www.thebermudian.com 68 | THE BERMUDIAN
You may as well be in space.
I hope it has as much life as I’m seeing now.
The shrimp left no trace of colour. I think
we’re ready to come up.
The fish has evaded her. She cannot get the
shape of the fins to match the figure in her
mind’s eye. She scrunches the grey smudged
paper between her hands and begins again.
Today is her birthday; thirty years old and
she, still riding on the excitement of yesterday,
would have forgotten it entirely if it wasn’t for
Beebe gathering the crew around him on the
deck that morning. They were all a little slow
and unsteady after a night of heavy celebrations and she wasn’t focused on Beebe’s speech
at all until he took her hand.
What do you think? Is this an appropriate
way to celebrate such a momentous occasion?
Last night wasn’t enough for you?
The crew chuckled as Beebe beckoned to
the round opening of the bathysphere.
Such things you’ll miss if you don’t listen.
Happy Birthday, Gloria.
She dove inside gracelessly, hangover gone
and settled herself on the thin cushions by the
window. The air was thick and hot though
the curved metal at her back was cold enough
to prompt a shiver. Barton maneuvered in
an inch at a time, pushing aside canisters and
equipment until he made a space to seat himself. He braced his feet on the opposite side,
nearly level with her ears. She wasn’t short by
any means, but she was small enough to be
quite comfortable and she couldn’t help but
give Barton a smug little smile.
I was built for this. You should have let me
down in the beginning.
Barton fished a wad of cotton from his
pocket and passed it to her.
Pack that in your ears. It’s about to get loud.
Despite having grimaced in sympathy for
Barton and Beebe all these weeks when watch-
ing the crew seal the door in place, she was still
unprepared for the bone-shattering reverbera-
tions that followed. Her teeth felt loose and
her head unhinged. In an instant, her old
fears came back to her. How could the quartz
withstand such pressure? She felt sure the win-
dows would break; the water would seep in
and drown them. After an eternity, silence fell
and Barton adjusted the valves on the oxygen
tanks, his smile echoing hers earlier.
A small price to pay Miss Hollister, I prom-
ise you. Beebe? Take us down.
Her apprehensions dissipated as soon as
they made splashdown. The potential disasters
that seemed all too likely on previous dives
were carried to the surface in a cavalcade of
foam and bubbles. The waters cleared and the
ocean unfurled itself before her.
The sunlight streamed down in golden-
green shafts that fell like curtains and she
felt as though she were traversing an infinite
cathedral. The incandescent motes of micro-
organisms suspended in the water like dust in
the air; the delicate clouds of jellyfish and long
strings of siphonophores—
It’s like a garden, flowers everywhere.
You’re mixing your metaphors. First I think
you’ve found God, now you think of petunias?
Are they not the same thing? That
prompted a laugh from him that lasted a
At this depth, red was a memory; fish she
should have recognized were phantom copies
of themselves. Looking over at Barton, she
saw only a featureless mass, a blurred patch of
grey and black that grew dimmer with every
At three-hundred feet the dark poured into
the bathysphere like oil, with a sudden, unexpected swiftness. She and Barton breathed
it, they spoke it in a blue-violet whisper; she
could even hear it under the hiss of the oxygen
canister as a low, rumbling growl. With the
beam off she could make out the shape of fish
like plumes of smoke against a night sky.
You’ve lingered there for nearly ten minutes
now. Beebe sounded anxious.
Just wait, she pleaded. Beam on.
It was then she saw it, the fish that had been
tormenting her all day with its impossible
dimensions. It slithered into the light only for
an instant, pale grey underbelly exposed as it
twisted up, chasing something imperceptible
to her eyes. It turned, glided past the window
with its mouth open, and in it she discovered
a veritable firework display; long teeth, faintly
lavender, and a row of blinking indigo lights
leading back towards the gullet.
Miss Hollister, I’m going to have to insist.
With a final flick of its elastic tail, the fish slid
out of sight.
You’ve set a record, Barton told her, as if
that were enough. The first woman to have
traveled so deep.
At four hundred and ten feet it was nearly
impossible for her eyes to adjust to the darkness, but she knew, hovering just below them,
was oblivion, teeming with Beebe’s luminescent monsters. Looking straight down she
could see it, a barely discernable line dividing
the primal brilliance of the blue-black from a
deeper violet. What did records matter when
she was perched on the edge of so alien a
Miss Hollister, Beebe’s voice came sliding
down the telephone wire. Do you still think
At the surface she felt dizzy, affronted with
the array of colours and the brightness of the
day. The crew crowded around her, passing
on their congratulations but she barely heard
them. Their voices passed through her and
merged with the rising heat coming off the
hot, polished metal of the barge.
Tell me, Gloria— what do you see? She sees
in Orion’s Belt a school of flashing shrimp. She
sees colour in her speech, tongue painting her
words indigo. At her desk she sees her fingers
as they were on the glass of the bathysphere,
dark against the shifting green light of the
water and she feels some fundamental part of
her has yet to resurface.
She recalls the fish. It turns towards her,
mouth agape and glowing, and before she is
swallowed, she takes up her pencil and begins
with a curved black line.
The bathysphere splashes down into the
sea at the start of its half-mile descent.