XXXVIII

EXT. Tropical resort – Day

Music cue: Barbie Girl by Aqua

The camera works its way through the crowded poolside to reveal Deadpool riding a giant inflatable unicorn, wearing a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, drinking a colourful (gin) cocktail complete with tiny umbrella and curly straw.

Deadpool (to the audience)

Oh hi there, this is awkward, it’s not what it looks like…

Ok, that’s a lie, it’s actually exactly what it looks like, but life hasn’t been all unicorns and pleasuring myself. I promise we’ve been busy, it’s just that it turns out this whole “threequel” thing is hard—I mean just ask the makers of Blade: Trinity.

With the backing of my new sugar daddy, I took up gaming (mostly to sling insults at 12-year-olds), watched all of Netflix, even went to Wales for some gin-fuelled impulse shopping with a friend. Ewch ddreigiau!

Now I’m back, and just slightly in debt, no more distractions or interruptions, so this is the plan…

Deadpool gestures to the audience with his finger to ‘hold that thought’ and turns away to take another sip of his cocktail. As he raises his hand it disintegrates and the cocktail drops.

Deadpool (turning back to the audience)

What the fu—

Smash cut to titles.

Off.A short story in 12 small parts.

XXXVII

This is a story of discovery.

Growing up we were taught how more than 80% of the ocean remained completely unexplored by mankind, and that less than 10% of all marine life had been identified. Almost inconceivable just how little we knew about the world lurking beneath the surface.

But the curiosity of man, and humans being humans, we just couldn’t leave well enough alone. The next great “space race” playground for those with more money than morals. Billions of dollars spent traversing the deepest darkest crevasses seeking a groundbreaking oceanic discovery. And money, obviously.

Looking back it began with a specific sequence of minor, largely ignored, tremors in the southern Atlantic. Then in the mid Pacific a ring of undocumented, long dormant, submarine volcanoes roared to life for the first time in millennia, triggering massive ash fallout and widespread tsunamis along the eastern seaboard of the Americas and throughout most of south-east Asia.

Far from the seasonal environmental disruption resulting from the spiralling climate crisis that humanity had long become numb towards, this event would catch the attention of the entire globe. And with good reason.

This isn’t a story of what we found, it’s a story of what found us.

VI

Reaching the corner Miles, the self designated leader, went first. What he found was a whole lot of nothing, he motioned for the rest to follow him.

They had no other choice, the elevator had closed and there were no controls to call it back again.

Rounding the corner they were greeted by more corridor, devoid of all features aside from a pair of flickering fluorescent lights about half way down that provided intermittent illumination.

XXIX

Eyes still aren’t adjusting. Odd or not, I can’t decide. 11:43. That was a long five minutes.

Wait, what was that? A door? Different to the noise earlier. Closer. Or am I imagining things. I need to find a way out.

Reaching a corner, I at least know that the wall doesn’t extend forever, still nothing that resembles a door frame though. Moving down the second wall I run into something.

Well, not ‘run’, more like shuffle slowly into something. It isn’t as big as the drawers, and it’s cold, metal. Two handles on the front, a filing cabinet maybe, a small one. I yank on the bottom handle, not expecting anything, but it opens. Almost scared to stick my hand into the open drawer, I poke around slowly to see if there is anything in there.

IX

I’d tell you how all this started if I actually knew. All I have are rumours and tall tales. Everything from a bad business deal, to the assassination of some high ranking official.

Whatever it was resulted in all communications from the government ceasing, it’s as though they no longer exist. However we know that’s probably not the case, as someone had to have given the order for the national guard to step in.

XXX

Files. Guess that shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did. Feels like half a dozen or so, but not much good to me, the light from the clock is not even remotely sufficient enough to read anything. I toss them aside and try the top drawer. Nothing, it’s definitely locked. Odd, every filing cabinet I’ve ever seen has a single lock that secures all the drawers at once. But, hey, why would this be a normal set of drawers, nothing else about this situation is normal.

The voices are still there. No clearer, no closer, still not concerned.

Feeling my way around the filing cabinet there is something wedged underneath it, feels like another file, but I can’t pull it out. Shoving the cabinet, it doesn’t budge. Sure, I’m not the strongest guy in the world, but I should be able to move a small filing cabinet without too much difficulty, right? Not this one, it doesn’t move a millimeter, like it’s bolted to the ground. Why would it be bolted down on top of another file?

XXVIII

Why of all the dark rooms in existence am I in this one, why couldn’t it be your typical dark room with a sliver of light peaking out from beneath a door. For all I know this room doesn’t even have a door. Craziness of course, it must have a door, right? How else would I have gotten in here. Must find the door.

There’s that elevator sound again. This time joined by what sounds like faint muffled voices. Distant voices.

I decide to work my way left away from the drawers, feeling slowly along the base of the wall desperately hoping to stub my fingers on a door frame. There is nothing immediately next to the drawers, I must have moved three or four metres along the wall by now – I wonder how big this room is, hard to tell in the dark.

XXXII

Obviously the logical part of my brain thinks that theory is bollocks, but the rest of the brain is running with it. I’m ok with that. I’d rather be calm than hideously scared.

I sit up on top of the table, leaning against the walls in the corner of the room, just gazing straight ahead, hoping that the blurry shapes become clearer and I can work out where exactly I am.

The muffled voices have faded, and there has been no noise since what sounded like a door 15 or so minutes ago. Maybe there was no door. Maybe I imagined it.

III

A sunlit afternoon, my younger self chasing a familiar yet distant face through the tall grass overlooking the sea. This feels like a memory, but I know that it’s not. I dream so rarely that it’s usually easy to tell when my mind has escaped reality.

Right now in this moment I’m about 12. I haven’t actually been 12 for decades. And possibly I haven’t felt this free for just as long.

Nothing seems to matter, no consequences, no expectations, no judgement. There are other people around, they don’t see us or simply don’t care, it doesn’t matter which. Relaxed, free, comfortable, all the things missing from everyday life.

XXXI

I’m back to the table that I had awoken on an hour ago, it’s right next to the immovable filing cabinet. My eyes seem to be slowly coming to grips with the light levels, I can’t make out any defined shapes, just patches of dark and patches of not-quite-as-dark.

Using the table to pull myself up, I slowly examine the length of it. There is nothing else on the table. Maybe cleared off before I was put there? Still doesn’t explain why.

Absolute nothing helpful in the room. 12:01. I’m clearly trapped in here, but oddly calm – or at least calmer than one would expect in such a situation. Maybe it’s the idea that I can’t find a way out, so there mustn’t be a way in for anyone or anything else.

II

You think you know someone. We had left dinner early, not even lingering long enough to consider dessert. Eve seemed in a particular rush but wouldn’t say why. Maybe it was something she ate.

We were headed towards the station when her phone rang. Barely removing it from her inner jacket pocket she glanced at it and dismissed the call. I couldn’t see who it was, but I do the same with work calls all the time so I wasn’t concerned.

As the lights of our train came into view Eve casually turned, looking half at me, half through me – just as she had done a thousand times before – and smiled.

“None of this is what it seems. Jasper will explain.” she said softly with an oddly apologetic tone. The words had stunned me, was that her intention? Turning further to face me, she took two quick steps backwards, my outstretched hands clutched at the air.

She was gone.