Sea Siren: Chapter Eight

Krakens, Squids, & Monsters, Oh My

Present Day: London, England

Julian began to scratch out notes on the board for his guest lecture at the Royal Institute when he felt a presence looming in the back. Finishing his note, he turned his head. Nothing. He turned back to the board.

At the end of class people streamed out up the stairs. Julian straightened up the room and packed up. He began to follow everyone out when a man stepped out of the shadows. More like he creaked out of the shadows, the man was ancient.

“Professor Julian Blackthorne? I’m Professor Alfred Butler,” he said.

Julian tried to edge through the door. He had a flight to catch. He gave a small, polite smile, “Hello.”

Professor Butler’s large eyes looked owlishly at him from behind large round glasses. His face had a comical absentminded-professor look. And he blinked at Professor Blackthorne before he continued on. “It is good to finally meet Clara’s husband. I was her professor, before the, well, the-”

Julian’s smile disappeared. “What do you want?”

The old man, surprised at the abruptness, said, “I wanted to inquire after Alice. I thought that after her internship off the coast of Australia at the Great Barrier Reef that she might like to apply to join my research team that will…”

Julian didn’t hear the rest as those words echoed in his ears. Alice was at sea. He interrupted, “Did you say Alice is at sea? The Great Barrier Reef?”

Again startled, Professor Butler said, “Why, didn’t you know?” He took off his glasses and pulled out his hanky. “I was so proud to hear that Clara’s daughter is following in her mother’s footsteps and has such a wonderful internship even though she has yet to graduate.” He looked down and began to polish his glasses. “Imagine! Exploring the Great Barrier Reef!” The old man’s eyes sparkled as he put his glasses back on.

But the old man had been speaking to no one. Julian had left him there.

Julian strode through the history filled rooms of The Royal Institution and out onto the busy streets of London. He quickly found out where Alice’s college offices were located. Fortune was with him. They were one street over. He cut across to Dover Street.

He shivered, cold from having been caught in the mist earlier. Julian used to pride himself on his readiness for life. Of late however, his mind’s focus had not been what it used to be with the worry stewing there. Now, Julian’s mind rarely registered minor details in life, except maybe to routinely check his app for the weather.

However, today was not a day of readiness. He found Professor Leland’s office building, and he stood outside in the cold. It was, of course, locked. A mist began leading into a trickle and what would become a torrential downpour. He rested his head against the door and let out a breath.

“Why Alice?” He breathed.

“Professor Blackthorne?”

Julian froze. Heat spread across his cheeks, and he turned. There stood the ancient professor head tilted with a small sad smile and an umbrella. One wondered how an old man got around so fast.

Sensing his question, Butler replied, “All kinds of shortcuts in this rambling old town if you look.”

He paused then stepped closer and held the umbrella over them both. “I’m guessing Alice didn’t tell you about the trip.”

Actually she had told him about the internship, just not that it was at the Great Barrier Reef.

“And why would she?” Butler continued. The old man walked over to the office door and pulled out a key. “She probably thought you wouldn’t let her go, I’m assuming. If I know anything about students, they all want to get away from home for the most part. Sneaky buggers,” he chuckled.

Then the man continued,”Now, Professor Leland asked me to watch his office, but he never mentioned not going inside,” he wagged his bushy brows toward Julian and held out the key. Julian hesitated then reached for it.

Alfred pulled back. “A moment, what exactly are you going to do? Run after her? Doesn’t seem you two are very close if she hasn’t confided in you about the trip.”

Julian gave him a deadpan stare then turned and walked away.

Alfred Butler was bemused, some students never grew up. “Blackthorne!” he shouted as the man’s long stride had already carried him down most of the street. Julian glanced back, face impassive. Alfred smothered a chuckle.

“Have a care man, I cannot just open any professor’s door without understanding the reason.” He gave Julian a beseeching look.

Julian nodded with an arched brow and walked back to the old professor and then gave him an evaluating look. “About a month ago I received a package.” Not an impressive start to any story. “From my dead wife.” Now that was a turn.

