Over Mount Fuji – Chapter 29 –

An Epic NovelByron caught something moving to starboard as the sub shook. Kiichi immediately switched on the floodlight. Clouds of sediment rose outside and a rhythmic, scraping noise grated like two cars swiping each other. The sub vibrated again.

“What’s that?” Byron asked.

“There must be something out there,” Wulfstein said. “Shouldn’t we record all these sounds?”

“We are,” Kiichi said.

Byron frowned. Huge and grayish black, a form crouched by the rocks on the far side of his vision. It appeared massive. When more light from the sub fell on the mammoth, it looked like a moving rocky outcrop. Amidst scraps of falling rock, more sediment churned on the seafloor. A moment later, a small circle of light appeared. Becoming brighter, two circles emerged, gleaming eyes that resembled light reflectors from the sub.

Keiko shook and jolted as an object slammed against its belly. Something murky rose not far away. Waves of movements resonated through the waters, shaking the sub again, giving off a metallic burp.

Byron shifted his focus to the left of the beams. A shadow moved; something huge lurked just out of reach of Keiko’s lights. He pressed his face against the glass. Nothing! The sediment obscured his vision. Yet, he sensed danger prowling somewhere.

He blinked. Is it a beast? Is it the spur of a rock? No! Nothing! Oh damn! A force hit Keiko, knocking him away from the porthole.

Is it a tusk? No, it was all teeth. Everywhere teeth! That was its mouth. How could the creature be bigger than the sub?

Keiko trembled and the monster disappeared into a swirl of sediment. But an enormous head and powerful jaws flashed through the murky waters. Resembling a hippopotamus, the creature cocked its head and swam toward the sub with its webbed feet.

“Brace yourself,” Kiichi yelled. “Can you see what it’s doing?”

“Doing what?” Nobuko grasped Byron’s hand. “That looks like . . . ”

A surreal image. Byron blinked and stared. A writhing, pulsing, swelling figure, a profile that looked like one created by a lunatic sculptor and controlled by a mad puppeteer.

“I can’t believe it,” Eileen said, cringing. “How could anything live this deep?”

“It’s getting ready to charge at us,” Nobuko said. “Let’s get the hell out of here!”

“Keep calm,” Wulfstein said, his face unscrupulous. “We’ve a rare chance to see a plesiosaur.”

A PLESIOSAUR? EILEEN thought, peering at its huge body and short tail. It couldn’t be. But they appeared terribly strong and healthy. Are they really those aquatic carnivorous reptiles that lived million years ago? “But they look different from those drawings we have.”

“Just as there are many different species of whale,” Wulfstein said. “There were different species of plesiosaur.”

“Is that a plesiosaur?” Eileen asked. “Or an lasmosaur?”

“It’s a plesiosaur,” Wulfstein said. “An elasmosaur has a long neck and tail.”

The creature stared back at Keiko’s light, blinking its eyes. Eileen jumped as chills shuddered through her spine. It didn’t seem real, any of it. A leftover of the plesiosaur? Her pulse pumped hard, her palms sweaty. Hooks and spikes ran down from the base of its head to the tip of its long back, some in gray, some black. Its long whiskers and short neck made it like some form of primordial beast. “Can’t you see?”

Looking in awe, Yoshino said. “It’s a namazu!”

Before Eileen’s stunned eyes, a monster of mythological proportions emerged. A plesiosaur? A namazu? She couldn’t decide; she couldn’t think.

Kiichi shifted Keiko into reverse. His wide eyes, raised head, the fear on his face and his entire stance, made him looked like an antelope sensing danger.

“Look at its feelers.” Yoshino turned to Eileen. “This must be where the legend of the giant catfish originated.”

“Yes, the Legend,” Nobuko added.

Keiko retreated, then passed over more boulders, as if through the bottom of crumbling walls.

Nothing.

As Kiichi released its ballast, the sub ascended. Eileen managed to view a wider portion of the ocean floor. The beams refocused, trying to light any moving object, but a snuffling noise came from above, followed by a succession of chilling roars.

Eileen blinked. Pressing her head against the porthole, she stifled a gasp. Teeth, all sharp and pointed. She staggered backward. The beast’s mouth looked terribly hungry. The sub jerked. The crew yelled and scrambled for handholds.

With a labored breath, Eileen rose to her feet.

Looking hideous and horrendous, two more creatures appeared. One darker than the other swam away. The sediment clouded the seabed, and they vanished out of sight.

“Let’s take a closer look,” Yoshino said.

Gathering her courage, Eileen returned to the porthole. A ghastly image appeared; a huge head with feelers and a body that looked like thick hide swathed in a chalky glaze of silt. Its head and gleaning eyes stared back. Its jaws appeared more rugged than a shark’s. The beast screeched; its call resembled squeaks and supersonic piping.

As the sediment settled, more beasts emerged beyond the occasional crack and snap. There were no other sound, yet Eileen she sensed movement. “Why doesn’t the pressure crush them?”

“Let’s observe them first, okay?” Kiichi said.

Beads of sweat broke out on Eileen’s face. A moment of silence loomed, but her heart tattooed. Hell. This is a nightmare! The silhouette of the monsters appeared closer. She rushed to the skipper. “We should turn back. We’ll all be killed.”

“A legend unveiled. A monster to boot,” Wulfstein said. “We’re witnessing a historic moment.”

“Kiichi!” Yoshino said. “Let’s get out of here!”

