Author: Jake McDaniel| Banner: Dao Zang Moua

The waves around Okinawa Island danced and churned like a boiling pot, a paradox of calm and eeriness. As the waves lapped the rocky coast of the Japanese island, gulls and pelicans strayed from their nesting grounds to dive into the sea to capture the abundant fish that the sea was rich with. But only a few of the seabirds satisfied their bellies, as most returned home empty handed, unable to find food no matter how desperately they searched. For the seas surrounding Okinawa had mysteriously become silent in the past few days. The fish had simply ceased and the seas had become almost a dead zone, beautiful from above but lifeless when one breached the surface.

This was first noticed by the local fishermen of Okinawa, hardened men and women whose lives depended on the supposedly bountiful seas. As more and more ships returned home with barely anything of note, panic began to set in across the island. Local villages appealed to government offices for answers, begging to know why the fish had vanished. Scientists of all flavors were called in and offered theories, most blaming the event on global warming or overfishing. But of course, no conclusive evidence was reached and as the top minds of Japan continued to argue, the villages began to suffer, deprived both of their relied upon, hard fought incomes and indeed, food altogether. If the fish continued to not come, then they would be out of work and all they had strived for would simply vanish, in the blink of an eye.

So, they pressed on. Fishing vessels continued to go out, praying that the fish would return. One such ship lingered now, about six miles off the island, bouncing among the waves under the late afternoon sun.

The ship was a small vessel, well cared for but nothing impressive. Slathered on its side was the name Dancing Tiger, drawn in paint that was old and faded. Upon the ship, nestled on the side, was an old fisherman. He looked the part of a stereotypical man of the sea, his bald head hidden by a baseball cap, while a wool vest covered his lanky, wrinkled frame. Callused hands gripped his fishing rod, as the old man grimly cast it into the choppy surf for what felt like the hundredth time. He knew it was futile but there was a spark of hope each time he threw it. That this time he would get a bite. But, of course, he knew deep down it was hopeless. Yet to admit defeat went against his nature and more importantly, would say that his work was pointless. So he cast the line in the sea and sat upon a chair on the deck, sighing as he stroked his face’s stubble and began to wait.

“Beer, dad?” A younger man’s voice came from behind him. The old man looked up and saw a fresh faced man approaching him from the other side of the ship. His son was a tall man, with a healthy build that would be the envy of any athlete. He bore a chipper smile upon his handsome features as he approached his father, two glasses of cold beer in his grasp.

The old man sighed and raised a hand before shaking his head. “No thank you, Higa. I just want to focus.”

Higa frowned before he shrugged and said, “Alright, more for me I suppose…” The young man sat next to his father, uncorking one beer. He took a drink and smacked his lips. “Ah, that’s the stuff…”

The old man just grunted in response, continuing to stare at the sea. His son was his constant companion on these trips, lending his hand to the work and learning the family trade at the same time. He was a fine fisherman but not an expert and so, the old man handled the actual fishing while Higa did everything else, from driving the ship to manual labor. He was a dutiful son but the old man still worried about him, wondering if when he was gone, the boy would be good enough to inherit control over his life’s work.

“Anything biting?” Higa said, pulling the old man from his thoughts. The old man glowered and simply grunted:

“No.”

“When was the last time you saw a fish shortage this bad?”

“Never.”

“Oh.”

There was another moment of awkward silence, which Higa filled by taking a long sip of his beer. The old man just continued to stare at the sea, watching his line bob amongst the sloshing waves. He felt grim, staring out into that blue majesty, wondering if the depths below were truly lifeless.

“What do you think’s going to happen?” Higa spoke up again. The old man took a breath, beginning to be annoyed by his son’s chatter. He needed to think, to focus.

“I don’t know,” The old man growled, trying to make his frustration known. “Now be quiet. I’m trying to focus.”

“But Dad, you said there weren’t any fish. What’s to focus-”

“Just be quiet!” The old man snapped. Higa recoiled as if bitten, looking surprised. The old man waved his hand across the deck. “Just go and man the ship, alright? Check your Facebook or Twitter for all I care. I just need to be alone.”

Higa bit his lip. For a moment, father and son stared at each other. Then Higa sighed and nodded. He rose and left without a word, disappearing down the stairs into the bowels of the Dancing Tiger. The old man watched him go before turning back to the waves. He exhaled in relief and leaned back in his chair, letting the salty breeze caress his features.

