Friday Night Story


   “Record. Microphone test. Check?”
   “’Microphone test.’ Complete.”
   “The voice recording is a system redundancy, if for whatever reason the video fails. I’ll start with a brief, lay-introduction to our ADS, an atmospheric diving suit. Unlike previous generations, it isn’t built as a wearable submarine, keeping one atmosphere of pressure until crush-depth. Instead, it helps lower the general pressure; at lower pressures it’s less effective than conventional ADS, but at higher pressures more effective. As an example, I am now at 1.05 bar, roughly five percent greater pressure than sea level. The suit is designed for two hours exposure at 1.2 bar, and equipped to allow for in-water decompression after the dive. The suit is water-tight, and can easily withstand the summer water temperatures at Antarctica, keeping the interior at roughly 50° Fahrenheit; for cold protection I’m wearing a sweater my wife made me. We were fighting over a name for the suit until October, when my son died in a car accident; we agreed to call it TROY.”
   “Damn; can’t wipe my eye. I’ll have to… make a note of that for the engineers. The purpose of the dive, and the reason for this ridiculous video apparatus on my shoulder is recording the environment and perhaps catching a rare deep-sea glimpse of mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, the colossal squid. The import of this expedition is that no dive has taken place this deeply beneath the ice shelf of Antarctica.”
   “1.1 bar; the innovation I’m most proud of in the suit, and the only one that makes this journey feasible, is a complicated pheromone duplicator. It releases pre-programmed chemical solutions into the water to simulate squid pheromones, including those known to induce passive states and fear responses. Pheromone groups known to cause aggressiveness have been left out of the configuration, for obvious reasons. The colossal squid is known for attacking sperm whales, the largest toothed animals on earth, so having a peaceful defense system was necessary for the expedition. The mechanisms involved could not have been designed without the tireless efforts of Dr. O’Shea and his fellow researchers from Auckland University of Technology and frozen samples taken from Te Papa Tongarewa’s 2007 specimen.”
   “Currently, I’m outputting a steady stream of fertility pheromones; they won’t attract the larger female of the species, but there’s a chance I’ll at least be able to interact with one of the males.”
   “1.2 bar; at this depth, it’s impossible to see without a light source, which only affords a few feet of visibility, so I largely navigate with sonar display, offering 360° awareness horizontally and vertically, complimented by a GPS signal and a home beacon back at the base submarine. Other subs have passed through this area, but even the quietest of them tend to frighten off the shy colossals, hence the long jaunt from base.”
   “Wait, I’ve got a ping. 3D rendering shows a proper shape, I’m turning off nonessentials to avoid unnecessary noise/vibrations. My god. He’s beautiful. Altering the pheromone mixture to induce passivity; the last thing I need is to explain to Sherri about my squid-tryst. He’s stopping a few feet from me. Imaging shows his phallus is engorged; wuff; he’s arrived to the party dressed to the nines. Sorry about that; no female mantle here.”
   “Incredible. He’s just… floating in front of me, so close I can, what the hell, I’m touching his mantle. His head is at about waist level, and his eye, larger than my hand with fingers spread, is looking up at me; the colossal has the largest eye in the animal kingdom And, wait… his tentacle is reaching up… touching my chest. Hah. Observational learning. I’m changing the pheromone mixture to a warning of danger. He’s caught a whiff, and he’s off. By god, he’s quick. The colossal has clubs at the ends of its tentacles, along with razor-sharp hooks along the edges, so he was getting a bit too curious for comfort.”
   “1.3 bar; danger’s a little higher, and it will cut into dive time; I’m going to follow him for a bit. I still have twenty minutes before I’m at bingo resources, that is, before I have just enough to return to the base submarine. There’s a large rock formation up ahead, and it’s possible he’s got a little hole he’s staked out for himself in it.”
   “Wow. Sonar’s pinging off things like crazy, and the visual is just… amazing. I’m stretching the processor resources, so my view depth is decreasing to thirty feet, but in the distance I can see parts of five, six, seven colossals. It’s nothing short of extraordinary. It would appear that the colossals here live communally, which is highly uncommon amongst cephalopods, with of course the notable exception of one of the eledone species, although I frankly can’t remember if it’s moschota or cirrhosa. But this… this is incredible. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of colossals.”
   “I’m turning down the resolution, see if I can’t get a wider picture of the area. Heavens. There are… wait, focusing, there’s a group of them, four or five, dragging what I presume is a sperm whale carcass. I’m going to take a focused sonar capture; the whale has lacerations and bruising similar to what has been observed in sperm whales with large quantities of undigestible colossal squid beaks in their stomachs. Incredible. They killed a sperm whale. I have to get closer.”
   “1.4 bar. I’m at my maximum operating depth, with no more wiggle room left in the oxygen. Five minutes before I’ll have to turn back.”
   “I’m approaching the rock. Sonar isn’t picking up any kinds of caves at all, and all of the traffic seems to be flowing around the rocky spire. I’m closing the distance to the rock. Sonar’s giving me some, strange formations. Focusing the sonar. I can’t, this is incredible. The, on the face of the rock are circular patterns. If they’re natural, wait; I don’t think they’re natural, they’re; they appear to be thin grooves cut into the rock. What the hell can, what can that mean?”
    “Monstro to Pinocchio, you are at bingo. Suggest immediate return.”
   “That is a negative, Monstro. I’m going to stay here. Five minutes. I’ll meet you halfway back.”
   “Come again, Pinocchio. Can you confirm you are of sound mind, and you want us to pick you up floating?”
   “I’m fine, Monstro; you’re starting to sound like Jiminy.”
   “Pinnochio, this is Jiminy, relay through Monstro. You will return to the base sub now.”
   “Not yet; and you’ll understand when I get back why. You’re wasting my fuel. Signing off.”
   “I’m… god, I’m touching the surface of the rock. There are grooves cut into the surface in circular motions. Whatever tools were used, it took repeated, strong cuts to produce these markings. I am certain, certain these were made, not formed. I’m, I wish I’d brought along tools, take a sample, a geologist could study it. We could find out where this, structure, came from. It’s possible this was a mountain on the surface once, perhaps when Africa and Antarctica were still joined in the super continent Gondwana. But that would mean there had been intelligent life on the planet a hundred millennia ago. And that, that’s insane. The oldest possible human ancestor is 7 million years old, and even then, most people argue tchadensis as a cousin, not a direct ancestor.”
   “The carvings form very basic pictograms; it’s difficult to tell if they form a symbolic language, or artwork. And the scale is just, they must have been painted, originally, because the work is too large to take in up close, but the carvings too faint to be seen farther… hold on, I think there’s a, there’s a tool stuck in the rock. It’s just a meter, there, it’s, it’s stuck in deep. I’m planting my feet; so if the suit tears, well, Sherri, it was, there. Damn, ah, damnit. Came out like a slug, and I nearly lost, it. Jesus. Jesus Christ.”
   “It’s, it’s a tentacle claw. I’ve seen one of them from O’Shea’s colossal. Jesus. This isn’t right. Colossals aren’t social, and they certainly can’t. But it would be ridiculous coincidence, if someone used colossal claws to etch these things. God. It’s too big. And I need to…”
   “There’s a crease. It’s enormous, and could lead into a cave. Christ. I’m ten past bingo. Monstro’s going to kill me. But this crease. The patterns all seem to lead towards this crease, like the designs all end here, or begin, it’s; it’s opening. I’m focusing a sonar pulse, it looks like, good lord. It’s, an eye, larger than the colossal, exponentially. It’s… my god, they’ve gotten around me, all around, me, every-”
   Audio recording ended.

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