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Image: ‘Manicosity’, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

To: Head office of [redacted]

I understand the need for security, but I don’t think the consent forms covered this! Knocking me out and I wake up…here? Wherever here is. When I accepted an overseas posting I didn’t realise it was an undersea posting! Also, my project material is missing. I have a paper to give at the Brookings Institute in two weeks, but I’ve no access to [redacted] server. And my personal files? Can you advise please, soonest?


Hey there, have attached the documents you requested. Sit tight for now. Cheers.

PS. Is [redacted] there, by any chance?


Hey yourself?!

Cheers? You email me not knowing that [redacted] is here and you sign off cheers? What is going on? I’ll tell you what I see because it seems we can all watch ourselves live streaming. Is this going out around the world? Are you all seeing this?

At first I didn’t know what I was looking at: all I saw was a column of light and dark, blue down to azure, then midnight, and then down into darkness lit by squares of light. I thought it was a photo until a shoal of something swam by. Then I saw it was bisected about three quarters of the way up by the water line. A few floors of the building rise above the water and a hundred floors at least sheer away down into the dark. And then I realised: those squares of light like train windows in the night – that was us. That was our tower under the waves, standing on the edge of the abyss.

And then I realised: those squares of light like train windows in the night – that was us. That was our tower under the waves, standing on the edge of the abyss.

But it’s not possible. It can’t be. I mean, how did they move it, seal it up like that? But of course it was already diamond-spray coated, water-tight against the rising seas. Now it’s under those seas, and pressurised, obviously, or our lights wouldn’t be on.


Hey, can we get a response here? Anything? How do we have internet access? Have they put up, like, one of those balloons nearby or something?


So, are you watching this? Hell, I’m watching this and I’m living it. I’m sitting here in front of my computer watching live footage of a reporter from somewhere else in this building, one of the upper floors I haven’t seen yet (no lifts working, you see), climbing all those stairs. She’s saying, ‘I’m stuck here for the moment too, but more people are still being brought in to the Moon Pool on the twentieth floor. Speculation runs riot, of course. Some say, Paul, that this is a competition, a new kind of reality show, maybe even a rehearsal for a Mars mission, this bringing together of people and holding them in a place sealed against a lethal outside environment.’

I think I just saw myself. My silhouette against the seventy-fifth-floor window. Hi, Mum. Can you see me waving? Who is out there, filming us? Now I’m pressed up against the glass. There are lights in the water. Could be drones, I guess.

You must know why we’re here.


Dear [redacted]

Please direct further queries to the Head of International Projects and Marketing.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

All best.



[redacted] has just been to see me and I’ve seriously pissed him off, and he’s not too happy with you either just so you know. He is so angry about being sealed in this tower underwater and I’m standing staring out at the featureless deep blue and trying not to laugh. An entire skyscraper underwater, it’s such a colossal thing, and being angry about something so huge going so wrong for us is kind of funny, like scolding a hurricane.

‘This is the biggest story in the world,’ he says. ‘In the entire fucking world. It’s been running for days. How do you not know?’

Okay. Okay.


To: [redacted]
CC: [redacted]
BC: [redacted]


What is actually going on here? Is this a TV show, the webinar that never ends, or an international terrorist incident?

I suspect there’s some news we’re not getting in here.

I can hear fighter jets buzzing us when I climb to the higher floors. Once I thought I saw a ship on the horizon, but no idea what navy. I don’t even know what ocean I’m in. Could you at least tell me that?


‘This is the biggest story in the world,’ he says. ‘In the entire fucking world. It’s been running for days. How do you not know?’

Dear [redacted]

I am writing to inform you that we are unable to provide further information at this time. Please rest assured that [redacted] Corporation is cooperating fully with all relevant authorities and working towards a solution. In the meantime, you are reminded that you are still in the employ of [redacted] Corporation and that you must continue working on [redacted] Project. It is further advised that you comply with all lawful authorities within [redacted] tower for your own safety.

Your cooperation is appreciated.



I’m texting you from a meeting on one of the upper floors. It’s kind of exciting because it feels like we’re finally doing something. To be honest, I think I was just as alarmed as excited to recognise the head of the IMF who is now chairing our meeting. I mean, if they’ve spirited her away and put her in here, what can’t they do? She seems to think she knows what’s going on but isn’t saying. I’ll tell you what I think – oh, now she’s drinking a glass of water. I haven’t been offered one. Actually, I’m very thirsty. Climbing up here was hard, hot work. Think air-con might be starting to fail. Water, water everywhere, right?

Water, shushing and rolling its poisonous, glittering and trashy waves outside our conference room windows, the blue shadowed water wrapping our lit tower in gloom on the screen, and then that tiny bit of water, priceless and colourless, gleaming like a jar of stars on our conference table. That jug contains the amount of water the head of the IMF can now control. And it’s the most important thing in the world. It’s more water than I can control. That glass pitcher says everything about how things are.

So, hey, can your brain sieve anything from this soup?


Hey, guys,

What are you doing to get us out of here? We’re basically eating seaweed and dried jellyfish. So far the tower is harvesting power and rainwater, but there’s less of those things every day. Last night a huge storm shook the tower. I climbed up to where the water sloshes halfway up the glass. Waves slammed into us. Must’ve been forty of us, sitting around that board table in the dark, facing the wall. Someone had set it up as if for a meeting. Coffee, tea, the last of the biscuits. A bit stale, but …you know. Could someone organise another supply drop sometime soon?

We watched the lightning over the sea, storm boiling closer, water whipping to white. Prayed the windows wouldn’t break.

