Editor: Happy Bubbles & Sammy
Unnatural temperatures seared the surface of the sea. As the polar ice caps melted, the sea level rose substantially in turn; the increasing temperature evaporated a considerable amount of seawater, which would then vaporise into the atmosphere. In a sense, this was the final prolonging of doomsday— as long as there was still oxygen, regardless of how much, there would be a chance of survival.
No matter how vast or deep the ocean was, there would come a day when it’d be depleted.
Schools of fish plunged deeper into the sea for safety, since just the abnormal temperature alone could cause devastating damages. At the same time, a chain of events occurred due to the heated water: the reproduction of many fishes, stimulated at once as their mating periods became active in the warm summer waters; the hibernation of sea cucumbers; planktons floated up to the surface by instinct, only to die due to the surface radiation, and, consequently, cause the mass death of fishes who depended on these microalgae to survive. Even if some lucky ones managed to persevere, they still wouldn’t be able to live for long as the deep sea wasn’t their natural habitat.
The calamity of the apocalypse loomed over the world.
For humanity, a weakened magnetosphere meant that all generators would be broken. The current society was built upon the second Industrial Revolution, so this sudden devolution would be disastrous. In the digital age, things like hard drives, phones, recording cameras, transportation such as e-bikes, cars, trains, planes, rockets, and even the therapeutic instruments in hospitals all had one thing in common— they were made of ferromagnetic materials.
On a day-to-day basis, who’d truly ponder about the things that had infiltrated their daily lives?
After all, relationships weren’t all that was taken for granted after a period of time.
Whenever there was an impending volcanic eruption or earthquake, the animals in the area would migrate away from the danger, but now that they’d lost their sense of direction, all that was left was fear. Countless schools of fish gathered together beneath the waves while the usual circling predators disappeared. In the depth of the bottomless sea, there were frightfully enormous creatures communicating with each other through strange infrasounds despite many of them not even possessing any sort of vocal organs.
Their existence wasn’t – as some countries’ secret organisations had guessed – a result of nuclear pollution which caused abnormal growth in size. In reality, the name Abyss was very much correct— all of the sea monsters came from a pitch black abyss where there was nothing but dark waters for thousands, even tens of thousands of metres above. These sea creatures would wander anywhere in the ocean, but not all were gluttons like Abyss who lived in the South Sea, risking sporadic appearances above the surface and thus allowing humans to discover it.
The disappearance of the magnetosphere had a great effect on them in their lairs. That was why they began to swim up in an attempt to find out what had happened. Even for sea monsters with special abilities, this was a grueling journey; it felt as if something considerably heavy was pushing against them, and by the time they were close to the surface, they barely wanted to move because of how exhausted they were. During these times, the smaller the size, the more agility they had.
Abyss – coded as 478 in some confidential American institution – was stagnant in the ocean, simply rising up and down with the fall of the waves. When the Thalassa Goddess was still sailing, it had emitted noise pollution that could startle some weaker fish into unconsciousness, but now everything was still. The shining sun heated up the water, and small fish swam around the area where the octopus’ torso connected with its tentacles. Clearly, these little guys were using the creature before them as both a parasol and a radiation-sucking device.
Abyss continuously inhaled and exhaled large amounts of seawater, the act both a breathing and floating mechanism. The process itself wasn’t aggressive, merely involving the use of force and reaction. Since it remained at around a hundred metres below the surface, a person looking from above would only see the waves being slightly stronger in that area. As the little fish were cautiously shielding themselves in places with slower currents, they realised that the big octopus above them seemed to be gradually rising.
Its speed was close to nothing, but after an hour, it was visibly closer to the ocean’s surface.
If the detection devices of the Thalassa Goddess were still operating as usual, then they would’ve already sounded an alarm— a large sea creature, soundlessly submerged in the sea, was slowly rising towards the surface and the ship; what could this be other than an aggressive move?
However, if this was meant to be an attack, the pace was too slow. It couldn’t be waiting for the people aboard the cruise ship to undergo panic attacks, could it?
Apologies, but humans would only engage in violence against their own kind during apocalyptic times, unlike some animals whose packs were so big that they’d collectively jump into the sea when food ran out… so for a sea monster trying to ‘attack the cruise ship’, such methods would be foolish.
A moderately loud sound was quickly covered by the waves. The slight disturbance was caused by a pretty periwinkle glass bottle falling into the sea. It had a fat belly and a thin neck; water entered and sank it slowly until it landed on the forehead of the octopus. For such a mountainous creature, the bottle’s touch felt weaker than a mosquito bite. It remained fast asleep with its eight tentacles bouncing aimlessly with the waves.
