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Lights flickered erratically from the crew’s cell phones. James watched as the masked figure beside him shook and button-mashed one of the devices while stepping off the pod. From the particularly expensive brand of phone he knew it belonged to Mary, one of the two paramedics.
“Ah, shit.” Eric’s face couldn’t be seen through his oxygen mask, but since the poor man wasn’t even five feet tall it was easy to tell him apart from the rest. Eric stared at his phone passively as his own screen mimicked Mary’s.
A beam of light shot out through the partially constructed hallway as another crew member stepped out from the entry pod. He held up his own phone which looked as though it was far past its prime. Regardless, its ancient digital screen that was meant only to display numbers was blinking just as rapidly as the other ones. “Guess we know what the problem is now. A fish set up an EMP.” Patrick was always one to make light of a situation.
James stepped out of the pod along with Mary’s partner, an old Russian man called Yevgeny. James glanced down towards his pocket and saw his own phone’s light raging against his pockets much like the others, but since Mary was still unable to get hers to work chances were that no one could figure it out.
“Come on; stop playing with your phones. Someone tell me how much oxygen is down here,” Yevgeny grumbled in his deep voice, one of which James was envious. Even with the barrier of the oxygen mask blocking his mouth his voice still carried strength. Mary gave an affirmative nod and pocketed her phone. Eric pressed several more buttons before he decided to give up.
Patrick was already walking ahead of the others, flashlight scanning the area, “They sure haven’t got much done since my last shift.” James wasn’t sure of his opinion since the last time he’d been down here was to install the first bits of wiring for the construction lights, all of which seemed to be inactive now. Still, it looked to him as though a lot of additions had been added. He didn’t recognize the place.
Mary’s voice carried enough strain to gain everyone’s attention. “It’s low. Only 6%.”
The implications of what that meant hit everyone. This wasn’t just a lighting failure. The precautionary oxygen masks that should ideally never serve a purpose were now necessary. Yevgeny took immediate charge over everyone as head paramedic. To everyone’s credit they remained calm. “Mary, come with me. Everyone spread out and see where the crew is. Yell if you find them. Phones aren’t working.” Both he and Mary moved down the corridor with their respective flashlight beams leading the way.
James looked towards Patrick for advice on how to proceed since he was the eldest out of the now three-man crew. Patrick turned and started following the paramedics. “Yeah. They’re probably in the lounge.”
“There’s enough oxygen down here for them?” James asked.
“Yeah. We’re stocked on tanks. One of the first things Trevor wanted to do was get the safety measures installed.” Patrick was reassuring.
Eric commented, “It’s pretty messed up that the generators aren’t even working.” “Eh, yeah, but shit happens.” Patrick knocked on the lounge door before opening it. He stopped in the doorway. James was able to note the vacancy of the room over Patrick’s shoulders. “Well, hell.” Patrick turned to face them. “Let’s just check around for them then.”
The conversation dropped after the introduction of this oddity. James was able to focus on the structure these two men and him were tasked with building. Metal arches held up glass ceilings and walls akin to an aquarium exhibit. That’s what this was, after all – a multi-billion dollar aquarium situated on the ocean floor to be marketed as a hotel. It was a nice idea, but without the spotlights on outside staring out of the glass was as useful as staring at a window someone had covered with tar. There was no natural light down here. The floors were still unfinished but there was no longer the dust and dirt covering it like during James’ first visit to hook up the electricity.
Patrick led them to a stocky door titled ‘Electrical.’ “Might as well see what’s wrong with the generator while we’re down here.” He sounded tired. James couldn’t blame him. After just twenty minutes down here they learned that pretty much everything mechanical needed fixing not to mention the ‘rescue’ mission that was now underway. Not that there was much urgency needed according to Patrick. James and Eric filed in after Patrick. Their flashlight beams bounced off the valves and red, white, and blue pipes of the massive machine. “You know how to work this?” Eric asked James.
