Abyss

Kendra Pitman, Something Fishy.  Linoleum print, 2023.

 

By Vonnegut Frey

        Harry Wrench could not see a thing. It was pitch dark in the submarine. The ship’s power had gone out. Despite some guesses, Harry didn’t know why. What he did know from his years in the navy, however, was that if the power didn’t turn back on soon, the sub would stop producing oxygen and everyone inside would die.

        He’d figured something like this would happen when he’d entered this expedition. He hadn’t wanted to at first, but the rich and dashing explorer, Jason Dox, had talked him into it.

        “It’s a fool’s game,” said Harry. “You might as well be looking for Atlantis. The guys who found that fish are either lying or their depth measuring instruments are broken. There is no 30,000 meters deep. Sonar would have found it forever ago if there was. And even if it were there, no fish could possibly live at those depths.” 

        “But if it is real?” said James.

        “Which it’s not,” said Harry. 

        “We will be the most famous deep sea exploration crew since the HMS Challenger. And think, Harry, imagine what sort of things could be down there.”

        “Even if I gave you that, I don’t trust this sub you got. Twelve thousand meters? Really? You haven’t even tested it, have you?”

        “Well, we haven’t tested it at the depths we expect to go. But trust me, it’s a marvel. It will work, and if it doesn’t, we will know before things start breaking. Besides, if you’re right and there is nothing down there, we won’t be going anywhere close to that depth. Even if we find nothing, at least we are doing a service to the scientific community by confirming it’s a hoax.”

        Safe to say, they should have tested the sub better, and Harry shouldn’t have gone on this doomed voyage, but there was no time to think about that now. He needed to get to the engine room to see if he could fix the problem. That would be hard with only a low-battery flashlight and walkie talkie in the pitch dark though. The darkness, which was so very much like that of the deep ocean all around. 

        Harry could hear the soft sound of water rushing around the sub, and the creaking of the supports under many tons of water pressure. It was suffocating. Harry noticed that his mind projected a sort of static on the endless pool of black. It was made of a cloudy gray light which sometimes fuzed together into clouds in his eyes. They were hazy, like a dream or a picture in his head.

        Harry knew this was exactly what it was. His eyes were playing tricks on him, filling in the blanks provided by the endless void. Harry could imagine a monster out of the static. The pale light of his brain forming jaws. The walls felt as if only an inch away from him on all sides, coming closer, closing in. He could feel the cold from the metal walls and floor radiating on to his soft skin.

        Voices came from Harry’s walkie talkie.

        “Ksh. Hey, Wrench, it’s Jason. You read me? Over,” said the distorted voice of Jason Dox.

        “Ksh. I read you. Over,” said Harry.

        “Ksh. Right on cowboy. Where are you right now? Over.”

        “Ksh. I’m in the quarters, and I’m heading to the engine room to see if I can get the power working. Over,” said Harry. He oriented himself towards the engine room in the dark. 

        “Ksh. Wicked smart. I’m in the control room. How about I stay in here to get things operational for when you’re done with your bit? Over.”

        “Ksh. Understood. Do you know how we even lost power in the first place, by the way? Over.”

        “I’m not sure. The last thing that happened before the lights turned off was… ksshshk… on the radar. Over”

        “What was that? Over.”

        No response. Harry decided to get going. He reached out his arm to find where the wall was. When he touched it, it was like ice. Cold and metallic. The curved surface made it hard to find purchase on it, and the jagged edges of the walls’ bolted seams hurt Harry’s hand.

        Harry followed the wall to the door to the engine room. He could see a bit through the door’s window. Inside, Harry could see something strange: a few glimmering pinpricks of light in the engine room.

        Harry turned his head to see if he could look at the light from another angle. To his surprise, he couldn’t. Like a two-D picture, the lights only ever appeared head on.

