The first thing I felt when I hit the water, was fear. It had been months since I’d last dived, hell, I even got nervous when I took showers. But this…guilt, this pain in my chest, I had to go back. I started to swim, arms cutting through the water and pulling me forward, towards the submersible. I climbed atop it, taking the hand of Harry, who pulled me out of the water and gave me a stern look.
“There, you warmed up enough?”
He asked, irritated that I’d needed to splash around in the water before getting started, but understanding why. I nodded, taking a deep breath through my nose and sighing.
We climbed inside, where the rest of the crew waited. There was Robbert, my previous captain, an older man in his late 40’s, his grey beard and short grey hair almost making a box around his face. He was sitting next to Irine, a short stout woman with black hair and green eyes. I took my seat next to Robbert, and Harry sat at the helm, starting to take us down.
When Robbert had heard I wanted to go back down, he called me insane. He hadn’t seen what took Brett, what attacked us down there, but he had heard enough over the radio to know we should leave that island and go far, far away. It turns out I wasn’t the only one keen on going back down, however. Shortly after our conversation, we were met outside our office by a few men in military garbs. They greeted us as Lieutenant Harry and Lieutenant Commander Johnson.
“We’re here on behalf of the NOAA.”
They had said, and I saw Robbert’s face twist with rage. He took a step forward, pointing at Johnson’s chest and shouting in his face.
“Two months! It’s been two whole months of us trying to get ahold of you! What the fuck kind of games are you playing at?!”
Ann pulled on him, trying to pry him away from the men. Johnson wiped the spit from his face, and answered calmly.
“We weren’t allowed to make contact, not until we had more information.”
He barely got the sentence out before Robbert was shouting again.
“What information, what was that?! What happened to that boy you sent to die?!”
Johnson removed his hat, putting it to his chest and lowering his eyes.
“What happened to Brett was…we couldn’t have known.”
The HOV jostled in the water, shaking me from my thoughts. The HOV we sat in was around 60 feet long. It was cramped inside, and we didn’t really have room to travel, as the inhabitable part of the HOV submersible was around 15 feet long. It had a control console at the front, with chairs for each of us behind it. Ahead of the console was our window, with lights on either side, shining out into the emptiness ahead. I looked out into the dark, gazing into it and waiting, half expecting something to glide out of the darkness and swallow us whole.
“What’s our depth?”
I asked, shaking the thought from my head. Robbert looked over the console in front of him before reading out 1400 meters. We were about halfway to the entrance of the trench, and I let out a shaky breath., which caused Irine to turn her head to look at me.
“You gonna be able to handle this?”
She asked, and I gave her a solemn nod.
“We need you to go back, into the trench again.”
Johnson had said to me, locking eyes and trying to read my reaction. He seemed surprised by my answer, eyes going a little wide when I agreed.
“…I thought that would take more convincing.”
He joked, sitting back and letting out a breath. I could feel Robbert wanting to speak, trying to come up with something to say, but I decided to continue.
“You’re going to have to pay us…a lot. But, yeah. I get the feeling you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t important. And you’re sending some of your guys with us this time, I’m not going down there to die and I want to know you’re invested in my safety.”
A grin crossed his lips, and he nodded before replying calmly.
“Harry will be going with you, along with one of our navigation officers. You’re going in a sub this time; you shouldn’t even need to get your toes wet if we can help it.”
He’d said, and Robbert finally found his words.
“Why? What could you possibly want down there?”
Johnson’s face turned a deadly serious, his voice low and firm.
“We’re going to blow it up.”
“27 hundred meters, time to get to work.”
Irine called, and I shook the daze from my mind. We were all staring out the window now, watching the bubbles rise past us. Harry was the next to speak, his voice sounded concerned for the first time since we met.
“…Shouldn’t we be seeing some by now? They’ve been all over the archipelago, I figured we would see them pouring out of here in swarms.”
We all stared for a few moments longer, before he turned and nudged me with his elbow, his voice irritated now.
“Well? You’re the fuckin’ expert here, answer me.”
I glared at him, but Robbert spoke for me, standing up as he did.
“He saw them once, you’ve got a head, fucking use it. There are no experts, not for something like this.”
Harry stared daggers into him for a moment, but seemed to back down, turning his head back to the console as he navigated us deeper into the trench. I nodded my appreciation at Robbert, and he sat back down.
