Sea Siren: Chapter Three

Ancient Creatures of the Deep

It didn’t work.

Alice should have popped to the surface like a cork. She flipped the switch again. Then again and again. Nothing.

Still in the grip of the monstrosity outside, her head numbed by its shrieking, Alice grabbed her controls and yanked. The submarine engine revved and then abruptly jerked to a stop.

She was firmly in its grip.

Head pounding, Alice yanked again at the controls. Getting away had just become more important than preserving the submarine and its instruments.

Wait. The instruments. She looked to her right. There lay a board of controls used to gather samples. One of them was an underwater torch. The question was would it turn on with only the battery backup power?

Alice leaned over and slowly turned the dial at the right edge of the panel. The switchboard lights blinkered and flickered. Alice turned the dial the rest of the way and the lights settled. She sighed. It worked.

Alice pressed a sweaty hand to her boiling hot forehead and rubbed a knuckle into the aching sinus, closing her eyes. Now if only her idea would work.

Cracking an eye open, Alice focused on recalling the uses for the hundred or so switches. Her fingertip came to a rest about the middle of the board. Found it. Cla-chink!

Alice heard the wheels and cogs turning, grinding and whining from the edge of the dome. Then she listened with a heavy heart as it squealed to a higher pitch and whine before all activity and sound died.

Red and yellow lights pulsed failure to her bleary eyed gaze. Alice resisted the urge to pound the control board. It was a proven fact; beating the equipment didn’t work, she reminded herself.

Just then the creature cried out vibrating the air around her. Her hands shot to her head again as lightning pain streaked through her head. Muscles tightened in her neck nausea hovering at the back of her throat. Had her mom gone through a similar experience? Her sub had vanished with no clues as to what happened. Would she simply disappear too?

As the creature’s shriek subsided, color returned to her vision and her eyes were able to focus. What Alice saw was the depth meter increasing. Not Good. More like Not Alive and soon.

In her minds eye, she could see the scornful looks of the postgraduates then of Dr. Leland. His would be a look of feeling her pain but it would be a look of disappointment too. Last would be the embarrassment. He’d bet on her. She knew he had.

Over the month before this trip he’d invested in her life in a way only her mother had. All her grades were salvaged due to his persistence in his pestering. She had needed help, and he’d been there. And now she was failing him. Failing him, like her father had failed her.

She remembered. It was her last visit with her father. She had needed him so badly that day, and yet, as he met her gaze there was no emotion, no comfort.

She was alone, and he’d walked away.

The sludgy gray skin of the creature squelched across the window snapping her eyes to it. Then the creature went silent.

Alice didn’t want to be her dad. Didn’t want to leave people. Didn’t want to fail them. Yet here she was. Her watery eyes gazed dully at the creature’s rubbery body. Then it hit her, and she slapped the dashboard, “Ha!” Then gave a regretful groan gripping her head. Then she lurched out of her seat and half jumped to the wall below.

Soon she found what she was looking for, a little hidden panel. Now if she could electrify the hull…

Alice found rubber gloves, cut the correct wires and ripped open the floor giving her direct access to the hull of the ship. She paused. The sub creaked with the sway of the ocean. It was time. Alice rammed the cable down, touching the hull.

The life tearing screeching began, and Alice cried out trying to wrench the cable back as she felt something wasn’t right. But it was no use.

All at once it was as if their minds were in sync. So many images flashing through her mind. Unrecognizable. She was tasting other worlds, feeling a foreign sea, and talking to alien animals.

Alice was the creature.

The creature in a harsh new world and encountering another bright creature with electricity in its veins. Such a strange being that seemed hollow inside.

That’s me, Alice thought, right before the submarine was violently thrust away.

The creature moaned and an invisible current pulled at it. Whatever body part was gripping the sub fell from the window. Finally her exterior lights shone to reveal swirling dark water all around the sub. She had been taken to deeper depths, and she saw no end. No bottom.

She’d entered the trench.

She was alone in the glow of light encircling her. Or maybe not. Her gaze saw a movement.

At the edge of her exterior lights, she could see a faint figure off in the distance and holding a glimmering weapon like a staff. It had three points at the top. Kind of like…a trident.

Below him the creature was falling. Like a drunk pot-bellied large man, the sludgy creature rolled away a trail of black ink swirling down with it to the depths below.

The man figure swayed with the ocean, paying no mind to the creature. His focus on her sub.

He watched her for a moment then gestured for her to come before he swam down into the murky black depths. Was what she had just seen a figment of her imagination? Something created from the mental torture she had just endured?

She wanted to follow him. Wanted to discover if there was more. More to the sea and more to the mystery around her mom’s disappearance here. Still fear or common sense tried to whisper to her. The man-like figure was swimming in about the same direction, she warned herself, as the creature.

Even now, her hands still trembled, body still felt in sync with the rhythm of the sea, still felt like a fish in the wrong ocean. Would her father have risked it? To find mom? He was a stranger to her now. No doubt he wouldn’t even care that she was at sea. She waved the thought away.

Hope like never before rose within her. A hope that she hadn’t know was there, beating quietly below the surface.

