Flash Fiction Challenge: Sub Text

oct 2008 onondaca sub gaspe peninsulaWe found the derelict sub about 230 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia. She was just bobbing along on the surface, top hatch open and no sign of any crew.

She bore no number or insignia. Her instruments were strange, marked with unfamiliar characters and symbols.

When we towed her ashore, we could see the sides of the craft were emblazoned with glyphs reminiscent of those we’d seen in Mayan ruins. As Lassiter began to interpret the glyphs, I saw his face go pale…

In 250 words or less, tell us a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time.

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11 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Sub Text”

  1. “What is it, Lassie?” I asked him. We’d nicknamed him Lassie because it was just easier to say than Lassiter. We also thought it was pretty funny because he was such a man’s man, and the ladies loved him. He was smart, funny, charming, and really good-looking. Shoot, if I was a chick, I’d be interested in him. But right now, Lassie looked like he’d seen a ghost. Or worse.

    He gazed at me with fear in his icy blue eyes. “Remember that outpost on Mars in sector 3?”

    “You mean the abandoned one? That was about five years ago, wasn’t it?”

    “August 3, 2063.”

    “How do you remember the exact date?”

    Lassie leaned in. He lowered his voice to nearly a whisper. “Because it freaked me out. It was the first time I encountered this…this…thing.”

    “Thing? What thing?”

    Lassie was still as white as a cadaver. “I wish I knew. At each scene they recover traces of human semen and some unidentified DNA – that appears to be alien.”

    “Wait – what do you mean each scene? There have been more of these?”

    “Once a year, Benson. For the past six years. And who knows how many before that.”

    This was crazy. It was the first time I’d heard of this – but I was kind of a lackey, so it wasn’t really surprising. “How do you know they’re related?”

    “They all have the same graffiti – if you will – in a different language at every scene.”

    “What does it say?”

    “For a good time call 867-5309.”

  2. “My-my God,” Lassiter breathed, “Do you know what this is?” he turned to me in abject disbelief.
    “A sub?” I answered, feeling a bit foolish and whimsical at the same time.
    “No Rodney, it’s so much more than that. Look at the gauges, the dials. Can’t you see how modern, how futuristic this all is?”
    Again I shook my head, not understanding what he was getting at. Though in truth perhaps I did know already and was simply denying the truth of what my scalded senses were trying to compute.
    “Look at the symbols and glyphs, they’re all Mayan, a dead language.” he rambled on, “This is no mere Submarine, Rodney. Look, come here.”
    Lassiter jumped out of the hatch and ran around to the back of the strange looking vehicle.
    “Where’s the rotor or screws? This machine is not just a submarine, it’s powered by some strange source we don’t understand; perhaps magnetism or anti-gravity.”
    Lassiter looked at me then, the blood drained from his face, giving him a ghostly pall. He wet his lips unconsciously as a deep seated fear ebbed outward on the tip of his tongue.
    “Rodney, this is a time machine, from the future.”
    “What? But how? That’s preposterous.”
    “Preposterous or not that is our truth. Men from the future where the Maya are a dominant race have come to our era.”
    “But why? What do they want?” I stammered.
    “That my friend is what I fear we are all about to find out.”

  3. As Lassiter began to interpret the glyphs, I saw his face go pale…

    I knew that face, if I had to label it I would go with freaked out. When I touched his arm he leaped back six foot as if I’d scalded him. ‘Jeepers, Lassiter, hold it together man. I take it you understand the scratchings on this thing?’
    Lassiter’s weathered face gave me a blank stare, then he blinked, coughed and spat indelicately onto the sand. When he eventually spoke his words were husky-quiet but terse.
    ‘Just don’t get back on-board. Hire a new crew for future projects. Get rid of your boat. Today!’ And with that he strode away from the sub.
    ‘Wait. Jerry, you can’t just walk away. What does it say? Stop!’
    My voice battled against the wind, and he either ignored me or didn’t hear me, either way he never turned. I never heard from him again.
    As I stand by the communal grave of my old crew, I ponder the words of Lassiter that day. I had worked with him for many years, and every time we found a new glyph etched with a warning, he would walk away but never, never had he warned me off. He failed to return my calls, and a letter was returned with, ‘sender deceased’, scrawled across it – in his handwriting. I’d heeded his warning and never returned to sea. Sadly, they did not and suffered the wrath of an apparent unpredicted storm. No bodies were found just the husk of my old boat, the one they bought from me.

