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1. Check your ticket.
The starfish-shaped station is large. Yes, there are maps to help navigate faux marble floors and moving sidewalks to find your departure gate. Once you find it, check signs from time to time to make sure your gate hasn’t changed. Tickets tend to be non-refundable. If you miss your trip what else is there for you to do for two months almost off the grid – spend them at Aunt Harriet’s in Willoughby Cove?
2. The store on the right sells…
After checking your ticket for the umpteenth time, think about the standard issue garments the travel company sent. Outer clothing – survival suits, coveralls, diving attire – only comes from the travel company. Undersuits are different. Those gray one piece outfits that stretched on tight from neck to ankles felt thin and scratchy when you tried them on, right? You’re in luck! The store on the right in the station’s main hall sells designer undersuits.
See what they’ve got in your size. You’ll find they offer a variety of colors and patterns. Designer undersuits are more than comfy. They’re warmer than standard issue too. While you’re at it pick up snacks, a book, or kitschy souvenirs to send relatives.
3. Look at the sky.
At around 200 meters underwater, sunlight will cease to be part of your world. Skylights in the station offer nice views of a sky you won’t see for sixty days, but there’s an even better place to make a memory.
Outside the store and around a corner, you’ll find nondescript stairs that lead to a plexiglass-domed lounge. Plush couches and a nautically-themed bar offer an excellent spot to savor an uninterrupted view of the sky before boarding call.
4. Try not to back out.
Second thoughts are common. Two months on the ocean floor sounded like the change you needed after the break up or whatever disillusionment placed you in front of a laptop in the wee hours pricing exotic travel packages. What seemed like a great idea then might not anymore.
The prospect of wearing coveralls over undersuits every day, in chilled corridors bathed in soft light, comes to mind. So does your stateroom with its skylight over your bunk – it looks upward into bathyal zone darkness, and creatures whose anatomies have adapted in wondrous if sometimes monstrous ways to survive at that depth in darkness.
You won’t be bored though. Communal gardening will take up a few hours each day. Other hours you’ll…well anyway, maybe there will be interesting people to meet and activities beyond gardening and watching the deep sea world through plexiglass to keep your mind off the creaking and popping.
Outposts creak and pop because, like videos say, aquatic pressure causes the outer hull to buckle like a soda can. But don’t worry – outposts are safe!
It’s best to forget second thoughts and board the submersible. The alternative? Aunt Harriet’s.
Back out and Aunt Harriet will scrutinize what you wear and insist you help her ready her garden for spring. That means hours spent outside her cold cottage – she refuses to use her furnace unless its below freezing. But there is also a chance the neighbor kid will come home to Willoughby Cove to visit while you’re there. That means a shot at conversation and maybe more to keep your mind off whatever led you to spend two months almost off the grid.
Board the submersible, or catch a bus to Willoughby Cove?
5. Choose wisely.
This story previously appeared in 365 Tomorrows, 2022.
Edited by Marie Ginga
Andrew Dunn writes science-fiction and fantasy from the state of Maryland, often drawing ideas from jogs through forest trails at sunrise. His work has previously appeared in AntipodeanSF, 365 Tomorrows, Daily Science Fiction, Penumbric Speculative Fiction, and here in MetaStellar as reprints - his work has also short-listed in several writing contests. Andrew welcomes reader feedback at [email protected]