The force of it! You felt it before, the enormous scale and power of this mind touching your own, sharing your own—but only its potential, then—its vast potential, and the utmost care with which it touched you, the delicacy with which it sought to avoid doing you harm. But it thinks you are about to kill yourself to save it—thinks so, and desperately fears so, and is desperate to see that you do not. So desperate, indeed, that in its haste it is being less wholly gentle than before. And the power of it is crushing.

It takes what feels like a very long time to realize that you are trying and failing to scream—to realize that your body is straining, back arched and limbs trembling in a rictus of agony that isn't entirely pain at all but simply the sheer force of a thought not your own being imposed upon your mind: that you will die if you do this thing, and you must not. For what feels like a very long time, that is simply all there is, even consciousness flattened beneath it.

And then, just as suddenly as it came, all that force is just—gone. Gone as if it never were. And in the eternal instant of balance between the agony just past and the blissful relief to follow, you realize that something else is gone, too: for the first time since you recovered consciousness atop the deep thing's body, you can no longer feel the touch of its mind. Its skin, yes; as before, its tentacles hold you steady, having caught you before your spasm could send you tumbling back into the sea. But you can no longer sense its intention in so doing, its quiet presence alongside your thoughts—it is just gone.

You haven't yet noticed that your nose is bleeding. You've barely noticed that your eyes are full of tears, from the pain that came before; certainly, though, you do notice when you begin to weep, tears of pain falling to be replaced by tears of loss. You've always felt alone; your own strangeness saw to that. But you've never felt so alone as this.

How could you, after all? Until now, you've never really noticed that you were alone in your own mind—in the same way that you've never really noticed gravity, or air. It has been simply a condition of your existence. But now it is not, and now you are beginning to understand that what passed before for loneliness, in your estimation, was only a tithe of its reality. It's almost frightening, in its way—that a sensation you've known for only so little a time should so quickly come to seem so indispensable. But it had grown so comfortable, so familiar, to share that great alien mind, in a way you'd never shared anything with anyone it any wonder that you should weep at the loss of that sharing?

But weeping or otherwise, you do still have a job in hand, and you will complete it. The deep thing is certainly still alive; as you begin to move with purpose, clearly no longer in the grip of spasm, the tentacles holding you relax, slithering down your body to melt back into the great mass of the thing—and even in your current sorrowful state, there is aught of you which can find a little pleasure in the firm sliding strangeness of that touch. Alive—and you will see it remain so.

The brief plunge into the sea, as you swim to the hoist line, does you some good, as well—clears your head a little, washes away tears and the drops of blood from your nose that you still haven't noticed, and carries away enough of the slime and ichor from your fur that you'll be able to climb up the line without sliding down it again.

Which is good, because it's not an easy climb. The line is wet, and you are wet, and the temperate night is the only mercy in hand. Fortunately, you don't need to see much; your body knows its business here, and you can leave it to tend to itself while you consider all that's just passed.

More tears, of course. How could there not be? Yes, that last frantic terrified thought hurt—but surely the creature, sharing your mind as it shared its own with you, must know that you did not begrudge it its error. Perhaps it feared it had harmed you? Had perhaps killed you, or risked killing you? There was that moment of discontinuity, even now only present as a brief interruption in your stream of memory—did it think you had died? But surely it must've known you did not—and denied you itself, its touch, nonetheless. And that, strange as it should be, really does hurt.

Not one in a thousand would experience such a contact as anything other than the most horrifically intimate violation possible—a rape beyond rape, committed by a monster among monsters. In your old village it would be the paragon of horror—had it happened before you fled, they might well have burned you alive after this, in hopes of expiating some imagined corruption.—imagined? Surely proved, by their standard, for after all there is nothing more in the world you can imagine wanting more, just now, than the resumption of that strange contact. To feel that alien presence in your thoughts once more.

Well. Almost nothing more in the world, at any rate, you realize, as you climb past the curve of the hull. As much as you wish for that alien presence in your thoughts—you can hardly help but think back on the firm grip of those tentacles, when the creature steadied your steps...when it held you tight in the throes of that sudden and shockingly unexpected orgasm. Just the sheer weirdness of it is enough to set your imagination wandering again, at play among riches beyond compare. Mammalian limbs, after all, grip more or less tightly at various points of contact, obeying the physics of bone and muscle. But these limbs, protean and boneless—as they coiled around your ankles, your calves, your thighs and belly, at every point along their length the pressure was just as firm as at any other, and even you have never before felt the like.

And as much as you wish for that alien presence in your thoughts—you find you wish, too, for that alien presence on, and around, and in, your body. To be bound fast by so many living, writhing ropes—bound, stretched spread-eagle, held taut high above the deck, the sea—held tight, deliciously naked, delightfully helpless, watching as yet more of those tentacles approach you, in their shapes so many omens of pain and pleasure and intimacy far beyond the scope of any lesser creature, and the endless moments as those tentacles reach you, and those omens begin to find their fulfillment, and so do you

—after all, that's something you never could risk before, isn't it? The strange flora and fauna of the woods, pleasurable as they could be in the satisfaction of their urges—you could never trust them, for they would repay vulnerability with agonizing death. But this great monster you've found—yes. Yes. Only let you share yourself with it once more, for the briefest instant, and it will surely sense in you that you do not fear it. Quite the contrary—and would have as much of it as it wishes to give you.