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Descent — Evangeline Giacona

“And how far past it are we?” Korvich asked, voice too loud in the control room.

Gadry checked the meter again. “Three point five six two kilometers passed the Deep Point, sir. And counting.”

Dubal pressed his face against the porthole. Through the wavering glass, there was only darkness. “The absolute unknown,” he said waveringly. “I’m not sure this is what I signed on for.”

Gadry crossed herself sternly as she fiddled with the meter, trying to get it to show something other than the impossible. “Do we have the radio, Korvich?”

“No,” Korvich reported. He had been attempting to hail base for three point five six three kilometers, and now abandoned it to press his face against the window with Dubal.

“Should we pull up?” Gadry asked.

The two men pulled their faces away and the small crew exchanged glances.

“No,” Dubal finally said. “No, I don’t think so.”  

“Nor do I,” said Korvich, and Gadry nodded. She joined them at the window.

“I feel as though we’re in space,” she said softly. Beyond the porthole was darkness, but light glinted from moment to moment around them, soft shining stars. “What do you suppose the lights are?”

“Fish?” Dubal asked. “Bioluminescent organisms? Perhaps plankton, drifting.”

“Merpeople,” said Korvich. “With lanterns of jellyfish.”

The others laughed. “The kraken,” Dubal suggested. Gadry said, “a sea monster.”

They felt like children, noses smudging the reinforced hybrid glass, hands pressing as if they could burst into the deep and go swimming after the lights.  

Enchanted, they descended, and the lights grew multitudinous—brighter, closer, but they were still unable to discern their form or purpose. Soon, where the sea should have been getting darker and darker, they were instead sinking through a forest of small lights, as if a flock of fireflies had followed them down the kilometers.

“I think we might be dying,” said Gadry softly. It was very bright now, but the light didn’t hurt their eyes. They had all joined hands some time ago.

“Wouldn’t be a bad way to go out,” said Korvich. “Better than in the war above us.”

“I’ve been half-hoping we wouldn’t return from this mission,” Dubal admitted. “So that we wouldn’t be drafted. So if this is death, I can’t say it’s the worst thing to happen to me.”

They were silent. Then Korvitch said, “I’m quite glad it was with the two of you. You’re good people.” They pressed a little closer together, slightly fearful, mostly awestruck. The lights almost surrounded them now, pulsing like a million hearts, all-encompassing.

At last it grew so bright that they couldn’t see anything at all. They squeezed each others’ hands in preparation, the only points of sensation left in a blind world.

They were in that space, bright and dying, for an indeterminable period of non-time.

And then, slowly, the bright began to fade. They saw their crewmembers’ faces come slowly into focus again, halos dimming until all three, tear-streaked and shaking, realized that either they hadn’t died or they had reached the next plane all together.

They stood in silence and watched the light reverse its process, until Gadry finally thought to check the meter.

They were still descending.