The logistics of dropping a bomb into a mile-wide opening in the ocean floor aren’t as complicated as you might think. In fact, there should be no repercussions at all. The water pressure would compress the explosion and absorb most of its energy, and while the gases would bubble up to the surface, their harm to the environment would be minimal. Due to the nature of this threat, the damage to sea life wasn’t a concern.
However, this was a double-edged sword. Unless we were dropping something nuclear, the explosion wouldn’t be big enough to vaporize everything within the trench, and while certainly doable, there was worry that what radiation made it into the atmosphere could rain down onto the Galapagos Islands, and while the radiation left in the ocean would dilute into the water after about a day, it was possible that it could still cause some harm to the islands and their inhabitants. This meant we needed a smaller bomb…and someone to put it in the perfect spot.
A little thump was heard, as what looked like a squid bumped into the glass of our submersible. We all watched as it tried to keep pace with us, bumping into the glass again and again.
Said Irine, leaning forwards and squinting at the strangely behaving squid. It slowly spun around, and Harry gagged at the sight of it. While the front of it had been untouched, the back was swollen and pulsing, covered in dozens of small holes, all clustered together. Small worms poked out of the holes, poking at the glass before retreating back inside. They were long and red, and had disk-like growths for heads. After a few more prods, it seemed to lose interest, and drift away. We saw another, this one a string ray, its body missing its fins as they had been completely consumed by the worms, and as it floated past, we saw more and more, dozens of them drifting up and past us.
Harry was taking deep breaths, and Irine put a hand on his shoulder, her voice somewhat soothing, though just barely.
She asked him, and he shook his head for a moment, before regaining his composure and answering.
“Yeah…that was fucking disgusting.”
And that, we all agreed on.
“Why can’t you just drop a bomb into the trench and be done with it? What good would be done by having us go down there?”
Robbert demanded. His frustration beginning to grow again.
“We aren’t nuking the trench, this is a targeted bombing, and we need someone who has been down there before to help us pinpoint exactly what we’re looking for.”
“And what exactly are you looking for…?”
I asked, my stomach twisting with anxiety.
“We believe there is…some sort of source, like a nesting ground, or a queen that these things are coming from. We believe if we blow it up, we will be able to contain the threat.”
I began to replay that day in my head, walking through everything I’d seen in my mind’s eye, as Robbert spoke up again.
“He barely went in, he can’t hel-”
I cut him off, eyes going wide as one image came to the forefront of my mind.
“There was…a whale. It had worms in it, hundreds, and they were big. Bigger than you’d believe. Big enough to yank Brett inside like he was a ragdoll. And the whale, it was alive, they didn’t kill it.”
The men both looked at each other, and then back at me before answering.
“Yeah…that could be it.”
The sub was drifting to a stop now, and I stood up, looking out through the glass. The others rose as well, each of us moving over to the glass to get a better look. Ahead of us, we saw glowing yellow lights, dim and faint, but there nonetheless.
“What’s our depth?”
Robbert asked as he reached out and put a hand on the glass. Irine moved back to her seat and read the numbers off the gauge, causing us all the grow quiet again. 7400 meters. 7400 meters below the surface of the ocean, nearly as deep as Mount Everest is tall.
“Is that…the bottom?”
Irine asked, and Harry fiddled with the controls for a moment.
“Let’s find out.”
And with the press of a button, the sub launched a flare into the distance. It flung out into the water, farther and farther away from us, and closer to the dim lights in the distance. After a few seconds, it ignited properly, starting to drift down towards the floor, and I felt my stomach begin to twist and turn.
The dim yellow lights we saw in the distance were illuminated now, at the bed of the trench was a field of writhing cysts, each one filled with a sickly yellow liquid that glowed softly against the dark ocean water, pulsing slowly with light and movement. They looked like the eyes of a fly, each one a single big mound with hundreds of small bubbles on its surface, each wriggling and twitching with life. From time to time, some of the cyst’s small pustules would pop, releasing small waves of the worms, and leaking a thick viscous fluid into the water that sank to the bottom and started to clump together, slowly forming a new, smaller cyst.
Robbert said, taking a step away from the glass and resting a hand on the wall next to him, looking close to losing his lunch, and to be fair, we all were at that point.
“Up one nest…” Harry said, “But no whale in sight.”
