‘What does it take to sink this damned ship?’ Imelda scowled as she retracted and extended the aerial of the remote detonator in her blood-soaked hand.
Beneath her feet, the deck sloped gently down towards the stern where a towering pillar of black smoke formed a blot of solid darkness against the starry sky.
Electra leaned on the rail. ‘It is sinking, you can feel it.’ Like Imelda, Electra appeared to be wearing elbow-length blood-red gloves. Gloves that dripped onto the deck.
‘I thought it would be more dramatic.’
‘Never mind. The crew were fun.’
Dolores leaned on the rail and looked out over the rolling grey-green Atlantic. ‘It’s those secondary pumps.’
‘Koponen’s so damned thorough, so effective, so very clever with his fall-back positions and contingency plans. I worry about what he might do next,’ Imelda grumbled.
‘Soon you won’t have to.’
‘What do you mean?’ Dolores came off the rail. ‘We agreed we wouldn’t hurt him.’
‘And we won’t.’ Electra’s mouth drew back in a cool feral smile. ‘He’s on board a ship sinking in the middle of the Atlantic. He’ll have to take his chances like the rest of us.’
‘I want him punished,’ Imelda said. ‘If it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t be here.’
Electra stretched, a lithe, liquid movement. ‘I like what happened. I want to be what we shall soon become.’
‘I liked being the woman I once was.’
Dolores studied her fingernails and scratched experimentally at her arm. She brushed her leg with the back of her hand and ripped her stocking open with her knuckles.
‘It’s happening,’ she said breathlessly. ‘It’s already started. I laddered my own stocking. We’re over water and it’s happening. I’m going first.’
Imelda looked at the dark, heaving sea. ‘I’m not ready. I need more time…’
‘We changed once when we were growing up, now we’re changing again.’ Dolores rolled her shoulders. ‘It itches, all down my spine.’ She bent and flexed and her bolero jacket split open down the back, cut by a row of bone-white triangular ridges running down her spine.
Nervous, Electra rubbed her own arm. Moving her hand from wrist to elbow it felt as smooth as ever. In the other direction it rasped like sandpaper.
She had known this was coming, the first of Tuoni’s gifts, but now it actually was happening her heart was in her throat and her mouth was too dry to swallow. People called her cold but she knew how to feel, she had emotions. She just had something they didn’t, self-control.
Even before college the three of them had sought adventure, looking for lost mysteries, new discoveries and shared thrills in the wide, wild world. Now, right here, right now, was the start of something far beyond their dreams. Beyond imagination. Beyond sanity.
The entity that believed itself to be Tuoni had found them dying. In pillaging their memories it had found a semblance of identity. In saving them it remade them to share that world. Lust and terror bound them to him, a kind of madness that let them revel in what they could do, and weep at what they would become.
Imelda and Dolores’ eyes were bright as the conflicting thrills of anticipation and fear surged through them. They held each other’s hands tight. To make this journey alone was too awful to contemplate. Together they would survive.
Dolores laughed in alarm as her elbow split her sleeve. Imelda ran her tongue over newly-aching gums and felt a second row of teeth. She wanted to bite and chew and taste blood. She too laughed wildly though her eyes sought Electra’s for comfort.
Can this really be happening, Electra thought as she felt the changes in her own body, the new flexibility of her spine, the three slits opening under each ear. Could this ever happen to a human being? Would she still be–? She cried out at the loss of what she was leaving behind. Then a colder, steadier state of mind rose up, and her fear died away.
The deck canted under their feet as Sea Cucumber sank lower in the water. Tuoni rose up like a new tide within them.
‘Kipu-Tytto. She doesn’t know how lucky she is,’ Electra said.
They all knew what she meant. Birthing Tuoni’s spawn was a transcendent agony they all craved.
Dolores looked down at the sea with longing. ‘She’s under the water already. I want to swim.’
Imelda keyed in a short sequence of numbers on the detonator and flipped open the guard on the large, red button. ‘Koponen said you should always have a contingency plan. Here’s mine’ She pressed the button.
To be continued…