Into the Ocean's Depths by Sewell Peaslee Wright
A Sequel to "From the Ocean's Depths"
read the telegram for the second time. Then I folded it up, put it
in my pocket, and pressed the little button on my desk. My mind was
To save Imee's race of Men-Who-Returned-To-The-Sea, two
Land-Men answer the challenge of the dreaded Rorn, corsairs of the
"Miss Fentress, I'm leaving this afternoon on an extended trip. The
Florida address will reach me after Thursday. Tell Wade and Bennett to
carry on. I think you have everything in hand? Is everything clear to
"Yes, Mr. Taylor." Miss Fentress was not in the least surprised. She
was used to my sudden trips. The outfit got along perfectly without
me; sometimes I think my frequent absences are good for the business.
The boys work like the devil to make a fine showing while I'm away.
And Miss Fentress is a perfect gem of a secretary. I had nothing to
worry about there.
"Fine! Will you get my diggings on the phone?" I hurriedly put my few
papers in place, and signed a couple of letters. Then Josef was on the
"Josef? Pack my bags right away, will you? For Florida. The usual
things.... Yes, right away. I'll be leaving by noon.... Yes, driving
hat was that. There were a few more letters to sign, a few hasty
instructions to be given regarding one or two matters that were
hanging fire. Then, on my way to my bachelor apartments, I read the
telegram through again:
THINK IT WORTH WHILE IF YOU FEEL ADVENTUROUS AND HAVE
NOTHING PRESSING TO COME TO THE MONSTROSITY STOP MAKE YOUR
WILL FIRST STOP SHALL LOOK FOR YOU ANY DAY AS I KNOW YOU ARE
ALWAYS LOOKING FOR EXCITEMENT AND NEVER HAVE ANYTHING
IMPORTANT TO DO SO DON'T BOTHER TO WIRE STOP PERHAPS WE
SHALL SEE HER AGAIN
I smiled at Mercer's frank opinion of my disposition and my importance
to my business. But I frowned over the admonition to make my will, and
the last telling statement in the wire: "Perhaps we shall see her
again." I knew whom he meant by "her."
Josef had my bags waiting for me. A few hurried instructions, most of
them shouted over my shoulder, and I was purring down the main drag,
my duffel in the rumble, and the roadster headed due south.
"Perhaps we shall see her again." Those words from the telegram kept
coming before my eyes. Mercer knew what he was about, if he wanted my
company, when he put that line in his wire.
have already told the story of our first meeting with the strange
being from the ocean's depths that, wounded and senseless, had been
flung up on the beach near Warren Mercer's Florida estate. In all the
history of civilization, no stranger bit of flotsam had ever been cast
up by a storm.
Neither of us would ever forget that slim white creature, swathed in
her veil of long, light golden hair, as she crouched on the bottom of
Mercer's swimming pool, and pictured for us, by means of Mercer's
thought-telegraph (my own name for the device; he has a long and
scientific title for it with as many joints as a centipede), the story
of her people.
They had lived in a country of steaming mist, when the world was very
young. They had been forced into the sea to obtain food, and after
many generations they had gone back to the sea as man once emerged
from it. They had grown webs on their hands and feet, and they
breathed oxygen dissolved in water, as fishes do, instead of taking it
from the atmosphere. And under the mighty Atlantic, somewhere, were
The girl had pictured all these things for us, and then—nearly a year
ago, now—she had pleaded with us to let her return to her people. And
so we had put her back into the sea, and she had bade us farewell. But
just before she disappeared, she had done a strange thing.
he had pointed, under the water, out towards the depth, and then,
with a broad, sweeping motion of her arm, she had indicated the shore,
as though to promise, it seemed to me, that she intended to return.
And now, Mercer said, we might see her again! How? Mercer,
conservative and scientific, was not the man to make rash promises.
The best way to solve the riddle was to reach Mercer, and I broke the
speed laws of five states three days running.
I did not even stop at my own little shack. It was only four miles
from there to the huge, rather neglected estate, built in boom times
by some newly-rich promoter, and dubbed by Mercer "The Monstrosity."
Hardly bothering to slow down, I turned off the concrete onto the
long, weed-grown gravel drive, and shot between the two massive,
stuccoed pillars that guarded the drive. Their corroded bronze plates,
bearing the original title of the estate, "The Billows," were a
promise that my long, hard drive was nearly at an end.
s soon as the huge, rambling structure was fairly in sight, I pressed
the flat of my hand on the horn button. By the time I came to a
locked-wheel halt, with the gravel rattling on my fenders, Mercer was
there to greet me.
"It's ten o'clock," he grinned as he shook hands. "I'd set noon as the
hour of your arrival. You certainly must have made time, Taylor!"
"I did!" I nodded rather grimly, recalling one or two narrow squeaks.
"But who wouldn't, with a wire like this?" I produced the crumpled
telegram rather dramatically. "You've got a lot to explain."
"I know it." Mercer was quite serious now. "Come on in and we'll mix
highballs with the story."
Locked arm in arm, we entered the house together, and settled
ourselves in the huge living room.
Mercer, I could see at a glance, was thinner and browner than when we
had parted, but otherwise, he was the same lithe, soft-mannered little
scientist I had known for years; dark-eyed, with an almost beautiful
mouth, outlined by a slim, closely cropped and very black moustache.
"Well, here's to our lady from the sea," proposed Mercer, when Carson,
his man, had brought the drinks and departed. I nodded, and we both
sipped our highballs.
