The water looked emerald in the subaqueous pool lightning. It felt oily, like slime, even though he couldn’t actually feel it through his dive suit.
Esme obsessively checked the O2 level of the scuba tank as he waded alone doing his best to keep his focus on the empty water above him and not what was directly below him. The Titan gave him extreme anxiety.
The Titan was approximately 33 and ¾ feet in height and was submerged roughly 50 feet beneath the water. When activated, the animatronic would rise from the pool and burst forth to the unsuspecting guests on the park ride.
But beneath the water, idle, the behemoth rested eerily beneath the surface, the jagged points of its thorn crown just inches beneath Esme’s kicking flippers.
The Titan was the largest of all the animatronics in the park. Esme could see the other submerged pieces of his resting place. Various anchors, shipwrecks, downed planes and even a sunken chapel were all placed around the pool the Titan was located. For added effect, the park kept live aquatic life in the tank as well. Most were harmless, local freshwater fish that frolicked through the underwater set piece.
Esme twirled impatiently in the water as he waited for the supply drop from his partner above. The supply drop contained special materials and lubricant the park referred to as ‘Fuel’ for the Titan. Every few weeks or so, Esme would dive into the tank to lubricate the Titan’s mechanical parts with the ‘fuel’. On this occasion, he would check the Titan’s computer systems as well.
He foolishly let his leg needlessly brush against one of the Titan’s thorns and scared himself silly. Esme was forced to look down, making direct eye contact with the hideous monstrosity just a couple feet beneath him. The Titan had menacing teeth slicing out of its gaping mouth. It had eerily scaly skin and an unsettling human-ish body that reminded Esme of the creature from the black lagoon only worse.
The pool lights caught the Titan in unpleasant ways, casting odd shadows here and there. The unaware fish swimming around his thorn crown only added to the unease. The Titan just looked up at him, full scowl, like a stone monument in the water.
Esme swam off from the head of the Titan and towards its back side obscured from guest view. From there, he would have access to the upper control panel.
Esme plugged his diagnostics scanner into the port located on the nape of the Titan’s neck. He was thankful that on the backside, the animators had put in far less detail.
Eventually, the scan blinked green, indicating a clean diagnosis.
Esme swam down the length of the Titan until he reached its hooved feet and base. The base had a control access panel that Esme could plug his scanner into to see additionally readings on the animatronics function.
He looked up. From beneath the Titan, Esme felt so small. The crown of thorns in the water nearly thirty feet above him looked so daunting, like the unholy mutation of the Statue of Liberty was beneath the water with him.
Esme plugged the scanner in and waited for the computer to run its examination. Only green lights blinked on when the report finished. Esme checked his O2 monitor, noting he had about 30 minutes of oxygen remaining.
Then, he heard a loud splash as something was dropped into the water above him. Esme looked up, expecting a maintenance buoy to be lowering supplies towards him. It was no such thing.
Esme flippered backward from the base panel to get better view at the object that had entered the water with him. It was another person, but they weren’t wearing any diving gear and were chained to an anchor similar to the other half-dozen that were used to decorate the tank.
The body sunk lugubriously. The person attached to the anchor didn’t move and Esme could see their arms straight down by their side; motionless. He felt panic erupt from his lungs like dragon’s breath. Was someone dumping a body in the tank?
He brushed the thought off. It must just be additional set detail Aaron, his partners, was dumping into the tank before the fuel drop. Esme watched the body sink to the tank floor, kick up a cloud of sand and then come to rest. Three more splashes coincided with three more bodies entering the water in quick succession. Each was similarly tied to an anchor and floated somberly until they rested at the bottom of the fifty-foot tank.
Esme could see much more clearly now that the bodies were mannequins. Just some additional lore to add to the Titan set piece on the ride. They were each cloaked in ratty, torn violet cloaks that made them look like lumpy purple potatoes.
At last, Esme saw a familiar looking wooden crate enter the water overhead. In the semi-transparent water, the fish swam around the crate as it descended. Esme paddled himself over towards it and caught the wooden box in his arms.
Esme unclasped the janky metal latch that held the crate closed and spilled the contents out onto the Titan’s base. The normal supplies to refuel the Titan were present and Esme quickly went to work.
The contents of ‘fuel’ were what they had always been.
Six, 600mL blood bags of freshly drained ram’s blood; two grinded bull’s horns; eight cow’s tongues and various assorted animal tails, each anchored down by a tiny bone stone weight. Additionally, a small tool box accompanied the animal parts.
Esme used a screwdriver from the toolbox to undue the panel to open up the Titan’s true insides. The seal popped off with an inhuman suction noise and Esme always felt he heard the Titan groan whenever this ritual was performed.
