It was the kind of thing adrenaline junkies live for, and contrary to what the diving instructors of Acona will tell you, it most certainly was not an urban legend. The signs, put up along the shore over the years cautioning everyone to stay away from The Big Black Hole just added to the excitement. According to the newspaper archives sixty-six divers had been down there before, with only one surviving to return with most of his mind turned to jelly. He takes up residence on the beach now, sitting in an old tent sort of like the people you see outside the White House with signs plastered all over their little huts. He spends his days begging people not to go too far into the water. Divers from all over the world came to see this man, the man that “conquered” The Black” as he called it. Most of the time they were met with a mixture of confusion and disappointment. The papers made this guy seem like a national treasure, some bright-eyed reporter in the early forties fibbing most of the story so he could get the front page” Magic Jack survives The Black”, it became his unwanted slogan. They said he was down there for almost twelve minutes. When the paramedics revived him he had clawed at their faces, pointing to the water and shrieking with wide eyes “there’s a thing in there”. He emphasized each word as if it were his last before collapsing into convulsions; the people in the village chalked it up to oxygen depravation.
Jack Onen would walk up and down the shore everyday and shake his head violently, his hands convulsing from years of drinking and frayed nerves. He would hold up old newspapers with the deaths of other divers, only putting it down to beg the latest idiots to stop; turn around and get goddamn home. He used to be a marine, and the reporter had used that to make up some story that he had been treasure hunting, wanting a new fix after the thrill of war. It had made the diving instructors of the area a pretty penny, taking out lovers on their honeymoons around the coast looking for gold. In reality, Jack had never liked any kind of thrill at all, but I’ll get to that later. The first few times he failed, and he felt that thing, that horrible thing, he would weep. He wept as the divers got their boats and went out there, six miles out to the place where “The Thing” lived. After awhile he would just watch, and eventually he didn’t even do much of that.
People who got their information for travel sites would often mistaken a slightly smaller coral reef for The Black. The diving instructors had this whole routine of getting thrill seekers to sign these phony release papers, and then taking them out to a docile coral reef. One of the real swindlers had put a sign up saying “The Black” but you couldn’t fool the ones that came for that hole, they always knew. The diving instructors wouldn’t even rent the material to those guys if they realized the Black Hole they were going to was in fact The Black. They would shoo them off, or offer their fishing boats for sale, but not even those idiots were dumb enough to take a chance on that place. The latest guy, Allen Teherel, decided he was gonna do it. The serious ones brought all their own gear, and this guy brought some sort of camera to capture the whole thing on damn video.
He was one of those guys, tall and rich looking. The kind that took expensive watches to poor places because either he thought he couldn’t get mugged or he didn’t care if he did. He was the type the girls in the village flocked to, hoping for a one-way ticket out of Brazil via some hoity toity American. He ended up at the single fancy restaurant the night before his dive, talking up the local gold-diggers and telling them what kind of treasure he hoped to find, what kind of treasure everyone else had failed to find.
He wore a white shirt with six or seven buttons undone, a piece of work right? Three of the women were sitting at his table, feeding him and stroking his hair. Jack watched, as he always did, from just outside the establishment and hid himself behind a tree. The diving instructors didn’t g this guy, he had bought a boat right off old Diego for double what it was worth after he refused to take him out to the hole. Everyone had treated the guy like a king ever since, hoping to get a piece of the pie. Jack had even seen the housekeepers taking inventory of his stuff for when he didn’t come back.
The weather would be perfect for the dive, Jack knew this for certain; the wind would be nonexistent, the sand undisturbed until at least three in the afternoon and the sun would be shining all day. The black liked to give its victims a nice final day. Jack knew it, and deep down, this idiot knew it too.
The man rose from his seat at the table, taking with him two of the girls and leaving one behind. He seemed to enjoy that experience more than either of the women on his arms. He swayed out of the restaurant, beads of sweat on his forehead. “Idiot”, Jack hissed, before going back to his hut.
People who come to Acona think they choose to take the dive, or at least that’s what they inevitable tell the one reporter who is forced to do this tired old story year after year. They’ll say they were drawn to the adventure, but there was no adventure here. The dive is a fools errand, of course it is. The thing has its own gravitational pull, the water equivalent of quicksand. Nobody in their right mind takes that dive, and he has come to realize that nobody who does is.
