1958… 1959… 1960… 1976… 2007… 2012…
His first sensation was one of weight. A great weight was upon him, all around him. He felt suffocated, enclosed. The man, if he was even a man anymore sucked in great gulps of air. A beat was in his ears. Ba-boom, ba-boom. A humming but more like an electrical current was running through him. It took him a moment to realize that was his heartbeat and he could hear his blood moving through his veins. Beyond the sound of his heart was the drip or water, and a mournful moan that seemed to echo around him. The doppler effect using it as a playtoy.
Light was his next sensation as he opened his eyes. A light of pink and white before his eyes focused and he realized he was staring at neon. The pink and white tubing was wrapped around what looked like a dirty vending machine. He slowly pushed himself from the floor. The great weight moved with him and didn’t seem to heavy or so claustrophobic. He realized as he sat up, he didn’t notice the weight at all. He turned his head and noticed his view of the room did not move. He felt his head only to be stopped by a large metal-helmet? He scrabbled with the cords and buckles, gasping as if the suit he seemed to be wearing had no air. There was a hiss as the seal was broken and he pulled the helmet from him. It clanked hitting the floor, spinning. It was a massive brass diver’s helmet, from the 50’s. He looked at his heavily gloved hands.
Who was he? Where was he?
He could hear static coming from somewhere, then the warble of multiple radio frequencies. A voice, not spoken softly, but coming softly through the static.
“…can you hear me?” More static. “…signal very faint. Aerran?” Near the helmet, dangling from it like a broken appendage was a small red and white box. Or it had been red and white, now it was faded to a yellow and dark pink. Two large knobs and a small video screen were on it. The video screen seemed monochrome showing a partially pixilated image of woman in her twenties. The image flipped and distorted like a bad VHS tape. He picked up the box and pressed the button on the side.
“Aerran? I can har-” static, “…ear you.”
“Who are you?” He realized he was going to ask who was he until he happened to glance up at a shadow that seemed to fall across the wall before him. Only the shadow wasn’t on the wall, it was in the wall. A light flickered outside the wall, or rather it was a window. Beyond the light lay darkness but he could make out plant life that moved and swayed of vibrant colors. The shadow was actually a passing humpback whale and the echoes were its song. Even though he was awestruck by the sight he suddenly realized that the woman on the radio was speaking quickly and urgently at him.
“You’re not safe! Splicers are coming, you need to get out of there!”
What was a splicer?
He picked up the diver’s helmet and snapped it back into place. Rehooked the hoses and clamps as if he knew what he was doing. There was a fainter hiss than when he had removed his helmet as it repressurized and sealed.
The room he was in seemed to be break room maybe. It had a vending machine that had a clown face on it with the words: CIRCUS OF VALUES! However the items listed in the vending machine were not all snacks and drinks. It weirdly offered first aid kits – You have to buy a first aid kit nowdays? He thought. It also held shotgun, pistol, and machine gun ammunition. What twisted NRA hell had he awoken into?
Also in the room were a table with some chairs and a fridge. There was only one door. He opened it and the creature that lunged at him look human, once.
The face was distorted. It was as if it was made of wax and had gotten too warm. It wore the remains of a tuxedo, complete with cummerbund and ragged bow tie. A sleeve was missing, buttons on the shirt were missing showing a misshapen abdomen looking like the organ were outside the body rather than in. It wore no shoes, and the nails on the hands and feet were more like talons. The creature attacked him. He could hear the nails raking across his diving helmet and it scrambled for his hoses.
He punched at the creature. He could feel bones snapping under his blows to it but the creature didn’t stop until blood was dribbling from multiple compound fractures and he was certain he’d broken its neck. The eyes, oddly humanly brown, just rolled up and the creature fell backwards off him. It fell to the floor and bled, not moving. He tried to find a pulse on it, but he felt nothing through his heavy gloves.
He stepped through the doorway into what looked like the office from underwater hell.
This was the source of dripping water. He assumed a pipe had burst somewhere or something cause if he was at the bottom of the sea he was certain a single crack would eventually allow for the entire ocean in. The room was divided up into cubicles. The carpet was damp underfoot making squish, squish sounds along with the clunk, clunk of his heavy booted feet. So it was a clunk, squish, clunk, squish. As soggy as the berber carpet were papers strewn across it. It looked like a paper bomb had exploded in the room. Papers were everywhere but soggy and torn, damp clumps. He could make out a letterhead, “Ryan Industries,” on a piece here and there. Chairs were fallen over, desks flipped over. Typewriters flung like confetti. He stared a long moment at a piece of equipment that seemed old. Antique almost. It was black with a flat dial on the front. The part you hold to your ear was on a curled cord to the black box with the dial on it. He momentarily tried to use the dial but his fingers in the gloves were too large to fit in the holes.
