Kadijah was shaking like a leaf by the time she and Max entered their home. He was carrying her, and as soon as he set her down, she was stumbling on shaky legs to their bathroom. The sound of her dry heaving and crying soon filled the silence.
Max quietly shut the front door and walked stiffly to the couch, sitting down and covering his face with his hands. His eyes still felt gritty, and he wanted to close them and sleep for the next ten hours, but every time he closed his eyes, he was assaulted by image after image of the Sea God pleasuring his wife. He groaned loudly, jumping up and stalking over to the bookshelf, scanning the titles until his eyes caught and held on one titled Songs of Sea and Void: A Primer on the Leviathan. He touched the slim volume with the tip of his finger. He knew from old sailor’s songs that the ocean god’s proper god name was Leviathan, but it was generally considered presumptuous and arrogant to speak a god’s given name aloud. Doing so too easily invited said deity into your life and personal business. He snorted, thinking that he was already way past that point. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to learn more about this god, this Leviathan.
The book was packed with tiny print in defiance of its limited pages. Max flipped through it, shocked by the addition of handwritten, each in a different hand, notes on nearly every margin, pictures, diagrams, and short spells filling the space. He slowly walked back to the couch, absently sitting down as he read the personal accounts of generations’ worth of dealings with the Leviathan. Details, ranging from personality quirks and favorite foods to drawings of the various guises the god preferred, slowly stitched together a picture of the god that Max did not like. His first impression, that the god was cruel and delighted in the suffering of humans, seemed more and more correct the more he read. And yet the god was capable of great kindness, provided he got what he wanted.
He turned the page again and was startled when a picture slipped from the pages. He caught it before it could fall to the ground and studied it. It was of Kadijah and her mother at the beach. She was a baby, still newly born from what he could tell, and she was bundled in a sea green blanket. Her mother, Akira, was holding her in her arms and smiling widely. In the background, a priestess was bent over a small altar. Frowning, Max turned the picture over, and his blood froze when he read the description:
Kadijah (2 months old) after dedicating her to the Leviathan
“You gotta be fucking shitting me,” he breathed. Certain things made sense with this new piece of information. Kadijah’s devotional practices for the Sea God, greater than even his most superstitious sailor, how her gaze always seemed to pull to the sea, as though waiting for something, made much more sense in this light. Her father’s cryptic words to him only hours before the wedding began: “Pray that she spends her life futilely waiting for the sea.” God, those words mocked him now! And the words of the god itself taunted him even more so:
“So long as I call this woman mine, this town will flourish.”
“And you couldn’t even wait a day, could you, you fish bitch,” Max said, a bitter chuckle escaping him. He tossed the book down and stood. The sounds of Kadijah’s stress had quieted down, so he made his way to the bathroom. A small, very small and very petty, part of him whispered that she had better have drowned herself in the bathtub, but he shoved that thought away hastily, appalled that he was even capable of thinking such a thing. No matter what happened, he loved Kadijah, adored every inch of her. It wasn’t her fault she was dedicated to a shitty fish god as a baby, and it really wasn’t her fault the capricious god had decided he wanted her out of all the babies that were given to him each year. If only she hadn’t enjoyed it so much…
He pushed open the door and was not prepared for the sight in front of him. Kadijah sat huddled between the bathtub and the toilet. At the sound of the door opening, she lifted her head from between her arms and flinched at the sight of him standing tall in the doorway. The cheerful sunlight pouring in from the window made her look like a model out of one of those hipster photoshoots that were always coming in with the newspapers from inland, all broken and tragically beautiful in a jarringly cheerful setting. She was a wreck, hair disheveled from the hard fucking she’d received just hours before, face puffy and eyes red from crying, a haunted, desolate look of resignation filling her eyes the longer he stood in the doorway. He shifted uneasily before sliding down the frame of the door to sprawl, boneless and weary, on the floor beside her.
“Hey, baby.” He said quietly. Her mouth twitched.
“Hey, bae.” She replied, voice scratchy, from crying or from how raggedly she’d been screaming the god’s name before, Max tried not to think about. Kadijah sat up a little straighter, and Max glimpsed for the first time the visible evidence of the Sea God’s touch on her skin. Her neck and exposed shoulders were covered in bite marks and hickeys. That he could see the hickeys at all was a testament to how hard the Leviathan had to have been sucking on her dark skin.
