Vaporized ll, p.12

Vaporized ll, page 12


Vaporized ll

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  It was midday before Amber had thought of any sensible plan that she felt brave enough to implement. She finished a tin of cold tomato soup, followed it up with a Mars Bar and left the relative security of her hideout, to venture along the corridor back to the rec room.

  Once inside, she stood there, again, looking for any clues as to what might have happened to John and Dom. She walked over to the sofa and checked the area where she’d last seen Dom alive and searched for anything that may tell her something, but there was nothing, apart from some faint scuff marks on the carpet, indicating a struggle.

  She sighed, stood and walked over to where she’d seen John being dragged along the floor. Again, apart from the drops of blood she’d seen earlier, now dried up, she found nothing.

  Frustrated, she perched herself on the upturned sofa and placed her head in her hands. What to do? she wondered.

  As she looked around the room, about to give up on her search, she spotted an empty jar on the table tennis table.

  Odd, she thought, knowing it hadn’t been there before, certainly not when the guys had been playing earlier.

  She got up and walked over, noting it was actually an empty jar of Nescafe. Then, as she glanced at the table top, she saw where the contents of the jar had ended up.

  Scrawled on the edge of the table in coffee granules was the words stairwell – U Cup. Amber blinked, making sure she wasn’t imagining things. One of the guys, or both of them, was definitely trying to tell her something. Stairway was obvious, but the rest of the letters made no sense.

  Amber turned, her heart racing with fresh adrenalin, and she left the rec room via the hole in the door, turned right, and headed along the corridor toward the main stairway. She reached the end of the corridor where the stairs ascended and she looked at the pale wall at the end of the corridor and the area where the stairway rose towards the first floor. Apart from a wood-framed sea chart on the end wall of the corridor, she couldn’t see anything that suggested one of the guys had been there. She checked the picture for any further clues, but found nothing. The framed chart was fixed to the wall, so there was no way anything had been placed behind it in a hurry.

  Amber sighed, thinking again about the message.

  There must be something on the stairway, she concluded, as she headed cautiously up to the first floor, checking the stairway walls as she went. She reached the first floor and checked the sauna area and shower cubicles; nothing. She proceeded to the second level landing, where the Captain’s Cabin and Lounge Cabin where situated. She quietly headed into the lounge and the cabin off it, including the Captain’s Cabin; all were empty and thankfully free from any smell of ammonia. Amber daren’t call out, for fear the creature would hear her, so she whispered loudly. “John…Dom,” she called.

  Silence ensued.

  Amber then remembered the storage container at the end of the corridor leading to the bridge, so headed up to look inside. She lifted the lid, but it was empty, apart from some life vests and old rope. There was no sign that anyone had been hiding in there. Amber sighed, realising time was marching on. It had to be almost 4 p.m., she guessed.

  She headed back down the stairway, stopping once again on the first floor to listen for any sounds. She stood there for thirty seconds, but heard nothing. As she stared at the fire hose and fire extinguisher fixed to a wall bracket on the opposite side of the small landing, she noticed the outline of a cupboard, under the fire hose reel. Amber moved over to the area, knelt down, and felt around the crack which formed the outline of the almost invisible door. How to open it? she wondered.

  She pushed on the wall, and as she did, heard a click. Suddenly the right hand side of the door swung open.

  The open door revealed a large utility cupboard, stacked with spare kitchen and toilet rolls and general washing up products for the ship’s galleys. In the centre of the four foot cubed space was a single quilt, with an empty Mars Bar wrapper on top of it. The coffee-scrawled message had referred to this location – the stairway utility cupboard. Dom or John or maybe even both of them had stayed here last night.

  A wave of euphoria washed over Amber as she realised she wasn't alone. They were probably looking for her now, she guessed.

  Amber reached into the space, pulled out a pack of sugar from a stack, and split the bag with her thump. She emptied the contents into a small pile and smoothed it out onto the concrete surface of the small room. Using her finger she wrote, S Rm. Hatch, into the sugar. When John or Dom returned, hopefully they'd understand the message and come and find her.

