Dec 11 2012, 0400 hours 48* 50’ S 126* 30’ W: heading NNW
Harry Marsh lay on his bunk in the rusting hold of the S.S. Obed, staring at the ceiling with dark rimmed eyes, trying not to listen. had come and gone and still he lay there; sleepless, cold despite his electric heater and woolen blankets, alone in his terrible thoughts. He shivered when he felt and heard the ship around him shudder and groan as it rocked with the swell and cap of the waves. He turned up the volume of his little personal music player as the old 80’s metal album began playing it’s last track to hopefully drown out the low thrumming vibrato. Appropriately, thunder-less lightning arced through the clouded night skies above, shooting bolts of white light through Harry’s tiny port window. He slapped the ‘stop’ button as the song’s ominous notes began wafting through his headphones and sending fingers of dread up his spine.
Somehow, he had no stomach for such instrumental madness tonight. Somehow, he simply lacked the courage.
But then, who would have believed such anxiety would plague a simple Sonar operator? While it was true that Harry was not recovering from his alcoholism so much as simply fleeing from it. Certainly, with the ‘War on Terror’ raging unabated in far flung points of the globe, civil unrest at their highest levels of the new century, and the imminent collapse of the American Economy, a simple fishery ship on open water held little in the way of immediate threat to even the most squeamish human. Oddly, what placed a knot of dread into Harry’s stomach each night was not that they were illegally hunting an internationally protected species of gargantuan squid, Architeuthis Giganticus, in order to sell its ‘delicately prepared meat’ to the rich and powerful up and down both Pacific Rim coasts. Nor was it that they were using experimental ultra sub-sonic frequencies that had been banned by multiple international treaties passed back in ‘07.
He sat up and pulled the old quart bottle of Philippino tequila from under his pillow, considering the sparse amount of amber liquid with increasing despair. His liquid courage had perhaps flowed too freely those first nights, bolstering his backbone over the first few weeks that began this voyage, but now there would barely be any left for the long nights ‘till he returned home, barely anything to bring him the blessed oblivion of blackest slumber. Without such it would be another sleepless night on the open sea, another sleepless night at the mercy of the constant chaos that was the PIP, that point in the Pacific Ocean farthest from any dry land mass. But it was not the light that bothered him, nor the constant rocking of the ship beneath him, but his dreams. Tenebrous notions oozed up into his psyche as nameless desires echoed up from the fathomless depths while he dreamt. Horrors surely invented only in his diseased brain woke him screaming and ranting in the otherwise silent hours of the night.
He could remember when they started. Yesterday is a haze of bleary gray skies and rusted gray steel, marked only by dread as he sat alone in the dark bowels of the ship, listening, praying. But he could remember when it started. He could remember that first night, alone in the conning room, waiting for the sound of a living thing so huge, that scientists had first only considered it an anomaly. He could remember sitting in the dark, lit only by the glow of his instruments, reaching his electronic sensors out in search of a creature, a predator that hunts only in the lightless, abyssal depths of the endless watery chaos that covers nearly all the world. He could remember the low thrum of the creature that could send it’s call so far that traces of it could be detected as far as San Diego, albeit muffled and distorted so much as to be dismissed as ‘Magma Displacement’ or a ‘Sonic Anomaly’. He could remember that ancient, monolithic tone filling his ears, reverberating through his skull and neck, pulsing down his spine, and placing a fist sized knot in his gut. And he could remember the voice…
He’d first thought he had misheard the sound. So he went back to the Sonar and, to his horror, immediately found it again. Then he thought that perhaps someone in the crew had been playing him for a prank, so he took the tape to the ships Captain and 1st Mate and played it to them. They were overjoyed, but Harry was wide eyed and dumbstruck. No cyclopean voice. No monstrous joke. No horrid command from the depths of anything but perhaps his own damaged mind. The ship’s officers congratulated him and began preparations to hunt the source of this sound. Visions of riches and an easy life filled their minds as they pushed Harry to remain in contact with the gargantuan beast that spoke to him, to him and only him.
Weeks went by and brought the crew a truly amazing haul of the slightly less rare Architeuthis or Giant Squid. But not the prize they sought. Quickly, the officers’ elation began to turn to skepticism, and then to distrust, and finally to betrayal. None of the other Sonar operators could detect Harry’s Creature. Accusations were whispered behind closed doors. The crew began to pick up on the officers’ suspicions. To them, the Creature was a fraud, a hoax, a fantasy made up by a lonely, desperate drunk, hearing things in the dark.
None of them understood.
None of them could have understood. How could they have? They did not hear the voice. Sitting in that tiny room, day after day after day, just after the sun had sunk back into the water, Harry alone heard the enormous intonation. Harry alone had been able to find just the right frequency. Time after time after time, Harry alone could discern the undeniable command…
Dec 11 2012, 2250hours: 47* 4’ S 126* 42’ W: heading NNW
Harry had finally succumbed to sleep just before 5am , now empty tequila bottle slipping from his hand. Despite his fervent prayers, the dreams had come again. Dark, torrid dreams. Despotic, tempestuous dreams. Erotic, violent dreams. Defiling, feverish, dreams.
He was still dreaming when the time came for his shift to start. He was still dreaming when the ships doctor came in to proclaim that he was delirious, and possibly possessed of an aneurism, by the bleeding from his un-bruised nose. “Perhaps his unstable mental condition had been brought about some imbalance in his brain.” The doctor had said in Harry’s dream.
Harry was still dreaming when the clouds parted outside and revealed a beautiful starry sky to the ship. He was still dreaming when the Doctor and Captain left his cabin, to find someone to post guard. Harry was still dreaming when he stood up and out of bed and began shambling toward the door, despite the fact that the blood vessels in his eyes had burst, effectively blinding him. He was still dreaming when the superstitious sailors looked up into the stars and noticed that something was… different, something was out of place, something was, in their blind little eyes, ‘wrong’.
Even in his dreams, Harry knew that the stars were not wrong, they had never been more right. Even in his dreams, Harry knew that their sight would fail them, that he no longer needed his useless eyes. Even in his dreams, Harry could navigate this ship by the mere cadence and tone of his steps.
20 rubberized steps from his door to the stairwell. Eight creaky wooden steps down to the below deck. Eighteen clanging steps across the grated metal landing and down two more flights of hardened steel, and 90 steps straight back, along the grated metal flooring, to the sonar room door.
Harry was still dreaming when he quietly opened the Sonar room door, still dreaming when he reached over and snapped his replacement’s neck with undreamt of strength. He was still dreaming when he sat down in his chair, placed the headphones over his ears and licked his lips in anticipation. Harry’s life had become a dreamed thing as his hands sought the frequency tuner with trembling fingers and slowly twisted it, until an oh-so-comforting thrum filled his ears. The sub-sonic hum, mingling with the terrified screams of the crewmen above, made Harry smile in his dream. Slowly, bloodshot eyes crying rapturous crimson tears, Harry fumbled desperately about for a switch on the console and flipped it to ‘transmit’. Leaning into the antiquated microphone Harry’s dream croaks out into the yawning hungry depths below and all about him.