“Life” – Valentin.

We’re only a few minutes away from our destination. What they expect us to find in the middle of the ocean is beyond me but that is not for me to worry about. I’m just doing as told. No more than a boat for hire – the money is good and it seems like a simple enough retrieval job. 

I giggled to myself at their people stumbling about, trying to keep their stomach. They seem to have calmed down a bit over the last hour..

As I take another bite off my sandwich, Alvin heads over and tells me that we’re within range of the dive site. The science team were already taking measurements and confirming assumptions. This meant that there was probably only another 10 – 15 minutes to get ready and into the bathyscaphe.

The idea of diving to the bottom of one of the deepest surveyed points in the oceans filled me with excitement and anxiety. It would take me a two to three hours to get down there and it should be an uneventful descent.

I finish the rest of the sandwich and head over to the bathyscape. The crew, nod and wish me luck as they walk past carrying out their duties and I nod and smile, nod and smile.

I climb in and the door is closed and secured from the outside. Pushing down on the communicator button, I check with the science team before starting the pre-dive sequence. They take a moment to reply but come back with an all-clear.

As I run through the checks, the floor seems to fly away as I am lifted up and brought over the ocean and gently placed on the surface. Since so much of the craft is transparent, it is almost as if I am floating in a bubble.

I let the team know that the craft is ready for descent and they confirm dive. As I hit the release button, there is a brief dipping sensation before it settles, and slowly, slowly sinks. I push the button to dive and it sinks faster, and faster but still at a fairly leisurely pace.

As the darkness sets in, I switch on the lights and spot various fish swimming past and I open a bar of chocolate and lean back. I knew there was a reason I had the extra comfortable chair installed on here..

I consider drifting off into sleep, but only for a moment – for the beeping of the detector kicked in. We must be less than 10km away. I make some minor adjustments and lean back enjoying the chocolate bar.

A number of adjustments, a magazine, another chocolate bar and a nap or two later and were just a few hundred metres away. As I take my eyes away from the controls and to look at where we are going, I notice a faint glow in the distance.

I switch off the lights to check that it’s not just a reflection and sure enough, there is something emitting light down here. This is unbelievable, we are 10km or so under an ocean. What the hell could be emitting light?

As I get closer, I see that there are no specific sources of light – it is as if the whole ocean is floor is glowing. Closer yet and I notice that it’s the plants and indeed some of the fish and it is quite a sight to behold. I felt a bit as if I had accidentally wandered into a brightly lit city under the ocean.

There it is – in the middle of it all, in the highest point of the ocean floor, the brightest of them all, and it’s not a plant or a fish, it looks like a flask of some form. The ocean life is richest and wildest and brightest near this flask and very slowly fades into the distance.

I let the team know that I have spotted the artifact and that I was en-route to retrieve it. As I get closer, I notice that the craft is slowing down. Checking the controls and guages, I am not able to discern anything wrong with the engines or the craft.

As I look around, I notice something odd – there seems to be a plant like thing stuck on the rotors on the back of the craft. I reverse the engines and forward again to jettison the plant. Easy enough.

A few seconds later, the craft gets slower again. I lean over to the engine controls and look behind to check when to my surprise, there is nothing wrong with the engine. Nothing in the rotors and then I see it – a creeper of some form had gotten a hold of a bar on the outside of the craft and was slowing it down.

There was nothing I could do. Oh well, if it takes a little longer – so be it. As I turn around, i am greeted by the sight of a fish barrelling itself again the craft. What the hell? Are they blind down here?

As I get closer to the artifact, I notice that there are more and more fish heading towards me. The plants seems to moving towards me too. They are not blind – they are protecting the artifact.

I let the team know and ramp up the engines to get me there quicker. This spurs on the ocean life to attach the craft with even more gusto.

As I reach the artifact and engage the arm to pick up the artifact, half the craft is covered by some form of plant life and the other side is mostly just various forms of fish and other animals. I can barely see the arm pick up the artifact.

This craft was built to survive under very high pressures but these creatures and attacking with an aggression that I had never seen before.

As soon as I had the artifact, I hit the surface button and I start to surface slowly before being dragged back down by the increased weight of the craft.

If that wasn’t bad enough, alarms start to go off. Hull integrity was being compromised – these creatures were causing drag and increasing the weight of the craft making it difficult, if not impossible for me to surface.

I only had one choice left and that was to engage the emergency protocols for rapid surfacing. It was a dangerous manoeuvre, even more so with all these creatures attached to the craft. I had no choice. I  hesitate for a moment, then hit the button.

For a moment, it seems like it had no impact, and then there was an explosion. I saw large chunks of the plant life attached to the craft disintegrate and drift off.

I smile in relief and turn around to see the largest fish I had ever seen in my life heading towards me. I jump onto the controls and swerve wildly to avoid the behemoth and almost narrowly averted it before it flicked its tail fin off the front.

Even though the structural integrity needle was not all the way in the red, we were still intact.

I leaned back into the chair and confirmed that the artifact was still secure. I informed the team about the situation and leaned over to the controls to pick up another chocolate bar when I spot this tiny cute little glowing fish right in front.

It was matching the craft’s ascent and and it looked like it was inspecting me. I waved at it and it came towards me and tapped on the glass. There it was – a tiny little crack.

As it swam away, I thanked the gods that this craft was built to withstand a crack here or there. As I  lean back on my seat, I see the little guy is back and he’s brought friends. There are only a half a dozen or so of them, but they surround me. In a moment of pure operatic genius, they dance, in a beautiful co-ordinated fashion towards the glass and hit it on all sides at the same time.

The see the cracks on each side, and they slowly creep and start to join together. I am surrounded entirely by cracks. Then the first one, the one that I first saw, takes another, one final stab and I close my eyes.

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