It started almost twenty years ago.
When I woke up I noticed something was wrong. I could hear a faint sound, almost unnoticeable. It sounded like water going through pipes, or how one imagines being underwater sounds. After breakfast I could still hear it, so I grabbed a couple tools and applied my ear to the walls of my home, trying to see where the sound was coming from.
It took a while but I finally realized the sound didn’t come from anywhere in my house. In every room I could still hear it with the same intensity, and there was no way every single inch of wall had something going on behind them.
I couldn’t exactly confirm it, but it felt like it came from pretty close, right beside my ear. No matter when I went, even if I went outside, the sound continued. While I walked outside to see if I could make the sound go away, I found the second strange thing of the day.
In middle of my yard there was a hole now, round and big. I could easily fit through it, if I wanted. Curious, I crouched and peeked into it, but didn’t see anything other than darkness. Curiously, it didn’t look like a tunnel, or some animal’s den, it was as if there was an underground cave and the hole was on its ceiling. Just darkness everywhere. I returned home for a torch and directed its light inside.
There was a floor. I wasn’t sure how far away it was, but I could see the bottom of the hole. I couldn’t believe it, how did all the dirt disappear in one night? I felt tempted to take a ladder and go into the hole, but I decided against it. I was going to work in a couple hours; there was no time for these antics.
I decided to talk with my neighbor, Barney. He was quite a cheery young man, always willing to help with anything. If there was somebody who would go down there for no compensation at all, it was him. I went to his door and knocked, he opened shortly after that.
“Gabriel, what’s up, bud?” he said, opening his arms as if I were to give him a hug. I smiled sheepishly and waved back.
“Yeah, not much. There’s a little something I need to deal with but I have to go to work shortly, so I wondered if you could help with that”
“Sure, what is it?”
I explained the situation and led him to my yard. Barney examined the hole curiously and tried to see inside. “So this appeared overnight. That’s not usual”
“Could you please check what’s down there while I’m at work?” Barney flashed a thumbs up and I, now somewhat relieved for having things in order, went inside to have breakfast before going to work.
The watery noise continued during the whole day, but after a while I managed to tune it out. It being very low helped too, and in a sense, it was relaxing. I had a normal morning at work, nothing special happened. As I lived near of home, during my lunch break, I returned to talk to Barney and see what was down there.
I found him in his yard, digging. He had done a two meters deep hole and showed signs of wanting to go deeper. “Barney, what are you doing?” He had some kind of harness around him, tied to a nearby tree.
“I want to see if I find it in my property too. It certainly seems big enough for that”
“What are you talking about?”
“The ocean, bud! You got an ocean under your house!”
For a moment I thought the watery sound had made me mishear it. “The ocean…?”
“Yeah!” Barney was pretty excited “You got an ocean, bud. It’s salty and all. The hole leads to some sort of huge round chamber, big enough to go under several houses. But it’s curious, I have been digging for a while and I haven’t punctured the ceiling yet”
I sighed. While the explanation didn’t sound exactly believable, at least what was in the hole wasn’t a burial site or the remains of another civilization. “Okay, thank you for the help. I’ll call a landscaper to get it fixed this afternoon. Would you mind to…?”
“No, wait!” Barney struggled to get out of the hole, but finally managed after using his harness and rope to climb out. Gasping for breath, he tried to talk “Don’t do it yet. I want to take another look this afternoon, take some photos, all that. Don’t you see? There are people who need to know about the big-ass space filled with water that is under our neighborhood!”
I realized he was right. Calling landscapers wasn’t going to be helpful at all. “Alright, do that. What will you do?”
“I have some connections in the municipal office. They’ll know what to do, but I suppose it’ll be a long bureaucratic process. You should pack some stuff in case they decide you need to move out for a few days”.
I decided I’d do that tonight. When I left for work again he was going towards my yard with his camera and a ladder.
I returned in the night. As I had expected, during the night everything was silent, so the gurgling sounds beside my ear were more noticeable. I went to Barney’s house to see how the whole matter had gone, but he didn’t open the door. Thinking he was in his yard, I went there. The hole he had been digging earlier was still there, just as he had left it, as well as the harness and rope on the tree. I just noticed in that moment that there were no lights turned on in his house.
There were a thousand reasonable explanations for that, so I didn’t really pay attention to the fact that Barney wasn’t home. Before I entered my house I went to check the hole in my yard. There was Barney’s ladder propped on the edge, but I didn’t bother to see if there was anything down there. “Barney?” I called, and nothing replied. I went inside my house and promptly continued with my usual night routines, with the watery sounds still as background noise.
