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Ocean Depth Death

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June 3rd 2017  |  0  |  Category: Drama  |  Author: Tim Krzys  |  80 views

Ocean Depth Death

A submarine is little more than a steel tube crammed full of gadgets, with the remaining space for the men aboard who keep the steel tube from sinking to the bottom of the ocean. A submariner’s day last 18 hours: three 6-hour watch cycles, 1 on and 2 off. He stands a duty watch, then has the next 12 hours for everything else: repair and maintenance tasks, study, relaxation, eating and when everything else is done, sleeping. Then it’s back to the duty watch. Aboard a Los Angeles class submarine, there’s always something to keep a submariner busy.
Commander Mick Block stood in the control room looking completely at ease and comfortable and at the same time, totally in control. He loved his name, Mick Block. It was a strong name with lots of hard, strong sounds to it. He was born Mickey Aaron Block almost forty years ago. At age twenty-one, he changed his name to Mick Aaron Block. His father, an ex-Marine made it clear he didn’t approve, and died a year later. It was only a coincidence he died a year later. He was hit by a New York City cab.
Mick ruled the death natural causes.
For a submariner, dying aboard a sunken sub would be natural causes. It’s a sub’s natural tendency to sink. It takes a crew of about 141 to keep the sub off the bottom; 14 officers, 18 Chief Petty Officer and 109 enlisted men. In a sense, the crew was like a family. The enlisted men were the youngest children and the officers the older children. The captain was the father, and the executive officer would be the mother. The XO, Scott Baldwin was a man’s man; he loved sports, especially football and hockey, was in to NASCAR and when he was home in Savannah. Georgia, he rode his Harley everyday, even when it rained. In spite of the testosterone surplus, Baldwin was soft spoken, but his square face and stern brow spoke silently for him. He was well respected, liked, and probably a few men would even admit they loved the guy. He was there to talk to, always confident and never without a good word for somebody. Most of the enlisted men called Scott the morale officer.
The primary purpose of the newer Los Angeles Class submarine is anti-submarine warfare. These 360-foot, 6,900 ton ships are also well equipped for special assignments because of their stealth, mobility and endurance. The nuclear power plant gives the ship the ability to remain deployed for extended periods. To take advantage of this, the ship is outfitted with auxiliary equipment to provide for needs of the crew. Atmosphere control equipment replenishes air used by the crew, and removes carbon dioxide and other atmospheric contaminants. The ship is also equipped with two distilling plants, which convert salt water for drinking, washing, and the propulsion plant. Sustained operation of the complex equipment and machinery on the ship requires an on-board inventory of repair parts. The ship carries enough food to feed the crew for as long as 90 days.
The submarine is divided into two watertight compartments. The forward compartment houses all the living spaces, weapons systems, control centers, and sonar/fire control computers. The after compartment houses the nuclear reactor and the ship’s propulsion equipment. The flooding of either compartment would, without a doubt, sink the ship.
“Lower all masts and take her down to seven hundred,” Block ordered.
“Aye aye, sir. Lower the masts,” Ben Hamilton ordered. A petty officer pulled on the hydraulic control levers.
“ESM and UHF masts lowered, sir,” the duty electrician reported.
“Very well. Diving officer, make your depth seven hundred feet,” Block commanded. They were currently cruising at about two hundred feet below the surface.
“Seven hundred feet, aye,” the diving officer responded. “Fifteen degrees down-angle on the planes.”
“Fifteen degrees down, aye”
“Okay. Let’s move it,” Block said.
“Aye, Skipper. All ahead full.”
“All ahead full, aye.” The helmsman reached up to turn the annunciator.
They were in the Atlantic beyond the shallow seas of the continental shelf. Their patrol, like nearly all subs, commanded a large area, and for the most part, the sub commander had free reign of where to point his ship. Occasional contact with another sub, usually Russian broke up the long boredom. Generally, most Russian subs were not as quiet as their American counterparts, making them easier to detect. There were exceptions.
In the reactor spaces aft, Lieutenant Wade had his engine-men acknowledge the command and then gave the necessary orders. The reactor coolant pumps went to fast speed. An increased amount of hot, pressurized water entered the exchanger, where its heat was transferred to steam on the outside loop. When the coolant returned to the reactor, it was cooler than it had been and therefore denser. Being denser, it trapped more neutrons in the reactor pile, increasing the fission reaction and giving off more power.
