Story abridged to fit word count:
The USS Basilosaurus— “Basilo”—glided seamlessly into the opening of the passage known as Dolly’s Cathedral. The Seawolf Class submarine was one of about a half-dozen ‘cancelled’ units that the United States had re-commissioned in secrecy. Among those stationed aboard the Basilo was Lieutenant Stefan Kuzmin.
Lt. Kuzmin fingered the wax from his ear—a dreadful orange color—as he stared mindlessly into the mirror. His face was murky and pale. He had been aboard the Basilo for several months and felt every minute of it on his expression. He wasn’t sure if it was the water pressure or the lack of sunlight, but it was taking a toll on his youth and psyche.
The submarine groaned a constant guttural hum as it waded through the water. The metal of the exterior popped and cracked whenever they passed through an underwater current. With the addition to how warm his quarters felt, Kuzmin compared the Basilo to an underwater oven.
There was a double tap of flesh and bone striking metal outside his door. Ricardo must have come back, not accepting ‘No’ as an answer this time. Kuzmin rolled over, ready to wave away his bunkmate but instead found himself surprised by a rarely seen member of the Basilo crew.
Kuzmin shot out of bed like a rocket, “Captain Bellamy!” Kuzmin flubbed his salute and nearly bumped heads with his superior.
Mariette Bellamy stood at a fierce five-foot-two-inches and could not have weighed more than one-hundred and twenty-five pounds but Kuzmin would rather wrestle a pack of pit bulls than be scolded by her.
“Tired, Lieutenant?” she said.
Her voice was even and kind, her demeanor proper and professional, but it was her eyes that gave her away. Something about Bellamy’s eyes was fierce beyond measure—like a burning sun.
Kuzmin felt his own irises burn up as he looked into Bellamy’s. He realized he hadn’t responded to her question.
“Get to the mess hall,” she commanded, her tightly pulled back blonde hair at his chest level, “Now.”
Kuzmin side-stepped Bellamy as his superior officer didn’t even flinch a muscle as he pressed his own body against the warm steel to get by. The thrumming metallic hum of the submarine felt like a whale’s song coming from inside his head as his ear was hard-pressed to the metal.
The hall leading away from the sleeping quarters was plain and white with rumbling pipes pushing water through the submersible. About every twenty feet, a single, eighteen inch in diameter port hole allowed Kuzmin to see the inky blue water outside.
Suddenly, a bright spark emitted outside the submarine, momentarily crackling through each porthole like a lightning strike. Kuzmin instinctively lowered himself as the lights above him flickered.
The dingy hall of the sub turned a mealy brown-yellow as the lighting dimmed to very low levels. One by one, Kuzmin watched as they each snapped off, creating a cascading progress of blackness coming towards him.
He heard the swift footsteps of Bellamy racing towards him as total darkness engulfed them both. The Basilo tilted in the once-steady water and caused them both to slam against the hard steel. The ship tried to course-correct, tilting too far in the other directions—forcing Bellamy to grab on to the young Lieutenant as she clasped one of the pipes lining the hall.
The thrumming of the machine moving through the water sputtered and moaned like a jet engine powering down. The once-constant low-level purr dissipated until all Kuzmin could hear was Bellamy’s breath.
“Did we just lose power?” Kuzmin said, cautious to raise his voice above a whisper in the near total silence.
Bellamy flicked open a Swiss army blade from her left side pocket and casted a blue-white light from it like a magician’s wand. Elsewhere, the other eighty-eight members of the Basilo crew were thumping around. Kuzmin and Bellamy could hear shouting and running.
“It’s not going to take long for some panic to take hold,” Bellamy spoke at normal volume to Kuzmin, “If we just lost power, whatever, we can stop trim and begin de-ballasting and get to the surface. But that spark? That looked like something hit us. If it damaged the generators or the hull who knows.”
“Who the fuck even knows we are down here?”
“Dunno,” Bellamy responded, “Doesn’t really matter who shot at us. If you are devoured by a snake or a lion, you’re still dead.”
Bellamy tightly gripped Kuzmin’s lapel and straightened him into a standing position. The captain moved briskly—even in the dark—back towards the sleeping quarters. At the end of the hall, she guided Kuzmin left towards some janky metal ladders that led down ship.
The flashlight was enough to stop the duo from stumbling over anything directly in their path, but navigating down the ladders was trickier. Kuzmin felt his feet slip off the slick steel, nearly falling several times. Each time, Bellamy braced him with a stern forearm to his ass from beneath him.
“Are you covered in fucking baby lotion, Lieutenant?” she snapped as her boots clunked onto the ground of the lower deck, “You have the grip strength of a grandmother wearing snow mittens.”
Kuzmin fell off the last rung and landed with a thud onto the ground, needing to steady himself by grabbing onto a pipe. Bellamy shook her head and he could feel her quickening breath as she continued on into the dark.
From behind Bellamy in the tight confines of the lower deck, Kuzmin needed to locate his superior by sound rather than sight. He could only faintly see the blue-white light swishing left to right down the corridor.