At Alfred’s attentive gaze, Julian continued in his dead pan voice, “Receiving a package from the dead should be a gift, but for me… I thought my wife died at sea, and now, I’m not so sure.”

Alfred’s brows drew together and created more wrinkles than any one person should have, “What exactly are you saying, Blackthorne?”

Julian’s haunted eyes spoke of sleepless nights, “I received pictures. Pictures of creatures and pictures of the things they found near the Great Barrier Reef in the northern part of the Coral Sea. And a note. From my wife. She asked me to look into a few people and a business. So far it looks like they never existed. ”

Julian started rubbing a thumb over his other hand massaging it. “I also haven’t heard anything about her research being posted so I started looking into that too.” At this he stared into the professor’s eyes seeking understanding. “Professor Alfred, I am finding that the government has classified everything. And now I learn that Alice may be near the area my wife was last alive and possibly where she died. I just want to make sure they aren’t anywhere near that area and no where near the creatures I’ve seen in those pictures.”

Without a word, Alfred opened the door.

Julian stepped across the threshold. The room had a preserved classic 19th century look. Along most of the wall were built in bookshelves. That part of the room broke the mood. Crammed books and papers were in every nook and cranny. Books covering topics on the ocean, seas, and other paraphernalia. But besides the current spines popping out here and there, the room was well preserved.

An Oriental rug was orderly placed to cover most of the wood flooring. A massive wood desk was the center of the room with a large towering window behind it. To set it off nicely was a mother-in-law tongue plant next to it.

Butler saw what he was eying and said,”I told him it was all I could do to take care of it and that the rest needed babysitters or I’d kill them.”

Julian continued into the office. Walking around the desk, he stood there looking at the neat stacks of paperwork, not much else was there.

Butler watched him,”What exactly do you think you were going to find here?”

Julian’s hard blue eyes glanced up at him as he began to open drawers. “I am going to find their routes they’re planning, why they are going and what they are researching.”

Alfred Butler’s wrinkles became deeper wrinkles as he frowned. “I’m afraid, my boy, that it won’t be there.” He came up to the desk. “What do you really think is out there, Blackthorne?” He waited until Julian looked up at him.

Julian hadn’t planned on telling anyone, but he vaguely recalled Clara talking about working the field with Butler in the past, and he needed to talk to someone about his suspicions about Clara’s research at the Coral Sea. Suspicions about the government trying to clean up after some mistake.

He had been quiet long enough that Alfred spoke up again, “Listen, Clara was like family to me.” He paused. “That means I’m willing to help you. I trust Clara would choose a good man.” He then walked over to an alcove with built-in bookshelves. He pulled on a book and the shelf opened. Behind was a simpler study room with one towering window, but that is not what grabbed their attention.

Across the entire wall were pictures of sea creatures that were ancient and extinct, newspaper clippings, and pictures with strings connecting to different parts and areas. But what caught Julian’s eye was the newspaper clipping about Clara’s accident. “Wha-why would he…?” Julian trailed off. He started following the lines.

Clara’s clipping was connected to…

A spot in the middle of a sea map. “I thought you said they were exploring the Great Barrier Reef?”

“What?” The old man seemed as baffled by the grand unfolding of connections on the wall as him. Julian had started to think he was in the know about everything, but Butler looked quite surprised. He replied, “Oh yes, that is what he told the school…?” His eyes followed to where Julian was staring. “Well. Almost right.”

As their eyes started following all the strings and their connections, their analytical minds dissecting what was being implied, Julian pushed down his growing alarm. “Butler, Clara’s research has recently been classified, but all this here adds new dimensions to what I’ve learned from her notes-”

“Blackthorne, look here’” Alfred pointed at something near the end. Julian walked over. The wall was covered in documents most of them with government seals on them. Further down, however, was a picture of Alice. A string tied back to her mother’s accident. It didn’t make sense. Besides their relation, what did Alice have to do with anything?

Julian looked at Professor Alfred.

“Professor Alfred, do you know any way to get us to the Coral Sea’s northern trench?”

