The blackness is complete, conscious or unconscious it made no difference. The transition to wakefulness was no different it was still black. His head hurt from being slammed into the gauge board when the Nip depth charges went off.
"Damn, they got lucky with those two."
One went off over or on the cigarette deck and the other over the Maneuvering Room. The click whams so close together as to be one death sound. The violent explosions slammed the boat downward as they cracked open the pressure hull. The added weight of sea water caused the sub to continue downward until it crashed into the sea bed. Already stunned, the blackness overcame him and now with the lights out it seemed permanent.
Groping around he found a flashlight next to the workbench, but it was dead bulb; broken, he guessed. In the dark he crawled along the deck to the stanchion where the emergency flash light holder was. Gripping one he yanked it free and turned it on. Blessed light rewarded him with a sight of his oiler and friend crumpled and bloody on the deck. The odd angle of his neck told him his friend was dead and he was alone in this engine room.
"Well Ill look aft first, maybe we can escape from the After Torpedo room, if we arent too deep."
Passing the gauge board the sea water pressure gauge told him the bad news. A quick calculation tells him the boat was too deep to escape from.
"Damn, 600 feet, whats left of the hull is strong enough."
The deadlight in the water tight door told him the After Engine Room was flooded. No passage aft to join his shipmates would be his while they waited for the end. Walking forward to look into the After Battery he knew the answer already. With the lights out, that was flooded also. Oily water and blackness was his answer in the deadlight there also.
The sound powered phone gives no answer to his repeated frantic calls. They are all dead or we are cut off from each other.
Sobbing, "Im gonna die alone in here."
Slumping to the deck, overwhelmed with a sadness that knew no end or bottom, like a pit to the center of the world. Curling up in a fetal ball he let the sadness and fear consume his thoughts until he goes a merciful blank. In the darkness only the hissing of air and spraying of water leaks were the dying submarine sounds.
"Join us,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Join ussssssssss."
His eyes popped open at the sound of a voice, snapping the flash light on and around in a desperate search for a human companion. But there was no one to be seen.
Must have been the air leaks he despondently thought.
"There is no one here."
Again he thinks he hears the voice sound and its louder this time. But again his hopes fall as there is no one there in the flashlights fading beam.
Getting up, he goes to the bench locker to sit on its padded seat instead of the cold iron deck plates. On the way, he opens a locker to drag out a foul weather jacket to ward off the cold. The temperature is falling fast in the compartment to soon equalize with the cold sea outside. Huddling in the cold, thirsty and hungry as the air he breathes slowly goes bad.
Will I die from drowning from the cold sea filling the engine room or will I breathe up my air and suffocate?
He hopes for the latter, it might be less painful. He is so tired of being scared all the time at sea. Waiting for what is happening now. To die at the bottom of the sea.
This time his eyes see a crankshaft in the middle of the deck where none should be. Blinking his eyes, he can see faded apparitions laboring to spin the crank almost like galley slaves. One of the grey-clad men looks up and smiles soft and sadly. The words come from the man like a smoke signal without being spoken.
"Who are you?"
"We were the first but you will not be the last."
"We cannot, just as you cannot leave."
"NOOOOOOOOOOOO! I will not join you!" in a near shriek of panicky fear.
Snapping off the light to make the men disappear calms him for a bit. But then he hears it again, a different voice this time.
The flashlight reveals other men this time wearing blue one piece clothing made of a material he has never seen before. The men stand in a ghostly and huge engine room more like on a steam powered surface ship than a diesel powered submarine.
"Who are you?"
"We are the last to have joined the first at this time."
"What do you mean?"
"We are the crew of the Scorpion and we have joined the men of the Hunley and all those that followed."
"The Scorpion? She is still in Pearl for overhaul after her second patrol. I dont believe you."
"We are the second Scorpion the 589 not 278, but fear not, those of your friends are here with us also."
"You will join them too."
"No! you are wrong! We can't have built almost 300 boats that quick."
"You see, we have no beginning and no end once we started to fall."
Not understanding he yells, "Go away."
Snapping off the light makes them disappear and quiet returns. Shivering in the cold and fearful of what the light might reveal next he vows to leave it off. Alone in the dark with only the pressure creaking and groaning heard along with air leaking out and the water leaking in for company, he waits.
This time, after hearing the call several times, his light fearfully reveals a man standing in a smaller engine room with diesels different than his.
"Who are you?"
"Im Hans of the U-217, a mechanic like you."
"How did you get here?"
"I was sunk in the Atlantic by the Tommies wasserbombs."
"Are all of you here?"
"If you mean U boatmen or submarine sailors as you call yourselves, yes we are all here."
Hans says, "All of us that have been lost at sea, since the men of the Hunley and into the future, we are all here."
This time he doesnt turn off the light and as Hans fades he is replaced by another, a smiling, friendly, familiar face.
"Jack, is that you?"
"Yes its me."
"When did the Bonefish go down?"
"In May of 45, about 6 months from now."
"In the future?"
"Yes, and now its time for you to join us."
Jack holds out his hand.
This time, relaxing, he no longer fights or fears the ghostly men that now surround him. They are welcoming him and giving their friendship.
"There are so many of you."
"Yes over 4,000 United States men alone and thats not counting all the others."
He feels safe and warm again. He knows that he will never be alone, cold, and afraid again. The almost permanent dull ache of fear his constant companion for the last year starts to fade. He had resigned himself to this fate long ago. Somehow he knew his survival like for so many others, was not to be.
Relaxed now, even smiling, his breathing slows and stops as he joins them.