“Do you…want a divorce, Max?” The question, hesitant, scared, but ready for anything, honestly startled him. A divorce? From her? The thought hadn’t crossed his mind, and even the thought of it now was strangely repulsive. He loved her, had loved her since he was fifteen and they worked on The Dreadful Whale together. She was his queen, his only true proof of a greater power out in the cosmos, his soulmate.
“I love you, Kadijah, and you’re my wife. No way am I going to let you leave me, especially not for some smelly fish god,” he growled. His lovely wife barked out a laugh and pushed one of her bare feet against his pant leg.
“Don’t insult the Great Leviathan, Max, it never ends well.” She admonished faintly, and he couldn’t help but roll his eyes.
“Whatever you say, baby. Let’s get you in the shower, yeah? I’ve gotta go to a council meeting pretty soon, and I’m sure that’ll be so much fun,” he drawled sarcastically, already dreading the whispers, the side-eyes, he would have to endure because of this. It just had to be her, didn’t it, you piece of shit?
He helped her stand up, her legs stiff and weak from sitting so long in such a cramped position, and she slowly shed her clothes. He sucked in an angry breath at the sight of the bite marks on her heavy breasts, the hickeys on her soft belly, the finger-shaped bruises on her wide, plush hips, the cum oozing down her inner thighs. She awkwardly tried to cover herself with her arms, her braids falling forward to cover her lovely face as her full lips pulled down into an ashamed frown. His hands hesitated over her form for a moment, the tremor that ran through them from anger and disgust at the sickening realization that he desperately wanted to lick her clean. Bile rose in his throat, and he swallowed it back, shoving the urge to the darkest corner of his mind, never to be examined by him ever.
“Ah…I’ve got it, bae,” she said, twisting away from his outstretched hands and easing into the shower. He busied himself with setting the water to her preferred temperature to mask the shock of anger that went through him at her reaction. So, she didn’t want him to touch her now, huh? Fine by him.
“Call if you need me,” he said shortly, abruptly turning to walk out of the stifling bathroom and the unsettling mix of emotions his wife’s form was stirring in him. He needed fresh air, and he needed it now.
Kadijah stepped out of the shower only seconds after Max slammed the front door behind him, her mind an anxious, swirling mess of conflicting thoughts and emotions. She stared at her body in the bathroom mirror, hissing softly as she touched the bite marks littering her neck, breasts, and thighs. It astonished her, dimly, how badly they all throbbed with pain when the feel of Levi’s teeth sinking into her skin had felt so good, nearly orgasmic in itself. She scoffed and wrapped a fluffy towel around herself, shielding her body from her own traitorous thoughts, and stalked into the bedroom in search of something fuzzy and warm to wear.
Dragging on a set of pajamas, she settled into a chair with her phone, idly scrolling through various blogs in an attempt to distract herself. It was no use. No matter how hard she tried, Kadijah constantly had to shake herself out of a stupor, out of reliving what it felt like to have the sea god beneath her, on top of her, inside her filling and pleasing her more completely than man or woman ever had in her life. What a strange dichotomy it was, to remember the sea god as he had presented himself to her when she was a small girl, to still remember his gentle fingers in her hair as he decorated the afro puffs with seashells, to remember the steel of his arms as he held her up while she learned to swim, to remember the soothing lilt of his voice as he sang her lullabies through the hull of her father’s ship, and then to have these newer, sharper memories of those same fingers biting into the flesh of her hips as he furiously buried his cock into her over and over, those same arms caging her in while he held himself above her, that same voice groaning against the sweat slicked skin of her neck as he filled her with hot cum.
She groaned, tilting her head back to rest on the soft cushion, and cast her eyes seaward. The sunny, relentlessly cheerful day was darkening as sullen clouds began forming. It was the Storm God’s brooding season, the late summer her favorite time to play fast and loose with coastal weather. Legends had it that it was she, the Storm God who chased the seasons across the earth, who first greeted the Void God when the Star God stole his domain and cast him into the sea. Kadijah wondered if that was true and how a god of the void could consent to existing in such a small space as the oceans. Perhaps she could ask him.
