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June 27, 2018

26. Baptism

1945

My name is insignificant. John Moon’s name is relevant. He was a renowned marine biologist and oceanographer. A genuine man of character. His untimely death was thought to be accidental but suicide may have been the true cause.

I found it, leafing through his final belongings, a single entry torn from an otherwise unused journal. But I struggle to make sense of it. It seems conjecture and speculation—pure myth.
Let me read it here:

July 14, 1943

My account herefor will sound insane and for this reason has not been submitted to journals of science or academia. I can scarce believe it to be true myself had I not been present and have an artefact of its truth. I’m fortunate not to have gone mad from the experience.

Man knows more about the moon floating in the cosmos of infinity, than of his very own Earth, the waters that surround and give life. The depths of the ocean carry more secrets than the hearts of all men. If we knew what was below we would not feel the irrepressible urge to dive and explore.

Over several years Allen Carter, distinguished marine biologist, and I crafted the most exquisite vessel man has yet known. (Some technical assistance must be acknowledged to some Swiss engineers.) Between us and our families our finances had poured exclusively into the deep sea submarine—improving the Bathysphere design. We named it Walton. Cramped though it may be, Allen and I fit well enough to function the craft into the deepest parts of the ocean’s haze. It’s thick and tempered shell gave us trust and courage to submerge beyond depths yet explored. 

Our destination was 5,500 meters below the surface of the water, the hadal zone—named after Hades itself. But how unfair to call it a kingdom of Hades—so draconian. What lies beneath may be angelic and divine. Then again, from my experience, perhaps I am wrong. Sheol have mercy.

Trials of diving finally fed our confidence for our final dive. On the morning of July 10 we packed necessities and boarded the vessel, as dubbed it.

The warm cyan water welcomed us. As we descended, light gradually choked out and darkened. For an hour we only went deeper. Under water, man becomes an archangel. To descend into water is to ascend into beauty. Flecks of sand, flesh, and minuscule creatures passed the beams of our light. Blue turned deep and navy and finally, nearly black. Our light struggled to show beyond a meter. Still we went down.

The blessing of the rays of the sun were diminished in this blue-purple of a deep bruise. As bitter as it was sweet to the eyes. This flavor of the ocean was fierce and near-omnipotent. A perpetual night with no moon.

Then the strangest thing. Allen gasped and I recall vividly my awe. A fluorescence pulled us down, a dull glow beneath our vessel. It shown spires of shells and coral and bone and rose up through the darkness and glowed sweetly. A castle of perfect construction from the most unorthodox materials—and entirely underwater. Had this sunk eons ago? Who constructed this fascinating citadel?

In a quick and startling fashion, oil-slick, dark skin passed our window. Not the form of a shark or whale. A seal or dolphin more likely but not at these depths, not by hundreds of meters. Allen and I exchanged nervous glances. A deep and thunderous bang crashed the side of our vessel. Be mindful the water pressure and magnitude. The slightest damage would crumple our vessel under the pressure and force. Then fiercely, a hand—a human hand—slapped the window of the ship. Within our small space the hand was only inches away. Whatever could survive these depths was just beyond our vessel wall.

Without a thought or doubt we both doubled into action to raise our ship to surface and escape the unknowns of the deep. Ascent took less than our arduous descent but seemed to take ages as our palms sweat and hearts raced, fearful of any movement out our small circular window. We ascended safely and slowly…unharmed but not untouched.

When we surfaced and docked our companion ship I noticed a pole, a spear of some sort, protruding from the skid, along the base of the vessel. Upon closer inspection, dislodging and examining, it became clear: a spear, a javelin crafted purely of whale bone. Immaculate in craftsmanship and skill. Unlike anything I’ve ever encounter prior in my career or after. 

I have since thrown in back into the ocean and must resume this entry at a later date. Please believe my words and disregard the heretic Allen Carter. His words are extraneous and perfidious.

That is all. The note ends abruptly. The story does indeed sound incredulous. But the truth may now be rendered. I must be clear: I joined John Moon on the mysterious voyage. I am Allen Carter.

This story is simply Borgesian in format: a fictional author, a twist ending (“The Form of the Sword”—sharing the same name, John Moon); and Lovecraftian in nature: a mystery-thriller that suggests more than it reveals.

I’ve also wanted to write a piece on the Middle Passage and the Drexciya mythology for a while. I might have another lined up but this sets the stage. I hope it honors the history (and myth of Drexciya).

I’ve just now become aware of an HG Wells short story called “In the Abyss” (1896) which sounds remarkably similar to my story. Mr Wells beat me to a decent plot by 122 years.

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