The old professor turned a grim face to Julian, “We can leave within the hour.”

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

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Sea Siren: Chapter Seven

Last Messages

It sat there. The worry. It had become a needy pet in Julian’s life, resting there at the back of his mind.

Be calm, he told it. Be still, he told it. But slowly it began to chip away at his soul.

There was a verse in the Bible that promised rest saying, ‘Be still and know that I am God’. But, Julian didn’t practice that anymore, didn’t know if he believed anymore, and so the worry sat.

The worry’s arrival had come in a first class 2-pound package in the mail last month.

From his dead wife.

He didn’t know that you could receive mail almost a year after someone’s death. He sat there at their shared desk and house of 25 years.

And he remembered.

Nights filled quietly studying beside each other and rubbing each other’s feet and shoulders. Days spent with Clara showing him how to raise their daughter. Clara bringing joy and laughter to Alice in a way he never knew how.

Gently, he pulled the string opening the package of his last communication from Clara. Letters peeked out. Gently he pulled them out. Her handwriting filled the vanilla page, and his soul weighed heavy in the middle. He could feel her entering the room, and he wrapped the pages in an embrace.

They even smelled like her. Julian laid down the letters and began to read. He wasn’t aware of how long he sat there, but the sun was beginning to set when he rested his red eyes.

He wiped both sides of his face before he looked inside the package. Nothing but the copies of all of Clara’s notes and data. Just like he had told her to do.

Her letter had been like a warm blanket from the dryer. Comfort. Her writings weaved a sense of well-being while at the same time not leaving him fully satisfied.

So then, rubbing at the pain in his chest, he grabbed the USB and opened his laptop and inserted it as he turned it on. In the last few minutes he had become an addict needing more. Her research was a link of sorts to her so the next few hours he dug in. Her presence filling the room and his soul.

However, despite her felt presence, he began to feel ill-at-ease at what he found in the copies of her last emails. Emails indicating danger. Then there was a document with his name on it. He opened it.

Julian,

If this finds you, look into Carrington Industrials.

Clara

That was all. Since that fateful day last month, he’d been searching. Searching, worrying, and finding nothing.

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

NEXT: Sea Siren: Chapter Eight

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Sea Siren: Chapter Six

To Believe, or Not To Believe

Gone? What did that even mean, gone?

Darkness began to swirl into every nook and cranny of her mind, but Alice waved away the darkness and lengthened her stride to keep up with Merna with the rich, burgundy rug softening her pounding footsteps. She’d misunderstood. That had to be it. She hadn’t meant gone, gone.
Alice finally caught up as the wood paneled corridor widened and arched high above her, shadows encasing the ceiling. For being underwater, they sure wasted a lot of space down here.

Merna began talking as she slowed to a stop, “I’m sure you have questions. I have questions too. Come on in,” and she walked forward golden leafed doors swinging open.

Merna strode forward into an intricately decorated circular room covered in greenery. Alice hesitantly stepped in. Water gurgled, and she saw a glass wall shimmer with tumbling water. Beyond it the dark depths of the sea loomed through a concaved window enveloping most of the far side of the room and around the edges there was an ever so faint glimmer of the vessel’s blue outer casing.

Merna indicated for Alice to sit as she herself sat on the matching post modern blue sofa.

Alice settled uncomfortably into her seat, body tense.
Merna leaned forward on her elbows then steepled her fingers waiting.

Silence.

Merna nodded and sat back relaxing, “I’ll start with mine then. First how did you find us, and what are you doing here?”

Alice relaxed. She could answer those questions, “I didn’t find you. You guys led me here.” Merna raised a brow at that.

“As for why I’m here, I’m on an internship, a maritime archaeological dig with Dr. Leland and a team of postgraduates. We are starting from the edge of the northern trench of the Coral Sea and will end up at the Great Barrier Reef.”

Merna let silence fill the room. Alice squirmed waiting. Merna leaned forward watching Alice’s face carefully as she replied, “We did not lead you here. Tell me why you think that.”

Now that Alice thought about it, the man who led her to them was garbed differently from Merna’s men. Also, he had disappeared once the mammoth vessel had appeared.