"Briefly," said my friend, "this is the story. You and I know that
somewhere beneath the Atlantic there are a people who went back to
whence they came. We have seen one of those people. I propose that,
since they cannot come to us, we go to them. I have made preparations
to go to them, and I wanted you to have the opportunity of going with
me, if you wish."
"But how, Mercer? And what—"
e interrupted with a quick, nervous gesture.
"I'll show you, presently. I believe it can be done. It will be a
dangerous adventure, though; I was not joking when I advised you to
make your will. An uncertain venture, too. But, I believe, most
wonderfully worth while." His eyes were shining now with all the
enthusiasm of the scientist, the dreamer.
"It sounds mighty appealing," I said. "But how...."
"Finish your drink and I'll show you."
I downed what was left of my highball in two mighty gulps.
"Lead me to it, Mercer!"
He smiled his quiet smile and led the way to what had been the
billiard room of "The Billows," but which was the laboratory of "The
Monstrosity." The first thing my eyes fell upon were two gleaming
metal objects suspended from chains let into the ceiling.
"Diving suits," explained Mercer. "Rather different from anything
you've ever seen."
They were different. The body was a perfect globe, as was the
head-piece. The legs were cylindrical, jointed at knee and thigh with
huge discs. The feet were solid metal, curved rocker-like on the
bottom, and at the ends of the arms were three hooked talons, the
concave sides of two talons facing the concave side of the third. The
arms were hinged at the elbow just as the legs were hinged, but there
was a huge ball-and-socket joint at the shoulder.
ut Mercer!" I protested. "No human being could even stand up with
that weight of metal on and around him!"
"You're mistaken, Taylor," smiled Mercer. "That is not solid metal,
you see. And it is an aluminum alloy that is not nearly as heavy as it
looks. There are two walls, slightly over an inch apart, braced by
innumerable trusses. The fabric is nearly as strong as that much solid
metal, and infinitely lighter. They work all right, Taylor. I know,
because I've tried them."
"And this hump on the back?" I asked, walking around the odd, dangling
figures, hanging like bloated metal skeletons from their chains. I
had thought the bodies were perfect globes; I could see now that at
the rear there was a humplike excrescence across the shoulders.
"Air," explained Mercer. "There are two other tanks inside the
globular body. That shape was adopted, by the way, because a globe can
withstand more pressure than any other shape. And we may have to go
where pressures are high."
"And so," I said, "we don these things and stroll out into the
Atlantic looking for the girl and her friends?"
"Hardly. They're not quite the apparel for so long a stroll. You
haven't seen all the marvels yet. Come along!"
e led the way through the patio, beside the pool in which our strange
visitor from the depths had lived during her brief stay with us, and
out into the open again. As we neared the sea, I became aware, for the
first time, of a faint, muffled hammering sound, and I glanced at
"Just a second," he smiled. "Then—there she is, Taylor!"
I stood still and stared. In a little cove, cradled in a cunning,
spidery structure of wood, a submarine rested upon the ways.
"Good Lord!" I exclaimed. "You're going into this right, Mercer!"
"Yes. Because I think it's immensely worth while. But come along and
let me show you the Santa Maria—named after the flagship of
Columbus' little fleet. Come on!"
Two men with army automatics strapped significantly to their belts
nodded courteously as we came up. They were the only men in sight, but
from the hammering going on inside there must have been quite a
sizeable crew busy in the interior. A couple of raw pine shacks, some
little distance away, provided quarters for, I judged, twenty or
"Had her shipped down in pieces," explained Mercer. "The boat that
brought it lay to off shore and we lightered the parts ashore. A
tremendous job. But she'll be ready for the water in a week; ten days
at the latest."
"You're a wonder," I said, and I meant it.
ercer patted the red-leaded side of the submarine affectionately.
"Later," he said, "I'll take you inside, but they're busy as the devil
in there, and the sound of the hammers fairly makes your head ring.
You'll see it all later, anyway—if you feel you'd like to share the
adventure with me?"
"Listen," I grinned as we turned back towards the house, "it'll take
more than those two lads with the pop-guns to keep me out of the
Santa Maria when she sails—or dives, or whatever it is she's
supposed to do!"
Mercer laughed softly, and we walked the rest of the way in silence. I
imagine we were both pretty busy with our thoughts; I know that I was.
And several times, as we walked along, I looked back over my shoulder
towards the ungainly red monster straddling on her spindling wooden
legs—and towards the smiling Atlantic, glistening serenely in the
ercer was so busy with a thousand and one details that I found myself
very much in the way if I followed him around, so I decided to loaf.
For weeks after we had put our strange girl visitor back into the sea
from whence Mercer had taken her, I had watched from a comfortable
seat well above the high-water mark that commanded that section of
shore. For I had felt sure by that last strange gesture of hers that
she meant to return.
I located my old seat, and I found that it had been used a great deal
since I had left it. There were whole winnows of cigarette butts, some
of them quite fresh, all around. Mercer, cold-blooded scientist as he
was, had hoped against hope that she would return too.
It was a very comfortable seat, in the shade of a little cluster of
palms, and for the next several days I spent most of my time there,
reading and smoking—and watching. No matter how interesting the book,
I found myself, every few seconds, lifting my eyes to search the beach
and the sea.
