s usually not like that, you know? I don’t know what’s gotten into him, honestly.”
I shook my head. He obviously didn’t understand why I was asking.
“No, I saw something strange as well. I’m not trying to say your friend is going crazy at all. I was just wondering what it is that he was saying he saw.”
This seemed to unnerve him more than help calm his nerves. He looked around to make sure nobody was listening in.
“Man, he was saying that he saw a giant fucking octopus, bro. Like, 30 feet long or so is how he was describing it. It’s ridiculous, there is no way they would allow something like that on one of these ships.”
My heart dropped all the way to my feet. I covered my mouth, and I think he could tell by my reaction that what he said had rocked me to the core. I stammered and managed a weak reply as horror rushed through my body.
“I..I… On the boat??”
He nodded and looked at me with the same type of concern he had been showing to his friend. My face must have been as white as a sheet at this point.
I took off out of the door, in a huge rush to catch up with Harper. I was looking around in a panic, my heart racing and ready to beat right out of my chest. I was about to just take off to the room when I heard Harper’s voice.
“Ethan! Over here, I grabbed some hot tea.”
I saw her over by the edge of the deck, waving me over. I ran up to her and could hardly focus.
“I thought you needed something to help you relax, and it looks like I was right. What are you freaking out about right now?”
I tried to collect my thoughts and was going to respond when she pointed behind me and cut me off.
“Hey, isn’t that the guy that was just going nuts in the casino?”
I turned around, and the man was being dragged towards a door that was marked “Employees Only”. Two larger deckhands were pulling him that way, each with a tight grip on one of his arms. He was fighting hard to try and break their hold and calling out for help. As they made it through the door with the man, I grabbed Harper by the shoulders and looked into her eyes.
“We have to go. Let’s get to the room, I don’t want to explain out here.”
She nodded, and we made our way towards the cabins. Once we were in our own cabin, she put down the hot teas on our dresser and walked right up to me with an exasperated look on her face.
“Babe, what in the heck is going on right now? This isn’t about the freaking tentacle that you saw out the window, is it?”
I looked shiftily around the room and towards our view of the ocean.
“Yes… I mean, no… Well, not really, anyway.”
“You have got to calm down. Just take a deep breath and explain.”
I did as she suggested and took a long deep breath to collect my thoughts. I told her about what the guy’s friend had said back at the casino. She made the connection between this and the man being dragged off the deck against his will. I also explained what I heard from the crew members when we were at the arcade. I could tell she was beginning to take what I was saying seriously.
I looked off into a corner as I made a connection. It seemed like a bit of a stretch to me, but it was the only thing I could think of. I know that she wouldn’t judge me at this point if it sounded a bit outlandish. After thinking it over for a moment, I decided to tell her what I was thinking.
“When I was looking for things to do in Honolulu earlier, there was an advertisement for a new aquarium that was coming soon. One of the main attractions was that they were going to have a bunch of Giant Pacific Octopi.
I didn’t think about it until now, but what if that is what is on this ship? Let me google it really quick, I had never heard of that type of octopus, so I didn’t think much of it.”
I got the search pulled up and nodded in a cold understanding before continuing.
“This is exactly what that guy was describing. I don’t know why they would use a cruise ship to deliver something like that. It’s the only thing that makes any sense right now, though.”
Harper was looking at the google search thoughtfully and responded.
“I mean, I guess that these were two of the hardest-hit economies during the pandemic, tourism, and cruise ships. It makes some kind of twisted sense that they would come together to try and help each other out. Octopi are known to be very mischievous, even when they aren’t the size of a freaking semi-trailer.”
She made a good point. Nothing had really made sense for a few years now with how crazy the world had been. This made as much sense as anything else when it was put into perspective. I just shook my head in amazement and looked towards her.
“Well, what do we do from here?”
“I know this is crazy, but I’m sure they will have a handle on those things. They would not have arranged to have them on board and not prepared for the possibility that they could escape.
I say we get ready and go to dinner as we had planned. We don’t want to spend our whole 10th-anniversary cruise holed-up in the cabin. Even if all this crazy guesswork is correct, and that is what the guy from the casino saw, I’m sure that they have everything under control.”
I pressed my fingers against my eyes and tried to wrap my mind around everything. I may have been scared out of my mind, but she was right. Our best bet was to hope that it was all under control and at least try to enjoy our time on the ship. This was not going to happen again anytime soon, if ever.
“Yeah. Let’s do that, I agree. Let’s just get dressed and try to have a good time. I’m sure if it was too bad, everyone would be on lockdown or something.”
She brightened up a bit with my saying this. We both went into our luggage and began to start the process of getting changed into our formal dining attire. Before long, I was tying the knot in my tie, and she was putting the final touches on her hair. I walked up behind her in the mirror and held her by the shoulders.
“You look incredible. Let’s go and have the time of our lives.”
She gave me a big smile, and I pulled her in for a kiss. I backed up and held out my arm towards her. As she grabbed onto it, we made our way for the door.
The formal dining room was the most luxurious area on the ship by far. Chandeliers hung from the ceiling. There were large wine racks along many of the walls, and the entire dining room was walled in by the most beautiful windows that I had ever seen. There was an ornate window on the ceiling as well. It was just beginning to get dark, and I was sure that soon we would be able to see the stars all across the sky.
