Want to see the deleted opening to A CRACK IN THE SEA? Here it is! And there’s a little bit of commentary below. ☺
How the Kraken Lost Each Other.
The Second World. So many years ago.
Once upon a time, in the beginning—not literally in the beginning, but near enough, and as close as we will get in this book—there lived two Kraken, as enormous as small nations. The entire ocean was their home, and they regarded the little islands that dotted up out of the water as merely the pillars that supported their heavens.
Did I mention how big the Kraken were? As big as cities, as big as islands covered with cities and farms. And as deep, and as complicated.
They were happy, mostly. They were in love.
One day a big storm brewed itself up—way above them in the sky and on the surface of the ocean. Far below, they were safe. Or they thought they were.
The Kraken were having an argument, which they liked to call a “discussion.” The husband (they did not have names, as there were only two of them; they were just “he” and “she”—or, if they were talking to each other, “you”)—he wanted to return home. He was tired of travel. All eight of his arms swayed in the water. “We’ve been gone a long time. Too long.” As he shook his ponderous mantle, he sounded sulky, even to himself. The water bubbled around him.
The wife shrugged, all eight of her shoulders swishing upward. She blinked her eyes, big-windowed lanterns closing, then flicking open. “We can go home later. There’s more exploring to do.” She gestured with several tendrils to the world beyond, over which the storm was at its darkest.
“Home,” he repeated, scooting a few yards away, towards the far-off island bay they called theirs. He too blinked, slowly, as if to say Come, be tired like me. Home and rest.
The wife slid a few yards in the other direction, as if to say Come, wake up. Adventure. Home later.
The storm suddenly intensified, as they sometimes do on the ocean—snapping into high gear with little notice.
But then something new, something strange happened. The storm’s great arms reached deep into the ocean and roiled the water all the way down to the dark sandy bottom. The storm stirred up a line between the two Kraken. As the sand whirled around them, both disappeared from each other’s sight.
When the debris finally settled, the husband gasped—and the wife gasped at the same time. They had shuffled apart even farther, to retreat from the sandstorm, and now between them stood: was it a doorway?
It seemed to be, or something like it. A narrow portal that stretched up and up.
There was more.
The doorway (can we really call it that? It was just a lighted strip of water) reached down from the sky all the way to the ocean floor, as if a crack had opened up between two worlds. He sat in one place and She sat in the other. They could see each other, but they were no longer together. He was in their home world, and she was suddenly—someplace else.
The husband—the one we will concern ourselves with, for the wife is now lost—registered everything in a fraction of a second, as Kraken do. He tasted something foreign in the water, a saltiness mixed with traces of iron. A coolness brushed over his mantle. He smelled alien fishes. And through the long, thin doorway, through the crack that stretched to the heavens, he saw his wife, her eyes wide and unblinking.
He knew where he was. But where was she?
For just a half a moment, both Kraken sat motionless on the ocean floor, staring at each other through the doorway. Then they both leapt, inking and jetting their way toward the door, toward each other.
But too late. The crack snapped shut, the doorway disappeared, the storm moved on. And the Kraken? He shot forward, all three of his hearts in his mouth, to . . . nothing. To empty sand. To the spot where his wife would have been if she had not disappeared through a doorway into another world.
He sat down to wait.
The doorway did not reopen.
He waited. He waited a very long time. He did not know what else to do, and Kraken live long and contain deep oceans of patience.
Many years passed.
Finally one day, something did happen—though not what he had hoped for.
High above, balancing precariously on the surface of the water, three wooden fish sailed over him, headed toward his island bay. Boats, carrying people. He’d seen boats before, and people—there were some on the islands near his home—but not boats so large or people so sickly pale. These were something new.
He considered. It made sense to him that they might be from that other place, and if so, maybe they’d know how to open the doorway. He followed and watched as they settled on the island near his bay.
But it soon became clear that they did not know anything about his wife or how to get to that other world. They could not even converse with him; they could not even walk on the bottom of the water.
He went back to the no-longer-a-doorway, where he waited.
Then one day, several years later, he spotted something new. People who did have that gift for sinking and walking. A hundred of them at least: tortured, beaten, whipped, starved; yet alive. And the deep color of joy. Walking on the bottom of the ocean, holding hands, strings of people like tattered ribbons. That was certainly strange—and maybe a sign that they too came from the other world. Maybe they’d know something. He trailed them at a distance, so as not to scare them with his monstrous bulk, hoping to find news of his wife.
Yes, the novel used to start with the Kraken. I love them. I really wanted to start the novel with them.
About this opening, my editor said only this: “They are middle-aged sea monsters having a domestic dispute. Kids won’t be that interested. Why not start with the actual main characters of the novel?” (She did not say these words EXACTLY; I’m paraphrasing what I remember from the conversation. I hope I’m doing her justice. Because she is brilliant.)
I thought about her comments for a few days.
Then I cut the scene.
Why? Because my editor was right.
(But I’m including it here because I love the Kraken so much that I can’t dump the scene altogether. I hope you enjoy!)