“Not entirely. I mostly work with the wiring.” James followed some of the pipes with his light. “But if there’s a problem between here and the circuit I could probably find it.” His light hit an abnormal object between a section of pipes and in front of the grate covering the generator’s cooling system. He could only see its outline and it appeared to have no definite shape.
“Wait, it looks like someone left something by the fan.” James could see it now. Someone had trigged the electrical failure by leaving a bag or piece of clothing close enough to get stuck in the turbine, overheating the generator.
The closer he got to the object, the more puzzled he became. It was somewhat dark in appearance and looked filthy. There was fuzz coming out from parts of it and had the appearance of a large rag to James. Its silhouette certainly showed a bit of it stretching towards the fan.
“Yeah, somebody stuck something in the fan,” James grumbled irately. All this trouble over something so small.
“What is it?” Patrick asked while sounding just as annoyed as James. Eric and Patrick both made an approach.
James rounded a bundle of pipes to get a better view of how the rag was stuck. He was wrong. It wasn’t a rag but instead some sort of stretchy material. It wasn’t as dark as he had thought either; it was just littered with brown blotches of drying liquid. It looked quite knotted at an intersection of the pipes and James frowned, trailing his light across it towards the fan. That was when he noticed the hair.
The man’s jaw had been crushed into his cranium, swelling his scalp with the shattered bones to give him that non-human appearance that had led James to believe he had been a rag. The brown clumps weren’t dirt, but blood. The man’s flesh had been impossibly twisted among the pipes in directions impossible for bone to bend. His face was the worst. It was at least what might have been a face. Two holes were covered in black that had leaked to the floor. A third hole had the same appearance, but to tell which were the eyes and which was the nose or mouth was impossible. There were no ears or chin or anything else to determine one feature from another. James had never seen a dead body beyond what was prepared at a funeral home. His throat constricted and he couldn’t speak or move.
Somebody behind him gagged and that seemed to be enough to return the control of his body. James stumbled away and shakily said, “Let’s find the paramedics.” They had to be informed that someone had died here. This was no longer a company issue. Patrick had to guide Eric away from the gruesome sight. It was all James could do to keep his trembling body from colliding with objects.
No one wanted to talk as they briskly moved down the hallway. They passed the lounge and James wondered if everyone from the former crew was dead. If that was true then it left the nauseating issue of what had happened. There had been no use of any evacuation pods. If someone was responsible for the deaths then they would still be in the compound. If it had been an environmental force, that what could have killed everyone so quickly? He just wanted to get the hell out now, but conscience would dictate taking the paramedics with them.
There were many rooms lining the hallways, most without doors and unfurnished. The bathroom is what Patrick led them towards seeing as how it was the only furnished room on that side of the compound. There were no manners involved when Patrick threw the door open on the two startled paramedics. Both jumped but neither screamed. “We need to get out of here.” Patrick was faster than James on that declaration. The paramedics looked towards them, but remained fixed facing the sink.
“I agree.” Yevgeny turned and left the sink. Everything about his stance was stiff. Mary’s eyes kept darting towards the sink until she joined him. “What happened?” James asked, catching their nonverbal cues.
In a tone void of any emotion Yevgeny replied, “There’s a body in the stall. Look in the sink.”
James and Patrick approached the sink just enough to see over its rim. It was a book, but it was leaking liquid. Lumps of cartilage protruded from the cover they were unevenly attached to with gaps in the tissue holding rotting juices. Whatever had made it wasn’t concerned with neatness but had made the point to claw a geometric symbol into the flesh. At that moment James felt as though someone had ripped all ability to react out of his body. He felt nothing. He turned from the grotesque sight and a distant secondhand thought caused him to ask, “Where is Eric?”
“Wasn’t he with you?” Yevgeny asked accusingly.
James said, “He was.” He made his way into the hallway to where the paramedics had moved.
Patrick recovered and followed James without a look back. “Yes, but we don’t know when he left.”
