Short Stories

by Daniel Austin


Cold Drilling

I woke up to the sound of my alarm ringing across the room. I swiftly got out of bed and started to get dressed. Its very important for me to keep a tight schedule, if you don’t wake up on time you might not wake up at all. The cold will do that too you. Its like winter never stops.

I looked out the window, to see if maybe there was anything new, but nothing had changed. I guess that is just how things are here.

I am stationed on Europa, one of Jupiters many moons. I am on a scientific expedition to find signs of life and send them back to earth for studies. I will have to drill through anywhere between 30 and 70 kilometers of ice, to find a subsurface ocean and study it for life. Upon reaching this goal more instructions will be sent to me. I recite this daily. The radiation coming from jupiter is not perfectly shielded by my station, and it will mess with your mind if you give it a chance to.Picture6

I paused for a second. I was forgetting something. Oh right. The drilling was almost complete and I was about to reach the center  of the moon. I remember the night before being surprised that I only had to drill 36 km down to reach the subsurface ocean. While excitement is hard to come by in such a cold dark place such as europa, I was feeling a little more upbeat than usual. I was finally going to discover what was in the ocean below.

I geared myself up and headed out, my suit protecting me from the harsh environment of the planet, and started climbing down into the mine. I would not need the heavy duty drill for this, only a small one to break the thin ice I left yesterday.

After what I would estimate to be 3 hours, I finally made my way there. It is not easy to climb down 36 kilometers of ice, thought I had become extremely adept at it. I looked below me. It looked no different than normal, but my sizmic scanner was predicting that I was about one meter above the surface of the liquid ocean. After about an hour of drilling, I broke the surface.

I was there. I was standing just above a subsurface ocean on a moon of jupiter. I was standing by an ocean and estimated 588 million kilometers from earth, where I was born. I knew this would happen, but for some reason I never really realised just how amazing it was until now. I stood there in awe for a few minutes before coming to my senses. I still had work to do. But what was it I had to do? I forget. Perhaps I should have recited that as well. I dwelled on that for a moment. Ahh yes, I needed to take a sample of the water and return to my station. But that could not be my entire mission could it? There must be more I am forgetting. I remembered!

“Aha!” I said, the first time I had spoken in as long as I can remember. I have to go diving and explore for when the others arrive. How could I forget that? I checked to make sure my suit was tight, switched on my helmet light, and jumped in.

It was frightening at first, falling and not hitting solid ground. I had not seen more than a cupful of liquid water since before I left earth all those years ago, diving into an ocean was a huge shock. I calmed myself. Panicking never saved anything. I turned and looked up at the drill site shrinking  slowly above me as I fell further into the ocean. As long as I did not move any direction but down, I could easily find my way back up to the entrance.

Suddenly I heard something beneath me. I whipped my head and looked down. Nothing. Just water. Am I starting to hear things? I wondered to myself.

I heard it again, for sure this time. My heart started racing. Is there something else down here with me? There cant be. The odds of anything large enough for me to hear evolving here is next to nothing. Only microscopic life was theorised.

I heard it again. Louder this time. Clearly. My heart was racing faster than its ever gone before.

“Hello?” I called out. Complete silence. Of course it was silent. Nothing here would be able to hear nevertheless understand me.

I had been falling for a while, and my oxygen supplies were getting lower than I would like. I started up my suits waterjet to ascend to the surface. It started up, making a low rumbling noise as the water was sucked in in jetted back of to propel myself upwards. Then I heard the noise again. Except it wasnt just under me. It was all around me. I was starting to become very afraid.

The noise started happening all the time. It was like water swishing around, but in a very high pitch. It was coming from everywhere, all around me. I angled my waterjet up as well as I could and tried to reach the surface. I was terrified at this point.

Then I saw it. Below me was a dark squid like creature. When it moved, it made the noise. Then I started seeing them all around me. Dark, squidlike animals that were all converging towards me. The exit was only a few meters away now, I would be there in minutes. I was completely frozen in terror. Then I felt it. Something hit me. I managed to move my head to look at it. One of the beasts had rammed me. It bounced off my arm, and rammed me again. It felt like jelly, but luckily seemed to have almost no impact on my trajectory.

The squids were only seconds away from me, and I was only seconds away from the exit I had to get out before they got to me. The first one seemed to do no harm, but I was not at all interested in what thousands of them could do if they worked together.

I was at the exit, I reached for it and pulled myself out.

“I made it” I whispered to myself, as I pulled myself out. I was jsut about to pull out my legs when I felt something pulling on them. I looked down. The squids were everywhere, and they were starting to latch on to me. I had to get my legs out now. I pulled as hard as I could but they would not let go. I had to get out.

Then I realised something. They only started coming for me when I turned on my waterjet.They are attracted to vibrations. There is no light so deep down, they its the only way they could have found me. I grabbed the drill I had left on the icey surface, set it to max, and threw it into the water. Almost instantly all the squids let go and chased it down. I was free.

I pulled myself out and sat for a while. This would be the biggest discovery mankind has ever discovered. Complex life in our solar system. I contemplated the discovery as I slowly ascended the ladder to transmit my findings back to earth. I started thinking about how I would deliver the news. I didn’t know for sure, but I knew how I wouls start it.

“My name is Jeffery Milo, and I have just completed the Europa Mission. I have found complex life. It seems our solar system is bigger than we thought.”.


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