01 Feb The Ocean Is Much Deeper Than We Thought Final
Most of my old crew, after leaving the navy, struggled to get over their longing for the ocean. Such was the case for my submarine Captain; Louis Johnson. He always claimed the sea would be his final resting place, where he truly belonged, and following his honourable discharge, he went straight into hyperbaric pipeline welding.
It’s a dangerous job, where the only enemy is invisible, always stalking each dive, each new mission; A foe that can’t be sensed, but with the ability to destroy everything you are in a split second: Pressure.
“Maybe I’m cursed, unable to live on land with my own people, but at least I’ll die where I belong,” he had said.
Johnson would be lucky enough to forever be united with his one true love, at a site of a burst pipe, that took him away, finally making him one with the deep blue.
It’s funny how the brain operates as everything around you is falling to pieces, far beyond your own control. Once there’s nothing left you can do, the mind turns to a place of safety, fond memories from a time long since past. For me those memories belonged to my time of service, to my old captain and crew. It wasn’t an easy time, but it was filled with purpose, with my problems solely confined to the ocean.
When Robert yelled at me to get my ass in gear, I finally snapped back to reality.
“Doc, come on, we’ve got to get the hell out of here!” he shouted.
James returned to the central dome alongside Abby. They had heard the alarms, but hadn’t the faintest idea about what had occurred during their brief absence.
“Get to section A, there are still two transport capsules, get number zero-five ready for departure and wait for me,” Robert said.
“Cap, what are you going to do?” James asked.
“Jennifer is in lockdown, I’m getting her out.”
“What if the creatures got inside?” Abby asked.
Robert thought for a moment, before handing her a walkie.
“If you don’t hear from me in fifteen, just leave,” he ordered.
The station shook as another hole was torn through one of the sections, my ears popped from the shockwave.
“I’m coming with you,” James said. “You’re not facing them alone.”
“No, we need you to pilot the transport capsule, if you get hurt, we’re stuck down here.”
It wasn’t a valid excuse, they all knew fully well that the submarine was easy enough for any of the crew members to manoeuvre, but Robert refused to risk any more lives, and would use whatever reason he could come up with.
“That’s an order, get out of here, now!”
They hesitantly agreed and started leaving.
“I’ll join you then, I know nothing about this station, or the sub, but I can at the least assist you should something happen,” I said, knowing he couldn’t come up with any excuse to stop me.
He reluctantly agreed, and together we headed for the labs in section C, worrying that Jennifer might be trapped behind the airlock, or worse.
Drowning is a horrible way to die, once you realise there’s no way to reach the surface, that you are trapped in a cold, dark tomb, your throat simply closes up. No matter how hard you try to inhale, your body simply refuses, even as the agonising pain of running out of air overpowers your natural instinct to breathe, you simply refuse to give in to the overwhelming desire. It isn’t until the body starts shutting down, and the corners of your vision start do darken, that you reach the breaking point, and your brain decides to pull something in, regardless of whether air is present or not. Suddenly ice cold water flows in through your throat, unstoppably filling your lungs, so desperate for air.
It’s a clumsy, painful way to go, and by the time water has filled each alveoli, most are still conscious, with just enough time to regret their decision to ever enter the ocean.
I thought it funny, as we ran towards the airlock, that at least we wouldn’t drown, surely the worms would consume us, or the pressure from a collapsing station would instantly crush us.
“How did the hull get breached anyway?” I asked as we got closer.
“It’s supposed to be impossible, but I’m sure it’s those fucking monsters,” Robert said.
The alarm had stopped alerting us about the hull breach, and was now recommending a station wide evacuation.
“Warning: Hull integrity severely compromised, all crew report to designated docking stations,” it said.
“How much time do we have?”
As we turned the corner at section C, we saw Jennifer sitting against the wall on the wrong side of the airlock. It took a moment to realise the horrors of her situation. We saw her legs fused with the flesh of the Syncytium. They had started eating away at her lower body, digging their way through her flesh and rapidly replacing her organs with their own meat.
