Depth

Falling. Have you ever felt the sensation? I have, and I am. My helmet light can only reveal so much. To my left, to my right, above and below me, nothing but darkness and the cool rush of particles as they pass into my one illumination of light. It’s part of my training to remain calm; it’s part of my genetics to remain calm. It’s always fascinating how even at a molecular level you can feel your body remain calm because it’s been designed to. There’s a sense of comfort, which I imagine people with faith have, that comes from being able to let go, to know and believe that all of this was meant to happen, because you were designed for this to happen to you and to no one else. 

I’m trying to keep a log of all that has transpired because even if my mind blacks out or I die, my body won’t decompose at an average rate. It’ll take decades if not centuries for my body to be reclaimed by the intense depths and microbes of the ocean floor. Other expeditions will come. Other expeditions must come. What I’ve found down here – it’s too extraordinary to leave undiscovered. This is what we were meant to do. What my kind was made to do. We are explorers. And this discovery, what my team and I have uncovered, it will change everything.

But I’m still falling, further and further down into a dark unknown that’s only getting darker. Now I can feel it, I try to tilt my hand under the immense pressure to read my echo sounder – 5,000 fathoms – I’m almost there. I’m almost at the bottom; another 1,300 fathoms and I should touch the bed. I should.

I feel the pressure now. Really feeling the pressure, my head, the light, it’s all going blurry, tunnel vision. I know I’m about to black out. I should black out. Conserve my energy, converse my mind. Our minds our strong, they’ve been built that way, that they should shut down to conserve our strength, to converse our…

 

Breathing. My breath. Yes I’m sure it’s my breathing. The echo sounder reads – 6000 fathoms. I can feel the suit equalizing as the impossible descent continues. Now it’s completely dark except for the lights in my helmet, and the light from the echo sounder. Either the lens of the light has cracked, or the bulb has burst under pressure: perhaps both. A suit reset could fix this, but it would also risk destabilizing my suits established equilibrium, crushing me. I’ve never been good in the dark.

This is a sensation I have yet to experience: an internal conflict between instinct and genealogy. I can feel my memories, my mind pulling me back to that darkness, those childhood fears… And then it’s gone as my body forces my mind into submission. It’s not worth the risk. Mission parameters indicate that the discovery, the information, take priority. My body knows this and reacts. But my mind – my  mind – drifts, always drifting, like the soft pull of the water around me. Here, in the darkness, I am a child again. I was always afraid of the dark. I would always need someone close by, a presence, letting me know that the darkness hadn’t swallowed up the world around me leaving me alone. In the end, aren’t we all just…

 

But you’re not here anymore are you? No, you couldn’t be. I made sure of that. I made sure that both you and her were on your way to being back on top. Back up there with everyone else and the world.

My lights are working again, which is good. I woke up and found the familiar company of the deep-water particles flurrying around me like a snowstorm in headlights. But things are different this deep. I can notice small cracks in my helmet now. The pressure resilient glass was only meant to go so deep. My echo sounder reads – 6200 fathoms. Almost to the bottom now, a few hundred more fathoms to go. Humans have made it this far before but never within a suit. Now I finally understand everything that we went through. The training, the pills, the surgeries, it was all for this. All the pain, all the struggles are here – 6250 fathoms. The pressure builds and engulfs: a pillow being smothered against my head. Just like in our room. The stiffness in my arm is like the soreness we felt – 6275 fathoms – after they reinforced our bones. And the swelling in my legs, it’s like the lactic acid that built up after our beach runs – 6290 fathoms – but now, now is when I get to relax. Now I get to stop falling – 6300 fathoms.

6325 fathoms. 6375 fathoms – I’m still falling. The seabed was supposed to stop here. I can hear the cracks and moans from the suit, caving under the pressure it wasn’t meant for, the light has gone out.

I’m back in the darkness and you’re not here this time.

 

You know, I had noticed after the surgeries and the specialist training, how much we had become two different people. For the first time in our lives we were no longer twins. We were truly ourselves.

That terrified me.

The thought of losing you was like cutting off a limb from my body. Fitting I guess as the pressure of the water begins to cut off the weak points of the suit, specifically around the rotary joints in the waist, neck, shoulders, elbows, knees. All of that design and time going into preserving mobility and comfort now thrown to waste at – 7300 fathoms. At least that’s what I think the depth is. I woke to find the echo sounder having cracked at 7300 fathoms so by now, who knows how long or how far I’ve fallen.

You would’ve figured it out though, Rupert, you would’ve known what to do. Leave it to me to act first, ask questions later. I guess that’s why they picked me for the pilot program. There were three of us at the start. Exercises, simulations, probabilities, all were thrown at us and evaluated to determine reaction speed, decisiveness, and coordination.

That was the longest we had ever been apart. It was strange, how both of us were so far apart, but I could feel that you were changing, as I was. How we both were becoming so instrumentally different. And then I saw you on the mission deck. So stoic, so poised. Did he lock himself away? I asked myself, like we would when dad came back late. No. This was different. I knew that that boy who I held in my arms, under our coats and toys was gone. And you were all that remained. They broke us Rupert.

The pressure is too much to bear at this point. The fog is returning. The familiar feeling of hypoxia is setting in. I don’t know if I’ll wake up this time. I really don’t. The data is secured within the suits black box that is wired into the back where it’s the most secure.

It doesn’t matter what we found, really. In the end, I just wanted you to know Rupert that I was thinking about you.

by Devin Tupper

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