Chasm

📅 Published on January 23, 2021

“Chasm”

Written by Soren Narnia
Edited by N/A
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 17 minutes

Rating: 9.00/10. From 2 votes.
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My name is Russell Green. At dawn on the morning of June 14 of this year I set off in a rented boat to a spot eleven miles north of Oymur on Russia’s Lake Baikal. My destination was informally called the Pit of Night. Three years ago, a giant sinkhole formed spontaneously at that spot, thirty-five hundred feet below the lake’s surface, making the lake even deeper in that area. The Pit of Night, less than a half-mile across, could only be detected remotely as it formed, seen on computers as a nebulous disturbance it took experts months to define. Geologists believed the sinkhole may have been set off by deep drilling on the shore near Popova during construction of a plant that would make cardboard, but they couldn’t be certain. Also unknown was the exact depth of the Pit of Night, because divers of course weren’t able to plumb it to any extent. The water pressure became unendurable at only a thousand feet. Echo sounders, combined with the colder water temperature in that area, pointed to the possibility that the sinkhole was of a depth that may have made the spot match the deepest point of the deepest lake in the world, which is Lake Baikal itself. That would mean the bottom point was more than five thousand feet below the surface.

I had the idea to boat out to the Pit of Night as a way to unofficially end a three-week solo trip through Mongolia that I had taken on assignment from the Tandem Region Times, based in Ontario. The idea was to drive in from my hotel in Irkutsk and go out to the spot and have a swim just to say I did it, mark it on some interior bulletin board of minor outdoorsy accomplishments; I didn’t think there would be anything out there of interest to readers, really. The rental service must have become overly impressed with my ties to the press because they were willing to give me way more boat than I needed for no extra money, a 70-foot former shrimper that had been converted into a research vessel and hadn’t seen any action for a while. It was pretty decrepit at least, which was what I was used to.

The Pit of Night was a couple of miles beyond the furthest point of tourist travel on that part of the lake, so I expected to be all alone at that hour of the morning. It wasn’t quite light when I set out. By the time I had to start thinking about seriously plotting my position, it was full dawn, but totally sunless and foggy. The horizon and the sky merged in a gray, ghostly haze, and it was impossible to tell where one began and the other ended. The lake was calm, just barely warm enough to have a brief swim in my thermally insulated wetsuit when I got to the right spot. I saw exactly one other boat as I went, a Viking Fivestar owned by someone rich, or one of the charter companies.

It had been more than a year since the incident that had cemented the sinkhole’s nickname. I’m talking of course about the disappearance of the Bierbechler sisters, the German outdoor adventurers in their twenties who were as famous for their fashion model looks as their mountain-climbing and deep-sea diving exploits, and who didn’t mind trading off those looks to secure further funding for their travels. But above all else they were experienced, intelligent explorers. They blogged about crossing the Pit of Night on their way northeast in late June last year during a photography trip, and sixteen hours after they embarked from Oymur, the search for their vessel began. Yet nothing was ever found: not bodies, not the boat, not the slightest sliver of wreckage. The Bierbechler sisters had simply disappeared. That was all it took to create the beginnings of a legend about the sinkhole and what it might be hiding. It was tough to forget the last picture they took together, as they climbed aboard their boat and headed off, smiling at the camera. The likeliest scenario was that they’d gotten caught in a squall and the boat sank; Lake Baikal’s sheer size made it incredibly difficult to pinpoint their route and dive for wreckage with any real precision. There were whispers than an abduction was possible; a kidnapping; piracy; but no evidence had been found of this. It remained a mystery.

Consulting my GPS, I closed in on the sinkhole right on my informal schedule, putting along quietly at 12 knots, feeling more and more alone, though God knows that was a feeling I was completely used to, doing what I did for a living. Even I, though, have my own interior tiers of solitude, and that murky, oppressive sky and the barren emptiness of Lake Baikal all around me depressed my mood. I found myself looking forward to the plane ride home.

I’m not sure exactly when I killed the boat’s engine because I was more or less on the pit’s centerpoint. Visually of course I saw nothing different; from my vantage point, the lake looked just the same. I sat and put my wetsuit on and snapped a couple of pictures of myself, smiling, and then I dove over the side of the boat into the cold water. It was so cold I let out a little yelp going in, but I had experienced worse.

