This page may contain affiliate links, for which we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps support Love Letters to Poe.
The red boiling disc disappears, leaving only an explosion of orange above the dark abyss that is my jailer. The surf creeps onto the shore like an eyelid closing over the sand. The metronomic certainty of its cadence should be soothing, but the eerie moment of silence between slaps of water is like the silence before a scream, the waves mimicking the rhythmic beating of my heart.
It’s been two weeks since arriving at this desolate island, marooned. Yet, I am not alone. There is Carol, my wife. The two of us paddled to this uninhabited place on a piece of our exploded boat’s wreckage. The island has vegetation, but nothing edible, so it’s lucky I had the forethought to gather a small amount of food and water into a pack and sling it over my shoulder before jumping into the water.
Carol lies on the shoreline next to me. The fact that she is dead isn’t as tragic as you might think. I’d considered killing her more than once during our tumultuous marriage. After a few days here, her histrionics about our plight became more than I could endure, not to mention my diminishing supply of fresh water and consumables. I strangled the life out of her right on the beach. Who was there to see? Only the occasional bird or a creeping sea crab. Although she’s a reminder of my actions, her presence helps thwart my feelings of isolation. I fear I won’t be far behind her, for chance of rescue appears remote.
I turn my face toward my dearly departed while enough light remains to see her. She deteriorates evenly from exposure. Small crabs have been equally effective favoring the opportunities in and around her orifices. Her hair is loose, long strands mingling with the sand. Her skin is drawing to her skeleton. She’s beginning to rot. The smell doesn’t disturb me. Our relationship spoiled long ago, and somehow it’s reassuring that she’s dead and I’m not. She is disintegrating as I watch. Her current hairline reveals rusty green splotches as if mud and seaweed had been part of her oily make-up.
Her blind eyes eternally stare at the heavens, filled with the horror of having life choked from them by her beloved. Her breasts are becoming deflated pouches, the warm blood from her veins settled. No more throaty murmurs, or grumblings in her sleep. Little left but dead meat and the absolute loss of modesty, not that she ever had much.
As I observe what’s left of my wife, something unexpected happens. Her head slowly rotates toward me, like the mechanical workings of a clock’s second hand. Her body rises just as slowly to a sitting position, her eyes now moving around as if they were the counterbalanced movements of a doll’s eyes. Her face begins to twist into something horrible, something inhuman.
A wide, clownish grin stretches her decaying cheeks. Her eyes, sightless no longer, are now the bulging, black orbs of a hungry shark, vibrant with menace, burning a hole into my soul. Her hair transforms into writhing tentacles not unlike Medusa’s snakes. She’s become a hideous form, transforming from a dead body into something incalculably dark and ancient. A deep, gravely sound emanates from her emaciated throat. Is she a demon, or an avenging angel? My nerves tingle with imminent peril.
I sit up. “Stop it, Carol,” I stupidly say, trying to fight whatever illusion is tricking my mind into believing the impossible. “Stop it! You’re dead!”
Her head cants to one side. The abominable grimace pulls her mouth into a death’s-head grin and her jaw distends from her skull and unhinges. An obscene, elongated tongue slithers around inside the maw and then spills out revoltingly. It lolls beneath her chin and flicks its tip.
A hand darts from this monstrous changeling that was once my wife and closes tightly around my arm. I’m too astonished to react. Leathern wings unfurl. Fading sunlight shines through their partial transparency, a sight becoming exorbitantly more inhuman with each passing moment. The creature’s mouth approaches mine like a dark cave of terror, the grotesque appendage within seeking me.
An unwanted kiss?
When I stop screaming, Carol is once again no more than a slimy, crab-covered husk laying on top of me, face to face with her decomposing head, the translucent wings no longer encircling my body in a hellish embrace. Near hysteria, I push the corpse away in hopes the event is a vivid hallucination due only to throes of hunger, thirst, and isolation.
But I fear something worse.
A king in his kingdom by the sea, lending my dear Carol the sword of Damocles?
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side Of my darling, my demon, my sins and my bride In our sepulcher there by the sea— Never to be dissevered from our tomb by the sea.
“Kingdom by the Sea,” by Troy Seate, was first published on October 15, 2020 in Love Letters to Poe and can be found in Love Letters to Poe: Volume 1, Issue 1. You can get a free copy by joining Love Letters to Poe.
Interview with Troy Seate, Author of “Kingdom by the Sea”
What inspired your story?
I read a lot of supernatural/horror and wanted to do a quick study of my own demonic creation. A story taking place on a serene beach seemed the perfect ideological spot for such an event.
How has Poe influenced your writing?
He’s the master of psychological terror. I often go to his work when I need to recharge the funny monkey in my brain toward my prose.
What’s your favorite gothic story or poem and why?
“Turn of the Screw.” The dichotomy of physical horror and that which is imagined is a tantalizing brew.
What else would you like people to know? Where can people find you online?
Troy is a writer who stands on the side of the literary highway and thumbs down whatever genre comes roaring by. His storytelling runs the gamut from Horror Novel Review’s Best Short Fiction to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. His memoirs and essays report fact while his fiction incorporates fantasy, horror, or humor featuring the quirkiest of characters. Website: www.troyseateauthor.webs.com