by Elous Telma
On a secluded Greek island in the 1950s, an enormous abandoned mine is filled with sea water for a major international experiment in marine biology. It is intended to study natural selection and, perhaps, evolution in a new aquatic ecosystem. However, the experiment and the island are eventually abandoned.
Decades later, a sailor’s photograph of the corpse of a large shark prompts a team of biologists to visit the island. The team discovers unique environments, including an underwater brine lake. The life forms act in ways that affect the fauna on the island as well as themselves.
The new ecosystem is dangerous. How to cope with it? The biologists will need some form of interspecies communication with the sea life and even with a cat that has been stranded on the island. It’s simple in theory...
Chapter 20: Retreat and Ponder
Within minutes, all the team members were on Taro’s boat on their way to open waters, upwind from the island.
“How is everyone feeling?” Taro asked.
Most replied they felt just fine. Meni spoke for Nannion who seemed totally okay, enjoying being in her arms.
“How does everyone feel about the sharks?” Hanson asked.
Eiko summed up the crew’s opinion. “Well, I still think they should be released. And this is me thinking straight.”
There was no dissent.
“Frank?” asked Taro. “Frank, how are you feeling?”
Frank did not look great. He was somewhat pale, and pensive. His head was slouched downwards.
“Frank? Are you okay?”
“Yes, Taro, I’m fine.”
“I am glad you used his name,” Fawkes said. “Is that a sign of social association?”
Everyone looked at Fawkes, wondering why he was pushing Frank. A couple of the team gave him a somewhat angry look, hoping he would stop. But Frank’s reaction made them realize that Fawkes was being quite insightful.
“This is how I always am, Fawkes. I am actually a very social person, even though I enjoy sailing alone.”
“Well, then, it is good to see you as your normal self, Frank. Why are you so quiet?”
“I am putting a few things together in my head.” Frank suddenly looked fresher than ever and turned towards Fawkes. “My God, the little person... It is so real...”
“How real?” Fawkes asked.
“More so than this. When it happens, it is more real than this. I think I am stepping out of it.”
Cannavaro tried to be reassuring. “That is good, Frank. But you may have to go back to the island.”
Cannavaro received his share of looks with that comment.
“How is that?” Taro asked.
“The Aquarium is peaking. I don’t know what towards, but it is peaking. The chemical, the sharks going wild, all of us having to leave the island. Something is being reached, and we should find out what it is capable of doing. Frank is clearly very vulnerable, maybe just particularly sensitive, and he will show us the answer. What is it trying to do to our brains? Is it trying to just make us miserable? Try to escape? Eat one another? You can show us.”
Alexandros interjected a note of calm. “I volunteer to go myself — it will be nice if a protected individual comes with me. Someone with air tanks.”
“That’s me,” said J-Cap. He was volunteering for the unprotected role and being exposed to the chemicals of the island because he thought he would be relatively immune. Or, if his threshold was high, it would take a long exposure to reveal symptoms. And time was an issue, given that the team was in self-exile. He had felt no ill effects while at the island, and his self-control had been admirable.
Alexandros agreed. “Okay, then. Let’s prepare.”
Frank interrupted. “No. I’m the one who should go. I’m the better specimen for this experiment.”
Taro took Frank’s side. “Let him go along, Alexandros. He is the right person for this. J-Cap will take good care of him.”
And so it went. J-Cap took three air tanks with him, leaving nothing to chance or self-confidence, and a nose clip to make sure he would not breathe in any air through his nose. Frank, in his shorts and T-shirt reflected his very different mission.
The two took the dinghy and started their trip to Dioptra. It was beautifully breezy on the little speeding boat, and the view of the island was gorgeous. Blue Greek waters, a blue sky, and a bizarre barren, hollow island ahead. There was a barely discernible fog over the island, indicating impending trouble.
Frank was stoic about this trip, in his own way. He knew what had to be done and he hoped J-Cap would rise to the occasion, should he find himself in trouble. J-Cap was stoic, too, in his own way. He knew Frank saw himself as the sacrificial lamb, but J-Cap knew the lengths he would go to in order to bring him back safely, given that he was under his supervision. They did not talk at all, as J-Cap’s nostrils were pushed shut by the diver’s clip and he was only supposed to breathe from the air tank.
They arrived at the island. They had gotten used to seeing it teaming with people, but now it was empty. No boats, no people, no cats. J-Cap secured the dinghy, moving somewhat slowly due to the weight of the tanks on his back. He placed the other two tanks halfway between the two bodies of water and took a look at Frank. Frank was standing motionless a couple of steps away from the dinghy. Tears were pouring from his eyes.
J-Cap discretely clenched his fists. His first-order plan was to knock Frank out if things got out of control and bring him back to the boat. Yet he needed to find out what this environment would do to Frank. He took a big breath from the tank and addressed Frank, while exhaling, loudly: “Frank, where is the humanoid?”
