I check over the controls of the diving bell yet one more time. Usually I would laugh about how "OCD" I am about checking, double and triple-checking my instruments, but diving to 600 feet is serious business, not something to be at all casual about. I will make no apologies, even in the recesses of my own (admittedly geeky and neurotic) mind.
This is definitely the deepest I've ever been, and I'm an accomplished diver. But it's only the second time I've been down in a diving bell and the first time I've soloed.
Thank God for Mark, up on the surface. Mark's as reliable as the day is long, and knows these seas as well as anyone his age possibly could. He's grown up diving and fishing out here his whole life. Out of a huge family of divers and fishermen, he's the first one of his family to finish college and start working as a marine biologist. I'm so glad we got partnered up by the Institute.
The bell descends further. I'm past 150 feet now, and breathing a little heavier. Vision's slightly blurry. I check my glasses against the fine print on the dials, the bifocals are much more effective. My ears won't pop from the pressure and it is affecting my hearing. I toggle the communications switch, and hear Mark saying something garbled, something about the controls?
I clear my throat. “Philip here. All seals working well. Still having trouble hearing your transmissions. Over.”
More dull crackling noise from the comms. I shake my head. We continue the slow descent and I keep making detailed notes in the paper logs so we can compare with the films and tapes for reference later. Sonar shows some schools of fish, and some interesting large silhouettes at the edge of instrument range. I scan the camera banks in between passes over the dials and displays to make sure everything's okay. Sudden flashback to driver's training, and chuckling, I remember how I aced the driving test. This is nothing like that, of course, a diving bell is both more complicated and more simple than driving a car. Feeling pretty confident today, however. Everything seems to be going splendidly, despite the comms and their glitchiness.
The bell descends even further, and I feel a little dizzy, damn my ears that won't adjust to the pressure! They hurt horribly now, and definitely seem to be affecting my vision too. There's grey fuzziness in my peripheral vision, and I'm still having trouble focusing, even on the sudden flicker of movement on the cameras.
"Are you getting this, Mark? Left edge of the dorsal view. A light keeps shimmering in and out on that side. Over."
I have difficulty hearing the response. The comms crackle. I hear a voice making noises, though it's unclear, then, "Yes. Left ... blue light."
It looks almost like one of those music videos, where a spotlight follows the performer around the stage, only... only it's moving in three dimensions, and I've never seen anything move so FAST. I have trouble tracking the whatever-it-is. The movement style is atypical for any of the big sea creatures I've spent years studying.
"Mark, Mark, please tell me the video feeds are working, and that you see this. Have you ever seen anything like it before? It seems totally unfamiliar to me!"
I frantically check all the video monitors as the comms fill with static and clutter AGAIN. Flick a glance over the dials. We're still descending, and the creature, this new creature, seems to be pacing me, pacing the diving bell as it descends.
"Mark, did you see a tail? Dorsal rear view?"
Mark's reply this time, "Yes ... seeing it. ... blue ... fish ..."
My vision is getting even cloudier, but I'm determined to get a good focus on this fish. This may be a new discovery, a new paper, for Mark and me (and the Institute, of course)... We could really make a name for ourselves! We could...
uh... wait. What? Is this really happening?
Hair is swirling around the face, the human face, of the creature swimming slowly around my diving bell. It definitely appears, well, mammalian, in spite of the blue color to the skin, and the scales that begin mid-torso, right where a human would have a navel.
"Mark, Starboard Center camera! Do you see anything? Check the goddamn Starboard Center Camera!"
Seriously, I'm gonna die if we don't have this on film. This is INCREDIBLE. Myths come to life, proof on camera, everything I've dreamed of since childhood! I'm absolutely euphoric!
“Philip ... big deal ... right there. Right there.”
I'm breathing heavily, and my vision isn't getting any better. I stumble over to check the gases mixture and make sure everything's OK. It's not great, but it's within safe parameters. I think.
Except that my vision's narrowing, and my ears make all the bell's instrument noises sound like I'm underwater (OK, I do know I'm underwater), or in a cavern or something...
... and I feel the back of the dive chair pressing hard at the back of my neck, but I don't have the strength to raise my head
... and the grey at the edges of my vision is turning to black...
... and it's getting kind of hard to breathe...
This has been my LJ Idol entry for week 20, and I intersected my entry with grail76
's. You can read his entry HERE
. We worked with "intersubjectivity" and "rapture of the deep".
Please feel free to enjoy the work of my talented colleagues, and vote for the entries that you enjoy, HERE