Written by: Aaron Wong Jielun (21-I4) and Lye Jae Vir (22-I1)
Designed by: Alexia Teo (22-U1)
The sun’s rays, illuminating the world below; nature’s thalassic secrets revealed, its knowledge made known to men. The rays permeated the shallow deep, bouncing off the vast array of wildlife around me as I descended. Gradually, the ocean’s denizens grew to be more defined from the homogeneity of the deep blue, the animals and plants becoming more visible.
Sagittaria sagittifolia, Hippoglossus stenolepis, Eriocaulon aquaticum!
The familiarity of these entities warmed me, the ocean was my domain and its inhabitants were my subjects.
Soon, I hit the seabed. My diving suit was attached to a thick lengthy tether supplying me power from my boat above. I would be underwater for some time, and the gear I used required more power than any portable battery could provide.
Tugging the tether along as I swam, I started the survey. Familiar life-forms of all shapes and sizes, popping up as blips on my radar. The survey area was divided into sections and I had only just embarked on the first one. Rock formations resembling humans and objects from my life greeted me while I stuffed squirming fish into glass jars for their required analysis.
The Lamp, The Microwave, The Misshapen Fist!
Truly, I was in home base.
The fish, aptly named Nemo for his distinctively orange hues, had been around for almost every survey since it started a decade ago. The analyzer was still buzzing and Nemo was being prodded at by lasers and needles. Despite being long past his appointed hour, Nemo still had the virility of youth. Although I regarded Nemo as an old-time friend, his memory of only a few hours made it hard for me to establish any deeper connection—albeit being a deeper connection than most I shared with others. Similarly, virtually none of the local denizens were unbeknownst to me. Each one had been meticulously tagged and colloquially named, and any change in the area’s population would not go unnoticed. Every nook and cranny, jotted down and mapped for posterity.
I looked down at the jar I had kept Nemo in to release him, only to realise that it was devoid of its intended inhabitant. While I was on my internal monologue, Nemo had somehow escaped out of the jar. Checking my radar, a tiny blip with his tag showed up. He was barreling across the area, out of the safe confines of the canyon and off the continental shelf, straight into the recesses of the deep. Horrified, I grabbed my tether and equipment, making my way off to grab Nemo before it was too late. The data was incomplete and Nemo had to return.
The tether grew tauter as I zipped through the sea. Nemo was almost beyond the shelf and any strong current risked his sure demise. Swimming with all the veracity a middle-aged researcher could conjure, the tether forced me to stop in my tracks. I had stretched it to its fullest limits and it could yield me no further length. Determined as I was, I unplugged the tether – my sole power supply – relying on the small batteries I had with me. It would only be for a few moments, Nemo was just within sight.
Now completely independent of any restriction, I continued my mad rush to salvage the survey. Nemo appeared dazed from the distance, ostensibly from an overdose during his time in the jar. Lunging, I grabbed Nemo and stuffed him into the jar once again, ensuring that it was sealed tight. Triumphant, I tapped the jar and the survey resumed.
My mind now free of my former pre-occupation, I took in my surroundings. Alien rock formations, caverns and canyons. The sun’s rays barely penetrated this area, its secrets and knowledge refusing to be let known to the world.
The Fish with Sharp Teeth, The Bones and Carcasses of Unknown Origin, The Chilling Bellows of the Deep!
The world around me exuded an eerie aura, the faint glow of the sun only revealing the silhouettes of entities untagged and unlabeled. The creatures and rocks here beckoned not to me, they bore no intimacy and name to the researcher from afar.
In my desperation to save Nemo, I had gone off the shelf and into the deep ocean.
Suddenly, a large blip appeared on my radar. It was entirely unknown to me and the database, appearing only as question-marks and a blip confirming its organic existence. Even for the deep ocean, a species this large being undiscovered was almost unheard of. The radar bore no data about it, this creature was genuinely alien to mankind. Checking my power supply, the portable batteries I carried could only yield an hour or two of strenuous use. However, such an opportunity rarely presented itself, even to the researcher with multiple lifetimes.