I am not sure, but I think it was the eighth day after my arrival that
I looked up and saw, for the first time, something besides the smiling
beach and the ceaseless procession of incoming rollers. For an instant
I doubted what I saw; then, with a cry that stuck in my throat, I
dropped my book unheeded to the sand and raced towards the shore.
he was there! White and slim, her pale gold hair clinging to her body
and gleaming like polished metal in the sun, she stood for a moment,
while the spray frothed at her thighs. Behind her, crouching below the
surface, I could distinguish two other forms. She had returned, and
One long, slim arm shot out toward me, held level with the shoulder:
the well-remembered gesture of greeting. Then she too crouched below
the surface that she might breathe.
As I ran out onto the wet sand, the waves splashing around my ankles
all unheeded, she rose again, and now I could see her lovely smile,
and her dark, glowing eyes. I was babbling—I do not know what. Before
I could reach her, she smiled and sank again below the surface.
I waded on out, laughing excitedly, and as I came close to her, she
bobbed up again out of the spray, and we greeted each other in the
manner of her people, hands outstretched, each gripping the shoulder
of the other.
She made a quick motion then, with both hands, as though she placed a
cap upon the shining glory of her head, and I understood in an instant
what she wished: the antenna of Mercer's thought-telegraph, by the
aid of which she had told us the story of herself and her people.
nodded and smiled, and pointed to the spot where she stood, trying
to show her by my expression that I understood, and by my gesture,
that she was to wait here for me. She smiled and nodded in return, and
crouched again below the surface of the heaving sea.
As I turned toward the beach, I caught a momentary glimpse of the two
who had come with her. They were a man and a woman, watching me with
wide, half-curious, half-frightened eyes. I recognized them instantly
from the picture she had impressed upon my mind nearly a year ago. She
had brought with her on her journey her mother and her father.
Stumbling, my legs shaking with excitement, I ran through the water.
With my wet trousers flapping against my ankles, I sprinted towards
I found Mercer in the laboratory. He looked up as I came rushing in,
wet from the shoulders down, and I saw his eyes grow suddenly wide.
opened my mouth to speak, but I was breathless. And Mercer took the
words from my mouth before I could utter them.
"She's come back!" he cried. "She's come back! Taylor—she has?" He
gripped me, his fingers like steel clamps, shaking me with his amazing
"Yes." I found my breath and my voice at the same instant. "She's
there, just where we put her into the sea, and there are two others
with her—her mother and her father. Come on, Mercer, and bring your
"I can't!" he groaned. "I've built an improvement on it into the
diving armor, and a central instrument on the sub, but the old
apparatus is strewn all over the table, here, just as it was when we
used it the other time. We'll have to bring her here."
"Get a basin, then!" I said. "We'll carry her back to the pool just as
we took her from it. Hurry!"
And we did just that. Mercer snatched up a huge glass basin used in
his chemistry experiments, and we raced down to the shore. As well as
we could we explained our wishes, and she smiled her quick smile of
understanding. Crouching beneath the water, she turned to her
companions, and I could see her throat move as she spoke to them. They
seemed to protest, dubious and frightened, but in the end she seemed
to reassure them, and we picked her up, swathed in her hair as in a
silken gown, and carried her, her head immersed in the basin of water,
that she might breathe in comfort, to the pool.
It all took but a few minutes, but it seemed hours. Mercer's hands
were shaking as he handed me the antenna for the girl and another for
myself, and his teeth were chattering as he spoke.
"Hurry, Taylor!" he said. "I've set the switch so that she can do the
sending, while we receive. Quickly, man!"
leaped into the pool and adjusted the antenna on her head, making
sure that the four electrodes of the crossed curved members pressed
against the front and back and both sides of her head. Then, hastily,
I climbed out of the pool, seated myself on its edge, and put on my
Perhaps I should say at this time that Mercer's device for conveying
thought could do no more than convey what was in the mind of the
person sending. Mercer and I could convey actual words and sentences,
because we understood each other's language, and by thinking in words,
we conveyed our thoughts in words. One received the impression,
almost, of having heard actual speech.
We could not communicate with the girl in this fashion, however, for
we did not understand her speech. She had to convey her thoughts to
us by means of mental pictures which told her story. And this is the
story of her pictures unfolded.
First, in sketchy, half-formed pictures, I saw her return to the
village, of her people; her welcome there, with curious crowds around
her, questioning her. Their incredulous expressions as she told them
of her experience were ludicrous. Her meeting with her father and
mother brought a little catch to my throat, and I looked across the
pool at Mercer. I knew that he, too, was glad that we bad put her back
into the sea when she wished to go.
hese pictures faded hastily, and for a moment there was only the
circular swirling as of gray mist; that was the symbol she adopted to
denote the passing of time. Then, slowly, the picture cleared.
It was the same village I had seen before, with its ragged, warped,
narrow streets, and its row of dome-shaped houses, for all the world
like Eskimo igloos, but made of coral and various forms of vegetation.
At the outskirts of the village I could see the gently moving, shadowy
forms of weird submarine growths, and the quick darting shapes of
Some few people were moving along the streets, walking with oddly
springy steps. Others, a larger number, darted here and there above
the roofs, some hovering in the water as gulls hover in the air,
lazily, but the majority apparently on business or work to be executed
Suddenly, into the midst of this peaceful scene, three figures came
darting. They were not like the people of the village, for they were
smaller, and instead of being gracefully slim they were short and
powerful in build. They were not white like the people of the girl's
village, but swarthy, and they were dressed in a sort of tight-fitting
shirt of gleaming leather—shark-skin, I learned later. They carried,
tucked through a sort of belt made of twisted vegetation, two long,
slim knives of pointed stone or bone.
ut it was not until they seemed to come close to me that I saw the
great point of difference. Their faces were scarcely human. The nose
had become rudimentary, leaving a large, blank expanse in the middle
of their faces that gave them a peculiarly hideous expression. Their
eyes were almost perfectly round, and very fierce, and their mouths
huge and fishlike. Beneath their sharp, jutting jaws, between the
angle of the jaws and a spot beneath the ears, were huge, longitudinal
slits, that intermittently showed blood-red, like fresh gashes cut in
the sides of their throats. I could see even the hard, bony cover that
protected these slits, and I realized that these were gills! Here were
representatives of a people that had gone back to the sea ages before
the people of the girl's village.
