's 2019 Horror Write-off:

The Marks

Submitted by Nelson DeStefano

When ol’ Nathan Puckett first saw the marks on the side of his boat, he had initially assumed them to be leftover sea salt that had been missed when he washed the boat the day prior. So, he fixed his supposed mistake and washed of the marks. He was fairly certain they were salt, but he had never seen unwashed salt leave behind a chain of perfect circles.

The next time ol’ Puckett would see the marks again would be about a week later. There were more of them now, and he was doubting his earlier assumption of leftover salt. They almost looked like tracks of some kind. The circles would be large at one end and get progressively smaller the further they went. Ol’ Puckett also could have sworn he didn’t leave a beer bottle out on the boat overnight. In his retirement he had taken up the hobby of homebrewing in tandem with becoming a boat person, as he had always loved the sea, and felt most beer brands lacking. He usually stocked his boat up with his “creation” but he never left an empty bottle out, never. “Oh well,” he thought, and threw away the empty bottle, assuming it was just a simple mistake. After all, everyone makes mistakes.

Ol’ Puckett would realize 9 days later that the mistake was not of his own making. After all, He would never do something so irresponsible as leaving the door of the fridge open overnight. He didn’t like that sight when he found it, all the hard work that had gone into homebrewing those beers, and now he had to throw them all out. And those marks were back, now covering the fridge and making a path straight off the boat. It was clear to ol’ Puckett what was going on: some young jackasses had decided to make him their next target. Real classy of them, prodding an old man and making him think he’s already lost his marbles, Puckett thinks. He’s actually probably got a good few decades left if he keeps up his hobbies. After cleaning up the mess, ol’ Puckett makes sure to be on the lookout for those punks, although that’s a bit of a problem considering that they strike at night, and even when he was young ‘un, Nathan Puckett was no night owl.

Things finally came to fruition 13 days later, for better or for worse. Ol’ Puckett had managed to get himself out of bed at an unreasonable hour (at least for him), simply because he felt that he should check on the boat and spot for hoodlums. He certainly didn’t like it when his beautiful little boat had just been taken by a pack of irritating 20 somethings. You know the type. The pseudo-frat boys and sorority girls that think getting drunk and having sex (preferably a combination of both) and shit like that constitutes a personality. The kind of people who have absolutely no prospects for the future, all because their dad owns a dealership or two. The kind that cheat and bribe their way into institutions and rob hardworking people of those spots. Those types. Ol’ Puckett knew something like this was going to happen, he had felt it in his bones for nearly two weeks at this point. Of course, ol’ Puckett wasn’t the man he used to be, so he called the harbor patrol and told them what had happened. They set off in their boats to find the stolen craft, but it would be a bit of a challenge considering the overnight fog was starting to roll in. And since it was already rather dark out, neither the drunk louts nor ol’ Puckett noticed the circular marks that were already on the boat when it was being jacked. 

The harbor patrol found the described vessel out in the ocean a little over an hour after being called by its owner. One of the patrolmen could have sworn he heard a plopping sound, like something had dropped into the water, but ignored it. They took notice of the weird marks on the boat, but that was generally disregarded in favor of all the blood. The interior of the boat was a grizzly sight, the mutilated corpses of several young men and women torn apart and thrown all over the vessel. The fridge was open, with all of its homebrewed contents drunken up. The bits and pieces all had the same circular marks on them, and it was at that point that the patrolmen realized what they were. They were tentacle marks, most likely from an octopus. But these seemed too big for an octopus, never mind the level of carnage that was not characteristic of the admittingly carnivorous invertebrate. The patrolmen were ready to bring the boat in, tell its owner about what they had found, and launch a formal investigation, and then something caught the youngest member’s eye. It was a notepad, accompanied by a severed hand holding a pen, tentacle marks strewn about it, almost like it was being used as some disturbing proxy. The note was somewhat legible, but its contents were equally confusing as to this whole situation. The note simply read:



I. O.   U.