Chapter Three: Claustrophobia
As they walked down the corridor, Jonas noticed that the water stopped rising at his ankles and he began to think about Carol. How they were arguing because she found out the truth about the fist fight that had almost gotten him expelled. “Why do you always have to be the hero for her Jonas?” she screamed so loud that it caught the attention of half the student body. “I’m your girlfriend for over three years, not her! Yet, I am ALWAYS second fiddle when it comes to her!”
“No you’re not!” he sighed, “I love you Carol, but Dee is my best friend, always have and what that son of a bitch try to do to her, he’s lucky I didn’t kill…” she slapped him and everyone stared, a few of them even laughed.
“You protect, treat and look at Dee in a way, you NEVER did to me,” Her voice cracked, “Just tell me the truth… You love me, but you’re in love with her, always have. Just tell me the truth!” Jonas tightened his lips and lowered his head.
“I don’t know. Maybe.” And without another word, she ran off. “Why did I say that to her? If I knew if that was going to be the last time would see her…”
“Hey, check this out!” Paulie pointed out to a large gaping hole in front of them. The metal looked twisted with scratch marks all around it. “What caused this?”
“Who knows?” Tad quickly answered, as Jonas broke into the room beside them and slowly entered. A few seconds later, Diane followed and saw Jonas rummaging through the room.
“What are you doing?” she asked, as Jonas searched through a woman’s purse. He took out a couple of hundreds and tossed them on the floor. He pulled out a thick diamond tennis bracelet and placed that in his pocket. “Why are you taking that?” she napped, “We are trying to survive and you are taking trinkets?”
“Not trinkets.” He sighed, “I could use these diamonds to sharpen the ax.” And his face softened, thinking about his father. Before he died, he loved going camping with him. He would’ve never thought that everything his father taught him would be of use outside the woods, but now, it saved his life more times than he could’ve counted. He opened a brief case and smiled when he found a dog whistle and a stun gun. Dee looked at down at the water and then back at the stun gun.
“Jonas, if you use that we could die.” She nervously said.
“Last resort then,” He laughed, handing the stun gun to her. “Just make sure you are standing on something dry when you use it.” He winked at her and gave her arm a gentle squeeze and she couldn’t help but to blush. When they walked out the room, the two of them saw the others standing at the end of the hall.
“It’s a dead end!” Francine whimpered while Paulie tried to open the door beside them marked ‘staff only’ after a few minutes of struggling, he punched it and muttered a few curses in Italian.
“It’s no good; we’re going to need a key.” Paulie finally spoke. “We need to find a way out of here.” Jonas looked at his hatchet.
“It’s severely blunted, maybe if we could cut around it…” He raised the hatchet, but Tad placed his hand on Jonas forearm and shook his head.
“We both know that’ll be a waste of time.” Tad sighed “Let’s try going back to the main hall and look for another way out.” Diana could see Francine immediately starting to trembled and was on the verge of crying.
“Frannie, what’s wrong?” She asked and she took a step back when she saw the panic in her eyes.
“I…” Fancine broke out in a cold sweat. “I don’t want to go back there…” She tightly held around Paulie’s arm, her nails braking into his skin. “When we were in that room… The last two guys that got there… They said that Mr. Baker was fighting one of them and for over ten minutes Paulie was trying to keep everyone straight. He even slapped john when he suggested that everyone might be…” she looked back towards Tad “Then when Mr. Baker came in…” Francine started crying hysterically. “What if there are more of those things over there now!” she fell on her knees “I’m certain that we’ll run into them! I’m not moving an inch!” Paulie slowly rubbed her back, looking at the others with the same concerning look.
“There might be…” Diane uttered “…Another way across.” She looked over the gaping hole in the floor. “Through there.” They all gathered around the hole, the plan – according to Diane sounded simple. Since the hole was near the service door, she would swim through the hole and swim to the other side and open it. However, Jonas didn’t want her to do it. His sudden overprotectiveness caused her to blush again. He even insisted that he goes in her place. Yet Tad and the others had to remind him that Diane was captain of the swim team and was more suitable for this. Reluctantly, Jonas agreed as Diane began stripping down to her underwear. She could see just how worried he was and it made her heart skip a beat.
“Dee.” His voice cracked, while rushing over towards her. He grabbed onto her arms and for looked deeply into her eyes. He looked terrified, “Promise me that if anything goes wrong you come back here.” She didn’t say a word, she just nodded. Jonas then handed her the dog whistle. “If you see those things use this.” She looked down and tossed him a perplexing gaze. “I have a theory about these things. If you come across one, use this whistle. I strongly believe that it would be better than any weapon.” She stuffed the whistle into her bra.
