Creators & Roles
Fabrice Guerrier, (Sci-fi and fantasy writer)
Brynn Yoder (fantasy writer)
Tim Malachy (Sci-fi writer)
Marsha Clarke (Speculative fiction writer)
Giselle Bodden (Literary and magical realism writer)
Cameron Posey (Screenwriter)
All the ice caps on the planet have melted and extreme climatic events have made it so that no humans live on the small remaining surface of the earth. The atmosphere is toxic and doesn’t permit to live within it any longer. Humanity has found it more sustainable to live completely underwater.
Neptune is the first human city under the ocean in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. About 13 million humans live there. Neptune is covered by a large special glass polymer covering the entire city.
Groups in Neptune
The Terras: are the traditional humans who want to hold on to their human ways.
The Gills: are the humans and generations who have developed gills to swim underwater via biogenetic engineering with fish species DNA.
There’s constant conflicts on the direction of humanity and where to go and especially accepting the rising movement of genetic modification of the gills humans and their offspring.
Context: This is the arrival of Humanity in this new city. Writers explore the failed space experiment and the many of the millions who go to this new underwater city.
Leaving The Surface of The Earth by Tim Malachy
“Don’t dad! You can’t! Please!”
He looked at her, her face streaked with tears, her eyes red stained, hair damp with that goddamn water, and nausea roiled his gut.
Grasping onto the mildew stained wall, he steadied himself. I have to.
“You know I do. Would you just leave him? Do you want that? We can’t take him. I’m so sorry. We just can’t.”
A sigh wracked his narrow shoulders; he shook his head.
“You know you can’t stay. Come on, nobody wants this. I don’t want this! But it’s our only choice.”
Dishes clanked in the kitchen, then went quiet. A moment, and then
Emma, his wife, peeked into the room.
“How’s it going?” Her voice was soft, but her eyes wide, anxious, her thick black hair greasy and lank.
He ran a hand through his own dank hair.
“How do you think it’s going?
“It’s taken care of as Mr Hsu promised.”
She paused. “Can he even do it? They say only one in a million, like really one in a million, get a slot. Lots of people won’t even survive.”
“They say downtown is already flooded. The 101 is on fire. We might not make it to the station on time.”
“We’ll make it. Why are you watching that news station anyway? You know my guy promised to give us a slot.”
“His guy. Yeah.”
“Ok… I’m just saying… we need to go.”
Michelle rocked back and forth on the sofa, her face buried in her hands, her body trembling. “I’m not going!”
He stared helplessly at her. “Can you do something?”
Approaching the sofa, she lay a hand on the strong shoulders of Michele.
“We have to let him go. You know what is happening. Nobody wants this, nobody wants any of this. But we can’t leave him. We just can’t. Can you imagine how cruel that would be?”
“I’m not going!”
“God damn…” he muttered, stepping out of the living room to the rooftop, still cluttered with Nana’s crap, though she was long gone now, in the early wave of the hydrophobia pandemic that took so many of the elderly. Stepping between the cement cistern topped with plastic bags stuffed with more plastic bags, garlic hanging damp and listless, the washing machine and dryer corroded by the ever present humidity to useless pieces of shit, and looked over the wall.
Five floors below, the turgid brown waters seemed still, but not a soul in sight. Something bobbed in the alleyway; it took him a moment to realize it was a body. Another body.
A wave of nausea once again roiled his gut. What if his buddy didn’t come through? He checked his watch, but of course it had stopped days ago, its presence marked by a pale spot on his otherwise tanned skin.
Above the jagged skyline, the clouds loomed heavy and dark. Bile filled his throat, and he raised his fist, middle finger upraised at them, then shook his head at his own futility.
He turned back, filled his lungs with the fetid air, and squared his shoulders. “It’s time.”
His bare feet in plastic flip flops squeaked on the linoleum. He walked into the house, into the hallway.
His wife and daughter were no longer on the sofa. He heard them whispering behind the closed bedroom door.
They looked up with startled terror in their eyes.
His wife nodded. “Come on, baby. He’s going to a better place.”
They hugged Xiao Hei’s furry neck, kissed his snout, stared into his liquid eyes, and promised him eternal love and eternal happiness as he prepared the syringe.
Then they left. And he was alone with Xiao Hei, his buddy, his companion, his best friend, maybe his only friend.