He hadn’t meant to be so harsh. But he wasn’t in any mood to talk and Higa could be naively thickheaded unless one got the point across and more often than not, the old man had to be tough on him. He’d always been tough on his family, pushing them to work hard and he stood by that. The fish shortage was only proof that the world was growing harsher and it needed men to stand up to it, not children.

Grunting, the old man finally began to reel in his line. This was pointless. He’d been out here for hours and not a single bite. It was time to go back in.

As he did, however, there was suddenly a loud noise. It resembled the crash of a violent wave against the shore, all too familiar to the seasoned fisherman. He raised his eye, shielding his eyes from the sun as he scanned the waves. As he searched, he heard his son called:

“Whoa! Look at that, Dad! Is that a whale?”

There. The old man’s eyes widened as he spotted something in the distance. A hulking, giant rising up from the sea, a black shadow against the afternoon sun. Waves crashed around the monstrous thing as it rose taller and taller, until its form blocked the sun altogether and cast a giant shadow over their ship.

There was a crash. The old man turned. Higa had dropped his beer bottle. The young man’s eyes were as wide as saucers, his mouth agape as he stared up. The old man dropped his fishing line, as a violent wave smashed against his ship. The Dancing Tiger was tossed around like a toy amidst the waves, water spraying over the deck as it lolled sideways. The old man lost his footing, slipping on the slick deck and gave a cry of pain as he slammed hard against the floor. He tried to move forward but the ship rocked sideways and he felt his stomach drop as his beloved boat lolled, a great groan escaping it as the waves knocked it back and forth. His chair was cast off the deck, spinning off into the ocean, along with other stuff upon the deck. He lunged out, his nails scratching against the deck, desperately searching for his son.

He saw him, Higa, his arms wrapped around the guard rail for dear life. He was soaked and looked utterly terrified, another wave slamming violently against the ship’s underside. The old man reached out, trying to call for Higa, trying to reach him. But he had nothing to grab onto and the last thing he heard was Higa’s scream before he was violently ripped from the ship and fell.

The last thing he saw was the sun in the beautiful cloudless sky, Higa’s scream still ringing in his ears before he slammed into the sea. The water felt like concrete as the old man rammed into it at pitch black speed and something snapped with a wet crunch. Pain flooded the old man’s senses before a wave dragged him into the cold depths and he knew no more.

*****

As the Dancing Tiger was torn apart by the churning sea, the shape that had caused its destruction finished its emergence. Water spilled off the creature’s bumpy hide, its red form contrasting against the crystal clear surf. It raised its long neck to the sky, its mouth curling back as the beast emitted a warbling roar that sounded like the mixture of an elephant’s trumpet and the cackle of a hyena. Its reptilian eyes moved over the sea, barely even noticing the human vessel it had smote with its breach before settling on Okinawa Island in the distance. The monster waved its bipedal arms and roared again before it began to stride across the sea, its titanic footfalls echoing across the ocean floor, its huge tail swishing behind its bulky form and generating more giant waves.

Titanic was an appropriate word for the creature. For that was its name, bestowed long ago upon it by humans. Titanosaurus. A relic of the age of dinosaurs, the creature had survived in the depths of the ocean for many years, feeding off other giants such as whales and squid. Content to be left alone, Titanosaurus’s peace was disturbed when a human scientist had found him.

Titanosaurus emitted another warbling noise as its mind twisted over the memories it half-remembered under the scientist’s control. It had done things, things against its very nature. Forced out of its natural habitat, it had been pushed into the world of humans and made to destroy. It remembered fire, it remembered violence, and most of all, it remembered pain. Titanosaurus’s entire body shuddered as it pooled over the memories again, thankful it had survived its time under the madman’s control. When it had been released, it had escaped back to the sea and returned to its domain, falling in and out of a comatose state as its many wounds slowly healed.

But although its wounds were reduced to old scars at this point, the dinosaurian kaiju true wounds, its mental ones, had ceased to fade. Despite its memories being a dark fog of nightmares, they still cut deep. And over time, as Titanosaurus tried in vain to return to its former life, the monster’s emotions had turned from fear to hatred. Hatred of the creatures that had tormented him, hurt him. Hatred toward humanity itself.

So, now Titanosaurus had emerged from the depths of the sea to enact its vengeance. It had followed its instincts and returned to the land it had unwillingly attacked years ago. Its grim gaze locked on the island and the prehistoric beast raised its great neck to the heavens, letting out a roar of vengeance to its former tormentors. A cry of revenge against not just the people of Japan but all humans. They would all suffer for what they had done to him.