Their coming caused a sort of panic in the village, and the three
noseless creatures strode down the principal street grinning hugely,
glancing from right to left, and showing their sharp pointed teeth.
They looked more like sharks than like human beings.
A committee of five gray old men met the visitors, and conducted them
into one of the larger houses. Insolently, the leader of the three
shark-faced creatures made demands, and the scene changed swiftly to
make clear the nature of those demands.
he village was to give a number of its finest young men and women to
the shark-faced people; about fifty of each sex, I gathered, to be
servants, slaves, to the noseless ones.
The scene shifted quickly to the interior of the house. The old men
were shaking their heads, protesting, explaining. There was fear on
their faces, but there was determination, too.
One of the three envoys snarled and came closer to the five old men,
lifting a knife threateningly. I thought for an instant that he was
about to strike down one of the villagers; then the picture dissolved
into another, and I saw that he was but threatening them with what he
could cause to happen.
The fate of the village and the villagers, were the demands of the
three refused, was a terrible one. Hordes of the noseless creatures
came swarming. They tore the houses apart, and with their long, slim
white weapons they killed the old men and women, and the children. The
villagers fought desperately, but they were outnumbered. The
shark-skin kirtles of the invaders turned their knives like armor, and
the sea grew red with swirling blood that spread like scarlet smoke
through the water. Then, this too faded, and I saw the old men
cowering, pleading with the three terrible envoys.
The leader of the three shark-faced creatures spoke again. He would
give them time—a short revolving swirl of gray that indicated only a
brief time, apparently—and return for an answer. Grinning evilly, the
three turned away, left the dome-shaped house, and darted away over
the roofs of the village into the dim darkness of the distant waters.
saw the girl, then, talking to the elders. They smiled sadly, and
shook their heads hopelessly. She argued with them earnestly, painting
a picture for them: Mercer and myself, as she viewed us, tall and very
strong and with great wisdom in our faces. We too walked along the
streets of the village. The hordes of shark-faced ones came, like a
swarm of monstrous sharks, and—the picture was very vague and
nebulous, now—we put them to rout.
She wished us to help her, she had convinced the elders that we could.
She, her mother and father, started out from the village. Three times
they had fought with sharks, and each time they had killed them. They
had found the shore, the very spot where we had put her back into the
sea. Then there was a momentary flash of the picture she had called
up, of Mercer and I putting the shark-faced hordes to rout, and then,
startlingly, I was conscious of that high, pleading sound—the sound
that I had heard once before, when she had begged us to return her to
The sound that I knew was her word for "Please!"
There was a little click. Mercer had turned the switch. He would
transmit now; she and I would listen.
n the center of the village—how vaguely and clumsily he pictured
it!—rested the Santa Maria. From a trap in the bottom two bulging,
gleaming figures emerged. Rushing up, a glimpse through the
face-plates revealed Mercer and myself. The shark-faced hordes
descended, and Mercer waved something, something like a huge bottle,
towards them. None of the villagers were in sight.
The noseless ones swooped down on us fearlessly, knives drawn, pointed
teeth revealed in fiendish grins. But they did not reach us. By
dozens, by scores, they went limp and floated slowly to the floor of
the ocean. Their bodies covered the streets, they sprawled across the
roofs of the houses. And in a few seconds there was not one alive of
all the hundreds who had come!
I looked down at the girl. She was smiling up at me through the clear
water, and once again I felt the strange, strong tug at my
heart-strings. Her great dark eyes glowed with a perfect confidence, a
We had made her a promise.
I wondered if it would be possible to keep it.
n the day following, the Santa Maria was launched. Two days later,
trial trips and final adjustments completed, we submerged for the
It sounds very simple when recorded thus in a few brief lines. It was
not, however, such a simple matter. Those three days were full of
hectic activity. Mercer and I did not sleep more than four hours any
of those three nights.
We were too busy to talk. Mercer worked frantically in his laboratory,
slaving feverishly beside the big hood. I overlooked the tests of the
submarine and the loading of the necessary supplies.
The girl we had taken back to her parents, giving her to understand
that she was to wait. They went away, but every few hours returned, as
though to urge us to greater haste. And at last we were ready, and the
girl and her two companions seated themselves on the tiny deck of the
Santa Maria, just forward of the conning tower, holding themselves
in place by the chains. We had already instructed the girl in her
duties: we would move slowly, and she should guide us, by pointing
either to the right or the left.
will confess I gave a last long, lingering look at the shore before
the hatch of the conning tower was clamped down. I was not exactly
afraid, but I wondered if I would ever step foot on solid land again.
Standing in the conning tower beside Mercer, I watched the sea rise at
an angle to meet us, and I dodged instinctively as the first green
wave pelted against the thick porthole through which I was looking. An
instant later the water closed over the top of the conning tower, and
at a gentle angle we nosed towards the bottom of the sea.
