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Where to Live Any More: a short-fiction of the absurd

Last summer, I noticed a curious news item:

“At the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean … researchers have found lines of holes on the ocean floor – and they have no idea what caused them. The small holes are spaced fairly regularly, 4 or more inches apart … They ‘look human-made,’ the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Exploration project said.”

-- THE WEEK, August 19, 2022


Here is a pic of the holes, courtesy of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Ocean Explorer:



In some of the news sources, they added that NOAA was open to the public for ideas about the holes' source.


I wrote this little piece as a result. Sent it out to a few places, who each took months to respond, and now it feels a bit stale to me. I've hesitated to post it here after the recent Titan submersible tragedy, even though the piece is not connected, and its absurdity will be obvious to you, if you give it a go. Here goes, if you do:



DEEP TRENCH STATE

Mary Donovan / marymuffindonovan.com


Honestly? We thought no one would find us.


We talked it over, pros and cons. Could we do it -- work that remote? Cure ourselves of our “pathological altruism”?

(Me, before: Worked 140 hours this week, and it’s only Thursday.)

(Brooks, before: Haven’t slept in 5.58 days.)

We’re both accountants. So, totally telework.


The cons were few. Probably pretty dark down there, and chilly. Little sense of time passing.


We decided we could. We’d do our own planting. Live off the lan- woops. Live off the ocean floor. (We keep a Say “Land” Jar. One dollar, per.)


The Hadalpelagic Zone. Sounded exotic, even medicinal.


We could poke some holes, grow some basic sea-cucumbers -- who couldn’t? Fight off (or eat) a few tube-worms, whatever they were. Pioneers, here in mid-life, me and the hubs.

Meanwhile, we’d wash away the burnout, the traffic, the noise, all state-and-federal-taxes. We looked forward to the isolation of it. Grass is always greener, yum?


When we first got here, me and Brooks were like, “Ahh. No stress.” That’s what we said, every day, however long we thought a day lasted, in a deep, dark trench.


Tell you one thing: we did not miss those “heat domes” back in Chico. Didn’t miss the flash floods, or droughts, or the next Greek-alphabet variant of some tangle of proteins. Not the threat of monkeypox, or whatever-else next. Polio? Dengue? Malaria? Before we knew it, Banff would be “tropical.”


No love lost for supply-chain issues or war-torn nuclear threats. Not the Florida of it all. Maybe mostly not that.


Also! Not the skinny 14-year-old’s drone, hovering over our lawn chairs, out back. (We needed to store up some Vitamin D. We deserved privacy. Cops said they needed ‘intent to harm.’) Too many drone-kids.


And turns out, Hadalpelagic tube-worms? Almost tasty. A source of protein, we imagined. Also, tiny transparent shrimp, or something like shrimp. We swallowed those inadvertently, just out for a slo-mo walk.


Soon, though, into our paradise, other Californians. Then a handful from Texas, Illinois, New York, Toronto. Everyone kept their distance at first, staking out their plot of land- (damn, running out of cash for the jar).


Everyone poked their own holes. Everyone planted, teleworked, nodded. Real civil. “Morning,” we’d say in the dark, guessing.


Soon, though. “Cukes coming in for ya?” neighbors started to ask. “Catch any see-through gastropods today, haha?”


Me and Brooks, we’d skid to a float, and wonder why they asked. We’d say, “Hey.” Trying to sound casual and vague.


Should we have brought guns down here, maybe harpoons?


We don’t even know how guns work. We’re CPAs. We brought our basic garden tools. And those would have to do, come hell or high water. Hella-deep water.


All of us transplants, still thinking: at least no one will find us here. Until.


Late-July (we guessed): Brooks, he spotted lights. Jules-Verne sci-fi type of lights, but from a cute little vessel like a blowfish. Took a minute for our eyes to adjust to seeing something, some real thing in front of us.


“Bet that’s Noah,” he said.


Had to laugh. “One damn deep Ark, right there.”


“No, babe,” he said. “N-O-A-A.”


Oh. Right. We’d forgotten all about scientists. So had the other Californians, Torontonians, and Bushwickers.


There are people who do this, not what we did. Who explore – not to settle down, just to look for things, out there somewhere. Possibly interesting things, to look at.


Scientists who swoop into where someone actually already lives. And just -- without consent -- take pics. Of our secret homestead here. Pics that could end up who knew where, on deep, chilly webs of where.


Brooks said scientists are wusses, for using robots. Remote observers. Hades-level drones. Whoa, wet drones.


So. We’re looking around. Some other plot of undersea crust to call home, do some fresh poking and planting. An even-remoter trench, maybe in the Bathypelagic. Because what the heck -- long as we’re together.


Yesterday, a neighbor said, “You know that one rich dude is scoping out Mars.” He flashed his eyebrows, we guessed.


Me and Brooksie? We talked it over that night, which felt like a night after those floating lights.


We say Nah to the Mars. There’s no place like home.

END



Grateful for your reading, as always, and for a bit of absurd fiction, to boot. Also, a big hug to NOAA, and to our watery, mystery-rich planet,

Muffin


(also courtesy NOAA Ocean Explorer; red dots span about 4 inches)




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