Tony and Allison sat jovially at the edge of the schooner anticipating the plunge while their captain settled the boat somewhere between the sun and the water. Tony and Allison’s anniversary had been but a few days back, and for their first they had decided to do something the both of them had recently begun to desire: go scuba diving.
And now they were finally here, at the precipice of their aspirations, donning their suits and face masks and getting ready for an afternoon full of memories the both of them would hold onto for the rest of their lives.
The day was perfect, sunshine beating down to warm the soon-to-be divers and the water around them. Allison chuckled when she noticed that the pale skin on Tony’s bridged nose was starting to turn pink. She reached into her bag and retrieved a small bottle of sunscreen and before Tony could protest, Allison dabbed a little on her finger and had blotched it on his nose. His surprised response made her laugh. Tony with love and annoyance in his eyes, rubbed the excess into his nose, which of course he noted would probably be gone the second they hit the water.
They looked around at the blue, clear sky above them as the captain came over to assist the couple with their breathing gear. Allison put her goggles on and bit down on the mouthpiece while Tony tried to make his goggles sit comfortably with the additional sunscreen.
They, together and holding hands, leaned backwards off the side of the boat and plunged into the sea. Tony held his eyes closed and Allison’s hand tight for a few seconds after the initial shock of hitting the cold water. When his mind and body caught up to each other, he slowly opened his eyes to see a world of blue. Allison who floated right beside him twirled in the water with childish glee. She pointed downward. Tony moved his eyes to where her finger was pointing: the light and playful blue around him was swallowed by a void of blackness that extended, as far he could tell, downward indefinitely. Suddenly, Tony felt very alone, surrounded by miles of water all around him with no company except Allison who was figuring out her flippers a few meters away. Tony looked down again, but this time, the black unknown painted images for Tony that made him miss the feeling of being alone. Any quality, quantity, or variety of shark or squid could be lurking just below the light, waiting for the pair of divers to descend. The feeling crept up from below from his feet and through his legs and torso until it consumed him.
Allison stopped her twirls in the water to excitedly look over at Tony to see if he was enjoying this the way she was. She saw him frozen goggles angled down toward the black that carpeted the world below them. She laughed into her breathing kit and swam over to give him a gentle nudge. Tony seemed to awake from his daze and shook himself to look at Allison, who had a glint of harassment in her gaze, the corners of her lips turned up into a smile. Tony exhaled exasperatedly and bubbles flew up around his mask to reach the sky above. Allison began to descend and after a few moments to gather his courage, Tony followed suit.
The blackness swallowed them whole, but the deeper the duo descended, the more they were able to see what was below them. At first it was just more black, but soon, they found the sea floor. It was gray and sedimentary with a few washed boulders scattered along the scenery. Allison looked excitedly over at Tony, who was regaining his nerves at having found the extent of their watery surroundings.
The pair glided over the sea floor, passing through the occasional water plant or seeing the occasional fish or crab dart under a rock when they approached. It was beautiful, but it was lonely, even with the two of them there.
Suddenly, they approached a very clear line. On one side, the side they were coming from, there was at least a little life here and there, even if a little skittish. But the other side of the line was blanketed with death. No plant grew beyond the line and when fish approached they promptly turned and swam in the other direction, as if they were compelled by some calling instinct to flee.
Tony and Allsion stopped at the line and looked over it. With the way the ocean floor curved, it looked like the line, or rather, a circumference, ran over to each side before curving back behind the epicenter. Allison gazed intently at a world beyond the one she was in and already unaccustomed to. She began to move forward, toward the epicenter, compelled by curiosity.
Tony glanced over at Allison who incredibly naturally glided over the sea floor. He reached out swiftly and grabbed her flipper in haste. She turned wide-eyed to see what had caught her, but smiled when she saw that it was just a timid Tony. She relaxed in the water over to him, put a hand on his cheek, and smiled. Tony did not share the same sentiment, and nodded his head repeatedly to the left, indicating that they should turn around and leave from the way they came. Allison, an adventurer at heart, grabbed Tony’s hand and dragged her reluctant partner behind her.
