A Thousand Starry Eyes
by Linda Reiche
The solitary figure rested his back against the curved
surface, head lifted towards the star filled sky. A barely visible wreath of smoke sent
tendrils out into the darkness.
Chief Curly Jones rounded the front of the flatbed truck;
checking the diving bell was the last item on his list. A whiff of cigarette smoke made him pause.
“Admiral? Is that
“Hello, Chief. Final
“Yes, sir. Crew’s in
their billets. Doc’s still at the
hospital. Reporters are gone.”
Nelson smiled. “About
time! Amazing how many different ways
they can ask the same questions, isn’t it?”
“You said it, Admiral,” snorted Curly.
“BOQ, except the Skipper and Mr. Morton, sir.”
“Ah, and where would they be?”
“Last I saw, they were walking the beach.”
Nelson nodded in understanding. The last 24 hours had been hell, to say the least. Seaview’s sinking; the rescue and the horde of reporters that had descended on them had put the thoughts of mortality front and centre in everyone’s mind. The endless rolling of the surf would soothe the anxiety and frayed nerves better than any sedative the Doc could subscribe.
The Admiral drew out his cigarette package, offering one to
Curly. “Come on up, Curly, have a seat.”
Curly swung his bulky body with ease up onto the flatbed.
They sat in a comfortable silence, the light wind swirling
the cigarette smoke around their heads before drawing it out across the
dock. They each loved serving on submarines,
the confined space a familiar and accepted companion. Mortality was also a companion, but one that
was normally tucked away in the back corner of their minds.
They had had to face it today.
“They say that space is the final frontier,” said the
Admiral quietly. “There are millions
upon millions of stars and planets, but in between it is mostly empty. A ship could travel for light years without
encountering a black hole, or a comet, or remnants of a star gone nova. The light we are seeing now is millennia
old, a glimpse of a very distant past.
“We’ve barely started exploring our inner frontier, the
sea. It is not as vast as space, but it
has just as many mysteries. Sea
currents shift their directions, strengthen and weaken, become warmer or
colder. Each change effects the
surrounding water and the atmosphere.
There is an endless array of sea life covering every layer, from the
air-breathing mammals at the surface to the creatures that live in the cold,
dark, high-pressure depths. We visit it,
study it and hope to someday understand it.
“It is breath taking in its complexity, a siren song for the
scientist. But, the cold and pressure of
the ocean depths can kill, just as quickly as the cold and lack of pressure can
kill in space.” The Admiral held his
breath for a moment, and then released it in a sigh. “We’re lucky that the ocean can sometimes be
forgiving, allowing us the chance to survive and learn from our mistakes.“
“Amen,” agreed Curly.
Nelson smiled. “It
also doesn’t hurt to have two stubborn people like yourself and Chip defy the
odds to tip the scales in favour of survival.”
Curly ducked his head.
“Aw, Admiral, without you and the Seaview,
there is no Nelson Institute of Marine Research. We couldn’t just sit there waiting for you
guys to meet your maker. We had to do
“And something was definitely some thing. It is most appreciated, Chief.”
The darkness hid the Chief’s embarrassed blush. “Thank-you, sir.”
The Admiral clapped him on his shoulder. “Now, I think it’s time for us to turn in,
Chief. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of
us. I think Seaview
wants to spend as little extra time at the bottom as possible.”
“Aye, sir.” Curly
looked up at the stars. “She’s not a
space ship, but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t object to seeing the stars,