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.