The artificial yellow lights hurt my eyes, and her lab-coat reeked of chemicals. When we reached the bottom of the mile long elevator, the doors creaked open, and my guide politely coaxed me to go first.
When I applied for my Masters in Journalism I dreamed of the excitement of cracking a big story and showing the world the hidden underbelly of society. Now I felt like I was in way over my head.
The lead scientist of the Osiris Project led me down a dimly lit hallway; her words barely registered in my consciousness. We stepped from the dimly lit corridor into a brightly lit cylindrical bubble that acted as a window into the expansive world below sea level.
"The creatures we have concocted here are certainly marvelous. Sometimes terrifying," she added as the offspring of Cerberus and a great white floated past us. "But marvelous none the less. We have created a staggering array of different aquatic curiosities and monstrosities. I just hope the public can handle what we have to show them."
"The public? I'm not sure I can handle all of this," I said, trying to pretend like it was a joke.
"Ha," she chuckled. "Don't worry, the public doesn't need to know about all of this. It's our prized creation that we really want to show them. These," she said, motioning to the aquatic creatures swimming all around us. "These can simply be disregarded as the playthings of a mad marine biologist, if I'm being frank. No, what we've brought you here for is much more important than this."
She paused and looked to make sure I was paying attention. I wasn't sure of most of the conversation. There was too much to take in. But I pressed pen to pad and nodded for her to continue.
"It started after the accident. Matt, one of our caretakers, got too attached to and too comfortable around Jessie, our dolphin narwhal hybrid. Protocol is complete sedation of all specimens before entering enclosures. Jessie is one of our most intelligent creatures, and Matt developed a sort of bond with her. He felt bad putting her under everyday and instead broke protocol. No one quite blames him. We all feel bad seeing Jessie shiver when she sees the harpoon. But protocol is protocol." She stared off, her face full of remorse, before continuing. "Anyways, Matt broke protocol and went into the enclosure to feed Jessie while she was awake. Jessie was elated that she could play with her only friend. Matt was excited too. However, his excitement got the better of him, and he failed to realize Jessie was luring him to the far side of her tank. Once he was far enough away from the exit and had his back turned, she ran him through."
"Oh. Oh my goodness," I stuttered.
"We assume her plan was to escape. Luckily the rupture in his suit triggered the lock-down sequence. Jessie was quickly sedated, the lock-down lifted, and Matt's unconscious body brought to the med-station."
"Di-Did he make it?"
"Yes, yes. Matt is alive. That is why what we have to show you is so important. It was all thanks to Dr. Schlögenburger. When they pulled Matt out of the tank and laid him on the exam table he had no pulse, and nothing we tried restored it."
I looked up from my notes and gave her a worried look that she failed to acknowledge.
"Due to the secret nature of this program, it was uncertain what to do about Matt's body. Bringing him back to the surface for a proper burial would attract too much attention. Releasing him to the beasts, while effective, felt cruel. Dr. Schlögenburger proposed an ingenious experiment."
"An experiment? Is that even--"
"Laws mean nothing down here," she said matter-of-factly. "While, unusual, let's say, experimentation was the most ethical solution in this case. Dr. Schlögenburger is lead researcher of Turritopsis Dohrnii, or, as you may know them, immortal jellyfish. His experiment involved splicing Turritopsis Dohrnii DNA with Matt's DNA. And it worked."
"I told you it was important. More trials and tests need to be done, of course, but we may have stumbled upon the fountain of youth, the key to immortality!"
"You're telling me that Matt was dead!? Dead. And you were able to bring him back to life!?"
Her massive grin was accompanied by aggressive nodding. "Absolutely! Not only was Matt reborn, but he has the ability to no longer die! Would you like to meet him?"
Stunned and at a loss for words, I simply nodded consent.
"Excellent, follow me."
I silently followed her through the underwater maze to a round red door. She turned the release valve and swung the door aside. Once again she ushered me to enter first. Hesitantly I took a step across the threshold and into the floating portal to the strange underwater world. All around me was thick glass meant to keep the oxygen in and the water out. Confused as to where Matt was I looked back at my host. I followed her finger to the point beyond the glass that she was trying to show me. There he was. There Matt was. He was floating, up and down. His figure was less defined than I expected, and his ghost-like skin sent a shiver down my spine.
"While there are a few side effects as you can see, I am confident that with time the public will come to accept this new milestone in human evolution."
I looked back to the blobular form that was 'Matt' and saw movement that seemed to be that of a mouth. The glass was far too thick to hear. It took some time to make sense of the motions coming from this alien form. Thankfully, Matt seemed to be saying the same few words over and over again.
When it finally registered what he was trying to say, my veins went cold, and I knew the public could never know about this.
Matt was mouthing the words, 'Kill me'.