The Dip, James McPherson
She dives downwards from the ocean liner, illuminated by only a pale moon looking out over a sombre early morning.
Maybe the non-native urge to dive was given to her by another passenger. Or maybe it was from the Captain. She vaguely remembers having enjoyed talking to him, during long infinite days where the ship seemed to drift in circles. Before he went missing. Many people went missing.
When she hits the saltwater, another thought comes to her. She pushes downwards into the marine landscape dimly perceptible in the glow of the moon - and catches a glimpse of silver.
Wires. Endless cables snaking across the ocean floor, tying one place to another, and these places to all other places, so there are no places left. If she knew exactly how, she could swim down, cut open a sliver of the coils, insert a finger, and talk to anyone on the planet. But she doesn’t want to talk to anyone.
It must be this planetary labyrinth that beckoned her to dive. Or the satellites above. One of the two. Or both. It all connects. She is compelled onwards by unseen algorithms dancing along wires that talk to the metallic boxes shuttling around the skies.
Breathing down in the deep feels easy. When hitting the water, she expected to die from the shock of the cold. Or perish from cramp or chill soon after. But the water is not as cold as expected. It’s lukewarm, almost pleasant. Warmer than it should be. She feels safe and cosy, below in the dark. But a new instinct tells her to return to the surface.
In oxygen and upon the water again, the cruise ship is far behind. Just a dot now. The moon hangs in the sky with minute stars. Now there is another brightness. Parallel to the water. She sets off with broad strokes towards the new luminescence.
What’s. What’s on the surface. Thick. Slimy. Smells bad. Must be algae. Tiny organisms living off the light of the sun. All around her, the water is occupied by the slush. She blinks to keep the gunk out of her eyes. She's enveloped in the sickly swamp. Dipping back under wouldn’t help, as the algae patch stretches for miles. Never mind. Swim on, swim on.
She swims for a long time, at an even pace. For how long? Usually she would check her phone. But diving off she had stripped and abandoned everything. She could use the stars to track her movement. But there are so many blinking satellites swarming the sky the distant lights would only be misleading.
The closer she gets, the more brilliant the light becomes. She comes close enough for it to illuminate her surroundings. She realizes she is not swimming in algae, or any type of plant life. It is not anything within habitat.
It is untold millions of tonnes of microplastics coating her skin, mixed with scatterings of uranium and graphite and lead. It is corrosive chemical sludge from forgotten factories running through her hair. It is everything humanity doesn’t want. There is bone and cartilage and flesh of boars, housecats, rhinos, zebras, salmon, octopi, cockatiels, doves, ravens, enveloping her. She is but one small ingredient in a giant soup. She pushes the other additives aside as she swims on. She holds back vomit, not wishing to add to it. Never mind. Get to the light. Get to the light.
She reaches the light. It’s a mass of land. The sun is rising.
The mass is. White. It shimmers in both moon and sunlight. She puts a chemically bleached hand onto it. It is cold. She wrenches herself out of the water.
This is not land. This is an iceberg. Certainly. Impossibly. They were supposed to be gone. Mythical creatures whispered of.
She’s tired. It’s hard to breathe the air now. She would be happier in the water, under the waves, wallowing in the dredge.
She puts her head against the ice. Beating. A beating heart. My own heart?
The sun rises.
James McPherson is a writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He holds an MSc. in Creative Writing. He was most recently featured in the disabled writer's anthology Not Going Back To Normal. He can be found on twitter at @xenorealisms.