The result of my second #bookstorewindow fiction writing exercise, inspired by the late Harlan Ellison, based on a writing prompt supplied by Lamia. Wrote it live on our Slack site in about an hour:

The bathysphere Anapos had descended to a depth of six miles into the Nyaban Abyss before the barbed tentacles looped around the cylindrical hull.

“What the hell is that?” James Clay, the pilot, looked over his shoulder at the marine biologist strapped into the seat behind him, hoping for an answer.

Dr. Moira Axlewright crinkled her nose as she adjusted her glasses and peered at the holovid monitor showing what it could (not much) of the beast. “It’s huge, whatever it is. Several hundred meters in length. Cephalopodic, most likely. Can you rotate for a better look?”

Clay’s eyes bugged. “Rotate? I can’t do a damned thing while it’s got us clamped like this!” He jabbed a finger at the monitor showing the craft’s vitals. “That monster’s pulling us deeper. Faster than the Anapos is designed to handle.”

“So ask it to stop,” Axlewright suggested.

The pilot barked a laugh. “You speak sea monster?”

“You keep calling it a monster,” she said. “What if it sees us as the monsters? What do you lose for trying?”

Clay frowned, but shrugged. He didn’t have much to lose except precious time as the bathysphere continued an accelerated plunge into the G’ahnlo ocean depths. The other option that occurred to him was screaming like a little girl, but why give up that last shred of dignity so soon?

“Fine,” he said, tapping out a sequence on the console to open a channel to broadcast a transmission into the surrounding water.

“Be sure to account for hydroacoustic factors,” Axlewright said. “Deep sound frequency.”

The pilot nodded, making the adjustment. Then he spoke into the transmitter: “Uh, hi. This is James Clay aboard the bathysphere Anapos. I’m here with another human. You’re about to kill us. Please don’t.”

A shudder ran through the craft as the creature unleashed a pained shriek. More tentacles lashed around the hull.

“We’re going faster!” Clay shouted, watching the pressure monitor spike.

“Could be something about this area amplifying the sound so that it’s painful for the creature,” Axlewright ventured, shoving the glasses back up the bridge of her nose. “Reduce transmission to 20 hertz.”

“That’s practically a whisper,” he growled. “What’s the point?”

“Just do it, Mr. Clay,” the scientist insisted. “Let me do the talking this time.”

He nodded again when the system was ready for her.

“Hello,” Axlewright said with an awkward smile the beast couldn’t see through the hull. “Sorry about Mr. Clay’s outburst. He’s not one of our brightest, but please don’t implode him.” The pilot shot her an angry look, seemed ready to cuss her out, but was interrupted by a lurching of the Anapos before the vessel slowed its descent. He looked at the monitor. Still in the red, but holding around seven miles deep.

A rumbling voice rattled the hull: “NOT SAFE DOWN HERE.” Lights flickered inside the bathysphere with each word. As if to punctuate the final word, sparks showered from a control board recessed into the ceiling above the pilot’s seat.

“No goddamned kidding,” Clay muttered.

“Can we ascend?” she asked.

He checked the systems diagnostics readout. “Shorted out five of ten batteries. Two of our six ascent jets got mangled by our new friend. But, yeah, we can make it back to the surface.”

“Good,” Axlewright replied. “Let’s head up for repairs.”

“Sure,” Clay said. He watched the sensor display, making certain that the alien cephalopod had fully released the Anapos and moved away. “Just as soon as you apologize for calling me dumb.”

“Oh, please,” the biologist said with a nervous laugh. “It worked.”

“Not nice,” he grumped.

“Maybe the techs can fix your ego while we’re at it,” Axlewright mused.