The Devil's Trinity
By Michael Parker
When I was a young man, I devoured Denis Wheatley novels, always enjoying the thrill and excitement, and sometimes fear, that he conjured up. In his book, THEY FOUND ATLANTIS, the main characters find themselves trapped in a bathysphere; a kind of bubble shaped submarine, on the sea bed. There was no way out of their predicament: they were doomed. But of course, they did survive. That particular scenario always fascinated me, and when I wrote THE DEVIL’S TRINITY, I took a leaf out of Wheatley’s book and trapped my main character, Harry Marsham, known as Marsh to his friends, in a submersible on the sea bed. Marsh is the pilot of a submersible which has been clamped to a well-head by the bad guys. Unknown to Marsh was the fact that the submersible’s escape system had been sabotaged. Marsh realises he has been double-crossed when the divers leave him to his fate. He is trapped in the cockpit with all the life support systems running on a diminishing battery power. Marsh knows there is no way out of his dilemma: he is doomed. No-one, other than the villains, knows where he is. There is no way of finding him or contacting him. And as his oxygen levels drop, and the power meters move towards zero, there seems no way out.
Writing that scene was a challenge as a writer to try and get the feel of Marsh’s situation into the reader’s mind so that the question of how would not be obvious. Not that I intended it to be. Remember: Marsh was on his own and had no way of contacting anyone on the surface, and no-one on the surface (apart from the bad guys), knew where he was. And no; I didn’t let the villains have a change of heart: Marsh was on his own.
Marsh sat slumped in his seat, the agony of despair and hopelessness weighing on him like a physical burden. He stared at the instrument panel without seeing it. The images in his mind were not those in front of him, but dark, coalescing images of revenge and despair. He wanted to reach up and tear the black heart from Hakeem Khan, from Malik, from Batista, from them all. But he could not; he had no hope. Even while his heart beat strongly within him, he knew this would be the end. He lifted his head and breathed in a sigh of deep despair and closed his eyes. Now there was only blackness where there should have been light.
Beneath the dark waters he imagined the warmth of the sun in his mind; its caress like the touch of a woman. He rolled his head back and imagined the fragrance of flowers, of new mown grass, all offering a pleasure as tangible and apposite as the fear now crawling round in his belly.
He blinked and shut the hallucinatory images from his mind, bringing it to bear on the dreadful predicament he was in. He knew there was no way out of his prison and he knew that there was no way Khan would return to rescue him from his misery. He was cocooned in an environment that was designed to support life yet ironically it was holding him in a deadly embrace and eventually he would die.
Marsh wondered what death would be like. Would he succumb to insanity before death took him? Would he grow weary and eventually suffocate in his own, exhaled carbon dioxide? Would he just fall asleep and not wake? Would he be given the last, immeasurable pleasure of being with Helen, even if only in a dream?
He shook his head vigorously and snapped out of it and began to apply his mind to the problem again. He knew that to give up so soon was to accept the inevitability of death. He checked the power meters; the instruments that told him how much longer Challenger’s own batteries would last and how much oxygen was left in the cockpit.
He knew that if the oxygen content fell below a dangerously low level, the automatic valves of the oxygen bottles would bleed a steady amount of life giving gas into the bubble’s atmosphere so that life could be sustained until an orderly recovery or rescue could be carried out.
But if the submersible’s power became low and unstable, there was a risk that the bottles could eventually pressurise the cockpit and kill him.
He began to shut down various systems that were no longer need to conserve battery power. He extinguished the low grade cockpit lighting, relying instead on the glow from the instrument panel.
After about two minutes of technical distraction, he found himself devoid of ideas and things to do. He knew the was no hope of anyone finding him on the sea bed, so his last hours would be painfully slow and would probably end in insanity.
“Damn you Khan!” he shouted suddenly. “Why didn’t you just put a bullet in me?”
His shoulders sagged and he slumped back in his seat. That was the first sign of the loss of control. How long would it be, he wondered, before he was clawing at the smooth walls of the bubble in a manic, pitiful attempt to escape? He let his mind drift again, peering out into the deep, mindful yet mindless.
How long Marsh sat in torpid despair, he didn’t know, but suddenly he sat up straight. The diving tanks! God in heaven, why didn’t he think of it?
Marsh kicked himself for not thinking of it earlier but put that down to his state of mind. He forced himself to think clearer now because he believed this would be his best chance of getting out of this alive. By blowing the water from the diving tanks and the decompression chamber, he would lighten the load and greatly increase lift, and the upward thrust of the air, less the weight of the water, should overcome the force of the clamps.
He began switching Challenger back on to full power. He knew he was taking a chance because of the drain on the batteries, but it was his only hope. Once the computer signalled that all systems were operational. Marsh keyed in the commands that would open the air valves. He listened to the rush of compressed air leaving their cylinders and flowing into the diving tanks and the decompression chamber.
All at once the sea boiled around him as the Challenger purged herself of the surplus sea water, and something moved beneath him as the enormous thrust of air fought to break the power of the clamps.
“Come on, damn you” he mumbled through clenched teeth. “Come on!”
He could feel Challenger straining at every limb to break free of the deadly grip of the clamps.
“Come on,” he urged again. “Get up, get up!”
He moved his body, pounding the seat with his own weight as if to add impetus to the mighty struggle going on beneath him.
“For God’s sake, Challenger, break free damn you! Break free!”
The noise of the rushing air reached a crescendo of sound and then began to subside until finally the pressure in the tanks and the decompression chamber reached that of the air cylinders.
“No, don’t stop now!” he beseeched her. “Not now! Please, not now!”
Challenger seemed to give one last desperate heave and then succumbed to the awesome strength of the clamps.
She didn’t move.
“No. Oh God, no” Marsh looked around him imploringly. “Please Challenger, please. Don’t let me down. Please.”
But Challenger had lost the battle, surrendering herself to the deadly embrace of the clamps.
Marsh stopped shouting and cursing. His mouth fell open as tears streamed down his face. He could taste the salt on his lips and he kept blinking the wetness from his eyes. His head fell forward into his hands and he kept asking ‘why?’
He cried alone in his tiny world; a ball of encircling light, holding life like a baby in the womb, suspended in dark waters. He cried until there were no tears left to cry and soon his mind closed down and he drifted off into the merciful world of sleep.
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