Alice hesitated, then said, “Well, I thought I saw someone and followed then down to your ship, but maybe I was affected by the attack from the Kraken. It really shook me.”

Merna gave a nod a thoughtful look in her eye. “I’ll accept that for now. But I’m not buying your reason for being here.”

After a pause, she began again, “I’m guessing you are hoping to find out what happened to your mum,” she slowed seeing the glimmer in Alice’s eyes, she continued, “I can tell you that she went down in her diving gear and never came up.”

She sighed and turned to look out the window as if the truth was too hard to say, too hard to face. “Then we finally found out what happened.” She turned back to Alice with a shimmer in her eye. The Captain did have emotions, Alice thought just before the captain shot out, “A kraken got her.”

Alice’s heart hardened, refusing the words. Merna might have known her mom, but Alice wouldn’t believe it, because she KNEW her mom. Mom was smart and resourceful and extremely cautious. And unless Alice saw proof, she would not be moved. There had to be a different explanation.

The Captain leaned forward. Her eye brows drawn into a growing worry line. “Alice I wished I had a different answer. I wish it wasn’t these beasts. I wish they would go back to where they are from. They shouldn’t even be here, the bloody beasties.” The sudden savageness in her eye brought a coldness to Alice.

Then a thought came to her and she had to know, “You’ve been hunting the beasts haven’t you? Because of what happened to mom?”

Merna sat back, her eye empty and cold. “Your mom had been on the team because of me. I would never have invited her if I had known about what we were going to encounter.”

Alice whispered, “They aren’t from here, are they?”

Merna’s eye sharpened, “The beastie talked to you, did it?” She leaned back across the desk and lowered her voice, “Those creatures certainly wants us to believe that. The Krakens use images and twist their experiences to scare us away. Those beasties want us to believe a whole other world is down there in those depths.”

She stood and walked up to the window peering into the water world beyond it, “What I know Alice is that we’ve woken the monsters and now we bear the consequences of dealing with them. The technology of these ancient people seem to give us a good idea of how to defend against and even hunt them.”

Merna turned around, “I will kill everything down here. We will get all the resources we need from them, and we will dominate as man always has. What matters is what our people need. Their city and world and way of being is dead if it ever existed.” Her eye showed her whole being was set on her cause.

How could animals have a city? She spoke like the animals were a people group. Alice gripped her hands together and buried her question.
Merna continued passion ebbing in her voice into a reassuring tone, “Alice, these creatures will die for what happened to your mom, even if I have to lose another eye to them.”

Alice’s heart-felt hopes began to waver. The captain truly believed mom had been killed. “Captain Merna, no body has been found, right? You know mom is resourceful. Maybe she-”

“No,” Merna interrupted, “We may have found no body, but with her scuba gear in the belly of that beast…The stomach acid gets rid of organic matter quickly. So all those items we found are the only things that could survive its stomach.” Merna’s hard eyes took her in, considering Alice. She came to a conclusion.

“Alice, I want to let you see your mom’s things. Wait here,” and she left Alice there while the girl’s heart was slowly being pulled over the edge into a dark world where one never plans to be. And it crept. The darkness. It came from the corners, swirled around her legs and up and up…darkening her vision and stealing her hope, and yet she whispered, “Unless I see proof, I will not be moved.”


It was in a box.

Merna had brought in what was left of mom’s diving gear in it, and sat it down on the sofa. “Alice, I’ll give you time. But I will also bring some of her things from our research.”

Yes, Merna was giving her time. Time to accept what Merna had been trying to tell her all along. That Mom was gone.

And the box sat on Merna’s sofa.

Alice stood and stared down at the white box. The room was ice cold. She couldn’t even feel her trembling fingers touch the box. She lifted the white lid.

Like her submarine, the equipment was scarred like it was burned and what little shreds of rubber were left were horribly disfigured. It left nothing to the imagination as to what happened to the human being wearing the equipment. Alice covered her mouth, stomach heaving and crushed the lid down in her other hand, and collapsed to the floor by the sofa eyes closed.

