“The Steel Tomb” Horror by Ricardo D. Rebelo

"The Steel Tomb" Horror by Ricardo D. Rebelo

The morning sun burst through the clouds creating golden Roman columns of light as far as the eye could see.No highways out here or skyscrapers, no city lights to contaminate the sky at night allowing for the galaxy’s canopy to blanket you. 

Beneath all of this was the Robert Baker a former Norwegian whaling vessel that was currently commissioned to do the very opposite of what it was intended. The Baker all 200 tons and 200 feet of it had been purchased with a generous donation from a millionaire by the Sea Angels, a group formed to stop whaling all over the world but for the most part in the Antarctic Sea. Here the Baker hunted the last of the world’s whaling fleet which came almost exclusively from Japan.

This day as the sun began to burn off the morning mists Carlos Santos stood watch on the forward sponson. Even with the sun coming up the chill in the air cut through his parka and bones as if they had no substance at all. He may have well been wearing a robe made of tissue for all the good it did. The Baker was close to finding its prey so Santos would stay on watch until hypothermia set in if that was what it took to see the Japanese whaler.

Santos had graduated from Miskatonic University with a doctorate in biochemistry. He could have easily taken job-creating food additives that would have made him very rich. Instead, Carlos chose to work for slave wages on a ship that hunted whalers. The Baker did not defend the cetaceans with guns and bullets, The Sea Angels was a peaceful organization that abhorred violence. Their mission was to remind the whalers of the evils of taking from the earth more than what was needed. The Barker had spotted Chikuzen Maru, a giant whaling ship out of Shimonoseki Harbor in Tokyo, Japan. 

 A small boat was dropped from the Baker to try to close the distance between the Maru and the whale. Santos stood on the deck holding a handful of butyric acid in an attempt to try to lob it far enough to the other ship. Butyric acid is essentially rotten butter. The plan was to contaminate the deck of the ship so that they are unable to process the whale. The Japanese had learned to become completely indifferent to the Baker and the Sea Angels as a whole. The crew would turn water cannons on the small craft until it could no longer pursue while the other sailors caught and processed the whales. 

At that moment a spearman on the forecastle of the whaling ship locked a harpoon into place and began to aim at the massive whale. He shot the harpoon at the back of the behemoth. A gout of black bile erupted from the wound. The gunner looked behind him and gave a thumbs up to the captain on the bridge of the Maru. The creature stopped moving. The black Icor spewed like an exploded oil derrick. The whale began to sink.  Santos was frozen in terror. He had seen many whales fall to Japanese ships but this was different. Something seemed wrong.

The sailors on the Maru made their way up to the bow of the ship preparing to retrieve their prize. At this time the Baker’s small scout ship had reached the port side of the ship and was attempting to lob bottles of the butyric acid onto the deck. Santos could see that the cable which was connected to the harpoon was becoming taught. “My God,” he said to himself, “The cable beginning to pull the ship down on its port side.”

No whale, no creature born of the sea has the power to drag down a Japanese whaling ship of that size. Something was coming out of the water. It began to wrap itself around the cable. Carlos’ eyes began to ache as he strained to see what could be possibly crawling up the line. And then it dawned on him, it was a tentacle. Not like any he had ever seen before. It had an iridescent color that betrayed any single shade in the spectrum. It looked magical coming out of the steel blue and seafoam of the ocean. 

The tentacle had reached the massive speargun. The Gunner was frozen in terror. He had always been on the dominant side of the violence but today his luck would breathe its last gasp as the tentacle writhed in front of him and then penetrated the gunner through his groin and up out of his mouth. The creature impaled him and began to writhe even more shaking the body back and forth until it paused and flexed, engorging itself and causing the gunner’s body to erupt in a spasm of gore. Once the monster was relieved of the crew member the tentacle wrapped itself around the harpoon gun and ripped it off the deck.

The crew of the Maru was scrambling to deal with the massive hole left on the port side of the ship that was created by the unceremonious removal of the harpoon. 

Santos ran into the wheelhouse of Robert Baker. Captain Oliveira was looking out the windows with his mouth agape. His hands were so tight on the wheel that the half-moons of his knuckles were bleached white. “Captain,!” Carlos shouted and the entire bridge crew turned to him. “Call back the small boats!” Carlos insisted, “Captain!” but he was frozen with shock. 

Just at that moment, a sound erupted in the air. A sound deep, sonorous, and deafening rumbled and shook everything. The windows on the bridge of the Robert Baker cracked. Santos put his hands against his ears to try to muffle the noise but to no avail. He was leaning up against a hole where the port side window had been when Santos saw the whaling ship being wrapped in tentacles that were as long as city blocks and four decks tall. Once it had been completely wrapped the tentacles dragged the ship into the abyss. At some point, it cracked in half and the bow and stern came rushing to meet each other. The pressure of all of this created a massive wake coming directly at the Robert Baker. 