Forward, Hamilton watched the depth gauge go below three hundred. The diving officer would wait until they got to about six hundred before starting to level off, the object being to zero the dive out at exactly the ordered depth. It was a track record men kept score of, and Hamilton had one of the best records in the fleet.
“Sir, I think you should hear this,” the sonarman said.
“What is it?” Block asked.
“I’m not sure, Captain. It isn’t screw sounds, and it isn’t any naturally produced sound that I’ve heard.”
“Put it on speaker,” Block told him. The bulkhead mounted speaker, like everything else on the 688-class sub, was the very best money could buy. It would have commanded a four-figure price tag in any stereo shop. The sonarman, Thomas Goodman was determined to figure out a way to hook up music to it. The quality of sound was important in a submarine. A sub moved blindly in the ocean, and listening for the enemy was essential. As Goodman worked the sound controls, they heard the whining chirp of propeller cavitation and the deeper rumble of a sub’s reactor plant at full power.
“Sounds different,” Block commented. He rubbed his chin, a sign that everyone took notice of. The crew knew it was their cue to be quiet and let the old man, as they affectionately called him, room to think. They knew that fact because on the first voyage with Block, he stopped in mid sentence to rub his chin and ponder a thought when he was interrupted. His bark of a response made it extremely clear that his gesture meant quiet. Word on a sub spreads quickly, and information like that moved across the sub with the speed of a hurricane wind gust. Unlike a business office, there was no need for a memo to communicate. After a long moment, he spoke again. “I wonder if it’s that new Russian sub.” He listened to the sound again. “No, it’s an older sub, but something’s been modified. This one’s a Charlie class.”
“I’d agree, sir,” Goodman said. “Charlie II, number eleven. But you’re right, something’s been modified.”
“What’s the bearing?” Block wanted to know.
“Bearing zero-seven-eight, doing turns for thirty-one knots.”
“Thirty-one knots? That can’t be right! The Russkies don’t have a ship that’ll do thirty-one knots.”
“I double checked. It’s thirty-one knots.”
“They keeping company with anyone?” It wasn’t unusual to find a pair of Russian subs in the same area. It was almost as though they were afraid to get too far apart from each other when away from home.
“I’m picking up another noise, but no cavitation sounds. Maybe it’s a sub dead in the water.”
“Unlikely,” Block told him. “How far off?”
“I’m not exactly sure, but they’re close. Real close.” In submarine terms, that meant under ten miles.
Block rubbed his chin again. They were on their way to a naval exercise, so he had no time to play cat and mouse. “Let’s yankee search him”, Block finally said. He knew their expensive and sophisticated sonar device had limited accuracy the faster they traveled. The noise of the sub’s movement made listening in the water more difficult. At twenty knots, the sub’s BQQ-5 retained only twenty percent effectiveness, nothing to brag to the Pentagon about. A sub running at high speed was essentially blind. There was no telling how close this other sub was, or what class it was.
Reaching, Goodman powered up the active transducers in the BQQ-5’s main sphere at the bow.
Ping! A wave front of sound energy rolled through the dark ocean depths.
Pong! The wave was reflected back off the hard steel hull of the unknown sub.
“Range to target, four hundred yards. Location of target is almost directly in front of us.” Goodman hesitated, made some quick calculations, and then continued. “Sir, I think we’re on a collision course.”
“Ping them again, only louder. Make sure they know we’re here.”
“Aye, aye sir.”
“Change course to zero-eighty-one.”
“Aye, aye, sir. Change course to zero-eighty-one.”
Just then a loud ping bounced off the hull. Then another. Even in peacetime, hearing that sound was unnerving to any submariner. It stole the feeling of invincibility and power and replaced it with fear and vulnerability. It was a little like being caught in battle in your underwear.
“Sir, distance closing rapidly. Range to target, two-hundred twenty yards and closing rapidly. Her depth is three hundred sixty. Hearing reactor noises. He’s powering up, sir.”
“Hard left rudder. Damn it. He must’ve been following us.” He eyed the depth gauge. It read three hundred and falling.
