Did you know that we've mapped more of the surface of Mars than our very own oceans? How has our curiosity driven us to space travel, but not to explore the most perplexing mystery that lies on our very own planet? I've explored much of our waters myself, mapping and documenting our oceans and seas. I have learned that we are better off to just leave what lies below the waves alone.
I grew up by the ocean. In my youth, I loved to explore the tidepools and sea caves that dotted the east coast. I loved to see the life interacting with each other: crabs scuttling away when a big fish swam by, or an octopus camouflaging itself undetectable until its prey made the fatal mistake of getting too close. The sea was always just so interesting to me.
When I turned thirteen, my father bought me a cheap SCUBA set off the internet. It only allowed for 20 minute excursions underwater, but man if I didn't cherish it. I would dive at least twice a day, blowing all my allowance on air tank fill-ups, and footage for my underwater camera. Most of my childhood was spent under the sea.
As I grew, my interest for the water developed from a hobby, into a fully-fledged career. I received my degree in Marine Biology with the highest marks in my class, and was almost immediately hired by the Poseidon Foundation. Poseidon was a great place to work. I got to travel the globe, documenting new species, and reclassifying the old ones. Here, I met people who shared my passion for the waters on Earth and discovering what dwells within them.
I was a model employee. My data never had mistakes and was never once late. I quickly rose through the ranks until I was the right hand man of the CEO, Barry Henderson. He was an amazing man, with love for the oceans that even surpassed my own. The man had a twinkle, a spark of curiosity that all great explores possessed. He was not my boss, but my friend. Barry's life goal was to chart the bottom of the Marianas Trench, the deepest pit in the world. Every time we were together, it was the same old story:
"What do you think's at the bottom?" he would ask me.
"Something new," I would always retort.
"One day, me and you, we're gonna go down there."
Of course, an expedition to the bottom of the ocean would cost huge sums of money, which would simply bankrupt the company. But, I knew Barry would be unable to rest until he got what he desired.
It was a rainy afternoon. I was sitting in my office drinking a coffee and finishing up a report on a new species of starfish my team had discovered off the coast of Australia, when Barry burst in.
"Lucas! It's happened, by god it's happened!"
"The department accepted my request to fund our expedition! Our expedition to the bottom of the sea!"
The following months were spent preparing the submarine. It had to be perfect, that far underwater would put tonnes of water pressure on every square inch of the hull. I could hardly contain my excitement for what lay ahead. What kind of diverse life could exist that far below the waves? Only one expedition had ever been made before ours, and it lasted less than twenty minutes. Our submarine was designed to be submerged for over 20 hours. Barry and I would be true modern day pioneers.
The Triton finished construction in less than two months, and by god, the thing was a tank. 40 inch thick walls left more interior space to be desired, but it was plenty of room to house just the two of us. The best flashlight money could buy was mounted on the bottom, illuminating what ever lied in front in dazzling white light. Two robotic arms were attached to either side, giving us the ability to grab whatever was lying there to meet us, and document it.
We submerged on the 12th of July. The excitement that boiled inside me as we sank to the ocean completely pushed aside the nervousness that accompanied anyone facing the unknown. I could barely sit still as we sank further and further into the murky depths.
"We'll reach the bottom in less than ten minutes!" Barry exclaimed.
You have not experienced true darkness until you have been to the bottom of the ocean. Any traces of sunlight died out miles above us, leaving me and my partner in the utter blackness that is the deep sea. Even our fluorescent light had dimmed down to nothing but an orange glow. We could see less than twenty feet in front of us, but that did not stop Barry or I from getting straight to work.
In less than 45 minutes, we had discovered over 32 species of deep sea fish, 3 types of crustaceans, and two types of octopi. It was marvelous, never in my life had I had so much fun. The biology in the trench was so diverse and unique, I had never seen anything like it before.
Barry and I were discussing our first hour findings when we felt a jolt on the right side of our ship. It knocked us back several feet, and sent me out of my chair and onto the floor.
"What was that?! Are you okay?" Barry screamed.