Despite all this, she remained conscious.
“Jen,” Robert said, the only word he could muster from the shock of what lay in front of our eyes.
She slowly turned her head towards us, with her eyes red from haemorrhaging, as worms had consumed her insides.
“Captain, is that you?” she said, weakly, blind from blood filling the inside of her eyes.
“I’m here, Jen.”
“I guess the sample wasn’t dead after all,” she joked, with a hoarse voice as she coughed up what could only be a mixture of blood and lung parenchyma. “Maybe tell the doc to double check these things in the future.”
“He’s here with me now,” Robert explained. “I’m so sorry, Jen, but-”
“I know, there’s nothing left to do, I guess this is just it.”
She coughed up, violently spewing out pieces of her lung and worms.
“Don’t worry Captain, it’s not your fault that a monster from the abyss crawled it’s way up to destroy us.” She said, voice cracking as she writhed in agony.
I looked over at Robert, he looked horrified, but couldn’t take his eyes off her.
“It really hurts, p-please, eject the s-section,” she cried. “I just want it to be over.”
Robert nodded, forgetting that she couldn’t see him.
I went over to the control panel. It was fairly easy to use, especially after having witnessed Henry mess with it before. All I needed was the pass code. I thought it wouldn’t be right to let Robert essentially execute her himself.
“I’ll do it,” I assured them.
“Rob,” Jennifer said.
“Don’t let these fuckers get to the surface, promise me that much.”
Her abdomen started bulging out, she screamed in pain as the worms started tearing open her stomach.
“Captain, the code?” I asked.
He told me the numbers, and I input them without hesitating. Years of watching people suffer a prolonged death, knowing that we could do nothing but pointlessly extend their lives, had desensitised me to pulling the plug.
Immediately hatches opened up on the walls, an alarm sounded as water started pouring in, but since the hull had already been partially breached, they quickly collapsed in on themselves. Within a few seconds, Jennifer had died.
“Let’s get out of here,” Robert said.
We ran back towards the central area, we had to traverse the entire station to get towards section A. It was the only remaining escape, but as we got to the offices, we could hear something moving within the walls, knocking their way through the pipes.
“The pumps!” Robert yelled. “They’re getting in through the fucking pumps!”
Talos’ pumps were ancient machinery compared to the rest of the station. As the dome was inserted, they needed to move tons of water outside against the immense pressure, but after finishing the station, they had been long since forgotten, left inside the walls while they installed more permanent solutions.
Before we could react, the walls broke open, and the Syncytium poured itself through the holes, taking the shape of malformed flesh, extending rapidly alongside the walls.
We were cut off from our escape, with only the office available as temporary refuge from the oncoming swarm of worms and flow of flesh, but our safe haven would quickly become nothing more than another prison to extend our survival.
“It won’t hold them for long,” Robert said.
Robert went straight for his desk, pulling out a pistol from the top drawer.
“You brought a gun to the bottom of the ocean?” I asked.
“You didn’t?” he shot back. “Never know when you might have to quell a mutiny,” he laughed nervously.
He could tell I wasn’t amused. We both knew a gun wouldn’t slow them down significantly, but any help was welcome. He continued to rummage through the closets in the room, eventually pulling out two unused hazmat suits, just like the one I had used while inspecting Mike.”
“It kept you safe inside the airlock, the worms couldn’t penetrate the suit, right?” Robert asked with pleading eyes.
“Look, they breached the EPM suit, made of fucking metal, I don’t think these will make a big difference, might slow ‘em down, but that’s it,” I said.
“It’s our best shot.”
The worms had started to pile up on the door, forming a contracting mesh, slightly cracking the glass.
“It’s now or never, James better have the damn sub ready to go,” Robert said as we got into the suits. He fired a shot, not at the door, but at the tempered glass wall beside it, shattering it to a million cubical pieces as we jumped through.