Breathe in – breathe out. Breathe in – breathe out.

Just breathe Just breathe Just breathe

The counselor said the panic attacks or this feeling of drowning in her grief were common, were normal. You just needed to breathe through them. Breathe in, breathe out.

“Breathe,” she whispered, eyes burning. A choked sob and whisper, “It can’t be true.” Yet the cold, hard evidence was literally in her hands. This had actually been what she’d been seeking. Closure. Opening her eyes, she focused on the wall of water telling herself not to cry, just face the truth, accept the truth.

But this wasn’t right. It was too real, too wrong.

It’s just a bad dream. Just a bad dream! She would wake up, and she’d be at her summer apartment. Mom would eventually call from her special satellite phone at sea. Dad would have her over for dinner and they would have their routine conversation and the world would be alright. She sunk to the floor and burying her head in her arms to hide from the world, to hide from herself, and to hide from reality.

After a time, Alice raised her aching, swollen head and saw more boxes at the door. She crawled over to them.

Her sticky, wet hair was pasted to her forehead. Using her fingers to brush it from her face, she preceded to wipe her nose and scoot closer to what her mom had left behind. At the open box, she gripped the edges as another sob attempted to waylay her. Alice whispered tightly, “Its fine. Its fine. Its fiiiine.” Breeeeaathe.

A heaving breath out and it began to pass, the tightness in her chest.

Then Alice began to look.

She made herself look.

The boxes were full. Full of mom’s notes, piles and piles of them and pictures of the underwater dig site. Deep inside of Alice something sparked at pictures of the ancient city that was being revealed. A something she thought was dead. Alice pulled out the next pile. It contained sketches of monsters and blurry pictures of a beast that made her heart skip. It was him, the kraken. Mom had been close enough for pictures? Why had she stayed if she knew?

Alice began to study the notes. Mom was a master maritime archaeologist but organizing notes required great effort from her. She tended to save doing it until the end. As she waded through all the information, she found notes from dad. His writing she could barely understand. His writing was even worse than mom’s. And Dad liked taking notes on his I-pad by hand. It appeared that Dad had been helping mom translate the language. Apparently it was a relative to Greek and Latin.

That must have been fun. Alice felt envy peek its head. Why hadn’t they asked her to help them? Knowing dad, he would never have thought to mention it to her. Shrugging it off, she moved on.

Something glinted in the corner of the box, separate from everything else, like it wasn’t meant to be there. Reaching towards it, Alice realized it was a slim video cam. Flipping the screen open, she turned it on and waited for it to power up.

Beep Beep Beep.

Immediately a video began to play.

“Julian, Ian?

Alice’s breath stopped short. She gave a small cry, “Mom?”

Hello! Guys, don’t leave me hanging here.”

Smiling through her tears, Alice walked over to curl up on the blue cushioned seat, cradling the video cam in her hands close to her face.

#

Leaning into the camera, her blonde haired, blue-eyed mom adjusted the tilt and leaned back.

“Clara, we’re both here,” Julian’s voice cracked softly on the audio.

Clara smile softened, “Hi, honey. I’m so glad we were able to connect. The island’s WiFi isn’t as reliable as I’d like.” The view screen split all at once. Clara, Julian, and Ian were quartered to all be viewable.

“Where’s Dr. Drew?” Ian asked.

Just then the bottom right corner flickered and a nose and large mouth filled the small corner screen.

“Uhh…? Dr. Drew?” Clara leaned forward with a smile. “Dr. Drew try leaning back.” The large face shrunk to normal size and they saw an older gentleman in button up shirt and bow tie beaming at them.

“Oh my, I’ve figured it out. Alfred Butler take that! I told him it would be easy.” The older gentleman chuckled. His face however was upside down. No one seemed inclined to let him know.

Clara laughed, “Tell Alfred that Clara says hello.”

The conversation continued like so. They had apparently gathered to help Clara as she was stumped on what she was uncovering at the dig site, and there was a strange lack of pottery that tended to pepper these ancient sites.