        Together, the lights almost looked like a face. And the darkness around it almost curved into a large, hulking figure in the shadows. It had to be an illusion. Another thing put there by Harry’s mind to make sense of things.

        Harry, opened the hatch door, and walked inside. The lights were still there. Harry reached out and touched them. He thought that maybe if his hand passed right through it, his brain would finally get the memo that the lights didn’t exist. But instead of feeling empty air, or the wall, Harry felt a jagged but soft and squishy substance. Like the edge of a cut of meat. 

        SHKEZSSH.

        He heard a loud noise, like the radio’s static and the rush of water mixed together. He withdrew his hand and pulled out his flashlight, turning it on. There was nothing in front of him but the submarine’s nuclear reactor. The tiny lights were gone. 

        Harry tried to gauge whether it was hard to breathe. That whole thing must have been a hallucination caused by a lack of oxygen. Harry had to work fast. 

        Looking over the machine with the limited light of the flashlight, Harry poked around the engine ports, looking for some loose connection. Instead, he found the activation switch. Harry turned the switch on and off, trying to restart the engine. 

        The engine roared to life. The lights in the sub turned back on. Harry had to close his eyes for a second, adjusting to the comparative brightness. Strange, it seemed as if nothing had happened to the engine. Must have just been a malfunction.

        Harry picked up his walkie talkie.

        “Ksh. I was able to turn the lights back on. Can you get the sub back in motion again? Over.”

        “Ksh. Haaa! It’s on! You did it! Harry, we just got some pictures from the sub. I think it’s the thing we saw on the radar. And it’s just… I can’t describe it. It’s so large, it’s so short, the shapes don’t make sense, yet I get it, Harry. I understand how it can live down there, and that fish those people found too. It all makes sense…” KAAAHAARONKSHZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

        The submarine crashed into the ocean floor as Harry heard an otherworldly sound and was knocked to the floor. Harry had forgotten that with the propellers not moving, the sub must have been sinking this whole time. How far down had it gone? Harry picked the walkie talkie up off the floor as his flashlight finally lost its batteries and went out. Harry turned on the walkie talkie.

        “Ksh, HAAAAAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH.”

        Harry turned it off. He needed to get to the control room to see what was going on. He rushed through the submarine’s halls his heart pounding, his mind racing. What had happened up there? He climbed up the ladder to the door of the control room.

        Opening the hatch door, Harry saw a few things. The room’s lights had broken off the ceiling and fallen to the floor, illuminating portions of the room like spot lights. Everything the light didn’t touch was curtained in hungry darkness once again. In the seats of the control room consoles sat the crew. They were slunched over and when Harry looked in there eyes no on was home.  One of them was Jason Dox. Harry checked his pulse. He was dead. They were all dead. Whats more Dox had no walkie talkie. Then who had he been talking to? Harry pulled out his walkie talkie.

        “Ksh, Hey, Harry here, how are you doing? You at the control room? Over.” Said a voice identical to James.

        “Who are you?”

        “Look at the corner of the room.”

        Harry looked. It was pitch dark. Harry moved one of the lights to get a better look. There was a hole in the sub’s wall. The hull had been breached. Harry was looking out into the open ocean, a dark and infinite horizon that the sub’s lights couldn’t penetrate. But Harry didn’t feel wet. He could breath, he wasn’t crushed by the water pressure. He knew he wasn’t dreaming, by virtue of the fact that we all know when we’re wide awake, but despite that, Harry doubted himself. Nothing made sense anymore. 

        “Ksh, look closely,” said the walkie talkie.

        In the darkness, Harry could make out a shape, as he once had in his mind. Swimming around like a great leviathan in the darkness, almost nonexistent, the creature swam closer. Tiny lights began to open up on its surface, outlining the creature’s bizarre non-euclidean geometry. It looked like the stars in the night sky. When all the lights had opened up Harry finally saw the creature in its entirety, finally understood everything. Why all this had happened, how it all worked. Harry saw it all and It was: