He should have been scared when he first heard that the plane was going to crash. He should have been scared when the first touch of turbulence rocked it in the sky. He should have been scared when the orange smoke filled the cabin and he could not get his oxygen mask on soon enough. When the cabin lights flickered on and off as the sensation of plummeting down hit the passengers. When the flight attendants were yelling and the overhead bags dropped onto their heads. When the guy seated next to him slammed down hard on his laptop and stopped moving. When the screams inside the cabin died as the plane hit the water with a sickening crash. He should have been scared when he found himself floating in the water hours later with neither the plane nor a single soul in sight.
He should have been scared but he wasn’t.
Joe was numb.
He examined himself in the water, at least the parts of himself he could see and feel. His hands seemed fine save for some scratches on his forearms. He had a gash in his forehead running across his left brow. He mustered some strength to kick underwater. He felt his right foot respond. His left foot did not.
He wondered if he was bleeding into the water. He wondered about sharks.
Three Weeks Ago
“It’s like you have abandoned your mother, Joseph,” Joe’s mother said. “I don’t even know if I have a son anymore.”
Joe smiled into the phone. His mother always had a flair for the dramatic. “I haven’t abandoned you, mum.”
“Prove it. Get on a plane now and come home.”
“I just can’t get on a plane, mum. I have to check my schedule. Get some vacation days. Plan. All that stuff you sent me to school to learn.”
“You come home right this instant, young man!”
Joe laughed. “I love you. I’ll come home soon.”
The sun beat down from above. Joe squinted into the sky around it and reclined into his lifejacket. This isn’t so bad, he thought. I mean, I did just survive a plane crash. He felt like he could float around forever but he also prayed that help would come soon.
A couple of large birds flew above him. Were they seagulls? Commorants? Albatross? He couldn’t tell. All his time spent watching National Geographic Wild seemed like a waste. Except for when he thought about the sharks. Were there sharks in these waters? Great Whites? Tiger sharks? Bull sharks? He was still thinking when he saw a large dorsal fin emerge from the water.
Two Weeks Ago
The bass from the subwoofer filled the little room they were in. Misty always listened to the old hip-hop songs. It was hard to make out the lyrics though as they panted loudly basking in the afterglow of sex.
She lay on Joe’s chest as she circled his navel with a finger. “You learned some new tricks,” she smiled. “If I weren’t your boss we could actually be a thing.”
Joe smiled but the smile did not reach his eyes. “Speaking of, I need a few days off.”
Misty’s smile faded. Joe could feel it on his skin. “When and how many?”
“In two weeks. I need eight days.”
“You’re going home?”
Is she a mind reader? Joe thought. “I want to see my mum. She sounds lonely.”
Joe cleared his throat. “One more thing.”
Misty raised herself up to look him in the eye. “You need money,” she said at the same time he said, “I need money.”
She got out of bed and went to her dresser. The special dresser that Joe wasn’t allowed to even think about. He looked at her taking in her curves as she rummaged through it. She found what she was looking for and threw it to him. A brown paper bag. He did not need to be told how much it weighed.
“Sell that and you’ll get your money,” she smirked. “And the Lord shall bless the work of your hands.”
Joe winced. He wasn’t religious but he always felt that scripture had a place and that place was not here.
“Oh, Joseph. There is no God. No heaven. No hell. You don’t have to be afraid of a few words.”
He stashed the paper bag in his backpack and zipped it up. “But what if there is?”
“There’s not.” She walked toward him and straddled him on the bed. She felt him stir between her legs. “Should we go again or do you want to continue this debate on metaphysics?”
In the background, Tupac said, “Only God can judge me now.”
The dorsal fin disappeared below the surface of the ocean. Joe breathed out a sigh. He must have been dreaming. Seeing things. The heat was playing tricks with his mind. He relaxed. Then he felt the pain.
The water around him turned red. His good leg was in a vice-like grip. His other leg was useless. He thrashed and tried to remember what to do during a shark attack. Nothing came to his mind except how incredibly real this was and how painful it was. He was dragged below the surface. His lungs started to fill up with water before the buoyant lifejacket thrust him back up. Suddenly his pain was gone. For a minute he could breathe. Then he saw his leg float up beside him. He saw the bite marks in his shin. The raw flesh of his thigh in strips. The flesh resembled the fabric of his pants. And when the pain came back in a massive wave, he passed out.
One Day Ago
“Yes, I have booked the flight, mum.”
“Just making sure. I love you. Can’t wait to see you, my son.” She ululated. “My son is coming home, oh!” He could picture her doing her happy dance. A lot of rhythmic turning of her shoulders.
“See you soon.”
Joe woke up. He felt different. Almost… lighter, but he had just lost a leg so maybe that was it? He looked around. It was quiet. Peaceful. The water did not bother him anymore. But then he started sinking.
He was underwater but he could still breathe. Above him was a figure floating. He made out the faint outline of a man in a lifejacket. The man was missing a leg. The water around the man stirred. He saw the silhouette of a helicopter hovering above. He could hear the chopping of its blades. The body of the man was lifted up out of the water. Still, Joe sank.
A cold tentacle wrapped around his left ankle. Joe looked down. Both his legs were present. He could see them. He could feel them. But he could not loose himself from the tentacle. It looked like darkness. Darkness was literally pulling him into the deep. It pulled him further down. Here the sun’s light did not reach. The fish below took on strange shapes. He could see them in the dark. A fish that looked like a Haco ruler scuttled by his head. Others gave off their own light. Bioluminescence, he recalled. It was much colder here in the dark. A large creature whooshed past him. It was as big as a large bus. A sperm whale.
Still, Joe sank.
A giant dragonfish was waiting for him at the bottom. Its massive teeth glowed in the light of its snare. Joe heard it laugh. He heard the fish laugh!
The tentacle, still visible even at this depth, pulled him lower still. A faint yellow glow appeared in the sea bed. He could smell sulphur and acid. In the distance, he saw more tentacles gripping more people and pulling them down. In an instant, Joe recognized one of them as the guy he had sat next to on the plane. He was trying to escape the pull but he could not. None of them could.
The dragonfish was laughing harder. A dead sound. A maniacal laugh, devoid of any compassion. Joe looked at it and its appearance changed. It now had Misty’s face. Her eyes were pitch black and she had a trail of cocaine from her mouth into one of her nostrils. Her mouth curved up into a heinous grin.
“Her feet go down to death,” she said.
The ocean floor turned to fire. The water bubbled from the heat and Joe began to scream. The tentacle had become a chain, a shackle, made of obsidian. It descended into the fire pulling him in. His screams joined the others’ as their bodies were immersed in the fire like kindling. It was like quicksand, the fire. They sank slowly, burning all the while. Screaming. Crying. Hysterical.
The ocean floor rose up above them and domed at the top, sealing them in.
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