An account of the trip itself, perhaps, does not belong in this
record. It was not a pleasant adventure in itself, for the Santa
Maria, like every undersea craft, I suppose, was close, smelly, and
cramped. We proceeded very slowly, for only by so doing could our
guide keep her bearings, and how she found the way was a mystery to
all of us. We could see but very little, despite the clearness of the
It was by no means a sight-seeing trip. For various reasons, Mercer
had cut our crew to the minimum. We had two navigating officers,
experienced submarine men both, and five sailors, also experienced in
undersea work. With such a short crew, Mercer and I were both kept
onnett, the captain, was a tall, dark chap, stooped from years in the
low, cramped quarters of submarines. Duke, our second-officer, was a
youngster hardly out of his 'teens, and as clever as they come. And
although both of them, and the crew as well, must have been agog with
questions, neither by word nor look did they express their feelings.
Mercer had paid for obedience without curiosity, and he got it.
We spent the first night on the bottom, for the simple reason that had
we come to the surface, we might have come down into territory
unfamiliar to our guide. As soon as the first faint light began to
filter down, however, we proceeded, and Mercer and I crowded together
into the conning tower.
"We're close," said Mercer. "See how excited they are, all three of
The three strange creatures were holding onto the chains and staring
over the bulging side of the ship. Every few seconds the girl turned
and looked back at us, smiling, her eyes shining with excitement.
Suddenly she pointed straight down, and held out her arm in
unmistakable gesture. We were to stop.
ercer conveyed the order instantly to Bonnett at the controls, and
all three of our guides dived gracefully off the ship and disappeared
into the depths below.
"Let her settle to the bottom, Bonnett," ordered Mercer. "Slowly ...
Bonnett handled the ship neatly, keeping her nicely trimmed. We came
to rest on the bottom in four or five seconds, and as Mercer and I
stared out eagerly through the round glass ports of the conning
tower, we could see, very dimly, a cluster of dark, rounded
projections cropping out from the bed of the ocean. We were only a few
yards from the edge of the girl's village.
The scene was exactly as we had pictured it, save that it was not
nearly as clear and well lighted. I realized that our eyes were not
accustomed to the gloom, as were those of the girl and her people, but
I could distinguish the vague outlines of the houses, and the slowly
swaying shapes of monstrous growths.
"Well, Taylor," said Mercer, his voice shaking with excitement, "here
we are! And here"—peering out through the glass-covered port
again—"are her people!"
he whole village was swarming around us. White bodies hovered around
us as moths around a light. Faces pressed against the ports and stared
in at us with great, amazed eyes.
Then, suddenly the crowd of curious creatures parted, and the girl
came darting up with the five ancients she had showed us before. They
were evidently the council responsible for the government of the
village, or something of the sort, for the other villagers bowed their
heads respectfully as they passed.
The girl came close to the port through which I was looking, and
gestured earnestly. Her face was tense and anxious, and from time to
time she glanced over her shoulder, as though she feared the coming of
"Our time's short, I take it, if we are to be of service," said
Mercer. "Come on, Taylor; into the diving suits!"
I signaled the girl that we understood, and would hurry. Then I
followed Mercer into our tiny stateroom.
"Remember what I've told you," he said, as we slipped into the heavy
woolen undergarments we were to wear inside the suits. "You understand
how to handle your air, I believe, and you'll have no difficulty
getting around in the suit if you'll just remember to go slowly. Your
job is to get the whole village to get away when the enemy is sighted.
Get them to come this way from the village, towards the ship,
understand. The current comes from this direction; the way the
vegetation bends shows that. And keep the girl's people away until I
signal you to let them return. And remember to take your electric
lantern. Don't burn it more than is necessary; the batteries are not
large and the bulb draws a lot of current. Ready?"
was, but I was shaking a little as the men helped me into the mighty
armor that was to keep the pressure of several atmospheres from
crushing my body. The helmet was the last piece to be donned; when it
was screwed in place I stood there like a mummy, almost completely
Quickly we were put into the air lock, together with a large iron box
containing a number of things Mercer needed. Darkness and water rushed
in on us. The water closed over my head. I became aware of the soft,
continuous popping sounds of the air-bubbles escaping from the relief
valve of the head-piece.
For a moment I was dizzy and more than a little nauseated. I could
feel the cold sweat pricking my forehead. Then there was a sudden glow
of light from before me, and I started walking towards it. I found I
could walk now; not easily, but, after I caught the trick of it,
without much difficulty. I could move my arms, too, and the
interlocking hooks that served me for fingers. When my real fingers
closed upon a little cross-bar at the end of the armored arms, and
pulled the bars towards me, the steel claws outside came together,
like a thumb and two fingers.
n a moment we stood upon the bottom of the ocean. I turned my head
inside the helmet, and there, beside me, was the sleek, smooth side
of the Santa Maria. On my other side was Mercer, a huge, dim figure
in his diving armor. He made an awkward gesture towards his head, and
I suddenly remembered something.
Before me, where I could operate it with a thrusting movement of my
chin, was a toggle switch. I snapped it over, and heard Mercer's
voice: "—n't forget everything I tell him."
"I know it," I said mentally to him. "I was rather rattled. O.K. now,
however. Anything I can do?"
"Yes. Help me with this box, and then get the girl to put on the
antenna you'll find there. Don't forget the knife and the light."
"Right!" I bent over the box with him, and we both came near falling.