I took a couple of leisurely laps around the boat, then treaded water for a time. Then, for posterity, I closed my eyes and let myself simply sink, my arms over my head, descending into the deep naturally, allowing myself the fantasy that I was actually lowering myself into the Pit of Night itself. The pit’s gaping mouth was thirty-five hundred feet below me, unseen. But at least I could say: I gave it a chance to suck me in forever, to claim me, but it never did. Just a few seconds into my descent I reached a state of zen-like calm and was able to feel an appreciation, on an elemental level, for where I was, the awesome natural scope of it. I opened my eyes and saw only darkness.

I had just about reached my dive limit and was ready to stop myself and swim back up to the surface for a breath when my legs began to be lifted gently by a push of water from beneath me, as if a current were coming from below. The water felt no warmer or colder. My legs went up, up until I was horizontal in the dark and I could hear the low moan of a large body of water shifting, reorganizing, and I freaked out a little, frightened of what might happen to me depending on the size of that current. I began to swim upwards quickly, but the current became quickly stronger than I and it turned me completely over. I popped up above the surface in a bit of a panic, but I regained control again quickly. The surface of the lake was still calm; only when I was comfortably treading water again did it become just a little choppier where I was. I was maybe seventy-five feet from the boat and I swam toward it with some haste. There was no telling where that rush of water had gone to, or how big it had been. The only other time in my life I’d felt something like that had been when I was swimming in the Sea of Cortez and a blue whale had passed me from below; the whale wasn’t more than ten feet from me. But there was nothing that size in Lake Baikal, which was strictly a freshwater lake despite its 12,000 square mile size. I’d read that the creation of the sinkhole may have created powerful vents, but I’d never read any accounts of them.

The old fishing boat rocked very gently as I grasped the ladder slung over its port side and climbed back up. I turned and looked at the spot I’d swam from; there was nothing there of any note. I’d had my adventure, and after I changed out of my wetsuit I’d head back to shore. I wondered if the Bierbechler sisters had maybe encountered the results of a vent, as some believed, and how strong it might have been. But even if they had, that might have merely wrecked their boat, but it wouldn’t have swallowed it, unless whirlpools could be created over the Pit of Night. I’d heard of phenomena like that.

I entered the open cabin, changed out of my wetsuit and into a sweatshirt and jeans after toweling off. I remained in my bare feet. I took two more pictures, both of the dreary gray horizon. Visibility remained very poor. It was a little unsettling not to be able to pinpoint where the horizon truly began because of the blurred focus effect the humidity was causing out there.

At the point where the surface of the lake disappeared into nothingness so far out, I could see a slight disturbance: Very small waves were forming now, rolling in toward me. The kind of waves generated by a large craft, but I saw and heard nothing out there. It was more likely that the weather was not quite what I thought it would be. I’d had absolutely no indication that there would be the slightest meteorological disturbance in the area of the Pit; the forecast had been for no sun but certainly nothing above a 2 on the Beaufort wind scale. But the climate could be strange, and it was best I was leaving now. The boat began to rock gently. The waves seemed to double in size very quickly, but still, no hint of wind. I thought something beyond the horizon was creating those waves. I was momentarily unbalanced as the lake’s icy water slapped against the boat. Looking east and west, I saw that this was a very localized disturbance, as the surface was strangely calm only one hundred yards away. I moved into the cabin to be more secure. I would start the engine as soon as the boat was stable. I peered through the portside window, stabilizing myself against a ledge in front of me. The waves were getting smaller already and the surface of the water was settling. I emerged from the cabin, closed my eyes, and listened. No engines, no horns, just the low hush of the black water.

Then came a sound I’ve tried to describe many times, and always felt I failed to. I’ve heard many sounds of whales as recorded deep under the surface of the ocean, and this was like someone had slowed a recording like that, deepened its pitch. It rose from nothing, just barely audible, and demanded that I remain perfectly still and focus to hear it throughout its duration. It reached a sustained moan that seemed to come from behind dozens of unseen stone doors separated by miles of lightless watery deep. Fifteen, twenty seconds, then gone, dissipating like mist, in every direction and no direction, though I felt the source was far beneath me, not out there somewhere on the lake. No creature in these waters could have ever made a sound that full, that echoing, and I had the terrifying thought that maybe that was what the sinkhole’s creation had sounded like thousands of feet beneath the waves, and there had now been another destabilization which was opening it even further, creating a suction which would take me down forever.