“Don’t worry Jonas!” she tried to cheer him up, but she could that it wasn’t working. “I’ll be careful.” And he forced out a smile as he jumped into the hole in the floor. The water was freezing and thankfully the flood lamps were still in operation, providing her with enough light for her to maneuver her way passed a couple of bodies dangling within the water. Ahead she saw a ladder against the wall and she used that to pull herself up. When she surfaced, she took a deep breath and cautiously looked around, but all she saw was mangled metal and few floating bodies.
She looked up and saw a hatch overhead. Just when she was about to climb through, she heard someone crying. “Hello?” as her voice echoed the crying quickly stopped and was replaced by splashing water and she saw the bright orange life preserver. “W-Wait!” Diane quickly swam towards whoever the person was and stopped when she came across the large hallway. “Shit seven, no eight rooms.” She took several deep breaths and submerged herself. Her eyes were burning as she struggled to see within the saltwater and with the not lack of light, her field of vision was only four feet and she was starting to frightened, fighting every instinct to turn around and forget about the person she saw.
Soon as she entered one of the rooms, her face nearly hit the body of a well-dressed middle age man with his right arm and half of his face missing. She screamed at the very sight of the body and she immediately panicked which caused her lungs to burn for air. She shot up, took a deep breath and began coughing. The foul fishy odor hit her nose and she nearly vomited. Then she heard a gnawing sound and she held her breath when she realized that it was coming from behind. Diane slowly turned around and saw a girl hunched over, eating a human arm which caused her to gasp and reached into her bra for the dog whistle.
The girl’s head jerked as she struggled to pull a vein out. Diane stared at her hands and saw large webbing between the fingers. She stopped eating and slowly tilted her head up and Diane’s heart froze. “D-D-D-Dee.” The girl’s voice was rough, grainy and barely noticeable. “D-Deeeee.” She leaned forward and Diane’s widened. Despite the gray skin, the wide black eyes and flat nose, she could still tell who the girl was.
“Oh my God, Carol!” Carol took another bite of the forearm, her teeth were all pointy and the slits in her neck kept fanning in and out. Carol leaned forward. ‘Click-Clack, Click-Clack!’ she appeared leaned in and looked like she was about to attack when Diane blew the dog whistle and Carol shrieked in pain and threw herself back against the wall before throwing herself into the water and swam as far away from Diane as possible. She kept blowing the dog whistle for as long as she could and she didn’t know why it was working.
She was in a panic she dove back into the water and made her way towards the hatch. When she popped out of the water she could faintly hear the chattering teeth. “D-D-De-e-e-e, h-h-elp m-mee.” Diane reached for the latch, but shrieked into her hand when it wasn’t opening. “D-Dee, K-K-K-Kill Me-ee!” ‘click-clack, click-clack!’ Diane blew the dog whistle once again and she heard not just Carol, but countless others screaming in pain and she began to desperately began to bang onto the hatch.
The water was cold as ice as Davy paddled for dear life down the dark corridor. The tips of his fingers were heavily numbed while trying to fight off his sleepiness. He looked up and all he saw was the blackness ahead and he was starting to lose hope as he began to cry. “Hello?” a voice echoed, causing him to panic and he swam for dear life around the corner. “W-Wait!” but he didn’t listen he kept swimming as fast and hard as he could until he was able to swim out of sight. He peered around the corner and saw something dark peaked its head out of the water and dipped back down.
He waited for a few seconds and rushed passed until he came across the hatch in the ceiling. He tried to reach for it, but his fingers fell short just a few inches. He launched himself up, but panicked when he was unable to bend his fingers. “You have to live Davy!” He jumped again; ignoring the surge of pain as he held onto the small handle and turned it. As he pushed the hatch open a voice echoed throughout the corridor. “D-D-Deeee!” he screamed and quickly pulled himself through the hole and slammed it shut. He locked the hatch and took several deep breaths before he eventually passed out.
Eighteen hours earlier…
“Here’s the real truth, we know more about the deepest, darkest space than what we know about our oceans.” Davy sat doe eye watching his idol Pierre Mont Petit walking across the stage. He was wearing an aqua blue sports jacket with a white button down and dark blue jeans. He brushed his pencil thin mustache, then ran his fingers through his short platinum blonde hair and immediately addressed the room full of high school students, Marine biologists, and high end business men. “Our oceans have a direct impact on all life on this planet; who we are and what we turned out to be originated from these waters, not some distant star several million light years away, but right here.”
