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.

Off.A short story in 12 small parts.

XXV

I haven’t moved since my eyes opened, still in a state of uncertainty due to the surrounding darkness. Scared to move for fear of injury or falling or stepping on something. That’s reasonable, right? No one likes stepping on cockroaches in the night or walking into door frames.

Can’t stay here forever though. Especially since I’m not exactly sure where “here” is. Feeling around carefully, I seem to be on a bench or a table. It’s hard and uncomfortable, I know that much, probably explains why it feels like I’ve been lying here for a week.

Sitting up. I hear what sounds like an elevator.

But woah, really should’ve done that slower. You know that disconcerting sensation of all the blood rushing away from your head as though you’re about to…

VIII

The shock wave rippled through their camp site, and several hours earlier than they were anticipating. The plan had always been to be further from the impact site, but communication delays had hindered them before their egress had even begun.

By the time they got out they knew they were unlikely to get as much distance as desired, still they had pushed on long enough to ensure they’d be safe, and they were.

While they were all now awake, it would still be hours before they would know if it had worked, and to what extent. Only then could they return.

XI

They landed on April 7, just before dawn. There had been no warning, no hint at all that this was coming. We weren’t prepared, but they were. Coming in from the south-east was the last thing any of us were anticipating.

Since then they’ve moved swiftly along the coast as far west as Texas, and north towards Georgia. They’ve seized control of 5 states, with their efforts currently concentrated on making it to the makeshift capital in Chicago.

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.

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.

XXIII

There is no sound, almost pure nothingness, just a mild ringing in my ears. It has always been there, or at least I think it has, assuming it is there at all and not just a figment of my imagination.

Maybe what I believe is a ringing is actually what silence sounds like. Maybe I’m losing it. Entirely possible.

The lack of sound is one thing. However, wherever I am it’s extremely dark – can’t see the hand in front of my face, dark. The only exception being the dull red glow coming from a digital clock nearby.

It’s 10:47. Let’s assume pm based on the apparent lack of light…

XIX

“I know what you said, but this is not over. We need you back at the bunker. Now.”

Upon entering, Oliver immediately sees an imposing – unknown – figure standing at the centre console.

“Where is she?!”, bow drawn, and aimed.

“Felicity is fine, she doesn’t even know you’re here. Nor do the others.“

“How d–“

“I am not your enemy Mr Queen,” raising his hand, but still facing away, “believe it or not, we’re a lot alike, you and I.”

“Enough with the riddles! Who are you!”, Oliver lets fly an arrow, striking the screen to the man’s left.

“They said you had trust issues,” the man replies, casually reaching down, plucking the arrow from the screen to examine it. “They also said you don’t miss… You make these yourself?”

“I don’t miss. WHO ARE YOU!“

The figure slowly turning to face Oliver,

“My name is Bruce, and I need your help.”

XIV

When the first pod of whales beached themselves no one really thought much of it. When, two weeks later, a second pod beached themselves several hundred miles south, again, no one thought much of it.

That was 8 months ago. Now, not only are the beachings a daily – world-wide – occurrence, they aren’t limited just to whales.

There have been several reports of dolphins, sharks, and in some instances giant squid.

Initially scientists had suspected that it was the result of climate change or rising pollution. However, after months of testing and analysis on the deceased sea creatures they found no evidence supporting that theory.

They had come to one conclusion – they weren’t simply beaching themselves they were trying to escape from something…

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.