Thursday, October 29, 2009


My final horror story for October is called "Deeper". This one's a bit longer: 1800 words, but it's definately worth the read. It was inspired by an old time radio drama called "The Thing on the Fourble Board" by the show "Quiet Please", which ran in the 1940s.

"Deeper"- written October 2009
Aaron M. Smith

“Careful with that,” Ronnie said. I nodded as I twisted the wheel exactly four times counter-clockwise.
“I know, I know. Just like at home, right?” I said.
“No, NOT just like at home.” Ronnie said. “Come on man, we’ve been doing this for four months. Yeah, it’s similar, but you’ve got to pay more attention. The Ruskies do this differently.”
Had it really been four months? It was hard for me to believe. I’d been out of work for weeks after the oil rig I worked on laid me and Nick off. His wife Lydia had family in Russia who were apparently well off, or well enough off that they managed their own oil rig. Now I was spending my days freezing my ass off north of Saint Petersburg and trying to learn the most messed up language on the planet.

On the plus side, I was making twice what I was making Texas.
On the down side… well, I was Russia.

At least I had Ronnie to talk to, and he spoke a little Russian.

The Russian rigs had their own intricacies that I had to learn- most of the technology was older than what I worked with in Houston, so I had some back learning to do. Most of the guys were nice, and some of them spoke some English. The foreman was fluent, which was all I needed really. It was a pretty decent life.

“God I’m bored,” Ronnie said, leaning against the railing of the catwalk. We were both bundled up to the eyeballs against the cold. From high above the dense pine barrens, the wind howled as if it was a living thing. Snow whipped about us from time to time, blown off of the nearby mountainside and from where it had piled on the machinery. “All we’ve had to do all day is turn this wheel to regulate the pressure once an hour.”

“Where is everyone else?” I asked. Usually there were more than dozen men at a time on the rig, twenty-four hours a day. It had been me and Nick alone for the last two days.

“This weekend’s the Ruskie 4th of July,” he replied. “They figured they’d leave us cowboys alone up here while they go into town for the weekend and live it up.” He laughed and scratched his thick beard.

“Shit, they drove six hours into town just so they could get wasted?”

“How many times did we drive to Tijuana?” We both laughed.

“How deep you think this thing goes?” I said after a time, looking at the huge rig on which we stood. The churning of the machine was a constant noise, along with the hum of the regulating equipment that kept the machine from shutting down.

“Four miles, five maybe? This is one of the deepest in Russia.”

“Geez,” I mumbled. I leaned against the railing and looked out across the grey, white and dark green forest that spread out below us. The view from the top of the rig really was incredible. It was only early evening, but the sky was so dark and cloudy the sun showed up only as a hazy disk in the sky, providing little light and zero warmth.

“It’s strange to think about, y’know?” I continued. “This oil is millions of years old. Decomposed plants and animals that haven’t seen the light of day since this whole place was covered in ice.”

“Yeah,” was all Ronnie said.

“And we use it to run…everything. Think about it. If that stuff didn’t die all those years ago, we couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t drive, couldn’t heat our homes. Nothing. But it’s been down there for, like, millions of years! I mean, think about it. God knows what’s down there. Didn’t they just blow the shit out of the moon looking for crap living below the surface, like bacteria and stuff?”

“Mmm,” Ronnie said. He seemed to be listening to the machine.

“Well, why’re they spending all that money on the damn moon when we’re digging deeper right here?”

“Who cares?” Ronnie said with genuine disinterest. “You don’t even live in that country anymore, man.”

I was struck by that realization. I hadn’t thought about it like that. Ronnie must’ve noticed, because he laughed heartily, then reached inside his coat and removed a bottle filled with clear liquid.

“You ever had some of this?” I looked at the bottle. “The best Russian vodka money can buy. Christmas gift from Lydia’s parents last year.”

I smiled and took the bottle. It was good; REAL good. In the frigid Russian twilight, it felt like liquid gold sliding down my throat. I took another long drag.

“Don’t bogart it!” Ronnie said, reaching to take it back. I managed to get off another good swig before he got the bottle away from me.

We talked for a long time, but I don’t remember now what we talked about. I don’t remember anything about it, really, except that when I woke up there was an empty bottle of vodka next to me and my skull felt too sizes too small for my brain.

