Aside from the flish flishing of the bellows being pumped way up there on the surface, I can’t hear any sound. I can see out of the small porthole in front of my face, and the view is framed by the little grid of metal reinforcing the glass. Flish-flish, flish-flish, rhythmically squeezes down the length of intestine connecting me to my artificial lungs. Its a strangely relaxing sound.
My feet are weighted and I drag them through the fine silty sand that’s billowing prettily with each lethargic step. I’m walking in time with the bellows, flish-step, flish-step. The ocean floor has a surprising topography, and I shudder from more than just the sudden cold as I approach the edge of the trench.
The water seems darker, and as I get closer to the precipice turquoise turns to ultramarine and sapphire before slipping into the relentless hard onyx that marks the start of the separate universe of the deep sea.
I press on, following the line of the trench. Its here, somewhere. I feel a tremble in the surroundings and suddenly I’m engulfed by an explosion of liquid mercury. Sharp darts of silver spray, spatter and retract into a compact formation as the cloud races away from the sleek grey and white construction of cartilage, teeth and raw power. I stand very still, knowing that its pointless, that thing can see right through me, it can sense my beating heart as though it possessed it. Dull grey eyes slide over my trembling body and I imagine it coveting the red jewels inside of me, longing to snap them out of this ivory and velvet case, to luxuriate in the storm of electricity signalling my fear; the thrashing ruby climax peaking and dissolving into a quieter salty pink. Flish flish flish. It takes a full minute after it has glided out of view for me to be able to take a step forward. I’m suddenly painfully aware of the space behind me.
I glimpse it, only a little further up ahead. Now that my goal is in sight the universe shrinks down to a less threatening size. Eight well camouflaged tentacles belonging to one shy octopus disappear in an inky cloud somewhere over to my right. To the left is uncharted gloom and I’m momentarily distracted by the flimsiness of our concept of time in a place where there is no sun, no seasons, no years.
I’ve finally made it. I surprise myself with an almost musical sounding sigh, and gaze at it reverently. Its so beautiful. I tug on the intestine three times like we agreed before setting to work. I feel guilty as I slide the knife edge in. It takes a degree of strength to lever it open that I am surprised I possess. A little more and it splits apart in a rush of bubbles. I see it there, glowing on its grey, strangely muscular pillow. I’ve heard they have music, a sound so sweet and pure, that it’s hypnotic and enrapturing. That doesn’t seem so impossible standing here, looking into the domed white calcified confines.
I’m not sure how long I simply gaze at it before I untie the pouch at my waist, climb inside and gently lift out the glowing orb. Its large, larger than any I’ve seen. Heavier too. I wonder what it was that lodged itself inside such a long time ago, that is now preserved for eternity in this impossibly perfect sphere.
It’s strange, I feel like I actually can almost hear a very faint sound, a delicate murmur, like music from another room. It must be up on the boat. Perhaps I am imagining things but the flish flishing seems to have slowed down.
I slide the moon inside the pouch and it is almost heartbreaking to pull the drawstring closed. The pouch is tied to the line securely. I unclip the flare gun, aim it upwards and pull the trigger. I’m always amazed when I feel the faint click, then the hissing, and watch as the plume of air carves a spiralling feather upwards to the surface. The line shudders and twitches and I have to hold myself back from snatching the pouch back, my hands seem to ache with the want to hold it, just a little bit longer. I’ve never felt something so perfect, it seemed almost alive.
Oddly, I find myself drawn back to contemplating the smooth white cradle. It seems so quiet in here, safe almost. Safe. That’s a strange word. I’m aware that I feel tired, a little light headed. Flish… flish. Flish… flish. It seems like its been forever since I just had a rest. There’s that singing again. Flish. It’s pretty, but I can’t make out the words. Fliiish. That grey tongue seems peculiarly interesting, inviting even. I bend down to look closer. The singing is louder, but I’m aware it isn’t coming out of the shell, its surrounding my head, floating down that intestine. Strange.
I look up drowsily at the surface and see the hull of the boat. The sun must be going down, the fractured stalactites of white light are thinning into the grey. I imagine the surface is developing that lovely burnished copper colour. I’m smiling at the simple beauty of it. I can feel my thoughts disintegrating as the music gets louder. It occurs to me the bellows have stopped, and that someone is singing a hymn into the tube connecting me to my life.
I pause for a millisecond as it unfolds before me like an absurd picture book. My vision diminishes into a tight circle in front of my face. I have a headache, but it only barely registers in my elated mind. The singing, such sweet singing.