“Fire!” I bark.
The bridge tenses, and the vessel shakes as the torpedo slips into the water.
“Did you string the line yourself? Did you?” I demand of my Second, Alain.
I put my hand on a pipe and close my eyes. The torpedo is running fast, but my mind turns to the letter underneath the bible in my cabin – the bible that itself is underneath a plastic jug of whiskey. Dear Arnold, I think to myself. If I but could sit down and complete the letter, it would bring me greater ease in what I now do. It would bring me peace. As it is, the torpedo is narrowing on a destroyer filled with two hundred souls, all of which I am giving to the deep.
Alain is huffing. “Captain, is it not time to arm the torpedo?”
These are the things we do to each other, Arnold. I see him on the edge of a lake, looking into the depths. What does he see there, I wonder? As I think of him, I am counting. I am breathing. The speed of the torpedo and the distance to the destroyer converge behind my eyes, and then I say: “Arm!”
Alain flips a switch. We wait. On the other side of the bridge, Childs parts his headphones to protect his ears. He stands. I count down. Below is the Diamantina Trench, one of the deepest parts of the ocean. Perhaps these two hundred souls will tumble into it, and be the first to lay eyes on what dwells in that depth.
“Impact!” cries Childs. “Impact, Captain!” A moment later, “No explosion!”
“No explosion?” I repeat.
Childs flips on his headphones and holds out a hand as he listens. “No explosion. Torpedo has not detonated!”
“What is she doing, that destroyer?”
The bridge is breathless as we wait for an answer. Childs’ head is bowed as he listens. “She is swinging about, Captain!”
Here we lurk in the deep, I think, in this wide ocean where we can have our secrets, and slip through the darkness without being noticed. But now two hundred souls are trained upon us, and it seems to me that the ocean is too small. It is just too small.
“Dive!” I yell at the bridge. No one moves for a moment. “Dive, damn you! She will hunt us down!”
As the bridge stirs to life and the nose of the submarine points downwards, I grasp Alain by his shirt. He is sweating. “Did you tie the line yourself? Did you?”
“I did, sir. I did!”
“Your life depended on it!” I cry, and throw him against a panel. He stumbles to the ground. “And now your life belongs to the deep. To the deep, Alain!”
The submarine descends. Arnold, I whisper. It is very late in this game to be going back to the cabin to finish my letter. I have much to say, but what chance is there for us now? What chance was there ever, I wonder?
“Captain, splashes!” cries Childs. “Many splashes. Charges!”
“Have they found us so soon?”
Childs is twenty years old, no more. He came aboard the boat in dock, and has never seen the surface of the open sea. All he knows of the wide expanses is what he hears through his earphones or sees on his screen. Now, his eyes are wide. All he can do is blink.
“Get up,” I tell Alain, still sprawled on the ground. “At least stand for what happens next.”
I hold tighter to the pipe. I close my eyes and count the seconds, estimating the depth between the submarine and the destroyer lurking above us, the time that we have before the depth charges reach us.
The last time I wrote about a submarine, it was fairly different. Still, a song that rocks.
This story will have short bits released over the next days.