  Amber closed the door, leaving it open a crack, to let them know she’d been there, turned and headed back to her hideout to wait to be found.


  Nostrum: Day 5

  AMBER HEARD A tap...tap...tap drifting in and out from the back of her mind as she felt herself bobbing up and down on the crest of a breaking wave.

  Tap...tap...tap, again, getting louder. She opened her eyes with a start, and quickly realised she was lying up against the wall in the cramped sub-level corridor, the tube and access hatch to the storage cabin directly above her head. She reached for her gun, before realising it had fallen from her grip when she'd drifted off to sleep. She quickly fumbled for it, finding it on the floor by her side. She squeezed her eyes closed and opened them again, the low-intensity orange lighting giving the passageway a surreal like quality to it.

  Tap...tap...tap, from above, the sound came again.

  Amber got to her feet, glanced at the clock, it was 05.50. It would be getting light soon again outside, thank God, she thought. She grabbed the ladder and ascended the tube towards the locked hatch at the top. As she reached it, she heard three distinct taps, metal on metal, coming from the other side.

  It had to be one of the guys, she thought. With the handle of her own pistol, she knocked the underside of the hatch three times in response, and waited for an answer. Two seconds passed, and then she heard it again; Tap...tap...tap.

  Amber placed the gun in her right hand, and started unscrewing the lock that secured the hatch in place with her left hand, whilst balancing carefully on the ladder. She then cautiously pushed the hatch open, her right hand aiming the gun through the slowly increasing half crescent of light.

  “Don’t shoot me for Christ’s sake,” the familiar sound of Dom’s voice echoed down.

  “Dom, is that really you?” Amber whispered, her throat sore and hoarse from the heat.

  “Sure is! Thank God you’re ok Amber. I thought the worst,” he said.

  “Dom, I’m a little nervous. Can you prove it’s really you up there?” Amber said.

  Dom thrust his right arm down through the hatch. “There you go. It’s me,” he said.

  Amber looked for the scar left by the knife wound that John had inflicted five days ago. It was still just visible.

  “Ok, I believe you,” Amber said, as she pushed the hatch fully open and proceeded up the ladder.

  Dom grabbed her under her arms and pulled her clear of the ladder leading down to the sub-level corridor.

  They found a couple of crates that had once contained sugar, up-ended them and used them as makeshift chairs.

  “So, come on, tell me what the hell happened after I left,” Amber said.

  Dom scratched his matted beard and shook his head. “Well, as you left, the juvenile creature followed you, clearly injured. That gave me enough time to squeeze out from under the sofa. Meanwhile, John was still be dragged towards the galley by the large son-of-a-bitch. I grabbed the spear gun, turned and shot the bastard in the abdomen. It seemed to do the trick. It released John, but ejected another tendril towards me, knocking me off my feet. The damn thing then pinned me down, allowing it enough time to escape I guess. When I was finally able to get up, the creature had disappeared again, through the large duct in the galley I assume. John was nowhere to be seen. He was either taken, or managed to escape and hide. Either way, I’ve not seen him since.”

  Amber sighed.
It doesn’t make sense. That thing could have easily killed you both, I’m sure. Now it will be pissed we killed his juvenile mate.”

  Dom shrugged. “At least it’s light again. Another night on this thing and I think I’m going to crack up. What’s it like down there?”

  “Hot. There’s a number of interlinking sub-level corridors which look like they service the tanker’s huge oil storage facilities. I’m not sure the thing can get down here, but I’m not going to bet on it either.”

  Dom nodded. “Sounds better than where I was holed up. We can make it our home for now. At least if we are near the hatch, we can get out if we hear or smell anything unusual.”

  “Ok, let’s get up to the bridge shall we and check the weather radar. I need to see the ocean; I’m feeling claustrophobic in here.” Amber said.

