Future Flashbacks


The opening musical jingle (string quartet) plays.

Marie: Hello everyone, I’m Marie Hank, welcoming you to this week’s first episode of “Future Flashbacks” where I’ll be here to recount with you the history behind one of the greatest discoveries of mankind; the discovery of the Amanzi people, known to us now as the first Merpeople. 

Now, as we all know, the world we live in is chaotic, and fast paced in nature. In turn, our bodies have learned to evolve quickly, adapting to the new environments around us. For example, my mother, like many of the people who live along the equator, has larger sweat glands to combat the heat. 

And of course, when it comes to discussing our extraordinary evolutionary abilities, the Merpeople are considered a stellar example, with their bodies being blessed with the ability to breathe and live underwater. They are strictly aquatic human beings and have never been spotted on land alive.

But I’m sure many of you are curious. How did we find them? Why did these humans evolve into Merpeople? How did they get there? Today, I’ll be answering these questions and more as we take the plunge together into the deep history of the Merpeople. But before we do that, we must first look at ourselves, namely, our own discovery of the first Sea Nation, the Amanzi Merpeople.

It all started on the third of March in 2030. A submarine, hailed as the first ever long term scientific research lab to venture beyond 3500ft underwater, was released into the ocean, a few kilometers off the coast of Ipanema in Rio. It was named the O4, the product of a partnership between the Luminar Underwater Lab (LUL) and the Institute of Underwater Technology. There were a total of four crew members onboard, all of whom were scientists who were going to use this experience to document their findings of deep sea creatures. The following recording is from a podcast under the LUL hosted by Basil Quado. He had called the scientists in the O4 as part of a promotional program for the LUL.

Sound Effect – electronic beep

Basil: -is Basil Quado, live from the recording booth at Luminar Underwater Lab. Today, I’m back on with Thomas Forsca and Malene Tika, two very well regarded researchers from the LUL, reporting from the salty depths of the ocean. They’ve been on call for a while, so give me a moment…

Sound Effect – shift and clicking of a button 

Malene and Thomas’ voices are fuzzy over the call. 

Malene and Thomas: Hi!

Basil: Hello! Can you hear me? 

Malene: We can hear you just great, Basil. Are we live?

Basil: You are live! Everyone can hear you. How’s the reception down there?

Thomas: (glitching) Just splendid, really… 

Basil: I can see that. So, how are y’all doing? First real day in the ocean. Must be pretty freaky right?

Malene: Well actually, it’s quite interesting. We’ve come across some fascinating findings- (glitching, fizzed out audio)

Basil: Sorry? 

Sound Effect – something thunking on heavy metal

Thomas: Give us a sec, I think there’s some interference with our sub exterior. 

Sound effect – Sounds of the phone being placed on the table. We hear Thomas walk across the room.

Malene: (distracted) What is it?  

Thomas: (faint) Oh… god. Malene, is that…? 

Sound effect – something thumps against the submarine walls again, this time more persistently. There’s a gradual increase in the volume of the static.

Malene: What? Thomas, we’re on- (static) I- (static)

Basil: Hello? Everything alright? 

Sound effect – static blares, snatches of Malene and Thomas’ voice can be heard. 

Thomas: (urgent, frightened) Attacking our- (static) reception- (static)

Malene: Wait- (static) Emergency-

Sound Effect – the receiver on O4’s end cuts off with a click

Basil: Hello? Hello? Are you there? Hello?

Sound Effect – Electronic beep

Marie: This call was, for a long time, the last recorded verbal transmission from the scientists in the O4 to anybody on land. It was then followed by an underwater distress call that was transmitted via an automatic response from sensors sensing a leak in the vessel, which may have proved fatal. All further attempts on land to communicate with the researchers had then proved futile. Despite the deployment of high functioning military radars around the area, Brazilian officials had no luck in finding the O4. International efforts to assist the search for the vessel had been to no avail, with the range of the search equipment being limited to a mere 2000ft underwater. The O4’s last known location was a few kilometers off the coast of Rio, where the submarine was supposed to remain for 3 weeks before resurfacing. 

