Death in the Darkness (A Trial of Love) Part 2

24 Oct

Trapped head down in the narrow and constricted space between frame members, Steve Brace laughed at his grim situation for a few minutes and then set about trying to free himself.  He was not a large man, but even so, the tight confines left him little room to maneuver.

He began by try to pull himself downward by forcing his arms apart against the side walls of the adjacent I-beams and levering his body forward. Each time he did this he felt his shirt tighten across his back and shoulders. Squeezing to the left and lifting his torso up against the overhanging beam flanges gave him enough space to use his right arm to undo every button on his shirt front. He then undid the cuff buttons of his left arm and switched arms to do the same with his right cuff. When that was complete he laboriously slipped the shirt sideways over and past his shoulders. The next step was to fold his arms under him and then move them backwards and to his sides as though he were standing at attention. Upside down attention, but attention nonetheless. This unnerved him a little but had to be done.

Facing down the chute formed by the frame I-beam sides and top flanges and wriggling on the cold oil slicked inner surface of the pressure hull, Steve started to wriggle like a worm deep beneath the earth, Like that worm, slowly but surely, he began to make progress. His shirt, which had snagged on the ragged bottom edge of the debris grate he’d crashed through, peeled off of his shoulders like an old snake skin and he squirmed and slid inch by inch down toward the dark bilge. The bottom of the grate rode across his butt and then his thighs and he could measure his progress by line of its edge moving across him like a ruler. He had a scare for a moment when the shirt sleeves reached his forearms and he was stretched out full length with both arms at his sides. His movement slowed and he felt something bind for a moment, then with a slight tearing of fabric somewhere behind him, he popped loose and out of his shirt completely. The grate rode over his calves and ankles and then gravity’s tug on the diminishing slope of the hull slid him gently down to the water’s edge. 

The bilge appeared to have about six inches of water in it. The surface was smooth and dark and on it he could make out the faint reflection of light from up ahead where the hull started to slope upwards. In that direction waited salvation; through the fifteen feet of mung and oil filled bilge water that crowded the overhead, and then the long haul up the slick curved channel to what he hoped would be a way out into the upper level of the engineroom.With that thought a his guide star, Steve pulled and squirmed and splashed his way forward into the cold water that was his next obstacle on the path to freedom.

No sooner had he started than he felt something slide on the hull beneath his left forearm. He stopped, probed carefully ahead with his right hand and touched a familiar shape beneath the water. Steve didn’t need to see the object to know what it was. In the dark and cold of the very bottom of the bilge he brought his hands together and slipped his wedding band on the ring finger of his left hand. He smiled in the blackness, his head cocked to the side to keep his nose and mouth out of the water that filled half of the ten inch high gap between overhead and hull. Steve made a fist and squeezed it tight. He felt the edges of the ring press hard into his flesh. Finding the ring was a good omen, he decided. If nothing else, at least it would be on him when they finally recovered his body.

Splashing and pulling forward again, he found another treasure of sorts. The flashlight, its sealing rings still intact and working, cast a feeble light from its resting place at the bottom of the centerline of the bilge. He grabbed it with his left hand and continued on until he had left the water behind. Steve felt as though nothing in the world could stop him now and he sloshed and pushed and slid up the gradually steepening slope on the port side until he ran smack into another grate welded across the width of the channel.

Steve could see light up ahead now and it seemed a cruel irony that it made its way to him though thin cross hatched bars embedded firmly in a solid steel frame. He put his fingers through the bars and pulled himself up tight against the grate, then braced himself with his legs and hips and shoulders. He gave a mighty tug and felt only the slightest flex in the grate. Steve shook the metal barrier until his muscles burned and his fingers were cut and torn. Fear and frustration clawed at him now and he let go and slid back down the oil smeared hull until his feet splashed into the bilge water.

He had made his way down and through forty-five feet of rat hole so tight that he could barely move and found the object of his search only to be stymied a stupid ten feet from freedom. He could not turn around and it would be impossible to go backwards even if the first grate wasn’t there. The only exit was forward and up and the path was blocked.

Steve was well and truly trapped and for the life of him, he could not see a way out.

 

 

(To be continued….)

8 Responses to “Death in the Darkness (A Trial of Love) Part 2”

  1. susielindau October 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    I love chapter 2! I can’t wait for the next installment~

    • dmmacilroy October 24, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

      Thank you, Susie,

      I hope you like how it turns out. (True story.)

      Aloha,

      Doug

  2. Robin Hawke October 24, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

    Same here, Robin (favorite paragraphs: ring and flashlight)

    • dmmacilroy October 24, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

      Thanks, Robin,

      You guys are kind to read this one. It happened a long time ago to a good friend of mine and has always come to mind whenever someone asks whether there was room to get lost inside our submarine.

      Aloha,

      Doug

  3. Madison Woods October 25, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    Just reading this gave me claustrophobia (or however you spell it, none of the ways I’ve done it look right). Mark it down as one place I never want to be!

    I’m a day late making rounds to blogs I enjoy, and it looks like I’ve missed a bunch of other posts – so that means you’ve been writing more often than before 🙂

    • dmmacilroy October 25, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

      Hi Mads,

      Did you read both parts? Just wondering. (And thanks for reading at all!) I keep telling people that this is a true story, too. Makes it all the more nerve wracking. I was there the day we learned what had happened. Stay tuned.

      Aloha,

      Doug

      • Madison Woods October 25, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

        Not yet. Just landed on this page and read it – but break is over. Have a meeting in a few minutes and after that I’ll try to come back.

      • dmmacilroy October 25, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

        No worries, Mads. Was just wondering. Dawn’s coming here. Bedtime soon. Aloha, D.

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