a short story
Blinking into abyssal descension, I leave a trail of precious oxygen in my wake.
The water streams past me at forty knots, threatening to bring on unconsciousness. I cannot tell one way or another. The suit’s self-contained protection, impeccably designed, keeps my body intact and my course true. Head first, I dive unto the discovery of a lifetime. Swirling eddies of swimming life near the surface spiral afore me, building alongside the pressure. All of it stacks atop my form. But the light through the spiral gets smaller and smaller, as the darkness at my feet gets larger and larger.
Streaming sun rays of the life I was meant for do not cast upon my destination. They’re already gone, even my memory of them, in no time at all. The suit tweaks and bellows from the affectations; I hold on for as long as it can will me into these depths. The trenches’ wides spaces become the only environment to be known or seen in the coming days. The continuation of the fall dwells upon my hopes and fears; my hubris bears out unconsciously, and I am held aloft by cerebral ambitions. These dark depths envelop me.
For it to be possible for me to survive in a place like this is a dream. I can’t deny the thrill to be plunging through the ocean at this speed, with my own seeing eyes all along my path into the depths, and to a fate I chose.
Clenching my fists to keep the blood flow, blinking my eyes to maintain my composure, I lose track of the velocity of my movement for a time. I try to slow my breathing to conserve energy, to no avail. Darkness envelopes my everywhere, all directions. Spatially there is no referencing criterion with which to work, to see the rate and terror of my descent. These intervening moments were known, indeed they were the expectation. But the pondering and the facing are two different beasts.
A dive mission of this nature was filled with immeasurable peril. Courageous Precision was the name of the game; and necessarily, it was the name of the suit’s manufacturer, my company. The parameters of the depth, speed, and pressure of this ventured area had to be exact as could be; the design of the diving suit and its stores of life-supporting mechanista had to be perfected, else the mission would fail. The work to be done in such a harsh environment was immense, and the machine had to do all the work itself.
The suit propels me down, at this speed and under increasing pressures, entirely of its own limited energy store. It would be enough to get me down deeper than anyone had ever gone. It’s not lost on me that no such equipment had ever been truly field-tested just as no such dive had ever been attempted. It was thrilling to be a part of the breaking of such staunch barriers.
I am a pioneer for both physical endurance, and engineering ingenuity. Or rather, a pioneer of an especially novel and entertaining death…
My breathing intensifies even as my HUD sensors tell me the rate is unsustainable. It will pass, it will pass. The speeds will slow, the distance will close. Everything so far was within simulation. The suit could maneuver even at the greatest depths, of course. The head and body lights, imbued with stored sol reserves, could pierce the darkest abyss. And I would need it, all of it. Some crafts had ventured to such depths, but no man. The batteries would give me a little under 35 hours. I continue to plunge below, deeper and deeper towards my destination of both known and unknown origin. I am almost smiling with the unconsummated excitement of inaugural, momentous discovery. But I have to keep regulating. So I close my eyes and continue the breathwork. My team and I worked hard just for these moments. Of the many threats facing one making the vicious headfirst dive into the waters of what should be oblivion ~ appropriate, rational, sane breathing was the most singularly crucial. The suit could self-regulate most of what my body would feeling, but some of it was up to me and my own stability.
I continue Pranayama well into the next few knots.
Unlike my colleagues, I hold cursory expectations on what we might see down here. Or rather, to be more precise, I hold no specific expectations, relative to their own. It isn’t that I think monsters, ancient cities, and aliens to be unfathomable; such things truly flatter the deepest fathoms of our very imaginations. Of the nameless deep and outer spaces we cannot see into, we populate with the Gods and demons of our unconsciousness. It’s only human nature. However, I believe this is projection. We wish for Gods and Demons and illusions of all kinds in order to make our universe bigger, taking our own souls along for the ride. Maybe it’s not impossible, maybe I can’t prove the non-existence of certain ancient dreams our race has relentlessly dreamed up. But wherever we can, I think we should work with the tools available to us to dispel such illusions. We should always be striving towards the highest truth available to us, perhaps even beyond it. It can and should be done methodically, with responsibility and grace; such dreams are truly sacred, because it empowers us towards making things better than they are in the here and now. What better way to venerate your voiceless Gods than to explore the world they might’ve created for you.
And this is where you meet the telos of this mission — I fully intend to wade into the truth here. Even with its considerable uncertainty and risk, I think this mission is worthy of the undertaking, worthy of at least my own life. Whatever lurking, hulking behemoth of Truth lies in wait down within these depths, shall be met first with my eyes and then broadcast to the insatiably curious appetites of the wider world for all time. I hope such a sight inspires others to similarly dispelling and illuminating ventures.
I approach the depth of a planned-for velocity change. I pull up with the suit’s control, slowing my descent and turning my weight. Now upright, I begin a preliminary scan. Certainly, I can see no thing. Darkness truly envelopes me down here. There are not even shadows to recognize. With no movement to track, I scan continuously with my eyes searching for something to find. A man is not meant to be in such darkness long, our mind has to populate it with something. And we generally do not favor what it comes up in such states.
I run the routines and the technology does not light with any findings. There is no light here, save for the fire in my eyes; there is no source of life here in these depths, save for the heightening beating of my own heart.
Continuing to review the HUD, the unfiring sensor, the roiling idle apparatus, I take notice of something threatening to overtake me. Fear. I did not expect it to fall upon me, even as I descended into what any rational person would consider a nightmare. Fear, it was an emotion I had continuously grappled with over the years. In a sense, it was something that was capable of defeating me. But I believe there is no courage without fear.
