The closest thing this planet has to monsters are in the deep ocean. Seriously, all the worst parts of Lovecraftian malice and old gods seem to spawn from it. Deep space is empty but the ocean is filled with tentacles and teeth. I hadn’t given the idea much thought, but The Writer’s Arena asked me to make a sea monster. I spent a little too much time in the early AM hours trying to think of a new monster and now my fear of the ocean has intensified.
I remember the sensation of vertigo that fell over me when I looked at the navigation equipment while deep sea fishing in Jamaica. The island had faded into the mist of this post storm morning, and we rode 20 foot swells while reeling in tuna and trying for marlin. I glanced at the radar and it read 3,000 feet. I sat down, my face immediately going pale. The scale of it was too much. Miles from shore, dark blue water, and literal shark infested seas… and us on a little boat. A few minutes later I donated my partially digested sandwich to the ocean. I’m sure it made a few feeder fish happy before they were snatched up by serrated death.
The surface is terrifying enough, but the black waters beyond our sight are so much worse. I’m not sure why all the creatures below a certain depth are jagged toothed monsters of our worst nightmares, but they are. What is it about the depths that makes fish’s lives so bleak that they bite a female and become a strange lifeless penis? Why do these bastards have to glow in the dark? These distended jawed denizens of the deep don’t need the embellishment my story gave them to be horrifying.
Think of what it must be like in a submersible, knowing that untold gallons of water are trying to crush your ship and drag you down. That one small leak or mechanical failure could lead to your skeleton being a happy little reef for bottom feeding terrors at depths deeper than Everest is tall. [Editor’s Note: even a small leak can make a pressurized stream that will cut someone in half. Fun!]
The scariest part might be that the ocean itself is an uncaring and cruel entity. Savagery is the byproduct of the ocean’s indifference, as nature has to fight fin and tooth just to have any hold on life. The brave diver is an alien in this world, less significant to the sea than a single grain of sand on any beach. Divers swim around taking photos like tourists, compartmentalizing the fact that they probably won’t be savagely eaten by a 20 foot tube of angry meat and teeth. They somehow ignore that a jellyfish the size of a pencil eraser could easily kill them, or that some captain that doesn’t do the right head count and leaves you stranded miles from shore. [Spoilers: they didn’t make it]
Conquering the most extreme environments seems to be a very human thing to do, but I don’t know if we will ever get a real handle on the deep ocean. We can visit, gather resources, but the foreign depths will never be conquered. We will remain aliens on the surface, staring into infinity above us, and the untamed void below the water. There are monsters in those dark fathoms, and it simply isn’t our world to rule.
Tony Southcotte: Tony hails from the Rocky Mountains somewhere around the state of Colorado. Possibly raised by grizzly bears, this gritty denizen of the arena now spends most of his time grappling with Java updates and dysfunctional RAM. With not much fiction under his belt, it might seem tempting to bet against Mister Southcotte, but an impressive knowledge of everything from PVC pipe to psychedelic drugs makes Tony a storehouse of fiction waiting to hit the paper. Plus, you know, there’s the possibility of him ripping you apart like a grizzly bear.