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Unknown Depths

A Short Horror on Perception

By Anna HarrisonPublished 3 years ago 10 min read
Unknown Depths
Photo by Michael Benz on Unsplash

Anastasia stood staring at the edge of the dock, feet fumbling against her toes, as she stared down into the dark depths of the ocean bay. "Next!" Bellowed a sharp, low, and powerfully commanding female voice, as her swim coach demanded she jump into the intimidating waters. Little Anastasia had just begun her swim class, a couple of years later than most girls her age. Certain unspeakable things had happened last season, and with her mother gone, Ana's father decided it was better to hold her off for a year. But, here she finally was. Here she stood, above the dark, moving, screeching waves.

Do it. Jump Ana. All the other girls did. Dad will be sad if you don't go in. You're already a loser. Don't be scared.

"Next!" Screamed the coach, "Anastasia, go on, the others are paddling to the boi already."

Do it. Ana's thoughts were tumbling in her small mind, her little heart beating erratically, her hands trembling beside her. Sweat made her forehead clammy, as her eyes began to flood with tears.

I can't.

She thought. And so she ran.

"Anastasia! Anastasia! Come back!" Raged the coach as she threw her clipboard aside and began chasing after the girl.

Anastasia ran down the dock, pounding for the beach, for land, for her dad. Foot after foot, she legged it over the wooden panels. Her car now insight at the ocean bay carpark, Ana was almost at the steps of the dock when...

Water pierced her feet and devoured her from the toe up. Air rushed out of her lungs as she began sinking deep into the icy ocean water. Her feet had cracked through an unknown broken panel, and she had in an instant slipped through the dock, deeper and deeper into the consuming waters. As the air was leaving her body through her fits of screaming, Ana looked around in fear to see nothing but darkness, as her uncoordinated movements tried to fight the water.

Breathe almost gone, she jerked her head once more to try and see something until she froze.

"Mum?" Ana screamed as she stared at the ocean floor, until in an instant, all was black, as her consciousness slipped calmly into oblivion.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Dad! Hurry I'm going to be late for my shift!"

"Sorry Anastasia, I've just been tampering with the engine, you know ever since petrol prices went up the way they did, my deliveries have been costing me closer to what I make in profit. You know, the economy these days really just sucks."

"Thank you kindly for your philosophical rant, but I will literally get fired if I am late again. Madge hates me! I'm telling you she has been out to get me since the day I started working there! She acts as if frying fish and chips is a culinary art, and that I'm, beneath and it's so dumb."

"And thank you for your depressing Millenial outrage at a figure of authority."

"Ok, next, boomer." They laughed, as the father and daughter hopped into the old truck, and drove down the gravel road towards the coast. It was a sunny Saturday morning, perfect for a shift near the coastal fish and chips shop, as customers were out enjoying themselves near Shelly's beach.

"Love you, Dad, see you tonight!"

"Ok, don't go working too late, you know I don't like it when you keep walking home in the dark."

"Hahaha, dad I'm 16 now, plus what's going to hurt me at the beach?"

"I know, it's just, you were hurt here before. I don't want to see that happen again."

Shivers went down Ana's spine, as her heart quickened and she closed her eyes shut, fists clenched. She tried to block out that day. Her first swim class 10 years ago, where she fell through the dock and began to drown before her coach jumped in and pulled her out from the depths. Ever since that day, despite living and working on the coast, she could not bring herself to go back in the water. The feeling of darkness around her, the ache of her lungs filling with water, the dread of fearing death, were all too much for her.

Yet. There was something else that bothered her, something else that repelled her, forbade her from going back into the deep, yet equally intrigued her and toyed with her mind. The image of what she saw, moments before blacking out. An image seared so profoundly into her mind. An image...

"Ana I'm sorry, I know you don't like to think about that day. Neither do I. I'm so sorry honey. Enjoy your shift, call if you need anything."

With that Ana's father hopped into his truck and drove away.

Ana's shift seemed to go by in a flash, and she couldn't seem to recall anything that happened, as her mind was stuck in that uneasy feeling of what happened when she was drowning.

"Anastasia, I need you to close tonight. An emergency came in with the suppliers, I gotta go."

"Uh, Madge ok sure."

The night was quiet. The final hour of Ana's shift was uneventful. In fact, she enjoyed the quiet, the stillness. It gave her time to sort through the noise in her head. As 10 pm rolled around and she finally got to clock off, Ana grabbed the keys and began locking up the shop, ready to call her dad for a lift when suddenly something near the beach caught her eye.

What is that?

Ana thought to herself.

Is that someone on the dock? Ugh. A group of drunk teenagers again, probably up to no good. Can't people just realize that going to bed early is a good thing?

Ana began dialing her dad's number when a sudden bloodcurdling scream pierced her ears. She looked over in horror to witness one of the teenagers smash a glass bottle over the other's head. In a moment Ana had dropped her phone and sprinted over to the dock as she watched the unconscious individual fall into the depths.

"Stop! What are you doing! Can't you see they're unconscious! Why don't you go in and get them!" She screamed as she was running, closer and closer to that horrid dock. "They'll die!"

Ana lurched onto the dock and made haste to the company of the teenager still standing. She grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him back and forth and she screamed into his face

"What have you done! Go and get him!"

The teenager left standing was laughing and wobbling as he slurred,

"That bastard took my vape, so I, uh, I g-gave 'em what he n-needed, ahahahaaha."