As Alice listened in to the recorded conversation, the group dug further and further in to each item with her mom jotting down notes. They were concluding that the strange artifacts that were definitely man-made but they weren’t able to make heads or tails of them. It was all too alien.

“Clara, maybe their activated by water? This civilization was by the sea most likely. I know, I know, I’m crazy, but just humor me.” Julian’s intent gaze peered at Clara with a small grin. Dad? Being the imaginative one? Alice touched the screen. She missed dad’s smile.

Clara walked away from the screen and came back with a black formed object with something sticking out that looked like a ballerina, like a little mechanical toy. Clara had been unable to puzzle out how it was supposed to work. But now, she grabbed a cup of water and going against all procedural processes and trusting my dad, she drizzled water over it.
Nothing.

Clara gave a faint smile, “I’m sure you already thought of this, but it came out of the water.”

Julian nodded, “Okay, now, press the buttons or whatever you did before.” Clara tilted the delicate dancing girl and glinting along the side were faint script of some sort. “Wait, Clara, what’s that script say?”

“Hmm…Dear, I think we will have to decipher this language, because I have no idea.”

The call continued that they’d meet up again after some headway had been made on translation. No doubt that was the key to figuring out how their technology worked, for this particular piece anyway.

Ian and Dr. Drew left, giving mom and dad their time.

“I’m so excited for you, Clara. This is the find of the century for sure.” His tender gaze embraced her mom. Alice’s heart ached. Where had this dad gone?

“Julian, I wish both you and Alice could be here. But it is good for Alice to make friends and break out on her own.” Her dad nodded, but after a moment, Clara narrowed her eyes. “What is it Julian?” Mom had an uncanny ability to read emotions, and it felt like she could read your thoughts. She was so an empath if such a thing existed.

Julian dropped his gaze. “Alice came over last night.”

Clara waited, “And?”

“I miss her. Having her home.” He wouldn’t look up.

A smile inched across mom’s face.

“Julian, are you pouting?” She started laughing. His face went red. Alice was dumbfounded. “Okay, Julian, I’m sending you a letter with all the activities that I can think up for you to do with Alice. And Julian?”

She waited until he looked up. “Tell her. She won’t know what you are feeling or thinking if you don’t tell her.” He looked like she’d asked him to pull out all his teeth.

“Clara,” was all he said.

Her tender gaze embraced him through the screen. Alice suddenly felt like she had invaded on their privacy. She began to move to turn it off when her dad finally broke, “I just think, she’d rather be anywhere else but with me. I think me not being there is the best thing for her.”

Alice stomach clenched. Is that what he really thought? Why had he never talked to her?

“I’m going to stop you right there. Your daughter loves you. She needs you, even if you don’t see it. Now, mister, you are being assigned to make a movie date with her at home. Make popcorn. You know the fun popcorn with Nacho Cheese that you like, okay?”

He nodded. Then after a few ‘I love yous’ they signed off.

#

Alice let the memories come. She faintly remembered dad trying to make a movie night together, but something at school had come up. Her heart began to ache. She’d never realized dad was so insecure about how much she needed him.

All of a sudden, the video started up again, all by itself. The video was dark, but a man’s voice came across the feed. “Alice, please look into what’s going on here. I put some confidential emails in the stack in this box. Don’t show these things to anyone. Don’t trust anyone. Be safe. Your mom would-” the video cut off.

What? Was someone messing with her?

Alice replayed the video.

Silence filled the room after it ended. No doubt someone would soon be coming for her. It had been awhile since Merna left her. She went back to the box by the door then brought it back to the chair. The video cam must have just been put in the box for it to be addressed to her. She slid it into her zippered pocket on her side before turning back to the box.

Flipping through the papers, Alice quickly found the emails.

The first email seemed okay. It was just an update on her findings. The second however her mom was requesting the Navy to be present if they were to continue. The third requested that they end the project until all sonic blasts had ceased within a 1000 mile radius. The fourth demanded action and that she would be closing up the site that week. That was the end of the emails. It was dated the week mom had disappeared.