That night I dreamed I was underwater. Just…deep blue water, bubbles, and that continuous gurgle.
The sounds were still there the next morning.
I frowned, taking the determination that if the next day I still heard it, I’d go to a doctor.
When I went outside after breakfast I saw Barney in his porch. “Hey, Barney” I said, approaching. He didn’t pay attention to me. I soon stood up in front of him. “How did everything go? Did you talk with the people you said you knew?”
Barney grimaced. “I…I don’t remember” he rubbed the inside of his ear; in that moment I noticed he was paler than normal. He seemed very scared “Goodness, I’m turning insane.”
“Eh?” That had been an unexpected sentence. Barney stood up, trembling slightly.
“Gabriel, I need to go. See you later,” and he left hurriedly.
There was no trace of his usual cheery behavior, which kind made me suspect something bad had happened to him. I was also a bit disappointed he didn’t say anything about what he had done the day before, but my concern for him was bigger than those selfish thoughts.
Still, as it was the weekend and I didn’t have to work, I waited the whole morning to see if anybody from the city hall or something would come to see the so-called ‘ocean’, but nobody came. During the morning I tried to read, but the gurgling had turned a tad louder now. It was harder to focus on anything, but with some effort I managed to tune it out.
In the afternoon I decided to call a landscaper I knew from some time ago. I had no idea who to talk with in the municipal office, so I figured I may as well get somebody to take a look before daring to do a trip into the bureaucratic maze. He would know what to do.
In a couple hours the landscaper arrived.
“Hello. Where’s the problem you mentioned?” I hadn’t told exactly what I had seen; as it was much easier to show than tell. I beckoned him to follow me to my yard, where I showed him the hole.
“And it may sound strange, but there’s apparently an…an ocean down there,” I said, pointing into the hole. Barney’s ladder was still there, the landscaper hesitantly put a foot on the top stair.
“An ocean? You know that’s impossible, don’t you?”
“I know it isn’t a literal ocean, but it’s a lot of water. Salty water. A friend took a look yesterday and said there was enough space to go under several houses around here.”
The landscaper frowned. “You should have called me instead of letting somebody else get down there.”
He started to descend until he vanished from my sight. In matter of seconds a light appeared, it was a pretty potent lantern. “You weren’t kidding; this is a lot of water.”
“Is that it? Just water?”
“It’s a cave filled with water, yes. It seems like it has been here for quite long. How did you find it?”
“Uh, the hole suddenly appeared. I found it yesterday”
“Sometimes holes do appear. Perhaps the dirt was weakened by recent rain or something similar. You should stand away from the hole, it’s possible for nearby ground to crumble and make it bigger.”
There was a pause for a moment “…oh my”
“What? What did you see?”
“There’s a camera in here."
The light of the landscaper’s lantern turned towards the ladder, and soon the man ascended back until I could see him.
“Here,” I received the camera. It wasn’t mine; it was likely it was Barney’s. Remembering he was going to take photos, I took the camera and looked at the most recent files.
It was just as the landscaper had said; it was a huge cavern with water. It didn’t even have stalactites or stalagmites; it was just a round chamber. I couldn’t see anything interesting or strange.
“Give me ten minutes and I’ll be out of here,” the landscaper said from the bottom of the cavern, “I want to check a few things about the soil.”
I shrugged and went to wait to a side of the yard, looking at all the photos Barney had shot. There weren’t differences between them, at least until the last one.
There was a particularly bright spot in the water. Sure, most of the surface was already very bright due to the flash used to take the photos, but there was one point that seemed shinier than the rest, as if there had been a light there. I had to ask Barney about that. “Um, I’ll be going for a moment, when you come out please wait for me, okay?” The landscaper said it was okay, so I went to Barney’s house.
When I arrived I saw him with a suitcase, about to get into a cab. “Barney, wait!” I exclaimed, running to him “Where are you going?”
“To somewhere where I can get help,” he said gravely, putting the suitcase in the trunk.
“Help? Help for what? What’s going on?”
“I don’t know. I went inside the hole in your yard yesterday and…then I woke up this morning on my bed. I can’t bear the noise anymore.”
“The noise?” Did he mean he can hear the gurgles now? As soon as he mentioned it my mind instantly made me focus again on the watery noises, once again filling my mind.
“Yes, the noise! There’s something in that ocean! I can’t get the noise out of my head! It’s so loud, so…so…I can’t take it anymore! I’m going mad!”