When was the last time he’d seen a dial telephone? At his grandmother’s house in the early 80’s?
He moved around the office mildly exploring. The radio had been quiet for awhile. The mysterious woman wasn’t answering him and he really didn’t know how to raise her. He noticed thermoses of coffee and he did pick something up. It was the iconic rectangle yellow cake with cream filling. Well most people believed they would last forever. He didn’t bother to try it. He opened drawers and filing cabinets noticing more food and ammunition tucked in some.
The room was lit by a few amazingly still working florescent bulbs. Most of the fixtures seemed broken or smashed and some were just as soggy as the rest of the room. Mold and plant life seemed to have somehow creeped into the room and were growing in the crevices.
“Hello? Can you hear me?” Now the woman’s voice was crisp and German accented.
“Who are you?” He asked.
“Oh dear, I was worried your memory might have been fractured,” came the reply. “I am Tenenbaum.”
“Where am I?” Was his next question.
“The city is named Rapture, and you are on the bottom of the Atlantic.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I cannot talk long, please come to the basement, I am in the secure room. I’ll explain everything I can, face to face.”
“No! Don’t leave me! What is going on here?” He shouted at the radio but there was only silence to reply to him.
“Come on, Mr. B. Don’t be a slow poke. Angels don’t wait for slowpokes.” It was the voice of a small girl. After her scolding of whoever she was talking was followed by a groaning growl. He burst through the next door which seemed to be a lobby. It was several floors tall and had a spiral balcony around an open center. Blood was on the floor and in the center of the blood lay a dead woman. Only she looked as horrible and misshapen as the man he had killed earlier. She seemed have been wearing a nearly shredded evening gown. It still had a sequin here and there. A diamond earring hung from one ear, her other ear was missing. What he could see was the faint glow like a pink halo around the body. Approaching from the other side of the body was a small child. His heart moved into his throat. She was probably five or six, and in a flouncy but terribly dirty and torn dress with a big bow tied on the back. Her dirty brown hair was pulled up into a pony tail on the back of her head with another large bow. She looked like a Victorian child except she was carrying a massive syringe with a red liquid sloshing in the barrel and what looked like a baby bottle nipple on the end of the barrel. Behind her was a massively huge diver in a suit just like his. Only he carried a rivet gun in one hand and the other hand ended in a large drill. He was about to rush in and save the child from the menacing diver but stopped when she said.
“Look, Mr. B! An angel!” She was obviously speaking to the diver and pointing to the dead woman on the floor. The little girl and the diver took no notice of him as she knelt next to the corpse. “It’ll be just a tiny pinch.” She said cooing to the dead woman and plunged the huge bore syringe into the woman’s neck.
He could only stare transfixed as the little girl plunged the syringe in again and again to various locations on the woman’s body. He realized she was drawing the woman’s blood out and with each plunge the pink halo around the dead woman grew smaller and smaller. Once it was gone the girl lifted the nipple end of the syringe to her lips and sucked on it like a baby bottle. When half the liquid was gone she lowered the syringe, and wiped some spilled blood from her lips with the back of her hand. She then looked at him and he had to take a step back. Where her eyes should have been were just a yellow glow. She giggled and turned back to the diver. The diver put down his rivet gun and picked the little girl gently from the floor and onto his shoulders. Holding onto the hoses from his air tank to his helmet with one hand and the syringe with the other, they turned and walked away from him.
He wanted to run away, to leave this hellhole that wasn’t just a prison at the bottom of the sea but populated by zombies and vampire children. At the bottom of the sea there was no place to go. He didn’t know where a lifeboat or submarine was to get back to the surface.
Why was he here? Who had brought him here?
He turned and moved in the opposite direction of the vampire child and the diver. They seemed to be following some invisible map as the small child gave the diver directions of left, right, and keep going. They seemed to be looking for their next ‘angel’ who had ADAM.
“Aerran, are you okay?”
“What did you call me?”
“Your name is Aerran,” said the woman. “I knew you were in the vicinity of a Big Daddy and Little Sister. There is a camera in your helmet that allows me to see what you see.”
Aerran. So that was his name. It seemed familiar to him and yet foreign.
“Big Daddy? Little Sister?”