They glided over the sea floor, keeping close to the ground to keep their bearings. Allison found herself scanning the area all around her. She felt her muscles tighten and her mouth ran dry. As the two progressed, the water felt like it was thicker to swim through, and presently became colder. Tony looked behind him, sure that they had been descending, only to find flat, consistent ground behind them. When he turned back forward, he found a still Allison floating gently in the water. He swam up to her and followed her goggles, but he did not have to search far: looming over them was an enormous steel vessel. Tony was shocked, it was as if they had been swimming up to this giant boat for some time by how close it was. Tony could almost reach out his hand and touch it.
The pair floated for a moment, suspended in the abnormally-cold water, taking in the grandeur of this ancient piece of history. It had nearly no external markings, but Tony could make out some paint on the sides that were too washed away to identify the ship. The hull was covered in holes of all kinds of sizes, ranging from what might have been bullet holes to holes that Tony guessed must have been a meter in diameter.
It was awe-striking, and Tony and Allison simply stared at the sunken marvel in front of them.
Allison started to move forward. She swam slowly at first, approaching one of the larger holes in the hull. Tony looked over dreamily to see his partner moving forward. He started to move to follow behind her when he shook himself back, shivering as he noticed the freezing water. Again, he darted forward and caught Allison’s flipper. She turned robotically to look at Tony. Her face was cast downward and the lines under her eyes were sunken in; she looked exhausted. Then she blinked her eyes and light returned to her cheeks and she smiled at Tony. She shook her flipper free and again grabbed him by the hand, pulling him in toward the nearest mouth in the hull. He shook his hand free and used his body to pull away from the boat and Allison, his eyes starting to carry a little more fear in them. But Allison, in the insistent way that she did, swam over to Tony and pulled him in toward the colder water. Up close, he could really see under her eyes, which seemed darker than they had minutes ago.
Finally, Tony broke and felt himself letting Allison pull him, partially against his will, to the nearest hole in the vessel. They peered inside. It was dark, even considering the depth that they were at, and they could not make out much of anything. Allison looked over at Tony, eyes glinting, before she grabbed the lips of the hole and pulled herself inside the ship. As she slipped inside, the darkness swallowed her whole and Tony lost sight of her. He panicked for a moment and moved forward to see where she had gone, but as soon as he had his head through the hole, the interior was illuminated as if a lantern had been lit. He could see Allison, floating near the chandelier and momentarily relaxed before scanning down. The room looked Victorian, though everything was damaged heavily by water. There were archaic paintings that adorned the walls, and no furniture lined the floor. Instead, the floor of the ship was covered in dehydrated corpses, dozens of them, covering the floor like carpet. Tony almost didn’t notice them by how consistent their presence was along the floor. Spindly arms and fingers lay at all angles, some entwined with another body’s leg or with the fingers ran through patched hair that lay on scalps. The bodies were clothed to varying degrees, some with holey shirts and jagged pants and others in rotten, torn garb wrapped haphazardly about their thighs or torsos. Though their clothes varied, each of the bodies looked the same: shriveled, skeletal, dry, as if they had been dehydrated for years.
It was an appalling sight, but Tony was captivated by the sheer magnitude of it and the uniformity of the corpses. Taught faces teased into gaunt screams looked this way and that, and though their eyes were gone, Tony felt like they were watching him. He pulled his body inside using the same lip that Allison had. He reached in to grab a piece of metal jutting out of the hull to pull himself inside. Tony gave the metal a hard pull to hoist himself inside and as he did the frame around him buckled and collapsed.
Tony pulled himself inside up the chandelier up to a horrified Allison whose eyes were plastered on the missing space where Tony’s leg should have been. Tony looked down and screamed his breathing apparatus out. Allison had to help him get it back into his mouth as he choked in the blood-filled water around them. Tony looked back to the space he had just entered from: the interior sheet of metal had detached cleanly from the ceiling and like a watery guillotine had sliced off Tony’s leg below the knee on the way down.
The two of them were shocked to stillness for a moment until Allison began to act. She ripped her shirt and wrapped it as well as she could around Tony’s leg which bled more and more red into the watery room around them. When Allison finished her makeshift mend job, she looked up into a room that was now not only black, but red as well. The blood floated upward at first, but soon it settled down into the mess of bodies that littered the floor.