The colossal dinosaur continued its solitary march toward Okinawa, enormous waves lapping at its bulky thighs. But as Titanosaurus trudged ever closer to its destination, it suddenly paused. Its lips curled as it stopped, the miniature tsunamis it had conjured in its wake calming. The ancient monster twisted about, its clawed fingers flexing, as it sensed something. Another presence…another presence like him.

There! Titanosaurus’s keen eyes, used to prowling the dark abysses of the sea, spotted another shape moving several yards away. The sea churned as something equally massive moved around him, glimpses of a giant shadow moving beneath the surface. Titanosaurus slammed its fists together before letting loose a warbling challenge! The dinosaur was not used to fighting but when pressed, it could be a fierce opponent. And now, it was eager to vent its rage on something, human or not.

The shape continued to circle for several minutes and Titanosaurus began to grow impatient. Emitting an annoyed screech, the dinosaur raised its arms in a challenge and dived forth! Chunks of the seabed were torn away by the beast’s toes as the mighty dinosaur crashed into the ocean, intending to tackle whatever circled him.

But the kaiju’s effort was for naught, as the monster burst downward and his claws tore harmlessly through the water. Snarling in rage, Titanosaurus twisted about in the water, searching for his unseen enemy.

Movement caught the dinosaur’s attention, behind him. Titanosaurus spun around, bubbles bursting from his nostrils as he let loose another roar, muffled now underwater. There, he saw his enemy, the creature that had dared interrupt his desire for vengeance.

It was another monster but the opposite, in many ways, to the lumbering Titanosaurus. This creature resembled a serpent, long and sleek, its scaly hide matching the color of the blue sea. It looked almost regal, tufts of hair and horns emerged from its snake-like head, as it opened its maw and hissed at the dinosaur. Two, small vestigial arms emerged from the serpent’s underbelly, grasping at the ocean floor, its coils swishing.

This was Manda, former deity of the underwater kingdom of Mu. Like Titanosaurus, Manda had suffered at the humans hands, when an expedition of humans had arrived and using their technology, had destroyed Mu. The great kingdom that had withstood the fall of countless civilizations had finally fallen at the hands of the savage surface dwellers and Manda, for the first time, had been unable to stop its destruction. It itself had barely survived and at first, had considered joining its city in the great beyond. But after what felt like eons lingering among Mu’s ruins, Manda had decided that it could not die, it could not rest, until the humans had paid for their hubris.

So now it had journeyed to the surface world and began a one monster war against mankind. It had begun with this island, taking it upon itself to frighten the fish that lingered in the coastal waters away. Like laying siege to a castle, it intended to starve Okinawa of its natural resource, slowly terrifying the humans until they were ripe for conquest. Then Manda would strike the killing blow, destroying each puny human settlement until they were all little more than ash. Mankind would pay, every last man, woman, and child. Manda would have no mercy for any of them, as they had no mercy for Mu.

But now, a challenger had arrived. Manda glowered at the disgusting Titanosaurus, hating the sight of the prehistoric relic. This thing dared to challenge its right of vengeance? To defile the memory of Mu further by taking Manda’s final act from it? No. It would not stand in his way. Manda would have its revenge and no mere dinosaur would oppose it. Mankind was Manda’s to destroy!

The two titans, fueled by mutual hatred, stared each other down. Titanosaurus’s claws flexed. Manda’s coiled form tensed. Then, without warning, they lunged for each other.

Titanosaurus’s powerful tail propelled it forward, the dinosaur slashing out. Manda was faster and almost glided past Titinosaurus’s blows. It sank its fangs into the saurian’s shoulder and ripped through a chunk of flesh. Titanosaurus bellowed in pain and swiped for Manda. But the guardian of Mu easily avoided the blow again, slithering backward.

Titanosaurus pressed forward, swimming after his opponent. The two chased each other through the waters, Manda’s graceful, almost dance-like movements easily outpacing Titanosaurus’s wrathful blows. Soon, the two swam to a rocky underwater canyon, Titanosaurus’s frustration growing with each missed swipe.

Manda hissed in glee, enjoying the dinosaur’s torment. The sea dragon then swam forward, the dragon’s serpentine body ramming headlong into Titanosaurus’s torso. Surprised, the dinosaur was knocked backward and crashed against the ocean floor, chunks of seabed exploding under its weight. Manda pressed the advantage, its long fangs sinking into Titanosaurus’s neck while its body began to coil around the dinosaur, ignoring the saurian’s flails.