Alice knew the government had been the funding behind the project, right? Why hadn’t they taken her seriously? Who would really ignore the head researcher and why?

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Sea Siren: Chapter Five

Beasties

Water dripped on her arms and head from the hatch as Alice climbed out. A surreal golden glow filled the area. Where was the light coming from? She heaved herself up and out, feet searching for a hold. Her foot found the first sawtooth rung embedded in the side of the hull. Under her hands the metal of the submarine was cold, and the cool air outside the sub woke her.

This was real.

The murmuring of the pilots reached her from below around her sub. Then at the clack of Captain Merna’s step approaching they snapped to attention. Alice would snap to attention too.

Captain Merna towered over all the men, her muscular frame carrying her with ease through the crowd, hard eyes taking in the battered submarine. Alice noted the new addition of a black patch over her right eye.

She felt the urge to stay high and keep the advantage, to keep distance between her and reality but it was a false advantage.

Captain Merna spoke without turning to her second in command. “Get Cretan on these repairs. It looks like one of those mind-speaking Krakens again. Have the men check the border of the trench for it. And I want this sub sea worthy, so that we can get it back to the research vessel. Then put out a warning to the coast guard – No civilians are to be in the area.”

Alice froze from putting her foot down to the next foothold. So they not only knew about the Kraken but had encountered them before. They spoke as if it was common to bring back vehicles in this condition. How did they know it was a Kraken from the damage?

Alice looked closer at her sub as she went down to the next foothold. Etchings almost like burned, molten marks seared the sides. Her heart went cold. If it had touched her…

Merna herself traced the marks as she spoke up to Alice, “Looks like you encountered quite the beastie.” Merna met Alice’s gaze after she dropped the last foot to the metal floor.

Not one easily surprised, her eye widened in that moment, “Clara..” she whispered.

Then Merna spoke to her lieutenant in a softer, yet still brisk tone. “Lieutenant, I’m taking her to my office for questioning. Get Alec for me.” Then she was back to her brusque self and turned about face.

Saluted by the men, Merna walked away long legs covering ground faster than Alice’s ever would. Alice jogged to catch up, her heart racing from the exertion or more likely from hearing her mom’s name on the Captain’s lips. What did Merna know?


Last year, Captain Merna had visited when Alice was at school. Alice had seen her leaving. No one could forget a person like the Captain. But why had they chosen her to inform their family about the end of the search? That mom was officially left for missing?

And then…Merna must have known her mom. Being the mirror image of her mom easily confused people.

How had the two known each other?

They passed from one hallway into another when the left wall ended. A vision of massive blue coils glowed in the middle of a drop that had to go down for a mile. It also extended to the ceiling with what felt like an infinite height.

Alice slowed, mouth parting in surprise. “Wha-What is this?” She stepped closer to the railing and let her eyes drop.

It was like a dream. People milling on other floors could be seen in all levels down to a small point that could barely be seen below. Magical, how it glowed.

Merna slowed looking back at Alice. A grin took over her solemn face. She stepped to the edge too, and looked down at the glowing blue coils. “Magnificent, isn’t it? We have Clara to thank for this.”

On all levels everyone seemed to be working relentlessly. There was a gentle hum to the noise of people communicating and operating machinery.

Alice stood there staring down as Merna continued, “Because of her discovery of ancient artifacts and technology our scientists were able to decipher, reverse engineer and build upon the technology to bring this ship into existence. There was so much more down here that she would have been so excited to be uncovering-”

Alice interrupted, “Do you think mom is still alive?” Mom wouldn’t have like her interrupting but she wanted, no, she needed to know.

Merna’s face shuttered. She spoke with the care of one choosing words delicately, “Alice, we weren’t able to reveal our findings in the last year due to confidentiality surrounding our current state of affairs but your mom didn’t disappear. She is gone.”

Next: Sea Siren: Chapter Six

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Sea Siren: Chapter Four

Flying In The Dark

Darkness. Inky black. Ash. No name seemed to fit the death color that surrounded her sub. Nothing should be able to live down here, and yet, her heart still beat with hope. It had to. Otherwise, it would stop. For who could live without hope?

