In the fading light, while the tremors increased, you climbed the hill where the old stone lighthouse stands, and then to the top of the lighthouse itself. The place is deserted. From the lantern gallery you stare out into the darkness; the starlight illuminates nothing but churning water.
You could [[light]] the beacon one more time. A straggler might still see the signal, and come back for you. Then again, that might just attract the monsters faster. You remember seeing a [[boat]] at the base of the cliff; perhaps that offers a better chance.Shuddering, you wait for death. But (if: $boat)[after a moment you realize the creature — kraken, octopus, whatever it is — isn't trying to capsize you. Gently, unerringly, it's //propelling// the little boat out into the strait.
There seems nothing to do but sit quietly, then, while some unseen monster of the deep steers you carefully [[toward the distant light.->terminus]] ](elseif: $light)[(display: "carry")
You crane your neck, trying to see the distant light, and as if in answer, the thing gripping you rotates until you're facing in that direction, though the movement of the waves makes it hard to catch sight of. After a minute or two, you realize it's not only the waves that are moving; the creature — whatever it is — is swimming out into the strait, carrying you above the water [[as it goes.->end]] ](else:)[(display: "carry")
For a while, bizarrely, nothing happens; the creature — whatever it is — holds you steady even as the quakes intensify and the sea grows rougher. Then you feel yourself turning, and as the stars shift overhead you realize the thing is moving, carrying you out [[into the open sea.->fin]] ][(set: $light to true)You dig the flint and steel out of your pocket. Fumbling a little in the near-blackness, you strike spark after spark until one catches, smolders a moment, then blazes up with a roar. Quickly you retreat to the railing, blinking the sparks out of your dazzled eyes. It takes a little time for them to fade, and at first you think one of them is strangely persistent.
But the tiny gleam remains steady while you tilt your head, vanishes when you shut your eyes — no stray spark, no trick of your vision, but another real light, far out on the [horizon]<clickit|.]<lighter|(click: ?clickit)[(replace: ?lighter)[At this range there's no way to tell if it's coming from the sea, or from some farther shore that was invisible from lower ground. The earth is still shaking at intervals, reminding you that this coast will crumble into the sea like the rest, sooner rather than later.
There's still time to reach the [[boat]], but if rescue is coming, it might be wiser to [[wait]] for it.] ]An ominous rumble decides you. Without further delay, you (if: $light)[scramble down the spiral stairs.
The drop is sharp, but not completely sheer; by the light from the tower you can make out a kind of rough ladder cut into the surface of the cliff. Fragments of earth and rock fall around you, shaken loose by the tremors, but you make it to the bottom with only a few grazes. The boat lies forlornly on the shingle, battered but apparently [[intact->make for]].](else:)[grope your way down the winding stairs. The cliff face looked rough, the drop sharp but not completely sheer; it shouldn't be //much// harder to navigate than a spiral staircase in the dark.
Or so you are still telling yourself, when behind you there comes a massive crash of water. Your foot slips; your hands spasm and lose their grip; you are [[falling]].]You grip the railing and lean out, gazing anxiously at the point of light, trying to gauge whether it's moving.
And then there's an ominous rumbling from below, stone vibrating under your feet. Mortar cracks. The railing gives way under your weight, and you hurtle [[into the wind->falling]].(set: $boat to true)You drag the little boat out into the water as far as you can, then scramble aboard.
It takes you a while to get the hang of using the paddle, but you're beginning to make real progress when you feel a faint jolt. In the next moment your paddle hits something— solid?
Then you see it: something dark and wet, gelatinous and shining, rising from the water beside you. It //oozes// slowly over the side of the boat, grasping it. A [[tentacle->octopus]].You hit the water with a sickening smack.
Or— no. You hit //something//. It wraps around you, cushioning your fall; something wet, cold, shapeless, yielding, but solid. Your flailing hands touch its clammy surface.
A [[tentacle->octopus]].When you woke up, the last of the ships had left without you. Finding yourself alone, you ran stumbling to the shore, just in time to see their sails disappear over the horizon.
It was a frail enough hope — the sea teems, in these days, with vast and hungry serpents, krakens, poison jellies the size of houses — but it was better than [[none->start]].the tentacle holds you firmly above the roiling waves, and while you're not exactly comfortable, it doesn't seem to be hurting you. Slowly your frantic heartbeat settles.Firelight glints on the surface of the sea around you as you're borne away from the sinking island. You keep your eyes fixed on your goal.
:: end ::Starlight gleams faintly on the surface of the water as you're borne away from the sinking island. The salt wind blows gently through your hair. Ahead of you the dark ocean stretches empty. Strangely, you find yourself unafraid.
:: fin ::Somewhere in the midst of the journey, improbable as it seems, you fall asleep. A soft jolt wakes you, as the boat grounds on an unfamiliar beach. You sit up, turning in time to see the splash of a huge body submerging, far out to sea.
:: terminus ::