A brilliant golden sunset peered over the cliffside, reflecting off the gentle ebb and flow of waves on its side. A dusty, old Volkswagen van chugged along upwards around the bend as its three passengers looked out onto the scenic vista. Thomas, a well-built man and the oldest of the group with a stubbly beard and military-style short hair, drives the van, trying his best to keep his eyes trained on the road but finds himself distracted by the view. In the seat behind him is Alex, a young man that has a tall and average frame with medium-length brown hair parted to his right side. He looks over to his girlfriend, Denver, as she continues to talk over the phone. Denver is only a bit shorter than Alex with a thin frame and ginger hair that is tied up in a bun, her eyes fixated on the ocean. She adjusts her nose piercing with her free hand and continues to speak to her confidant over the phone.
“So, you’re sure this place is legit, right?” She asked with a hint of disease in her tone. Alex looked over to catch her gaze as she looked back at him. He gave her a faint smile as he leaned his head over to look long into the abyss below them over the cliffside. She simply nodded her head rhythmically, as if satisfied by what she was hearing from the other end. “Great, thanks… Yeah, I’ll give you a call when we’re leaving.” With that, she ends the call.
“So, what’s the deal?” Thomas piped up from the driver’s seat.
“Well, our man on the inside just finished making sure the coast was clear. So, he’ll let the security guards know he’s clocked in and on watch, then he’ll let us through. We’ll go in, do our thing, leave, and no one will be any the wiser.” She replied confidently.
“This will be the best $300 we could ever spend. Can you imagine what we’ll see down there? No one’s been down there in over a decade; it’s bound to have some cool stuff.” Alex chimed in.
After approximately a half hour more of driving, they pull up to the front gate and see the rusty, faded sign past all the caution tape and wire fencing that read,
“THE DEPTHS OCEANIC THEME PARK.”
The Depths was originally designed as an educationally focused interactive exhibit where people could experience a deep dive and come into contact with animatronic marine life, which was supposed to talk to the divers and tell them about their ecosystem and what have you. However, nearly ten years ago, it closed down suddenly and decisively for officially unknown reasons. Not long after, rumours spread like wildfire at first, saying that one of the machines had gone haywire and seriously injured someone, but of course, ancient rumours alone were not enough to deter three intrepid, rogue divers.
The trio brought the van to a slow stop as they approached the front gate where a man stood waiting for them in a security guard’s uniform. As he noticed them, he made his way over to them.
“So, you’re the guests? Park just closed, you know.” He said with a touch of sarcasm.
“Well, I’m sure the fish won’t mind if we poke around after hours.” Thomas said extending his hand out of the window, handing over a small envelope containing the three hundred dollars for their entry.
“Yeah, well, just be sure you’re out in two hours, okay? Second shift shows up around then, and if we get caught, we’re all fucked, got it?” He said bluntly as he counted the money in the envelope.
“You won’t even know we were here.” Alex said jokingly as he stepped out of the van.
As the guard began walking away, the trio went to the back of the van to gather their gear and made their way through the gate, which the guard had left slightly ajar for them to go through. As Thomas went to the front of the van to shut it off, Alex couldn’t help but notice that its headlights had illuminated a large, reflective yellow sign, which read “WARNING: This facility is unstable. Trespassers have the potential to experience bodily injury and/or death. Entry is forbidden and is monitored by local authorities.” He felt a slight sense of anxiety start welling up in him as the van headlights cut out, leaving the large building illuminated only by the humming, fluorescent lights of the guard posts.
As the trio entered through the front gate, they were taken aback by its scale. It was totally massive, almost like a small city. Their flashlights cut across signs for smaller attractions and concession stands. Years of wear and tear had done quite a bit of damage to the whole park. Everything was falling apart and coated in rust. It was a bit eerie, they felt, to be there in the dead of night with only each other as company and the lingering spirits of a once exciting and lively world. Of course, they had little time to admire the tragic beauty of the ghostly shell. They were there for one thing, and one thing only: The Abyss; one hundred meters of dark water lined with defunct animatronics and winding underwater hallways. They knew there would be little of value that they could take as souvenirs, but the memory and experience of the forbidden dive would be more than enough for the three of them.
Eventually, they stumble upon a dusty sign that reveals the path to their destination. With their efforts now coming to fruition, the trio picked up their pace, each of them hoping to be the first to lay eyes on it.Along the way, they took small detours into the rotting shops, picking up stray t-shirts and stuffed dolls of the park’s mascot, a cute, cartoonish shark affectionately named Titan.
“Hey, what do you really think is going to be in there? Do you think there’s just going to be floating robots in the water, or do you think they took everything with them when they packed-up shop?” Denver questioned aloud.
“Honestly, there’s probably nothing. But we won’t know until we go down, will we?” Thomas replied sharply.
“What if all the fish down there were still working? Just telling each other fun fish facts for years on end.” Alex jokingly added.