Those sickening words drilled into Ana's mind as she realized the state the man was in.

In a moment she was crouching on her knees at the end of the dock with her head peering over, eyes rapidly searching for a head-bopping up, or a hand waving for help. Nothing.

The water gave no sign of life. No hint at where the poor teenager had gone. No hope of his breath, nor a plea for saving.

All that Ana saw was a menacing gulf so vast and consuming, as black waves lapped over one another, with the screaming sound of crashing weight. Wind howling, sea salt spraying.

Ana froze.

And then in she went.

The icy temperature hit her face as if a thousand needles were drilling into her skin. All around her were black, moving forces, that shoved her tumbling in all directions. As the air was rapidly leaving her lungs, and everything in her wanted to die, she remembered the boy, and she searched for him in every direction. Flapping her arms she tried to swim, to feel, to locate this poor soul.

Desperation was overwhelming her as she nearly gave up and let herself sink until her hand brushed something. In fright, she withdrew until perhaps she realized it was the hand of this boy? She grabbed his wrist, then elbow, then shoulder, until she pulled this body close enough to her face, and with a glimmer of moonlight piercing into the water, she looked up to the lit-up face of this body she held.

She screamed with all her might as she looked into the eyes of her mother. The image, the body she had seen as a child, now in reality, in substance was looking right at her. Except this was not her mother. This corpse, this body, this monster-looking individual, appeared in all gruesome decay, with fish-like gills, and rotting flesh, and eyes that were all black as if possessed by a demon.

In response, Ana tried to retreat, but this figure had a firm grip on her wrist and wouldn't let it go.

The air was quickly leaving Ana's lungs, as she fought to be free from this horrific monster. But suddenly her other arm was clenched by the wrist, as this creature dragged her deeper and deeper into the ocean bed. Screaming, Ana looked around and saw the remains of many different bodies. Bodies that were slaughtered, eaten, shredded. Panicking, Ana began to throw up, and that was it. All air now gone, her body became motionless, as her fluttering eyes began to close, and her mind drift into the escapism of sleep. As she took one final look at this massacre around her, she saw the body of that teenage boy, next to her on the ground, dead and limbless as the creature began the wrangle Ana's own neck. With this final horror, Ana allowed herself to slip into unconsciousness.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Clinical lights came blaring into Ana's eyes, as she winced at a pain in her hand. She looked, barely able to move, down at her chest, only to notice she was wearing a hospital gown, with a drip in her hand, and a body so stiff she couldn't twist to see more of the room she was in. She tried to talk, to scream, to ask what the hell was happening, but she only squeaked. With tears in her eyes, shooting pain all over, and a rapid increase in anxious breathing, Ana started to shake.

Suddenly a doctor and a nurse approached, desperate to calm her down and stabilize her movements.

"Hi, Ana. So good to see you. Don't worry it's ok. My name is doctor Peter, and this is nurse Felicity. Listen your dad is in the cafeteria grabbing some coffee, we will go send for him. He's going to be so happy to see you.

Now listen, I know you probably have so many different questions and you might be really confused or scared, but it's ok, we can tell you what's happened. You were in an accident Ana. Your voice and lungs have received some pretty bad damage, and you have a few broken bones in your wrists and ribs.

I don't know if you remember anything at all. Do you?"

Ana shook her head in disbelief.

"That's okay. You had a concussion too Ana. You were pushed into the ocean last night by a drunk individual. He pushed you and another boy. We nearly lost you, Ana. An old fisherman happened to see the whole thing and managed to save you. It's a miracle you're alive. The waters were rough last night. The man said you fell onto some pretty bad rocks which have caused most of your injuries.

But you were also attacked by the drunk man, and a witness says he choked you before pushing you into the water.

And, unfortunately, the damage done to your voicebox was pretty bad. It.... it may be permanent. I'm sorry Anastasia, but you may never speak again. But, we honestly have to tell you, it's a miracle you're alive. And uh, I don't want to keep you in the dark, because, the other boy, well he hasn't been located yet. It's not looking good. I'm so sorry Anastasia, I don't know if you knew him or not. "

These words were entering Ana's brain in a manner that seemed to hit a brick wall. Nothing was computing, nothing was processing.

How did the drunk push me? Did I jump in to save the boy? How did he choke me, when my m-.... the corpse, that thing choked me and dragged me. H-how did they not find the boy! How did they not see the massacre? He was on the ocean floor...d-dead. W-what has happened. Why can't I speak? No. No, no, no- no.

Ana began shaking and crying, wincing her body and jerking it back and forth, she screamed but nothing came out.

She tried desperately to explain, but she had no voice.

How is this happening! No one will ever know!

She wept and she wriggled as the doctors tried to keep her down. Her father entered the room and she reached out to him, as he embraced her in his arms, and they cried together.

What does this all mean for the future of that dreaded bay? What is real? What can be spoken? How can one know what is real, and what is... projection? What is a reality that deserves to be feared, and what, merely a creation of the imagination, that when unchecked, when untempered, and when unfaced in real life, has the potential to turn into a subjective reality, more powerful than the objective?

Poor Anastasia. I guess only she really knows. A silent burden is a heavy load.


About the Creator

Anna Harrison

I love how writing can communicate all sorts of ideas to all sorts of people, connecting and enlightening the world. I studied Liberal Arts and love history, philosophy, and concepts. I'm also a self-proclaimed drama nerd and coffee snob.

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