Day three of the flash fiction challenge brings on the setting of the bottom of the ocean.
Finding a Way
I am amazed as I traverse the ocean floor. Less sunlight reaches this depth than reaches Pluto, but light finds a way. Bioluminescent fish dance around me as I proceed, not knowing what to make of me. It’s a world divided into predators and prey, though each is a relative term. I am clearly neither. I’m too big to eat, but I’m also not eating them. They come up to me, investigate, then scamper away with a flash and streak of light. I don’t follow them. I can’t. They’re built to cut through the denser water down here. I am only capable of visiting.
It’s impossible not to discover something new down here. So little of the world down here is explored, so much is isolated. I move past a small school of sightless, glassy fish that flow around me as I go. I find an impossibly hot vent with worms clinging to it for dear life. I wish it weren’t so dark down here, because it is all so stunningly beautiful. I don’t have time to watch them. I have miles to go and a limited schedule. I am headed to as far from land as a person could travel before coming back again, fifty degrees south, one hundred degrees west, number so round as to excite the human psyche.
Especially when told about the bloop.
I am listening as hard as I can, recording everything for study. The sound hasn’t been heard since it echoed through the oceans years ago, but that isn’t to say it wouldn’t happen again. Around me the deep Pacific teems with the impossible and improbable. Below me the ground sways. I see it all, and I remember it for later. Life has found its way into every nook and cranny down here, found a niche and exploited it. It’s become something new, become something different in every turn.
At points it feels alien, but it all came from the same spark. No parallels, no interlopers, these are all earthlings, every bit as much as the men who await what I discover.
This place is called the pole of inaccessibility. As I near my target, the name makes more and more sense. Here, here alone of all the places I’ve seen beneath the ocean, life has not accessed. The fish swim clear. The tube worms and anemone do not cling to the rock face. It becomes a smooth plane around me. From the center, it is a still lifelessness as far as my light can travel. This does not match the expectations I was given. No place on earth has been found to be inclement for life, so why would this place be different? Too hot, too cold, too toxic, too oxygenated, too sulfuric, too ammoniac, these phrases have meanings for individuals species, but not life as a whole.
I take samples of the water. It is cold, and it is sterile. No trace mineral or biological contamination. I reach to take a sample of the rock below, but even with honed steel I cannot break any of it loose. I have a small diamond drill, but I hate to use it as it would disturb the pristine nature of this place. Any particulates kicked up into the water could take months to full settle. My mission is clear. I drill.
There it is. The frequency matches. The volume matches. It is all around me, vibrating the water, a second bloop. I sit and listen, recording, joyful. I try to find the source. Turning all directions, it gets no louder or softer. On impulse I listen down. Yes. That’s it. Whatever this place is, this vast and empty plain covered in dead water, this place is the bloop. As the noise ends, I drill again. The ground opens. Oh dear, so much wider than I expected. A fissure cracks the surface a hundred meters to either side. It splits open revealing a cave going straight down. My time is short, but it is not up. I would not be doing my job if I didn’t investigate. Just a little.
I sample the water. I listen. I look.
At last my time is up. I must leave this place. I reverse my course, only to see the fissure is closing above me. The cave seals, and I am trapped.
I was wrong about this place. It was not the dead heart of the ocean. Even here, even now, life found a way.