After a few more minutes of hiking, they finally approached the end of their pilgrimage. The largest building on the park’s campus by a significant portion, with its roof cracked and broken, paint chipped and faded, and a massive sign featuring the cartoon shark which read The Abyss. This was it; this was the main attraction. Luckily for the group, its main doors had rusted and broken off their hinges, leaving the portcullis unobstructed with its siren song louder than ever. They looked upon it with mouths agape, admiring its three-story height and perfectly circular dome structure.
“You all know the rumors about this place, right?” Alex asked quietly.
“About how a couple people got hurt and that they closed the park because of it?” Thomas replied.
“Actually, according to our contact, they’re not just rumors.” He claims that he worked here when it happened. Apparently, the main animatronic went berserk when it was supposed to “feed” on the other animatronic as part of the ride. He said it just floated over to a group and started attacking, and I guess not all of them survived.” Denver said somberly.
“Did they just scrap the thing?” Alex asked.
“I have no idea. For obvious reasons, the park owners did all they could to keep the whole ordeal covered up. There were also some very outlandish theories that a former employee, who was a dark magic practitioner, was pissed about being fired and placed a curse on the shark, and that’s what made it go crazy.”
“So, there’s a chance a possessed shark robot could still be down there?” Thomas replied cynically, “Come on, that’s absurd. If that was true, which is absolutely laughable, why wouldn’t they just try to sell all their assets, demon sharks included?.”
“I mean, if you’re scared, Thomas, feel free to just keep watch outside.” Alex said as he patted him on the back condescendingly.
“Shut it, Alex.” Thomas replied as the three of them shared a brief laugh.
As they ventured onwards into The Abyss, they came across a wall lined with dusty framed photos taken of people in the water with the animatronic shark. The three were silently shocked when they saw what it actually looked like. The plushies and shirts they stashed in their backpacks did little justice to the real thing. It was a whopping sixteen feet in length and twice their length in diameter. As opposed to the cutesy, cartoonish smile on the mascot, the actual Titan’s face was cold and mechanical. Its eyes were lifeless and a deep, glassy black. The resemblance to a real shark was uncanny, but there was no beauty in it as one might perceive in a living shark of its size. Instead, it was deeply unsettling to see with all of its moving joints and sheet metal skin. The three exchanged unnerved glances as they wondered what it might look like now if it has experienced the same amount of rot and decay as the rest of the park.
They tried not to be too shaken, and made their way down to the main atrium of the facility, taking the time to change into their diving gear as they stood at a closed door that bore a large sign reading – “CLOSED DUE TO FLOODING”.
“This must be it, the shark maze. If there’s anything worth salvaging, it’ll be in here.” Denver said as she shoved the door open with an ear-piercing screech as it raked against the floor.
The trio walked the large circular room and shone their lights all around, revealing mostly torn up posters and decaying paint. They stood at the precipice of the massive pool, which served as the entrance to the maze that housed Titan and the other animatronics. The water was absolutely still and only barely evaporated, which seemed strange to the group but not enough for anyone to make note of it to the others. The only thing of note in the murky water was a capsized boat, which was likely used to transport guests across. One by one, the three took to the water. It was difficult to see anything in the water despite all of them having bright lights attached to their suits and headpieces, with earpieces and small microphones built into their masks so that they could speak to each other.
They swam together, speaking about how crazy what they were doing was as they pushed aside small pieces of debris and small, fake fish that seemed to float in place. Eventually, they come across a large central area that splits off into four tunnels. Satisfied that a killer, cursed shark was nowhere to be seen, they decide that it would be better to split up to cover more ground and make use of the set time they had.
Denver went down the left-most tunnel, which followed a series of winding hallways and avenues. Eventually she found herself in a dead-end room, and as she scoured the corners, she decided there was nothing more to see and turned to head back to go down a different pathway. However, as she does, she spins herself around and feels her head bump against something hard. She looks up and examines a massive figure that had been obscured by the darkness. It was Titan. She was sure of it, and as she swam along its length, she examined its black, lifeless eyes and noted that its side had been torn open, revealing its mechanical skeleton. Excitedly, she spoke into the microphone to alert the others to her location because she had found Titan and needed their help figuring out what to do with it. With her back turned to it however, she was unable to see as its eyes began flickering with a dull red glow before fading back to black. As Thomas and Alex began making their way to Denver following her instructions, The Abyss jumped to life.
They hear several sharp pings ringing out from the surface as red lights spun around them like a warning sign. Then, just as quickly as they came on, they fell into darkness once more.
“What the fuck was that? …Did you guys see that?” Denver asked nervously.
“Yeah, are you guys close to the entrance of the maze? I think we need to get out of here.” Thomas replied.
“Denver, I see you. Look over here.” Alex said as he waved to the black figure that moved slowly before dashing away in the opposite direction.
“What are you talking about, I just met up with Thomas. Where are you?”
Alex looked around intensely, back to where he saw the shadow in the water, but saw nothing. “Never mind, I’m on my way back to where you guys are.” After several tense minutes, the trio are reunited uneventfully as they begin to come up with a plan.
“I think we should get out of here; this place is seriously starting to give me the creeps.” Alex said.