Titanosaurus howled, its warble echoing across the ocean. The dinosaur’s fists pounded on Manda’s skull, but the sea dragon only tightened its hold. Its coils squeezed tighter and its fangs sank deeper into Titanosaurus’s neck. Blood flowed freely, bathing the scene around the two struggling giants crimson.

Titanosaurus began to feel its bones cracking under Manda’s tremendous weight. Snarling, it lunged up and grabbed Manda’s midsection. With tremendous effort, the dinosaur pulled Manda’s jaws off its throat, chunks of its own flesh being torn away. Manda screeched, flailing, before Titanosaurus swung it sideways and bashed Manda’s head to the sea floor.

Manda shrieked in pain, its head exploding in agony, its coils weakening around the dinosaur. Titanosaurus slammed Manda’s head down again, stunning the sea dragon enough for the dinosaur to stand up once again. With a mighty shake, Titanosaurus dislodged his enemy’s coils and freed himself from the guardian’s grasp.

Manda hissed in pain but was cut off as Titanosaurus rammed its head a third time against the rocky seafloor. Tasting blood, Manda thrashed violently, trying to escape but the dinosaur but Titanosaurus held tight.

Titanosaurus yanked Manda up, its claws tightening around the serpent. Manda began to struggle harder as the dinosaur began to strangle it, bubbles escaping its maw. Its tail slapped against the saurian’s legs but the blows were ineffective, barely noticed by the prehistoric titan. The saurian’s hold grew tighter and Manda felt its air begin cut off, splotches of black dancing in its eyes.

Enough, The guardian of Mu thought angrily. Its tail snaked upward and slammed against the back of Titanosaur’s head. The dinosaur gave a cry of surprise and for an instant, its grip weakened. Manda slithered free like an eel and swam upward, giving Titanosaurus another tail slap as it passed.

Titanosaurus shook itself and bellowed angrily before looking up, spotting its opponent fleeing. The mighty dinosaur roared, enraged that this creature was causing him such trouble. Pounding its arms together, it swished its mighty tail and pursued the serpent.

The two kaiju pursued each other for several moments, exchanging challenging hisses and bellows before they reached the surface. Manda breached first, its long form slamming free of the underwater world below. Titanosaurus followed not far behind, the mighty dinosaur bursting out of the violent surf yards away.

The primal survivor of the Mesozoic Era and the last guardian of Mu faced off amidst the surf. Such a spectacle was incredible, two veritable colossuses standing against one another, like forces of nature clashing. Titanosaurus reared up, shrieking, before striding through the waters, lunging for Manda.

The sea dragon dived, slipping between the dinosaur’s legs. Titanosaurus’s claws clapped together, striking naught but water. Manda then burst from behind the saurian, lunging upward and slamming itself into the dinosaur’s neck, teeth sinking into the wound it had already made. Titanosaurus shrieked, staggering, before Manda’s coils wrapped around its torso, binding the beast’s arms against its hide.

Titanosaurus staggered back and forth, Manda biting down, drinking the dinosaur’s blood. The saurian’s tail slapped against the ocean, but Manda’s grip was like steel and Titanosaurus could not break it, restrained as it was. Its teeth snapped ineffectively, feeling its enemy’s teeth sink deeper with each passing moment.

Titanosaurus screamed in rage. This creature dared to deny him his vengeance? It dared to stand against him? It dared to deny him what he sought for all that he suffered? Was all his pain to be for nothing at the hands of this snake?

No! No it wouldn’t be!

Titanosaurus swung his neck sideways, jerking Manda back and forth. The sea dragon held on but its teeth rocked about and came slightly loose. Titanosaurus then pushed off the ground and fell sideways, slamming Manda hard against the sea. Manda’s head was yanked free in a rush of blood and flesh, sending pain through Titanosaurus’s body but the dinosaur had suffered worse.

Before Manda could press its attack, Titanosaurus lunged forward and sank his own into the serpent’s snout. He bit down hard, his serrated fangs making short work of Manda’s nostrils. The sea dragon snarled in defiance and responded by tightening its coiled grip around the saurian. Titanosaurus’s pinned arms began to go numb with pain, his bones cracking under the strain. Titanosaurus merely narrowed its eyes and sank its teeth deeper into Manda’s snout.

The two monsters held onto each other, Manda squeezing, Titanosaurus biting, each increasing the pressure on the other. The sea raged around them as they struggled for dominance, each trying to make the other submit, each refusing to give in.

Finally, there came a loud crunch as one of Titanosaurus’s arms popped and snapped. The limb went numb and the saurian gave a muffled, warbling cry of pain but only increased its bite against Manda. Manda continued to squeeze, glaring eye to eye with the dinosaur, lips curling, coils tightening to break the dinosaurs’ second arm.