We opened the lid, however, and I hooked the knife and the light into
their proper places outside my armor. Then, with the antenna for the
girl, so that we could establish connections with her, and through
her, with the villagers, I moved off.
This antenna was entirely different from the one used in previous
experiments. The four cross-members that clasped the head were finer,
and at their junction was a flat black circular box, from which rose a
black rod some six inches in height, and topped by a black sphere half
the size of my fist.
hese perfected thought-telegraphs (I shall continue to use my own
designation for them, as clearer and more understandable than
Mercer's) did not need connecting wires; they conveyed their impulses
by Hertzian waves to a master receiver on the Santa Maria, which
amplified them and re-broadcast them so that each of us could both
send and receive at any time.
As I turned, I found the girl beside me, waiting anxiously. Behind her
were the five ancients. I slipped the antenna over her head, and
instantly she began telling me that danger was imminent.
To facilitate matters, I shall describe her messages as though she
spoke; indeed, her pictures were as clear, almost, as speech in my
native tongue. And at times she did use certain sound-words; it was in
this way that I learned, by inference, that her name was Imee, that
her people were called Teemorn (this may have been the name of the
community, or perhaps it was interchangeable—I am not sure) and that
the shark-faced people were the Rorn.
"The Rorn come!" she said quickly. "Two days past, the three came
again, and our old men refused to give up the slaves. Today they will
return, these Rorn, and my people, the Teemorn will all be made dead!"
hen I told her what Mercer had said: that she and every one of her
people must flee swiftly and hide, beyond the boat, a distance beyond
the village. Mercer and I would wait here, and when the Rorn came, it
was they who would be made dead, as we had promised. Although how, I
admitted to myself, being careful to hide the thought that she might
not sense it, I didn't know. We had been too busy since the girl's
arrival to go into details.
She turned and spoke quickly to the old men. They looked at me
doubtfully, and she urged them vehemently. They turned back towards
the village, and in a moment the Teemorn were stalking by obediently,
losing their slim white forms in the gloom behind the dim bulk of the
Santa Maria, resting so quietly on the sand.
They were hardly out of sight when suddenly Mercer spoke through the
antenna fitted inside my helmet.
"They're coming!" he cried. "Look above and to your right! The Rorn,
as Imee calls them, have arrived!"
I looked up and beheld a hundred—no, a thousand!—shadowy forms
darting down on the village, upon us. They, too, were just as the girl
had pictured them: short, swart beings with but the suggestion of a
nose, and with pulsing gill-covers under the angles of their jaws.
Each one gripped a long, slim white knife in either hand, and their
tight-fitting shark-skin armor gleamed darkly as they swooped down
agerly I watched my friend. In the clasping talons of his left hand
he held a long, slim flask that glinted even in that dim, confusing
twilight. Two others, mates to the first, dangled at his waist.
Lifting it high above his head, he swung his metal-clad right arm, and
shattered the flask he held in his taloned left hand.
For an instant nothing happened, save that flittering bits of broken
glass shimmered their way to the sand. Then the horde of noseless ones
seemed to dissolve, as hundreds of limp and sprawling bodies sank to
the sand. Perhaps a half of that great multitude seemed struck dead.
"Hydrocyanic acid, Taylor!" cried Mercer exultantly. "Even diluted by
the sea water, it kills almost instantly. Go back and make sure that
none of the girl's people come back before the current has washed this
away, or they'll go in the same fashion. Warn her to keep them back!"
hurried toward the Santa Maria, thinking urgent warnings for
Imee's benefit. "Stay back! Stay back, Imee! The Rorn are falling to
the sand, we have made many of them dead, but the danger for you and
your people is still here. Stay back!"
"Truly, do the Rorn become dead? I would like to see that with my own
eyes. Be careful that they do not make you dead also, and your friend,
for they have large brains, these Rorn."
"Do not come to see with your own eyes, or you will be as the Rorn!" I
hurried around the submarine, to keep her back by force, if that were
necessary. "You must—"
"Help, Taylor!" cut in a voice—Mercer's. "These devils have got me!"
"Right with you!" I turned and hurried back as swiftly as I could,
stumbling over the bodies of dead Rorn that had settled everywhere on
the clean yellow sand.
I found Mercer in the grip of six of the shark-faced creatures. They
were trying desperately to stab him, but their knives bent and broke
against the metal of his armor. So busy were they with him that they
did not notice me coming up, but finding their weapons useless, they
suddenly snatched him up, one at either arm and either leg, and two
grasping him by the head-piece, and darted away with him, carrying his
bulging metal body between them like a battering ram, while he kicked
and struggled impotently.
"They are taking him to the Place of Darkness!" cried Imee suddenly,
having read my impressions of the scene. "Oh, go quickly, quickly,
toward the direction of your best hand—to your right! I shall
"No! No! Stay back!" I warned her frantically. All but these six Rorn
had fallen victims of Mercer's hellish poison, and while they seemed
to be suffering no ill effects, I thought it more than likely that
some sly current might bring the deadly poison to the girl, did she
come this way, and kill her as surely as it had killed these hundreds
o the right, she had said. Towards the Place of Darkness. I hurried
out of the village in the direction she indicated, towards the distant
gleam of Mercer's armor, rapidly being lost in the gloom.
"I'm coming, Mercer!" I called to him. "Delay them as much as you can.
You're going faster than I can."
"I can't help myself much," replied Mercer. "Doing what I can.
