The Student, the Kaiju, and the Eight Basic Plots
That night, out in the family boat, when he was ten years old. Sea-mist came from nowhere. He was careless, and fell into chill April water, breathing its knife pain into his lungs. Panic. The current was strong, and the life-jacket could not protect him from cold. The water wanted to hold his head under, a force, a something that wanted to drag him down.
A monster swam out of the deep. Bigger than the boat by far, with green eyes the size of double beds. People hallucinate when drowning, but this was real. One scaled, webbed paw closed gently, and half-dead, he clung on. The beast side-stroked to the land. Nostril slits he could have hidden in. There were lights away in the mist, a flare, and bullhorns shrieked, but here was the concrete causeway. He vomited water, and found strength enough to crawl off her paw.
Those eyes were calm, concerned, intelligent. Her vast breath warmed him. Then headlights came, and she was gone, sending waves over him. She left him his life as a gift.
He was twenty years old, a film student, down the coast at the City of Fog. He was always blocked on the script about Her, and everyone at the conference just talked about the election. Without warning, his kaiju was on the news, bigger than before. She clung to the pillar of the red bridge, and roared her anger. Military helicopters, and the Eye in the Sky news, mobbed her like vicious birds. One helicopter she batted away, and then her body convulsed; she puked up mottled dark and light.
His kaiju found the exact TV camera, and met his gaze through the lens, like she saw him through it. Fiery streaks of rockets towards her, a howl of pain and fire, and she dived into the water. He knew acting; she’d faked the fall.
The vomit was battered plastic; bottles and fish-nets, human filth in her sea. For three days, there were other beasts, roaring out the same story on other shores, and puking up the same message. Missiles bounced off them, the beasts dived back to the deep waters, then nothing. No monsters to fight.
His brother texted. I knew I saw something, that night you nearly drowned. The child-him had faked amnesia.
The election was a dumpster-fire, and the beast made it worse. At the debate, the woman brought a sack of garbage. She said the sea-creature was a message. ‘Repent. Clean up our mother, the Earth.’ The man brought a monster mask, and shouted: war, war, war on the kaiju. The woman won more votes, but the man who wanted bigger bombs became President. A divided country howled like a wounded beast.
Often the screenwriter thought, did the beast remember him? The week of the inauguration, as everything turned worse than ever, the student hitched-hiked to the bay. It was a long and icy quest. He walked out on the causeway, surrounded by sea waves and freezing fog. All around was an unfinished storyboard in shades of grey, and he waited one hour, then two. Then the beast raised her familiar head out of the water, and he was filled beyond all amazement. Their eyes met, and they understood each other, without language. She smelt of sea-fresh mornings, and open oysters. Girl finds Boy.
She swam out to the island long abandoned to the birds; he held to her bat-webbed ear. She coughed up fire and kept him warm. The sea was dying, and the beasts’ warnings had been ignored. It looked as though the President-elect would get his war against sea and sky.
Come with me, the beast said. We have built domes under the sea, havens for two thousand mating pairs of humans. You will be safe, when it happens, and we can be together.
Together, how? They enjoyed true closeness, but not that way. She never said what was to come for humans. He just read between the lines.
The student played dumb and asked about their plans. She showed him in his head the seven secret places of the ocean. He tricked her, said he had to call his mother.
The beast set him by the shore and said, she would return at midnight, at the dark of the moon. Instead he called the authorities from a coastguard’s office, telling them secrets only the beast could know. His betrayal reached up the line, even perhaps to the President. A helicopter took him to a plane, which rose into the moonless air. He wondered how long she would wait.
Spring, and the car he had stolen no longer worked. He trekked on bandaged feet, back to the bay. The spores killed humans, alone of all the animals. Millions died that first day, and each day thereafter. The spores rotted plastic, wrecked computer chips, and turned metal to fragile lace. Even the last TV station admitted now, bombing the secret places had been a mistake. They knew now that explosions created the plumes that spread the poison by air and water. The land and sea and sky would be cleansed, whether humans acted or not.
Settlements were best avoided, but the student’s rations were running low. Spores might descend from the wind and empty a town within hours, but he was inviolate. He wondered if his immunity came from the beast’s licking kiss, or sheer luck. He had tricked the beast, or she had tricked him. After all, his betrayal could have been key to her plan.
Moonlight across the bay. He shivered under the blanket and waited for her, wondering if she would come to feast, or to gloat, or to take him away. Maybe she would not come at all.
He tried to stay awake, waiting for her. Cold waves lapped, and it started to snow. Maybe they had the humans to keep under the water, or maybe that was part of the scam. Maybe it was his fault.
Remember the Eight Basic Plots. No matter how many people die, a comedy ends with a wedding.
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