“It’s ok, buddy, it’s ok… Daddy will always love you. Always,” and his tears burned in his eyes as he wrapped the shoelace around Xiao Hei’s paw, the dog pulling back, reluctant.
“It’s ok, buddy, it’s ok.”
The syringe found the vein, the plunger descended, and the light faded from those liquid eyes.
Down below, he heard the whine of an outboard motor wending its way through the flooded streets. Their ride was here.
He stood up, opened the door. They stared at him.
It’s done. Let’s go.
Blessings of the Sea Hag By Giselle Bodden
Amongst the yelling and whimpers, and cries of children, there was the soft, playful jingle of an anklet made of metal beads and seashells. The anket adorned a wrinkled and barefoot old woman who called herself Agartha. This day was special. It was the opening day of Neptune. She approached the toughened glass Grand Doors of the world’s first underwater city.
She glanced upwards. The new day had a darker sky than on earth. Then again, earth’s sky had been contaminated with unbreathable pollution; and that sky was darker than the days of her youth. Darkness was a growing trend.
Neptune had been planted in an abysmal zone, not too far away from the Mariana trench but much closer to sunlight. She whispered to herself, “God Neptune will keep us all safe here.” A few foreign fish fluttered by. She could see a collection of mollusks that attached themselves to the glass dome of the waiting area. They seemed so few and so peaceful compared to the hundreds of unbathed, unfed, unrested humans waiting to be let in. It had been a long journey for most. The only way to reach Neptune was to be submerged from one of the qualifying international cities found along a Pacific Coastline. Many people passed away en route including members of Agartha’s coven. She was the only one left.
Agartha pushed her way forward through the masses. She had waves and swirls painted in light blue on her face and arms. She had a staff with a large conch shell atop of it, to help her walk. It was also a key tool in her blessing ritual that only she could now perform with her coven sisters having died on land. In her left hand, she carried a basket of dried fish, seaweed, herbs and oils to place at the entrance of the Grand Doors as an offering to God Neptune.
The first people submerged were those with young families who could continue to populate the earth – or sea – for generations to come. She paused to take a rest and ponder on how she, an old sea hag, could do nothing to contribute in building up this new society. The only gift she had was to share the wisdom of the oceans with the youth who would spend the rest of their lives here since the earth rejected them all. With her mission in mind, she kept nudging her way past everyone until she reached the Grand Doors.
“Ma’am you have to step away from the door!” A guard called out to her sternly while approaching her with his hand on his gun.
His colleague looked her up and down. He yelled out as well, “I don’t know why they let an old sea hag down here! She’s gotta be at least 70 years old.”
Agartha did not speak. Instead she placed her staff down gently and sat a few paces away from the door. Meanwhile a young boy pulled his mom towards the front of the crowd and pointed at Agartha. “See mama, I told you she was here.”
“It’s NOT time for entry. Everyone needs to stand clear of the doors. We can all drown if this is not handled correctly!!” The guard yelled once more.
The young boy gripped his mom’s leg at the thought of drowning. She gently patted his head, “Yes, yes you were right dear… now let’s step back as the guard said.” She pulled him a few feet back but the young boy would not take his eyes off of Agartha.
Agartha removed items from her basket and laid them down in a swirl shape identical to the pattern on her right check. She said a short prayer in Koine Greek and took a bite of the dried fish – head first. Bones and all, she swallowed. She took out the herbs and oil, rubbing them onto her body in a meticulous order. Her prayers crescendoed into a chant. She picked up her staff once more and shook it around her items then thrice around herself. She briefly made eye contact with the boy who was completely intrigued.
Noticing the subtle exchange between this witch with her son, the boy’s mom, grabbed his small, cold hand. “Come now, Pluto lets go wait over here.” She walked him over to the glass wall where the mollusks had gathered. “What do you know about these little guys?”
Agartha untied her anklet. She held it out in front of her with both hands as though she was offering it to an unseen presence. Most of the general public ignored her as they were too exhausted to care. Some hungry eyes peered over at the dried fish and seaweed in her basket. Others lay asleep, while others mumbled complaints under their breath. “They’re really going to let some voodoo lady in here with our children.”
