Another Alpha draft.
They caught it on some deep sea camera back in November. In the Mariana Trench the papers said. YouTube went nuts for it and the science team in charge of the camera got on all the late news shows. Someone funded an expedition and by early March two men in what looked like a kids’ bath toy went down and found it.
That is how all this started.
I play the recording again. It’s an interview with John Lawkin, the lead scientist that went down into the trench. It seems like a cop out to say that the noise isn’t human, because it is. It’s just not language. It sounds like the mewling of an animal or the misfiring of a body’s biological processes.
Lawkin snapped three days after coming back from the expedition. He was being interviewed by someone from the national geographic. Just beat her head open against the corner of the desk. He went on the run and inside of an hour he killed another woman.
Since we brought him in we’ve noticed a change. He’s started talking this gibberish. The recording’s over an hour long, Lawkin’s choking sounds his only response to the interviewer’s questions.
I’ve been listening to Lawkin’s recording for the last two days on a loop; when the recording stops, I just play it again. It’s like I’m hoping to hear something that makes sense.
We pulled his wife in after he ran away. He’d only been back three days, but he’d managed to rape her until her sanity cracked. He’d used a bat, a bottle, and his own teeth. I don’t know what can make a man do that to a woman he loves. She’s in a safe place now, drugged into an almost permanent sleep.
The recording stops. I sip my cold coffee and press play once again.
When we brought him in we found what he’d done to his house. It was covered top to bottom in shit, smears of it all over the walls in long and looping swirls. One of the techs said that it looked like writing. Ain’t no writing I know of that uses hand prints and spirals for letters. I’ve got half a dozen pictures of it, all neatly clipped together in the file on my desk.
The rest of the team that went with Lawkin have all gone missing. The Bureau went to try and pick them up for interview’s after Lawkin went nuts but all they found were shit smeared walls and blood.
I’ve got a picture of what they found down at the bottom of the trench. One of the rookies must have included it in the file. It’s not very clear, just an underwater camera shot from the optics on their submarine. It’s just a blurry shape in the darkness. Maybe the suggestion of tentacles and eyes. I remember something similar from when I read the original piece in The National Geographic.
My coffee tastes bad, like the milk has turned.
I need something stronger. The clock says its half past ten. I should get home to Laura. She’ll be worried.
The recording clicks and burbles away as I sit in my chair and look at the computer screen.
I’m not sure why I’m still here. I’ll go home when the recording ends.
Lawkin could lead us to the rest of his twelve man team. If they’re anything like him then I dread to think what they might have done by now.
We’ve got people out looking for them but I have a feeling that the only way we’ll catch them is by piecing together this recording. I’m the Bureau’s man for languages so, naturally, they gave me the job. I’ve had it for two days and still nothing. It isn’t even words, not the way I hear them. It’s just flat sloppy noises mixed in with wobbly throat noises. It’s a collection of sounds rather than words.
But there is a pattern. I can hear it. I tried running it through a pieces of dictation software, but that didn’t work. Currently, I’m writing it down.
My eyes are getting tired. My hands are stiff. I drink some more of my cold coffee that tastes like the smell of a chum bucket. I should just throw the stuff away and make a fresh cup.
I find the picture back in my hand, the picture that was taken from the submersible. I still can’t see what got people so excited. It’s just a shape made up of darker patches and lighter patches. Bits of it look like eyes and bits of it look like tentacles and I bet if you squint real hard you’ll see…
I look down at the word I’ve written. Eater. The word sits bracketed by the jumbles of letters and syllables that are my best attempt to transcribe the recording.
I look back at the picture. I look at the words I’ve written. I see ‘Eater’ there more than once. I see ‘World’ and ‘Concept’ and ‘Being’ and ‘Understanding’ and ‘Higher Order’ all mixed in with the random jumble of letters.
Am I having a breakthrough?
I keep looking at the picture, letting my ears and hand do the transcription whilst my eyes and mind keep fixed on the photograph. Perhaps there is more there that I haven’t seen before. I turn on my desk lamp.
