Death in the Darkness (A Trial of Love)

16 Oct


Steve Brace was working in Upper Level Engine Room outboard of the Ships Service Turbine Generators and right next to the pressure hull when he dropped his wedding ring. It clattered straight down into the gap between two frame members and disappeared. He’d been married for all of three months and he loved his wife dearly so there wasn’t anything else to do but go and get it.  Steve didn’t tell a soul, probably because he didn’t think it necessary; after all, he was in a submarine that was going to be moored in port for the next two days. It’s not like he’d dropped the ring in the ocean. It could only go so far and he felt that all he had to do was follow it down the space it had fallen into and he’d find it.

The frame members were circular steel I-beams welded to the inner circumference of the pressure hull every two feet for the entire length of the boat. The top of each beam was twelve inches wide thus the opening between them was also twelve inches wide. Each I-beam was ten inches tall between hull interior surface and inside top of each I-beam flange. The space created in cross section was a box twenty-four inches wide at the bottom (or against the hull), and ten inches tall on either side. The top of this box had two six inch wide overhangs separated by a twelve inch opening in the middle. In order to follow his wedding ring to wherever gravity had taken it, Steve had to turn sideways and enter the tight space head first, pointing his flashlight ahead of him. He would have to use his hands, arms, shoulders, hips and back as brakes to slow his descent while he searched for the glint of gold that was his quarry. His legs trailed uselessly behind him, and their weight and that of the rest of his body worked against the pressure he exerted against the smooth metal side of the channel. It was exactly as if he was an upside down mountain climber trying to negotiate the descent of a narrow rock chimney.

At first he was able to maintain sufficient pressure and it seemed that he would be able to control his descent until the curve of the hull lessened as he approached the keel. Moving awkwardly in the tight space, Steve managed to squirm several feet down until he was completely inside the frame members and alongside of the starboard Main Lube Oil Tank. The opening between the beams was now closed by the side of the steel tank. Light from above him was fading and the walls seemed to close in as he inched lower.

The space through which Steve lowered himself was an area the size of three pieces of notebook paper laid side by side. As the hull curved down and in toward the keel he began to slip on oil that had slopped up from the bilge below during heavy seas. He began to wonder if what he was doing was such a good idea. The lower he got the more he slipped and the harder it became to stop his movement. His body ached from the contortions required to maintain position. Steve tried to climb backwards and only slid farther down. He dropped the flashlight and tried to use both hands to arrest his momentum. It was futile. Steve could only wonder what he’d gotten himself into. He began to descend again and then suddenly slipped. The oil was thick now on the metal and he could not stop. He rocketed down into the dark. Six feet ahead he saw the flashlight up against what looked like a grating placed across the channel formed by the frames. He folded his arms in front of his head and smashed into this barrier only to feel it fold upward toward the overhead of the oil tank’s bottom. His shirt snagged on something and was ripped from his back and he came to a halt just in time to watch the flashlight slide down and forward and extinguish itself in the cold, oily water of the bilge up ahead.

The grating  had been placed there to keep foreign objects like tools or debris out of the bilge and it had done its job well until Steve plowed through it. Now all it was doing was wedging him into the space like a sardine in a can. When he tried to move backwards the bottom of the grate dug hard into his back. When he tried to move forward the oil prevented him from getting a good grip. The snagged shirt and grate held him tight. Tentacles of claustrophobia wriggled over his skin and the steel walls seemed to grip him tighter.

Steve shook his head in the darkness and laughed because to not laugh would have meant giving in to the fear. He was, as the saying went, in a tight spot.  

(To be continued.)

13 Responses to “Death in the Darkness (A Trial of Love)”

  1. susielindau October 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

    What a great story! I could feel the space closing in on him. I can’t wait to read what happens next…..

    • dmmacilroy October 16, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

      Dear Susie,

      Thanks for diving in to this story. (True one) Telescopes shutting down, Dawn’s coming. have to rush.

      More soon.



  2. kelseamac October 16, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    my stomach is knotted in twists of anxiety. I’m going to find a safe place (without small, tight spaces), have a panic attack thanks to your writing, and will return when able to eat again. excellent crafting.

    • dmmacilroy October 16, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

      Hi Kels, Scopes are shutting down. I’ll visit with you tonight. Have to go earn my Yankee dollar.

  3. Deborah the Closet Monster October 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

    I like a guy who can laugh in the face of that! I felt a little light of head just reading this.

    I look forward to the remainder!

    • dmmacilroy October 18, 2011 at 9:40 am #

      Dear Deborah.

      Thanks for reading the beginning of Steve’s trial and taking the time to comment. It’s a wonder you have any time at all given all the responses your last two posts have gotten.

      Steve’s story is a true one and I hope to knock out the rest of it in the next day or two.



  4. Sonia Lal October 19, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    Damn! Sounds impossible to get out safely.

  5. The Lime October 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    Wow wow! Lots of tension.

  6. Caely October 21, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Dear D,

    Your words are magic. They truly captivate me as a reader. I wish that I one day can hold books written by you. That way, your lovely words are always close rather than just being ones and zeroes. (Also because I am one of those people that love the smell of books.)


    • dmmacilroy October 21, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

      Dear Caely,

      With your encouragement and the vision of that future, I will make it so.

      You’ve been busy lately, haven’t you?

      Great to hear from you.

      I’m reading all of the entries to Madison Woods’ FridayFictioneers short stories (100 words or so). You should join in. Your perspective on the world would produce new and exciting views. Here’s the link.

      I tell you this only because you asked me to in an earlier letter. Are you well and kicking ass? Sounds like it. Good luck on the 19th of November.



      • Caely October 25, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

        Dear D,

        Thank you for your reply. And yes, I have been very busy lately. My studies take up much of my time, but I should be back this week.

        I’m good! Kicking some virus ass right now.
        How was your trip to the mountain? I’m off to read your newer posts now.


      • Madison Woods October 25, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

        We’d love to see your 100-words, Caely 🙂

  7. Madison Woods October 25, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    Doug, I only thought I was claustrophobic earlier. This was worse than the second chapter in giving the feeling of confined space. I hope your friend lived through it so someone could give him a good beating for doing something so crazy!

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