Agartha’s soft and shallow chant grew louder and more aggressive. The guard hadn’t taken his eyes off her at all. Perturbed now, he jumped down from his post and hovered over the old woman. “Ma’am I don’t know what you are doing over here but it needs to stop now!” He kicked the assortment of items she had laid out. The fish tumbled out of the basket and a hungry onlooker grabbed them for his family. “STOP, I said, dammit!” As he lowered his hands to grab her, a sudden loud humming noise caused the entire waiting dome to vibrate. Agartha’s chants continued. Her whole body shook as violently as the dome. The guard stood straight up and moved away to check the surroundings. There were now flickers of light within the sea. Different fish and blinking organisms had them surrounded.
Pluto held his ear against the glass dome. “If you listen you can hear him coming mama!”
“Who’s coming, Plu?” His mother grabbed him by the shoulders while looking around at the crowd and the guards for direction. Everyone was confused and disoriented. The bit of sunlight they had was gone. She looked up and a pod of whales humming loudly caused the entire space to vibrate even more. They passed by quickly enough but the light from above did not return. The current of the water changed. All of the seas appeared to be sloshing around the walls and above on the surface.
The guard climbed back up to his post where the comms system was. He put in a phone call to Turf, the transition team on land. “We have an unstable situation here on Alpha Post. The unit is vibrating.” He paused to listen for instructions. Agartha was now shrieking in Koine Greek with her eyes rolled to the back of her head. Her body no longer shook, but she now held the anklet above her head. “Dammit, I can barely hear ya! We have a damn sea hag down here who won’t shut the hell up.”
“He’s almost here mama!” Pluto squirmed his way out of his mom’s grip. He ran towards Agartha.
“Pluto, wait!” She took off after him. It was much harder for her to move through the restless crowd.
The guard argued with the commander over the telecomm, “I assumed YOU ALL in Turf gave her a pass! How the hell else would she get down here?!”
His partner had heard enough. “We have to remove her, Sarge.” The guard slammed the phone down, pissed off. No more hesitating. He locked in on Agartha, whose back was facing him. The bullet landed swiftly and quietly in the back of her chest.
“Pluto!” his mom called out to him.
Pluto stopped short, right in front of Agartha. She coughed up blood, some of which got on his hoodie. Her blood streamed down her chin and dripped onto the sandy floor. She lowered her arms slowly as Pluto stared into her dying eyes at her strong soul.
She held the anklet out to him, “This is a special day. Neptune’s here.”
The current above settled as did the rest of the waters around them. Pluto’s mom caught up to him, kneeled down and spun him around. “Pluto, are you okay?! Talk to me!” He just nodded yes while clutching the anklet in a tightly balled fist. “Of course I am mama.”
“We have to stick together! Don’t ever run off like that again!”
The main guard pulled out a loudspeaker while the other guards came down to remove Agartha’s body from the passageway. As they dragged Agartha’s body aside, the single mom’s eyes welled with tears as she held her son closer to her than before.
“Alright people, it’s time to prepare for opening as the first residents of Neptune! We need you to get in three ORDERLY lines based on your port of entry. First up: Oahu. Osaka. Galapagos. We will continue in threes until all ports have been named.”
Pluto fixed his vision on Agartha’s lifeless body. With his mom still carrying him, he opened his fist behind her back to look more closely at the anklet Agartha handed off to him. He looked over at her body once more and noticed a crack in the wall. Was this the power of Neptune?
The Tritonite by Cameron Posey
The debris was the last part I always remembered of the dream. Raining shrapnel of metallics. Pieces of rocket and wings they found from shores to oceans. Millions of heavy Styrofoam shooting down like hot hail. It looked beautiful from the night sky to anyone who lived in what little caves they could find without managing to drown.
But no one, faced with losing their homes to the rising oceans, could escape the truth human lives had dispersed across the unbreathable atmosphere. The last botched attempt at reaching the stars and the hope of becoming celestial beings was blown away across the dark horizon. Neptune was our only choice now.
The stars glowered down one last time to deny our entry before they valued themselves behind the toxic clouds that took our homes away. We could never have a piece of their universe. Staring across the sky one last time, I wondered which shrapnel of shooting star was my mother and my brother. That was when I always woke up.
Our dinghy tent always smelled of must, and mold. Wet sewage swept in from time to time when the nearby waste tanks burst, adding to odors that first made me throw up. After a while though, you get used to it.
