It was a funny sort of job to have, considering she couldn’t swim.
Not that it bothered her at all, really. The fact that she couldn’t swim, or the fact that she worked in the middle of an ocean. It was perfectly safe, she knew, and so she told everyone. Sure, accidents happen, but this was a multi-million dollar research facility amidst an oil rig.
Now, that part made some people laugh. How could a research facility co-exist, share the same deck space, with something so environmentally unfriendly as an oil rig?
Easy, she said. They pay us to make their job cleaner, more efficient, but most importantly, cheaper. Our discoveries first apply to them; in exchange, “free” deck space. Sort of. Not a perfectly symbiotic relationship, but it worked well enough.
Or so they thought. Until it showed up.
There was no warning, not a blip in the readings of the researchers or the workers, before it crested the water. A sleek black shape, snakelike, with tall bony fins across its back. It writhed around in the water for a while before it died, as though it was slowly suffocating to death. While being underwater.
They hauled it aboard, because, duh. Weird sea creatures don’t just rot in the ocean next to a pod of researchers. Made one fellow sick just by touching it… nausea, vomiting, fever, the whole bit. All because he had used his hands to haul the carcass aboard. It was easily two meters long, but thin, slick with some sort of oily secretion- that’s what probably made the man so sick. Allergic reaction. Or so we all hoped.
The thing was biopsied, and that’s when things got worse. Equipment malfunctioning, more people becoming ill with the same long-lasting symptoms, complications in the oil rig’s refinery system. At first, they didn’t want to attribute it to the thing’s presence, but there was nothing else to blame.
Everything was clean except for the dead creature no one could properly identify.
You see, that’s where she came in. Her research in marine biology gave her some level of competence, but nothing prepared her for this. So when she suggested doing a survey for more of the creatures, and volunteered to be on the team, people laughed.
“You can’t have someone who can’t swim floundering about in the depths of the ocean, messing up our searches and samples.”
But she was best trained for the excursion (minus the part about the ability to swim), so they let her do it. And so, she suited up, along with two of her research partners, to dive into the depths.
“Stay in contact via radio,” she instructed. “Keep us informed of what’s on the sonar.”
“Got it,” a young researcher replied. “Anything else?”
“If we lose contact and things go south, you get the hell out of this region,” she said.
“A little dark, don’t you think?” the researcher laughed, albeit a little nervously. “Besides, what do you think could possibly happen?”
“If people get sick from a dead one, there’s not much hope to be around a live one, now, is there?” She raised an eyebrow, half-joking, half deadly serious. “I hope I’m wrong. But I could be right.”
With that, she pulled the goggles and snorkel over her face, followed by her partners, and stepped off the deck.
It was to be the last time they heard her voice.
Source: This blog series is inspired by the book “Earth from Above: 365 Days” by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Click here to read more about my Creation365 series.
The top picture is from “Scotland. North Sea. Total Oil Marine’s Alwyn North offshore platform.”
Arthus-Bertrand, Yann, Isabelle Delannoy, and Christian Balmes. 2005. The Earth from above: 365 days. New York: Harry N. Abrams.