“Wait, what’s in that ocean?”
Barney seemed to be at a loss of words. He gestured vaguely, until he went into the car and closed it with a slam. “I can’t describe it. It was so strange, and then...I drowned. And then I woke up on my bed and these fucking noises were in my head. I have to get help!” and with that, the cab drove off. I stared at it go, confused.
So Barney was hearing the gurgling too? It wasn’t even that loud. With some effort one could suppress the noises until it was barely noticeable. I did it again and returned to my home, thinking about what Barney had said.
So there was something in the water…something that could be possibly linked to the noises. Maybe that water under my yard was the same water I could hear, or maybe I had unknowingly drank some of that water. I had no idea, but I soon was convinced the bright point I thought existed in the photo could be related to the noises.
But of course the most worrying point was that Barney had said he drowned. I could swear, or at least was 99%, that the Barney I had seen was definitely not drowned. Drowned people tend to be, you know, dead.
Did Barney fall unconscious into the water or something? That wouldn’t explain the part about waking up on his bed. I really doubted anybody would have taken him from the depths of the ocean under my property to his bed, so…
As I was starting to get a headache, I went inside to make a coffee while I kept trying to make sense of Barney’s confusing words. Only after I spent a whole hour on it I realized the landscaper hadn’t met me yet.
Somewhat worried after the whole thing that happened with Barney, I called to his office. If he hadn’t met me maybe he had gone to his office, but nobody answered. The same thing happened when I called to his home. Did that mean he was still near? Why didn’t he try to find me? Or…could he still be in the cavern?
I went outside and nervously peered into the hole. “Um, hello? Are you still there?
No sound came from the hole.
Starting to feel dread, I practically called on the ground until I was sure my voice would echo in the cavern “What did you find about the soil? It’s starting to be late…what do I need to do to solve this ocean problem?”
Still no answer.
This was starting to be too much for me. Before I knew it I was starting to descend the ladder into the hole, hollering the landscaper’s name. It didn’t take long before I reached the bottom, and that’s when I noticed the lantern was just a few steps away from me. I picked it up and illuminated the cavern around me.
I was completely alone.
The loneliness also allowed me to get my guard down and notice something that startled me, as it happened without any warning: the sounds were gone.
It wasn’t that I was blocking them; it was that they simply weren’t there anymore! The silence was a relief, but then I worried about the actual situation. Did something happen to the landscaper? Did he fall into the ocean? I carefully walked closer to the ocean until I was on the shore, almost touching the water. I peered as far as I could with the flashlight, but there was no sign of the landscaper.
I remembered the matter I had intended to consult with Barney, the bright point in middle of the water. To see if I could see such a thing I turned off the flashlight and waited, looking around with great attention. It didn’t take long before a point on the surface of the water changed.
It wasn’t a dramatic moment; in fact I almost didn’t notice it. Gradually, in a point far away, the water started to light up. A round sphere of light seemed to appear underwater, giving the cave wall behind it a bluish tint. I was kind of perturbed by the possibility of it being related to the landscaper’s disappearance. After all, some fish in the oceanic abysses possess this kind of lights that allows them to lure their prey, not that I expected anything like that to be in there, but that’s what it reminded me.
I left the hole just after that, and as soon as I stepped onto my yard, the gurgling returned. I was shocked, trying to tell myself it was a coincidence, but it’s obvious there was something in the hole linked to the noises. Despite that I returned to my home and tried to keep my mind off the noises, with less success than before. The gurgling was louder now.
It took me a good while to get fall asleep. I couldn’t take my mind off the landscaper’s disappearance and Barney’s sudden behavior, and the water noises didn’t help either. I called once to the landscaper’s office and home, but he didn’t answer. After a couple hours I finally managed to sleep, telling myself over and over that they were fine. The next morning I realized the noises were still there.
I groaned, clutching my head. It was going to be the third day and the gurgling didn’t show any sign of stopping. I considered going to a psychologist, or to a pharmacist, or to anybody who could help me to ignore the sounds. I couldn’t imagine hearing them for any longer.
In a dash of anxiety I ran to the yard to get down onto the hole again, craving for a moment of silence. I didn’t care I hadn’t eaten anything yet or that I was only wearing some shorts, I wanted a moment to think of what to do.
Once I sat on the little beach near the water I took a moment to enjoy the silence. I could finally hear my thoughts. First of all I decided I’d call the landscaper again. If nobody answered, I’d go to his home, to his office or wherever he could be, at least to know he was okay. I was convinced he had taken a swim in the ocean, and if the same thing that happened to Barney also happened to him then there’d be once another man turning insane.