“Now that I’m his whore,” she said mockingly, suddenly burning with helpless rage, “I should be able to ask all kinds of things. When should I ask: before or after he’s fucked me in front of my husband? Will I beg him again like some touch starved virgin? Should I be thankful for this, Levi?” She was screaming, crying, she suddenly realized, fat tears spilling from her dark brown eyes as she stared out toward an increasingly agitated sea. Could he hear her raging against him? Did he even care if he did?
“Is this what you meant, all those years ago, when you said you’d take care of me? Was this your plan all along, my beloved god of the depths?” She asked softly, and the wind rattled the window panes as a storm, low and mournful, rolled in from the sea.
It was almost like a dream, the sight of him lounging so carelessly on the Fish King’s dock, as if he’d pulled her into the void over which he still retained dominion. When he’d said he wanted her, to lay with her, she hadn’t been able to believe it. And yet, when Max tried to stop her, she had been so angry. Who was he to always defy the gods, and who did he think she was that she would so easily refuse the very one she had been promised to? But he didn’t know. How could he have when it was a secret tradition passed down through the women of her family? It was harmless, her mother had told her time and again. The Sea God only ever wanted their companionship as girls; never had he returned when they began to blossom into women.
Until now, with her.
She couldn’t even pretend not to know what he planned for her, not when he’d been kind enough to tell her himself. His voice, husky and sated, had filtered down from its origin in her hair as he explained just what she could expect from him from now on.
“I will have you spread beneath me at least once a week, my love. You are free to lay with your husband as it pleases you, but make no mistake,” and here he’d paused to subtly roll his tail and remind her of the substantial length still buried inside her, “he will never please you as I will. Whatever you ask of me, I will grant you if it is within my power to do so. You are my companion, and I will always take care of you.”
Why she had been chosen to be his companion, why she, out of the countless generations of her family that had been promised to him, had been counted worthy, Kadijah was certain she would never know. She pressed her thighs together and was uncomfortably reminded of the semen leaking out of her. It would take several hours before it was all out, and she knew she would smell of it, and of him, for at least a day. That was such a small detail in comparison to the large love marks and bites decorating her skin, marks that she had been told not to hide.
“Poor Max,” she sighed, turning her thoughts to her husband. This would always be harder for him than it was for her. She would never admit, but could never deny to herself, that she enjoyed being the focus of her beloved god’s affections. Before permanently settling in Reach so that she could attend the college the next town over, she was living the life of a sea nomad as her family had done for hundreds of years. Sure, they most often made berth in Reach as well as weathered certain seasons in the town, but it was their way to rely on the Sea God’s good graces for their livelihoods. It was natural for her to love the god as she did: all of her family did so. She had been reared on stories of her ancestors’ encounters with him and had played with him as a child. His opinion would always hold greater weight for her than those of the townsfolk.
Max was not like that. He had his own personal god that held him in an iron grip: validation. For as long ad she’d known him, Max needed the good opinions of others to be truly happy. The son of a landlocked merchant, he’d struggled hard to become the man he was today, a man who was loved and regarded as the best around by fishermen older and wiser than he. She could only imagine his struggle now, his pain at something he could not have stopped.
Of course the room went quiet as soon as Max entered. The twenty gathered people, men and women and otherwise from the captains and first mates of the seven principle ships to seven of the townsfolk chosen by their peers to represent them, made up the Council of Fishermen for their town. Max, being First Among Captains, was head of the council and de facto mayor of the town. He was the youngest the town of Reach had ever had at twenty-six, and so he entered the room with a chip on his shoulder, a feeling like he had to stand firm against the sly remarks that would come his way.
Misha, his first mate and cousin to Kadijah, was the first to approach him, a sympathetic smile quirking her lips as she pulled him into a brief one-armed hug. He returned it, hand momentarily gripping the back of her shirt with astonishing force, before he stepped away from her and faced the rest of the council.
“By now, I’m sure everyone here has heard how the situation with the sea was resolved,” he said, having decided it was best to address what was surely on everyone’s minds right off the bat so that they could get to other, more important, matters.
