Author's note: This pasta is an entry for the 2021 Song Contest.
It is based off of the song "Ocean Man" by Ween
Me and a guy named Alex had a game going. Each day, we would bet on if the water surrounding Offshore Rig #23, the oil rig we both worked and lived on, was colder or warmer than it would be tomorrow – the loser would give the winner three dollars. The day before, I had bet on it being colder and Alex on it being warmer. I plunged the thermometer into the water and watched with glee as it gave its verdict.
“Forty degrees F. Two down from yesterday.”
Alex forked over the cash, taking in the smell of crude oil that surrounded the rig. “I remember hearing somewhere that you can freeze to death in ten minutes in water that cold.”
“In that case, I suggest you don’t fall in!” I chuckled.
It was one of our few moments of blissful peace during the day. See, we served as mechanics on the rig – our working hours were spent making sure absolutely nothing ever broke down. The oil execs knew that they couldn’t afford any mistakes after all of the oil spills over the years, so they worked us half to death ensuring there weren’t more accidents – always using us to do their bidding, never spending a bit of their fruitful profit to buy durable machines.
Though we didn’t know it at the time, we would be leaving work early that day.
Having finished the game, we began our work. Alex had to fix a few frayed wires near the main oil pump, and I had to check on some pipes underneath the station. The vertically oriented pipes were there to suck up water from the ocean and use it to cool the machinery, and their exposed position near the ocean made them a target for corrosion. I began making the trudge to the other side of the station where the pipes were located.
I prepared to do the check. I tied a rope to a cylindrical belaying machine that was operated by a remote control clipped to my harness. I affixed the rope to my harness, made sure I did everything right, and down I went.
The pipes weren’t corroded, but that’s not to say they were in remotely good condition. There were two pipes, with one as the main water intake and the other serving as a backup if the first one failed. The first one was in good condition. The second one was clearly damaged - not corroded as I was expecting, but instead punctured with a dozen or so tiny holes. I’d never seen something like that before. Trying to think of an explanation, I raised myself to the back to the top of the oil rig and untied the rope.
My first priority was fixing the water pipe. It would be an arduous process to weld metal plates back onto a pipe which was in such an awkward position, but I had done it a few times before.
And I would never do it again.
As I stepped into the tool shed for a welding torch, I realized that all of the three welding torches we had on the rig were being used by other people. I had no option but to wait here until one of them came-
“Sorry,” a voice behind me said. “Do you need this?”
I whirled around to face the man behind the voice – someone named Steven. Steven continued:
“I need to fix a bit of plating on the deck with this, it’ll take twenty-ish minutes. I’ll be back then.”
“Can it wait? I-”
He turned around and walked out of the shed. I stood there for a few seconds, indignant at his rudeness.
I jogged outside the shed, trying to catch up with Steven. To the left of the exit was a complicated maze of rooms and pathways – to the front and the right it was pretty much empty. Stephen was nowhere to found on the open area. Concluding he had gone left; I followed his footsteps.
After only ten feet of walking, I came to the first fork in the road – I could go left or straight, and I didn’t see him straight ahead of me. I turned left.
I saw the welding equipment, but no Steven. I wasn’t sure why he dropped it. Thing is, I didn’t care either, so I picked it up and went on my way to the pipes before repeating the process from earlier by tying my harness to the belaying machine and lowering myself.
Roughly halfway through the welding job, I caught a glance at my watch. It was ten minutes into a fifty-minute lunchtime. I pressed the up button on the controls and, upon reaching the surface, sped to the rig’s cafeteria.
I already knew that it would be crowded in the cafeteria. Cold, too. But I was hungry, and I wanted to eat as soon as possible.
I bumped into Alex on the way there. We caught up with the morning’s work – mundane as usual. He was telling me about how whoever had set up those wires he was fixing needed to be fired.
Then there was an ear-shattering noise from beneath the rig.
“Christ,” Alex exclaimed. “What the hell was that?”
I didn’t answer – I just looked around, waiting for an announcement over the PA system. But before anything else could happen, there was a noise similar to the one before. This time, though, it was followed up by something:
The rig tilted roughly fifty degrees to the left.
It dawned on me that the screeching noises were two of the four supports breaking. The left side of the station was partially underwater, and anybody with half a brain would have assumed that the other two supports would break soon.
I heard the PA announcement that I was looking for. A calm voice announced, “All personnel are to evacuate the oil rig immediately. All personnel are to evacuate the oil-” The voice suddenly cut out. I wasn’t sure why this had happened – the command room, where the microphone for the PA system was, didn’t seem to be damaged.
Alex looked to the right end of the rig, where the lifeboats were housed. My gaze followed. The rig had acted as a sort of deadly lever whose fulcrum was on the remaining two supports, with our side going down and the other going up. A sense of dread washed over me as I realized that this was a serious issue – the two supports weren’t meant to bear the whole load of the rig, and they would break any second now. That didn’t give us much time to somehow sprint up the few hundred feet of steep, slippery metal that stood between us and the lifeboats.
Of course, we wouldn’t necessarily be out of luck even if we didn’t make it. A few lucky members of the crew had already made it to the lifeboats – Alex and I would probably be picked up by them.
Which is why when I lost his footing on the way up and only regained it once I was thirty or so feet behind my friend, I shouted to Alex that he didn’t need to wait up. Alex obliged and continued his climb up Mount Rig. I opted to preserve my energy by staying still – the chances of me reaching the boats in time were slim, so my best option was to tread water until I was picked up if the rig sank.
Alex didn’t look back. I saw him reach the lifeboats and begin lowering the rope and winch that deployed them into the water – after that, he disappeared below the rig. I assumed he would come pick me up once the rig broke, and if it didn’t break then he would go to the left side of the rig, the one that was partially underwater, and pick me up there.
I spent about ten minutes waiting for him to come to the left of the rig, but he never did. Eventually I decided to climb up to the right side and to see if I could spot him.
Peering over the edge of the rig, I saw nothing but three orange lifeboats – all freely floating in the water but empty. Before I had time to fully process the situation, I felt something kick me in the back as I tumbled over into the ocean. The fall lasted for around ten seconds, which gave me enough time to streamline my body by pointing my toes down and crossing my arms on my chest.
Due to some weird reflex, I inhaled sharply the second I hit the frigid ocean water. I couldn’t tell which way was up, and I was choking my lungs out. I dared to open my eyes for a split second to figure out where the surface was. After what seemed like an eternity of burning agony, I shut them again and kicked towards the surface.
I remembered the game Alex and I had played – I had only twenty minutes to live in this water. I tried to gain my bearings in order to swim back to the rig. But there was an issue that slowly dawned on me as I looked around, trying to find it.
Offshore Rig #23 was gone.
There was no trace of it. I could wrap my mind around the rig being broken and lost underneath the waves, but there was nothing left – not even a bit of debris floating up to the surface.
My leg was numb from the cold. But I could still feel a hand grabbing it. I looked down to see a vaguely humanoid creature. It was hard to tell through the water, but something about it seemed distorted. I read somewhere that you get stretched and pulled in all directions if you enter a black hole – the creature looked like that but with gray goo all over it.
It, as of now, is simply there. Not pulling me down, just remaining stationary.
The rest of the creature is below the surface. I can see it breathing – it’s alive and it wants to hurt me, but it knows it doesn’t have to.
It just has to wait twenty minutes.