With a sigh I opened the jar, “Sorry, bud.”
I nudged a sober Nemo out. His body was not suited for higher pressures.
“I’ll see you again later.”
But Nemo was well on his way home by the utterance of the last word.
And so, in the name of scientific inquisition, I took off into the abyss.
The surface was getting further away like a distant sky, but still I went deeper. I had to. Near the surface, bathing in light and illumination, everything had already been discovered; carefully examined, studied and classified. But down here, in the deep, who knew what revelations could possibly emerge. And so down I went. Down into the deep, dark recesses of discovery.
My radar sensor pinged a constant red on the inside of my helmet visor. The distance between me and the creature I was tracking never seemed to shorten, no matter how hard I swam. It was almost as if it was deliberately keeping just at the edge of my sensor’s radius, luring me to it. No organism I had studied ever exhibited such behaviour. It had to be a coincidence. But the alternative gnawed on me. I was so curious.
All the while, my suit’s pressure gauge was steadily rising and its power bar was falling. My oxygen metre flashed. I got tired of keeping track of it all. My full attention was only focused on the creature.
My arms clawed through the water towards the creature, as if they were pulling on a watery thread, trying in vain to tug the creature closer. My legs kicked furiously, maximising the momentum of my heavy suit. The residual light from the surface had thinned out until I was trapped in an inky suspension.
I tapped on the headlamp affixed to my helmet. A white beam carved through the darkness like a searchlight.
The water shone a subtle greenish hue. The rock formations had thinned out into long spikes, geological appendages that twisted and cracked. Strange, bioluminescent polyps grew across and inside their surfaces: red, yellow, purple, orange variations that even my vast knowledge could not ascribe names to.
For all their vibrancy, however, they were shrivelled up, and sparse.The deep sea seemed dead. Other than the polyps, neither my eyes nor my sensors could detect any other traces of life. With the exception of it.
In this emptiness, and with the aid of my headlamp, I could finally just barely see it now.
For all my eyes could tell, the creature was a muddy silhouette that deceptively could have been either two or twenty metres away. My suit’s sensors helpfully informed me that it was in fact thirty metres away. Thirty? With this level of turbidity, and in this darkness, being able to visually discern something at that distance…
It had to be extremely big. The thought alone sent my mind racing with excitement, making me forget the dull numbness aching within my skull.
WARNING! HIGH PRESSURE. POWER LOW. OXYGEN LOW. WARNING!
Shrill cries emanated from the hunk of metal that cared for my body’s safety more than I did. But the suit wasn’t alive. It had never experienced truly living, like I was now. I was in a greater position to decide what I wanted to do with my body. And I decided to go deeper.
WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!
The beeping was sounding faster and faster, matching pace with my thumping heart. Just a bit more. Just a bit further. I had to see it.
The first thing that failed was the headlamp. Its light flickered and died, plunging me into a faceless void. I could only listen to the sounds of my own breathing echoing within my helmet, and the mute sloshing of water around my suit.
In a few minutes, my sensors shut down too. With no sight, no direction, I continued swimming. I didn’t need my sensors to track it. I knew it was down there. I just had to keep moving.
In time, my movements began to grow sluggish, as resistance pushed against my arms and legs. The suit’s hydraulic motors had ceased functioning, so I was now keenly experiencing the opposing force of the wall of water enveloping me. Even as I was forced to slow down to a crawl, I kept moving.
I had no idea how much more time passed in that faceless abyss. I had no idea when I first noticed its presence. But at some point I felt a sudden disturbance in the fluid ahead of me. Then I heard it reverberating through the metal suit, drilling into my skin: a low rumbling.
It was pitch black, but I had to see it with my eyes. My own eyes. Unfiltered. My hands reached for the base of my neck. My fingers pressed in—SNAP—and my helmet was removed.
I see it. I’ve discovered it. I’ve finally gotten what I wanted.
And so did it.