"Echos of the Deep"
She stopped the rocking of the chair and held baby Jeremiah tighter to her breast. There it was again. The slight vibration of the floor and gentle sway of the lantern in the window. Tilting her head, she heard the faint echo of pulsating sounds of high-pitched moans and grunts.
The fire spit a few dying embers as she looked around the small room that was home to Josephine, Joseph and baby Jeremiah. At least they were warm, and if Joseph had any luck, he would soon burst through the heavy wooden door with fresh rabbit or maybe a small doe that would provide nourishing meals for the long winter ahead.
The tiny room was buried deep in the basement of the five-story building that overlooked the shores of Lake Michigan. The year was 1890. High on the roof above stood the town’s wooden water tower – and the source of the continual mysterious haunting sounds that kept her awake at night. And, there was always the deep bumping vibrations that sent the floor into tiny tremors.
Long ago she had learned that the water in the tower came from undersea tunnels in Lake Michigan. Recently, there was growing concern that something was terribly wrong in the town’s only supply of fresh water. There were stories from Grandpa Samuel about tiny strange-looking sea monsters found floating in bath water and small many-legged creatures swimming in grandma’s washwater. But in her lifetime, she had never seen the mysterious creatures in her water.
Wishing Jacob was there to calm her and make excuses for the deepening sounds and increasing tremors, she remembered the day he had walked into her life.
She had been up to her elbows in hot sudsy water scrubbing the clay stain from the hem of her best dress. It was a beautiful but windy laundry day in the back yard of the large building that was home to a dozen families. A blast of wind had caught the billowing material and blew the garment out of her hands. Groaning at the fresh mud all over the dress, she was surprised as Joseph stepped up beside her and held out a hand.
“May I help you, miss?”
Pleasantly, he had taken one end of the long dress and held it high off the ground as she started cleaning the mud and stains once again.
“Do you live around here? I haven’t seen you before.” Josephine asked trying not to stare into his deep blue eyes.
“We just moved in on the third floor. My parents came over from Ohio looking for better work,” Joseph said as he switched ends of the dress.
After that they were inseparatable. Within a few months, they were married and excited about the baby on its way! They decided to live in the basement room Josephine had shared with her parents and grandparents who had all perished during the terrible flu epidemic a few years earlier.
Now as the night deepened and Joseph hadn’t returned, she felt a terror she had never known. The heavy bumping sounds and heart-stopping screeching sounds from above seemed to be getting more furious every day! She wondered how the families in the top floors could stand the noise.
Baby Jeremiah relaxed into a sweet smile as Josephine lowered him into the big wooden cradle handed down from generation to generation. She added a few big logs to the fire and settled down next to the lantern to mend some clothes.
Suddenly Josephine heard what sounded like a gigantic explosion followed by crashing timber and rushing water. As she jumped up and ran to her baby, a blast of water knocked her off her feet and sent her crashing across the room. Large timbers of wooden beams broke through the doorway and lodged at her feet.
Screaming with fear, Josephine struggled to reach her baby but was stopped cold as a large glob of withering matter filled the hole in the doorway. In slid the largest, most terrifying sea creature she had ever imagined.
Staring at her with eyes bigger than dinner plates and uttering explosions of pulsating moans that sounded like a thousand babies crying all at once, the creature thrashed desperately in the water that had spread across the floor.
The giant sea creature was covered with sticky glowing goo that had hundreds of small spiny fish attached. Its open mouth was full of tiny glowing yellow lights, and its teeth were so long, it could not close its mouth. It flopped around on leg-like fins that oozed that same florescent yellow glow.
It took a moment for Josephine to understand the full impact of what had just happened. The massive water tower had finally crumbled, and this is what had been growing deep inside the ancient tower.
She knew the squid-like; human-like sea serpent was dying as it kept trying to dive into the slowly receding water. It was no harm to her, but it was between her and her baby!
Wrenching with fear and holding back sobs, she slowly made her way back to the crib as the serpent’s cries grew less intense, and the urgent movements slowed as it sank to the floor with a pitiful whimper.
Lifting baby Jeremiah, she quickly wrapped him in a heavy wool blanket. She heard the screams and cries of the people gathering outside. Without a backward glance at the lifeless glob of yellow, she ran through the jagged opening in the wall and into the cold winter blast.
Joining the growing crowd of anxious people, she learned that no one had been hurt in the tragedy that had destroyed the old building. She couldn't help breathing a deep sigh of relief. The water tower could be replaced with massive steel tanks from Pittsburgh. There could be peace and quiet once again in Chicago.
Take Care on the Journey,