He began to move back and forth on the stage and he smiled at a couple of people. “A lot of the knowledge in space, to me, is impractical knowledge which may be good to know but does nothing to help humanity solve their problems on this planet.” An image showing the five layers of the oceans appears overhead. Pierre waved his hands around the abyss and trenches of the ocean chart. “Deep oceans have been explored very little and only recently - studying them is not at all as all as expensive as space, yet NASA has the stage, the momentum and prestige from the space race all the way through to the development of the international space station. Not to mention the political power for R&D money to generate and spend on the space program and that is only because space is prime real estate in a planet that is vastly becoming overcrowded. However, by the time we can truly colonized a planet or a space station, we would most likely have used up nearly all of our natural resources.”
Davy tried to move a little closer in order to see Pierre, but his father stopped him and pointed upwards. When he looked up, he saw Pierre looking right at him, he gave out a gentle nod and Davy was overwhelmed with excitement. “Indeed there can be extremely rich deposits of gold and other valuable substances on the oceans floor due to the constant volcanic activity and plate tectonics; however this isn’t why you’re here.” A video appeared overhead showing a small transparent flatworm, no bigger than a tic-tac with little rays of orange and blue light glowing around it. The video then showed millions of them along the volcanic ocean floor, causing many of the marine biologists to talk among themselves rapidly while the students and other guests were all looking a bit confused. “This flatworm I discovered while venturing deep within the Mariana trench. It is a half inch long and as you can see here, they all are rapidly making their bodies glow in different colors. First it was red, then orange and finally yellow, all moving in different sequences in order to get our attention and it was then I figured that this tapeworm is parasitic.” This caused the marine biologists to become skeptical, even his father looked intrigued by the video.
“As you can see, the light of the flatworms attracted hundreds of thousands of vent shrimps and in less than five minutes, all of the flatworms were devoured. Now from the time lapse, it took only a half hour before these vent shrimps began acting erratic. Some began attacking the ones who ignored the flatworms, others were left alone, but the rest began swimming way above their normal areas and purposely drawing attention of this school of benthic comb jellyfishes. As they were being eaten by the jellyfishes, you could see that only forty vent shrimps remained below and continued to retain its normal behavior patterned. At first I ignored this, but the pattern repeated itself with the jellyfishes. Since the benthic comb jellyfish is transparent, you could see through another time lapse how the flatworm, thought to be eaten by the vent shrimp, forces itself out from the base of the shrimp’s neck. It then quickly latches itself onto the one of the many nerves and crawls towards the central nervous system. It takes the flatworm an hour before it reaches the area and almost instantly the behavior patterns goes to a rapid change. Some even began attacking one another. Now look at this.” The video began showing some of the jellyfishes growing scales and small fins as it began to swim higher.
“Impossible!” a man yelled.
“Incredible!” Davy’s father whispered.
“The flatworm actually altered its host genetic code within a matter of an hour, allowing the jellyfish to quickly adapt to the decompression and began ascending higher, leaving behind multiple dead jellyfishes and a small few, that as you could see are infected with the parasite, but are unscathed by the flatworm’s control. This pattern repeats itself several more times, and each time the flatworms becomes more agrestic towards both the non-infected and to the ones who have full synergetic control and it all ends before ending halfway up the bathypelagic zone. I came to the conclusion that many of the species of fish within this area are immune to the flatworm parasite.”
The image showed a deep sea Anglerfish being dissected and the audience gasped at the size of the flat worm that was the length of the fish’s spine, but that wasn’t what shocked them. It was how quickly the Anglerfish was being healed. “This flat worm somehow accelerated the healing process. As you can see, the flat worm uses it’s appendages to wrap around the spinal cord and embeds its head into the base of the brain stem giving it full control of the host body. Yet, the Anglers have full control of the worm. It is my theory that the anglers are naturally immune to them.” The image then showed a needle entering the worm and extracted a small amount of liquid from it. “The flatworm blood is completely made of pheromones that completely mutates the hosts DNA and it was constantly pumped into the spinal fluid which explained the dramatic alteration of the pervious hosts physical structure.” Hey members of the audience all gasped and even some of the students looked intrigued.
The image then showed a small scalpel cutting the worm and it let out a high pitch screech before it liquefy and the audience let out a collective moan of disappointment which caused Pierre to smile. “I know the feeling, I screamed like a baby when that happened.” The audience laughed “For nearly three years, I searched the ocean floor to find another one of these flatworm, I became obsessed to the point that I nearly lost my television program. I was at my wits end, this somehow became my white whale.” He looked at the crowd, “But I met someone who became my new obsession and in many ways, she saved me from myself. I gave up on my quest and on the fourth year anniversary of this discovery, I found them.” The video once again shows the millions of flatworms leaving from the volcanic floor and many people within the audience cheered enthusiastically.