The dive had come to him in a dream, years ago. He didn’t even know what it was. Fresh out of the Second World War, he relished in his quiet existence, in his bed, in sex. The dive had just come to him one night. He saw it like he was really there. The ocean, the boat, his way down, the obscured riches lying right at the bottom. He tried to forget about the thing, tried to go on with his life but he found he couldn’t get the gaping hole out of his head. He didn’t even care about the riches at the bottom, he just needed to get there, he needed to. And soon everyday, as he was pouring coffee or making love it was all he could see; blackness, whether he was awake or asleep.
He cant really even explain how he knew to go there, how he knew exactly where it was or what he had to do, his memory from that time is blurred. It was almost as if he came to right as he hit the water. He vaguely remembers buying a plane ticket and making up some excuses as to why he had to go alone, but it all kind of echoed even now, it all blended together.
The thing was larger than he could comprehend, and even though he wasn’t very deep, the water took on a sudden thickness, obscuring his sight almost completely. He could see something black, faintly outlined, almost like a hand outstretched telling him to come. It was quick after that. A hand pushed violently at his back, and he was falling, down and down and down into this never-ending thing. He was suspended in water that felt frozen, unable to move any part of his body, his vision suddenly clearing to see a hundred others like him in various states of decomposition suspended from nothing, chunks removed from flesh and mouths held open in the middle of a last breath. He couldn’t remember why he had come there, why the thing seemed so important, but he realized he did not choose the thing, the thing chose him.
The thing wanted him to feel fear, wanted him to struggle. The suspended bodies were all writhed and splayed in grotesque positions. He couldn’t breathe and he could not struggle. A black arm came around his throat, and wisps of arms and legs and hands were all over him, ripping at his clothes and opening his mouth and clawing at his skin.
He doesn’t remember much after that, just waking up floating along the shore, his scuba suit missing, his body covered in black bruises and long diagonal gashes. It took two days to find him, and when they did they chalked up his injuries to some kind of animal, his crazy talk to dehydration. For a while everything went back to normal, he went back to his life, he went back to his wife. But it wasn’t long before the blackness started coming again. This time hands and arms and legs and mouths whispering in his ear “come back to us” “come back to us”. And every time the thing got someone else he could hear it. The screams and the pain and the breaking of bones and the clawing of flesh pounding in his ears, the pressure from the lack of air building up in his chest.
“The thing chooses you”. He told this to that idiot with the big watch when he came by his tent, he knew he wouldn’t listen anyway. He had been there for forty years, renegaded to this spot in the hopes that he would be able to evade that feeling just one time. Two divers on average went in every year, and twice a year he died and came back to life again with a little more of his mind missing. Of course they did not listen, they couldn’t.
The sun rose, as it always did, and the old man was shoved awake by an incessant pounding in his chest that he knew all too well. He could feel it, the adrenaline the fancy-watch-man was feeling. He could feel Allen Teherels heart beating faster and faster as he put on his suit, as he strapped his breathing mask onto his face. It ain’t gonna help, the old man said again to the air, and he swore he could hear The Thing laughing at him from across the room. He rose, trying his best to calm down his still heavily beating heart before going to his post. He looked this time at all the red signs, thinking of all the times he had gone to the city council to have them put up there, how they hadn’t listened until the seventh guy died. Every solitary day of his life was wrapped up in this place, every sidelong glance, every stupid kid who comes to talk to him about surviving the trip, every time he died and came back to life again. The fancy-watch-man was getting close now, the old man could see the boat just off the horizon, the diver pausing before he jumped, the blackness of the water swallowing him whole.
And just like clockwork he was right down there again, back in the claws of The Thing. He felt for his throat, his breathe becoming lost, his body cold. He saw an entire life before his eyes, a child and a woman and a whole life and fear and pain and regret, and then nothing. The thing and him had this sort of back and forth. He had gone back himself, dozens of times; begging The Thing to just kill him, to get it over with.
He used to yell at the goddamn water; “WHY, WHY AM I STILL HERE”, he would yell into the abyss spitting out scotch from the bottle and periodically bursting into tears. He sat on the floor, the same pistol he bought some twenty years ago in his hand. He put the thing in his mouth, like he always does, and he begged, begged the thing to just let him go, before everything went black.