Time: 10 minutes
Prompt: "He'd been under the ice, under the water, for ten minutes"
Source: Complicity by Iain Banks
John Parkin was cold. Cold and frustrated. He'd been under the ice, under the water, for ten minutes, and there was no sign of the person he'd come to meet. Under the ice, the message had said. At dawn. Come alone. Questions answered. Fears forgotten. Purpose found.
Dawn. A little more specificity would have been nice. Or maybe the messager could have been there early, waiting for John. He checked the pressure gauge on his tank. Still another forty minutes of air, but even with the dry suit, John wasn't sure he could stand the cold that long.
When he called meetings with unknowns, he used cafés with fireplaces and comfortable chairs—or if season and weather permitted, outdoor tables under pergolas. Steaming cups of coffee. Toddy to warm the throat. Hot soup. Warmth.
John checked his watch. Nearly fifteen minutes under the ice. He should have set up a breathing hose. At this shallow depth, decompression wouldn't be an issue, but if he had to go up to switch tanks and missed his contact... well, he didn't even know what would happen if he did meet the messager.
Perhaps he could just climb back through the hole he'd cut and wait on top of the ice. He could stick his face in the water every few minutes to see if someone was there. The message hadn't specifically said that he had to be under the ice himself. The meeting would occur under the ice. That's what it meant. John kick his fins and swam toward the round hole.
As he hooked his elbows over the cut edge of the ice, it shuddered and he lost his purchase, slid back under the water. A booming roar sounded all around, muted by the hood of the dry suit and the air pocketed inside, but still deafening. John looked down. Directly below him, still far away in the blue-black, was a lighter spot—vaguely circular. It grew rapidly and assumed distinctive features. A face. A human face—except big. Too big. And growing bigger as it rushed upward. It's mouth gaped wide and green teeth bordered a deeper blackness. Its eyes were shut.
John's pulse drummed in his ears, competing with the ambient roar. He was breathing hard and fast, burning through his tank too rapidly, he knew. He must be calm. He reached for the hole again, but discovered that he'd sunk deeper without knowing it. He kicked frantically, but now there was a current fighting him—pulling him down.
The face slowed its ascent and stopped ten feet below the surface. Thirty feet in diameter, it occupied his entire field of view. The noise stopped and the mouth closed. In that cold silence, the eyes opened.
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