The oil smoke rose as if it would never stop. Boiling from the massive hole in both the earth and the pipeline, it had blotted out the sun hours ago, and still showed no sign of stopping.
As Tyler suited up to go down and inspect the damage, he mused for the hundredth time since the accident that his was truly a blessed life.
Not in the arctic for more than a month, and after a disastrous incident in Texas preceding that transfer, he suddenly gets reports of an explosion on the line. He's told that it's not just an explosion, but a meteor has impacted the line. His superiors were still trying to determine the exact probability of that event when he'd left to check the damage.
Sucking on the canned, stale air and slowly easing his way down the safety line to the bottom of the hole, he shook his head. The goddamn pump control workman had been both drunk and asleep, and had let the line belch oil for nearly six minutes before someone had finally booted in the door and manually shut down the line. What's more, the crater hadn't overflown, which meant the hell-rock had popped into another line of some kind, or a natural cave… or, god forbid, some kind of underground river. Tyler winced, already feeling the ax on his neck, made of lost profits, damages, bad press, and the need for a scapegoat.
The heat steadily rose as he got closer to the bottom, and by the time he released the security cable and stood, he was sweating in his containment suit. The thick, sludgy oil was nearly up to his knees, a black pond with a huge, round bulge in its center.
He stumbled forward, pulled by the vague current of the oil as it slowly oozed away into... whatever it was under the big rock. He approached slowly, judging the rock to be nearly ten feet tall under its coat of oil and sludge. Oddly rounded, it looked like a massive, lumpy eight ball. That he was now positioned directly behind it was an irony that Tyler refused to appreciate.
Leaning closer, the oil smoke was oddly not as dense this close to the bottom, he tried to spot where the oil was flowing out. He put one suited arm down into the murk, careful to keep his mask clear of the ooze, and felt the unmistakable suction... but not down. The oil was being pulled up…into the meteor. He moved his hand a bit closer to the massive stone, thinking it was some vague trick of the current, when he finally noticed where most of the smoke was coming from.
The billowing, black column of smoke wasn't issuing from the oil…but from the top of the stone. Four great holes were belching the fumes to the sky from inside the stony orb. As he watched, mystified, he saw one the holes quiver, then slowly flex shut for several seconds, before reopening with a fresh blast of smog and grime.
“What in the name...” he started to whisper, before quickly changing to an inarticulate shriek of pain and surprise. His hand was trapped. Tyler's entire world was now defined by this fact. Something hard and sharp was clamped over his hand, and he could not get it free. There was a sudden pause in both the exhaust of smoke and the slurping of oil as the stony mass seemed to savor this new, more substantial feed. Then, it sucked. Hard.
Tyler's last coherent thought vanished as he felt the flesh of his hand being pulled free like a used latex glove.
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