“Hai! Sensei.” Kiichi stepped on the pedal and reversed the sub.

Eileen clenched her fist. Through the churning clouds of slush, one beast followed the sub, its feelers probing. Its tail flapped side to side, then stiffened. It could be getting ready to strike. The jaws! Its rows of teeth. Its feelers could snatch anything.

A sudden boom sounded from starboard, then another from the portside. Keiko rocked from side to side. The crew tumbled to the floor. Wulfstein stayed with Eileen, both scrambled back to their feet. When stability resumed, Eileen raced back to the porthole and looked out. The creatures turned and swung away faster than she thought possible. Then they disappeared behind an outcrop of rocks.

“Will it break Keiko?” Nobuko grimaced.

“Any craft capable of holding together at this depth isn’t going to crack that easily,” Kiichi said. “At the most, it could damage the sub’s exterior equipment.”

“That’s bad enough.” Holding Nobuko close, Byron stared gloomily at the skipper. “Please, let’s go.”

“Byron,” Kiichi said. “Keiko can fight any beast.” The pilot pressed the pedal, turning Keiko around.

GASPING, BYRON CRANED his neck at the starboard porthole in search of the creature. His gaze didn’t waver; he knew an opportunity like this wouldn’t come twice.

“They’re gone.” Nobuko shuffled to the bow porthole. “Where could they hide?”

Byron stared. How could these prehistoric creatures hide here? Maybe among the rocks, but he couldn’t see any. “They can’t just disappear like that.”

“Our recording will provide essential proofs,” Wulfstein said.

Byron frowned. The records might be useful later, but for the time being, he would just be happy to get out of this place alive. He pressed his nose against the glass, but when more teeth glittering back, he jumped in horror.

Keiko convulsed as three beasts moved nearer to the sub. Byron stiffened when their cries, strangled hisses, guttural coughs, piercing howls, sounded—as if they were about to charge.

“Please stay calm,” Kiichi said, his face tense. His gaze darted back and forth at the instruments and dials on the console. “Everyone buckle in, and be ready for a bumpy ride.”

Byron squirmed. Two huge beasts emerged before them. The creatures looked about to lunge forward when the skipper turned the sub sharply to port. But more beasts surged on the starboard side. One swam after Keiko. Its dark head, trailed by agitated murky water, became less visible.

“Look!” Nobuko choked back a scream when the monsters glided toward the sub. “There are . . . five!”

More beasts, some bigger than others, appeared. One swung to the side of the sub, then glided away.

Byron’s heart pounded. Hell.

“Let’s get out,” Nobuko screamed, clinging tightly to Byron’s waist.

Kiichi stepped on the accelerator as Yoshino picked up the microphone. “Captain Akira, this is Keiko calling. Akira, this is Yoshino, over.” No response. “Captain Akira, can you hear me?” Nothing, not even static! Yoshino threw the mike down.

“That’s impossible.” Kiichi turned. “Electrical failure? This is bizarre.”

The engines still functioned, although the electronics had gone dead. “The creature might have damaged the equipment,” Byron said.

Wulfstein searched console. “It might be electromagnetic interference.”

“We’re on our own,” Kiichi said. His hands flicked through the switches, using all his skill to steer the sub to safety. But all the sensors had been destroyed and communication cut.

Gr-u-k. Gr-u-k.

“Please don’t panic.” Sweat rolled down the tip of Kiichi’s nose. “Just stay calm.”

EVERY SHIFTING SHADOW or sound made Nobuko shudder. And when silence resumed, her heart thumped against her chest. Though she had no clue to their whereabouts, she sensed the presence of many beast hiding out there, eyes watching—ready to pounce.

Kiichi maneuvered Keiko to a clear channel within a maze of underwater columns. He steered the sub and stopped near a wall before making another turn. “We’ll go this way.”

Nobuko peered out the porthole, studying the darkness. Into the maze of an underwater matrix, the sub probed for a way to escape. Glancing around, she hoped the skipper could manage. But several small circles of reflective light appeared, drawing closer.

She screamed. More lights appeared. Countless! Three heads swayed above the boulder-strewn seafloor, returning her gaze. Their bodies lowered and disappeared.

A second later, the sub shook when more movements resonated through the waters. She caught sight of a sudden motion from one of the beasts. As it came closer, her heart skipped. The sub vibrated again. What’s this beast? It forked out four long feelers and charged, striking Keiko. Several more appeared from nowhere.

Keiko shuddered again. The crew yelled. Byron held Nobuko as they fell. She tried to stand up but her nerves were in tatters. She drew strength from him to get back to her feet, but her legs wobbled.

The beasts thrashed their tails, turning their heads to face the sub.

But Kiichi’s thumb spread over a red button under the helm. He held it and pressed.

The sub vibrated as a torpedo shot out from Keiko’s belly. It hit the nearest monster, and exploded. Nobuko stretched her neck to watch a brilliant display of orange-yellow incandescence streaked on impact. The creature’s thunderous, ear-splitting wail tore through the water.

Black liquid spurted out from the myriad fragments, mushrooming in every direction. Chunks of flesh bloodied the water with bits and pieces of mutilated carcass scattered across the seabed. Kiichi maneuvered Keiko through the ink cloud.

Silence.

©) Joel Huan, author of Over Mount Fuji (available from Amazon and Barnes&Noble)

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~ by Joel on December 14, 2009.

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