  The two of them silently crept back along the corridor, passing the Rec Room and other cabins without stopping, and headed up to the bridge, which appeared safe, for now.

  Amber grabbed the binoculars from the bulkhead and put them to her face. She scanned the ocean ahead, following the horizon to the port and starboard sides in a steady sweep. The surface of the ocean appeared calm, oblivious to the terraforming that was taking place above and perhaps beneath it. Amber wondered again if any of the ocean’s creatures had survived. She not seen any and feared the worst.

  A glint of light then caught her eye as she panned the binoculars towards the bow. Another ship, a cruise liner perhaps, came into focus way off on the horizon.

  “See anything?” Dom asked.

  Amber shook her head and handed him the binoculars. “Nothing, apart from what looks like an ocean liner way off ahead. The sea looks calm, for now,” she added.

  Amber checked the green display of the radar screen with its sweeping arm making a sweep every few seconds. The screen was virtually clear. She extended the view to maximum range, some 700 nautical miles in every direction. Apart from some unsettled weather off to the port side, around 300 miles away, the ocean ahead and around them appeared good. That was something at least, she thought, as she turned her attention to preparing some food.

  Amber and Dom silently ate the plate of beans and side portion of tuna that she’d quickly prepared from their dwindling supplies of tinned food.

  “It’s already about 1 p.m.,” Amber said. “We need to try and look for any sign of John before evening. He might be hiding in another cupboard similar to the one you found. If we don’t find him by tonight, then I’ll fear the worst.”

  Dom nodded without saying anything.

  “Ok, let’s load the guns and start looking,” Amber said, standing up and placing the paper plates they’d used into a black bin bag, which was now starting to smell a little. She tied the top of it tightly together and threw it into the corner, out of sight.


  THE TIME TICKED to 6.20 p.m. on the small clock that Amber had remembered to collect from the sub-level corridor hiding place. Her and Dom had scoured the cabins and known-about cupboards and cabinets and had found no sign of John, or his shotgun. They were both now back on the bridge, seated at the wooden table, their mood sombre.

  Outside the sun was already dipping towards the horizon and the evening light would soon be fading as dusk approached, ushering in another twelve hours of darkness with accompanying shifting shadows and feeling of foreboding that lurked around every corner. Amber shivered as she thought about the approaching night.

  "We've got to get back to the sub-level corridor soon Dom," she said, glancing towards the breach in the bridge floor at the other end of the room. "I have an uneasy feeling up here. Something doesn't feel right."

  Dom looked at her. "Yep, I know what you mean. Let's grab some supplies and head back there ASAP."

  Amber nodded, collected some canned food and a handful of Mars Bars, before they both headed back down to the main deck corridor and the storage room.

  Earlier, they'd emptied a pack of sugar onto the table tennis table and scrawled a message for John giving a clue how to locate them. It was the most obvious place for him to look, if indeed he was still alive.

  Amber and John were seated diagonally opposite each other, just below the access hatch to the storage cabin above. Amber had stripped to her vest again, her ripped jeans acting as make-shift shorts. A bead of sweat trickled down her armpit, reminding her that the temperature had to be nudging 75F.

  She noticed the hands on the clock tick towards 8.45pm. It would now be dark outside and she wondered how she was going to get through another eight hours of feeling constantly on edge and in fear of her life. It reminded her of the time she spent in the Natural History Museum, shortly after The Event had occurred. Jeez, it felt an eternity away, but it had only been just over a week since that surreal and terrifying night.

  At least now she had company, which made a massive difference to the way she felt. It was a million times better than being alone. Earlier they'd managed to eat some dinner and she was now starting to feel sleepy as she settled back onto the warm concrete floor.

  "Yeah, don't worry, I'll keep first watch," Dom said, noticing she was tired.

  Amber smiled. "Do you mind? I'm absolutely shattered."

  "Go for it. It's going to be a long night. I'll be ok for the next four hours," Dom replied.

  "You sure, you look a bit tired yourself?"