That’s right, it was sleeping when it accidentally sucked in more seawater than it pushed out.
So amidst its dreams, the octopus gagged.
Hm? Where was the water?
The poor soul was choked awake by air…
The creature’s eyes were bigger than a table, so the fire-like sun was making it very uncomfortable. It then felt something on its forehead and reached for it with its tentacles. The two thinnest of its eight appendages barely managed to wrap themselves around the glass bottle and brought the object close to its eyes.
The remaining survivors of the Thalassa Goddess watched in horror as the vicious beast once again rose to the surface, angrily removing a bottle from its head as its eight tentacles wriggled in the air and hit the cruise ship.
“Which bastard was that?!!”
Who was throwing things into the ocean while knowing there was a monster in the sea? If they wanted to die, they should just jump down themselves!
Nevertheless, in reality, when an animal began to repeatedly hit something, it could be motivated by an intention other than anger…
Xia Yi, the one responsible, discovered this, and so he threw all the remaining wine and sparkling water out of the window before running haphazardly to the other side of the left-titling deck, trying his best not to be exposed to sunlight.
This way, he hopefully wouldn’t fall into the sea monster’s mouth.
As for other things such as whether or not the cruise ship would be turned over by an angry sea monster… forgive Xia Yi for his already-distorted thinking: under the threat of doomsday, the only considerations people had were either how to barely survive or how to die quickly and painlessly.
Except Xia Yi forgot the fact that essentially no one else on the ship knew this was the end of the world. They still believed that all these abnormalities were the result of that damned octopus, and once they’ve braved through tonight, they may be rescued!
There would be helicopters available to fly them out of here.
As for the sea monster, an intercontinental missile would blow it to smithereens.
The dead bodies— no— the entire cruise ship would probably be destroyed along with the sea monster. By that time, things like who killed who wouldn’t lead to any real consequences or convicting.
Due to the temperature, many people were looking for the refrigerated storage compartment. There was water, food and ice inside, but no matter how hard they slammed the door, it refused to budge.
Now, the last straw of their declining emotional wellbeing was all the legends and movies.
The people scattered across the ship, desperately trying to find what they believed to be a safe place.
Xia Yi wore a disheveled T-shirt and his mind was in a daze. Nobody stopped him when they passed each other in the hallways for two reasons: one, he didn’t look like he had any food on him; two, he was holding a knife. A normal person wouldn’t go around stabbing people, but a madman held no promises. Would there be a more asking-for-death situation other than having no medication and stinking of bloody injuries while there was no sign of help arriving?
Still, the sea monster had startled not only the people on the cruise ship.
Xia Yi slowly halted just before the separation of sunlight and shadows. To be fair, radiation surrounded them, and direct exposure would only kill faster while the other one… would a person seeking death care about these things?
Xia Yi looked up at the cloudless sky. Ever since the beginning of the voyage, the weather had remained lovely, which in itself was problematic because only a complete atmosphere could contain water vapour and clouds, which resulted in rain and wind.
There were so many prophecies and movies about the end of the world, yet no one probably imagined that when the real apocalypse arrived, it’d be more despairing than anything humanity had ever dreamt of.
Real devastation was invisible.
So when Xia Yi walked across the deck, he forced himself to disregard the pain felt by his skin from its contact with the sunlight. He watched the vast, boundless sea tossing white spindrifts due to the rocking of the ship. From the surface, the sea appeared much safer because one couldn’t see what was beneath it. Perhaps there was another monster lurking under the waters, but who knew?
The ship jerked violently once again, and Xia Yi froze halfway while climbing over the railing. He noticed a stroke of bright silver appear in the waves, yet within that split second, Xia Yi lost his grip on the handrail and fell forward headfirst.
It only took a few seconds to fall from somewhere that was around thirty metres high. The rushing wind forced Xia Yi to close his eyes, and the last thing he saw was a shadow rising from the depths of the ocean— it seemed to be a person!
Xia Yi forgot to stab himself. No, more accurately, he didn’t have a chance to stab himself because the moment he fell into the water, the force of the impact knocked him unconscious. As his hand loosened, the knife he grasped sank into the ocean.
‘What people saw after death’ was an age-long mystery. Though there were studies showing that a human brain would be a few grams lighter in death than in life, thus suggesting the existence of souls, Xia Yi himself had never given much thought to the afterlife. That was because he was always alone, living in a home devoid of any sense of warmth or life. It was dark and gloomy, a place where even the cactus on the windowsill appeared droopy with its thorns falling off.
