Mission to the Deep
Hazel finds herself inexplicably drawn to the aquarium only to find out it’s a place she can’t escape.
Hazel keeps having the same dream over and over. The events and details of the dream are blurry, but they always end the same way, with her death. Hazel wakes suddenly by the sound of her alarm, she wipes the sleep out of her eyes and stretches overhead. She dresses quickly and rushes downstairs. Lately the days have seemed to melt together, her mom stands over the stove cooking with headphones in her ears.
“Mom?!” She yells as she skips through the kitchen. She tosses an apple up and down as she waits for a response. A tear begins to slide down Hazel’s mother’s cheek.
“Mom… Are you okay?” Hazel stands awkwardly, not knowing how to deal with her mother. Without any sort of acknowledgment, she saunters towards the door.
“Okay... Well I am off to the aquarium, I should be home before dinner… Feel better okay?” Without another word she gently closes the door behind her. She tears out of the driveway in her 2004 Mazda Tribute, headed for the aquarium. She rolls down the windows and opens the sunroof. Hazel speeds off towards the aquarium. She feels called to go there, maybe because of him, it's unclear. The irony is his name keeps escaping her, has it been that long? The Mazda pulls into an empty parking lot and screeches to a stop. Hazel immediately heads towards the Mission to the Deep exhibit. She sits in the empty room waiting for the show to start.
“Jack!” She yells abruptly. “No…That’s not right.” He used to always tease her about going to a virtual exhibit while there were so many living creatures to see. The show begins to start, she looks around and realizes she’s alone, no screaming kids or parents trying to control them. She leans back and kicks her feet up on the seat in front of her. The 360-degree screen suddenly turns to harsh static. Hazel quickly covers her ears and leaves. She spots an empty concession stand, her throat parched. The attendant has his back to her.
“Could I get a large sprite please?” she asks politely. The attendant turns around with a large popcorn and two diet cokes.
“I didn’t order-” The man hands the snacks to a couple standing beside her. “Um. Okay… never mind then?” Hazel turns to leave when she snaps back around, “You know what, I didn’t pay $20 to get in here just to be.” Hazel stops dead in her tracks as the attendant and couple are nowhere to be seen.
“Wait… How did I get in here…? Did I even pay…” Hazel drifts off into thought. She pats her jeans looking for her wallet when both of her wrists begin to bleed, the blood drips and splatters her white tennis shoes. Hazel begins to panic as she runs for the exit. Left turn, then another, when she looks up she is standing in the middle of the Mission to the Deep.
“No… No…This isn’t right” the words fall feebly from her mouth.
A young man stands at the other end of the exhibit, his eyes black as night and hands drenched with blood.
“Ahh, thank you so much for coming, you know how much I enjoy this,” the sound of his voice berates her ears. Hazel trips over her own feet as she tries to run away. She looks up and sees a family of four walking together, she attempts to scream for help only to discover her mouth has been sewn shut. In a sudden flash she is being dragged by her leg across the floor. She reaches for the father’s leg, but her hands pass right through him. The children continue to laugh and play as she is dragged into the dark. Hazel startles awake, the Mission to the Deep is playing all around her.
“Come on! Get off the floor, we’ve got so much more to see,” A young man stands at the entrance waving her over.
“Jeremy…” The words feel foreign and heavy to her. He skips over to her and places his arm around her.
“Come on! It took me like, three weeks to plan this. Do you know how hard it is to sneak in here after hours? I even managed to get us a bottle of champagne.” Jeremy grips her arm tightly, his nails digging into her skin. As they walk past different exhibits Jeremy begins to laugh louder and louder.
“I must confess something to you, I have been planning this for a lot longer than three weeks. Honestly it took me longer than expected to get you to be my girlfriend, I can’t believe this is finally happening,” He reveals a toothless grin as his eyes turn jet black. Hazel attempts to pull away but her hands are suddenly bound tightly. Jeremy pulls out a razor and begins to slowly slice the skin down her arm. The sound of his laughing echoes all around and consumes her. Families and people appear all around her, laughing and smiling at the different fish and displays. Hazel does her best to inch and roll away from Jeremy, to no avail.
"Can you believe it’s finally happening?! A little after you expired, I'll admit, I was jealous. I didn't want to spend another second without you. Running that blade against my wrists was more painful than I anticipated. BUT! Look at us now, we get to experience this over and over," Jeremy holds Hazel in his arms as the life drains out of her eyes.
“Please… Help…” The words come out as a dry cough, many individuals continue to step over and through her, a ghost of what once was.
"I'll see you soon, " Jeremy gently closes her eyelids.
“BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!” Hazel quickly shuts off her alarm clock. She rubs the sleep out of her eyes and stretches.
A sole flier is peaking out under her bedroom door. It reads “Monterey Bay Aquarium—This Saturday 20% off!”