Then, suddenly, Titanosaurus let go. Surprised, Manda let out a squeal of pain as the sudden release caused it to fly backward. Its coils unwound, releasing their grip at the sudden shock and Titanosaurus’s remaining arm yanked itself free. The dinosaur’s arm swung and knocked Manda off, the sea dragon crashing back into the sea, mammoth waves splashing against Titanosaurus’s belly.

Manda hissed in rage, shaking itself as it recovered. It burst out of the ocean again, ready to renew its attack and finish the troublesome saurian. But as soon as it broke through the surface, it paused, surprised by what it saw.

Titanosaurus had turned around, tail aimed at Manda like a cannon. Manda’s momentary shock didn’t allow it to capitalize on this before Titanosaurus’s tail suddenly opened into a large, organic fan-like shape. With a powerful swing, the dinosaur swung its tail back and forth, the huge appendage sending enormous tufts of gale-force wind to assault Manda.

Manda screeched as it found itself buffeted by a hurricane. Winds tore at the sea, churning the ocean like a cauldron as whirlpools and enormous waves slammed into the sea dragon all ocean. The creature tried to fight, tried to push forward but the riptide was tremendous, even more than it could withstand. After mere moments of fruitless fighting, the winds yanked Manda backward and a wave yanked the sea dragon underwater, sending it spinning end over end until it slammed face first into the seabed, crushing chunks of abandoned reef and rock.

Manda tried to rise, its stubby limbs grasping at the rocks. But Titanosaurus’s enormous foot ploughed through the water, slamming down on Manda’s skull and pinning it down. Manda flailed, enraged, but it was trapped beneath Titanosaurus’s superior strength. Titanosaurus grinded his foot against Manda’s head before raising it and slamming it down. And again. And again. And again!

Each foot slam conjured a miniature earthshake, shockwaves ploughing through the ocean floor and reducing whole swaths of the abandoned ecosystem to dust. Soon, the water was a mix of black and red, dust and blood mixing together in a great cloud. Manda’s writhing grew weaker and weaker with each blow until at last, the sea dragon stopped moving.

Titanosaurus paused. The dinosaur’s nostrils flared, its broken arm dangling uselessly at its side, its neck oozing blood from its bite wounds. Slowly, the saurian removed its foot and reached down into the water with its remaining hand. It searched for a moment through the dust cloud before it founded Manda’s unmoving form. He pulled the serpent out of the ocean and examined it.

Manda’s body lolled in Titanosaurus’s grasp, the great guardian of Mu’s head barely recognizable anymore. The once beautiful creature’s head had been stomped until now it was a pulpy, splintered mess of brains and bone. Titanosaurus sniffed it before raising its head and giving a triumphant cry to the heavens. He had won! Manda was dead!

Titanosaurus carelessly dropped Manda’s corpse, sending it crashing to its watery grave. The dinosaur then looked at itself and grimaced. Its new wounds would take time to heal and although it had been victorious, it was angered to know that it could not attack Japan in this state. No, it must return to its home once again, to rest and recover.

Titanosaurus bellowed in rage, fixing Okinawa with a final, merciless glare before turning around and beginning its long trudge back home. Soon, the dinosaur had waded into deep waters many miles offshore and dived beneath the surface, disappearing into darkness once more. Calm came over the sea again, the afternoon sun glittering off the surface.

******

In the aftermath, a young man washed up on shore some hours later, barely alive but was recovered by some locals and sent to a hospital. It was Higa, who had been thrown from the ship but somehow had managed to survive, even as the two kaiju fought tooth and claw around him. He had been knocked unconscious at some point and could recall little of the encounter but he knew one thing: the monster that had come from the sea had killed his father. As he lay recovering in his bed, he stared out the window, which offered a perfect view of the sea. Most patients would be grateful for the view but Higa could only muster revulsion. He requested his curtains be shut. He would no longer bear to look at the sea, for it had taken his father from him. He knew what lay beneath now and it was something dark, something evil. The only emotions he could conjure now when he thought of the sea was hatred and a newfound desire…

A desire for revenge.

As for Manda’s corpse, it rotted in the depths, an undignified end for the proud deity. But it offered one final, ironic thing to the sea it had called home. Its massive body attracted thousands of fish from miles away and slowly, but surely, the seas around Okinawa began to return to life. Out of destruction was born new life, an optimistic future for Okinawa being renewed…

Winner: Titanosaurus

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