by Paul Ray © 2002

Dr. Brigg pulled the mask over his face and bit down on the mouthpiece before plunging into the water. An eruption of bubbles cascaded upward, blurring the undersea expanse around him. His fins propelled him away from the boat's hull, as he followed the anchor chain down. The only sound was his own mechanical breathing.

His entire career. That's how long he'd been looking for Atlantis. The mythical city had evaded him several times in the past, but now he was positive he had pieced together all the clues to its location. Minoan pottery shards depicting scenes of the city, Etruscan cave paintings, and other clues from Asturias, ancient Greece, and elsewhere. All the evidence was consistent with Plato's writings. And soon his lifelong pursuit would be realized; his peers would cease their joking at his expense, and his wife would finally understand the obsession that had driven him all these years.

The tiny boat was now far above, but he swam with confidence and anticipation. He crested a rise on the ocean floor and a startled school of fish darted away as one. Then, he saw the crevice, like an underwater canyon, beckoning to him, and he heeded its call. To either side, walls of rock rose as he penetrated its darkening depths.

Then, in the distance, rising up before him, he saw the spires. At first, they were like long underwater needles, but as he hastened towards them, he began to see the domed buildings from which they extended. And then the entire city suddenly spread out beneath him. Grand boulevards lined with buildings intersected curving avenues dotted with chiseled statues, large and small. Rows of towering columns supported the domed roofs, and above them all, a massive stone temple stood, with countless wide steps climbing to its huge doors.

Brigg's breath was taken away in an exhaled cloud of bubbles. The buildings weren't the crumbled ruins he'd expected. The structures below were all intact, even gleaming with newness. But the most astounding thing was that down in the stone paved courtyards, and in the tree filled parks, and even out in the streets... there were people. Toga-clad, sandal-footed... people.



This was the most amazing discovery ever! A lifetime of effort finally rewarded! He had to know more. He had to make contact. He had hundreds of pent-up questions, theories, and ideas, to ask, prove, and discover.

He kicked his legs, and dove towards Atlantis. As he approached, a young girl looked up from playing with her doll, and smiled at him. Her mother was suddenly there too, and they both started waving to the doctor.

Brigg paused, simply overcome, and found himself waving back. The girl's smile widened, and she clapped her hands with joy.

Then, he saw his oversized diving watch, and noticed an hour had nearly passed; his air supply was almost depleted. He had to get to the surface, and soon. His wave of "hello" turned into one of "good-bye," but he would quickly return.

And so away he swam, leaving the city behind him. Back through the canyon, over the rise to frighten more lingering fish, then up along the chain towards the boat shaped shadow. He clamored aboard, slid the spent tank from his back, and rummaged for another.

"Mike, where's a full one?" he called out. "Mike!"

His assistant stepped through an open doorway onto the deck behind him.

"Oh, you're back," he said, biting into an apple. "Some nice stuff down there, eh? Do you really think this was it, doc?"

Briggs looked up from the stack of assorted tanks.

"What do you mean?" he said. "Did you see it?"

"Yeah, Riley got it on screen about twenty minutes after you left."

"So, you saw them too, then?"

"The ruins you mean? Sure, but I'm sure we'll find at least a few nice pieces amongst all that."

Briggs rushed passed his unshaven assistant and climbed the metal ladder to the control center. A half-dozen monitors glared back at him as he sat at the controls.

"There she is, doc," said Riley, pointing at a screen. "Atlantis. You were right, we found her."

But Briggs was silent. The city he had visited was there on the monitor in front of him, the same boulevards, the same temple, the same columns. But it was all in crumbled ruins: no spires, no trees, no people, and no little girl.

Years of study, and his own common sense, told him that what he'd seen was impossible. But he had been there; Atlantis had to exist.

Then a thought came to him, as if the very soul of the city he'd sought all these years called out to him. He suddenly realized for the first time why no one had been able to find it before; Atlantis, or rather its inhabitants, simply didn't want to be discovered. They had existed peacefully for thousands of years. For him to reveal it now would only destroy the city he loved.

"No, Riley," he finally said. "I'm afraid that's not her. "Look here, these columns are just rows of kelp, and this shape isn't a fallen statue: just an unusual coral growth. No, I'm afraid there's nothing for us here. We'd best move on and try somewhere else."

Riley looked at him, a little puzzled, then finally relented. They raised the anchor, fired up the engines, and then they too, were gone.

x x x

Read more Flash Fiction?
Chat about this story on our BBS?
Or, Back to the Front Page?