On January 4th, 2031, Malene Torsi, a researcher aboard the O4, was found on the Cagarras Islands. She is, to this day, the only body recovered from the O4 wreck. Here is a recording of the transmission released by the LUL between the search party who found the body and the crew aboard the search party ship.

Sound Effect – electronic beep followed by radio interference

The whooshing of waves roar in the background. There’s a bird squawking overhead and the radio audio on SPM1’s side is slightly distorted from the feedback from the background.

SPM1: Ulecca, do you read me?

SPM2: This is the Ulecca, we hear you.

SPM1: We found two bodies, Sir. We are requesting for back up.

SPM2: Alive?

SPM1: Dead, Sir. We are requestin’ aid to identify the bodies.

SPM2: Do you not have the profiles of the scientists?

SPM1: They are… disfigured, Sir. We may not be able to identify ‘em from the profiles you gave us.

SPM2: Can you describe the bodies to me? 

SPM1: Yes, sir. One of ‘em looks like de Malene girl. Face and all. Her chest’s all crushed sir, like it shrunk. Her eyes are all red and there’s blood everywhere. It’s dried over her face. Her neck’s got these three lines on them. Like… like fish.

SPM2: Lines?

SPM1: I dunno, Sir. Cuts?

SPM2: Uhuh… And the other body?

SPM1: It isn’t like anythin’ I’ve ever seen before, Sir. I think it’s human but… I’m not sure. It’s got hands and legs and everythings but… it doesn’t, it don’t…

Sound Effect – electronic beep

Marie: When brought under further examination, it was concluded that Malene did indeed die from injuries acquired whilst in the ocean. Her chest cavity had collapsed into itself and her body suffered from severe barotrauma due to the immense pressure of the ocean. The only unnatural injuries found were three jagged incisions on both sides of her neck, similar to the placement of gills. 

However, the discovery of Marlene’s body was far from the focus of the media. People were far more intrigued by the second corpse, which we now know was the body of a Merperson. The corpse, then dubbed ‘Monster of the Sea’ by the media, suffered severe forms of deep tissue damage, theorised by scientists to be due to extreme depressurization. Upon closer examination, scientists managed to distinguish certain characteristics of the body that isolated the Merperson from a typical human.

To quote the official press statement, the corpse had “gills located on the sides of their neck and was relatively hairless. A thin but sturdy webbing grew between its fingers and limbs. Its internal organs were swollen, suffering from the rapid bursting of blood vessels due to depressurization, making it impossible to further examine the body. However, scientists managed to isolate an organ similar to a spermaceti, an organ used by sea animals such as dolphins to echolocate. Conversely, researchers were able to dissect the brain of the creature, and have concluded that its structure was similar, if not identical, to the modern human.” 

Of course, the publication of the report took the marine scientific community by storm. Many were rocked with intrigue and fascination for the sea creature, with the term ‘mermaid’ getting tossed around like change in intellectual discussions. 

But what did ‘mermaid’ mean? There were so many questions, and only so few had been answered by the LUL. Was it a fish? Was it a human? As time passed, the debate for the case of the O4 corpse became fierce and competitive, both sides showing no signs of backing down despite having no means of proof nor say.

But no debate could be compared to the one between Dr Charlotte Smith, a fellow colleague of Malene, and Mr Basil Quado, the public relations head at the LUL. The pair were at fierce odds with one another, and they constantly argued about the possibility of the Merpeople being human. The following recording is one of the many examples of the extent of the disagreement between Dr Charlotte and Mr Quado.

Sound Effect – electronic beep

Dr Charlotte: It’s ridiculous! You were there, Basil, I’m sure that must be more than enough evidence-

Basil: Inconclusive evidence, Dr Charlotte! Inconclusive. You see, there is a line, Doctor, a line that for some reason you can’t bring yourself to see. Just because it looks like-

Dr Charlotte: What do you mean, a line? This is science, Mr Quado, there are no (hissed, mocking) ‘lines’. 