The waiter walked up and asked what we would like to drink. He was dressed in a black vest with a bow tie and a white shirt. I told him that we would take a bottle of wine that he recommended. I also asked him to give me a recommendation for my meal. Once Harper heard his suggestion of parmesan encrusted lamb with asparagus, she decided that she would follow suit.
He brought out some bread with olive oil as a complimentary appetizer to go with our wine. As he poured our first glasses and set the bottle down, I grabbed my glass of wine and held it up toward my beautiful wife. She looked every bit as lovely as the day of our wedding, and I was flooded with a flurry of emotions as I said my toast.
“Here is to 10 amazing years. Every one of them has been an adventure, and I look forward to every year that I’ll be lucky enough to spend with you as we continue that adventure.”
She smiled and blushed ever so slightly as she reached her glass to clink off of mine. We both took a sip, and she responded in a relieved manner.
“That’s the spirit, it is starting to actually feel like a relaxing vacation.”
“Hey, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? It’s so nice to have a break from work, housework, and all the monotony of the day-to-day. We make a pretty good team through all of that drudgery, though. Don’t you think?”
Suddenly, I saw the smile get wiped from her face. The look that crept onto her face was one of sheer terror. Her glass of wine had been in her hand. When her face went from delight to horror, she tossed it on the ground with a crash. A scream came from deep within her, which was blood-curdling and intimated that absolute ruin was imminent.
I turned toward the spot that she was staring at. I understood all at once the doom that awaited all of us in the dining room. A giant octopus came crashing through the windows near the entrance where we all had arrived, knocking over the many racks of wine as it came and turning the floor as red as blood. Seemingly at the same time, another came from the side closest to the ocean and blocked the only other way out of the dining room into the kitchen.
I grabbed Harper’s arm, and we ran toward the corner as far from the beasts as we could manage. It was pandemonium as the whole dining room erupted into turmoil. I flipped a circle table up against the corner so that Harper and I could try to hide behind it for protection.
I saw one man who ran as fast as he could towards a small opening next to the octopus, who was blocking the main entrance. The creature reached a giant tentacle out for him and pulled him into his beak. There were shrieking howls of pain, unlike anything I have ever heard as blood sprayed out from underneath.
A couple of people were able to dart around as the octopus was distracted. Another unfortunate lady was grabbed by one of the spare tentacles, though. He squeezed her around the throat, and we had to watch as her face turned purple. Eventually, the life was squeezed right from her body.
I held Harper tight as she was sobbing like mad and unable to stop her body from shaking. We saw an opening. The one by the front entrance went toward a group of people on the opposite side of the room. As soon as it did, we bolted for the door. As we drew near, another octopus came crashing through the window on the ceiling, crushing a few unfortunate souls as it joined in the massacre. We kept running until we were well onto the deck.
The chaos did not stop in the dining room. People were running like mad all over the deck. I didn’t know where we would be safe, but I thought that maybe we could lock ourselves in our cabin until we could be rescued from this madness. It was a nice thought, but as we went for the doors, another one of those damn things came down to block our way.
We ran for the area in front of the drive-in style screen where Re-Animator was playing. A man was gibbering to himself in a wild manner and hiding behind a chair. As we drew near, I noticed a tear in the screen as another one came through and snatched the man up as he yelled out for help.
Our options for safety were becoming extremely limited. We ran for the bar where we jumped over the top and hid with a large group of people, peaking over to watch it all unfold. That was when we saw what I knew would be the end of us all. There was an army of them descending upon us. I held Harper tight as we waited on the inevitable.
I watched as a family of three were huddling together in the middle of the deck. They were almost surrounded, but the father pushed the mother and child toward an opening so that they could make it to safety with the rest of us. He let out a guttural cry as they ripped him to shreds. His little girl cried in a high-pitched squeal reaching for him until the mother grabbed her and ran towards us.
The mother was getting close when one of the monstrous creatures came hurtling behind her. As she noticed, she reached out with her daughter. I leaned out over the bar and grabbed onto her as the octopus reached the mother and held her tightly. I was pulling my hardest as the mother was holding on tight, and I hoped that they both might be saved.
I was punching and pulling at the tentacles and doing my best to cause him to let the mother go. She released her daughter, and the others brought her down behind the bar. I wouldn’t let go of her mother’s arms as she cried out in distress.
That was when I heard it. It was the deepest and most powerful sound that I have ever heard. It shook the ship violently. The bottles of liquor and glasses were falling all around us. It was hard to describe the immense strength and power that the sound exhibited all around us. When the sound came, though, something strange began to happen.
The octopus that held the child’s mother released her, and we pulled her behind the bar with us quickly. She fell to her daughter and clutched her tightly as they wept in each other’s arms. All of the creatures began to release the people that they were attacking. They were moving in unison towards the edges of the ship. They crawled over the side, and one by one, they made their way into the ocean.
Once all the monsters had left the ship, the people made their way slowly to the side to see what was happening. For some reason, they were all leaving. As quickly as they had descended upon us, they left us. It appeared to be almost in a synchronized manner. They all were swimming in the same direction, and we watched in disbelief. Nobody aboard this ship would ever be the same if they made it out alive, but many of us were saved by what could only be described as a call. A call that came from something massive, much larger than the creatures that had plagued us. It was a call that came from deep within the ocean and was more monstrous than anything that we could have ever imagined.