That, as well as the cat right outside of the apartment who loved to play with yarn, were the last things on Xia Yi’s mind. The cat was very capricious; it bestowed you a glance when it was happy and leapt out of sight when it wasn’t.
Those who owned a cat had to be people with a great deal of patience who didn’t care if they were given the cold shoulder by their pets.
Xia Yi lived in darkness. He used to believe that if he could step out of it, he’d be like everyone else. However, after numerous failed attempts, he realised that the darkness shadowed him wherever he went. While some people fit into any environment like a fish in water, others like him could only let idiosyncrasies become the definition of their existences. In the end, there was nothing for him to do other than to step back and not hope for anything, because only then would he not be affected by any affliction.
The rule to living was to not think too much of yourself, and to also not expect too much of others. In reality, no one really cared about other people’s thoughts; instead, they would ramble on about their ideas and wished for others to respect their beliefs and opinions. If one didn’t speak back and stuffed everything down until the day when they couldn’t suppress it anymore and exploded, the people would be shocked since they couldn’t understand what possibly could have ticked them off. On the other hand, for those like Xia Yi who, from the very beginning, brushed off people’s hidden messages and lived in his own world, never yielding to others, he appeared as an alien— as someone who didn’t know how to adapt. But was his life really that awful?
Xia Yi was choked awake by seawater.
When he opened his eyes, the water caused the sky above him to seem blurry, rendering him unable to calculate the distance between himself and the surface.
He took another gulp of bitter, salty seawater.
Xia Yi instinctively waved his arms. Much to his shock, the knife that he’d been clutching had vanished. Did it fall out when I hit the water? His original plan hadn’t been to drown to death because the whole process was much more excruciating, but it was too late to struggle now.
Even pro-swimmer athletes would have a difficult time reaching the surface while wearing regular clothing, much less Xia Yi who didn’t know how to swim in the first place.
The high temperature made the water quite comfortable for humans. It was almost like a hot spring. Xia Yi had no more strength in his body as he sunk, watching the surface move further and further away. Many larger fish were hiding in the shadow that the Thalassa Goddess cast down onto the sea. Xia Yi began to feel as if knives were slashing across his throat and chest as they began to burn painfully.
He was going to die.
He could see a large shadow in the distance where the sea monster continued to strike the cruise ship.
Xia Yi didn’t close his eyes; the light that shone through the water flickered as if part of a mesmerising illusion that lured people in, though he was sinking further away from the scene by the second.
However, just like the ocean that gradually grew darker and colder, the reality of the illusion was nothing but death.
Xia Yi had begun to lose consciousness when, suddenly, a force started to pull him deeper into the depths of the sea. He tried to struggle, but all attempts were futile. He couldn’t imagine what it could possibly be, and the anguish of suffocation was enough for him to disregard the strange pull on his foot— then an arm slowly encircled his waist from the back.
It was cold.
Ripples of water danced around a dawning flood of starlit silver. What was that?
As the turquoise sea lost its shimmering glow, mysterious amethyst eyes glinted out from the roiling depths. The long silver hair, translucent as the morning mist, was impossible to resist as it emerged, and the almost colourless lips transfixed Xia Yi, parting slightly as if to whisper something out.
The lips came closer and closer, until they touched.
It was soft and cold, to the point where Xia Yi thought that this hallucination before death was too unrealistic. Before Xia Yi could focus on what was in front of him, darkness enveloped him.
Above the sea, screams echoed on the Thalassa Goddess. The sound of Xia Yi falling into the ocean was much quieter than the splashes caused by the sea monster’s tentacles, thus, no one noticed him; even if someone had, what could they have done? It was every man for themselves.
Li Shao cowered behind a box, his shirt stained with both blood and food scraps that were spilled during fights. Not far from him stood a woman holding onto the wooden frame nailed to the ground. She blankly looked out the window, her once elegantly-coiled hair having come undone over her shoulders. She had ripped off the hem of her pink, backless evening dress and tore off the heel part of her high heels. It was An Li. Surprisingly, she had a larger amount of food and water than Li Shao, but Li Shao didn’t dare cast a glance towards the stack. Instead, the man just muttered, “Um, An Li-Jie, don’t stand too close to the window. The sea monster will—”
An Li turned around. Because she’d used expensive makeup, her eyeshadow had yet to smudge. As such, despite looking slightly disheveled, she didn’t look half as panicked as the others on the ship. An Li only appeared to be in a daze, and after a while, she said, “Xia— Xia Yi jumped off!”