The number of Soviet-American collisions was a closely guarded secret; that there had been collisions was not. Usually, it was the Americans who crept up dangerously close on Russian subs. This time, the Russians were following American tactics.
“Aye, aye sir. Hard left rudder.” It was a decision made that calculated the Russian was going to go the opposite direction. That was their habit.
The pinging continued, like a cornered animal calling out a warning to stay away.
Block stared forward, his mind picturing the two subs. It was rumored the best captains were left-handed and possessed an excellent capacity to visualize objects in three dimensions. The right brain, the dominant hemisphere in lefties, excels in spatial relations. He didn’t like what his mind visualized.
“Range sir, one hundred-ten. Now hearing screw sounds. He’s moving.” He pressed the earphones closer to his ear. “Trying to get a fix on his direction and speed.”
“I don’t know if there’s time,” Block said quietly. Everyone in the control room heard him. They knew at times he talked softly, and they also knew he always carried that proverbial big stick. Block looked at the depth gauge. It read three hundred forty. They were almost on the same plane as the Russian sub. It still amazed Block that in the vastness of the Atlantic, two subs could still collide. But, that was the side effect of Soviet-American war games.
Ping. . . . . .Ping. . . . . Ping. . . .
The sound was tormenting. Block clenched his fist, cursing his weakness. A Russian sub had caught him, and he hadn’t even known it was there.
“Sir, range fifty-nine and closing.”
“Brace for collision”, Block finally ordered. His voice remained firm, yet still calm. He was a pro.
The OOD, officer of the deck quickly grabbed the mic and relayed the message. “All hands, attention all hands. Brace for collision. Close all watertight doors. I repeat, brace for collision.” The OOD replaced the mic and grabbed onto the chart table. If there was a collision, he knew it didn’t matter what he held on to.
The two subs were nearing collision. The Russian sub had been following the American ship for three days. Bored with a chase that elicited no response, the Russian commander ordered his ship ahead at two-thirds full speed, passing the slower American ship hours earlier. He couldn’t have known that right there, in the middle of a huge ocean, the American captain would order his ship to turn and dive, right into the path of the lower sub. The second Russian sub was merely passing through the area when it stumbled upon the American sub. It was as surprised as the Americans to find another Russian sub in the area.
Block held onto to the chart table at the conn. He knew this collision could easily sink the ship. Any collision at sea could. A submarine was a fragile machine, which is one reason why every crew-member underwent rigorous training and psychological testing before being chosen to wear the coveted dolphin of the submariner.
“Range thirty-two and closing.”
Block noticed his stooped posture and straightened. It was better to be a little bent in a collision and not so rigid. It helped absorb the force. But a more erect posture showed strength and courage. He wondered about his wife and two daughters. No matter what any father said, there was a special connection between father and daughter that was always different than between father and son. He deeply loved Alison and Julie. They were the bright spot of his life. And his wife, also Julie. How did he ever get so lucky? She had the patience of Job, waiting six-months between visits. She was faithful, too. He was sure of that. And unlike many submariners, Mick had been faithful for every one of the fourteen years he’d known Julie. He couldn’t consider any other life style. Now, in a moment where a man faces death, he was glad that he had resisted all those temptations. He didn’t know exactly what he was going to say to the man upstairs, but having fourteen years of loyalty and monogamy had to count for something in this day and age.
“Range, twenty, and closing. . . .”
Ping. . . . .
“Range four, and . . . “
The roar of the collision was deafening. Suddenly it felt like the floor had completely shifted twenty feet. The collision tossed everyone standing in the control room to the floor. Block was suddenly thrust forward and hit the bulkhead. He felt a gush of warmth on his forehead, and the next thing he knew, he was on the deck.
The scraping sound that followed was worse than fingernails on a chalkboard. The ocean depth greatly magnified any sound. The metallic noise screamed and screeched and vibrated throughout the entire ship. In the forward torpedo room, the force of the collision loosened three torpedoes that fell off the rack onto several sailors. They heard the rumble of the torpedoes rolling, but it happened so quickly they could not get out of their path. It didn’t matter. Two had their chests crushed flat, and a third got his head caught between the torpedo and a vertical beam. As he fell to the deck, his head dangled lifelessly on his shoulders.
