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Sneak Peek - Sunken Steamboats

Steampunk meets post apocalyptic dystopia.... but underwater!


The air was thick with the smell of diesel in the marsh at the edge of the lake. It coated the back of the throat every time you inhaled and made your eyes water if you stood too close to the smoke stacks that pumped out black billowing clouds in deceptively fluffy coils.

Somehow the plants in the marshlands had found a way to survive beneath the oil slick surface, developing a way of life the humans were trying to emulate. Green and yellow stalks poked upwards like fingers grasping for a life line; snared between cracked layers of grime they sprouted sickly leaves that would sustain the larger organism living beneath the surface.

Where the marsh gave way to the lake was a murky place with putrid pockets of slime wallowing languidly in the warm dark liquid. Vibrant greens and purples laced the water in an impossible tangle of life, fed only by what little managed to break the crust of the swamp. It was a wonder anything survived, and yet the farther down into the lake you went, the more shocking the scenery.

Tangled amidst the ropes of swamp vegetation were entire ships. It was a scene that made one think the boats had once tried to escape the grasp of the swamp en mass and had almost succeeded in making it to the lake. Almost.

Steamboats, for the most part, spilled from the marsh into the depths. Garish red and white stripes painted across entire sides. Blue and yellow long forgotten emblems once painstakingly painted on the hulls. Brass and copper, tarnished and polished fixtures adorning the sunken vessels. It was a strange and bizarre sight, these sunken ships, made more freakish by the brightly lit windows.

The lights cast a warm glow that cut through the murkiness of the water. They danced to unheard music across the squishy lake floor, disturbing nothing as they moved. It was an odd world of colors and lights, existing only beneath the surface of the water; the corroded metal stacks of the ships jutting into the sky above, like their herbaceous counterparts, but lacking the ability to sprout life giving leaves.

The land above the water’s surface was cloaked in acrid smoke, the sunshine fighting to reach the plants and keep the entire organism alive through only so many tiny leaves and blades of grass. Every so often, a fetid breeze would reach the edge of the marsh, pushing the smoke away and granting the plants their moments of sunshine. When this happened, you could almost see them turning their leaves, like so many upturned faces, rejoicing in the light, the nourishing warmth, granted by the sun.

And amidst these struggling plants, was another upturned face; a pale, fleshy creature that had no right to be swimming to the surface. Rainbow sheens of oil streaked her hair as she removed thick rubber goggles with gloved fingers. Careful not to let the filth get into her eyes she tilted her head back and let the sunshine touch her face, reveling in the sensation as it caressed her skin.

These were her moments of happiness. The minutes she stole away from the crowded steamboats beneath the surface, places encased in thick glass with air locks and gears, meant to keep the inhabitants safe from the dangers outside.

A rustle caught her attention and she turned in time to see a soot covered face gaping at her in astonishment from the shore. Her heart leapt into her throat and she fumbled to get her goggles back on. She had been spotted. By the time she had her goggles affixed properly the person was gone and she was left with no choice but to flee beneath the surface, hoping to reach the safety of her boat before whoever had seen her could make their report to the authorities.

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