Did she follow the man? What was her carefully considered and thought out choice in all of 32 milliseconds?

Alice of course followed the rabbit down the hole.

Next Chapter: Chapter 4

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Sea Siren: Chapter Two

World Upside Down

It wasn’t the cracking that woke Alice, but the first droplet of water hitting her face. She gasped blinking rapidly as she instantly woke. Somehow she was lying on the back wall of the sub.

Alice put her hands to her face taking a deep breath and ran her fingers through her hair. Above her was the dome window. Nothing was to be seen outside. Only blackness beyond. She squinted at it but it just blurred before her eyes.

Around her everything was colored in a bluish haze from the backup lights. Here and there tiny yellow and red lights blinked their small emergencies.

Quickly she blocked more droplets with her hand as they fell. Then she froze. Where was the water coming from?

She jerked up, body crying in pain, she groaned. Just bruises, she told herself.

Once she was steadily on her feet and the swaying had stopped in her own head, she awkwardly stood on the curved back wall of the sub staring at the acrylic window above.

No visible cracks.

She waited.

She lifted her hands and gripped the seat hanging just above her head, knuckles whitening. As she waited the tension was unbearable. She closed her eyes, whispering, “Father God, please don’t let that be a crack. Please, please, please.”

Looking back up, she noticed the blood trailing down her hand. Slowly, she brought the hand down. No cut. Then lifted her hand to her aching head, grimacing when she found a spot on the right side. Probably just a scratch.

Then another water droplet fell, and its sound echoed in the silent chamber she was entombed in. Her eyes drawn to the new ceiling and heart thudding, Alice wiped the blood off her hand and pulled herself to the side of the sub. She started climbing.

How had she even ended up sideways? Submarines were bottom heavy which kept them up right. This had to mean she was probably on land, but then why did she see nothing but darkness outside, and what about the water?

Life was upside down and made no sense. Front and back were now literally up and down.

Alice had just hooked a knee up onto the seat after crawling up on the side wall when the sub jerked. Alice flew back into what had once been the ceiling and fell down to the back wall and lay there, all breath gone before sucking it back in coughing.

For whatever reason the sub was moving and not by its own engines. As she lay there breathing she felt the submarine pick up speed, and it moaned beneath her. A memory slithered its way into her mind. The bright light approaching the sub. No breath, but not from lack of oxygen. The humming noise. And then…she remembered.

The monstrosity. Trembling Alice slowly shook her head. No, just no. She put a hand to the hull and shoved herself up off the ground, stumbling to stand. Looking up, her mouth flattened. This was her sub. She decided where it went.

This time she kept each foot hold firmly and made her way towards the control system above. Pulling herself swiftly if not confidently up the side to avoid falling again, Alice made great time. At last, she swung into the seat and buckled herself in.

Grabbing the controls, she noted a red light blinking to indicate that they were at depths that the submersible wasn’t meant for. A grim smile. Well, she was still alive. And if the water had been a leak, she would have been dead by now. Praise the Lord for the soundness of the submarine. She prayed it would keep.

Another little yellow light caught her eye. The sub was on battery power. The main electrical engine would need safety checks. Her eyes roved the control board full of blinking lights. All would be fine until she dealt with the current situation.

Focusing on the dome window, Alice switched on the exterior lights…nothing. But then, the black and gray colors slowly began to shift.

A rubbery, sludgy sound grew as it slid across the window enveloping and echoing around her.

Alice’s skin crawled. She reached for a hidden casing below the dash. She had never thought there would be a reason to use it. Again, it seemed she was wrong. Opening it she felt the black switch inside.

For a moment, her hand hovered. Then a high pitched cry tore through her ears. Pain pierced her, she arched her back and her hands shot up to her head. The sound was in her, part of her, tearing at her. There was no other choice.

She flipped the switch.


Next: Sea Siren Ch. 3


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Sea Siren: Chapter One

First Encounter

NORTHERN TRENCH OF THE CORAL SEA

Something was out there. The sonar pinged showing a large object creeping towards the small submarine. Alice spoke into her mic, “Guys, are you getting this?”

Nothing.

She checked her input and her output then tried again, “Hello?” Static crackled in her headset. Something must have happened to the optic cable that connected her with the research vessel above.

“Strange,” she muttered, taking off her headset and rubbing her warm ear. On the way down she had been listening for anything out of the ordinary, but realized that out here in the Coral sea, she was unlikely to find anything too interesting until deeper depths.

At just below the coral reefs, not much lived at 200 yards down and yet- “Ping!” There it was.

That is, both of them.

Alice put her headset back on. Another smaller object appeared from the opposite direction closer to her submarine than the first and was coming out of the trench. Its speed – 50 knots.

Nothing moved that fast down here.

Alice had stopped breathing. She forcefully exhaled then leaned forward to look out the domed window. Chilled air from it cooled her warm face. Her now steady breathing echoed in the small chamber. She’d see them any minute now.

Outside, sediment was settling from her landing earlier so that there was still a light milky glow in the beams of the external LED lights. Just beyond her landing point was the edge of the Coral Sea’s northern trench, and there the darkness swallowed all light.

