Something dangerous is happening in Challenger Deep, ten thousand meters below the surface of the Pacific, and the scientists of Mariana Base—perched on the edge of the Mariana Trench—want to know what it is. Does it have something to do with the mysterious drone subs their corporate sponsor has been sending down there? When a corporate representative arrives unexpectedly at the base, it begins to seem like this isn’t about science at all, but something older . . . and darker.

Like Castle of Horror 5: Thinly Veiled 1970’s Inspired Horror, Castle of Horror 10: Thinly Veiled Saturday Mournings collects stories inspired by shows of yesteryear. Take a classic—or, in some cases, maybe not so classic—Saturday morning TV series and write a parody, homage, or pastiche while injecting an element of horror. My contribution to the previous anthology, “The Murder Couple,” reinvented the classic sitcom The Odd Couple as the story of a serial killer and his cleaner while still playing it for laughs. This time I decided to go with a straight horror story, specifically Lovecraftian horrors visited upon a deep-sea research base inspired by the 1970s cartoon Sealab 2020. It was especially important to play it straight, as the cartoon has already been satirized by Sealab 2021 in the early 2000s. Castle of Horror 10 was edited by Jason Henderson and In Churl Yo. The excerpt below is from the opening scene of the story (slightly revised for clarity in this excerpted form).

The Shadows Under Mariana Base

“Was there something else?” Captain Stephenson said to Dexter, her senior submersible pilot. The younger woman was just back from a dive to Challenger Deep, ten thousand meters underwater, deeper than Everest was tall.
       Dexter turned away from the monitor, facing the captain, her expression serious. “I’m . . . not sure it’s worth reporting.”
       After some silence, Stephenson leaned forward, elbows on her desk. “Well, just tell me.” She smiled and added, “Then I’ll decide if you shouldn’t have told me.”
       That seemed to help Dexter relax. “Okay. On the way back, I didn’t see anything, not directly in the lights. But around the edges . . . I don’t know. Shadows? How can there be shadows outside the light?” She folded her arms across her chest. “Maybe that mystery drone I spotted in the Deep creeped me out. Not exactly scientific, I admit.”
       Stephenson just nodded, unsure what to do about someone feeling spooked, but reluctant to shrug it off when that person was as experienced as Dexter. There had been a few small quakes centered down in the trench the last couple weeks, which always put people on edge, but not Dexter. It took a special kind of calm to pilot a submersible beneath ten thousand meters of water crushing down on you, and Stephenson had never seen Dexter rattled, even during the rare base emergency. The growing silence was broken by an eerie whale song reverberating through the small office.
       Both women couldn’t help but laugh at the perfectly timed sound punctuating the mood, and it broke the tension. . . .

Cover copyright Castle Bridge Media. All text copyright Scott Pearson.
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