I think back over that trip as one of the best times of my life. And one of the worst.
First, there was the pressure. The weight of the world, it seems, upon not only my shoulders, but all of me. Constantly pressing at me from all around. Like having Jupiter falling on you from every direction at once while a black hole deep in your guts tries to suck you into itself. The very darkness seemed darker.
And the things that live there. Great, monstrous life forms that prowl not only the deepest, darkest caverns of the ocean, but flow, unhindered, beneath the very floor of the ocean. Huge, luminous beasts that make every nightmare you ever had seem like a funny story. Beasts darker than darkness itself, veritable ghouls, whose massive presence alone seems to suck the life from you. Slimy, hideous, grotesque spawn of evil they seem. Yet they want nothing to do with strange intruders, wanting indeed to be left to their business, and perfectly willing to leave you to yours.
And worse, the tiny, barely noticeable, crab-like creatures with shells like ragged diamonds and rubies and sapphires, that are so hard to sense until you bump one, or it bumps you, and your flesh is torn from your body. Even the great creatures leave these alone, and if they have any true enemies, I never found them. Fortunately nothing down there seems to care for human flesh (if human I still am), or I would no longer be here.
Worst of all, there are merpeople. Half fish, half humanesque, with heads just slightly like bottle-nosed dolphins. Beautiful creatures by any standard, whether seen as people or fish. More colors of skin, hair, eyes and scale than ever imagined, often on one individual. Their appearance alone is captivating; they exude a luminescence allowing you to see them even in that great kingdom under the ocean. And their voices! I know now where the sirens in Ulysses's adventures come from. What I don't know is how anyone lived to tell of them. Perhaps as I. Upon hearing or seeing, I was drawn, totally out of control towards the nearest merperson. Neither male nor female, yet somehow either one as desired, their mere presence demanded my response.
Fortunately, for reasons I cannot fathom, they never attempted to seduce or capture me, and under that awesome pressure, I could not even begin to keep up with them. Several times I saw them leave for the surface, to return a few days later, with fresh meat (was it an Elmer? which fate was worse?) to feed the (tribe? family? I dared not ask). I will never forget the ecstatic looks upon the dead faces of their victims, bodies crushed by the descent, yet recognizable still, their guts ripped out through their navels. Nor am I likely to forget the joyous merpeople, as they feasted and drank from their victims, their fangs flashing a horribly bright light, tinged with a blood red color that I can still see in all-too vivid technicolor, often even with my eyes open and my mind on something else. I believe in a literal hell, but if, as C.S. Lewis suggested, the supernatural has "reflections" of the other worlds here on this planet, I can safely say that I have seen the reflection of hell, and lived to tell of it, and to this day, I wonder why, and whether it was worth it. But there were other beauties, just as wonderful as the merfolk were horrid. Gems that glowed of their own light, with a pressure within them so great, that when I tried to bring them even halfway back to the surface, they burst into thousands of tiny, lovely fragments. I lost two fingertips that way, as well as a piece of one ear, half of my left nostril, and nearly an eye. To date I still have several fragments in my chest, whose glow can be seen through the skin in pitch black conditions.
There was another race of people that seemed like a cross between Tolkein's Elves and the unapproachable underground race of Lewis's on Perelandra. Elves only a few inches tall; stern, proud, beautiful and humble all come simultaneously to mind, but I could never do them justice. They lived amidst the bones of whales the size of the Empire State Building, and something else that was probably the origin of all sea monster stories. Inside it's rib cage there seemed to be some writing, and to my amazement, carved on a rib of this great, snakelike fish skeleton 3 miles long, were the words "Jonah was here". This seemed to be the Elves' palace, as it were, but they never paid me any attention. I'm not sure I existed either to them or to the merfolk.
Gradually, I came to what I think of as "the desert under the ocean". A place far, far under the fragile crust I used to call home. A place so deep and dark and salty and dry that I wondered if I was the only life form to ever pass through. Certainly I saw no evidence that anything or anyone had been there before me. The heat here was oppressive. There was, as I discovered, a passage directly underneath me, where lava spewed forth day and night, into a raging volcano there at the bottom of the sea, in the deepest crevice in the Pacific Ocean floor. If man could tap that energy, there would be no fuel crisis, no need for room temperature fusion, and the Great White Heat would never have destroyed so much of Texas, and along with it, much of my past and what I thought was my future.
But the ocean floor and its inhabitants neither know, nor care, about Texas, or humans, or fusion. They simply are, and seem content.
Finally, working steeply uphill, following a sidechannel of the lava flow, I begin to leave the oppression of the depths behind. I need to take it easy, or I feel I will explode as the Star Gems (as I named them, for their appearance) did. Here i meet underground porpoises of a sort. Nowhere near as flashy as anything I have seen recently, they are a dull gray color, much like the dolphins at Marineland. But also like those dolphins, they are beautiful in their simplicity of color and form; also, they are playful, and seem to want to help me. One tries to give me a ride, but the friction at that speed rips half my flesh off and pulls most of my hair out. It takes several days to recuperate, but the Dirt Dolphins' tender ministrations and gifts of fish to eat and fresh water (I was bemused at first, too, believe me!) have restored my health, and I am, at last, starting to feel eager to see the surface again.
Suddenly, one of the Dirties nudges me against a break in the strata, and I am hurled along, head over heels, bouncing off pockets of eddies and still spots that protect me from rocks as my course is changed, feeling like a pebble in a raging flood. Indeed, I am in a fresh water stream (which feels rather like steam at this point, so near the lava), being carried upwards at a tremendous pace, getting giddier from the "height" by the minute. Suddenly, all is blue for an instant, and then I am thrown into the last seconds of a sunset in a warm, tropical breeze, only to slow, and then splash back down into a lagoon as the last seconds of the riot of color fade from the sky, leaving only the night sky, with its terribly bright stars, to show me my surroundings. I lay, gasping, in a gentle surf, where I have drifted close to shore, watching the trees sway gently in the breeze. Grateful that the moon is not out tonight, probably thereby saving my eyesight, I relish the light tradewind caressing my crusty skin, a pleasure long denied me. I treasure each gentle rock of the waves, the sandpaper feel of the beach against my flesh I would have felt in the past unnoticed after my recent travels. I know that I cannot stay long; someone will find me, or I may die here, adapted as I am to the depths. After only these brief, few minutes, my breath is far too quick, and my pulse is racing, pounding through my head.
My hazy thoughts: "at last, a free Hawaiian vacation!"
All warning signs unheeded, I fall asleep at last, resting more peacefully and perfectly than I have in months, if not years. Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright... these words are the last discernible sounds ringing in my head as I fade, not even realizing that it is, indeed, Christmas Eve here in paradise.
Go to next chapter.
Last updated: 1 Jul 1994
Copyright 1989, 1990, 1994 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.
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This copyright may be freely used, distributed and modified subject to the conditions noted above in the preceeding paragraph. Miles O'Neal <roadkills.r.us@XYZZY.gmail.com> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514