The others simply nodded their heads as they made their way to the surface, and as they breached, they saw that the entry way they came in through was inexplicably sealed off. The doors, which had been off their hinges, now appeared to be perfectly fixed back in place. Thomas made his way over to the doors first but found them thoroughly locked shut.
“Well, fuck. What do we do now? Should we call that guard guy for help?” Thomas said exasperated.
“I don’t think he’ll answer, and besides, I’ve got no signal down here.” Denver said as she checked her phone from her backpack.
“I saw a sign that pointed out an emergency exit while we were down there. Why don’t we just stick together and go that way?” Alex chimed in with renewed enthusiasm.
The others nodded in agreement, and with that, they descended back into the darkness of the water. The three swam in close proximity so as not to lose sight of one another as they followed the arrows pointing to an emergency exit. They each looked around with great apprehension, though from what exactly they were unsure. However, their vague dread quickly gave way to abject horror as a massive shadow began to peer out from around a corner of an adjoining tunnel just in front of them. They stared in silent horror as the figure’s glowing red eyes moved from side to side searching the area and heard it let out a mechanical screech from its open maw.
Shocked and unable to move, the three floated in place, watching as Titan caught sight of them and then began to swim furiously towards them. With this, the three began to swim away as quickly as they possibly could down the tunnel they had been following. Hearing each other’s panicked breathing and muttering, Denver suddenly unleashed a blood-curdling scream.
Alex stopped in place and looked back to see that she had been caught by the beast. It had her leg caught in its mechanical jaw, and he watched as it began to robotically thrash her around, her blood mixing violently in the murky water. He and Thomas swam back as fast as they could, and with Thomas pushing on its face and Alex pulling Denver, they were able to free her. Titan was still thrashing, as if unaware that its meal had been removed, and using this opportunity, they swam away, with Denver holding tight to Alex. They soon come across a small entry way that is just wide enough for them to pass through one at a time, and they decide that it is their best bet for the time being because their mechanical pursuer wouldn’t be able to fit through the tight space.
Alex helps Denver get through first, then he and Thomas hear the pained robotic shriek of Titan as they turn to see it barrelling towards them with its eyes burning a glowing red. Thomas quickly begins pushing Alex into the tunnel and says, “Go! Keep an eye on Denver, I’m going to try to lead it away!” as he begins paddling violently away. Alex pauses from within the tunnel and can only watch as the mechanical beast blows past him towards its prey. It isn’t long before they hear his agonizing screams, along with the sound of blood being coughed up, before his radio goes completely silent. Fighting back waves of nausea, Alex has no choice but to turn away from the bloodbath and paddles his way back to a wounded Denver.
He takes hold of her hand and begins to swim through the thin tunnel before it leads out into a large open area. A flicker of hope appears in them as they realize they might have stumbled upon another exit and begin to make their way to the surface. However, their hope quickly gives way to dread as Titan emerges at Mach speed from a separate tunnel. Alex sees that its jaws are now painted in Thomas’s blood as it spills away from the hole in its side and feels a mixture of grief and horror as he realizes what happened to Thomas is about to happen to them.
The two are unable to breach the surface before they are set upon by Titan, and it once again grabs hold of the already bloodied Denver and begins to gnash its mechanical jaws around the legs. Her panicked cries of agony send Alex’s mind into retreat as he frantically looks around for anything to help. His only hope is a large floating piece of debris that he grabs hold of and makes a charge towards the behemoth. In a desperate lunge, he plunged the pointed end into Titan’s glowing eye. His gambit a success, it momentarily stuns the mechanical beast as it begins jerking in place violently. This gives him just enough time to grab hold of Denver and make a break for the surface.
There is only enough time for Alex to help Denver out of the water before he feels the impossible grip of Titan take hold of his oxygen tank and yank him back down into the abyss. As it dragged him further and further down, he began to choke, his oxygen supply was now eviscerated. As his muscles begin convulsing, his shaking hands are able to let loose the tank from his back as he hurriedly made his ascent. His mind raced; he knew if he were caught again, there would be no more saving grace. He would suffer the same grisly fate as his friend, and with a final shove, he burst through the surface of the water and paddled to the edge to pull himself up with the help of Denver. Titan’s jagged dorsal fin pierced the waterline one last time as he and Denver crawled to safety, before it disappeared back into its nightmarish slumber.
Finally, free from their pursuer, the couple embraces one another and resolves to go and turn themselves in so that they can get medical attention. They knew they might face dire consequences for their trespassing of a dangerous condemned property, and even more so for the unexplainable disappearance of Thomas Stevenson. They worried greatly about how they would tell their story, knowing full well that the truth would be impossible for anyone to comprehend. They wondered, though, what could have brought that beast to life. Was it a simple malfunction within its programming that had somehow reactivated? or was there some truth to the rumor that foul magic had breathed life into its mechanical skeleton?
For Denver and Alex, the truth might never reveal itself, and for them, that would be the best outcome.
Credit: Liam K. Downie
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