Konstantin

Konstantin floats, surrounded in darkness. In front of him, the pipe he’s welding is illuminated by harsh white light from his helmet. More than a few metres and the beam is consumed by the dark water of the Sump all around him. In his ears is the constant hiss of the air supply entering the helmet and the faint bubble from the exhaust valve of escaping gas.

At first, he had found it oppressive; so close in the helmet, it was a constant reminder of the water that would flood in except for the bubble of metal and rubber that kept it at bay. Now, it’s still a constant reminder to him but it’s become familiar, domesticated.

The hiss and bubble is broken by the crackle of the helmet radio, fed down with the air supply from the Black Star above him. Looking upwards, Konstantin can see the lights from the oil platform, scattered by the green of the water above him into a bilious glow.

There’s another crackle from the radio, followed by the distorted voice of Benson, one of the support engineers topside.

“Hey, Konstantin. Yevgeny’s radio is busted again. Check if he’s finished the weld on Bravo-7 so we can run a pressure test.”

“Fuck your mother, again?” Konstantin sighs into the mic. This was the third time Yevgeny’s radio had failed this week. “Can’t you just replace it already?”

Over the radio Benson’s laughter is like bolts going down a drain. “Not until the resupply next week. Until then, you’re his radio, mate.”

“Fuck your mother,” repeats Konstantin out of frustration. “Alright, I’ll let you know.”

Yevgeny is working on junction B7, which meets the pipe that Konstantin is working on 40 metres or so further down. Konstantin clips the welder to his belt and starts to pull himself along the pipe towards Yevgeny. The surface under his gloves is pitted with rust and wear. The Black Star has been running continuously down here for years, at what is generally believed by the crew to be a minimum of cost.

He passes Irina on the way, who is cutting a section of pipe with an arc-rod. The bright orange flare from it is visible even before her helmet light is. As he passes, she turns and waves at him, the halo of her light hiding her features inside the helmet.

Her voices crackles over the radio in his helmet, “Hey Kostya, I saw Yevgeny ten minutes ago, his line’s over there.” She rolls onto her back, letting her light cast on a thick, black cable running down at an angle from above. “Next time his radio goes, it should be you going after him Benson.”

“Down in that muck? Not a chance in Hell,” retorts Benson.

Konstantin can’t see her face, but the slight wag of her helmet light betrays the shake of her head. He turns away and follows the cable down the pipe. Junction B7 is marked by a pipe coming down at an angle from the platform. It comes to him as a surprise; he wasn’t expecting to find it before seeing the glow of Yevgeny’s light.

“Benson, you said Bravo-7 right?”

“Yep, that’s the one.”

Yevgeny’s cable falls over the cross formed by the junction of the two pipes, disappearing beyond the beam of Konstantin’s headlight. He reaches the junction and looks over. At first, there’s nothing but the darkness of the water, but dimly, he sees the faintest glimmer of a light.

His chest tightens, a cold knot forming in the middle of his ribcage.

“Yevgeny!” He knows it’s useless with his radio broken, but he can’t help calling out. Konstantin sets his boots upon the pipe, grabs the cable in both hands and hauls. It comes up easily, hand over hand. With it, so does the light, growing brighter and more defined with each tug.

Yevgeny comes up languidly, rising like a piece of weed on a fishing line. He’s limp, hidden behind the bulk of his helmet and the flare of its lamp. At last his helmet and torso rise beyond the pipes, but no more. His suit ends raggedly, pale tatters of flesh and a trailing loop of bowel beginning where it finishes.

Konstantin throws himself backwards with a cry, involuntarily pushing away against the corpse. A stream of bubbles emerges from the suit, billowing upwards towards the surface. His breath hammers hard and fast within the confines of the helmet.

He’s just about steadied himself when he sees it, rising up from below. He can see it, because there’s a glow that proceeds it, a glow that distinguishes itself into a myriad points of light. A long, thick cable, thicker than the pipes around him reaches up out of the depths and wraps around Yevgeny. As it closes around, Konstantin can see it as a tentacle; a row of luminescent dots along its length and an underside of suckers like saucers.

It draws Yevgeny down in a whirl of bubbles, his cable slamming tight against the pipework. Konstantin is frozen, stunned by the shock of it. He wants desperately to move, but cannot will his limbs to obey.

More tentacles boil upwards, wrapping themselves around pipes as the thing draws itself upwards. Its bulk is hidden behind swirling arms, but Konstantin catches glimpses of two gigantic pale eyes and rows of luminescent dots. Tentacles unfurl themselves from the piping and reach towards Konstantin.

There’s a bright orange flash and Konstantin hears Irina shouting, her voice distorted into an electronic screech through the radio. The tentacles collapse inwards and he can see her, arc-rod jammed into one white eye. Konstantin is thrown backwards by an immense pressure wave and the water erupts with some thick, blinding miasma.

His shock is broken, and he grabs hold of the nearest pipe, pulling himself upwards with all his strength. As he climbs, the water clears. He can see Irina’s light nearby, also rising, just above him. Looking further above, he can also see the moon pool of the Black Star, a shimmering green target.

The radio is alive with voices, but Konstantin cannot focus on any of them. He is almost at the pool. He cannot help looking down. Below him, he sees the glow, an angry shimmering that begins to resolve itself. Fear lends him strength. He reaches the lip of the pool, as Irina drags herself up the ladder.

Konstantin’s boots slip on the rungs, but he weighs nothing. He hurls himself out of the water and collapses on the deck. His breath is hammering and his head is spinning. People are shouting and pulling at them, dragging them towards the recompression chamber. They are almost there when the moon pool explodes.

Tentacles burst into the chamber, slapping with idiot rage at anything in range. Crates are knocked to the floor, toolboxes are sent flying and people are shouting. An engineer near the edge of the pool is knocked to the ground and dragged screaming, the sound suddenly cut off as he goes under water.

As suddenly as they appeared, they are gone, the tentacles sliding beneath the surface to leave nothing but waves. Everything is still for a moment, full of anticipation.

Nothing comes. The hands dragging Irina and himself awake once more and the dock is filled with the sound of a dozen voices cursing and asking questions. They’re dropped into the recompression chamber and the door slammed shut. With it goes all the sound and the chaos of the dock.

Irina and Konstantin don’t say anything during the six hours they’re in the chamber. Both of them can’t take their eyes off the thick glass window of the chamber and the dark water visible beneath the moon pool.

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~ by Electro-mechanical Man on March 22, 2011.

2 Responses to “Konstantin”

  1. I really like this one. Nice work!

  2. Thanks Em, glad you enjoyed it.

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