[Depths is a short / flash fiction piece I recently pitched for an anthology submission. Unfortunately it didn’t reach the shortlist this time, but I did receive some very helpful and constructive feedback.]
Deep at the bottom of the ocean is the only place I find peace. Isolated and protected from the madness of the world above, the weight of the seas envelop me like a soft, heavy blanket – the pressures of hostile society replaced with that of atmospherics. A tranquil melody of creaks and groans from the submersible’s inner walls are a soothing remedy to the vitriolic throes that rage on the surface. At this depth, I am cut off from the voices in my ear from my support crew, and the other voices that goad me to flush my oxygen tanks. Here, it is just me, and my observations of the Atlantic floor.
It has been six months since the scientific grant was awarded to fund this exploration, and today is the last dive of the program. Returning to a life on the surface, and away from such solace fills me with dread and anxiety. I lean over and power up the vessel’s sonar to scan the formations of bedrock lying below the sediment a final time, and let out a sigh.
A blip on the radar catches my attention. It’s the size of a small crater, about 200 meters ahead. I send out a series of further scans. This isn’t right. In the past dozens of trips to the floor, no such fissure was ever registered. Protocol states that any unusual activity should be called in, even if it means abandoning the research. I can’t reach my crew, but my curiosity betters me. 200 becomes 100 as I draw nearer, then 50, and then 10 until the craft sits directly above the blip. I flick the high beams at the front to illuminate the crevice, a breach in the ocean floor.
The inner walls let out a long, whining groan, and the blip suddenly trebles in size. An immense surge in pressure rocks the submersible, followed by a roaring of water that deafens me, and I’m sent spiralling away from the epicentre. Desperately struggling to regain control, I make an emergency ascent. Solace has been shattered, and the Banshee in her wake is a ruthless mistress.
I attempt a distress call, but the crackling in my ear tells me I’m still out of range. I increase the speed of ascent, the creaking of the vessel getting louder and louder as I push it to its brink.
And then I see it. The Leviathan.
The creature arcs and turns in enormous circles that cut through the sea like a freshly forged steel blade, blotting out any fragments of light from above like an angry storm. At once, the security I once sought from the ocean is dashed, as I see first-hand the might bestowed upon its inhabitants. It lets out another roar, and I brace as the shockwave runs through the sub. Any more of those and I’ll never make it back.
Then it spots me. Twisting and turning, it runs rings around my tiny underwater coffin in a bid to determine friend or foe. The cabin shakes with every pass. Then there is silence. Stillness.
The beams flicker to life once more, and I scour the dimly lit view. The ocean blinks back at me, an eye staring deep into my soul – the beast scrutinising my very existence. A sudden calm falls upon me, an ultimate acceptance of my situation. I await my inevitable demise, the goading voices concurring this is an agreeable alternative.
Another blink, and then a softening of the stare. The water remains calm. Have I been spared by this creature, or perhaps even acknowledged? I look out in awe as the pupil gradually fades into the murky background, and my new found acquaintance slopes back into the depths.
A crackle in my ear.. followed by broken voices. My crew are still waiting for me, no doubt a panic as to what events have unfolded. Seismic activity I’ll tell them, enough of a breakthrough development to warrant further research, and another series of dives.
Deep at the bottom of the ocean is the only place I find peace. Here it is just me, my observations, and a Leviathan.