Monday, November 26, 2012

A new short from the down deep

Rapture of the Deep

“Did you see that?” Larson’s mechanized voice buzzes in my ear.

“Larson, maintain operational silence.” My voice comes out high pitched and incomprehensible, like one of those damn singing chipmunks on crack. After a moment of lag I hear my mechanized voice over the com system.

Larson knows better than to squeak so much as a ‘yes, Master Chief.’ He’s a good kid and damn fine diver, but he is too friggin’ jumpy for a mission like this. He aced his quals and can lay a mean weld at 500 fsw, but he sees too many ghosts. The oppressive pressure of more than 450 psi squeezing in and the suffocating blackness of the deep gets to him. Instead of being satisfied with the meager light thrown out directly in front of us by our headlamps, he lets his mind create demons that fill the abyss beyond his short arc of knowledge. The kid sees too many ghosts to walk the depths blind.

On 10 November 2013 at 0130, the USS George Washington sat in the South China Sea and watched a Chinese transport bird disappear from radar. The Commander immediately pulled back all vessels and planes in the vicinity and placed his squadron on alert, he was not getting blamed for this one.

At 0410, I got the call to rouse my crew and be ready on the Sasebo tarmac by 0600. At that point it became a game of hurry up and wait. Moving the SATFADS team is a marvel of modern logistics. We are six of the most elite deep divers in the world, two control centers built into the shape of standard shipping containers, and a bang-up surface support crew. Give us three C-130s and platform and we can put men on the ocean floor, more than a thousand feet down, anywhere in the world.

By 1800 we were installed on the USS Denver and prepping to make our first dive. The Chinese bird sat in 1,200 fsw (publically we only dive to 1,000) and it was to be reconnaissance only. Easy peasy. We’d drop in the water, take a look around, give the brass some fuzzy footage to analyze till the cows come home, and then we would hop in the bubble, ride to the surface and decompress for the next nine days.

Easy peasy. That’s what I kept telling myself. Routine mission. Keep calm. Breathe steady. The brass tells us what we need to know to get the job done and we always get the job done. Get in, do the job, get out, go home to your family. Hooyah! But it’s hard. Left in the dark long enough, even the Master Chief will start seeing ghosts.

“Master Chief, is it true that they called us?” Larson had asked as we prepped for the dive.

“Kid, it doesn’t matter who called who. The boss says dive, so we dive. That’s all that matters,” had been my answer. It was straight out of the textbook. It shut him up as we finished our checklists, but the kid is smart. The same thing that was gnawing on me was gnawing on him. Since when did the Chinese start calling us for recon missions on their lost military gear?

At 1200 fsw the pressure is unimaginable, almost unbearable. It squeezes in around you and fills every nook and cranny, always looking for that beautiful balancing act of equilibrium. Here the ocean is master, and no other element dares to challenge it. All light from the surface is blotted out. The astronauts claim with arrogance to walk the most inhospitable environment imaginable. They are wrong. At least they have vision. At least they have the sun and stars. At least they have the view of home. Walkers of the deep, we have nothing but the eternal darkness of the planet’s hostile bowels.

It takes years of training to develop the fortitude and focus required to tune out and ignore the monsters the brain creates to fill the emptiness. It’s inconceivable to the mind that there is nothing filling the void beyond our infinitesimal lights and so the mind dances and plays. It creates and destroys. It becomes god and devil simultaneously.

There is a madness that consumes you as a diver in the down deep. A fine line between raving lunatic and glorious adventurer. The solitude engulfs you. Even though your partner stands beside you on the rocky bottom and you have a direct line of communication to him and the surface crew, you are completely alone and yet completely dependent. You are hours from the surface and days from being able to breathe unassisted. Even once you are back on the surface in your chamber you still must endure the painfully slow climb as they drop the theoretical pressure by minute increments. You must suffer with the knowledge that if anyone was to undog the hatch prematurely, you would die instantly as you embolized and every airspace in your body exploded to balance the equation and create splendid equilibrium. It is this knowledge that creates a shiver that even the hot water lines coursing through your dive suit can’t counteract.

“Master Chief, there it is,” Larson says. His mechanical voice doesn’t relay the trepidation I am sure is there.

Grey particles of both life and death swirl and dance before me, obscuring the visibility. But sure enough, the edge of a wing pokes into sight at the far reaches of our beams. Step by step, we move our weighted boots closer and closer to the wreck. We wade slowly and deliberately, the pressure of the deep resisting our every move.

“Blackman to Surface,” I say, “I confirm Larson’s sighting. We have located the target.”

“Roger, proceed with tagging.”

“Aye,” I answer. I keep my words short. They are precious in the deep. The narcosis is ever present, always drifting just out of sight, like the ghosts. Too much effort, too much exertion and it can take over. I’ve seen greater men than I, debilitated by terrifying fits of maniacal and deadly laughter brought on simply by the squeak of their vocal chords under the influence of nothing more than helium and pressure. 

I make my way to the fuselage of the plane, looking for a strong anchor point. I can only see bits of it at a time, illuminated in the small swaths afforded by my headlamp. The rest of the craft belongs to the demons of the dark.

“It looks to be intact,” Larson’s voice echoes.

“Yep,” I say.

“There is a pad-eye here.”

I cast a sidelong glance toward my partner and illuminate his bulky form, trying to avoid his face. He has located the gaping entrance of the forward crew door, which has been blown free and is absent.  I move to his side and a pull a surface marker from my belt. I clip it to the pad-eye, pull the cord and watch as the CO2 cartridge faithfully does its duty and inflates the yellow bag, a rocket to the surface pulling 1,500 feet of line.

“Marker One released,” I say.

The seconds tick by; they grow and stretch into minutes and then an eternity. Time is unnatural at depth.   

“Marker One has been sighted. Commence external survey,” the Surface confirms.

“Aye,” I say.

Larson and I move slowly around the craft, an exaggerated dance with the supreme element. Each step is heavy and deliberate. Each step is exhausting. No movement is wasted. We take turns watching the other’s umbilical, our lifeline to humanity.

Larson’s initial assessment is largely true. The aircraft is intact. The windows have been crushed in from the pressure and the nose gapes open from a water impact. There are signs of warping and stress from the depths but there are no signs of critical failure. This plane was not shot down. Whatever brought this mistress of the skies to the abyss was borne from within.

“External survey complete,” I say as we return to the crew door.

“All vital stats are normal. How do you guys feel?” the Surface asks.

“Good to go,” Larson says.

“Hooyah,” I answer.

“Proceed with internal survey,” the Surface orders.

“Aye,” I say.

I dim my light and look directly into Larson’s faceplate. His eyes are wide and can’t hide the fear the way his mechanical voice does. “Are you ready for this?”

Before the dive, I had warned him. There would be corpses. It’s the nasty detail of this type of work. He is not new to death. Most of us serve as public safety divers at some point in our careers. There, it is our duty to bring lost souls to rest. He told me once about a little girl he had pulled from the intake of a sewage treatment facility. She had fallen into the river, drowned and become lodged downstream. No, he is no stranger. But in the down deep, it is different. With the jungle drums pounding in your ears, the pressure pushing in, the blackness enveloping you, and the ghosts taunting you; you can’t know for sure how you will react.

Larson bobs his head. “Hooyah.”

I turn back to the penetration. Dark tentacles of imagined demons skirt the edge of my vision as I stare at the mouth of the cave.  Why is only this hatch blown? If you were going to evacuate, why wouldn’t you go out the jump door? Is the fate you are escaping so grim that you would risk hitting the prop or the wing?

I can feel the madness creeping ever closer. Even the Master Chief sees ghosts.

Larson pulls himself in through the door and disappears. I shake my demons free and follow behind.

“Oh fuck . . . fuck . . . fuck,” I hear Larson’s mechanical voice echoing in my head.

“Larson, your heart rate is through the roof. Get it under control!” the Surface screams through the lines.

 “Chief . . . Chief. I’m narcn’ hard man,” Larson’s voice echoes inside my helmet, eerily calmed by the mechanical tuner.

I push in deeper and stand next to him. Our lights cast ethereal shadows in front of us. My jaw drops and I have to fight the urge to vomit.

“Help me Chief I’m narcn’.”

There are corpses strewn throughout the cabin. I count four; there may be more but our lights limit our view. They half float, half lay on the aluminum deck material. They are mangled; they look as if they have been torn apart. One is missing an arm; another’s eyes have been ripped from their sockets. Entrails, crushed by the pressure to lean ropes, have been ripped from the cavities of all those visible. I have retrieved bodies from plane crashes before and never have I seen injuries like these. Nor does the damage look to be done postmortem by the creatures of the deep looking for a meal. In fact the crabs, hagfish, and other scavengers are conspicuously missing from such a feast.

From the corner of my eye, I see Larson fall to his hands and knees in the slow motion of the deep. I watch as his body convulses and I know he has vomited into his helmet. Part of me envies him, but my brain knows the results could be deadly and my training won’t allow it.

“Chief, something’s wrong . . .  they shouldn’t be moving. Why are they moving?” echoes in my helmet.

I step further into the cabin. The gruesome corpses are not the only casualties of this flight. This was a transport flight and on either bulkhead is a row of soldiers, strapped into their flight seats. There must be at least sixty of them. Why didn’t they try to get out? When the plane went down, why didn’t they evacuate? Why did they just sit here and watch as the cabin filled with water to take them to a grave in the South China Sea?

But for all my questions, Larson’s is the ultimate. Constrained by their harnesses, the corpses writhe and move as if reaching for me. They seem to be pulling at their restraints, trying to get to me. Their arms are all outreached and their fingers claw at the water. They’re eyes are black, stained with the blood of their burst eardrums and capillaries. Their jaws snap open and closed.

“Blackman to Surface. Something is wrong. I . . . I don’t know if you guys have fucked with the gas or something, but this dive is over,” I say and turn back to Larson.

“Surface confirms abort, return to the bell.”

I pull the diver to his feet and guide him out of the wreck. There is no sprint, no mad dash. In the down deep movement is without urgency, without emotion. We retrace our umbilicals back to the bell and we climb inside for the ride to the surface.

“Chief, did you see what I was seeing? They were moving, like they were trying to get at us.”

The Surface did not confirm what they had or hadn’t seen through the video feed. They were silent on the status of our gas. They were silent on our neurological outputs. I have known narcosis. I have danced with her treacherous creations. But never have I shared the same hallucination with another diver. Never had it been so controlled, so consuming, yet so sane. I had not been lost to the madness and I had been able to easily and rationally walk away from the vision. That was not narcosis.

“Don’t worry about it, kid. Just the ghosts of the deep,” I lie.

Copyright © 2012 by Leigh Fischer

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Small Business Saturday

I'm back! I am also quite pleased to say that I only checked my e-mail once during this past week. That is what I call a vacation. Sure my number of blog hits and new Facebook fans took a serious hit because of it, but it was totally worth it. Every now and then you just have to step back and get away from the old glowing screen.

So I'm back and pumped up just in time for Small Business Saturday.

An independent author trying to sell her self-published book, yep ultimate small business. Small businesses work hard and rely on the strength of friends and family, high quality, commitment to customer service, and good word of mouth. They don't have the networks or the personnel redundancy to take a break or delegate the workload. When a small business owner takes the day off they loose profit, sometimes even income. So vacations and time off tend to be few and far between.

Small business owners do not know the meaning of "not in my job description." They are CEO, CFO, President, Manager, Secretary and Janitor. They work every job at anytime. They don't have working hours, they work until the job is done.

These hardworking people run the businesses that drive our economy. They brew the coffee at your favorite little cafe. They flip burgers at your local diner. They sell you that half-gallon of milk at the corner store you stop at on your way home from work. They knit that fabulously soft sweater you got your grandmother for Christmas last year.

They are your friends and family. They are your neighbors. Without them you loose variety, independence, creativity, and true customer service. Without you, they are nothing. Skip the door busters and the box stores, support your local small businesses.

If you would like to support this small business, here are a few ways you can help.

1. Pick up a copy of Rising Tide at or

2. Get a free copy by Liking Rising Tide on Facebook and sending an email request for a PDF, MOBI, or EPUB to

3. Share this page with your friends and family. A simple re-post or thumbs up goes a long way.

Thanks for your help. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and are looking forward to the approaching holiday season!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Make Zombies a Part of Thanksgiving

Survive the family Thanksgiving shenanigans with a copy of Rising Tide.

Beginning Friday I will be off, surviving my own holiday shenanigans. So if you would like a free copy to help get zombies involved in your Thanksgiving, shoot me a request by tomorrow night.

Instructions Here

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Wager

From the beginning of time, my brother and I have played a game. Over and over again we have watched the pawns drag themselves from the boiling seas onto the land. We watch as they morph and change, as they grow and learn. I cheer and my brother curses as their creativity begets beauty and love. My heart breaks as I watch their knowledge give birth to civilization and with it competition, aggression, and hatred.

It is always the same.  We watch them rise, so graceful and elegant, only to fall into the abyss. Their creations are stunning and unique, never exactly the same but always an echo of the shadows of their failed brethren. They begin as the most basic of elements and transform into the most complex of alchemists, forming technology far beyond our own ingenuity. But despite their resourcefulness, since the beginning of time, no matter the scenario, the result is unchanged.

The most infuriating part of the contest is that the prediction of their demise is their own. The names that they have for it are numerous: Doomsday; Ragnarok; Armageddon; Mokushi; Reckoning; Apocalypse; Kali Yuga; Judgment, they all foresee the end, yet not once have they altered their ultimate path.

After an eternity of repetition I have finally realized their tragic fault. Though they have named their destruction, they do not possess the grand vision of the gods to understand the true nature of their annihilation. Their myths rain down fire and brimstone and tell of cataclysmic events. They see it as retribution from enraged idols. They view the end as one moment in time where suddenly they will cease to exist.

For all their brilliance, they could not be more wrong. The rules explicitly state that neither my brother nor I may intervene. Mankind is a furiously burning blaze that cannot comprehend the eons and epochs that pass in the single blink of my eye. To me, yes, their end is as swift as the snuffing of a flame. But to these fast moving creatures, their true Armageddon is so slow and gradual that it will always go unnoticed.

I had hopes for this current consignment. So many times they have been on the brink and, to my surprise, been able to pull back from the ledge. But now I sit upon my perch and watch as the seas rise and listen to my brother’s gleeful laughter and I know that I have, again, lost.

I tire of this game. To never win, to never see success, is disheartening. There was a time, with every new round, when I felt hope and a naive optimism. Every new culture that was birthed was a new opportunity for utopia and ascension to nirvana and divinity. But to continuously watch such magnificent beings perish at the hands of their own devices, tears at my soul. Perhaps this will be our final match and after an eternity of trials and failure I will finally cede the wager to my brother. 

Copyright © 2012 by Leigh Fischer

Friday, November 9, 2012


Know someone who has an eye for the dark and disturbing? Someone who likes to spend their time doodling demons and monsters of their own twisted creation? Someone who has an imagination filled with apocalyptic visions?

I am looking for a starving artist to help add some visual character to my short stories.

This is not currently a paying gig, but it is an opportunity for artists in different mediums to help each other out. My own promotional efforts will be linked with your work. So, every time I get a new "like" or a sell a book your work will be seen.

Think about it. Hit me up ( if you have ever wanted to have a story to go with your devilish designs.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Formats!

A comment from a would be reader got me motivated today. I took the next step and prepped the format of Rising Tide for Smashwords distribution. It took a few hours and I had to re-size my cover a bit, but I think I've got it.

You can now purchase Rising Tide in the following locations.

Amazon (mobi) -

Wordsmash (epub, pdf, mobi) -

You can still read the first three chapters at

Also, I am still offering free copies to Facebookers willing to help spread the word.

Step 1. Go "like"
Step 2. Like or re-post one of my wall comments or updates.
Step 3. Send an email to and request either a mobi, pdf, or epub file format.

That's it!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mammoth Tenderloin

Boy could I use an apocalypse today. A horde of brain munchers pounding down my door would really  help distract me from life and put things in perspective. 

You know the worst part of having a bad day? Knowing that your drama is inconsequential and life is actually pretty damn good to you. I have a roof over my head, food in my belly, a loving family, and good health. That should be enough. That's all that really matters. But the thing is, no matter how many times you tell yourself that, it doesn't make you feel any better. It's part of the human condition. We always want more, we always want better. 

Wanting more and wanting better is not a bad thing. If humans didn't have the drive to learn, grow and improve we would still be living in a cave, chomping on raw meat. But sometimes I feel like sitting in a cave and chewing on mammoth parts might be better for my mental health. But then again, I wonder if I might be sitting in a cave, pissing and moaning about how Grog got the liver and tenderloin and I just got the leftovers.

Sigh. Such is life. Oh well ... tomorrow is another day and there will be more to follow. I'll just have to fight harder for my tenderloin the next time. 


Monday, November 5, 2012

Postpone the Apocalypse! Go Vote!

I make it a point to keep my politics separate from my work. Sure I  have my own set of beliefs, biases, ideals, and interests and they will always influence my writing. There is no way around it. These are things intrinsic to who we are and they shape everything that we do. But, I take care and make it a point not to thrust my political views upon anyone. I write to escape, to entertain, to thrill, not to lecture or sway. I may pontificate from time to time, but not to convince you that you are wrong and I am right.