Carlos’ mind kicked into gear and he ran to the aft of the bridge and down the ladder onto the next deck and into a large empty cargo area. He could feel the ship listing heavily to one side, knocking him into the bulkhead. Carlos found the energy to dog the watertight door and then collapsed onto the floor which was once the ceiling.

For an undeterminable amount of time, Santos swam into the abyss of unconsciousness. Slowly the black veil began to part and he could feel the world around him freefalling slowly. It took him a moment to remember where he was. He was on the Baker. His mind looked for more answers like what happened? The monster ate the Maru and the wake ate the Baker so he was somewhere in the hold of a dying ship in the grips of the frozen Arctic ocean. But how can he be alive? Was he alive? The pain in his bleeding ears from the pressure of the fathoms trying to crush the Baker was the answer. He was very much alive. The bulkheads around him were screaming. They too were in a fight for their lives one that inevitably they would lose. Carlos could feel the ship continue to freefall. The pressure continued to build and then almost mercifully the Baker hit bottom. The momentum caused Santos to hop in the air for a moment and all around him sounds of steel being crushed and rendered loose from the hull created a symphony of destruction. He took a few deep breaths to try to steady himself. Closing his eyes Santos tried to imagine himself lying on a beach with the sun warming him. While he was trying to mediate his way back to lucidity he heard a noise that could not possibly be genuine. Across the room was the hatch that he used to lock himself into the bulkhead. By dogging it he inadvertently created the air-tight compartment that kept him alive as the Barker itself entombed itself at the bottom of the sea. But the sound, the sound was that of someone or something attempting to open the hatch. Could it be one of his shipmates that against all odds survived the freefall? The hatch creaked a bit more and he could see the wheel begin to turn. Who on earth could it be? Santos felt his sanity slowly swim away on a wave of horror, Who the hell could be out there? The steel continued to screech and moan as the wheel continued its turn. It was death he reconciled, death was on the other side of that door. It had come down through the fathoms to offer him the last kiss that would steal his breath for eternity. The wheel was about to lock into its final position. Santos braced himself for what he was sure would be a tidal wave of water that would be the soil of his tomb. Then with one last creak, the door flew open. Santos closed his eyes and covered his ears awaiting the inevitable and then…nothing. The only thing Santos could hear was the beating of his tortured heart. No water, no steel collapsing around him, no screams from the abyss, just…nothing. He waited and waited with his eyes clamped shut hoping to hold out the horror and yet still nothing. Santos decided that it was time to look and see what hell had wrought for him so slowly he began to open his eyes. At first, everything was a blur then things began to focus. Before him was the bulkhead and set in that bulkhead was the door. A door that was now opened revealed nothing but darkness. Within that darkness, a stench came to meet him. A stench of thousands of years of rot and decay marinated in the salts of the deepest sea. Santos took a few steps toward the ebon mouth of the hatch door. He was out of his mind now in a place where he could only react out of instinct as everything he had understood his whole life had become meaningless and inapplicable to whatever or wherever he was. Reaching out he tried to touch the abyss but nothing met his touch. Darkness opened upon darkness. He stepped through the portal and his feet rested on what could only be described as the beach. Soft, wet sand combined with algae and vegetation crushed under his feet. But how could this be? Santos returned to the cabin and took the emergency 12-volt lantern off of the wall which had illuminated the compartment and headed back out of the hatch. 

Now with the dim light illuminating the world outside the door, he could see that he was not on a beach but on the floor of the ocean itself. Fish were flapping and suffocating all around him. They must have been displaced when the air bubble formed around the Barker. “What air bubble?” wondered Santos, and how? He walked slowly trying not to lose his footing with all of the vegetation and rocks around him. After a hundred yards or so a light began to form in front of him. The light began as an emerald dot and bloomed out into a large orb and then outlined the bubble of the dome that surrounded Santos and the Barker. Santos was frozen watching this unfold. His mind had no context for what was happening. He was mollified by it. 

He then saw what looked like a squid, a squid the size of a ten-story building. It stood on the outside of the bubble still in the deep ocean. Santos felt like a fish in a bowl. Slowly a massive tentacle not unlike the one he saw impaling that Japanese gunner pushed itself through the bubble and began to come for him. Santos turned and ran as fast as he could back toward the compartment. Just as he reached the hatch the tentacle wrapped itself around his waist. All of the air in his chest was pushed out from the pressure and he gasped to refill his lungs. Slowly Santos was dragged back into the bubble. He prepared himself for the inevitability of being dragged into the ocean itself and drowned. The tentacle twisted so that Santos was now facing it head-on. He looked directly into the eye. Santos was mesmerized staring into the emerald orb. The iris looked as if it were the home of green galaxies swimming in the vastness of space. Intoxicated with fear and wonder Santos’ mind finally collapsed.

Ricardo Rebelo is the writer and director of the award-winning PBS Documentary Lizbeth a Victorian Nightmare. He is a professor of Media Studies at Bristol Community College and screenwriting at the University of Rhode Island. Ric was the Director of the Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival and the Rock and Shock Film Festival for a decade. 

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