She could handle whatever was coming from the trench; this submersible was near indestructible, and Professor Leland had sent her, the undergraduate, saying that she was ready for her first trip down alone. Mom would have been so proud of her. However, the postgraduates thought otherwise and voiced their opposition about letting an undergrad operate the expensive experimental solo submarine. Alice could care less. She didn’t even want to be here.

But whatever Leland required, she would do. Failing was not an option with her scholarship on the line.

Last year, when they had stopped searching for mom, Alice had fallen into a deep depression. Her homework started to fail and friends lingered around, not knowing what to do. Eventually, they all left. Everyone did.

Except Professor Leland. She remembered that day clearly.

“I’m failing you.”

Alice stared down at the paper in front of her. The letter D was inked in red across it. She reached out to pull it towards her, saw her hands trembling and quickly hid them back in her lap. Standing in front of her desk, Professor Leland sighed and sat down next to her.

“Alice, I’ve tried to be understanding, but it’s just not fair to the other-“

“Is it fair that my mom’s dead?” The paper in front of her blurred. “If we’re talking of fairness, I think we should define what that means.” She’d been holding it in too long again. Alice choked it down. She could wait until she made it to the bathroom. She’d be fine.

Right now though,”Listen, what can I do to fix this?” Mom would want her to fix this, so she would fix this.

Professor Leland must have been holding his breath. He let it all out at once and gave a small smile. “Well, I have learned about your history with sea expeditions, and I happen to need one more undergrad for this summer’s expedition.”

Alice’s heart dropped. Of course she had experience. Growing up mom had taken her on all her trips.

Alice felt a wave of grief and longing pour over her as she remembered. Sticky fingers, marshmallows and laughter on their bonfire nights using the lab’s Bunsen burner. Mysterious tales of the cities that lay below. Mom’s love of the sea was infectious. It was why Alice was in this major, maritime archaeology, that had become torture for her now.

Alice rubbed at her chest at the dull ache that had been there the last nine months. She needed to let it out soon. The sobs.

Alice managed to whisper, “You want an undergrad? Such trips are saved for the postgraduates.”

He smiled like he was doing her a huge favor. “I know but due to extraneous circumstances I have an opening, and it would be the perfect thing to help you pass the class. I want to help, Alice, and I know you have a grade expectation to meet for your grant.”

The guilt. The expectations. As her father liked to point out, no one was going to do the work for her. She was on her own. No mom here anymore to confide in, to share crazy things like the fact that she didn’t like the sea anymore. Alice wanted nothing to do with the thing that had taken her mom. And yet…she heard herself say,”I’ll do it, and then I’ll pass, right?”

She had to get passing grades. For mom if nothing else.

“Yes, Alice. You’ll pass.”

Later, after agreeing, she realized that this internship was going to be at the Great Barrier Reef near her mom’s research site. Then Professor Leland surprised the team by announcing they were starting at the Coral Sea before making their way back to the Great Barrier Reef if there was time. Surprised, Alice realized that they were going to the exact spot her mom had been. Being so close to where mom had disappeared whispered ideas of looking for her, looking into what archaeological dig site she had set up and into what she had found.

A small fish dashing past her window brought Alice’s mind back to the moment. She was still in the dark with something out there. Where was it?

Thinking ahead, Alice turned off the exterior lights. Darkness enveloped the submersible. Since she had only the passive sonar on, they shouldn’t know she was here. Better in these depths to be passed over, whatever it was. She switched off her radio, and just as she went to switch off her lights, everything blacked out.

Her mind blanked as well.

She leaned forward and put a hand up to the acrylic window wiping away the condensation of her breath and stared out.

What was going on out there? What could knock out a submarine’s engine? The fact that she didn’t know meant current technology didn’t have an answer, at least the technology that she knew of…

A faint blue glow in the distance appeared along with a faint hum in the metal surrounding her, and her fear grew with it. She leaned back her cold fingers slipping from the window to the now useless systems surrounding her. Logic and rationalization were her only consolation.

Deep sea divers. Had to be with the size she’d seen on sonar and their speed. Her momentary blackout was coincidence. But…what were the odds of them free diving this close to a protected reef?

And then what about the other, larger object?

Oddly the murky depths in front of her grew dimmer. She could hear whatever it was coming closer though. Raising a hand, Alice rubbed her eyes and leaned back into her chair. She was losing consciousness.

And that humming… “Unbearable!” she tugged the headset off and let it fall. Wisps of golden hair haloed her face. Her blue eyes struggled to focus. She gripped the armrests.

This wasn’t right. There shouldn’t be a lack of oxygen since the life support system had just been knocked out. Alice reached for the oxygen tank on her far right. It was like she was dragging her hand through the ocean. Everything was so heavy. Just as her hand rested on it, she was blinded by light from outside.

Alice shielded her gaze as the light lowered. What she saw next was something so far outside of the imagination, she couldn’t comprehend it. The world is never what anyone assumes, and she was being confronted with a reality that the seas contained more than she thought. In fact, more than all the world thought. This encounter became the last thing she remembered.

Disclaimer: I will be modifying this as I write. So nothing is cannon. Thank you for reading!


Next: Sea Siren Ch. 2

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