Friday, January 14, 2011

Like, when I got serious.

As fate would have it, virtually no writing was done this week. Between snow storms, errands and general house chores that I had been putting off for weeks, nothing got done. It's the longest I've gone with out writing in over two months and it has made me a little jittery. I'm eager to get back to it, but this sort of lull has killed any edge I had on my novella and it really concerns me.

If I figure out how to retain that groove, I'll post it here. I think there will be an exercise or two I try over the weekend.

In the mean time, I thought I would share the first short story I was ever serious about writing. I was 15 years old and my Sophomore English teacher was giving the class weekly assignments where we had to choose 10 vocab words, from a list of 30, and use them in a story, article, poem, whatever. It was one of the best exercises a teacher ever gave me. While most kids would turn in a paper from 200-300 words, I kept turning in these 2000 word monsters. This was the first, and honestly the best, from my high school years. I look back at it and kind of think I was a better writer then, in some way. Less tainted by the dozens of styles I secretly want to mimic.

The story is unedited. I was not a big revisionist then, so somethings have changed for the better.

I looked at the bathyscaphe and couldn't believe I was doing this. I looked at the lettering on the side of the sub, which read "The Challenger." That’s exactly where this sub was going. Into the challenger deep, the deepest and no doubt the darkest, place on Earth. The challenger deep was located in the Mariana Trench, 36,198 feet below the waves of the pacific. At first I had been excited to do this but now that I was here, I wasn't so sure.

The vessel, The Challenger was a bright yellow and twenty-five feet long. Its titanium hull was ten inches thick and there were two windows, one in the front and one on the side with glass just as thick. It looked invulnerable. Connected to the top of the sub there was a thin cable of fiber optic wiring connecting to the ship so the surface people could monitor everything outside and inside the sub.

"Are you Eric Dalson?" I turned around to face a young man; he couldn't have been older than I, about twenty-three.

"Yeah!" I answered.

" The captain has informed me that it's time."

"All right, but where's Mr. Kragken?"

"He'll be here shortly," he replied and he walked over to the other side of the boat, to talk to some one else.

I walked toward the sub and saw bolts that were the size of my fist. I kicked one just as if I was kicking the tires of a car. Then I took one last deep breath of the warm air of the Pacific and squeezed through the tight hatch of The Challenger.

Once inside I looked around. It was dimly lit inside, with pads of insulation positioned all over the walls. There was a large control console at the front of the cabin with monitors, a keyboard and some brightly-lit buttons. Towards the back of the cabin was a metal desk. On it was a laptop computer that appeared to be monitoring every thing outside the sub: pressure, temperature, speed, depth, bearing and more. Beside the laptop was a leather-backed logbook.

I sat down in the pilot's seat. It was very comfortable. I picked the headset that lay on the console and positioned it to my liking on the top of my head. Just then I heard the sound of footsteps coming down the metal latter. I turned around to see John Kragken, the billionaire. He was the reason why I was doing this. He was the one who had funded, designed and who had dreamed of doing this project. I couldn't imagine why he would want to complete this project. I guessed I would find out on the way down, since I was going to be spending the next three hours with this man.

He looked as invulnerable as The Challenger for a man of fifty with his white hair combed back and neatly trimmed beard. "Good morning Mr. Kragken," I said. He just glanced at me with his cold; glacier colored eyes and took his seat at the metal desk. Then he opened the leather-backed book and started writing on the blank pages.

He was my employer. He didn't have to talk to me if he didn't wish to. I shrugged off his coldness and went about my duties. Five minutes later the hatch closed. I heard over my headset the people on the ship wishing us well. I could feel the sub being picked up by the crane outside and being placed in the water.

Then the crane let go and we prepared for our descent. I pressed the button to bring the propeller online and then dove into the cool depths of the Pacific.

"The descent will take us two hours and thirty-nine minutes, sir," I told Mr. Kragken. He didn't look up from his writing seeming not to hear me. The information I had just given him he probably already knew. He was probably omniscient about everything on this little crusade of his.
Mr. Kragken was held in high esteem by many people, including my self, not only because of his money but because he was an accomplished geophysicist and oceanographer. He probably knew every detail about this part of this Pacific. We descended at three hundred feet a minute, not straight down but at an angle. After five minutes we were at fifteen hundred feet hovering only a few meters above the bottom. Turning on the searchlight, I looked out the porthole and saw a vast sandy white plain.

Five minutes cruising over the plain it soon became finite. A large canyon opened up before my eyes. The appearance of the abyss startled me for or a moment but I held back my fear. I looked back at Mr. Kragken. He was gazing out his porthole in front of his desk then he went back to his writing. I didn't know what he was writing but it looked he was being scrupulous in his recordings.
The sub came to the edge of the large chasm and then plunged into its dark depths. We were now converging on the deepest point on the face of the Earth. "Into the heart of darkness,” I muttered to my self.