Maybe there are more things here? It’s not just a fucked up magic eye after all. I’ll bet that it’s just seaweed or something, but I swear I can see tatooes on one of those tentacles, or what I think is a tentacle.
I look back at my words.
My hand writing, never the best, has started to stray and meander across the page. That’s fine, I’ll type it all up later.
New words amid the mess. Hope. Freedom. Idea.
I study the picture. I wish I had another copy. I open up a new browser on my computer. I type, my fingers feeling, I don’t know, cold? I search ‘Lawkin expedition’ under images. Almost all of the pictures show stills from news reels or press photos and films, showing Lawkin and his crew, all smiles, as they step off the boat. I search for the original video, hoping that it can show me more than just the picture on my desk.
It takes me a long time, but I find it. YouTube seems to have taken it down.
I watch it. I keep transcribing the snarled proto speak coming from the recording.
More words. How. Love. Beast. Him.
A sentence fragment. ‘…of being all at once and never…’
I keep watching, my hand alive of its own accord. Another sentence fragment.
‘…not real, but all-real, true real…’
I see the impression of tentacles, of moving things that float and swim and curl. I look back to the picture. I see them more clearly, and yes, there are tattoos, coiled like the sucker spotted tentacles themselves around its skin.
There are eyes, or the impression of eyes.
A whole sentence.
‘The truth is that we are in the process of becoming and ending all at once.’
Language is such a crude form for this, I find myself thinking. What are these words, but the imperfect rendition of thought? Thought is by far a more complete and better structured form of communication. Language is limited, impure, forever trapped between meaning, use, cognition, and the relationship between the mind and reality.
In the picture I defiantly see an eye. No, an eye filled with eyes.
Words, the entire endeavour of language, seek to explain what it means to “mean” something. The nature of synonymy, the origins of meaning itself, and how any meaning can ever really be known? How can we ever truly understand?
Here I am, tired, hungry and feeling increasingly sick, investigating the manner in which sentences are composed into a meaningful whole out of their near meaningless parts.
A whole paragraph.
“The oldest human emotion is fear and the fear of the unknown is the greatest of all.” That is what words do, they put a collar on the unknown, they name the monsters that we imagine in the darkness in an attempt to conquer the unknown.
To seek, to seek and understand what speakers and listeners do with language in communication, and how it is used. How does language relate to the minds of both the speaker and the interpreter? How do we successfully translate words into other words?
I see more in the pictures. More movement. More swirls, more moving spirals, more words that are rendered meaningless by incomplete concepts. The idea of eyes, rendered in both flesh and sound.
There are truths written in the images, written and communicated in ways that language cannot understand or convey. I see it now. Language and meaning relate to truth. The images are truth, I see that now.
I have a page of words, words I can read. My handwriting spirals and loops in mad ways, my eyes having never left the image on screen or from the photo on my desk. I see eyes, my own eyes, or the idea of eyes within eyes in the shadowed folds that spill and pool like ink in water.
Human beings, with our limited faculties, can never fully understand. Understand what? Understand all things, of course!
The recording clicks to a stop.
My heart beats slowly into the void of un-noise.
I look back down at the page. My page of notes.
I can read it all. I can read the words that I have transcribed even though they do not read in any comprehendible way. Better to say then that I understand them.
I press play on the recording once more.
My eyes feel sore, my left hand a locked fist, the photograph still clutched there.
I hear John Lawkin. I hear him, but more importantly, I understand him, even though he makes noise rather than words. I understand him, perhaps, in the same way that we understand the physics of the universe; the cold grasp of gravity, the logical relentlessness of atomic spin. It is possible he is speaking the language of universal laws rendered audible, mathematics and intent produced in the form of their true names, the sound of themselves in both concept and action in fact.
“We found him because he called. He wanted us to know. He is ready to begin his task and we have our new purpose. We must run his prey to the ground. We have become his hounds and beaters and huntmasters. The time is coming for him to devour the Tentacled King, urge the dreaming ones into wrathful nightmare and set R’lyeh aflame beneath the sea. He let us know his name. He spoke it into our minds and we delighted in his trust. He is the All. The Every. The Positive and the Negative. The Force Between the Atomic Structure. The Eater.”