  4. Was this to be the time his research would prove true? Would his premise that the Mayans found Eldorado under the sea and not near the center of the earth? It could be monumental and his colleagues would have to give him back the credit and esteem he had lost!

    I had been with Lassiter as a work study student for 2 semesters and I had never seen him so startled. My Mayan translations were still very sub-par but I could briefly make out the glyphs for sea, gold and treasure because I had seen them so many times before!

    But to be able to prove the extent of Mayan technology along with the search for Eldorado in otherwise unsubstantiated locales, like underwater, was huge! Lassiter was transfixed, and using our specialized scanning equipment to create an enlarged image of each glyph.

    I knew we would have to take each glyph in context and order because it was old Mayan – long before what most scholars think of as their language. Some even say it had a celestial base, possibly borne out by this derelict sub with its technology and complexity.

    And, if we could prove they had this technology, we might even be able to find further evidence of their alleged continued existence in Atlantis!

  5. A sub, they call it. Just a word to describe something they’ve never seen before. It’s understandable. To their credit, it really does look something like one of their submarines. Perhaps we should have paid more consideration to the shape of the thing. Maybe if it was rigid and un-tempered they would have left it on the seafloor, a curious anomaly and nothing more. Oh well.

    When we first sunk the chamber, we figured several hundred feet of ice should be enough to last through the thing’s starvation. The world was only getting colder back then. We thought we had more than enough time. We were even beginning to worry that we might lose it beneath the sheets of ice and the great, moving glacier-continents.

    Of course, that was a long time ago.

    The cold ended more abruptly than any of us could have guessed. And how could we have anticipated this sudden heat, or the advent of tools and chains and the winches with which they’re now dragging our prison onto the shore? How were we to know that they would be so thirsty for knowing, or that they would be at all?

    It seems well in their nature to discover. I should guess that they’ll find some way to open the vessel and let our failure back out into open air. I can already hear it screaming, and the sound of breaking bones.

    I wish mercy upon them, though I know they’ll have none.

  6. As a naval historian, Maxwell Turner knew the deck he was standing on shouldn’t exist. There was no denying the feel of the metal plates under his feet or the smell of old diesel fuel that seemed to permeate everything. His light played over everything, the pipes and gauges, torpedoes still in their racks and smoked meats still hanging from the overhead pipes and provisions crammed into every bit of available space. Everything was in pristine shape, as though the crew had simply walked away from their lives. That was seventy years ago though.
    The sub had been come ashore during the storm, dragging with it a string of lobster pots. Turner could almost hear the sounds of the engines and voices, feel the movement of people around him.
    He played his light over a row of gauges and for an instant, he thought he saw them move. That was another impossibility, on a day that had already seen one. But then he heard snatches of music and he understood the words even though they were in German. What was happening to him?
    Turner reached the ladder that would take him to the top of the conning tower and he felt a shove. “Verzeihen Sie!” someone said.
    “That’s alight,” he replied automatically but it came out “Das ist in Ordnung.”
    Startled, Turner went up the ladder and what he saw when he came out chilled his blood. The ice cold salt spray only made it worse.

  7. Lassiter extracted a notebook and pen from his bag and began writing feverishly. He had his own system of code glyphs others could not read.

    His hands shook and he wrote with exaggerated care, like a drunk trying to walk steady. After a while, he returned the pad and pen to his bag and took out a Nikon.

    He must have taken dozens of snaps, making sure he missed nothing and got everything at least twice. He was holding the camera lightly and moving constantly, trying to keep his shake from showing.

    “What’s up?” I asked when he finally paused.

    It was obvious he was not all there. He stared at me blankly for a moment, and then, just as I was about to repeat my question, said, “We’ll talk about it tonight. Dinner at your place ok?”

    I nodded.

    “See you. I’ve got to go now.” He stowed his camera, picked up his bag and went to his car.

    In my study after dinner that evening, he took out his notebook, leafed through it and gave it to me. “Read that page,” he said. “It’s a draft translation of part of the glyphs on the sub,” he said. “I haven’t had time for everything.”

