1 Makai – adverb. Toward or by the sea. Seaward.

The whiskey in the bottle was warm in the dying rays of the late summer sun. Each drink was forced, nothing he wanted to do but something he had to do. He may be a coward, or a wimp, or chickenshit, or any of the other words that his mother had bestowed upon him while under her wing. Say all of those on any other day and they would be true, but not today. Not here. Not now.

The bottle was really good at numbing everything but what doctor started a procedure without some sort of antiseptic? If it was okay to be numb for childbirth, how was this any different?

Nate pulled the last swig from the bottle, grimaced, and flung it over the side of the cliff. The whitecapped waves crashing on the rocks below swallowed the empty bottle without a splash, without a distinct sound echoing back from the surface of the vast ocean below. In an instant it was gone. Not entirely, he knew that it was sinking slowly below the surface, its air filled cavity slowly taking on water with each gulping bubble but for those that would stand here after him, no one would ever know or think about what fell into water.

Pulling up his sleeve, Nate squinted one eye and checked the Adronic watch around his wrist. 7:15. While the sky was ablaze with orange and red hues from a sun below the horizon, sunset was still technically two minutes away. It was fast approaching and yet he felt like the next two minutes would last a lifetime. He Inhaled deeply on the salty ocean air, taking it in one last time.

This was never his decision. He never wanted it to end this way but somethings are just inevitable, right? He snickered at that though. It was the same tagline his office had while pursuing the scum and filth of the city. "Crime is Inevitable" was hung in brass above the Bureau door.

Twenty two years working for the Future Crimes Bureau, the months of his life he spent hooked up to the Algorithm, the drugs he took in order to understand it all, certainly took a toll on his body. He knew that going in, everyone did who apply for the job. No one leaves Future Crimes without the scars to prove it but the job was exciting and the money was good. Hell, it was better than good. But all that was behind him. The drugs, the women, the cars. All taken away because of one simple vision given to a compatriot of his while hooked in.

Memories flooded his mind, simple visions from his youth when he would spend time with his brother burning army worms in their silk tents or shooting a robin or squirrel with a pellet gun. It wasn't the thrill of the kill that came back to him, it was the gasping breaths, the stunned eyes that took in the figure of the creature that stepped into their world and snuffed them out. Their pain lasted only moments but his guilt lasted a lifetime.

One more minute.

How could he have ever turned into the monster they are accusing him of? Was he really capable of hurting all those people? The blood, the parts, the tools, everything that his friend had been able to smuggle out and show him before the bureau could build a case against him, had burned vivid images into his mind. Like looking into the sun only this was much more painful.

Regardless, there was no arguing, no trying to prove your innocence. It just didn't work like that. These techniques have been utilized for decades, finely tuned to make sure that every glimpse into the future was done with incredible precision. There was no guess work when you were plugged in, only facts. And the fact was, Nate Spelman would become the most heinous mass murderer to have ever lived on Ceradon.

The watch on his wrist vibrated from a preset alarm. Behind him sirens blared in the distance, a warning to those who lived close to the ocean to get inside and initiate a lockdown sequence. Every year you hear of a family or a group of travelers that make it out to the coast to try and get a glimpse of the Ink. None survived and that was the point.

Prison was hell. A constant state of paralysis, linked to the algorithm to so it can use your mind to better predict the future. He could spend the rest of his days as a battery in a warehouse with the other hundred thousand convicts or go out on his own terms, in a way that was fitting for a killer like him.

From the side of the cliff he watched as the surface of the dark water would ripple and splash. Bubbling and churning as if some massive engine had fired up and was idling below the surface. It wasn't long before it arrived. Long tendrils of inky black slime whipped in the air from the depths of the dark ocean. Slapping the surface of the water, stretching and reaching for anything that they could grip. Slowly, the Ink moved closer and closer to the jagged rocks below. It's smooth, shimmering surface glided over the razor sharp shale.

Slapping and sucking, the wet sounds of the Ink creeping up the cliff got closer and closer, faster and faster. Only that wasn't exactly true, it wasn't faster. He was hearing the Ink separate and divide itself into smaller pieces. Tens, no, hundreds of chunks of inky matter snapped off from the main form, each one independent from the rest. Black, slippery rubber bands stretched and gripped the cliff face, pulling the rest of the material up with each slap of its tendril.

Nate wasn't sure how his death would happen. There have been no recorded accounts of people dying from the Ink. They only knew that it had happened by the morning time and there was a missing person reported. His mind raced as he witnessed the Ink starting to spill over the edge of the cliff onto the tall reeds of the green-yellow sea grass in his periphery.

In the dying light of the sun, the sky no longer red and orange but soft blue and turning black, he watched the first tendrils of black reach over the cliff. The Ink didn't grip the grass, it folded around it, molded itself to the structure of the hillocks, prying itself up and over the crest of the cliffs edge before another arm shot out of the Ink and gripped another plant or stone.

The way the arms reached was unrelenting. As soon as it made contact with anything another arm shot out, searching for purchase on whatever it could find.

Nate wasn't sure how the Ink hunted but everyone knew it did. It was the only reason they could think for it to rise from the deeps of that godforsaken ocean. What it hunted, how, why, none of those questions had ever been answered since they discovered the Ink four hundred years ago. He held his breath, waiting for the sting of a jellyfish, or perhaps the Ink just suffocates its prey. That would be the best option, a quick and relatively painless death.

The amorphous creature pulled its bulk across the sandy ground, gliding over the vegetation like a slug after the the rain, before stopping at Nate's feet. There were no eyes, no ears, no antennae, just black slime that began to raise up, higher and higher. Its mass balanced itself on legs that it pushed out from underneath it and slowly the Ink began to take shape. Long thin "arms" hung down from the "chest", a small round "head" balanced on a thin "neck". It was a body without any defining feature. No face, no digits to the hands, no bony joints and it just stood there unmoving.

Nate could smell salt and death seeping from the slime, like a lagoon on a hot summer day. The moonlight shimmered off the angles of the pseudo-man that stood before him. Nate shivered. He watched as the Ink stepped closer, the blank face only inches from his. He could sense that it was checking him out, taking him in, studying the unmoving prey that stood so defiantly before it.

Slowly the Ink raised its "arm" which terminated at a pointed stump. Even though the form was rigid and looked solid, the slime moved and licked within the confines of the humanoid shape. The pointed arm would split and adhere, curdle and solidify, just when you got an idea of what it was, it changed. Nate nodded, unsure if it was for himself or the creature, but they both knew that it was time.

Thick, oily fluid smashed him in the face. What little light the dusk still had had vanished as the Ink pushed itself into Nate's mouth, nose, eyes, and ears. Nate tried to scream with every molecule of air in his lungs from the pressure that threatened to rip his skull apart but the Ink stopped that. So it was suffocation. In the back of his mind, he tried to relax and prepare for the last few moments when his life would be snuffed out like a candle's flame but the pressure was excruciating. His neck and spine felt as it they would burst from his skin, his lungs almost popping like over inflated balloons. His blood vibrated in his veins.

After a moment the pain, the pressure, the confusion, all faded and the dusky sky filled with the stars of the Andromeda galaxy looked upon him and blinked uncaringly.

Nate turned around and watched the other lumps of Ink stretch and pull themselves further into the land, toward the village that lay just over the knoll. He felt energized, anxious to follow as a hunger deep inside him woke up. His stomach growled with a ferocity only experienced through drought and famine. He needed meat and knew exactly where to find it.

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