For my money, the most terrifying monsters can be found at the bottom of the ocean. After all, marine biologists admit they only have a vague idea what lurks below the water’s surface. Who knows? There might be a cast of Karathen (or worse) roaming the Mariana Trench.
So it was no surprise (to me) when a giant lobster was spotted on a beach in Oahu, Hawaii. “It was a gawd damn big brute,” said one eyewitness, “the biggest lobster you ever saw in your life. And red, like it hopped out of a boiling pot.”
The invasion wasn’t limited to giant shellfish either. Reports of other large sea creatures were becoming more and more frequent—squids, stingrays, jellyfish and octopi with tentacles almost 30 feet in length.
The scariest of these encounters happens one night in Burt and Jessica Burke’s honeymoon suite. “The hideous body of the gigantic devilfish filled the hotel room window, squeezing its soft flesh through the frame, its eight arms thrashing wildly,” wrote the author. “Its huge malign eyes and parrot-like beak inspired something deeper than physical horror.”
All these sea devils were on a singular mission: capture Jessica Burke, expatriate of an underwater kingdom called Akumu. She made the mistake of marrying a “land-human” and there wasn’t any greater disloyalty than that. The Akumus didn’t want any half-breeds diluting their royal blue blood.
With the help of a little sodium pentothal, Jessica spills the beans about the current scourge of sea monsters. “They’re the beasts of our world, the domesticated animals,” she told the authorities. “Some are trained to kill and they are possessed of the instincts of a bloodhound. There are others, too, far more horrible than red lobsters and invasive devilfish.”
The U.S. military gets involved and the novel quickly escalates into an end-of-the-world showdown. The Akumus wanted the surface dwellers to mind their own business. The Navy, on the other hand, embraced genocide—it wanted to flood Marracott Deep with nuclear waste.
I have no doubt that The Secret of Marracott Deep (first published in 1957) represents an affectionate nod to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s final effort, The Maracot Deep and Other Stories (published in 1929). Both novels include a secret underwater society and a forbidden love story. And both authors agree with me: the best monsters come from the bottom of the ocean.
[The Secret of Marracott Deep / By Henry Slesar / Armchair Fiction Edition: January 2011 / ISBN: 9781612870083]