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 16: Meni Talks to Frank
Three events were taking place at the same time. Fawkes and Hanson were floating upwards through two kilometers of water; J-Cap had reached the control center, unsure of what to report to his teammates; and Frank was slowly drying out after his swim with the sharks. Meanwhile, Meni, despite her composed look, was melting inside, worried that she had either been singled out by the sharks — one of which she had touched on the snout — or had somehow been afflicted by whatever was making people and fish behave strangely on Dioptra.
Meni decided she needed to talk to Frank. She started walking towards his boat and soon crossed paths with J-Cap, who looked even more serious than usual.
“Better to stay with the group,” he told her.
“Why? I need to see Frank,” she replied.
J-Cap: “I was with him and he is not well. He took a swim by the hole with the sharks in the water next to him.”
“He swam. They didn’t eat him. Maybe because they didn’t want to, maybe because I pulled him out. You need to be careful, because he is not thinking straight.”
Meni was polite but insistent. “Thanks. I do need to talk to Frank. A shark followed me, and I touched it. I feel singled out, and I don’t know what is happening. Frank may know. I’ll just talk to him and come back. You can check on me later.”
“Okay, Meni, but remember; he is not well.”
Meni found Frank making his way back from the explosion hole toward his boat. He seemed relaxed, as if he were returning from a casual swim.
Frank slowed down and looked at her.
“Frank, I need to talk to you.” She didn’t wait for a response. “Did you swim with the sharks?”
“Just for a few seconds.”
“What’s going on?”
“I swam with them.”
“Did they have the chance to attack you?”
“Yes, they did. But they didn’t.”
“Why? They are sharks, and they’re confined—”
“Yes, they’re living inside a hole.”
Frank didn’t respond. He really just wanted to go back to his boat and enjoy some much needed relaxation.
“What is going on, Frank? Why did you swim with them?”
“I just swam; they were there.”
“Why at the explosion hole? Why did you have to swim there? And why were they there?”
Frank didn’t really have an answer that would satisfy her, or that he felt comfortable to divulge. He just watched her serenely. Meni understood that not all was clear to him, either. Yet, he must have known more than she did. He was making decisions that she couldn’t have. Why would she jump into the waters by the explosion hole? But he had done that, and he must have had a reason.
“Frank, are you going back into the water tonight?”
Meni was almost in despair, trying to understand. “Why?”
Frank took pity. “Meni, I don’t have any good answers for you. I just need to do this.”
Meni looked doubtful, still feeling that Frank might divulge some insight.
“I get taken by heavy depression. It is very deep. I’m sure people have blown their brains out for less.”
Meni was alarmed. “Why haven’t you?”
“I have a way out. I hallucinate a little humanoid being, and I follow it. It makes me feel better. That’s it.” Hearing himself, Frank couldn’t help but chuckle. “It just takes care of the depression episode, that’s all.”
“Does this humanoid bring you to the sharks?”
“He brought me to the explosion hole. The sharks just happened to be there.”
“Frank, are you lucid?”
“As opposed to delusional? Yes, I am.”
Meni was still disquieted. “One of the sharks followed me along the shore.”
“Go to the explosion hole. They’ll be there.”
Meni had a strange look on her face that made Frank wonder what she might do.
“Meni, I don’t know what is going on. I just know that a little imaginary humanoid creature takes me from a recurring, inexplicable depression into the water. That’s why I don’t kill myself. The sharks are there, but they don’t seem to want to eat me.
“What did J-Cap tell you? Did he say he saved my life? He didn’t. The sharks don’t want to eat me. And if you go into the water, they will be there for you, too. I still don’t know what they want. I’ll come with you, if you want me to.”
“Okay, come with me.”
Meni and Frank soon reached the explosion hole. Meni began staring into the waters; Frank looked patiently at Meni. There was no commotion, no drama, just the strong Greek sun, not a seagull in sight.
Meni sat down by the edge of the hole with her legs crossed, making sure they didn’t dangle into or even above the water. Now she could stare at the water from the closest distance. All she saw, though, was Frank’s reflection as he stood behind her.
“You think they’re here?” Meni asked.
“Yes, I do think so.”
Meni felt very disappointed. She was exhausted from her fixation on getting answers. She had no plan or intention to leave the island, and no idea what was going on. She was worried about herself, and it didn’t look like she was going to get any new clues any time soon.
She kept staring at the water. It looked the same as a minute before. Only now, Frank’s reflection wasn’t there. When she turned to see where Frank was, she saw him in mid-dive — then he splashed into the water, headfirst. Meni stood up.
Frank’s head rose to the surface. “Meni...” He was speaking loudly, almost shouting. He seemed to be in a state of elation, as if he was undergoing an adrenaline surge. He was the opposite of the calm, depressed drifter she knew.
“Meni, maybe you should join me.” Frank’s voice was loud, and about an octave deeper than normal. “This may help your spirit.”
“What do you mean, ‘this’?” Meni was back into her angry interrogator mode. “Is he there? Is the stupid little man there, in the water?”
“No,” Frank shouted, feeling another bout of depression suddenly creeping in. He took a deep breath and dove into the waters as deep as he could to look for the little man.
He reached about six meters in depth, and tears were mixing in the water all the way down. But he did find the little man, holding himself in place by one hand clutching onto the wall of the Aquarium. Frank grabbed a handhold and decided not to let go until he felt better. The need for oxygen wasn’t a sufficient driving force to stop what he was doing.
Meni immediately dove in, headfirst, grabbed Frank, and brought him up. She was a fine swimmer and did it all in just a few seconds. She thought the commotion would catch any sharks by surprise, and she would be out of there before they could attack. In reality, she thought that only after she emerged from the water with herself and Frank, each in one piece.
“Frank, you have problems.”
“You have strong arms.”
“What now?” Meni asked.
They both started walking back towards headquarters, drying off in the sun, for the first time looking like two calm people walking side-by-side. No indications of craze, depression or fear. Maybe it was time to talk to the others, in full detail, about everything they had seen and felt and all that had happened, to try and make some sense out of everything. Not that they knew what was going on with them, though. But more and clearer minds can oftentimes help in a murky situation.
Frank and Meni were eager to talk to the others. It would be a weight off their shoulders finally to be able to ask for help. Halfway to headquarters, Meni noticed Mari sitting alone by the water.
The pavement at that point lay only a few centimeters above the water, and Mari was sitting on the ledge with her legs dangling into the water. Normally, Mari would have been too scared and cautious to do that.
Copyright © 2015 by Elous Telma