The outer bulkhead gave way. The metal hull that was inches thick, rolled back like foil. Seawater gushed through a small opening, shoved by the intense water depth, the hull wider like a wire fence tears open a good pair of jeans. A nearly solid wall of cold water gushed into the forward torpedo room knocking down anyone in its path. The force of the water slamming sailors against the bulkhead killed most instantly. It happened so quickly that those who died did so almost immediately. The pressure was crushing; it represented the weight of all the water above the submarine. A full can of soda crumbled into a small mass of foil. In less than two seconds, water filled the entire forward torpedo room. The air from the torpedo room raced to the surface, carrying with it many a sailor’s last breath.
Since the collision occurred in the forward section, the entire forward watertight compartment had been compromised. Although water-tight doors existed between areas, there were spaces that highly pressurized water could quickly seep through, not too unlike the spaces in the walls of a house, or tiny crawlspaces under new additions.
In the upper level of the forward compartment, the control room and attack center was located. The control room also functioned as the attack center when necessary. This area was the nerve center, controlling and monitoring all functions of the ship.
The gush of numbing cold seawater continued to pour through the huge gash in the bow of the ship. The forward torpedo room was flooded and pressurized seawater continued to push its way through the doomed submarine. The added weight sent the sub diving nose-first toward the bottom. For an eternity of nine seconds, the two subs scraped sides. Then there was a deafening silence, broken only by quiet sobs and moans.
In the control room, a few men were pushing themselves off the floor. Some moaned quietly, but the rushing roar of water in the next compartment erased the sounds.
Block slowly got up as he wiped the blood away from his eyes. “Blow all tanks!” He barked with fury and desperation in his voice. “Surface! Emergency surface!”
“Aye aye, sir.” The order was followed and all tanks were blown.
The sub was pointed nose down and rapidly slipping to the bottom. The sound of water being forced out of the ballast tanks was always welcomed noise. Everyone in the control room hung on tightly as the ship remained pointed down at a sharp forty-one degree angle. Block leaned against the charting tables, his fingers white from clutching it so tightly. He hoped and waited for the ship to level off, but it appeared the damage was too great. “Full speed ahead,” he ordered.
“Full speed ahead,” came the reply. The ‘aye aye sir’ had been totally forgotten in the stress of the events. Forgotten, or simply omitted in an effort to conserve every second and put every movement into saving the ship. When death was that close, shortcuts were taken and forgiven. The helmsman adjusted the diving planes in an attempt to get more lift, much like a jet makes adjustments to obtain more lift. For a moment, it worked, and the sub slowly began to level off.


“I think it’s working, sir,” the helmsman offered.
Block’s mind pictured what every man in the sub was picturing; running onto the deck of the surfaced ship and breathing fresh air. A normal person becomes used to the abundance of odors and fragrances in the air and the brain filters them out, lest the mind become constantly overwhelmed by smells. Every submariner knows what it‘s like to be in a submerged ship for a period of time and then come topside. The variety of smells is overwhelming. The sea air is sickly sweet and salty, almost overpowering and nauseous. If they are anywhere near land, the added smells of lush green trees and plants is pungent and strong. After being underwater for a period of time and then surfacing, the acrid aroma of exhaust gases can even be detected, or a wood fire in a nearby home, even cooking odors can be dissected out. After several minutes, the smells diminish and return to normal mode. A submariner in the farthest reaches of the ship can, in almost an instant, tell when the hatch has been opened and fresh air allowed to seep in. Now, every sailor on board was recalling the experience of what it was like to smell the world after being on-board for any length of time. A person, many sailors were told, experience the same thing when they tour a cave and re-surface. Tourists visiting Mammoth Caves in Kentucky have thrown up and passed out after being reacquainted with the normal smells of Mother Earth.
Water hissed and sprayed around the water-tight door. A growing puddle was forming in the control room. Finally, Powell and Roberts decided they needed to tighten down the door. They walked slowly toward the hatch watching the spray of water. Because of the steep angle of the bow, they held tightly onto the charting table as the found their way forward essentially walking downhill. At the end of the charting table there was nothing left to grab, so Roberts decided to carefully slide down the remaining several feet to the hatch. As he let go of the charting table, he suddenly slipped on the wet deck, falling on his butt and immediately sliding toward the hatch, feet first across the wet, gray floor. He put out his arms to try and catch hold of something and to protect his head from injury. The instant his feet slammed into the hatch, the cold fury of the Atlantic pushed its way through like an enormous angry army. The hatch blew off with an explosive force that sent Powell sailing into the bulkhead. The hatch hit Roberts square in the chest, crushing his ribs with such force his heart exploded. As the hatch slammed into him with such an intense force, it pushed his body away from his head so quickly that it snapped off at the neck. In a single millisecond, Roberts watched his body being swept away without him. Then there was darkness, and finally a dull, white light in the distance that slowly grew in intensity.