I stumbled to the ground, a few worms getting onto my hand as I stood back up. Robert pulled them off me and shoved me forward. We spurted for the entrance to section A.
We were far faster than the worms, but they had formed a mesh covering most of the ceiling, and dropped down on top of us for each step we took.
Another hole in the wall burst open directly above the airlock towards section A, causing another slump of meat to land in front of the door.
“Shit,” Robert yelled as he instinctively pulled his weapon, and fired at the mass on the floor.
I froze in place as the worms disintegrated from the bullets’ impact, reforming, hastily crawling towards us. I tried to turn away and run, but I didn’t react in time.
To my surprise the worms completely ignored my presence and headed straight for Robert, pouring onto him from all directions, pulling him to the ground. He screamed in agony as they formed around his limbs, making him unable to fight back. I hurried towards him and tried to pull them off, but for each worm I removed, a hundred others joined in.
Within seconds they managed to hear a hole at the armpit region of his suit. They immediately wriggled themselves in through the hole. I tried desperately to pull him up, but he shoved me away as he realised there wasn’t any hope left for him.
“Get out of here, Doc,” he gargled as blood started to fill is lungs.
I didn’t even hesitate, shamefully, I ran for my life while the Syncytium was too distracted by consuming Robert, no matter what I had done, he was already dead.
The hallways narrowed drastically as I once more returned to section A. I frantically tried to input the code to close the airlocks, it took me two attempts with shaky fingers to get the correct code, but within a second the doors sealed, and I was once more separated from the abomination on the other side.
“I’m so sorry, Robert,” I whispered to myself.
The central dome finally gave in under the pressure, massive streams of water quickly collapsing the ceiling. The station fell apart, and the central power was annihilated under the flood.
Plunged into darkness and silence, I ventured further towards the docking station. While each section of Talos supposedly had their own backup generator, for some reason it hadn’t been activated yet in that section, making it hard to navigate through the narrow labyrinth of hallways.
“Can anybody hear me?” I called, my voice echoing endlessly.
I bumped my head as I saw a light appearing in the distance. James came running towards me, holding a flashlight.
“Doc, you’re still with us, thank God!” he said, his joy quickly fleeting as he realised I had come alone.
“What happened? Where’s Jen, and the Captain?”
I just shook my head in response, no words could convey what had happened in the dome, and their absence proved enough about their unfortunate outcome of our futile escape attempt.
“No time to worry about that now, we need to get out of here, the capsule is just about ready to leave for the surface, we only need Henry to figure out how to get the power back.”
When we arrived at the docking station, I was relieved by the increase in ceiling height, if only ever so slightly. Henry was busy at work on the control panel, trying to figure out what had cut the power from the backup generator; Abby standing behind him with a flashlight.
“God damnit!” he yelled. “Something has torn away the backup generator, not sure how, but I’m sure I know what, fucking abyssal demon spawn.”
“Between the lack of power, and the damaged hull, the sub can’t release from the station, essentially, we’re stranded here.”
None of us spoke a word, trapped in a tin can twenty thousand feet below the surface with no transport.
After what felt like an eternity, Henry finally broke the silence.
“There are all great ideas, but that won’t work,” he said sarcastically in response to our lack of solutions.
“Well, do you have any ideas then, genius?” Abby asked.
“As a matter of fact I do.”
He walked into the capsule and started messing around with the electronics, eventually pulling off one of the panels.
“There are three batteries powering this sub, and the way I see it, I could take one out, and it should still have enough power to get you all to the surface.”
“Us?” James asked.
“I need to connect this battery to the airlock,” he continued as he pulled one of them out from the capsule. “Then I’ll override the door, it’ll blow open from the pressure, and the resulting wave of water should forcefully eject the sub.”
“What about you?” Abby asked.
“Well, someone has to stay behind to follow through on this plan.”