Not wanting to spend more time than necessary injecting the items into the Titan, Esme quickly began siphoning off the ram’s blood into the IV tube attached to the Titan’s base. Usually, it took 2-3 minutes to siphon off each bag. Esme notoriously checked his O2 levels once more. It would take about fifteen of his remaining twenty-five minutes of oxygen.
The lights above blinked as Aaron’s body passed in front of them, no doubt heading out for the day and leaving Esme alone in the partially lit tank. The only respite Esme felt was that he was paid double Aaron’s salary to do these dives.
Esme transitioned the siphon onto the fourth bag of ram’s blood before his flipper knocked the tool box off the base and spilled the contents openly onto the stone. It was then he noticed that something additional was among the normal tools.
One hand held the blood bag while the other retrieved the foreign item. Esme held in his hand a small, needle-gun with a singular fléchette with the word ‘Wait’ written on its steel ‘featherhead’.
At just that moment, the Titan mechanically groaned as another bag of ram’s blood emptied its contents into the IV drip. Esme quickly changed out the bags as he pondered the curious weapon and single shot that had accompanied his supply drop. Why would Aaron send him down this?
Esme once again scanned the tank, eyes drawn to the new prop bodies floating in the water around the animatronic and himself. Curiously, he noticed, all of them were facing towards him, encircling the Titan. This was probably done on purpose for dramatic effect, but it was haunting none the less. Each cloaked body floated, face obscured, like a haunted hot air balloon. Esme considered firing the needle-gun to ‘pop’ one.
The diver finished emptying the final bag of blood into the machine and then put the vials of bull’s horn dust and other various animal parts inside of the Titan and reclosed the secret under-paneling. He refastened it shut with the screwdriver and then began placing all off the tools back into the box to take with him to the exit. He kept the needle-gun and fléchette in his hand however.
‘Wait’, he re-read the message.
For what? Esme kicked away with his flippers and began the ascension away from the Titan when the behemoth beckoned him to stay longer. Two, laser red beams shot from the Titan’s eyes as the animatronic whirred to life.
Esme silently screamed through his breathing apparatus. That had never happened before on one of these refueling dives. The underwater animatronic activated with loud mechanical hissing sounds. Esme continued to panic. It was never supposed to move while he was in the tank.
Esme clumsily secured the needle-gun in his hand and loaded it with the single dart he had been given. He pointed it at the giant. It was ridiculous to think such a tiny bullet would do anything against beast in the tank with him.
The Titan lurched shoddily upward. Esme panic swam his way as far from the machine as he could while he felt its gravitas move the water around him. Waves of energy transferred through the tank and pushed Esme away sideways as the Titan breached the water above and lunged for its normal jumpscare.
The current slammed Esme into the far side of the tank as he heard the Titan retracting back into its spot and come to a rest as quickly as it had begun. The Titan’s eyes blinked back off and the whirring ceased as everything returned to normal.
Or so he thought.
The musky yellow lights in the tank above him flickered off just as the Titan stopped moving entirely, leaving him in a sea of darkness. Fear gripped him tighter as the water around him suddenly felt colder than a witch’s heart.
He tried to regain his composure and swim upward. If he kept swimming, eventually he would get to the surface and be free of this nightmare. Esme closed his eyes and only focused on the singular thought of being dry and out of this black water.
After numerous, eternal strokes, he felt his head hit the sweet relief of air around him. Esme had dropped the tool box in his panic but thrust the needle-gun into the air with one arm in a moment of exuberation for having reached the surface.
He opened his eyes, only to realize he was treading water opposite end of the tank. The dock was maybe 100 feet from him, but a lake of black was between him and it.
The tingling sensation, like a spider crawling down his spine, gripped him as he knew the Titan was lying in wait beneath him, obscured in darkness. Silent.
Esme removed the breathing apparatus from his mouth and sucked in several shallow breaths of fresh air before gingerly wading through the water towards the dock. Something about traversing over the dark water, knowing the animatronic was beneath him was more unsettling than being underwater with it.
Seventy-five feet and he would be free. He paddled with one arm still firmly gripping the loaded needle-gun.
Esme felt the words echo through the open air like the voice of God in his head. He stopped immediately. Beneath him, he felt vibrations and the drowned noises of a machine coming to life.
His body didn’t give his mind time to think before it sprung into flight mode. Sloppy, flailing, wild strokes through the water in a desperate terror to get out of the forsaken water.
The voice reverberated off of every bone of his body. It wasn’t coming from a speaker or from a person, it was coming from under the water. In the all-black beneath him, two red lines from the Titan’s eyes disrupted the darkness.
Esme was twenty feet from the dock, splashing like a lunatic in the water like he was fleeing Jaws. The last thing he wanted was to be in the water when the Titan breached the surface.