By now the boat had drifted to a point I guessed was on the southern edge of the Pit of Night. I started the engine; it kicked grudgingly into life. I had the presence of mind to cue up my smartphone’s voice recorder, just in case that sound came again, though I might not even hear it over the sound of the engine.

I turned the boat back toward the south, swinging around in an arc wider than I needed, so I could get a better look at my surroundings. Every direction looked the same. I had to rely on the GPS to point myself in the right one. So paranoid had I become that I cross-checked its hint with the compass on my keyring. I headed back slowly because I didn’t want the sound of the engine to blot out everything else.

I was content to putt along that way for a while, replaying that sound I’d heard in my mind again and again. It was truly not different enough from things I’d heard in nature in my years of traveling to be something to be feared, but I feared it all the same. I turned and looked behind the boat, and I imagined a brief glimpse of the Bierbechler sisters standing near the stern, the color leached from their flesh by days and days beneath the lake, their location missed again and again by hopeless rescue vessels. I snapped myself out of that quickly.

I focused on the tiny GPS display so I wouldn’t have to think so much, and when I was about a mile past the Pit of Night I opened up the engine more to get up to a speed I felt better about. For about five minutes I plowed forward, hearing nothing over the engine, feeling a humid breeze created entirely by my motion. Occasional raindrops struck the window in front of me, nothing to worry about. The way ahead was foggy, unclear, but that didn’t really matter now. My only concern a few minutes from now would be a boat emerging too quickly up ahead.

I’d estimate that I’d had my attention fixed totally forward for a total of eight minutes before I turned around that second time to look back. Maybe I sensed something, but I certainly hadn’t heard it. About 150 yards behind me, just at the point where visibility became washed out, some enormous thing was disappearing beneath the waves. When I’d turned it had been in the act of descending, so that I only saw the end of its rapid motion, and wasn’t able to accurately judge the size of what I’d seen. I could only see that it had been a dark gray mass, jagged and contoured as if a gigantic rock had poked up from below and then swiftly vanished again in reaction to outside forces. Maybe fifteen feet of it had protruded, and for no more than a couple of seconds. From the point where it sank under the waves, whitecaps rolled outwards, fairly big ones. Whatever had gone below had gone below hard and was big enough to create a tidal shockwave a little bigger than the one I’d experienced before.

I killed the motor at once without thinking, compelled to move toward the stern to get even a few feet closer to the sight. As the boat drifted, the disturbance created by the thing 150 hundred yards away settled fast, leaving just emptiness. That could only have been a whale, I thought to myself, which was impossible; they couldn’t have come from a saltwater source to Lake Baikal. And it just seemed like it had been too big, the whitecaps it made too prominent. I took my camera out and pointed it at that bleak horizon, and waited. I was scared then; my hands were shaking, I remember it clearly. If nothing happened in thirty seconds, I would retreat and get the boat moving forward again, slowly maybe, on the off chance that I could snap a photograph of some amazing phenomenon.

The seconds ticked away. The water stayed undisturbed, the last of the real waves passing the boat. My eyes darted from spot to spot, searching for any irregularity on the surface of the lake. Come on, I thought, come on, come on, what were you?

The boat was rocking just a little more than normal, the water around it on all sides choppier than it had been. Then there was a terrific jolt that threw me off balance, almost as if I had struck a sandbar, and the boat’s very gentle forward motion simply stopped. It wasn’t moving at all suddenly, out here miles from the nearest landmass. I was freakishly anchored, held by something that wasn’t letting me go forward, back, or sideways. My heart was hammering.

The thought of sending a distress signal rose immediately in my mind as I tried to imagine what had gripped the boat. I edged close to the starboard side, keeping my center of gravity very low in case of another jolt, and looked over. The lake was infuriatingly black and secretive. As if to mock me, a single gull appeared from the east and settled on the dirty stern of the boat, its tiny eyes seeming to fix right on me.