Unfortunately, what greeted us next was far worse than the whale. We couldn’t see it, not all of it at least, it was too dark, and too big. We caught sight of it when it began to investigate the flare sinking down towards the nest. At first, it was just a dark shape in the water, slowly moving around the flare, but as it got closer, we began to see more of its long, dark form. Harry fired off a second flare, and as it shown closer to the thing, we got a much better look.
Circling around the mound of cysts was a massive, pale black, eel-like creature. Its body was slender and slimy, with a long white fin on its top and bottom running the length of its body, and two more regular fins on either side that waved and twisted as it turned through the water. We could feel the water being displaced by its powerful movements from here, jostling our sub, and it slowly turned, revealing its face to us. It was a gaping maw, round and lined with rows and rows of teeth. It dripped a sickly yellow liquid, and as the creature slowly lowered its head to the ocean floor, its body writhed and convulsed, and we saw a round shape push up its body like how an egg can be seen traveling down the belly of a snake. When this shape reached the mouth, the creature vomited a large clump of the yellow snot onto the ocean floor, which wriggled and formed into another cyst.
“We need to go, we can’t blow that thing us, we need…hell, missiles, or something.”
Irine said, all of our eyes locked onto the shape, floating around the ocean like a ribbon caught in a current. Harry nodded slowly, and began to take us back up. As he did, however, the thing seemed to lose interest in the dimming flares, and catch sight of us. The last thing we saw before the flares died out, was its massive form, waving back and forth in the water like a snake as it made its approach. We sat frozen, too afraid to move or speak, and Irine’s hand slowly reached out, and pressed a button, shutting off the lights.
After a few more seconds had passed, Robbert spoke up.
“Should we fire another flare? Maybe it’ll go after it and we can get away.”
Harry’s hand hovered over the control to launch the flare, shaking. He slowly reached down, and pressed it. We all watched the flare sail out into the water like a dim shooting star, before erupting into light. Just 30 meters in front of us, headed straight for us with its gaping mouth stretching open wider somehow, was the queen.
The submersible descended into chaos as it made contact, smashing into us and latching onto the window like a suction cup, knocking us all out of our seats. The sub was designed to withstand the immense pressure of the ocean depths, but not this, and the glass began to crack and seep water into the helm. We were halfway inside of its mouth, and its curved teeth gripped the sub, pulling us deeper as they cut small white lines into the glass. Harry was the first one up, firing flares as fast as he could, and 3 more shot off, landing on the creature. It didn’t seem to appreciate this, and let go, flinging the submersible through the water.
Harry was yanking on the sticks now, steadying the thing and driving it away as fast as he could, but it wasn’t exactly designed for speed, and we were sure that thing would be right behind us, coming back to finish the job. We couldn’t run, we were trapped in this metal coffin at the bottom of the ocean, 15 feet of air in miles and miles of water. I was gripping the chair with all my strength, knuckles turning white as I did, and Irine was frantically looking over the controls, searching for some way out of this situation, some magic button to save us.
We couldn’t drop the bomb, it had to be carefully deployed with the arm on our craft, and blowing it up before we made it at least 2000 meters away would surely end in us getting caught in the explosion. So instead, we sat, and waited to die. We couldn’t see it, we didn’t have a viewpoint at the back of the HOV, but we could hear it. Its long body moving the water aside, back and forth in slow, long motions.
Harry held the stick, powering us forward, but the rest of us were staring at the depth gauge as it slowly ticked up and up. 7200 meters, 7150, 7100. We kept climbing, waiting for our ship to come to a stop, waiting for it to grab our engine and tear us to shreds, but as we got higher and higher, we started to breathe, started to calm down somewhat. After a while, we couldn’t hear it anymore, couldn’t feel the waves it caused under the water pushing us back and forth, and for a brief moment, we felt we could relax. That is, until we saw the surface.
From the light coming down through the water, we could see dozens of fish, all drifting or floating weirdly and we knew, we knew it was the worms. We may have survived, but we also failed, and whatever that was, it was only going to get worse.
I’m back on land now, back in my home, sitting at my desk. I don’t have a happy ending for you, those things are still out there, and we couldn’t stop them. Hopefully the NOAA have a plan because the ocean isn’t safe anymore. Please, stay out of the water.
Credit : Spookydude43
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