“Yes, the diver and small child, the gather the ADAM from the dead.”
“Must you repeat everything I say?”
“What is ADAM?”
“It’s the currency of Rapture and a wonder drug.”
“If this is what it did to Rapture its not so wonderful.”
“ADAM can cure any ailment. Can regrow limbs, can restore instant health… if used in moderation. Cancer? Gone. Alheimzers? Gone. Heart disease? Gone.”
“So what happened down here?”
“That is a long story. About 72 years long.”
Aerran had moved down a flight of stairs. He had been perhaps four floors up and walked along the corridor only to discover the next set of stairs had collapsed. He had no way down. A door was open to the left.It was another office, broken into cubicles. He could hear a woman complaining but saw a man with his back to him.
“I haven’t had any ADAM in weeks! How are we to go to the finest restaurants without ADAM, Henry?” The man that Aerran could see was eating a sifting through a desk drawer. “Henry? Why aren’t you listening to me?” Her voice was shrill and annoying. The man, Henry, paid her no mind.
Near the entrance to the office was a dead diver like the one that had been with the little girl. Across his legs was a rivet gun. Aerran hefted it. It like his suit had felt heavy and awkward at first and then he found himself checking the clip to see how many rivets were left in the gun. It no longer felt heavy but an extension of his own arm.
Henry turned and looked at him. Like the other man Aerran had killed earlier. This man was as equally ugly and misshapen. The jaw didn’t seem to be hinged correctly and one eye was much larger than the other. Bulbous protrusions were all over the man as if he was covered in dozens of ant hills. He was also dressed in the remnants of tuxedo. He hefted a monkey wrench and charged at Aerran. Aerran lifted the rivet gun and Pop! Pop! Pop! The rivets left the gun and embedded in the man’s face. Blood spurted out and he fell to his knees, his eyes rolling up and then fell down to his face.
From behind a cubicle wall came a woman. Like the dead woman on the balcony was dressed in the tatters of an evening gown. She actually wore a mask on her face of a white cat. It blessedly hid the grotesqueness of her face. One breast had fallen loose of the dress and waggled back and forth as she ran across the room towards him. Like Henry she swung at him with a monkey wrench and he deftly ducked, surprisingly agile in the heavy diving suit. He grabbed her by the throat and slammed her so hard into the wall that it cracked behind her. She was still trying to bash his head in with the wrench. He raised the rivet gun, dodged another wide swing of the wrench and Pop! The rivet gun fired once the rivet entered the woman’s eyeball, popping it and she fell limp in his hand. Aeran tossed her aside.
He searched the diver’s corpse and pulled another clip of rivets from his belt and hooked it to his own.
Deeper into the office with its same soggy carpet and wet papers with the same letterhead part of the floor had collapsed giving him a walkway down to the next floor. He half slid half lumbered down the incline. Aerran was now 2 floors above what appeared to be the main floor. He passed bodies and blood. None of the bodies had that pink halo about them. What gave him pause was what looked like another vending machine. This one was red and white, faded like his radio. Next to the vending machine on either side were little girls, statues, but like the little girl he’d seen with the big diver protector. Above the vending machine said, “GATHERER’S GARDEN.”
The vending machine reminded him of those old Pepsi machines that dispensed the bottles. You put your coins in and opened the door. You were expected by honor to only remove one bottle from the stack. This machine was just like that, except instead of bottles of Pepsi were weird looking ampules that glowed different colors.
He had no currency but this machine seemed to be broken anyway. Only one ampule, a glowing blue one remained and the door was broken on one hinge so it didn’t close properly to lock.
“My daddy’s smarter than Einstein, stronger than Hercules; can your daddy be as good as my daddy?” The recorded voice of a small girl startled him and he jumped even though his big diving suit didn’t move. The recording suddenly warbled, slowed and gave out. Out of curiosity Aerran took the ampule and examined it. He noticed that it worked something like an epi-pen. What happened next he wasn’t sure he had controlled himself to do.
On the left wrist of his diving suit was an interesting port. As if it was designed to be able to inject himself with something without ruining the seal of the suit. He took the ampule to his own surprise and jabbed it into the port on his suit. The automatic plunger depressed and suddenly it felt like Aerran’s entire DNA structure was being torn apart. He heard the painful howls of someone and the far away voice of the German woman from his radio.