Sometimes she felt like she was missing something. A piece. It made her feel like a ghost of the real Alice. Something broke in her the day they’d stopped searching for mom, and Alice knew it needed fixed, yet no one knew how to help.

So Alice persisted. She took the internship. She traveled in this sub to the trench. She followed this strange man in the sea.

Then finally, down here, she had felt the fuzziness of life begin to sharpen, to have purpose. That’s what it was. Until she’d been brought to the very place her mom had disappeared, everything had felt purposeless. Like she was just doing life because that is what you were supposed to do.

But now.

She was here. A place where she might begin to understand, to accept, to grieve. This was the hope of purpose she was looking for. She had to understand what happened to mom so that she could accept it. Accept it so her heart would be at peace to live again. And maybe that was what Dr. Leland had seen in her.

Before her, the sea began to lighten. She had finally leveled the sub and before her the ghostly figure propelled himself by the power of his trident. He put the head down and the spears whirled pushing him faster, deeper. His waves thundered against her own submarine, and she pushed on the throttle to keep steady through the onslaught. Her legs trembled as she tried to hold her body steady, to hold her hope steady.

Where was he going?

In a swirl of bubbling water, the man disappeared from the reach of her lights. Fading into the darkness that ate everything. Darkness that devoured hope, devoured dreams. Now, her heart trembled along with her hands as she pressed into that darkness. Hope still lurked on the precipice of her soul. Likely it would be what killed her.

As the water rushed against her sub, Alice realized that it wasn’t the man who was creating the current. Something else had. Something large.

And then, there it was.

It was huge. Such a small word to describe a massive vessel that was so large that even leaning into her dome window, she couldn’t see the sides, top or bottom. They faded into the black depths of the sea.

The mass of it weighed into her soul, her hands stilled, and her breath steadied. Such a curious effect. Realizing one’s own smallness tends to affect one in a myriad of ways. If there were such large things in this world, it felt like her problems were more manageable. Though if she tried to explain what was going on in her body at the moment, she would have no words.

The whirring of massive engines echoed and vibrated the sea around her, glowing a dim blue. She couldn’t figure out how it glowed.

Staring up at it, Alice was unaware of the oncoming mini subs. One moment she was drifting alone and the next she was surrounded by them. They looked for all the world like airplanes with the exception that they were underwater. The one closest to her had a blond man with a military haircut. He pointed at her, then himself, then toward the ship.

He wanted her to follow him.

In the background, the alarm for the air recycler failing went off. What choice did she have, really? She nodded.

They zoomed down toward the underbelly of the massive sea vessel. It took awhile. And she followed him down. They made their way to an opening in the bottom that curved in and then up the metal column inside.

The surface of the water inside didn’t come as soon as she expected, but it did hit fast when it came. She popped high on the inside hanger before plopping back into the water. The arching ceiling above the water and the large room was blimp-like in structure. It looked like it extended almost a mile each direction. How was such a structure possible? All down the sides were submarines and…planes? There was no technology to have such a large vessel this deep. Yet, here it was.

What was this place?

A line of uniformed men jogged toward the opening that she and the other mini-subs were floating in. Alice’s eyes narrowed. The Navy? But wait, the emblem was different. It looked like a mix between the Navy and the Air force. Were they making a new program? She knew next to nothing about the government’s defense programs and the members in it, but she was pretty sure these guys shouldn’t exist.

In that moment, her sub shook as something clamped down on it from above. Alice leaned forward looking up. A large crane had latched on. Yep, she was totally about to be boarded or rather deboarded. She sat back into her chair. All the other little airplane-like subs were being hauled out as well.

Alice was already practicing her story. She had just been collecting samples when she’d been attacked by an impossible, mystical creature that should never have existed. Then she followed one of their men to their ships before they brought her aboard.

As they were settling her sub onto a hold, Alice saw a woman approaching. She stopped practicing her story. It was the woman who had told her that her mother had disappeared at sea.

NEXT: Sea Siren: Chapter Five

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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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