Interviewer: I’m sorry to interrupt, but we’re live, so can we please-

Basil: Oh, I see! It’s science, isn’t it? There are only theories, and scientists who refuse to admit they’re wrong.

Dr Charlotte: Mr Quado, you have no idea-

Basil: I have no idea? Look at yourself, Charlotte. You’re a scientist, for god’s sake! I will not have you tarnish the reputation of the LUL off a hunch. 

Dr Charlotte: (scoffs) And I will not let some scientific has-been try to lecture me on reputation! The report clearly states that we found significant similarities between the creature’s DNA and that of South Africans, so by that extent-

Basil: Oh so by that extent, we are to classify them as human? Well, in that case, I suppose it wouldn’t be the best time to remind you that the DNA of apes just so happens to be quite similar to that of us humans as well. So by your spectacular logic, apes should be considered human, is that right? 

Interviewer: If we can all just calm down…

Dr Charlotte: (heated) With all due respect, Basil, that isn’t what I-

Basil: Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t. But as I said, Doctor, this seems to be all speculation. Now if you’d please, I’d like to get back to the interview.

Interviewer: (awkward) Ah… yes, so-

Sound Effect – electronic beep

Marie: And Mr Quado was correct. At that time, all people could truly do was speculate based off of the O4 corpse report. Until four years later, when the Institute of Underwater Technology and Luminar Underwater Lab announced that they were sending a team of scientists, headed by none other than Dr Charlotte Smith herself, in a vessel aptly named the O5 in a search for the Merpeople.

The announcement attracted so much media attention that practically nobody was surprised when UN officials were asked about the O5 project during their press conference a week after the Institute announced the O5’s launch. 

The following is a recording taken from said press conference with UN officials.

Sound effect – electronic beep

We hear a lot of shuffling and reporters murmuring. Some reporters stifle coughs in the background as a man wheezes into the microphone to finish his questions.

UN Official 1: -covers the general scope of our aims this year. Ahem. Next question?

There’s a general scuffle of noises as reporters clamour for attention, pleading and shouting their questions.

UN Official 1: Yes, seat 23?

The volume of the audience lowers as the reporter speaks.

Reporter 1: (eager) I wanted to ask about the 14th UN goal, life below water? I mean, the UN must not be completely unaware of the events that predate the O5 submarine project. Scientists from the LUL had announced that they had found hints to what essentially may be a whole new race of people who can survive underwater. Does this affect the UN’s 14th goal in any way? How so?

UN Official 1: Ahem… Uh… Well, yes, we have indeed been keeping up with the O4 case and are aware of the LUL and the Institute’s second attempt to replicate the project. Despite our never ending support for the advancement of science here at the UN, I’m afraid we cannot entirely dismiss the glaring possibility of tensions between us and those living in the sea. The report released by the LUL clearly exemplifies the dangers of such a race, given that all evidence points to our first contact with these creatures… or people… was hostile. Blood was drawn from both sides. Who’s to say if these… monsters would attack us humans again? Worse, if they attack ships transporting valuable goods that travel along that particular trade route. As leaders of our countries, we must prioritise the safety of our nations first and be prepared ally ourselves should these creatures pose a threat to humankind, regardless of scientific value. 

Reporter 1: But these creatures may hold the key to solving overpopulation issues in countries around the world. Are you saying that in order to protect our economy, we must sacrifice the possibility of what experts are calling a potential Atlantis?

UN Official 1: Uh… No comment.

We hear fragments of questions being shouted over the buzz of reporters before the beep cuts the recording off.

Sound Effect – Electronic beep

Marie: Due to the concerns raised by the UN, many people believed that the scientists on board the O5 would reach a similar fate to that of those on the O4 and that the mission would have severe political implications affecting trade along the Brazilian trade route. Despite public outcry, the LUL decided to proceed with the launch. On the 24th of April, 2036, people held their breaths as they watched the O5 submarine disappear underwater. Barely an hour after the sub reached 3000ft, they managed to come into contact with the Merpeople. Dr Charlotte later would describe the encounter as both “breathtaking” and “nerve racking”. The following is a recording taken from the O5’s transmission to its team on land.