Water suddenly flew up from just beyond the stern in an erupting spray, and a giant pale hook-like object the size of a man whipped from beneath the surface of the water and curled over the edge of the boat. The gull disappeared under its bulk. The hook-thing smashed into the planks and drove deep into them, snapping them clean. As it withdrew, it ripped the boards with it and crashed through wood, fiberglass and steel, smashing a gap there, pieces of the boat splintering and flying into the lake. The entire boat tilted upwards and I grabbed the railing beside me to hold on. The visibly organic thing went below again after scraping away a massive section of the stern away in a second and a half, and the boat settled uneasily, rocking left and right. I remember just standing there for a moment when my balance was secure, inert, numb with the kind of shock people must feel after seeing a car accident, or being told their wife had suddenly died somewhere far away.

Then my reflexes sent me back into the cabin to gun the engine even before I could survey just how bad the damage was. My only thought was to get away as fast as I could. As soon as the motor was going and the boat was moving forward I stepped away from the wheel and saw that I was not going to make it back to shore. The bow of the boat was angled dangerously high and it was cantering to the left because of the imbalance created by the damage; water was freely lapping over the stern and sloshing into the hole left by the hook-thing, more and more every second, the water weighing the back down, making it too heavy. I would eventually turn over, I thought. It was only a matter of time so I pushed the engine hard, unable to keep the boat on a straight line, having to turn it against the momentum that imbalance was generating. The engine would blow out first, probably, destroyed by the lake water.

The radio was in perfect working order. With the touch of one button I sent my GPS coordinates to the Russian Border Guard but locating an open channel through a gauntlet of static was the problem. There was a life jacket beside my head and I tore it free from its hook and got it on as I frantically tried to stabilize both the boat and myself. I was never able to connect to a live person in the Border Guard before I had to abandon the radio. My coordinates and cry of mayday would have to do. My attention was divided evenly between the way ahead and the way behind. Nothing was chasing me except time. It became difficult to even stand because the bow was cantering upward more and more. This is it, I thought, I’m going down, into the lake.

There was a horrible industrial choking sound as the engine gave. That ended in a terrifying silence. The boat carried forward with whatever momentum it had left, veering off to the east, getting me not much further toward the invisible shore. There was no point in waiting for it to go down; the incline would soon be too great for me to stay upright at all. I made my way out of the cabin in quick small maneuvers, hanging on to whatever I could. There was no time to get my wetsuit on. Fearing I was going to my death, I leapt over the side of the boat into the frigid water and watched the boat drift pathetically on, leaving splinters and shards and debris behind it. As I tread water, it got closer and closer to the disappearing point in the gray shroud all around me, and then moved into it just as it began to turn over onto its port side. And so I never saw it go fully down. It became a ghost.

I tried to get my breathing under control so as not to go into total shock. I tilted my head to the sky because the blankness up there allowed me to focus on staying calm. My only hope would be to stay sane and swim, but it would take me another two full minutes for my brain to send me the proper signal to really move. Panic had me completely. And now, to my utter horror, my sense of direction had been destroyed. All directions still looked the same under that sky. I tried to visualize the path of the boat before and after it had been struck, but was unable to calculate anything clearly. My course, useless as it would be, would be a guess, probably not even improving my chances of discovery by another boat or a rescue vessel by one percent. And so I chose to just swim away from where I believed that weirdly organic-seeming hook had emerged from the waves.

I wasn’t more than thirty yards on my hopeless journey when I heard the boat being struck far beyond the fog, struck just once, hard, a low crack as if it were being split in two. An echo trailed it. After that first brutal contact, whatever had smashed into it did not initiate contact with it again. When I heard that, I let myself drift. I am ashamed at how that broke my spirit, ashamed my survival mechanism withered so fast. The part of my brain that should have been telling me to think rationally instead told me there was something in the lake that would find me soon enough, or hypothermia would claim me in another few hours. There was no cause to struggle. My chances were as good letting myself go limp as they were fighting to cover meaningless yards.