But voting is not a partisan issue. I don't care who you vote for, just make sure that you do it. It is a far greater thing to vote and lose knowing that you participated than to sit idly by and let choices be made for you.

I know, I know. I can hear you now. "The system is broken." "One vote doesn't matter." "All politicians are full of shit." Yes, yes, I know. Trust me I know. I come from a teeny tiny state with only four electoral college votes and on top of that, they can split the vote. Yes, I am familiar with the feeling of insignificance.  But that is not the point.

The point is standing for something, no matter how hopeless, and taking responsibility for yourself. The day that we start relying on others to make the right decisions will also be the day that we lay out the red carpet and herald in the apocalypse.

Think of a post apocalyptic scenario. Pick one. Zombies. Plague. Nuclear war. Aliens. Whatever floats your boat. You have that vision? Now, what kind of government is there? Where are the polling stations? How many parties are there?

Huh? What's that you say? You see warlords, dictators, rule by the biggest gun and survival of the fittest. But what about the elephants and the donkeys? Gone you say?

Do you know why they are gone? Because people have given up. The dead walking the Earth? Big deal, that's a bad day, maybe a bad decade. Nuclear fallout? Yea, that's a bad century, maybe a bad millennium. But none of these scenarios become an Apocalypse until all hope is lost and we given up trying to survive.

I know what you're saying. "Fischer, you're crazy. You can't compare not voting to giving up on survival."

But here is my answer to you. If you don't have the fortitude to stand in line for ten minutes to check a little box to stand up for what you believe in, how the hell do you think your going to be able to stand up against a horde of undead trying to eat your face?


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Halloween Withdrawal

I don't know about you, but I am quite distraught that Halloween is over. It's the one time of year when it is socially acceptable to express your twisted and demented creativity. No one questions your gory creations or your violent prose. But 31 days is all we get. One short month to let loose and be accepted for the terrifying images that unfold within our imaginations.

It really isn't fair. Christmas gets to sprawl across the better part of four months and then sometimes even makes an appearance, for some strange reason, in July. Christmas is the holiday of charity, love, and kindness; and therefore you will be ostracized for trying produce anything evil or monstrous during Old Saint Nick’s reign. 

During the 31 glorious days leading up to All Hallow's Eve, we are gods; heralded for evoking nightmares and bringing our demons to life. But the rest of the year we are relegated to the dregs of society, considered merely low brow entertainment. 

"There is no class in horror," they say. "There is no skill required." 

I reject this sentiment. I will not be pigeonholed onto one page of the calendar. I will battle year round for the nightmares that dwell within us all. Stand with me and together we will fight the good fight! 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Part 6

Continued from Part 5

 Ox swings the door wide and stands in doorway, blocking my view. His curse is just barely audible. "Sir, this doesn't look good."

  "Proceed," Dragon answers. "Back in formation. Tighten up. No mistakes."

  Immediately, Squirrel and Otter fall into place on my right and left, Dragon falls back behind us. As Ox cautiously moves further into the Dungeon and away from the door, I begin to see what had him concerned.

  We enter onto the mezzanine that overlooks the laboratory called the Dungeon. I have no idea who it was that first started calling it the Dungeon, but it is fitting.

  It is a cavernous lab in the bowels of the building, filled with tools and machines only understood by the pasty engineers and scientists that call this place home.  One quadrant is filled with cages of an assortment of monkeys, rodents, and other test subjects that howl for their freedom. Other than the designated zoo, to the uninitiated, there is no rhyme or reason to the equipment scattered throughout the lab. There are dozens of computer work stations and everywhere that you look there are rows of test tubes or a mass of wires pulled from some unfinished project. Large constructs and machinery take up great swaths of the floor.  Cubical dividers are placed haphazardly; I imagine that their location changes daily at the whims of the Gods that rule this place. The creative genius of the minds at work in this space have to be allowed freedom to flex and move, to grow and contract.

  Today, it looks more like a dungeon than ever. It glows red with emergency lighting and it lacks the hustle and bustle of the brilliantly scatterbrained and perpetually distracted.There are signs of violence; shattered glass covers the cement floor where beakers and test tubes have been smashed. Workstations have been overturned and their contents left broken on the floor. But it is the bodies that make this place look like a mid-evil dungeon. The mezzanine is too high and the lighting too dim for me to see the details, but it doesn't take a coroner to identify a body as dead when it is sprawled unnaturally in a pool of dark liquid. From my perch I can see at least a dozen. From my knowledge of this place I know that that there must be more. A lot more.