Later I’d go and try to find a way to shut out the gurgling. That was everything I planned, it wasn’t much but it gave me a sense of control. When I stood up to ascend back to my yard I noticed the glow in the water was there once again.
This time I wasn’t going to go away without checking what was causing that glow. Monstrous fish or not, it was time to get some answers. I stood up on the shore, dipping my feet into the water. The salty water was cold, as expected from a place where no heat was available. I slowly walked until I was up to my hips in the water, then I jumped forward to swim. Thankfully I’m a pretty good swimmer, so I was confident I wouldn’t be in any trouble.
While I swam the sphere of light slowly sunk, and when I went towards the shore to see what happened it moved nearer to the surface again. It was clear that there was something moving the light, and wanted me to get near it and underwater. I felt some dread, what could be in the there? I doubted that even with my swimming proficiency I would be able to swim to the bottom of the ocean. Despite my doubts, I swam until I was directly over the light, and after taking the deepest breath I could, I dived. The salt in the water hurt my eyes, I felt the impulse of resurfacing and going away but I was curious what I was going to find. I swam towards the light; that was all I could see. Everything else was dark; I couldn’t even distinguish my own hand in front of my nose.
The darkness didn’t let me see the cave had a bowl-like shape. I suddenly felt my arm crashing onto the wall, and in panic I let my breath go. I hurriedly started to swim towards the surface but I knew I wouldn’t be able to reach it. My body couldn’t resist it anymore; I opened my mouth in an effort to breath.
I was dumbfounded when I realized I could breathe underwater.
It’s like it sounds, my mouth and nose filled with water yet I didn’t feel I was drowning. It was as if there was enough oxygen infused in the liquid for me to breath. Maybe it wasn’t water, after all. The salt in the water tingled into my nose and mouth, and frankly it was freaking me out.
Still, despite what my intuition was telling me and despite the discomfort I felt, I dived further. Since I could breathe then I may as well go follow that light.
…I’m not sure how long I dived. The cave had a bowl shape; I knew that judging by how I crashed onto the wall, but after a good while of swimming I felt I wasn’t making any progress. The light seemed as out of reach as in the beginning, and I could swear I had swam for at least an hour. I wasn’t tired, in fact I felt full of vigor and energy. That doesn’t mean that when, after so long, the light showed something new I didn’t feel relief.
There was this…cube in the bottom of the ocean. It wasn’t so big, barely like…six meters per six meters. It was more like a box with the top open. The light stopped directly over it and grew in intensity, illuminating everything around. I could see the rocks through the strange blue tine of the water and the light. Curious, I swam towards the huge box and peered inside.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was a perfect replica of my bedroom, full scale. There was even a figure of me on the bed, apparently sleeping. I swam closer, focusing on the figure. When I was just to its side, I realized it wasn’t an inanimate object, it was breathing. It’s like I was sleeping peacefully in my bedroom. Mystified, I slowly extended my arm to touch myself, wondering if when I touched him I’d feel it as well.
As soon as I touched the figure’s skin, I felt my throat closing, as if something had grasped my neck. I trashed but I couldn’t move, I was limited to the point where I was now. I gasped, this time feeling how my lungs filled with water. The salt burned my eyes, and I screamed. My screams came out in the form of gurgles, as expected. It didn’t take long before I blacked out.
I woke up, startled and sweating. I looked at my hands, around me. There was no blue tint, nor strange liquids filling everything. There was the ceiling, as it should be. There was the window, light shining through it.…everything seemed normal.
However it wasn’t normal and it was because of what I could hear. The watery noises were still there, but now they weren’t alone. I could hear trashing, water rushing, the agony of a slow and painful death. Once it seemed it was over it repeated again, and again, and again.
The hole in the yard was gone. I never heard from Barney again, and I didn’t dare to call the landscaper. I feel guilty, if it hadn’t been because of me then chances are they wouldn’t be experiencing this. That hole was meant to be for me, not for any of them.
During the day I can’t stop hearing the noises, nothing I do can distract me. It’s like it isn’t only aside my ear, but as well as inside my head. It’s unstoppable and a torture, not even all the time that has passed has made it diminish.
During the nights I have the same dream, I can once again see myself sleeping, and I feel the water rushing into my lungs. That’s all I dream, over and over, every single night.
It has been twenty years since I descended into that hole. I have been hearing myself drowning for twenty years.
Credited to WhyAmIReadingThis