Frank, trying to control his trembling voice: “Here!”
“What is it doing?”
“Waving me in towards it.”
“Where is it?”
Frank pointed about five meters ahead. “Here!”
J-Cap stood between Frank and Frank’s idea of the location of the humanoid. “Where is it?”
“He’s in the water.”
Frank moved to the edge of the Aquarium. J-Cap was right next to him. J-Cap had to make a split-second decision: Let Frank jump into the water and follow him in or punch him out and drag him back. He leaned towards the second option, as his task was to protect Frank, even though that choice wouldn’t bring back much usable data.
As J-Cap cocked his arm, ready to knock Frank out, he saw two large fins a few meters from the shore. The sharks were there. Frank moved fast towards the water while J-Cap’s attention was drawn to the shark fins. Frank jumped in, feet first, hands extended.
J-Cap quickly released the tanks and jumped in with him. He grabbed Frank by the back of his neck to stop him from going too deep and at the same time kept an eye on the sharks, to see what they were up to.
The sharks were agitated. They were moving around, jerking their bodies dangerously close to Frank and J-Cap, but they didn’t seem threatening. They seemed to be looking for something themselves, just as Frank was looking for his humanoid.
J-Cap pulled Frank out of the water with a couple of jerks. He resumed breathing from the air tank. He took advantage of Frank’s trance to probe his subconscious.
“Frank, where is the humanoid?”
“Down there. I need to go.”
“Did you see the sharks?”
“Yes. They are there.”
J-Cap took a breath from the air tank “What do they want?”
“What I want.”
“What is that?”
“He is calling me. I need to go.”
Having his questions eluded under these circumstances brought the rougher side of J-Cap’s character to the surface. He needed to report back the apparent effects this island had on Frank, and he was already able to say that this Aquarium did cause Frank serious issues. But he wanted to know what and how deep they were, and he wanted to give Frank a chance to get out of his state on his own. And with some tough love.
Frank was sitting on the ledge of the shore, with his feet dangling into the Aquarium waters. J-Cap grabbed him from the back of his neck and pushed him violently into the water. He shoved his head under the surface and pointed it towards the sharks. A few seconds later he pulled him back out. He reasoned that there could be a way to force Frank to take some control over his humanoid vision. Maybe a surge of adrenaline would help. Or maybe some dirtier tricks.
“Call your little humanoid here,” J-Cap said. “I will ritually kill it in front of you to release you from it.” J-Cap was trying to understand what Frank was projecting onto this little humanoid vision of his and how real it was to him.
“Don’t kill it.”
“I will,” J-Cap insisted. “I will rip it apart, and you will wake up.”
“Don’t kill it.”
“Screw you, Frank. Screw IT! I will kill it!”
Frank didn’t respond. J-Cap grabbed him by the hair at the back of his head and pulled it down, raising his face towards the sky.
“It’s as good as dead,” J-Cap said. “Just tell me where it is so I can end this, Frank.”
J-Cap grabbed Frank by the throat. “Call it. Make it come here. Where the hell is it?”
“I don’t call it. It calls me. It’s deep in the water.”
“I thought it wanted you. Why is it not here? It’s in your stupid head, Frank. You are keeping it away.” Then J-Cap relented. “Okay, bring it here. I will not touch it. Word of honor.”
Frank’s mind was still processing some logical arguments. J-Cap seemed worthy of his word. “He is there.”
Frank pointed at a spot a few meters away from them, close to the shore.
“Well, then, go. Don’t jump into the water.”
Frank walked up to it and kneeled down before it. J-Cap noticed that Frank’s eyes were focusing as if he was really seeing it. It must have seemed true to him. Suddenly, Frank’s look moved towards the Aquarium waters. The humanoid must have made a run for the water.
Frank, on all fours, jerked towards the shore. J-Cap prepared a right kick to stop him. On all fours, Frank would have received it on the head. It would have probably knocked him out and ended the mission immediately.
But Frank didn’t intend to jump in. J-Cap interpreted that as a sign of self-control. So nobody got kicked on the head. Frank turned to J-Cap with a lost look on his face.
“Where is it now, Frank?”
“It went into the water again.”
“Can you see it?”
“No, it’s in the water.”
“Where is it going?”
“It’s waiting for me.”
“Do you see this is all in your head?”
Frank was transfixed, staring where he thought the little humanoid was.
J-Cap growled, “I should have killed it earlier. Get you out of this stupid funk you are in. Maybe I should go find it now and kill it.”
Out of the blue, Frank’s lost-child look disappeared; he now looked like the seasoned sailor he was. In a split second he pounced at J-Cap, grabbing him by the waist and pushing him backwards into the water.
J-Cap wrapped his arms around Frank and, like a professional wrestler, lifted him upwards. Frank was now in a vertical position, legs towards the sky, as J-Cap was falling backwards into the Aquarium, still wet from minutes before, with the sharks roaming close by.
Copyright © 2015 by Elous Telma