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  • Writer's pictureS.T. Gillard

Calamaro Grande

Ripples in the canals are the only warning you get. They’re also the last thing most people see. When feeding starts, you’d better hope you’re not near the water. Those who are always get eaten first. 

Today, you’re lucky. 

You’re doing inventory in the cellar of Il Ghiottone when you hear the first screams: distant to begin with, but rising like the tide with each passing second. You drop the bottle of dolcetto you’re counting and it smashes, spilling its deep purple blood all over the stone floor. You don’t stop to clean it; you’re already halfway up the ladder.

By the time you emerge into the restaurant, all the staff and customers have fled. The room is littered with half-empty bowls of pasta, some on the tables, others splattered over the walls, the windows and carpets. The front door swings on its hinges and you catch a glimpse of the stampede outside. The lower city is in turmoil. And rightly so: there isn’t a soul alive who doesn’t know what’s coming. 

You have two options: risk joining the herd and make for higher ground, or stay here and pray to the Gods that it doesn't find you. Neither choice guarantees safety; it learned how to break down doors years ago. 

Outside, the screams tell you the feeding has begun. The crowd surges towards the safety of the upper city, away from the coast. Not everyone will make it. Will you be one of the lucky ones?  

Time’s running out. Make your choice. Cellar or stampede?  Cellar or stampede?

You swallow your panic and sprint for the door.

Outside, you’re swept along by the horde, fully at its mercy. You move as one and yet, you know everyone only cares about their own safety. 

A young man’s elbow slams into your ribs as he barges past. A second later, there’s a splash. Then, a slithering mass descends on the crowd and the man is plucked into the air like a weed. He screams, dangling helplessly as the tentacle wraps around him. There’s a grim sucking sound, a twist, and a crunch of bone. His scream cuts off and he’s dragged away, a lifeless doll. You can’t see over the tide of bodies, but you know he’s been pulled into the canal. 

You press onwards, praying you won’t be next. 

The path slopes upwards and you reach a stone bridge. Through a gap in the throng, a lone gondolier stands on his vessel, brandishing an electrified oar. He teeters on the stern of the gondola, his access to the bank blocked by the fleeing masses. 

“Make way!” he bellows, to no avail. “Let me up!”

But the crowd is its own beast. Driven by fear, it won’t make room for him. 

More screams crescendo as a thin tentacle rises out of the water, looming over the gondolier. He makes a swipe at it with his oar and a crackle of electricity sends it slithering back into the depths. For a heartbeat, the waters are mirror-still. Then, a monstrous tentacle, ten feet wide with suckers the size of your head, bursts from the canal. The gondolier has no chance. With a deafening crash, the tentacle flops down, splitting the vessel in two and crushing its driver into pulp. A wave of stagnant water sprays over you as the tentacle curls around the gondolier’s corpse. His mangled body is unrecognisable as it slips beneath the surface, leaving only bubbles in its wake. 

As you reach the far side of the bridge, more tentacles sprout from the canal, snatching helpless victims from the shore with newfound fervour. There’s a crack of stone behind you and the bridge collapses, ripped apart by the creature as though it were built from paper. Their escape route cut off, the crowd on the other side start to backtrack, but the tentacles are too quick for them. Dozens of broken bodies are pulled into the canal and you look away when the waters start to turn red. 

Up ahead, you spot the gate to the upper city; to salvation. But something’s wrong. The crowd has stopped moving. 

“They’ve shut the gate!” someone shrieks up ahead. “The bastards have shut the gate!”

No. That can’t be right. They wouldn’t. 

You spot an upturned crate to your left. Fight your way over to it and step up to take a look. 

You see two things: firstly, the gates are indeed shut which means the upper city has deserted you. It used to be that those fast enough to reach the safety of the citadel would be spared the kraken’s wrath. It seems the rules have changed. 

Secondly, behind you, a tentacle the size of a cathedral rises up out of the lower city, ripping entire neighbourhoods apart in its wake. Looks like it’s grown since its last feed. How many lives will it take to satiate it this time? When will it stop?

The tentacle swithers. In its shadow, you and a thousand others hold your breath. Then, it descends. 

Fear floods your body in cold rivers. 

Your last thought? You should have stayed in the cellar.


S.T. Gillard is a queer, autistic writer of speculative and literary fiction from Scotland. He completed his MA in Creative Writing at Edinburgh Napier University in 2023 with distinction. His greatest ambition is to move to the mountains one day to write full-time alongside an army of dogs. You can find him on Instagram @stgillard_writer.


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