“Huh?” Li Shao stared dumbly.
“Just now, from the railings over there… even though he was seven or eight metres away, I could still tell…”
Li Shao trembled slightly, looking like he wanted to get closer and see for himself, except he was too scared to walk near the window. He cried out, “Is Xia-Ge mad? There’s sea monsters in the ocean and he still dared to jump?”
An Li was even more shocked than Li Shao. It was Xia Yi who’d told her to find a safe place to hide, but he himself had then proceeded to jump over the railings? Falling into the ocean couldn’t be a way to survive, so then did that mean there was no hope of living if she stayed on the ship?
An Li’s eyes betrayed her desperation.
No, she didn’t want to die yet, she had to think of a way out!
Despair loomed over the Thalassa Goddess. Even those without a religion began to mumble to God while others continued to revile; to now, they still couldn’t believe how they, with their status and success, were so unlucky as to suffer such misfortune.
“Goddammit, whoever said that sea monsters were mythical creatures should be thrown into the ocean!”
“Fuck, once I escape from here, I’ll never take any transportation by sea again! I’ll take the plane everywhere!”
“What kind of bastards are the coastal security teams? It’s been almost 24 hours and they still haven’t arrived!”
Anxiousness, insecurities, anger and fear; once these human emotions reached their peak, a creature spoken of in legends would be lured in.
Xia Yi opened his eyes when he felt himself exiting the water, but all he could see before losing consciousness again was a display of silvery-white colours. The sun had disappeared from the sky and darkness began to pervade the atmosphere.
Then, everyone on the Thalassa Goddess heard a melodic voice.
It was a monosyllabic chant drawn out faintly in the air, beautiful and sounding as if one could possess the entire world once they swam through the boundless sea.
Was that the song of the sirens?
The more negative emotions a person had, the more distracted they became. It seemed that what they were hearing weren’t songs, but a call from heaven, from paradise, from the most beautiful and happy place one could imagine— a place where there was no stress, no worries, and no suffering.
The people who remained conscious rammed their heads against the walls in alarm. Then they watched abnormally blissful smiles appear on the faces of those beside them. They threw themselves over to where their companions were laying or sitting, but no amount of shaking could elicit any form of response. Realising this, the sober people covered their ears to protect themselves, yet the song still echoed clearly.
Luckily, the cruise ship was no longer sailing, or else it was bound to go out of control. If it were a smaller boat, it could possibly have flipped right over.
Mermaids weren’t as beautiful and kind as fairy tales suggested. In the old legends of the sea, their appearance was accompanied by disaster; no ship that had seen a mermaid ever returned to land safely.
Along with droplets of water, long silver hair cascaded down its shoulders. In the darkness, its eyes glowed purple, illuminating a face that was neither handsome nor beautiful, but had a unique spirit and charm. The pale silver fins at its wrists and waist were almost like chiffon that unfolded with the rise and fall of the water, and they were as beautiful as Blue Tears1A phenomenon that occurs in East Asian waters. It is caused by tiny, blooming, bioluminescent creatures called dinoflagellates. Looks something like this . Its pale arms hugged Xia Yi tightly while its faintly coloured lips remained closed.
The song of the merfolk wasn’t meant to be listened to with the ears.
For instance, Xia Yi heard nothing.
Another being who was unaffected was, of course, Abyss. The big octopus had been knocking the cruise ship for a while now without seeing any more bottles drop. Defeated, it slid its tentacles in front of its eyes one by one.
Too small, too small, still too small!
Why couldn’t the humans on the ship throw down a bigger bottle ?
That’s right. Throwing bottles at the octopus was the equivalent of teasing a cat with a toy, or tossing a bone to a dog. Humans were always so vile in their enjoyment of disturbing sleeping or self-absorbed animals with objects, only to stand aside and do nothing once excitement had been aroused. Wasn’t that repulsive?
Abyss began to grow irritated. It wanted to throw the little bottles away, but after flinging its tentacles several times, it still couldn’t bear to give them up in the end.
Because it was too angry and annoyed, it heard the singing.
As a sea monster, it had excellent vision. More accurately, it would have a harder time distinguishing its environment in a well-lit place, while possessing better vision as its surroundings grew darker. Turning around and sinking slowly into the sea, it sucked in and spouted strong jets of water to propel itself as far away from the Thalassa Goddess as possible.
The moment one began to hear the song of the merfolk, their life would begin to be drained away.
The octopus had decided: if the cruise ship sank into the sea, it would belong to it. It wouldn’t allow anyone to snatch the ship away!