Block saw the enormous wall of water rushing towards him. It moved with a roaring sound that was pure terror. There was no time to even think or react. In two seconds, over ten thousand gallons of frigid seawater poured into the control room. That amount of water would’ve filled a backyard swimming pool. The added weight tipped the ship even more toward its grave. In less than two seconds, the water was at Block’s waist, its force shoving him over. A second later, the water rose four more feet, and within five seconds, the entire control room was submerged, with only a shallow, tiny air bubble remaining. All of the electricity to the control room was shut down and darkness filled the area like a huge splash of black ink. Block thought electrocution was a better way to go than drowning.
Block floated in the dark, inky water. His eyes were wide open despite the stinging effects of the seawater. He could see nothing except total darkness. His mind and inner ear, which together would normally provide a sense of orientation, remained totally confused. He had no sense of up or down. He felt a limp and lifeless body bump into his thigh and then float away. Block closed his eyes and tried to think about what he should do, knowing it was beyond desperate. His brain was teeming with thoughts, his mind bursting with images of the sub, playing out possible options, drawing out the floor plans, reviewing emergency procedures and practice drills, but every thought sped quickly to a dead end. He could still hear the sound of gushing water and men screaming in nearby compartments. That was the curse of water, it carried sound so well, conducting it faster than gossip at a church picnic. He heard and felt the soft rumble of the reactor and wondered briefly if there was any risk of a meltdown or explosion. He doubted he would be alive to worry about it. It was now only a matter of time, and time was quickly running out.
Block thought about his family and pushed aside the crowd of thoughts revolving around rescues options. He pulled up images of his children and wife. But they were hazy images, distorted by his growing distraction for oxygen. His lungs ached and there was a huge void in his chest as the craving for oxygen grew. It was so difficult to not inhale. Breathing was such a natural effort, rarely thought of or consciously managed by the brain. Like anything in life that is forbidden, the desire to do it grew. Not taking a breath, not inhaling even a little was like trying to stop hiccups. Block focused on not breathing, on trying to consider options, telling himself that where there was life, there was hope. But he had been a submariner for too long to lie to himself like that. He knew that sub better than his wife. He knew its strengths, its weaknesses, where every valve existed, where every switch and dial was located. He could draw the interior in his sleep. He knew that the situation was hopeless, and without hope, there was no life. He fought it as long as he could, but he knew that he would either eventually pass out, or give in and allow his lungs to fill with seawater. His chest ached and the pain was screaming, demanding a breath or some movement and natural expansion of his chest. Block couldn’t fight it any longer. He closed his eyes tightly, visualized his family and then sucked in a lung-full of seawater. Thousands of hot needles burned in his chest as the salty, oily seawater filled his lungs. Seconds later the pain diminished, and for a moment, he thought he could see a very dim and hazy image, but that was impossible in such total darkness. There was a light in the distance and it was moving nearer. Perhaps someone was looking for him. Maybe the crew fixed the problem, donned their scuba gear and began searching for survivors. He hoped that was true. He felt like he could not hold on to life much longer. The light grew brighter and closer, and the chilled seawater was replaced by warmth. Suddenly all his worries and fear vanished, and Block knew that he had found a much better world, and he welcomed it.
In the middle level of the forward compartment, behind the torpedo room are the mess decks, berthing areas and wardroom. The berthing area consisted of a man’s only private area, his cot or ‘rack’ as it was called. They were stacked three high and came complete with a privacy curtain. Being behind the torpedo room, this area took a major shock wave.