Years ago I was taught a trick by a man who had almost died in a snowstorm on K2, a trick to remain on an even mental plane in the face of hopelessness. When there’s nothing you can do but wait for help, he told me, blot out the visual. Close your eyes and keep them closed. Simplify. Become inert and sightless. And now I could feel that helping me. It was true; processing the visual all around me, which promised only a terrible end, had to be stopped. I became brutally pragmatic. Sight would not help me in this moment, it would only cause me to overreact, to panic. If I could have kept all sound out, I would have.

I heard water moving in a new way somewhere in front of me, very close. It was being displaced by something tremendous and I was pushed slowly backward by a sudden current, still limp. It sounded like a waterfall was being born from nothing, and I began to feel spatters of the water strike my face from above. My eyes were locked shut but I sensed the daylight on my face being eclipsed and the color inside my eyes went from a swamplike gray to absolute black. As the sound of something mute rising from the lake continued, the spatters became a torrent; water was descending off this gigantic thing high above me, cascading off it, and I was struck so hard by its force and volume that I went momentarily under, then bobbed back up again as the shower tapered off. I drifted further away from the centerpoint of the great disturbance, sent away by the current. My face to the sky, I clapped my hands over my eyes, relying on my lifejacket to just barely keep my afloat. I absolutely would not look.

A cracking sound came from above, maybe as far as a hundred feet above, something splintering. There was a splash off to my left, then one well behind me, and upon the third one I felt an object strike my right foot and there was a brief flash of pain. I had so profoundly taken leave of my senses that I didn’t realize then that what I was feeling was debris from the boat crashing into the lake.

Whatever it was that towered above me became motionless. If it moved toward me, I would die perhaps, but I would not face my killer. Yet there was no motion, as if the thing were waiting for something, or maybe observing me, studying me. I took my hands away from my eyes and that intense interior darkness beneath the lids remained. It was still there somewhere, blotting out the ghastly sky.

It returned to the depths all at once. There was a baritone whooshing sound and then an immense slap against the surface. Water sprayed across me and then the waves engulfed me and sent me turning over and over. My arms flailed and I tried to stay up but I became helpless, lost in the rush of tide the thing’s descent created. I felt myself drowning, spinning in the darkness, frozen, engulfed by my tomb―frigid, indifferent Lake Baikal, the deepest in the world. I did not wish to return to the surface again. Here, down below where everything was and would be mercifully black forever, I opened my eyes as my body rotated gently, having no idea whether I was upside down or sideways or even still in one piece.

A face emerged ten yards in front of me, floating forward just a few inches from a point of nothingness, a face unnaturally, impossibly vivid under the water, and then the rest of a body, also white in perfect contrast to the darkness. The figure of a woman, but this was no corpse. Like a sculpture made of white soap, the woman, once visible, remained perfectly still, like she was standing on an invisible pane of glass, not floating, just standing there. Her hair stayed limp on her shoulders and where her eyes had been, where her mouth had been, there was just white smoothness. She was holding something in her pale, bony right hand. It was a camera. Then she retreated into the dark without her limbs moving an inch, as if an unseen rope around her waist were retracting, retracting. Gone back to heaven or hell or the corridors of my subconscious mind. Why not both of the sisters, why just one of them? Why had it had been Gerta, who they called the shy one, the one long tormented by dreams of dying in a plane crash?

I next remember gasping uncontrollably; I had popped up onto the surface and was coughing up blood and water, my lungs spasming painfully. The shock of my body’s last desperate attempt to hold onto life forced my eyes open. I was looking directly up at the growing dot of a helicopter coming from the south. My mind and body too wrecked to think to scream or raise my arm in a signal, I just watched it. At first I was convinced that tiny engine sound so far in the distance was moving away from me. But I was wrong.

I was back in the exact same helicopter that rescued me eleven hours later as it flew low and fast over the waves of Lake Baikal, now layered in the shadows of night. The searchlight, when they turned it on two miles shy of the Pit of Night, gave me discolored glimpses of the choppy, secretive surface. No one was talking as we went into a wide low arc around the search site, the dangerous cold wind making it hard for the pilot to keep us completely steady. Everyone’s focus had become quite intense. It was only just and fitting that I would be the one to first lean forward hard against the straps that secured me, and point, and tell them, There … there. I see it. There it is.

Rating: 9.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Soren Narnia
Edited by N/A
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Soren Narnia


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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