Strong—they're devilish strong, Taylor. And, at close range, I can
see you were right. They have true gill-covers; their noses are
"The devil take your scientific observations! Drag! Slow them down.
I'm losing sight of you. For heaven's sake, drag!"
"I'm doing what I can. Damn you, if I could only get a hand free—" I
realized that this last was directed at his captors, and plunged on.
uge, monstrous growths swirled around me like living things. My feet
crunched on shelled things, and sank into soft and slimy creeping
things on the bottom. I cursed the water that held me back so gently
yet so firmly; I cursed the armor that made it so hard for me to move
my legs. But I kept on, and at last I began to gain on them; I could
see them quite distinctly, bending over Mercer, working on him....
"Do your best, Taylor," urged Mercer desperately. "We're on the edge
of a sort of cliff; a fault in the structure of the ocean bed. They're
tying me with strong cords of leather. Tying a huge stone to my body.
I think they—" I had a momentary flash of the scene as Mercer saw it
at that instant: the horrid noseless face close to his, the swart
bodies moving with amazing agility. And at his very feet, a yawning
precipice, holding nothing but darkness, leading down and down into
"Run quickly!" It was Imee. She, too, had seen what I had seen. "That
is the Place of Darkness, where we take those whom the Five deem
worthy of the Last Punishment. They will tie the stone to him, and
bear him out above the Blackness, and then they will let him go!
I was almost upon them now, and one of the six turned and saw me.
Three of them darted towards me, while the others held Mercer flat
upon the edge of the precipice. If they had only realized that by
rolling his armored body a foot or two, he would sink ... without the
stone.... But they did not. Their brains had little reasoning power,
apparently. The attaching of a stone was necessary, in their
experience; it was necessary now.
ith my left hand I unhooked my light; I already gripped my knife in
my right hand. Swinging the light sharply against my leg, I struck the
toggle-switch, and a beam of intense brilliancy shot through the
gloom. It aided me, as I had thought it would; it blinded these
large-eyed denizens of the deep.
Swiftly I struck out with the knife. It hacked harmlessly into the
shark-skin garment of one of the men, and I stabbed out again. Two of
the men leaped for my right arm, but the knife found, this time, the
throat of the third. My beam of light showed palely red, for a moment,
and the body of the Rorn toppled slowly to the bed of the ocean.
The two shark-faced creatures were hammering at me with their fists,
dragging at my arms and legs, but I plunged on desperately towards
Mercer. Myriads of fish, all shapes and colors and sizes, attracted by
the light, swarmed around us.
"Good boy!" Mercer commended. "See if you can break this last flask of
acid, here at my waist. See—"
ith a last desperate plunge, fairly dragging the two Rorn who tugged
at me, I fell forward. With the clenched steel talons of my right
hand, I struck at the silvery flask I could see dangling from Mercer's
waist. I hit it, but only a glancing blow; the flask did not shatter.
"Again!" commanded Mercer. "It's heavy annealed glass—hydrocyanic
acid—terrible stuff—even the fumes—"
I paid but slight heed. The two Rorn dragged me back, but I managed to
crawl forward on my knees, and with all my strength, I struck at the
This time it shattered, and I lay where I fell, sobbing with weakness,
looking out through the side window of my head-piece.
The five Rorn seemed to suddenly lose their strength. They struggled
limply for a moment, and then floated down to the waiting sand
"Finish," remarked Mercer coolly. "And just in time. Let's see if we
can find our way back to the Santa Maria."
e were weary, and we plodded along slowly, twin trails of air-bubbles
like plumes waving behind us, rushing upwards to the surface. I felt
strangely alone at the moment, isolated, cut off from all mankind, on
the bottom of the Atlantic.
"Coming to meet you, all of us," Imee signaled us. "Be careful where
you step, so that you do not walk in a circle and find again the Place
of Darkness. It is very large."
"Probably some uncharted deep," threw in Mercer. "Only the larger ones
have been located."
For my part, I was too weary to think. I just staggered on.
A crowd of slim, darting white shapes surrounded us. They swam before
us, showing the way. The five patriarchs walked majestically before
us; and between us, smiling at us through the thick lenses of our
headpieces, walked Imee. Oh, it was a triumphal procession, and had I
been less weary, I presume I would have felt quite the hero.
mee pictured for us, as we went along, the happiness, the
gratefulness of her people. Already, she informed us, great numbers of
young men were clearing away the bodies of the dead Rorn. She was so
happy she could hardly restrain herself.
A dim skeleton shape bulked up at my left. I turned to look at it, and
Imee, watching me through the lights of my head-piece, nodded and
Yes, this was the very hulk by which she had been swimming when the
shark had attacked her, the shark which had been the cause of the
accident. She darted on to show me the very rib upon which her head
had struck, stunning her so that she had drifted, unconscious and
storm-tossed, to the shore of Mercer's estate.
I studied the wreck. It was battered and tilted on its beam ends, but
I could still make out the high poop that marked it as a very old
"A Spanish galleon, Mercer," I conjectured.
"I believe so." And then, in pictured form, for Imee's benefit, "It
has been here while much time passed?"
