Aquatic Graveyard

Prompt Day #275: Violate an aquarium by constructing a grotesque underwater display.

You may notice that my stories are a little shorter and more to the point of the prompt lately. I’m working on some pieces for the Horror Writer’s Conference and fleshing out my novel. I’ll be happy to post some of the updated stories when I’m through, but for now, I have to prioritize. Still, I’m fairly happy with this one. Enjoy.

Aquatic Graveyard

Penelope sighed. This grand opening had been a long time coming. Fighting city ordinances, local businesses, the EPA and some local big business groups was exhausting. She looked at the line outside, the media, the locals milling around and then the set up here, inside. Fancy tables set with tall ornate centerpieces, fancy canapes and hors d’oeuvres. It was worth everything, even the death threats. Yes, death threats. Penelope suspected there might be a little illegal dumping going on by some of the factories lining the water. With a window through which the public could witness their underhanded dumping of toxic chemicals, they’d have no choice but to rethink their disposal strategies. That was a win for the environment and an even better use of Penelope’s marine biology degree. Tonight would set the bar for the future. Aquariums supporting ecologic research like theirs would scramble to emulate what she’d done.

The red velvet curtain covered the floor to ceiling plate glass windows forming a wall that held back the bay. No more captive animals in artificial habitats. Penelope hadn’t even seen it yet. No one had. She wanted to stand in awe of the living sea with everyone else tonight when the curtains went up and the underwater lights were turned on for the first time.

There was something going on outside. She thought she heard gun shots. There was screaming and then sirens. She ran to entrance and peeked out. Police and an ambulance were already on scene right in front of the building.

“Great” she said “Protesting is getting out of hand.” Her phone was already ringing. She was sure it would be someone from the board.

“We’re going ahead with the opening” She answered.

“Penny, please. Someone could have been killed. We’re playing ball with some big hitters, here. I think we need to postpone this until we can make friends.” The CEO answered. They’d dispensed with formal greetings long ago in exchange for cut to the chase, tell it like it is business.

“The doors open in twenty minutes. Fuck them.” She said and hung up. This was going to change everything in so many ways.

Twenty minutes later, guests were filing in past the numerous police guards in bullet proof vests flanking the entrance. Penelope smiled, welcoming them in personally. There were speeches and champagne. A steel drum band played calypso music and everyone danced until it was time. The music died down and with it, the conversations around the exhibit hall. That was Penelope’s cue to make her speech. The CEO who had arrived late but dressed to the nines introduced her and she made her speech.

“And so, without further ado. I am proud to present our newest and most state of the art exhibit: A View of the Bay.” She nodded and the drumroll coincided with the dimming of the interior lights and the rise of the curtain.

The roar of the applause was all anyone could hear, but it dwindled under the weight of the screams.

Penelope had once dove the underwater sculpture park off the coast of Granada. It was thrilling yet spooky to see what looked like hundreds of bodies in various poses on the bottom of the sea. For a moment, that’s what her brain told her she was seeing and in that infinite second, it was beautiful. But there is a sort of beauty in horror as well, Penelope quickly discovered. Her eyes focused on the ropes around the necks and extremities of the bodies connecting them to blocks of concrete sitting on the floor of the bay. She sees the pale, bloodless edges of knife wounds across their necks creating grotesque second mouths. She sees the bodies in various states of decay; skin shreds flowing with the tide life blades of sea grasses. Chunks of skin had been eaten away from bones and skulls. Eels were nesting in hollow guts. One body was almost skeletal, except for one eyeball that hung precariously by the optic nerve, rolling back and forth across the cheek bone.

Penelope’s five year project, first titled “Nature’s Aquarium” now “A View of The Bay” was nothing more than an aquatic morgue. No wonder there was so much opposition to this. There had to be ten bodies, ten murder victims, ten missing persons tethered to the bottom of the bay. Who knew how many more had already been given back to the earth, consumed by the sea.

Not to be defeated, Penelope took the microphone again.

“Well, I must say, this sight is a shock for all of us, and I am sorry we had to see it, but also, I think this a strong example of why we must, as guardians of this planet, begin to pay attention to the ecosystems around us. We must open our eyes to what effects we are having on our environment. It is a difficult lesson to learn, but an important one.”

It would take some time for the bodies to be cleared and then there would be another grand opening but the applause she received for her damage control speech was already proof that she’d won. This night had been a success and this little underwater graveyard tableau only proved her point. Humans really were ruining everything.

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