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One of the prompts from this week’s Bekindrewrite InMon Challenge made me think again of my Steampunk pair from last week. So my intrepid inventors and explorers, Fortesque and Smythe, get another airing. A longer submission this week.

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From a dark place

Every crack and cranny had been sealed against the light. The room was darker than night. Smythe sat motionless at the desk, his eyes straining for the merest evidence of an outline, a hint of a reflection, or even a sniff of a shadow, but nothing. Minutes passed while he waited for his eyes to adjust; ten, twenty minutes, but still nothing.

“Fortesque!” he shouted to his colleague and friend waiting outside. “We have totality!”
“Good, then we are ready”

Smythe stood up, pushing the wooden chair backwards across the tiled floor. Keeping his left hand on the table, he edged around to the far side. He oriented himself by touch. The long side of the table was towards him. A foot away from the edge was the box. Using both hands he felt the outside, pine wood panels with metal edges. on the front a hasp and padlock keeping the lid closed. At the back of the lid two strong iron hinges kept it secure.

Smythe got the padlock key from his jacket pocket. He took a deep breath and unlocked the box.

“OK Fortesque, I’m ready. I’m opening the lid now …”

The organism was found clinging to the side of The Nautilus when Nemo docked in Shanghai, requesting urgent repairs. It had eaten a hole clean through the copper sheath covering the oak hull, and the submarine was taking on water. The pumps could barely cope.

Maintenance crews had noticed the leak after they had dived into the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, nearly 7 miles down in the inky blackness. They surfaced, and powered to the nearest port.

As Smythe lifted the lid from the frame, the room was filled with a phosphorescent glow. He shielded his eyes and peered in at the sponge-like form pulsing against the glass lining. He pulled on a pair of elbow-length black rubber gloves and reached in.

The form recoiled from his touch, and the glow changed from verdigris green to flame orange. Smythe dropped the giant protozoan back into its briny habitat, and slammed the lid closed. The dense blackness enveloped him again.

“Smythe! What is happening?”

“Even in the dark I can feel its hatred! It should go back where it came from. We must return it to the Deep.”

* * *

Inspired by the Bekindrewrite InMon Challenge of 21 May 2012

(c) 2012, K Patrick Moody

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