Dunderheaded Fool

20 Apr

At long last, Professor Wilks had the funding he needed to explore the underwater temple far to the south, in Mapicha.  After a night of drinking to celebrate with his wife and closest friends, he departed with two of his assistants and a dive team for the Southern Continent.  They flew by jet, and the leagues disappeared behind them quickly.

Professor Wilks was thankful when the jet arrived and sank slowly to the ground on the landing pad.  They landed just in time to avoid flying in the approaching storm, and were grateful for the nearby shelter of the small airport’s building.

After some tea, the storm still had not passed.  It only became stronger the longer they stayed.

Finally, two days in, Professor Wilks made an announcement. “We’re leaving this afternoon.  We are growing more and more late.  We do intend to be back home before the end of the summer, correct?” He shot a smile at the assembled crew and hefted his sack onto his shoulder. “Shall we go?  If we take the heavy truck, we should arrive to the lake without much issue, and we’ll have to use our deep diving gear.  I don’t trust a snorkel in a storm.”

The crew laughed uneasily at his casual manner.  The windows rattled loudly in the wind, and the rain was torrential.  They could barely see through it, and various thuds and thumps sounded from the ceiling.  The crew remained seated.

“We’ll wait this out, thank you sir.” The medic, a young woman named Karen, spoke first. “It is too unsafe.  There is hail, no visibility, and a high probability that our plane blew away in the wind four hours ago.”

The professor paused. “Oh.  I suppose we should wait.” He sighed and sat back down and looked up at the flickering lights. “At least I can get some more reading done-“

Just as he spoke, a loud crash came from above, and the lights went out.

The dive technician growled. “That was kind of stupid to say, Wilks.” He spat to one side. “Ain’t you ever heard of old Murphy?”

“Murphy’s law?  That’s just a myth.  It was only a coincidence.” The professor chuckled and lit a match from his pocket. “Let’s look around for candles, or perhaps a generator room.” He tilted his head to one side. “I think I would much prefer the generator room.  I hear it gets very hot here, even during storms.” He ran his arm over his forehead, then glanced down at the damp smear. “Come along.  Our legs could use the exercise.”

Karen sighed. “That sounds much better than running out into the weather.” She rose to follow him, and paused to stretch.  As she rose to her toes with one arm up high and the other holding it in place, the lights flicked back on.

The dive technician laughed. “Short walk.” The rest of the expedition party laughed and settled back in.

The storm passed after three days, and the company departed.  The jet was gone, and there was nothing to do, but to move forward with the exploration.  The lake they arrived at was wide and almost perfectly round and eerily clear.

“What’s the depth on this?” The dive technician asked as he looked into the water.  He scowled at the clear liquid and spat into it.  The spit dispersed quickly as he turned and walked back to the hastily-erected camp. “I don’t like the look of that water.  There’s nothing growing there that should be.”

“What do you mean, Jacques?” Karen frowned and walked to the edge, followed by Wilks and two others.  She looked in. “Wow.  It doesn’t look very deep.” She stepped forward, prepared to wade.  Instead, the steep drop sent her right into the water.  She surfaced with a red face. “So much for wading near the shore.” She groaned as the massive demolitions expert pulled her from the water with one hand.

The giant bomb-man grunted and set her down. “Idiot.” He walked away, leaving the medic to her blushing as the frizzy-headed communications expert laughed and helped Karen wring out her hair.  Wilks tried not to snicker.  It wasn’t wise to laugh at the misfortune of those who could save his life if things went awry.

“Let’s get you a towel.” he offered as he walked away, followed by Karen and Lizzie.

The next morning, everyone donned their diving suits and went into the lake.  The men helped pull a waterproof crate that was halfway empty, and the women carried their equipment down into the warm, clear water.  As the last person submerged, the sky above began to grow cloudy.

Big rain drops fell to the surface of the lake, and the crew looked up, then went farther down.  Resurfacing now seemed silly, and Wilk was already at the barren bottom, looking around.  It was flat and even, and another nearly-perfect circle.  With the light dimmed by the clouded skies, everyone lit a small light on their helmets and began to sweep the floor and sides of the deep, drum-like lake.

It took very little time to find a cave entrance. Wilks swam ahead and signalled the others to follow as his eager flippers propelled him forward.  Jacques followed him closely, and the others trailed behind, shooting concerned glances at each other, uncertain of their safety as they followed the professor into the black cave.

The farther they went, the narrower the cave became, until they had to abandon their crate to continue.  The cave continued to narrow, until the huge explosives expert could no longer fit through.

Carefully, they enlarged the cave with hammers and small, waterproof charges until everyone and the crate could fit through to the quickly widening cavern beyond.

Everything was going so well, until Karen saw something out of the corner of her eye and turned, only to spot an eel with a mouth larger than she was.  She had no time to warn the others before she was gone, and the creature withdrew.

As the storm ended, only Wilks emerged, panting and bloodied.


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