In my profession, in my personal adventures, I engaged with trepidation but always used it to my advantage. It had long ago become part of my routine. Fear was familiar. And this familiarity could breed bold actions. It was the key ingredient in my success thus far, in discovering new species, new lands, new civilizations throughout the world. I deliberately chose the kinds of research and locales my work often takes me — based on some kind of semblance of overcoming it. Fear. Wherever I most feared to venture, I would dive in. And so it was with this particular vocation.
And yet, as I descended slowly now, unbeholden to any conscious consideration of a lifeline, incapable of comprehending even the rate of the descension into abyss, unknowing of my ultimate destination within such a place — I can feel it. It threatens to burn me up, even as nearly subzero temperatures begin to seep into my form every second. I can feel the cold, even through the constantly heating suit. I can feel it.
I don’t know anything about where I am going and it can end me,
it should end me,
It will be my last discovery. It will be my last discovery. I am okay with this. After all, for most of my life, I’ve always been willing to risk my life for the sake of a great discovery. I would feel pride in such a legacy. I think I still believe this; my eyes stare into the darkening abyss. I continue to plunge towards deep sea no man’s land.
I start to see shadows but I know what they are. Of course, I know them. I have seen them often. The doctors warned me about this. My suit tells me it’s been 3 hours. No longer able to use propelled energy resources within the backpack and boots of the suit, and too dangerous at this depth anyway, I have simply been falling for some time now, ever so slowly. The shadows before me aren’t real. They’re a timed result of an over-exposure to nothing. Given no thing to focus on, no body of light for your eyes and brain to collect, as I said — you begin to create something to see. Out of necessity, hallucination begins. Hallucinations in the abyssal planes of the ocean — excellent. I try blinking them away. I can see my reflection in the helmet and I appear as a fool.
I look to the light switch in the top left corner of my HUD. It’s primed and ready to be launched. The energy stores of the suit have nearly restored sufficient space in order to fire them, 52% recovered from the usage of the boost to get down here. It was time for illumination. I hesitate but my eyes continue to flick towards it, consciously. How close to the bottom am I? Am I ready? Doesn’t matter — have to be. Only one way to find out. I grip my hands together and release them three times each, the coded response to turn on the matrix of lights on the external surface of the suit.
Nothing happens at first. Even more nothing happens at second. Seconds tick away and I sweat inside the suit. Fear? The hallucinating shadows don’t seem to relent. Fear. They do everything except relent. They relentlessly wrestle my corneas in blanketing submissions I cannot blink away from. They swirl around me in a fury and I finally manage to close my eyes to it. I simply wait for my closed lids to be lit wide by the explosion of light. But it doesn’t come. I return to my sight and my dark spaces continues to move around me. I try to see it because I can’t feel it. I keep gripping my hands in threes and there’s nothing. Could the lights be malfunctioning? Could they be broken? There’s no lifeline, there’s no one down here, there’s no one else coming. I feel it, I feel it. F — I contemplate the orchestration of my incessant falling, drifting like a feather into the widest maw of the God-Beast no doubt living within this trench, waiting with its gullet, waiting with its teeth and it’s cosmically large mouth full of cold, cold hellfire. I try to maneuver myself out of the anxiety. I try climbing out of the dreaded pit of hell, but I keep falling into it. I feel the fins and slimy scales and silent breathing of nocturnal, blind aquatic pack predators behind me. No matter where I turn they’re behind me. Are they inside the suit? How can I defend myself? I’ve never felt so nakedly, violently vulnerable. Falling like a baby boy inside a swirling chaos of certain peril. I keep turning, using power from the suit to spin in circles I get dizzy and grip my hands more slowly, in threes, sixes, ones. Two’s. I lash out at the darkness with both my arms, hoping it will dissipate. They are heavy and ineffective. I keep my eyes closed because it doesn’t make a difference anyway. I keep staring, tracking, sifting through any stimuli presenting itself, hoping to find the weak point in my opponent’s defenses. I’ll find it. And I’ll capitalize on their faltering moment! Open my eyes, open them. Just as I see it, I’ll strike! I keep falling in the dark, the dark, the dark the dark the dark. I keep closing them in threes, it’s only thing I have left. I hope for the bottom soon.
After a minute, I keep my eyes wide open, I don’t close them again.
When my feet hit the ground, the impact is soft. It’s a pleasant feeling, having solid ground again to stand on. I am forced into a crouch. At the end of my fall, I stay here and steady my nerves. I again work on the regulation process, working through the suit’s subroutines. My mental ones fire up on their own. I am back. I think, I hope.
The HUD blinks back to my consciousness. The suit’s pulsing activity brings me back online to the mission and my place here in the trench. No man has stepped here. This is place is a monument to Man’s ignorance, and his limitations. And here I am, one step away from lighting it up for the world to see. I clasp my hands with convictions once more.
The darkness remains another moment.
No life signs in the immediate area, per the HUD. The light remains inert, but I feel confidence returning and decide to begin to move. I sense a glow in the indeterminate distance before me, behind me, all around. It is the first light I have seen in some time. I try to walk and it goes better than expected. I can step through these deepest waters. There is momentum in my movement and I am soon underway. Moving with the current now, I persist across the deepest recess in the planet, wading through history undaunted, writing a future for explorers everywhere. Darkness remains everywhere except in my heart. I am moving. The excitement swells within me once more. One step after another. Keep going, keep searching.
Continuing to read my suit, I know not what I approach. But I do intend to get there.
I continue to clutch my hands in threes, as my steps turn to twos, awaiting the flood of my luminescent discovery in the deepest world we can imagine. ~