“Ronnie?” I mumbled, squinting my eyes against the orange safety lights on the rig. That must have been really good vodka to give me a hangover so bad. I had no idea what time it was, or how long I’d been out, but it had to have been almost sundown. Ronnie was nowhere to be seen.

Suddenly, the rig beneath me gave a huge shudder, and the machinery roared like an angry beast.

We’d passed out. Nobody had been around to turn the valve.

I ran as quickly as my nauseated head would let me to the valve and began to twist it. It was four twists an hour, right? So if we’d been out for two hours, did that mean eight? What if it had been longer than that? I had no idea.

I began to rotate the wheel and didn’t stop. After ten or so (I forgot to count I was so freaked out) the wracking of the pipes began to subside, and the fighting spasms of the rig slowed and stopped. Something must have been damaged when the rig shook like that. They’re going to find it, and I’m going to lose my job. I’m going to be homeless and jobless in Russia.

“Ronnie!” I called, panic beginning to rise in my voice. Where the hell was he? He must have woken up before I did. Maybe he went to go check the rig. I headed for the stairs and clambered down flight after flight. If Ronnie thought the rig was damaged, there was one place he’d check first.

I finally made my way to the rotary hose and the turntable, the closest someone on the surface of a rig can actually get to the bore hole. The monstrous cylinder spun lazily in place as I stepped off of the stairs, just as I had seen it do countless times before.

The surface of the rig all around it was drenched with shiny, new crude oil.
“Oh shit oh shit oh shit,” I swore. If we’d damaged the bit or the conductor pipe, not only would we be fired, but we’d probably be arrested. I couldn’t imagine what a Russian prison would be like. “Ronnie!” I called again.

Something in the oil moved. I screamed and jumped back.

Only then did I notice that there was something on the ground, near the spinning turntable, covered in oil.

“Ronnie!” I called, and carefully made my way across the drenched concrete to the prone, oil-covered figure. “Ronnie, how the hell’d you get down here!? We’ve got to get that stuff off you,” I touched the figured, and stopped. Something was wrong.

I felt Ronnie’s jacket under my gloved hands. I lifted it up, examined it. It was his jacket, all right. And those were his pants, and his boots. And that ridiculous fur hat of his. All of Ronnie’s clothes were here, covered in oil. But they were empty. Where the hell Ronnie? And why would he leave his clothes?

Something strong grasped my ankle where I crouched, and I screamed. My balance was lost, and I fell on my butt on the oil-soaked concrete. I yanked at my leg, trying to get away, but an iron-strong weight was latched around it. I reached to try to free my leg and touched the black thing- and pulled my hand back. It was warm.

And it had fingers, like a fist.

Another weight was pulling at my coat. Something else grasped at my arms. Warm, wet oil began to seep through my pants and my socks. All around me, grasping, dark hands were reaching out of the oil and clutching at me with superhuman strength. I began to scream. I tried to twist and roll away, but there were just so many of them. My other leg was entangled now. A dark, shining arm, the arm of a full grown man reached around my stomach and pulled with the force of a truck, yanking my back to the soaked concrete. The hands were reaching farther now, extending to arms and shoulders. Some didn’t seem to be coming out right- one arm struggled, its elbow bending the wrong way. The hand grasping at my coat had a thumb on each side. Some were disjointed, flailing madly, and others were wholly rigid with no joints at all.

The sheer horror of it made my blood run cold, and I screamed involuntarily. A primal fear welled up in me, an animal fear that millions of years of evolution couldn’t suppress, as if something deep inside me knew that nothing in heaven or on earth was supposed to look like that. I fought and struggled, ignoring the pain in my shoulders and hips. A muscle in my forearm tore- I ignored it, my fear overriding the lancing pain shooting through my body. I struggled and thrashed, but there were too many hands on me now. I screamed until my throat went raw.

Warm oil was seeping down the neck of my coat, penetrating the zipper on the front as if it wasn’t there. I could feel it inside my gloves, under my nails, good god, in my hair. A warm wave of oil, slick fingers, slid across my scalp, into my beard. I could taste the oil now.

The oil around me began to shake, and the primeval roar I had heard earlier blotted out all other sound as oil began to slide into my ears. As my vision dimmed, I saw the rotary hose wrenching violently, as if someone was grasping it and shaking it with both hands from far underground.

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