    The first paragraph creeped me out. “Know you all, surface dwellers, that Atlanta is beyond your reach. Make no further attempt ever to reach here. The machine brings our message back to you. Its crew you will never see again. Be warned.”

  8. “This can’t be right,” Lassiter said. “This can’t be right at all.” He flipped through research notes while he shook his head at at the pages and threw them to the floor. “Wait, here it is. Look at this.” He shoved the page under my nose.

    “What am I looking at?” I asked. I held the paper out at arm’s length but still made no meaning of the symbols marked on the sheet.

    Lassiter smacked his finger into the paper and knocked it from my hand. “It is here, the key we have been looking for.” He grabbed my shoulders and shook me as he said, “The symbols on this ‘sub’, they are so much more than what we thought.”

    What I thought, was that he had gone mad, but I accepted his exuberance. “Calm down,” I said. “Explain your madness.”

    “These symbols are the tie that binds the pyramids of Egypt and the Mayan ruins. This is no watercraft we have found,” he said. “We must get it into the lab post haste.”

    I grabbed his arms and forced him to stand still for a moment. Perchance he might catch his breath and step back from the precipice of madness. Little did I know how far over the edge he had already fallen. To make it worse, he meant to drag me into the void with him.

    “If my eyes do not deceive me,” he said. “We now have evidence of life beyond the stars.”

  9. That lazy after-work party found me knocking back Tequila shooters with the girls. The local newscaster hunk said something that demanded my attention, “…unmanned sub ninety-six nautical miles off Virginia Beach. Boaters spotted it bobbing in the water and called the Coast Guard. The sub bears no insignia. However, other markings are unlike any known Earth symbols or characters…”

    “On’holy rotten garbage!” I swore aloud. How could I neglect my space-faring time machine? “Moorings must’a broke loose. Well, it has been a thousand years,” I thought.

    Mr. Hunk continued, “…Langley for further study. We go live…”

    I was already gone. I had to see to my ship. I looked for a safe place to morph, but into what? Birds! The high-flying trackers.

    I followed my ship then waited until moon-rise to silently glide in as an owl. Brainy-Hacks were dressing to breech her when I texted her.

    “Lolita, RU intact?”

    “Brain-data untouched.” Lolita responded.

    “Scanners on. Secure yourself.”


    “Ib back. Daily contact.”


    Eighteen months later, my fortress locked-down, I faked my own demise. Just another one of those unsolved mysteries.

    “Lolita, b there 2revs. Redy 2go?”

    “Roger! Where2?”

    “Wanna upgrade?”


    “Scan 4me as an ant.”


    Behind the controls as the turbines warmed, “You sure sound like a sweet kitten purring. Not too bad for an old broad with a thousand million miles.”

    “I take care of myself. Coordinates set. We’re set to go”

    “Ok, take us to 4972 Earth. Take us home.”


  10. “BEACHED”

    The police struggled to restrain the grind of onlookers. Down at the beach, the din didn’t even register with Dr. Newton. His attention was focused on the immobile black mass before him.

    “Damn it! That’s the third this month. She’s a beautiful specimen.”

    “How can you tell it’s female?” asked Simone.

    “When you’ve been doing this for as long as I have, you sense it.”

    “Do you think this has something to do with…”

    “With the oil? The cleanup? I think it has everything to do with that.”

    “Why doesn’t the government do something?”

    “Because big business is powerful. They grease the skids. That’s how our world operates. We, on land, need fuel. At any cost. Screw marine life.”

    “What if something like that happens again?”

    “Worst case, widespread extinctions,” Newton said as he ran an appreciative hand along the smooth skin.

    “There must be—”

    “Shhh!” he hissed. “I feel something!” He placed a sensor against the leviathan, and listened. “She’s still alive!”

    An audible buzz surged through the crowd.

    “She’s severely dehydrated.” Newton called to the crowd. “Everyone! We need your help!”

    Without a word, the throng lined up beside the imperiled creature. Taking turns, each plugged a finger into her lubrication port, and delivered a quantity of oil. Newton checked her levels, then rebooted.

    The submarine’s internal works once again operating, she began rolling toward the water. With a titanic splash, she entered the surf.

    As she sailed out to sea, a metallic cheer arose from the crowd.

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