“Let me do it then,” James interjected.
“No, you idiot, one wrong connection, and the door fries, locking forever. I’m the only one with the expertise.”
“There has to be another way.”
“There isn’t, trust me.”
James and I looked at each other, both wanting to speak up, but neither able to come up with an alternative solution. Henry went back into the transport capsule, and sealed the panels shut again.
“I wish you were all smarter, maybe one of you could have stayed behind,” he said, as sarcastically as ever, but for the first time with the slightest smirk on his face.
“Thank you,” I said.
“Yeah, well time for you to go,” he said as he shut the door to the capsule.
We watched as Henry walked away for the last time, ready to face his fate, an asshole to the bitter end, but one with a kind heart. Like his other perished crew mates, he would forever remain at the ocean basin, never again witnessing sunlight.
Time went on forever, while we waited for a wave of water that might just as likely crush us in an instant, but with a ton of luck, we’d be ejected out from the station, and from there we could reach the surface. It would be the most violent takeoff in the station’s history, but also the last.
Minutes later, we heard the sound of the airlock opening, before shattering to pieces under the immense pressure of exploding water and Syncytial flesh.
It only took about ten seconds for the wave to hit us, and we shoot out from Talos, the hallway behind us falling apart as we did. It hit us hard, and roughed us up a bit, but we survived.
James took control of the vessel, and didn’t hesitate to start ascending towards the surface.
Abby and I stared out the tiny window, on the other side we could see the utterly crushed remains of Talos, dimly illuminated by the light still powered up by the generators at section C, which had been completely covered by the flesh of the Syncytium.
The thousands of corpses of fish that previously littered the ocean floor had been cleaned up, and were now a part of the ever growing monster from the abyss.
A wave of relief washed over me, with my heart calming down for each foot of our ascension. I no longer felt the need to constantly look out the window, the world outside was dark, and whatever life once remained down there had been consumed alongside my longing for the ocean.
Once we reached a depth of five thousand feet, in the middle of the midnight zone, we managed to establish contact with the USS Orion, and called for an emergency evacuation. They were quite the distance away, but by the time we’d reach the surface, they would pick us up, albeit curious as to what had happened in the depths.
At three thousand feet the first rays of daylight greeted us with the warmth of the sun, the ocean started filling up with peaceful life, fish thriving in the waters, completely ignorant to the horrors that existed directly below them. The vast darkness turned to a calming blue, and for the first time since being hired for this mission, I felt safe.
Before long, we breached the surface, and were greeted by a team wearing hazmat suits as we boarded the ship. We had been unable to alert them to the situation, all they knew was that a potential contagion existed in the depths, one we could have brought back with us, so understandably they locked us up in the sickbay, isolated from the rest of the crew.
For seventy-two hours they pricked and prodded at us, taking multiple blood samples, and even a CSF-probe. After they all returned normal, and no sign of sickness was apparent, they let us into more comfortable living arrangements as we set for shore.
After being released from the sickbay, I hardly saw James and Abby, they spent most of their time in their rooms, only coming out for the occasional interrogation. Headquarters were incredibly curious as to how a state of the art installation suddenly collapsed, as we had absolutely no proof of the events that had transpired.
They needed someone to blame, but as a part of the CDC, and not the original Talos crew, I was safe from prosecution.
All that was required of me, was to sign a non-disclosure agreement, one I’m breaking now to warn you about the horrors of the abyss.
We know more about what exists in outer space, than we do about life in our own oceans, and that’s how it should remain forever.
These creatures, the Syncytium, can’t be killed. As long as one single cell remains, it would be enough to restart their hives, and I fear that with the consumption of Talos, they have learned about life on the surface.
Now that I’m posting this, I’m heading for the center of disease control. I can feel the worms wriggling inside my chest as I type this, ready to burst out at any moment, I guess the suit didn’t protect me after all.
I hope James and Abby are safe, that they get a second chance at living a happy life.