When the audience died down Pierre waved his hand and a large covered fish tank raise from the bottom of the stage. “I was able obtain one hundred and nine parasitic flatworms before they could be eaten by the vent shrimps, I named them the Adrianna parasite, after my ex-wife.” There was a loud collected laughter and Pierre pulled out the curtain revealing an empty fish tank.
The large banging coming from the hatch underneath him startled Davy awake as he urinated on himself. He quickly forced himself off the ground and nervously looked around. The hatch began to sake violently, causing him to panic and run blindly into the dark corridor.
“What the hell? It’s closed!” Diane started to bang onto the hatch “…There’s someone on it!” she quickly started to pound desperately “H—HEY!! OPEN THE HATCH!!!” She immediately covered her mouth and began to survey the area. ‘Click-Clack, Click-Clack!’ She remembered the image of Carol struggling to talk to her. “She had her arm back and gills.” ‘Click-Clack!’
“D-D-DEEE K-KILL M-M-MEE OR I W-WILL KILL YOUUUUU!” Diane looked ahead and saw Carol effortlessly swimming like a fish, towards her. She quickly placed the dog whistle into her lips and blew it which caused Carol to burst backwards as well as countless others that was deep in the shadows.
“OH NO!” Diane began to swim franticly to the opposite direction. “I have to get out of here!! I need to find another way out!”
She had been gone for nearly twenty minutes. Tad and Paulie was standing on guard with their pipes and rebar held high, while Francine stared at the locked door, trying not to say what everyone was thinking. She glanced over to Jonas who had been pacing back and forth around, eyes locked onto the hole in the floor. “Hey… I’m fed up waiting on her, I’m going after her.”
“Whoa hold up Jonas.” Tad quickly grabbed his elbow, just as Jonas was about to jump in “Yes, she should’ve been here by now, but we have to accept the possibility that she might’ve drowned or…” Jonas shot him a cold stare and pulled his arm off of his hand.
“Tad’s right.” Paulie sighed “This ship is a complete mess, there’s no telling what she came across or if all the routes were blocked.” Francine began to breakdown, her cries of woe echoing through the halls.
“Calm down Frannie!” Jonas snapped in a low voice, “You keep screaming like that then eventually…” he stopped short and looked towards the vast darkness, shortly after everyone heard it. Click-clack! Click-clack! The sounds were over lapping one another. There’s no telling how many were heading their way Click-clack! Click-clack! They all could feel the walls and floor starting to rumble, the sounds was starting to get louder, causing their ears to ring. Click-clack! Click-clack! Jonas grabbed Francine’s arm. “Hold your breath!”
Her hand grasped onto the broken, mangled metal as she carefully pulled herself through, trying herself not to cut herself. The second her head surfaced she took in a deep gasp, breathing in the much needed oxygen her lungs craved. She carefully looked back into the dark water and blew the dog whistle, just in case Carol followed her. She then thought about how she looked. Light grey leathery skin, large all black eyes, the row of sharp teeth, long black talons and webbings between her fingers. “She wasn’t a mindless killer like the others. She was lucid, what the hell is happening?!” after a minute of trying to catch her breath, she pushed herself up and began to walk down the long hall.
She picked up a mangled pipe and slowly approached the hatch on the floor. She kneeled down and unlocked it. “Just as I thought, there’s someone else here…” She looked around, her body began to shake as the chill settles in. “I don’t see anybody… Maybe it’s another survivor?” Diane started to survey the area, but all she could see was twisted metal, debris, and darkness. “H-Hell…” she suddenly froze at the thought of calling out. After all, what if Carol hears it or another of those things?
The image of her dead classmates at the hands of Mr. Baker entered her mind, all that blood and gore. Then their faces, like her all they want to do was go home and be safe. Yet she had a terrible feeling within the pit of her stomach, this unease feeling from deep within her soul. A feeling that prevented her from speaking out, the fear if someone was to hear her just who or what would head in her direction. She took several deep breaths and began to head to the locked door, she could feel someone staring at her from behind, but is too afraid to look. She placed her fingers on the lock when a hand appears out of the shadows and grabbed her shoulders. She yelped and swung the pipe with all her might, only to have someone grab her by the wrist. She began to hyperventilate, but instantly felt relieved when Jonas stepped out of the shadows. “Dee, do not open that door!” His voice was filled with panic. Seconds later Tad, Paulie and Francine appeared, all soaking wet and breathing heavily.