Men were thrown violently from their racks against the bulkhead. Some bounced violently off the metal, while others, catching the full force of the collision, splattered against the metal bulkhead. A few officers were in the wardroom, sipping coffee and swapping stories when the collision occurred. One second they were talking, listening, laughing, and the next second, they were violently thrown to the floor as if weightless. Lt. Jameson caught his forehead on the edge of the table, ending up lying still on the floor, part of his brain in a puddle of blood. Cups shattered against the wall with such force only splinters of glass remained. Several feet away, in the mess hall, hot liquids sprayed the kitchen, sending the two cooks screaming as the collision tossed them to the floor. The roar and screech of colliding metal reverberated through the mess hall with an intensity that vibrated the fillings in teeth.
Sixty seconds after the collision, all was quiet. The other sub had only suffered minor damage, but was leaking in the bow. The sound of the sub blowing its tanks could be heard, and the American crew listened with deepening envy. Aboard the American sub, all watertight doors had been sealed. In the process, twenty-nine men were condemned to their death. Their lifeless bodies were now floating in the sealed compartments. The forward torpedo room, the control room and the mess and crew areas were either flooded or rapidly filling with seawater. Men in the aft engine room remained dry. They were farthest from the opening in the hull, but it did not distance them from the outcome. They listened in horror to the sound of screams and gushing water.
During such emergency procedures, the nuclear reactor automatically shuts down. Precautions are taken to prevent a meltdown or explosion, keeping in mind that radiation leakage can have a wide impact upon many innocent civilians. There was a down side to that. While providing for greater safety of the crew in the short term, the reactor provided clean air through chemical reactions.
The sub slowly settled to the bottom. Air bubbles escaped as water continued to fill the crippled submarine. The huge ship floated quietly to the bottom, picking up speed as it sunk. At the time of the collision, the two submarines were floating near the edge of an underwater mountain range that sloped off to a depth of over two thousand feet. The sub came to rest on an underwater mountain top four hundred sixty-three feet from the surface. It landed hard, hitting the bottom at over thirty knots. The damaged hull crumbled under the force of a seven thousand ton ship slamming into the sea floor. The impact tossed sailors about as if they were playful bodies of NERF.
The after compartment, housing the nuclear reactor and the ship’s propulsion equipment was still intact, but greatly weakened. After the ship settled into the soft bottom, the surviving crew began to pick themselves up. The forward compartment was lost, completely filled with water. Now, the entire weight of the sea, a four hundred sixty-three foot thick layer of water was pushing on internal bulkheads that were not designed with the strength of the external hull. As the sailors stood up, helping each other, checking injuries, they listened to the moans and creaking of the weakening metal bulkheads.
The interior was completely dark. There was something deeply disturbing about not being able to see your hand an inch from your face. Darkness took on a whole new meaning. Black suddenly was not a color but a foe, an enemy of the mind and an allay of insanity. There are few things in life that produce such an intense feeling of fear and hopelessness than being separated from the world by a thick layer of ocean, A similar distance on dry land could be walked in a matter of minutes, but a depth of a few hundred feet of ocean is a dangerous and extremely hostile boundary. Engineers Taylor and Goldberg were seated next to each other in the engine room. The darkness separated them into two universes, but yet united them in a brotherhood. Silence was comforting because it conserved oxygen, it also produced profound loneliness even though other men were only inches or feet away. Words were chosen carefully as they were considered precious.
“How you feeling?” Engineer Goldberg asked. He was twenty-three, an experienced submariner who wore his dolphin with pride. Submariners were risk takers to begin with. He knew life might come to this, but it wasn’t a thought anyone dwelled on. Goldberg had trained for any contingency, and tried to live his life in preparation for the ultimate challenge and sacrifice. After a while, the survivors had lost all track of time. Time flowed differently in total darkness. There was the lack of all reference points, leaving the mind to guess and run with wild imagination.
“Okay. Feeling a little light headed.” Taylor noticed his breathing had quickened, a cardinal sign oxygen was running low. Absent-mindedly he held his hand in front of his face to check for manual dexterity. “That was stupid,” he giggled.
“What”
“I held my hand up in front of my face to, oh, never mind.”
“What?”
“Are you breathing fast?” He giggled again.
There was silence. Goldberg counted but had no measure of time for comparison. “I think so. Are you?”
“How’s your manual dexterity?”
“Fine, from what I can tell.”
They both giggled, then laughed loudly.