“We’ve all heard that it’s not an issue anymore,” Marisol, captain of Xibalba, said, “but I’m finding it a little difficult to comprehend, ya know?” There was scattered agreement throughout the room, and Max sucked his teeth in annoyance as he stalked to the head of the council table and sat down. He scanned their faces, wondering just what he should tell them. Most of the captains were of an age with him, Tanisha the next youngest at twenty-eight and Jose being the oldest at thirty-nine. There was a wider age range among the first mates, his own Misha being two years his junior and Brandon of The Dreadful Whale being the oldest at forty-four. These captains and first mates were more likely to believe and sympathise with him when they learned all the details of the Sea God’s demand. Most of them had some type of devotional practice toward the god, and it was within all of their frames of belief for the god to appear in the manner that he had. The seven townsfolk that rounded out the council would be much more difficult to deal with. They were the ones who were most likely to see what had happened as a sign of weakness on his part, and the thought of them going through town and spreading rumors about his inability to find some other way of appeasing the Sea God made his blood boil. As if a god like that could be reasoned with in the first place!
“What’s so difficult to comprehend about it, Marisol? The Sea God came to us at the dock and told us that the entire town had offended him, and the only way he would return the sea to us was for the person he chose to become his consort or whatever.” He said nonchalantly, as if it wasn’t a big deal, as if his eyes weren’t figuratively bleeding from the awful sight of it. Kaz, a merchant who specialized in exporting, furrowed his brows and braced his elbows on the table.
“Yeah…we all know that part of the story, Max, and while none of us like that that’s what the Great Leviathan requested of us to atone for our offense, it’s already been done. I guess what most of us are curious about,” he paused and glanced around at the other council members, an amused glint in his green eyes when they once again met Max’s, “is why you were totally okay with standing there while our patron god did his business with your wife.”
Shasta’s hand on his forearm was all that kept Max from launching himself over the table and wringing Kaz’s neck.
“Don’t,” she whispered sternly, shooting a disappointed look at some of their fellow captains and first mates, who hastily wiped the smirks off their faces. Max didn’t notice. His vision was too clouded with rage and wounded pride too see their amusement at his expense.
“You weren’t there, Kaz, so shut up. None of us have ever heard of the Sea God taking a lover before. For all we know, he wouldn’t let Max leave.” That was Jose, and as usual, he sounded utterly done with being the lone voice of reason and compassion. Max calmed significantly as Jose’s words had the desired effect on the snickering council members, and when he next spoke, it was from a place of calm.
“In the end, it doesn’t matter; the god is satisfied and has returned and blessed the sea for us. What does matter is that we make sure we don’t offend him again,” Max said and nodded toward Billie, town historian and expert on the gods. The middle aged woman returned his nod with one of her own.
“Not much is known about the Great Leviathan, but I’ll search everything we have and then some to discover any possible triggers for the god’s ire,” she said confidently. Once that was decided, Max was able to steer the council to their pre-planned business, and by the end of the session, several important things had been decided on, and he was feeling pretty good about himself overall.
As was their way, they mingled with each other, sharing gossip and fishing stories that they had accumulated from the month before. There was a lot of excitement about the upcoming festival scheduled to start the following week. It was the yearly two week celebration, a time to thank the Sea God and the Storm God for their continued benevolence. This year, they were going to have an extra focus on the Sea God in the hope that it would further please him and keep the unpredictable deity from becoming displeased with them again.
Max worked the room as well as he could, shoring up his position with the other Captains, asking after the families of the First Mates, and speaking authoritatively about conservation laws he wanted to enforce with the town elders. By the time he made his way back to MIsha, the atmosphere of the room was much closer to the friendly environment he was used to, and he felt pride at his own abilities swell up in his chest. Everything would be fine, he thought to himself as the council members slowly dispersed. By this time next week, some new drama will have captured the minds of the people, and he and Kadijah could work on getting their new life together back on track. Maybe he’d give command of the Siren’s Heart, his own fishing vessel, to Misha for a few weeks while he and Kadijah spent the time inland. A few weeks away from the sea and the incessant call of its god would do wonders for her, he was sure.
Everything would be just fine.