Of course, no one heard him. Along with the petrifying darkness, came soundlessness. The world below was nigh mute. It held a very disturbing vibe.
"I'm fine...what was that?" I asked, pulling myself back onto my chair.
Barry did not answer. A thick, long, maroon tentacle did, slapping the front glass with a gut-wrenching, meaty sound.
"What the hell?" Barry cried out.
The tentacle, which must have been 25 feet, wrapped the front of our machine like a fish caught by a squid. I was dumbfounded. Was it a giant squid? No. They don't live that deep underwater, it wasn't possible. It had to be something new.
I sprang into action and took control of both the robotic arms. I gripped the tentacle as firmly as the machine could, and ripped it off furiously. Whatever it was attached to quickly scurried away.
"I-" Barry started, but didn't finish. We both knew that we had just discovered something. Something big.
"Let's follow it," I decided.
The submarine turned in the direction that the thing went in. We followed a trail of half eaten fish and overturned stones to something we both had not expected to see that deep. A spear. It was made from some kind of metal, and it looked almost new.
"This is freaky," Barry stated.
We followed the trail further, neither of us wanting to give up on what could be the biggest discovery of the decade. But then it happened again, harder. The familiar jolt and thudding sound this time knocking us both out of our chairs.
"Jesus!" I cried.
Then it came again. Another thud, from the opposite side of our cramped ship. Then another, and another, and another. They happened rapid fire, hit after hit. I felt like I was stuck in an intense game of pong.
Then we saw it, an unintelligible mass moving slowly towards us from the thick blanket of darkness, edging closer and closer every minute. It was not a squid coming towards us, nor was it an octopus. It was a monster.
It had the face of a human, if humans lived at the bottom of the ocean. Huge, glazed, solid black eyes dominated the monsters menacing face. Gills pocketed its neck, appearing to be slashes made by a knife. Elongated arms that extended from the bony sides of the creature ended in pale, webbed hands with inch long claws jutting out from its grotesque fingers. It had fins too, where its hair should've been, and on its forearms. The most disturbing part of the monster was below the torso, where its legs should have been was instead a mass of thick tentacles that wriggled and squirmed around like worms in a bucket. It clutched its spear firmly as it opened its mouth revealing several rows of needle like teeth.
Nothing escaped its mouth except a deafening screech that could be nothing but a war call. Instantly, the thudding began again, but this time faster, and much more furiously. The creature that we did see whipped its spear at our windshield, rattling it uneasily giving the impression that while strong, it was not impervious to damage.
"We have to get the hell out of here!" I heard Barry shout.
I once again grabbed the joysticks that controlled the arms of our vessel. I swatted crazily at the pack of devils that surrounded us, but it was hopeless. One of them grabbed the left arm with its jagged teeth and ripped it off like it was chicken on a bone. These creatures were strong, intelligent, and out for blood.
Another ripped the other arm off, as a spear ricocheted off the glass again. We were in trouble. We were at their mercy as they teamed up on us like a pack of wolves.
"Pull her up!" cried Barry.
I jumped into gear, as much as I loved the sea, I refused to die down there in that metallic coffin. I shifted our propellers downward, and shot our submarine up as fast as the damned thing could go.
The merdemons gave chase. They didn't want us to leave. I counted 13 more spear hits before we were out of the trench, and desperately radioing in for extraction.
We waited at the surface of the water in the Triton for less than 5 minutes before the helicopter came. I guess they heard the desperation in our voices. It hovered above our heads and released the rope ladder for us to climb to our escape, away from that watery hell. I hopped on first and began my ascent up.
Barry began to climb after me when suddenly, an all too familiar tentacle burst from the surface wrapping itself around his leg firmly. Before I could even scream, he was below the waves, and out of reach. There was nothing I could do. Barry's life had been claimed by what he loved very most: the ocean.
I did not just lose my friend on that dreadful day. I lost my passion. It has turned into an undying fear of water. I can hardly take a bath without the thought of a dreaded tentacle bursting through the drain and finishing the job, dragging me back down to the depths.
I will never return to the ocean.