Water drips constantly from the dome. They were placed in cardboard to shield our feet from the dented metal when amble about. The Tribunal ordered it so. A thousand lives too late though after some got struck with tetanus from gashing their feet and died due to a shortage of vaccines.
We came to Neptune with nothing but the drench clothes on their backs. Once they grew mold and stuck to the skin causing nasty rashes that the community doctors couldn’t afford to keep looking after, we traded our things for these special material robes. Not even a gaylord of water could soak them. Most of us wore nothing underneath. I bathed with it on and I slept with it on. It was hell when we entered certain parts of Neptune that got hot and humid.
There was no morning sun to greet me. The dirty green tent that told me it was another drab morning. As usual Dad was elsewhere probably tending to those that carried twig forks and called them tritons. If he keeps messing around with looney toons he’s going to end up dead somewhere. A bunch of unhinged has-beens believing in an old Greek gold that can one day give them gills. What kind of shit were they on and how did they get passed the valves?
I must have slept in because when I checked outside of our tent, there was our morning rations in a container: dried salted pork, grain, and a container of freshwater split by two. Thankfully, no one had the gall to steal from us this morning. Dad was more than willing to let them since he was on his morning fast. But I broke a guy’s tooth just to keep ourselves from getting dehydrated.
I washed my face in the bowl we shared, a planet pot that guards managed to muster up when there was a leak in our quarters. Once it was fixed, they were supposed to return them to the agricultural center but some of us in the residence swiped a few. Tensions rose between the Tribunal and some of the resident quarters. The guards picked and chose their fights.
I gnawed on the tough pork listening to the melody of a baby’s cry at the tupik near ours. The mother ceased comforting it and decided to let the baby cry itself tired. It’s the only music I look forward to hearing. After a while the baby makes a hiccup sound that reminds me of a duet my mother played on the radio when I was younger.
My appetite isn’t there anymore when I think about her. I start to think about Dad. He should have been back by now. He usually came back as they passed out rations. Maybe I’ll sleep some more. It soothes my mind but then a lady’s screaming mauls my ear drums and I leap out of the tent to see who is fighting. But there’s no one. The lady that screamed stands petrified at an intersection, pointing at one of the dome lids that are used to dump waste.
The guards, dressed in similar grabs, scuttle down. No one stays away, including me. A fight is the only thing any of us have to look forward to.
But it wasn’t a fight. Just one man crazed and morphed.
His robes scuttled down his waist like a small child losing their helpless grip. His bloody hands gripping the metal wheel desperately twisting. The brands on his back boiling with blisters and bubbled skin. A triton symbol that sent a punctured thumb to my chest. Traces of blood still speckled and smeared across him. This crazed man was my father.
I knew his strength like no one else. How the guards were tossed away by his blood covered arms like I was when I tried to get a lick in our first argument down here. The electric baton was nothing he couldn’t absorb.
When the guards radioed for back up, I raced over. Back up always came with more effective methods
Dad budged the wheel. I grabbed him and wasted no time hurling him away. He came at with a vengeance parents shouldn’t have against their children. A missed punch had him stumbling. He wasn’t himself. I slammed my fist hard into his cheek. All the rage for bringing us down here and not letting us die like a family, shot through my fist and into his left cheek.
The guards saw this and they retracted the call for help.
I reached for Dad. The blood on him ran down from his neck. Pink and red tissue, soft spots of muscle exploded on me. I could trace the pattern of gills as my stomach clenched into knots. Why would he bring himself to this? Why would he make himself this low? Those Tritonites! Their experiments are deranged as they are. Prophecy created by the unhinged who should have been left on the surface to rot.
I brought my dad back to the tent. Another rejection branded into his skull. He died that night choking on the remains of the grain I tried to feed to him. The gills never served their purpose. They were never meant for humans.
Eevus By Brynn Yoder
The sun, ever brighter over the last decade, hammered down on Eevus. He unlatched the hose from the fuselage, throwing the hose down. Three minutes to launch with sweat beading down his sides, the sun toasting him inside his loose sweatshirt, gloves, and trousers. The clothes hid the boils from previous sun damage.
Perenia, his wife, and his two children, Reevus and Serenia, had left for Neptune, ‘Humanity’s last hope’. Living underwater, becoming a Gill, living like a freak. The Intergalactic Arc Response, I.A.R. for short, was what had kept him from going. It was, after all, his job, and he had faith in the I.A.R., more faith in it than in Neptune.