Following the steep slopes downward the searchlight revealed dark colored, rocky ledges with patches of white sand here and there. I was surprised to see a small school of tuna, which dispersed at the sight of our searchlight. The water was amazingly crystal clear but the darkness seemed endless beyond the glow of our searchlight.

Twenty-three minutes into our voyage with one hundred and fifty atmospheres per square centimeter bearing down on the subs hull. We were at a depth of five thousand feet when we heard the first groan of the hull; it was the pressure testing its integrity. I was starting to get nervous.

Once again I looked back at Mr. Kragken. He was still writing and he looked nonchalant, as if he hadn't heard a thing. I was constantly adjusting the subs descent to keep it level with the contour of the ocean floor.

After another twenty-three minutes into our excursion into the dark depths, we reached a depth of ten thousand feet. I was now nervous, hearing the groans of the hull under pressure. I wiped the cold sweat from my brow and returned to gazing out the window. A couple minutes later a mountainous peak rose into view of our searchlight. It was enormous, possibly made out of granite.

"Marvelous, isn't it?” I turned to my left and saw Mr. Kragken standing beside me. It was the first time had spoken this whole voyage.

"Yes sir, it is." I didn't wholly share his opinion though. I was becoming more and more nervous the farther we went down. He sat in the copilot seat beside me. He motionlessly gazed out the window as if he were in a meditative state.

We were about half way done with our descent. Finally I got up my nerves to approach him.

"Sir, may I ask you a question?"

"You may."

"Why are you doing this?"

"I wanted to accomplish something in my life. I didn't want people to remember me for my wealth. I wanted them to remember me as a person who had done something great."

"This must be a very expensive accomplishment."

"You forget, my dear boy, that I am a billionaire. I am affiliated with many businesses and corporations through out the world. The expense of this is mere pocket change."
After saying this he returned to looking out the window.

We were now approaching the twenty four thousand foot mark, an hour and twenty minutes into our voyage. There were seven hundreds and twenty-seven atmospheres per square centimeter of pressure attacking the hull. The temperature out side was thirty-four degrees farenhight and I could feel it getting cooler in the sub. The terrain we were following had stipend.

I became increasingly nervous, each time we descended another thousand feet. Mr. Kragken was still silent and looking calmer that ever. The hull of the sub was now vibrating lightly under my feet. There was only forty minutes left to our descent. How could I bare another forty minutes listening to the moans of the hull and feeling the vibration under my feet with this silent madman?

Looking at my watch, time seemed to slow down. Minutes seemed like an eternity. Finally we came upon the thirty thousand-foot mark. There was only six thousand one hundred and ninety-eight feet left to go. The moans and groans of the metal became louder as the hull was starting to vibrate violently. Mr. Kragken remained in his seat musing about something. I could barely stand the silence that came from him. I looked at my hands, they had become pale no doubt from my nervousness.

We were nearing the bottom now; the walls were converging on us. Only four thousand one hundred and ninety-eight feet stood between us and the bottom of the Challenger Deep. I counted down the minutes in my mind. With two minutes left I felt a drop of cold sweat roll down my face. I shakily took the controls and slowed our descent, counting off the seconds in my head. Those seconds seemed like an eternity.

When the sub was only three feet above the bottom I shut off the propeller and let The Challenger float the rest of the way down. I felt the shutter of the sub touching down mother Earth and looked at our depth indicator. Indeed we were thirty six thousand one hundred and ninety-eight feet below the waves of the Pacific Ocean. The pressure on the hull was now one thousand and ninety-six atmospheres per square centimeter.

"Well my dear friend, we are now at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, thirty six thousand one hundred and ninety-eight below the surface. What do you have to say about it?" Mr. Kragken asked above the groans and violent vibrations.

I looked out the window and saw only rock and white sand below. At this I answered: "Sir with the utmost respect I say I want the hell out of here!"
"Then let us get the hell out of here, my dear boy. Besides you look a little pale." He said this sounding very happy and enthusiastic. "This is a very great attainment you have made with me today and I thank you." He said.

I made sure my safety belt was tight, as did Mr. Kragken, and I pressed the button to let go of the ballast. As I did the sub shot up like a rocket. The G-force was so great that I thought I was going to become a smear in my own seat. I saw the walls of the trench pass by swiftly then saw an increasing amount of light from the surface.

Five seconds later The Challenger must have leapt fifteen feet out of the water. The light from the outside flooded into the cabin almost blinding me. As soon as the bathyscaphe came to rest on the surface I unbuckled myself, ran to the hatch and opened it. I then took a deep breath of the warm air of the Pacific and thought that I had never been so happy to see the sun.

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