"Yes." Imee came darting back to us, smiling. "Since before the
Teemorn, my people were here. A Rorn we made prisoner once told us his
people discovered it first. They went into this strange skeleton, and
inside were many blocks of very bright stone." She pictured quite
clearly bars of dully-glinting bullion. Evidently the captive had told
his story well.
hese stones, which were so bright, the Rorn took to their city,
which is three swims distant." How far that might be, I could not even
guess. A swim, it seemed, was the distance a Teemorn could travel
before the need for rest became imperative. "There were many Rorn, and
they each took one stone. And of them, they made a house for their
leader." The leader, as she pictured him, being the most hideous
travesty of a thing in semi-human form that the mind could imagine:
incredibly old and wrinkled and ugly and gray, his noseless face
seamed with cunning, his eyes red rimmed and terrible, his teeth
gleaming, white and sharp, like fangs.
"A whole house, except the roof," she went on. "It is there now, and
it is gazed at with much admiration by all the Rorn. All this our
prisoner told us before we took him, with a rock made fast to him, out
over the Place of Darkness. He, too, was very proud of their leader's
"Treasure!" I commented to Mercer. "If we could find the city of the
Rorn, we might make the trip pay for itself!"
I could sense his wave of amusement.
"I think," he replied, "I'd rather stand it myself. These Rorn don't
appeal to me."
It was over half an hour before we were at last free of our diving
The first thing Captain Bonnett said:
"We've got to get to the surface, and that quickly. Our air supply is
running damnably low. By the time we blow out the tanks we'll be just
about out. And foul air will keep us here until we rot. I'm sorry,
sir, but that's the way matters stand."
ercer, white-faced and ill, stared at him dazedly.
"Air?" he repeated groggily—I knew just how he felt—"We should have
lots of air. The specifications—"
"But we're dealing with facts, not specifications, sir," said Captain
Bonnett. "Another two hours here and we won't leave ever."
"Then it can't be helped, Captain," muttered Mercer. "We'll go up. And
back. For more compressed air. We must remember to plot our course
exactly. You kept the record on the way out as I instructed you?"
"Yes, sir," said Captain Bonnett.
"Just a minute, then," said Mercer.
Weakly he made his way forward to the little cubbyhole in which was
housed the central station of his thought-telegraph. I didn't even
inspect the gleaming maze of apparatus. I merely watched him dully as
he plugged in an antenna similar to the one we had left with Imee, and
adjusted the things on his head.
is eyes brightened instantly. "She's still wearing her antenna," he
said swiftly over his shoulder. "I'll tell her that something's
happened; we must leave, but that we will return."
He sat there, frowning intently for a moment, and then dragged the
antenna wearily from his head. He touched a switch somewhere, and
several softly glowing bulbs turned slowly red and then dark.
"You and I," he groaned, "had better go to bed. We overdid it. She
understands, I think. Terribly sorry, terribly disappointed. Some
sort of celebration planned, I gather. Captain Bonnett!"
"You may proceed now as you think best," said Mercer. "We're retiring.
Be sure and chart the course back, so we may locate this spot again."
"Yes, sir!" said Captain Bonnett.
hen I awoke we were at anchor, our deck barely awash, before the
deserted beach of Mercer's estate. Still feeling none too well, Mercer
and I made our way to the narrow deck.
Captain Bonnett was waiting for us, spruce in his blue uniform, his
shoulders bowed as always.
"Good morning, gentlemen," he offered, smiling crisply. "The open air
seems good, doesn't it?"
It did. There was a fresh breeze blowing in from the Atlantic, and I
filled my lungs gratefully. I had not realized until that instant just
how foul the air below had been.
"Very fine, Captain," said Mercer, nodding. "You have signaled the men
on shore to send out a boat to take us off?"
"Yes, sir; I believe they're launching her now."
"And the chart of our course—did the return trip check with the
"Perfectly, sir." Captain Bonnett reached in an inner pocket of his
double-breasted coat, extracted two folded pages, and extended them,
with a little bow, to Mercer.
Just as Mercer's eager fingers touched the precious papers, however,
the wind whisked them from Bonnett's grasp and whirled them into the
Bonnett gasped and gazed after them for a split second; then, barely
pausing to tear off his coat, he plunged over the side.
e tried desperately, but before he could reach either one of the
tossing white specks, they were washed beneath the surface and
disappeared. Ten minutes later, his uniform bedraggled and shapeless,
he pulled himself on deck.
"I'm sorry, sir," he gasped, out of breath. "Sorrier than I can say. I
Mercer, white-faced and struggling with his emotions, looked down and
"You don't remember the bearings, I suppose?" he ventured tonelessly.
"Thank you, Captain, for trying so hard to recover the papers," said
Mercer. "You'd better change at once; the wind is sharp."
he captain bowed and disappeared down the conning tower. Then Mercer
turned to me, and a smile struggled for life.
"Well, Taylor, we helped her out, anyway," he said slowly. "I'm sorry
that—that Imee will misunderstand when we don't come back."
"But, Mercer," I said swiftly, "perhaps we'll be able to find our way
back to her. You thought before, you know, that—"
"But I can see now what an utterly wild-goose chase it would have
been." Mercer shook his head slowly. "No, old friend, it would be
impossible. And—Imee will not come again to guide us; she will think
we have deserted her. And"—he smiled slowly up into my eyes—"perhaps
it is as well. After all, the photographs and the data I wanted would
do the world no practical good. We did Imee and her people a good
turn; let's content ourselves with that. I, for one, am satisfied."
"And I, old timer," I said, placing my hand affectionately upon his
shoulder. "Here's the boat. Shall we go ashore?"
We did go ashore, silently. And as we got out of the boat, and set
foot again upon the sand, we both turned and looked out across the
smiling Atlantic, dancing brightly in the sun.
The mighty, mysterious Atlantic—home of Imee and her people!