  Dom nodded. "I’m ok, night-night," he said.

  Amber felt comforted by Dom’s presence and began to drift off to sleep, wondering if she'd ever see the man who’d saved her father again.

  Amber sensed a bitter taste in her mouth and opened her eyes slowly, the sub-level corridor lighting bathing her in a warm orange glow. She looked across at Dom, his head was slumped to one side, and eyes closed.

  Jesus, he's fallen asleep, she realised. Before she could process her thoughts she caught a strong whiff of ammonia as she inhaled the warm, muggy air through her nose.

  A wave of panic descended upon her as she realised the creature must be close by. She quickly edged to the end of the short corridor they were lying in and craned her neck to glance out into the main corridor. First left, which was clear, and then right, down another short length of corridor which ended in a T- junction. Both lengths of corridor were empty, but the stench of ammonia seemed stronger in the direction of the T junction.

  Amber cursed under her breath, before kicking Dom gently in his thigh.

  Dom snorted and woke up with a start, looking confused as he quickly took in the surroundings.

  "You've been asleep you idiot," Amber whispered, nodding towards the main corridor and placing her thumb and forefinger on her nose.

  Dom breathed in through his nose, smelling the ammonia almost instantly. He sat upright, grabbing his gun which had slipped from his grip. "Wh... where is it?" he said.

  "Shhh. It must be somewhere out in the main corridor. We need to get up there - now," Amber said, pointing up to the access hatch up to the store room.

  The pair of them stood up and Dom helped Amber onto the ladder. She quickly ascended and started spinning the lock anticlockwise in order to open the hatch. The locking mechanism clicked open and Amber pushed up on the hatch. It moved up a little, but something was blocking it. She pushed up again, but it didn’t open. “Shit, I can’t move it,” she whispered, looking down at Dom.

  Dom looked up at her, his eyes wide in panic, as if he’d seen something. A second later, Amber felt a warm and gooey liquid hit her cheek. She looked up. Dripping from the circumference of the hatch, was a curtain of green goo.

  “Jesus!” Amber said, half falling and half slipping down the ladder. “It must have found its way into the damn storage room!” she whispered, reaching the bottom of the ladder.

  They both stared at each other. The feeling that they were about to be trapped and maybe ambushed registering in their minds simultaneously. “If there’s one up there, where the hell is that smell coming from?” Amber said, a wave of panic washing over her.

  They both moved to the end of the corridor and peered around. The smell of ammonia was even stronger now and a faint scraping sound echoed from the direction of the T-junction. Something was moving along it towards them.

  “Come on, this way!” Amber whispered, as they both headed left along the low intensity amber-lit corridor, a large black arrow and decals on the corridor wall confirming they were heading towards the Nostrum’s Engine/Pump room.


  Nostrum: Oil Storage Tanks

  THE TWO OF them hurried along the corridor towards the engine room, the heat becoming more noticeable as they ran. Amber glanced behind her. She couldn’t see anything, but she knew the creature was close, hunting them.

  They reached the end of the corridor and came across a steel door marked, Engine/Pump Rooms. Dom reached out and spun the locking mechanism anticlockwise and the door opened outwards, expelling a light hiss of air which rushed out from the sealed compartment. They both stepped into the dark space beyond, just as a loud chirping resonated along the corridor behind them.

  Dom pulled the door closed and quickly spun the lock, blocking the sound of the alien call out, but plunging the platform area they were standing on into darkness.

  “There must be a light here somewhere,” Amber said, trying to ignore her pounding heart, as she felt around the cold concrete walls near the door frame with the palm of her hand. She soon found a soft pad and pushed it. There was a faint buzz, and then the same soft amber glow that lit the corridors outside blinked on, illuminating the platform they were standing on. Directly ahead of them was a steel stairway that descended further down into the depths of the tanker, presumably to the engine room situated directly beneath the bridge.

  “Come on, it’s the only route. There might be another way out from the engine room,” Amber said.

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