Sound Effect – Electronic beep

The audio is slightly distorted but generally clearer than the first O4 transmission. 

Dr Charlotte: It’s been 52 minutes since the O5 hit the ocean floor. Scientists onboard are activating our radar to check for any signs of external movement outside the O5. I don’t think they’ll show up just yet… it’s still quite earl-

We hear a beep from one of the consoles.

Jeffords: We have motion! Motion detected!

We hear some frantic typing and clicking on a keyboard. A few scientists murmur excitedly.

Dr Charlotte: Movement? Is it our cables?

Jeffords: No Ma’am, look. Here. It’s right here… there’s external movement about 10ft from the sub.

Dr Charlotte: (hushed, awed) Oh my god… 

All voices on the O5 craft lower, speaking in hushed whispers.

The radar beeps gently once more. 

Jeffords: Look! There it is again!

Dr Charlotte: Jeffords, switch the exterior cameras and mics on.

We hear someone flip a few switches. There’s a series of bloops as the cameras are activated. As the microphones click, we hear a muffled swishing under water. The sound is fluid and constant, like a large fish darting under water.

The radar beeps puncture the otherwise silent O5 submarine.

Dr Charlotte: (authoritative, low) Everybody stay calm.

A second swishing sound can be heard. We hear an exchange of dolphin whistles and clicks between the two figures. They grow louder as the swishing becomes more erratic. 

Scientist 1: Are they talking…? 

The radar beeps quicken.

Jeffords: They’re coming closer.

Dr Charlotte: Shhh… 

The sounds of swishing get louder and more frenzied. The clicks and whistles ricochet like bullets, clearly agitated.

The pace of the beeps increases before reaching a plateau, the sound rings out, urgent. 

Jeffords: Ma’am, they’re charging towards us. Look-

We hear the scientists yelp when they hear two loud clunks above them. Almost immediately, we hear an ear-splitting screech that throws the audio into a fritz. The sounds echo like the aftershock of a bomb. 

Dr Charlotte: Shit!

The screeching continues, punctuated by the sounds of the Merpeople hitting the submarine. A metal tool scrapes at the O5’s exterior, tripping an alarm. The scientists titter in anxious voices. A second shriek, much more pitchy and erratic, chimes in.

Scientist 2: Oh god, oh god, oh god…

Dr Charlotte: (while alarm whines) Christ! Everyone calm-

Prerecorded voice: Abrasion detected. Abrasion detected. Abrasion-

Dr Charlotte: For goodness sake, turn that off!

A receiver clicks. The alarm stops ringing. For a second, all is calm. Until the piercing cry of a Merperson cuts through the quiet.

Imani: Hello, O5?

Dr Charlotte: Hri? 

Imani: Char, I need to hear them-

Dr Charlotte: (fierce, urgent) What are you doing? You’re the linguist for Christ’s sakes. Get me the direct-

Imani: The director put me on to do my job, Dr Charlotte. Now, if you please.

Everyone quietens down and we hear the shrieks turn into an eerie song, a stilted call and response.

Jeffords: (nervous) uh… ma’am-

Dr Charlotte: Sh…

The screechy siren song echoes over the speakers. A scientist whimpers as something raps on the submarine twice. It shrieks.

Imani: (murmured) Hu… jam-bo… Swahili? Hu-jam-bo…

Dr Charlotte: What? What is it saying?

A pause.

Imani: They’re saying… Hello.

The closing jingle (string quartet) swells as soon as Imani finishes speaking.

Marie: This episode of “Future Flashbacks” is written and produced by Marie Hank. Special thanks to the LUL for allowing us to access the information shown in this podcast. For more information and additional content, please visit our website at fuzzbeed.com. Don’t forget to tune in again next week at 6pm for the next episode of “Future Flashbacks”. Thank you for listening!

Tan G Yik (Class of 2022) is a Film student who was previously in the second cohort of Literary Arts students (2018-2020). Her most valuable take-away from her experience in Literary Arts is that it is the passion for storytelling which is behind all creative writing.