“You’ve injected yourself with a plasmid. The first time is how you say… a doozy. Everything will be okay, I promise.” Aerran watched as blue electricity crackled around his gloved hands. His heart pounded hard in his chest, as if it was trying to burst from his body. Then everything subsided and as he lay on the floor looking at the dripping ceiling he slowly realized he wasn’t in pain anymore. As a matter of fact he felt great, better than great, orgasmic. What the hell had that been?
He stood up and without thinking about it, jerked with his left arm and suddenly a bolt of lightning as if he was the god Zeus himself, zapped across the room, leaving a charred spot on the wall where it struck.
“You have got to be shitting me.” Aerran said to no one in particular.
The next two floors to the main lobby area were uneventful if uneventful was killing the occasional weird human that seemed to be nothing more than scavengers even though some had been talking as if they were in a much classier setting than an abandoned, derelict office building. He found it saved on ammunition if he zapped them first with his new lightning powers then took precise shots with the rivet gun. At first he had tried to talk to a few, ignore a few after that, the problem was as soon as they saw him they would immediately drop everything and attack him. He didn’t understand why. He wasn’t sure if it was something to do with the fact he was in the dive suit and those that did say something before trying to beat his helmet in with a wrench, lead pipe, table leg, whatever melee weapon they could get their hands on, had to do with ADAM and they apparently thought he had some.
The center of the lobby was a giant fountain that was merely giving a choked gargle rather than a strong flow. Two of the mangled humans were in the water, fishing around for something within. Aerran didn’t bother, he aimed for the water. It lit up blue as electricity crackled through it and over the people standing in it. They fell over dead, floating face down (blessedly) in the water. He walked past.
He found the door to the basement and saw it needed a key card to open. He gave a long sigh in his suit and kicked the door as hard as he could. The wood splintered and the hinges gave way. The door plumphed flat to the floor. He walked into the darkness and suddenly lamps on his helmet automatically flicked on and he could see if only a small circle in front of him.
Of course there would not signs or arrows saying which direction to the ‘secure area.’ He wandered the basement for a while, it was wet like everything else, and cold. There were some places where silt had actually built up on the floor and walls. He passed banks of electrical panels, crates of various junk. Suddenly he stopped. Looking more like a prison cell than a ‘secure area’ were several small children, all girls, playing with dolls and blocks. A woman stood over them, watching, smoking a cigarette. She was brunette and in a dress and sweater and glasses that reminded him of the movie Grease. Her hair was expertly rolled, not a hair out of place and a small cap was on her head, she actually held gloves in her hand.
“Aerran.” She breathed his name.
“Tell me what is going on here?” He glanced at the small girls; they all looked the same age and were dressed similarly to the vampire girl in the hall. Only their dresses were different colors, and they looked human. No glowing eyes.
“Poor Aerran, you’ve been lost to be for so long,” she reached through the bars of the room to caress his helmet. In the room behind her was a radio larger than his and looking more as old fashioned and a monochrome monitor that was displaying everything he saw. He caught her wrist.
“Who are you?”
“Tenenbaum, as I have said.” He narrowed his eyes at her but the effect was lost as he doubted she could see his face within the suit.
“Who am I and why am I here?”
“You are Officer Aerran Felder of the Saint Louis County Police Department. I met you five years ago when I offered you information about Rachel Parker. Do you remember her?” Tenenbaum held up a photograph.
The name suddenly sparked images. A party with a half naked girl popping out of a cake. He was making love to her. He had his side arm drawn on her. They were running next to each other. The last image was her pleading with him. Tears falling down her cheeks as she was trying to fight a man from plunging a needle into her neck. He just stood there and let the man do it. Aerran realized he had sagged to his knees. He pulled himself up and snatched the photo from Tenenbaum’s hands as if she was not worthy to hold it.
The photo was a bad one, but it had been the only one Aerran had been able to find of Rachel as an adult. It had been taken from afar with a zoom lens so the features were slightly blurry. She was wearing the same blonde wig she’d worn to his 21st birthday. Fishnet stockings that had several more holes than they were meant to have. Her platform heels would snap and ankle of a novice wearer. Her skirt was so short that as soon as she bent over her goods would’ve been on display. Her blouse was low cut, her breasts practically tumbling out of it, a wide belt, and a tiny handbag that probably held nothing more than some lipstick and condoms. Rachel kept her money on her person.
“Rachel,” he croaked. “What happened?”
“A great deal. Rachel is here, in Rapture. You must rescue her. She’s located in Hestia’s Mercy. It’s a hospital on the other side of Rapture.”
“A hospital? Is she okay?”
“She won’t be if you don’t go rescue her.”