How to tell you how this felt? I was sitting there with Anuparna and Kristy – remember them? – who I used to know from SPB, and there was a whole bunch of people from the chemical bank, some contractors… We chatted, and then Kristy tried to get us to do that getting-to-know-you exercise where you find someone else who cooks paella or does yoga, and we did try it for a few minutes. You’d be surprised how little solidarity, how much suspicion, there was… Or maybe you wouldn’t.

And people are still coming! Or being brought here, I suppose. Jeez, have you people woken up yet? CEOs, athletes and generals being stolen from under your noses and secreted here.

We watched the lightning over the sea, storm boiling closer, water whipping to white. Prayed the windows wouldn’t break.

With every batch of increasingly famous people our spirits rise – surely this means we will be rescued. They can’t let these people be killed? But then I think about Moro, that kidnapped Italian PM. Remember him, how he begged and pleaded for his life, and the mafia killed him, right there in Rome under the noses of the government and nobody cared?

But we don’t remember that, do we, so we hope that, surely, something is going on, that any moment now someone will tell us. Someone somewhere has a plan, right?

The most incredible piece of agit-prop theatre the world has ever seen.

That was today’s headline. Then we heard. You bastards. The rest of the world, watching us, calls us ‘the Aquarium.’

That’s when the celebrity presence began to scare us. We are a show. A display. But the thing is: exhibits die all the time in an aquarium. Really, in an aquarium, you’re just standing around watching things die – the only difference is how fast. That’s how that works. There’re no real stars: one dies, you replace it.

Are you there? Are you listening?


Hey there

Got the draft of your project today. Good stuff! Keep it up.



I am losing track of time. The light shifts through the water. I try to sleep on the carpet under my desk when it darkens, but it’s fitful. Other people aren’t disciplined; they come and go and [redacted] has tried to make himself some kind of one-hundredth floor leader, but we’re working on different projects for different head offices in different time zones so, yeah, we pretty much ignore him.

The toilets are still working, thank god, so at least they thought that through. Which brings us to the question of who ‘they’ are.

We’re eating ramen this season. Must have been a ramen drop. Ramen and seaweed and jellyfish. I’m the thinnest I’ve been since I was nineteen. Oh, btw, here’s the latest draft of [redacted] Project, changes tracked as requested. And you know, go fuck yourselves. Or, actually, send me another project. Please. I’ve seen people on the seventieth floor who don’t seem to have anything more to do and it’s…not good.

The carpet in here is now, frankly, disgusting. You know what’s most important in an aquarium? Keeping it clean. Think I’ll go in search of cleaning supplies in a few hours – oh holy shit! Did you see that? No, of course you didn’t. Though you might be watching all this live, for all I know.

I hope you are.

Of course you are.

You must be.

So, look there. A huge flock – a fleet? – of glowing things is hanging just outside the windows of this floor. I’ve just gone to the window, I’m dictating into my phone now, and the glowing things extend up and down as far as I can see. The water is netted in jewels, each node in the water one of these light-up fluoro things. Must be squid. Hard to tell because all I can see is the flashing light and it’s breathtaking – dark sea and then rippling neon light flashing green and blue and red and orange.

Oh my god, some of them are coming right up to the glass. They’re looking in at us. They’re fascinated.

Jesus H, we’re an underwater exhibit, captive in our lit-up box, and these things are curious.

Word has spread through the squid universe and they’ve all come to take a look?

Or is our tower becoming a reef? Some of our sleek lines are looking a little…encrusted? Maybe things are growing on us. And maybe other things are coming to eat the things that are growing on us…

Now some of them are right up against the glass again.


They are watching us. They are…enjoying the show in this series of flickering boxes on the edge of the abyss. If I lived down here in the dark and the cold, I’d be fascinated by us too. God help me. I do live down here in the dark and the cold.

They are watching us. They are enjoying the show in this series of flickering boxes on the edge of the abyss.


Hey hey now – have I got a press release for you! [redacted] Corporation, in concert with [redacted] Corporation, is proud to announce their latest strategic marketing triumph: a ten thousand per cent increase in brand awareness among the pelagic cephalopods of the Abyssal Zone!

This unprecedented triumph will result in no tangible benefits, lead to no increases in sales, and will likely prove to be of no importance to shareholders whatsoever, but look at those numbers. Fully 87.3 per cent of pelagic cephalopods surveyed responded with ‘glug?’ when questioned on their reaction to the ongoing brand presence in the Abyssal Zone, accompanied by the release of clouds of glowing ink. And while this has not yet led to any measurable difference in our bottom line, the figures are impressive when set against the baseline of complete and utter indifference and ignorance in this market prior to the current report.

Sorry. Sorry.


Hey there!

Just a few things – have tracked changes and queries, if you could get it back to us by COB that’d be ace.


Hey there,

COB? Close of Business? I don’t know what you mean by that. I’m under the fucking sea here and I don’t where I am and you won’t tell me. Am I running on Western Abyssal Time, Calibrated Floating Armoury time, some lunar phase or COB your time? Cos I have no idea when that is. Makes it hard to pace myself. The light shifts here sometimes, a little, and I know how privileged I am to be high enough to see any light in the water at all. I don’t know if the changes in light are clouds, storms, evening, day, a supermoon… How about you tell me what fucking time it is?




Just letting you know. I’ve attached the edited document with tracked changes and am sending it with this message. I’ve attached a selfie too. In case. You know. You might want to send that on to some of the people in my contacts. People here are trying to climb up to the higher floors, but there’s a problem with that. Maybe the higher-ups have barricaded it or something? I don’t know. So I’m organising a little expedition of my own. I’m clever, you see. I’m not climbing up, I’m going down. Down to the bottom of the tower. I want to see what’s there. Maybe there’s a crack in the ​foundations, maybe I’ll get a sense of how long we’ve got. And what I really think is this: I’ll see things down there in the dark I’ve never seen before.

Let me know you’ve got this.

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