His kids had lived without him for several years, after the divorce, they had never wanted to see him anyway. Walking around to the platform, he admired the large vessel. It would house over four hundred people. Those people would go on to live their lives on the next inhabitable planet.
“Eevus,” his assistant said. “Take a look at this.”
He stepped over to the console the assistant was pointing to. On the screen was a video message from his wife. “Just send it to my receiver, I’ll watch it later,” he said. Nothing could distract him from the I.A.R., not even his wife and kids. They had abandoned him, and he was one of the best aerospace engineers the world had to offer.
“Aren’t you going to watch it?” his assistant asked.
“There are things that are more important going on,” he said, pointing up to the ship, which looked like a fattened whale with its head in the air. His wife had taken the kids when he had started working with the I.A.R. He had tried to tell her so many times that all the work was for her, and the kids.
‘The Neptune project is further along,’ she had said. ‘I want to give our kids the best chance at a future.’ Exactly, that was what he was trying to do, but they weren’t here.
“Eevus, they are preparing for take off,” his assistant said. “One minute remaining.”
He lifted his receiver from his pocket without thinking, opening the video one his wife had sent him. It was a video of her in a jet with Reevus and Serenia.
“Hey Eevus,” she said. “I realized the I.A.R. was the way you felt more useful. I talked with the kids and we would like to board the ship with you. I know things have been rough between us, but… I hope you have room. We will be there in four minutes, please wait for us.”
The video was from a minute prior. “Delay the launch,” Eevus said to his assistant. “I just need two minutes.”
“It’s not like the ship can leave without me,” he said, racing down the steps towards a jet that was on the horizon, about to land.
“Warming up the engines,” his assistant said.
Water in fuselage, blow up ship, everyone dead.
Our Last Day To Run On Earth By Marsha Clarke
It was sunny closer to the water just like when a storm had collected all the water in the clouds to carry it on land and wash it up to make the streets shine like in the stories Mom read to us. Mary used to roll her eyes at me when I said this after every rain but that’s what big sisters do. I held on to my father’s arm so I wouldn’t get lost and make mom worry about me and Mary, who was probably at the front of the line waiting for us but when I told Mom that she got so mad and hit me all over.
I begged Mary for one more race to see who was the fastest because if she didn’t I would break her guitar and she would have to listen to me only. From the bench to the Mounts where they gather up all the rocks and grit to weigh down the tents. Mary liked to race because she was the fastest but I wasn’t going to let her win this time because yesterday I turned 9 years old and I was almost as strong as she was at 13 years old.
Okay Mary, on the count of 3! 1, 2.. I took off screaming 3 and left her behind yelling cheater as she tried to catch up but I was running so fast that I could barely feel my legs it felt like the dirt was lifting from under me helping me get to the mount faster. I slapped the rocks and keep running just so she couldn’t catch me and say she won by a tie. I could hear her screaming stop running! but I kept running until my side hurt and my chest was stinging, then when I stopped running I saw the people from the tents running over yelling at us to get away from the Mounts.
The teacher from my sister’s class kept yelling at me, how many times did we tell you kids not to play near the Mounts. She was squeezing my arms so tight I thought they were gonna bleed, but then she picked me up and pushed my head down and carried me back to the tents. When my dad came to the tent he asked me what happened to Mary, I said that we were racing and I won! She couldn’t beat me this time dad. I didn’t even look back to see how far I was from her. My dad started crying like I did when Mary broke my ranger toy he was yelling words that didn’t make any sense and it was scary, it made my stomach feel really weird like when we drank from that well that smelled like farts.
Today he is really quiet he didn’t even say let’s kick it today kid! and he says that everyday. I want to go and get Mary but Mom told me not to move or she would leave me here. I really hope that Mom doesn’t hit her for running to the front of the line to get there first because it was our last day to run on Earth, we just wanted to race for real.
Context: It’s one hundred years into city of Neptune. There’s a large crack in the dome of the underwater city of Neptune. No one knows who caused it. Chaos is brought to the city.
It’s the first major disaster the city faces.