Ten feet. Five. The groaning and straining of a machine moving beneath the water grew louder and heavier as it sprung closer to bursting upward at him. He extended his hand, fingers white knuckled to grasp the edge of the concrete dock.
Then he felt water in his mouth and a heavy tug as something pulled him beneath the surface. Down and down Esme sank into the complete darkness of the water. The faint traces of the concrete edge of the tank fading. He desperately forced the breathing apparatus back into his mouth, sucking oxygen from it in furious bursts.
Something firmly held his flippers in its grasp, pulling him down into the maw of darkness. His body came even in the red lights of the Titans face and he could see the imprint of the thorn crown just barely before him. Then, the dusty sand bottom of the tank collided with his knees as the force pulling him down dissipated.
Esme kicked, but his body could not ascend. Something was still holding him down. It was only him and the red lights of the brooding Titan towering over him.
The silence was deafening. Eternal. Vicious.
Esme felt the safety vibration of the low oxygen sensor against his wrist and he was reminded he had five minutes of oxygen left. In his other hand, he held the needle gun outwardly like a shield.
Not knowing what else to do, he pulled the trigger and fired the single shot into the darkness. It whistled through the water towards the Titan and Esme watched it connect squarely in the left eye of the animatronic. One of the red lights blinked out.
Esme could suddenly feel fingers on his calf as someone was no longer holding his flippers but now grabbed at his flesh and body. Who could possibly be in the water with him? Another pair of arms grabbed him from behind and hugged him tightly, keeping him sunken at the bottom of the tank.
Lights began to blink on, not from the surface, but from the floor. They were orange and fiery, illuminating a circle around the Titan’s enormous mass in the water. It remained still as a statue, emblazoned in hell-light.
Around the Titan, bodies floated in the water, shrouded under deep purple cloaks and hoods. Esme could now see that two cloaked figures were holding him down before the Titan. Esme’s brain screeched, unable to process the illogic.
The six bodies that had been dumped in the water were now moving freely about the tank. They weren’t mannequins after all. They were real. Everything down here was suddenly very fucking real.
A low-level guttural hum burst from the cloaked figures. Esme realized it had not been the Titan calling from him to wait. It had been these beings. Beneath the water, they chanted in unison as they swam him closer and closer to the base of the Titan.
From the front, Esme could look up at the mangled, viperid face of the Titan in its full nightmarish glory. It’s singular red eye still piercing the water above him. The purple cloaked figures moved in the water like vessels. They didn’t swim or kick, just simple floated through the water as if it were the vacuum of space.
They came to a halt at the feet of the Titan. Esme looked up as the animatronic briefly grinded and whirred until its mighty horned head bent downward to gaze upon its sacrifice. The one beam of red light settled firmly onto Esme’s face.
The chest of the Titan unclasped and then opened like two hatch doors and Esme could see inside the monster he had been feeding all this time. A ghoulish green glowing heart pounded fiercely inside the exposed innards. The cloaked ones floated Esme towards the chest cavity, bringing him closer and closer to the unholy abomination.
As Esme was brought nearer, the chanting from the cloaked beings grew deafening. The insides of the Titan were amassed with slimy, glowing organ-like but mechanical parts. A smell of nauseating decay surfed into his nose.
The sight only grew worse as Esme reached the precipice of the chest cavity. Inside, amongst the machine parts, slimy metal organs and beating green heart were other divers. More horrifying still, some of them were moving.
The bits of organic tissues inside the Titan had seemed to attached itself to the human bodies and assimilated them into its monstrous insides. Esme watched in horror as he was brought amongst them, Wriggling, eyes open, silent screaming masses of human flesh starred at him in the blackwater as he was brought inside by the cloaked ones.
A tentacle-like worm-thing whiplashed from the walls of the cavity and needled into Esme’s arm. The cloaked ones released him, and the alien entity wrapped him up and pulled him amongst the wriggling masses.
Esme felt ice enter his veins as something was draining his blood and repurposing him for the Titan. The cloaked ones ethereally floated back from the Titan and the familiar mechanically sounds resumed as the Titan’s chest began to close.
Esme screamed as the O2 in his tank depleted, leaving him sputtering inside of the Titan, but knowing death was not to be his fate. Esme watched the final shimmers of orange light from the outside world illuminated the chest cavity. He could see other bodies now, some not moving like the others but still apart of the fleshy tomb inside the Titan.
Esme’s heart sank as the ice in his veins fully replaced his warm, blood. Each body that wasn’t moving had one very clear thing in common. Esme could see a single fléchette lodged into an eye socket or ear canal or temple. The needle-gun and single bullet had been meant for him. Whomever had sent it had given him an escape from what Esme was now sure was eternal suffering.
The walls of the Titan’s body clasped shut, sealing Esme inside, alive, now assimilated into the Titan itself forever.