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All my life I’ve been fascinated by the deep sea. 200 meters down? Could not care less. 1,000 meters down? Yawn. No, deep in the sea, somewhere around 2,000 meters below sea level the abyssal zone begins. The creatures that live there will never see the sunlight. The only light they can see is that which they make themselves. Down there, in the dark, that’s where the monsters are.

I always had an affinity for Lovecraftian creatures, your Cthulhu and your Azathoth. But in my heart, I knew those were fiction. No, the real monsters in the world are squid larger than a building with a beak that could shatter a humvee. Legions of shrimp grown to the size of small cars. Even in captivity, a goldfish will inevitably grow as large as its little bowl can support. So does every other fish in the sea. We can never really know how big they get. We know more about the moon than we do about the ocean floor and the creatures that live there. That mystery, that was what drove me through my undergrad, through my graduate program, and eventually through my post-grad work in some of the foremost Marine Biology departments in the Pacific before I ended up working with a well-known research institute based out of Guam.

All of this has led up to today’s expedition. Today, I would finally see my Xanadu, the Mariana Trench. It reaches almost 7 miles underwater straight down, over 11,000 meters. Somewhere in the bottom of that trench, there’s incredible beasts of untold size, proportions and beauty.

Over the course of my career, I established myself as a steadfast, trustworthy academic. No life beyond my work, but that just let me focus on my goal. Months ago, I palmed the keys to the storeroom and the Emma, the department’s ancient expeditionary boat. I made a copy and returned the keys the next day. If anyone noticed, they said nothing. Over the course of the next few months, supplies around the lab started to go missing. A wetsuit here, a rebreather there. No one would dare suspect the dedicated, beleaguered researcher. Maybe some poor research assistant caught hell. Not my problem.

I stayed late tonight, told my colleagues I just needed to wait for some results back then I promise, I’ll get a good night’s rest. They thought my nervous shake was from my caffeine habit. Really, I just couldn’t wait for them to leave. When the last man left, I waited 30 minutes, then grabbed my stash of illicit goods and made for the Emma.

You don’t get through 10 years of work in Marine Biology without knowing your way around a boat. I eased myself into the cold metal seat of the heavy pilot's chair and maneuvered the Emma smoothly out of its dock and off of campus. I knew there would be no alarms and no reason to watch for me. Still, I turned every light on the small research vessel off until I was well out of sight of land. I had a journey of hundreds of miles ahead of me and I knew I couldn't take any chances. I couldn't lose so much work. The boat was only 25 or so feet long, it wasn't built for long journeys like this across unpredictable oceans, but I knew she had more than enough gas for one last voyage.

By the time I reached the ping on my ship's navigation, the sun was beginning to peek out of the horizon to the East. I knew my department would realize Emma was missing, but I couldn't make myself care. Soon they would also realize I hadn't made any substantial progress in half a year. I always did just enough, looked just busy enough, that no one would look twice, and who could question me? Now that I think of it, I don't know that I could remember a single one of their faces.

None of that matters now. The only thing that does is where I am. I look down into the dark blue ocean. It lays in wait, aching to be seen, to be felt. The Mariana Trench has been calling me all my life, and now I can finally answer the call. I can hardly zip the wetsuit up my hands are shaking so bad. And for my final trick, I wrench the pilot's chair free. With a length of chain I'd stashed away, I tie it to my leg. I've fitted my mask with a transmitter feeding my words directly into this document. Once the transmission ends, this will end up in the hands of someone I trust. That's you, I guess. And like that, my preparations are complete. My life's work. It's all happening now. With one final glance towards my sweet Emma and the sky behind her, I close my eyes. I hold the chair close and ease myself backwards into the deep.

It's cold, but I don't mind.

I think I can feel the pressure changing, welcoming me home. The embrace of my Great Old One.

Down,

down,

down

i only wish that i could see more

i think that's

my mask cracking.

i feel it coming.

soon, i will meet the ocean face to face

when the darkness rushes in to meet me, we will become one

and i will grow larger than you will ever know

i will become another beautiful, beautiful monster

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