At first, it was just a jaw that relocated, then it was a finger that twitched, then arms and legs pulled gaunt torsos to their feet. Tony and Allison watched in horror as the carpet below them began to move, reaching out and grabbing blindly at the water around it.
Terrified, Allison and Tony moved to the sheet of metal that had fallen. It now blocked the hole they had entered through, as well as any others on that wall that they might have been able to squeeze through. They turned to face the nightmare around them to make their next move.
There was a doorway on the far wall across from them, but between the couple and the door was now a gnashing pile of limbs. The desiccated corpses began gulping at the blood-filled water, chewing through it as if it were coagulated. They began to fill out as they consumed more and more blood, forearms and calves starting to bulge below the pulled skin.
The couple panicked. Keeping as close to the ceiling as they could, they moved swiftly toward the door, Tony doing what he could to keep his eyes open, feeling light-headed from losing so much blood. They crept along the ceiling, Tony grabbing what holds he could to accommodate his leg.
Allison ducked down to get through the top of the doorway and turned to assist Tony, reaching out her hand as she did. Tony reached out his hand to grab hers, supporting himself on a jagged part of the ceiling to reach her. Tony reached Allison and pushed past his hand hold. She pulled him through the doorway, but stared in horror looking back into the room. Tony turned to see what she was looking at and saw a jostled piece of wood from the ceiling slowly floating into the carpet. It descended slowly, but time seemed to freeze for Allison and Tony, the moment not passing in the slightest.
Finally, the wood floated down and tapped a shoulder. The body that it had hit turned its head all the way around and looked straight at Tony with empty eyes. It slowly opened its desecrated jaw, letting it drop lower and lower until it was touching its sternum and then let out a ear-deafening and hoarse scream.
All at once, the other bodies gulping at the floating blood in the water turned at the exact same time to look at Tony and all dropped their rotten jaws to a scream in a deafening chorus. Then, they began to clamor over each other toward the couple. Tony and Allison wasted no time in retreating into the room they had just come into.
The old boiler room they found themselves in only offered things to get in their way. They vaulted over ancient water heaters and tanks all the while the wave of rotten flesh moved into the room and over the boilers like water engulfing anything in its path, all the while still screaming without ceasing. Tony and Allison moved as quickly as they could, but Tony began to slow down. Allison put his arm over her shoulder and tried to pull him through the water, but he was dragging behind her and the hoard was gaining on them. Allison looked into Tony’s tired yet terrified eyes one last time before pushing off of him toward the next room.
Tony floated downward toward the writhing mass. They reached up and grabbed his leg that had been severed and crowded mouths began to suck from Tony’s stump leg. Tony pushed off of them with his arms and kicked with his good leg, but soon the color drained from his face as more and more mouths insatiably sucked from his leg. Tony’s body began to shrivel, first from his legs, but the parched skin that clung to Tony’s skeleton grew more gaunt and closer to his face. Tony’s scared eyes stared into Allison before they too were sucked from the hole in his knee.
Allison turned frantically, but as she swam into the next room, her heart sank. The room was empty, devoid of any window or doorway or outlet. The hoard, having finished with Tony, moved toward Allison’s coffin. They moved slowly, as if stalking prey when suddenly Tony’s corpse writhed from within the pile, spindly and dry fingers flexing in agony. The corpse rose, but then slumped into the mass that was making its way toward Allison. The mass surrounded her from above and all sides and crept in closer as if testing the waters. Allison closed her eyes as she felt teeth sink into her skin, and was acutely aware of herself being dehydrated through teeth marks on her body. Her stretching skin pulled tighter and tighter across her face and as her eyes stretched open, she realized she could not see. All at once, the blackness in the room took her, and she lost herself in an insatiable hive mind, her will leaving her with her blood. When Allison was a husk, the mass settled and slumped, drawing odd angles with their limbs as they did. Allison’s corpse simply fell on top of the pile, face petrified to dehydrated terror. Not a drop of blood floated around the bodies, and air slowly seeped in a line of bubbles from two oxygen tanks from inside the mass.
Credit: W. I. Boggs
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