They settled into a long silence, each quietly counting breaths, wondering if the timing was correct. In the darkness, space has the paradox of feeling endless and closed in all in the same moment. Darkness was the perfect movie screen for the playing of nightmares and thoughts, allowing the mind to visualize vivid images. They thought of their families, resurrected old memories of holidays and quiet times, they pictured the water-filled portions of the sub and deducted what had occurred and how their crewmates perished. After hours had passed, they settled into a fatigue that left muscles achy and rubbery. Just lifting an arm felt like a journey with no destination.
The darkness continued. Images of childhood paraded in front of blind, open eyes. They imagined their parents, close friends, that first kiss, the first time they actually made it with a girl and the boasting that occurred afterward. They recalled high school times, the drinking and the hangovers, going to school games and prom night, and finally the endless training, and more training, the first time they submerged and then they were back in the darkness, facing a world of black ink, totally void of light. It was a world where sound could almost be seen. In total darkness, eyes became deceitful and lied. They couldn’t be trusted to even approach the truth.
“I can’t stand this anymore,” Taylor said. He stood up and crashed his head into the bulkhead. “Goddamn!” he shouted.
“Settled down” Goldberg reasoned. “Hang in there. They’ll rescue us.”
“Like hell they well. We’ve heard nothing from them. There’s no one coming. By the time anyone even gets a rescue ship out here we’ll be dead. I have to get out of here!” He shouted with a fierceness that startled even him. That was easy in darkness that was so thick it appeared it could be sliced apart with a sharp knife.
The bulkheads groaned and creaked. The noise was quiet, almost a whisper of a sound but the darkness amplified it. The spray of water could be heard as the sea slowly invaded around the sealed hatches.
Taylor turned around as if looking, then started running toward what he thought was the door and ran straight into a console of dials and knobs. His head hit the bulkhead and his knees banged into the console. “Goddamn it! Son of a bitch!” he shouted. His chest heaved and his lungs ached for air. The noise reverberated with growing intensity in the nearly empty room. Taylor rubbed his knees, cursing the pain and the darkness. “I can’t stand this anymore. Where’s the escape hatch? Don’t you have a flashlight? Come on Jason, I know you have a flashlight.” Taylor limped around in the darkness, bumping into the bulkhead, and consoles. Finally, he found the hatch that lead into the reactor compartment. By now, he was breathing hard, filling his lungs with stale air saturated with the stench of oil and salt. His chest expanded in a futile attempt to calm the growing ache in his lungs. Jason bent over and tried to catch his breath. Had their been light, he would be seeing stars. His chest heaved and heaved. His nostrils flared and stale air flowed back and forth through his open, dry mouth. “Jason,” he said slowly, and then he fell over onto the floor.
“Bill!” Goldberg screamed. He stood up and nearly stumbled, and was shocked at the effort it took for such simple movements. In the darkness, distance had no meaning. Just standing up felt like an effort to climb three flights of stairs. “Bill!” he yelled again. There was silence. He shuffled across the room, arms extended like a bumper preparing for collisions. He finally kicked Taylor with his left foot. The dull thud was such a depressing, deathly sound. Goldberg bent over, groped around in the darkness and found Taylor’s neck. He felt for a pulse. There was none.
Goldberg stood up and slowly shuffled back to the other end of the small room. The air was cold and stale. The cold ocean depths that waited patiently outside the bulkhead robbed the heat from the submarine. Moisture in the air magnified the chill even more, seeping the cold into his bones. By the time he sat down, he was breathing hard. Goldberg wrapped his arms around his body, closed his eyes and imagined home. He wished for nothing more than a brief moment of light. He wanted to see something, anything, use his eyes one last time before the end arrived. He shivered as he sat against the cold metal. His teeth chattered and his lungs ached for air.
Goldberg giggled. He felt intoxicated and it reminded him of a party he went to months ago while on shore leave when he drank too many beers and smoked a little too much pot. He couldn’t stop laughing then. He giggled again, and the effort robbed him of his breath. Goldberg laughed hard, out-loud and for a brief moment, it chased away the loneliness. His heart was racing now. He yawned and felt so tired all of a sudden. The hissing sound of water continued, growing louder. The ocean was growing inpatient, demanded entrance. He curled up on the cold metal floor and waited for the endless sleep. It was a short wait.

 

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