But before they could reach the forward ballast tanks, the ship screamed out. Ear-shattering crunching noises of metal being ripped apart like twine. The Basilo reverberated like the hand of a giant sea monster had gripped it and shaken it about. Bellamy and Kuzmin were thrown off balance and into the air—each slamming backside first against the ceiling and then piping along the walls.
Kuzmin felt something in his shoulder give out. The pain screeched to maximum intensity before turning white-hot and entirely numb. His brain dizzied as it spun along like a pinwheel before metal grates sucker punched his jaw and he lay battered on the ground.
Buzzing and ringing didn’t describe what filled his ears. It was more like the sound of putting an ear to a seashell intensified by a thousand degrees. Kuzmin stumbled disoriented in the dark, banging off walls and pipes until he felt a steady arm brace him.
Bellamy was bleeding profusely from her temple and left eye. The force of the impact had burst every blood vessel around it, causing her cheeks to swell and bloat with fat red blotches and dark blue bruises. Her mouth spit blood as she tried to talk.
“Stay on me.”
Kuzmin didn’t have a choice. He wasn’t even sure what part of the ship he was in even more. He was going to die. It was the only thought his fractured mind could process. Water—cold as liquified nitrogen—sprayed into his face as a pipe ruptured an arm’s length away from them. The water made the air so cold—so unbreathable—that Kuzmin felt himself gasping and gagging for air. The streams of frost that he sucked into his lung only disoriented him further. His vision darkened—brightened very quickly and suddenly—and then he blacked out.
Captain Bellamy’s coal-fire eyes were less intimidating in the harsh orange light and his fading vision. If anything, the sun-flares of her irises was enough to keep Kuzmin awake and focused.
Bellamy leaned Kuzmin against a wall. She steadied herself, doing her best to keep her weight balanced in the rushing water underfoot. Kuzmin watched as she lifted the heel of her boot and rammed it into the metal door blocking their way into the control room.
The door shivered and groaned—but held.
“Shit,” Bellamy pulled at her soaked sleeves, “Fuck. Shit.”
Kuzmin tried to focus enough energy to assist his captain but he warbled unevenly—like a proper drunken sailor—and kept pawing at the wall to keep himself upright.
Bellamy braced herself and lowered her shoulder. She slammed all her might into the door and this time it buckled and sputtered a hollow drumming noise like a dead metal baseball bat. Water rushed from the hall into the control room and nearly pulled Kuzmin along with it.
Bellamy was quick to re-stabilized Kuzmim, anchoring her body against his to prop him up. They shuffled together from the weapons storage into the main control room. It was empty—like a ghost town inside the ship—except for a glowing electric purple light throbbing brighter than any of the emergency lighting.
“What the hell is that?” Kuzmin managed, mouth still dripping blood.
He felt the strength of Bellamy’s support falter as her jaw fell ajar in disbelief.
The control room had been breached. Bellamy and Kuzmin looked out at the jet-black tentacle like thing that had attached itself to the side of Basilo. A thick vein of purple light slithered its away along the tentacle out into the dark ocean and away from the sub. It snaked into the beyond out of view.
Despite the tentacle being attached and breached thru the hull of the ship, no water was gushing inside. Instead, it seemed to vacuum seal itself to the submarine.
Kuzmin felt a kick of adrenaline refuel his body at the bizarre, almost alien sight. He waded through the knee-high water unassisted to get a better look at the unknown object that had attached itself to the sub.
“It has to be hundreds and hundreds of meters long,” Kuzmin said, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Bellamy looked from the tentacle to the controls and finally to the door leading back out and up to the ballast tanks, “We won’t be able to surface with that thing attached to us. I—where the hell is the rest of the crew?”
Kuzmin had made his way over to the larger glass porthole on the side of the control room. He traced his finger along the dark, menacing tube that had attached the Basilo and squinted to see through the murky, inky water.
He pointed with a bloody, bent finger. Even in the poor light, the electric purple glow the tentacle was producing was enough to illuminate the dozens of bodies floating outside of the submarine—lifeless.
By Kuzmin’s quick count, at least half of the crew of the Basilo was accounted for outside of the ship. They drifted motionlessly through the water; the only movement was the changing shadows the purple glow casted across their bodies.
Bellamy shook her head and splashed through the rising water, “We fire.”
“We fucking what?”
“We fire. This submarine is going down unless we get rid of whatever the fuck is attached to us immediately. Lieutenant, limp your way over to the secondary control panel.”
Kuzmin felt his thoughts and words swim around inside his skull, “Even if we launch—there’s no guarantee…”
Bellamy froze Kuzmin mid-sentence with a scorching look. Her mouth barely opened when she spoke, “No other choice.”
Only this time it wasn’t Kuzmin’s racing heart making the noise. Both he and Bellamy heard the distinct sound of someone—something—knocking on glass. With the breath of terror against the hairs on his neck, Kuzmin turned back to face the glass window.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
The helmet was copper in color. It was rusted with patches of green, like a mold was growing over it. It had a single porthole in the center of the head and two caged portholes on either side. On its fingers were thick black rubber gloves that were neatly folded into a fist that tapped against the glass.
