The pod hit the surface of the ocean with a thump sending a wall of white water high into the air and splattering the onlookers with a cold shower of droplets. Dr Hunter could just about hear the muffled cheers and claps of the people on board the Katiana. He made his final checks to make sure everything was in order and that the air locks were functioning and then began his descent. He took one last glance at the Katiana and his fellow colleagues on the deck, before being swallowed by the ocean. He had waited a long time for this moment. Hours of research and struggling to convince the committee for research funding. He had spent 18 months preparing everything needed for the voyage from locating the best spot for the dive to putting together a crew for the boat. It wasn’t a cheap project but if all went to plan he would become one of the first people ever to see the infamous giant squid in its natural habitat. Just then a voice crackled through the intercom,
“Everything alright down there Dr Hunter?” said the voice.
“Yes everything seems to be working as planned captain, how are things on the surface?”
“Oh yes, very good. Suns shining, the sea’s not too choppy, we couldn’t have picked a better day” the captain exclaimed.
Captain Takahashi was a short man in his 60’s. He had grown up in a seaside town in Japan and became a professor in marine biology later in life. He was a friendly man and had jumped at the chance to be a part of the project. He and his men had worked long and hard to make this whole thing possible.
“Excellent news!” replied Dr Hunter “Could you put Tabatha on?”
Tabatha was a PHD student who had worked with Dr Hunter on his project from the start. She was an excellent student, always enthusiastic and always smiling.
“How’s everything going down there sir?” came her voice from the intercom a few moments later.
“Oh everything seems to be going to plan, I just wanted to thank you again for all your help. I couldn’t have done it without you.” Dr Hunter said.
“That’s great sir! Hope it’s not too scary for you down there” she laughed “see you in a few hours. If you’re lucky there might be some beers left. Good luck.”
The pod had descended so far it had started to get dark at this point and the doctor glanced at the depth meter to his right. The dial read the depth as just past 1300m. The descent continued and it wasn’t long before the only light came from the small flashing lights and a small screen displaying the infrared camera views from the front and rear of the pod. All they were displaying at the moment were small specs of debris that whizzed past as the pod dropped ever deeper. A while later the dial showing depth hit 2000m and gave a small beep that pierced the silence. Dr Hunter took his eyes off the camera screen and clicked a switch on the control panel. This opened a small valve on a capsule attached to the rear of the pod and the contents began to billow out as a creamy cloud. It was made up of blended squid that the giant squid is known to feed on. The hope was that any giant squid in the area would smell this mix and come to investigate. The pod eventually came to a halt at 2800 meters deep. It was almost pitch black and eerily quiet now. The doctor sat alone in his pod, the only thing connecting him to the rest of the world above the surface being the radio to the Katiana.
3 hours had past and Dr Hunter blinked at his watch in shock. It hadn’t felt like 3 hours. His heart had been beating with excitement and anticipation and the time had flown by. His eyes felt dry from staring at the screen in front of him, waiting for something to appear. He gave a disheartened sigh. He only had 2 hours before the oxygen reserves would start running low and he would have to make his ascent back up into the light. He was beginning to lose hope of seeing a giant squid in the wild. All this work, all this preparation for nothing. He dreaded rising to the surface and seeing the disappointed faces of the people aboard the Katiana. He rubbed his eyes.
“No.” he said aloud to the empty silence, shaking his head as he did so. He was not about to give up. He had waited so long for this. He wouldn’t get another chance. He focused his gaze back on the screen, praying that something would appear. Just then the speaker for the radio began to crackle. He looked round at it, listening closely to try to make out a voice.
“Hello?” he said into the radio microphone “Captain Takahashi, can you hear me?”
There was no reply. The radio just continued to crackle. Perhaps it could not receive signal this deep down, “it should be able to, it cost enough.” He thought to himself. The crackling began to get louder and louder until it was almost unbearable then just as suddenly as it started, it went silent. He hoped everything was okay on the surface. It was a big risk for him to be down here and even the smallest fault could mean catastrophy.
Dr Hunter turned back to the screen feeling slightly unsettled. As he did so he could have sworn he saw a shape move suddenly out of view. He leaned closer, his heart pounding with excitement, scanning the darkness for anything of interest. Could this be it? The unsettled feeling in his stomach was gone, the crackling from the radio, forgotten about. As he looked he could have sworn he could see things appearing then sinking back into the gloomy depths. He rubbed his eyes again and took a sip from his water bottle, trying not to take his eyes off the screen. Was he seeing things? He wondered. Then he saw it, in the top right hand corner of the screen. A shape in the darkness. It seemed to be coming straight towards the pod but it didn’t look like a giant squid. It looked like… no, it couldn’t be he told himself. His mind was playing tricks on him surely? He looked out the port hole to see if he could make out anything through the darkness. It was pitch black. He looked back at the screen. The figure was gone. The unsettled feeling was back. He felt sick to his stomach and sweat drenched him. He didn’t care about the squid anymore. He just wanted to be out of this cramped little box and back on dry land in the sunshine, sharing a beer with Tabatha. He turned to the control panel, ready to set the pod for the ascent. He stopped himself, was he over reacting? Surely he was just imagining things. He couldn’t give up now he thought. That was when he heard it. A gentle scraping on the side of the pod. Dr Hunter froze, sweating profusely now. Staring at the spot where the noise was coming from. Then another noise, even more terrifying than the first. This time it came from the other side of the pod. Three short, clear knocks. Shaking he keyed in the code for the ascent into the control panel. Nothing happened. He tried again. Still nothing. The lights behind the keypad flickered and then went out dousing the pod in complete, impenetrable darkness. Panicking the doctor fumbled for a flash light behind the seat. Switching it on, he shone it at the rear port hole. He scanned the water for any movement. It was completely silent once again. He felt trapped and alone, like he was lost deep in space. He turned around to shine the torch out of the front porthole. He cried out in terror. There, pressed against the glass, was a pale, greyish, wrinkled hand with long, skeletal fingers. Without even having to think about it Dr Hunter pulled the backup power lever praying it would work. It did. The hand was gone from the porthole now. The doctor wasted no time keying in the code for the ascent. To his relief it worked. A whirring sound came from the engine of the pod as it began to rise back up to the surface. He was sick onto his lap and the floor in front of him. Tears were streaming out of his eyes. He almost couldn’t bring himself to look back at the screen in fear of what he might see. When he finally did, there was nothing to be seen. Dr Hunter wondered to himself, had he imagined it all? Could it have possibly been brought on by the silence and isolation and the never ending darkness. He grabbed the radio mic.
“Hello? Captain? Are you there? Can you hear me? Can anybody hear me?”
There was no response. He tried again. There was still nothing. After some time it began to get light. The pod was getting closer to the surface. He had been trying the radio nonstop but there was still no response. He still felt sick and his hands were still clammy with sweat. The smell of his vomit filled his nose making him feel even more nauseous. His mind was racing. Was it real? What was it? Was he safe? He knew one thing for sure. If he got out of this he was never returning to the sea again. He didn’t care if people thought he was crazy. Just then the pod burst through the surface of the water. The sun was now hidden by storm clouds but it had not begun raining and the sea was still calm. He looked through the front portal and there it was. The Katiana, Bobbing gently on the waves, the white hull almost glowing. It was a welcoming site and for the first time since beginning the ascent Dr Hunter felt safe but then as he looked closer he could see something wasn’t right. Where was the crew? They should be eagerly waiting aboard for his return. He could just make out something crimson red running down the side of the pearly white hull. That was when he heard it again…
CREDIT : O Seasmith
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