's 2018 Horror Write-off:

Treasure Hunt

Submitted by Hisham Hasan

This was incredible.

This was his first time scuba-diving solo in this area, and although he was a bit nervous at first, he was now glad he had come alone.

He couldn't believe his eyes.

He had been chasing a giant pufferfish, hoping to get it to puff up, when the familiar shape caught his eye.

It was overgrown with algae and sponges and even a few corals and hydroids, but they failed to obscure the instantly recognizable outline of a huge treasure chest.

It looked like your stereotypical treasure chest too; high domed lid, lower part a rectangular cuboid.

Just sitting out there in the open, wedged into the reef between two domed olive-brown coral heads.

A school of small dark damselfish scattered as he headed towards the chest.

This was amazing. He didn't know of any wrecks in the area, but judging from its awkward perch, this chest was probably lost or tossed overboard, rather than going down with a ship.

It was a wonder no one had already discovered it and carted it off. True, this particular area wasn't a popular diving spot, but still...

He realized he was breathing more quickly than usual, his pulse racing.

Calm down, he told himself. For all I know that thing's probably filled with junk.

As he approached, he realized there was no way he could lug it back himself.

It was massive, almost as big as his fridge.

He might still be able to pull it off; he had some rope, maybe tie it to the boat and just drag it back.

Another idea occurred to him; suppose he opened it right here and now?

It would save a lot of effort, but he might need tools.

Better check it out up close.

He swam right up to it. To his surprise and delight, it was already slightly open, just a thin slit. He could pry it open, he had a crowbar back on the boat…

The lid shot open, and a muscular appendage, like a salmon-colored tongue as long as a human and as wide as a truck tire, sprang out and folded itself around him.

Years of experience stopped him from spitting out his regulator in shock, but he still expelled a burst of bubbles as he let out a muffled scream from between clenched teeth.

The thing held him in a powerful, unyielding grip. It started to move him towards the chest.

As he got closer, he could now see the edge of both the chest and lid were rimmed with frills and curtains of ruffled, grey flesh, and lined with small tentacles.

The inside of the chest was fleshy as well, and he saw knots of muscles connecting the two halves.

And from its fleshy depth he saw something else emerge, something like a wrinkled, yellowed, leathery funnel. The wrinkles smoothed out as it expanded, gaping and flaring.

And extended towards him.

He saw what was happening and gathered his strength. He managed to wrench an arm free, and tried to claw at the appendage holding him, but it was like a tensed muscle, as hard as steel.

The appendage paused, perhaps sensing his sudden resistance.

It flexed with explosive strength. His ribs snapped and pierced his lungs.

He died in a world of agony and in a cloud of blood.

Once he went limp, the funnel expanded even further. The appendage shoved his body into the funnel, then folded over it, pulling both back into the safety of the shell.

A few minutes later, the appendage extended again, to its maximum length. It folded over, inserting the tip under the shell.

The appendage suddenly straightened, lifting the being off the coral and letting it tumble into the depths.

Five days later, the search party found his ruined equipment, wrapped in stringy brown slime and with the scuba tank still half-full.