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The Danger from the Deep

By Ralph Milne Farley

Marooned on the sea-floor, his hoisting cable cut, young Abbot is left at the mercy of the man-sharks.

WITHIN a thick-walled sphere of steel eight feet in diameter, with crystal-clear fused-quartz windows, there crouched an alert young scientist, George Abbot. The sphere rested on the primeval muck and slime at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, one mile beneath the surface.

The beam from his 200-watt searchlight, which shot out through one of his three windows into the dark blue depths beyond, seemed faint indeed, yet it served to illuminate anything which crossed It, or on which it fell.

For a considerable length of time since his descent to the ocean floor, young Abbot had clung to one of the thick windows of his bathysphere, absorbed by the marine life outside. Slender small fish with stereoscopic eyes, darted in and out of the beam of light. Swimming snails floated by, carrying their own phosphorescent lanterns. Paper-thin transparent crustaceans swam into view, followed by a few white shrimps, pale aa ghosts. Then a mist of tiny fish swept across his field of vision. Abbot cupped his face in his hands, and stared out.

The incongruous thought flashed across his mind that thus he had often sat by the window of his club in New York, and gased out at the pairing motor traffic.

His searchlight cut a sharp swath through the blue muck. More than once he thought he saw large moving fish-like forms far away.

"Speed up the generator," ho called into his phone.

Immediately the shaft of light brightened. He set about trying to focus upon one of those dim elusive shapes which had so intrigued him.

BUT suddenly the searchlight went out! Intent on repairing the apparatus as rapidly as possible, Abbot snapped the button-switch, which ought to have illuminated the interior of his diving-sphere; but the lights did not go on. Then he noticed that the electric fan, on which he depended to keep his air-supply properly mixed, had stopped.

He spoke into the telephone transmitter, which hung in front of his mouth: "Hi, there, up on the boat! My electric power is cut off. I'm down here with my fan stopped and my heat cut off. Hoist me up, and be quick about it!"

"O. K, sir."

As the young man waited for the winch to get under way on the boat a mile above him, he pulled out his electric pocket flashlight and sent its feeble ray out through his quartz-glass window into the dim royal-purple depths beyond, in one last attempt to get a look at those mysterious fish-shapes which had so intrigued him.

And then he saw one of them distinctly.

Evidently they had swum closer when the glow of his searchlight had stopped; and so the sudden flash of his pocket-light had taken them by surprise.

For, as he snapped it on, he caught an instant's glimpse of a grinning fish-face pressed close against the outside of his thick window-pane, as though trying to peer in at him. The fish-face somewhat resembled the head of a shark, except that the mouth was a bit nailer and not quite so leeringly brutal, and the forehead was rather high and domed.

But what most attracted Abbot's attention, in the brief instant before the startled fish whisked away in a swirl of phosphorescent foam, was the fact that, from beneath each of the two pectoral fins, there protruded whit appeared to be a skinny human arm, terminating in three fingers and a thumb! Then the fish was gone. Abbot snapped off his little light.

The diving-sphere quivered, as the hoisting-cable tautened. But suddenly the sphere settled back to the bottom of the sea with a jarring thud. "Cable's parted, sir!" spoke a frantic voice in his ear-phones.

FOR a moment George Abbot sat stunned with horror. Then his mind began to race, like a squirrel in a cage, seeking some way of escape.

Perhaps he could manage to unscrew the 400-pound trap door at the top of the sphere, and shoot to the surface, with the bubbling-out of the confined air. But his scientifically trained mind made some rapid calculations which showed him this was absurd.

At the depth of a mile, the pressure is roughly 156 atmospheres, that is to say, 156 times the air-pressure at the surface of the earth; and the moment that his sphere was opened to this pressure, he would be blow back inwardly away from the manhole, and the air inside his sphere would suddenly be compressed to only 1/156 of its former volume.

Not only would this pressure be sufficient to squash him into a mangled pulp, but also the sudden compression of the air inside the sphere would generate enough heat to fry that mangled pulp to a crisp cinder almost instantly.

As George Abbot came to a full realization of the horror of these facts, he recoiled from the trap-door as though it were charged with death.

"For Heaven's sakes, do something!" he shrieked in agony into the transmitter.

"Courage, sir," came back the reply. "We are rigging up a grapple just as fast as we can. Long before your oxygen gives out, we shall slide it down to you along the telephone line, which is the only remaining connection between us. When it settles about your sphere, and you can see its hooks outside your window by the light of your pocket-flash, let us know, and we'll trip the grapple and haul you up."

"Thank you," replied the young man.

HE was calm now, but it was an enforced and numb kind of calmness. Mechanically he throttled down his oxygen supply, so as to make it last longer. Mechanically be took out his notebook and pencil and started to write down, in the dark, his experiences; for he was determined to leave a full account for posterity, even though he himself should perish.

After setting down a categorical description of the successive partings of the electric light cable and the hoist cable, and his thoughts and feelings in that connection, he described in detail the shark with hands, which he had seen through the window of his sphere. He tried to be very explicit about this, for he realized that his account would probably be laid, by everyone, to the disordered imagination of his last dying moments; being a true scientist, George Abbot Wanted the world to believe him, so that another sphere would be built and sent down to the ocean depths, to find out more about these peculiar denizens of the deep.

Of course, no one would believe him. This thought kept drumming in his ears. No one—except Professor Osborne. Old Osborne would believe!

George Abbot's mind flashed back to a conversation he had had with the old professor, just before the oil interests had sent him on this exploring trip to discover the source of the large quantities of petroleum which had begun to bubble up from the bottom of a certain section of the Pacific very near where Abbot now was.

OSBORNE had said, "This petroleum suggests a gusher to me. And what causes gushers? Human beings, boring for oil, to satisfy human needs."

"But, Professor," Abbot had objected, "there can't be any human beings at the bottom of the sea!"

"Why not?" Professor Osborne had countered. "Life is supposed to have originated spontaneously in the slime of the ocean depths; therefore that part of the earth has had a head-start on us in the game of evolution. May not this head-start have been maintained right down to date, thus producing at the bottom of the sea a race superior to anything upon the dry land?"

"But," Abbot had objected further, "if so, why haven't they come up to visit or conquer us? And why haven't we ever found any trace of them?"

"Quite simple to explain." the old professor had replied. "Any creature who can live at the frightful pressures of the ocean depths could never survive a journey even halfway to the surface. It would be like our trying to live in an almost perfect vacuum. We should explode, and so would these denizens of the deep, if they tried to come up here. Even one of their dead bodies could not be brought to the surface in recognizable form. No contact with them will ever be possible, nor will they ever constitute a menace to any one—for which we may thank the Lord!"

George Abbot now reviewed this conversation as he crouched in his diving-sphere in the purple darkness of the marine depths. Yes, old Osborne would believe him. The diary must be written for Osborne's eyes.

ABBOT sent another beam from his pocket light suddenly out into the water; and this time he surprised several of the peculiar fish. These, like the first, had arms and hands and high intelligent foreheads.

Then suddenly Abbot laughed a harsh laugh. Old Osborne had been wrong in one thing, namely in saying that the super-race of the deep would never be a menace to anyone. They were being a menace to George Abbot, right now, for it was undoubte...

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