“He was right with us until we got here.” James said softly. A flash of light sent down the bare hallway only revealed the obvious – that no one was there.
Mary had taken her iPhone out and was fiddling with it, but the blinking hadn’t stopped. “We need to get out of here.”
“Maybe he’s at the pod.” Patrick added, and the four of them retraced their steps. The sound of heavy footsteps and panting caused them all to turn around and focus their lights on a figure running towards them. Yevgeny pulled a small pocketknife out of his grey suit but kept it held near his leg.
Eric’s red hair greeted several of their light beams and Yevgeny relaxed. “Why’d you guys leave me?”
James asked incredulously, “What?”
“You weren’t there. We turned and you’re gone.” Patrick growled, his good nature disappearing under the circumstances.
“What? I was there the entire time. When’d I leave?”
“You weren’t there when the others entered the bathroom.” Mary was starting to sound equally frustrated.
“I was.” They could see Eric glowering from behind his plastic visor. “I was standing there with them when they were looking at that fucking book.”
Yevgeny turned his beam away. “Whatever. Let’s go.” No one had to be told twice. They were making the final T-shaped turn when the ceiling started to quake. The metal around them roared with protest and James felt as though his insides were going to shatter into pieces. The quaking didn’t throw any of them off their feet. The ground wasn’t the source of the disruption. Something from above was causing it. Eric countered the noise with cursing. James felt his emotions return with a vengeance. His throat felt like his heart was trying to climb out his mouth, so tight was his chest. He started to back away when a new sound arrived – rushing water.
Eric and Patrick leapt into a run for the pod screaming for everyone else to follow. Yevgeny was already ahead of James and Mary. The glass ceiling directly in front of the pod let out a scream and a torrent of water fell upon Eric and Patrick. James and Mary turned, fleeing the breach. Posts, scaffolding, and equipment started to fall as the shaking renewed itself. The sound of more blasting water came from the direction they were running towards, and Mary veered sideways to climb up the skeleton of a fallen crane. James joined her. It was still leaning upwards just enough to give them some height. When he looked back he saw none of the others. The crane jerked when the water collided and James thought with despair that this entire place was going to fill.
Their masks had fogged from the drastic change of temperature. He couldn’t see Mary’s face, but James could hear how loudly she was breathing. He likely sounded the same. His mind was pulling a complete blank. Mary took her phone out again, but it was still blinking. With a frustrated scream she hit it against the main support of the crane. James held on tighter and closed his eyes.
The shaking started again, but this time with his eyes closed James could feel his chest start pulsating with varying pressures before the rattling above and below started. A sound? A sound he couldn’t hear but feel? This theory did little for their predicament and so he let it waft out of his thoughts. The water had risen to the point of touching the bottom of his right shoe, which he raised, but Mary was now willingly lowering herself into the water. “What are you doing?”
She flinched when the water hit her body. She spoke quietly in an airy way that reminded James of a child, “I don’t want it to be dark.” He had no argument against that statement. Mary flipped her mask off since it wasn’t waterproof and went under. A second later a blindingly bright light ripped through the darkness. She had found a battery powered spotlight! Mary dragged herself back onto the crane and replaced her mask, but she was quivering from the cold. James could see some of the damage caused from above thanks to the light, but what was most baffling was how focused the damage was. The roof wasn’t cracked or shattered, the glass blooming inward as though caused by a large object falling against it, but nothing aside from the water had came in. “We should go and get some of the SCUBA gear. Maybe the others swam there.” Mary’s voice trailed off as though understanding the futility of it all.
However, James attention was locked on something immediately outside the glass. The question as to what had wrecked the glass was answered. The spotlight’s beam hit a colossal white object. Its monstrous ghostly mass stretched out far beyond what the light could contain. Perhaps Mary was quiet because thought it was a rescue vessel, but James had seen its gaping abyss lined with peaks from hell. James saw its red gills that were the length of football fields rattle in conjunction with his own chest as it bellowed a rallying cry.
-Credited to Mintos