It looked like an old-time hard dive suit. The orange of the suit’s fabric was faded to a salmon color. Kuzmin could see frays of the suit wiggling around in the ocean water. More unsettlingly, the dive suit had no oxygen tank.
Kuzmin had not noticed them amongst the graveyard of bodies. There were at least four other divers in hard suits floating through the water like astronauts on a spacewalk. Each of them appeared to have no oxygen tank, but a single black tether that wormed through the darkness, attached to the giant tentacle.
Bellamy grinded her teeth and bit her lower lip so tightly she drew blood. The captain sloshed through the water towards the glass were the foreign diver was waiting so patiently.
The diver just kept tapping on the glass. Bellamy’s eyes looked becalmed—like a setting sun.
Thump thump thump
More of the divers reached the glass and began knocking. It became a little symphony of horrors. Each diver in an identical, outdate and faded hard suit. Knock after knock after knock. Kuzmin had to cover his ears.
The Basilo was losing integrity by the second. The submarine jerked suddenly and the inertia carried the forward side of the ship down a few meters. They were tilting. The ballasts were no longer pumping out more sea water than they were taking on.
Kuzmin felt the G-force like the drop of a roller coast. The Basilo gave one last desperate lurch to maintain steady buoyancy before everything in the control room began to slide sideways.
Bellamy fell ungraciously into the water. Kuzmin was unable to support his wounded body and toppled over a couple of loose chairs before hitting the icy water face first. The two soldiers helplessly rolled end over end through the water as the ship nosedived further.
Thump thump thump.
The divers never stopped knocking. The Basilo had a crush depth of about 750-900 meters. It would not take long for them to pass that depth in the bowels of Dolly’s Cathedral. Kuzmin had no way of telling, but if they were at 550 meters when they attack first occurred, they would swiftly be passing 600 any second.
“What do you want?” Bellamy yelled, finally regaining footing in the sinking ship.
The knocking of the divers didn’t cease. It almost became taunting for Bellamy and Kuzmin. Kuzmin looked out at all the dead floating outside the sub and briefly wished to be counted among them rather than be living through this.
The tentacle remained attached to the submarine as she sunk. The purple light glistened—almost inflamed—the more the Basilo died at its’ behest.
Thump thump thump.
Metal screeching screamed through the silent ocean as some part of the ship reached its limits. Kuzmin lay in the blood-soaked water as the Basilo sputtered—like a dying fish on dry land.
Kuzmin felt his body ache from the pressure. The Basilo must have passed 800m by now and was torpedoing towards its maximum crush depth. It would not be long now. The world began to shift. Colors blended together and formed anew. Everything was grey and colorful at once.
Kuzmin felt a low hum as something vibrated off his helmet. His vision slowly booted back up, like a 1950s television turning on. Everything was in black and white and blurry.
He could only see black and grey. Nothing else. Miles and miles of nothingness surrounded him until a flash of something from the corner of his eyes. Kuzmin strained every muscle in his neck to turn his heavy head. His vision was limited—much of his peripheral cut off, but he could see something struggling to come into focus.
A diver appeared before him. Just like the ones that had been outside the sub. But in this one, he could see a familiar sun-fire gaze looking back at him.
“Captain,” Kuzmin called weakly.
He couldn’t discern where he was or how Bellamy had rescued him. He felt like he weighed a million pounds. How had they gotten into these hard suits?
Kuzmin swirled his head. He felt like he was underwater. Not inside the submarine, but properly out in the water. With great effort, he looked down. Beneath him, he could see the buckled shell of the Basilo destroyed on the ocean floor. Sand still kicked up into the water around it as the sea claimed her for its own.
The ship was dark, soulless. But Kuzmin somehow was not.
He felt something retract on his back and suddenly he was coasting backward through the water away from the submarine. He tried to survey his surroundings but his body was too damaged—to weak.
All Stefan Kuzmin knew was something was pulling him up from the bottom of the ocean. Beside him—even if he couldn’t see her—was Bellamy.
Kuzmin felt a shift in the water beneath him and could see the immenseness of the black tentacle come into view. It was beneath him, twisting in the water with its electric purple glow. It seemed to be pumping something through it.
Like specs of dust, Kuzmin could make out other divers in the water around him, all being retracted back along the length of the giant tentacle with him. Everything seemed so impossible—such fantasy. He must have been dead and the dying neurons in his brain were deluded into some dream world.
The Basilo vanished from view. The tether was no longer pulling him up but instead sideways through the water. The change in direction allowed Kuzmin to fully see Bellamy in the view of his helmet’s porthole.
Her eyes were wide, but fierce. Somehow, they had survived. But where were they being taken? Kuzmin felt his brain finally shutting down. He needed to sleep. He needed to let his body rest, not knowing where he would be if and when he woke up. He only knew something was carrying him away—something had saved him.
He only knew he was bound now. Tethered.