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 13: Meni and Mari on the Aquarium
Back in his boat, Frank woke up, with no fresh tears or drama. He got out of bed quietly, half-conscious, half still in trance. He needed a bit of time to get back fully to the real world. He stepped onto the land of the little port of Dioptra.
* * *
In the meantime, Mari and Meni had reached the end of the walkway. They were in the center part of the Aquarium, where the walkway turned into a donut shape, where, back in the day, the visitors’ bubble used to be lowered. Countless visitors had experienced the trip into the dark waters.
“I would have definitely applied for a job here,” Meni told Mari.
“You know, pizzeria waiters often end up hating pizza,” Mari replied.
“Ha-ha,” Meni said back and promptly changed the topic. “Would you dare swim here? Now?”
Mari was in no mood for infantile dares; the only reason she had come was Meni’s peer pressure. She was feeling both scared of the Aquarium and worried she would get in trouble. Her reaction came off a little too harsh: “Look, Meni, I came here as you asked me to. Respect that and cut the crap with the childish challenges. Be a professional for a while.”
“Okay, okay, sorry. I’m just trying to pump myself up here. The bubble may be intact, as far as I can tell.”
Indeed, the mechanism that lowered the bubble hundreds of meters into the Aquarium seemed to be in place and, possibly, still functioning. The steel line, brake, and mounting mechanisms were all there. The line was hanging straight down and the bubble was likely still at the end of it.
“Wouldn’t they have taken the bubble with them when they left?” pondered Mari. “They took the submersibles.”
“They had use for them in other waters. The bubble was useless anywhere else. And they’d already gone bankrupt. They probably just left it behind.”
* * *
Frank was enjoying the feeling of solid ground under his feet. He was still a bit dizzy from the odd mental state of his dream. He felt good to be out of bed and out of the boat. And the view from every spot on the island was breathtaking. On that day the waters inside the strip were the rougher ones.
While Frank was scanning the surroundings, he thought he saw the humanoid from his dream, waving with both hands as it walked towards him and towards the explosion hole. Frank didn’t move, at first. He just stared calmly.
* * *
A few hundred meters away, Meni, as it turns out, had brought some bread with her. She took it out of her pocket and asked Mari, “Did you use to feed the Koi in Japan?”
Mari didn’t reply. She just let out a little annoyed sigh, manifesting her displeasure with Meni’s attitude. Mari then tried to put some sense into Meni by telling her not to be stupid.
“I am not being stupid, Mari. But there should be plenty of fish here, and nothing has appeared yet. Nothing has broken the surface. Let’s see if there are fish in there.”
Mari took a look towards the port, to see if J-Cap was on to them. She was more worried of J-Cap than of Taro, her boss. He would be the first to notice who was missing. They had gone way too far, and it was certainly too dark for anyone at the shore to see them. “What the hell,” she said. “Throw it.”
“Mari, you have to get over this authoritarian crap with J-Cap. He really has no authority over you.” Meni thought that would hit a nerve.
“It has nothing to do with authority! I do have respect for—”
She was interrupted by the louder Meni. At this distance, no one could hear them over the sound of the waves. “If you respect someone, you don’t look like a dog with its tail between its legs. You’re submissive!”
“Drop it, Meni. J-Cap transcends—”
“He transcends my ass! Listen, Mari. I’ve heard all the stories about his past. They may even be true. I don’t care. As a matter of fact, I would care much more if I knew they were true. But this pseudo-mystery is trite.”
“Hey, it is not trite! Is he supposed to declare publicly what is true and what isn’t? Should he have gone to jail just so that you don’t call him trite? Why are you laughing?”
“Hi-hi... ‘He transcends my ass’.”
“Screw you, Meni.”
“Okay, I’m sorry. But I do hate to see you idolize or even fear someone based on what could just be an urban legend. I prefer to see you make a mistake and not idolize him rather than see you idolize someone who isn’t worth it. And I am not saying he isn’t! But all you have to go by is his status as some Japanese underground icon. But that could be bull, and you should know it.”
“He’s been through unimaginable circumstances.”
“Big deal. I can make up cool stories, too.”
“Let’s see you do it.”
“In fact, I don’t need to. I can tell you one that actually took place. A historical fact, and I can cite multiple references. Real-life events will put to shame your old wives’ tales!”
If you used a camera to capture the entire perimeter of the hole, Meni and Mari would look like two tiny dots, like two droppings from a fruit fly, smack at the center of an enormous circular theater. You would not be able to tell the intensity that was being exhibited about a meter over the surface over a man-made chasm with an underwater brine lake at the bottom.
But these hard-headed girls were going to prove what they had to prove. Meni was about to summon the legacy of the great Byzantine Emperor Alexios Komnenos.
Meni dramatically extended her arm and index finger and pointed it at Mari. “It is time you heard about the Byzantine army of Alexios Komnenos,” she said. This did have an effect on the more docile Mari.
Meni continued her routine with a calm, focused stare at Mari’s eyes. Clearly, she was in the zone. “During one of his concurrent battles against the Normans, Seljuks, Pechenegs, and rogue Crusaders, emperor Komnenos and his army had just defeated thousands of Ottomans.
“I say ‘Emperor Komnenos and his army’ because Alexios took part in the battles himself, slaughtering the enemy with his own sword. In the aftermath of the battle, a field was covered with enemy corpses. On that field and day, nine centuries ago, the Byzantine empire had managed to keep its sovereignty and nationality.
“The Byzantine army was lined up, standing proudly, waiting to be inspected by their Emperor. But even that kind of army is vulnerable to low morale, and Alexios wanted to prevent that and bring them safely home. He walked past the entire line so they could see his own bloodied armor and remind them that they were led by one of their own kind. Led, not ruled.
“He stopped in front of a soldier. ‘Identify yourself, soldier’, he commanded.
“The soldier, exhilarated with pride and admiration, obeyed at the top of his voice. He gave his name, rank, and specialty. His identity has not survived, but he could have been any one of them!
“‘Did you fight for something greater than yourself, today, soldier?’ Komnenos asked.
“‘Did you fight for something greater than your Emperor?’
“‘Yes!’ he answered with no hesitation.
“‘There are enemy left alive on the field. They will return to fight us. Make sure they die fighting’, Komnenos commanded.
“The soldier’s demeanor changed immediately; his intensity and exhilaration were replaced by calm focus. He put on his helmet, grabbed his sword and shield and, deliberately and thoughtfully, he took to the field.
“One by one, he found the survivors and, with impeccable professionalism and technique, finished them off, each with one quick blow or slice. The entire field of enemies died fighting.
“Komnenos watched his soldier defending the Empire and respecting the adversary. With many acts like this, he extended the life of Byzantium by at least two centuries. Two centuries of a civilization that taught the works of Aristotle at school, provided for the poor, and built orphanages. And days after this, Komnenos, as was his habit, sat in the classroom together with pupils, to demonstrate his support of education. Almost a thousand years ago.”
“Is this a real story, Meni, or did you make it up?”
“I made it up. But it happened. Thousands of such stories happened.” “Read them!”
Copyright © 2015 by Elous Telma