Thursday, January 16, 2020

1/16/20

Challenger Deep, A Romance of the Depths!
By David Barber


Time presses and this copy must must be brief.


The Descent

My name is David Barber, special reporter for the New York Daily Gazette, whose job is to record our story as we plunge into the sunless deeps, six miles below. Two hours have passed since we squeezed into the armoured hull of Professor Champion’s submersible and took our last lungful of fresh air at the ocean surface.

Hear the prescient words of Lord Royston, companion of Professor Champion in so many adventures, and now our pilot as we plunge downwards:

I've tried exploring and aeroplanes and such, but this search for undersea beasts that look like lobster-supper dreams is the salt of existence.

At last our lights reveal the drear expanse of the abyssal floor, where one tiny animal (a sea cucumber, Champion says) inches its solitary way.

I wonder if it has eyes to witness the blazing monster of steel invading its realm? We take turns crowding the porthole to view the desolate scene, as a sparse diatomaceous snow drifts down from the waters above.

Champion measures the temperature and salinity, and blinds us with a flash photograph. Time passes and Royston becomes concerned about our air. He says it is time we bade farewell to the depths. I feel someone should say a few words to honour the moment, but before anyone can speak, Royston releases the external weights to begin our ascent.

Trapped!

Except we do not rise! For half an hour Royston struggles with the controls. From the porthole we can even glimpse the fallen weights. It is as if something is holding us down. Perhaps a giant squid, Royston speculates, and wonders if an electric shock from our batteries might free us from its tentacles. Always the man of action.

Champion though is already busy, he flashes our lights, once, twice, then three, four times. Counting! But how could an insensate beast understand?

Whatever dwells here was attracted by our lights, Champion reasons. We are invaders and perhaps this is their response.

He and Royston square up to one another, as best two powerful men stooped inside a steel ball can manage. As I move to part them, our outside lights fail and our craft lurches into motion. Something is dragging us into the abyss!

Into The Abyssal Realm

We have come to rest within a chamber, lit by a ghastly phosphorescence. We have yet to glimpse what Champion insists are our rescuers. Royston and he bicker while the air in our submersible grows foul.

Panting, Champion argues if they had wanted our deaths, they need not have moved us. Royston bitterly regrets not bringing a gun.

In the end, Champion unscrews the door, and we gulp air as thick as fish soup, but there is oxygen in it and we live!

The World Lost To Us

Champion supposes the creatures keep us alive for study. To them the surface world must seem akin to the deadly vacuum of space for us. Released from the enormous pressure of the ocean, they would explode, and must believe no living thing could endure in the great emptiness above. And yet we came.

Examining our prison, Champion wonders if we are not inside some leviathan of the deep. We have not seen our captors though we have heard them. They have provided air, and sustenance of sorts can be scraped from the walls of this place.

Royston shrugs, he says he has eaten worse on his adventures.

Escape!

We must escape, Royston insists, his anger stoked by inactivity. He says we must lock ourselves in the Professor's vessel and somehow breach the chamber that imprisons us. A dozen impossibilities before we rise to the surface, where even then, the crew of Champion's ship, believing us dead, must have sailed for home long ago.

Champion merely shrugged shoulders big as an Assyrian bull, but if I had known his plan I would have supported Royston in his lesser madness.

The Professor spends his time trying to communicate with our unseen gaolers. They are rational beings, he insists, and claims to have progressed beyond simple mathematics.

I wake to find Champion unloading the submersible. Our captors do not need this equipment, he says, and who knows what we may find useful for our survival.

What he meant, I did not realise at first, though Royston had already guessed. Moustaches quivering with rage, he accuses Champion of planning to hand over our vessel to these creatures!

The Professor faces him calmly. Filled by the ocean, then sealed, his submersible was capable of containing the terrible pressure even to the surface. These beings might visit our own world much as we had visited theirs. By helping them he hoped to earn their trust.

Trust! mocks Royston. These unseen creatures will no more return us to the surface than we would return a specimen to the ocean floor. Champion is deluded if he hopes to become their ambassador to the world of light above. Again the two men begin shouting at one another, but I suspect it is all too late.

To the Editor, New York Daily Gazette.

Perhaps Champion's ship faithfully searches for us still; perhaps the creatures will make contact above; perhaps we will be freed after all.

I have little faith in the Professor's plan, but it is my job to report a story which may be Champion's last adventure. Whatever the outcome, I ask only that it is printed under my byline. These pages will ascend with the submersible.

I must hurry, I hear the creatures coming.


The End


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