Aenon By Brynn Yoder
Aenon sat in his high rise apartment in his water recliner. The dome extended in front of him, with a large whale finding its way around it. Every few turns, the whale would be a little confused as its nose slammed into the dome. It didn’t understand why this clear thing was blocking its path.
The city was already loud, but the pound on the glass was a simple reminder that what they lived in was just a backwards fish tank. The whale was their owner and they were its fish.
Aenon reached over, arching his back so he could curl his fingers around his beer can. The pain from arthritis was by far the most difficult part. Leaning back, he again gazed outside of the dome. It was beautiful, a bit dark, but the city lights did some to fix that.
Rainbow colors splintered across the city in an unpredictable pattern. He had never seen that before. At the side of the dome, close to where the whale had been, that was where the light was coming from. Forgetting his arthritis for the moment, he pressed the button to lower his feet to the ground, catapulting out of the recliner. It was like he was young again.
He pressed his face against the glass, staring at the spot he had found before. Then the spot spread, like a vein of some being made visible suddenly. His knees knocked together and his lips trembled as he fell to the ground. This was it. The one thing that had kept him, a simple old Terra man alive. The dome was cracking, it was the only explanation his feeble mind could grasp.
It wasn’t long before the water seeped inside, just little salty teardrops raining onto the city. The city would drown, how he wished his parents had let him become Gill. He never had anything against the Gill, in fact, he respected them. His parents’ stubbornness would kill him now, maybe he could have become a Gill in his late age.
Then, the crack grew. It was larger than he had imagined. A spiderweb of a disaster.
The Flood By Tim Malachy
Jonah bopped down the dimly lit corridor through the maze of dull stainless steel tubes that connected Port Moresby — Terratown to most — to Zanzibar City, or what he and his mates liked to call, Gillville.
The wet side of town.
His communicator buzzed in his jeans pocket. As he stopped and reached his hands into his jean’s pocket, he admired his reflection in the dun-colored steel, his lean form, dark complexion, his t-shirt with the image of Christ at the Dead Sea, with the logo below, which though he couldn’t read it, knew what it said by heart: Jesus walked on water, not in it.
“Yo,” he barked at the communicator.
“Jonah! What’s kicking? Are you ready to get your thing wet?”
“That’s the only thing I like to get wet!” He guffawed into the receiver.
“Where are you at? ETA?”
“Ten minutes, keep it dry till I get there.”
“Ok, but we got a line on some Gill honeys that you ain’t gonna believe.”
“Well, cool your jets till I get there!”
He returned the communicator to his pocket, feeling for the blackmarket cash card beneath it, and picked up the pace.
“Man, they were gonna have fun tonight!”
The corridor darkened as he walked. “Another power shortage? God damn this friggin city was falling apart!”
Something moved, a shadow, farther up the corridor. He slowed his pace. The shadow emerged into a person, sitting, knees up, hands wrapped around her face.
“A girl, no, not a girl, a Gill…” he roiled in disgust at her dead-fish colored skin, her stringy yellow hair.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
The girl raised her head, her eyes red with tears, then recoiled.
“What are you doing?” He demanded, slowly approaching.
She got into a crouch and backed away.
“Hey, it’s ok. I won’t hurt you. But why are you crying?”
Her face melted into anguish.
“It’s not my fault!”
“What’s not your fault?”
Something cold hit his feet. “What the f**k?” Water sloshed along the corridor floor.
The Recovery By Marsha Clarke
Maybe it was the bolts that created the first tear in the dome but it was the human mind that created the crack that drowned all these people.
When I became a Gill I was 11 years old and I didn’t know the difference between my human family and my Gill family but now I do and the difference is life. What choice is there in the ocean?
They all should have evolved if they truly wanted to live free of fighting and judgement, if they really wanted to do it right on what we have left of this planet. All of these bodies remind me of the dead fish that float along the surface in piles taking the shape that the water makes of them.
I have to pull them apart and present them to be identified, maybe I will know one of them, my aunt and I have the same nose. I wish they would stop staring at me and help me identify a pulse especially since they wont allow me to perform CPR.
Pens Down presents the Neptune World
“Pens Down” serves as a creative worldbuilding workshop hosted by Syllble, where world creators extend invitations to writers and artists from the Syllble community. Together, they collaborate to bring these fictional realms to life through writing and imagination.
Pens Down presents the Neptune World 2nd Session