My aunt was killed in an industrial accident on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. She didn’t have a family, so her possessions went to my grandparents when the company got around to clearing out her mainland locker and the company-owned apartment she lived in. There wasn’t much; clothes, a laptop computer, some canned food, and some family pictures. They donated the clothes and food. Her 1998 Ford Focus also went to them, but they had one of her friends sell it in Corpus Christi, Texas instead of worrying about transporting it to Colorado where they live. The things my grandparents had really wanted, like a silver locket containing the only picture of my grandmother with my aunt days after she was born, had been on the platform during the accident and were completely obliterated.
If you’ve ever driven along the Gulf coast, you know that oil platforms have a fire above them. This burns off any flammable gasses before they enter the oil pipeline running to the mainland. Somehow that flame went out the day my aunt was killed. Combine that with a minor leak in the pipe and a machinery spark, and you get a fire so hot it melts the steel beams of the rig. By the time the company stopped the flow of oil, a crane, a helicopter, and countless bulkheads had sagged and twisted like molten glass. Not a single person who had been on the platform survived. Any remains had been reduced to ash.
Needless to say, the incident was pretty hard on my family. My dad and I were sad, but my mom and grandparents mourned for almost a year before they started acting like their normal selves. My grandmother even started seeing a psychologist to help with her irrational guilt over the situation. It was a bad time. Like I said before, my grandparents live in Colorado. My mom and dad live in Beaverton, Oregon and I live in Seattle. We started using Skype to connect with my grandparents. It seemed to help them. Unsurprisingly, it was a headache getting them started on it the first time. They had no computer, so they had to use my aunt’s laptop; no doubt that brought up some emotions and slowed the process down. Still, after two hours, we were connected.
During one Skype session with my grandfather, he asked me why someone might be modifying files on his computer. After talking him down from his initial thought that it was hackers (the “damn Red Chinese”, his words), I figured out it was a Dropbox notification. The folder was called “Work Vids”, which didn’t sound like it would contain private material, so I talked my grandfather through the steps to invite me to the folder so we could look through the contents together. It was pretty much standard stuff – birthday parties on the platform, the helicopter landing and a new shift disembarking, a few practical jokes. There were a few video messages that my aunt had recorded to send to my grandparents (the platform had no wifi and the only hard phone line was reserved for work related needs), which my grandfather got caught up on. I disconnected our Skype to let him watch in private and continued looking through the folder. All the entries had names except for the last two, which had the default names VID0078 and VID0079. Clicking on those videos was by far the most disturbing thing I’ve ever done.
My aunt was facing the camera with tears in her eyes. “We had an accident today,” she said. There was a long pause. “As near as we can tell, Michael Guerrero fell from the crane and died on impact. Teddy – Theodore Raskin – ran over to help him and slipped…” She was overcome by sobs and turned away for a while.
“Teddy slipped in the blood and cut his neck on broken glass from the crane. He was still alive when we found him, but he didn’t make it. He kept pointing at Mike. I think he wanted us to take care of Mike first. That’s how Teddy was.” She sighed and shuffled around some papers on her desk.
The door to her room open and an older man poked his head in, eyes frantic. “Sylvie, you gotta get out here! Lisa fell into the water!” The video ended.
I hadn’t heard anything from the news or anyone in my family about accidents leading up to the explosion. Still, two deaths – or three depending on the person who fell into the Gulf – were easily eclipsed by an entire crew. It’s possible the whole story was too long to tell, if the company and the news even knew what had happened in the first place. Maybe the leak was so close in time to the deaths that no one had a chance to notify mainland. I clicked on the next video. My aunt appeared, covered in blood and oil. She looked far more tired than she had in the previous video, but she was wearing the same clothes. She wasn’t crying now, she just looked far away and dazed; probably in shock.
“Something’s out there, on the deck. It pushed Lisa over the rail. Julio said it looked like Michael, but that’s… Michael is dead. I saw his brain all over the deck. Teddy died trying to save him. It wasn’t Michael! I tried to talk to Julio about it again, but he wasn’t at his duty station. Cookie found him in the mess hall with a knife in his chest. Then… Then all Hell broke loose. I put out an order to meet in the mess hall, and three people were attacked on their way. Two died. The third said Teddy grabbed him from behind on his way and tried to stab him. He was able to get away, but his right arm had been mutilated. The skin was… There wasn’t much skin. And it couldn’t have been Teddy!”
“When we were all in the mess hall, we could hear laughing from outside. Shadows ran past the windows. The B shift guys decided to gear up with kitchen knives and go find whoever was out there. We waited 45 minutes and then we went to look for them. There were – Something had tied their arms and legs to the railings and propped their bodies up like they were sitting. Some of their faces were gone. We can’t fight it. It seems like it’s escalating the attacks. It started running from the shadows and ripping us apart. Stevens was cut open right in front of me on my way here. This thing is pure evil.” She paused. Something tapped on the window to her room. “Oh god… It’s here. I shut off the flame. We’re all dead, anyway. Martin and everyone left from A shift have our flare guns. We decided to shoot the pipe. It’ll explode, but we’re dead. All of us. It won’t stop.”
The glass shattered. My aunt gasped.
“Sylvie,” said a strangled voice.
My aunt started sobbing again.
“No! Teddy, no!”
A bloody arm reached through the window and unlocked the door. A man stepped in, his clothes literally dripping with fresh blood. There was a large, black cut in his neck that looked like it was still oozing clotted blood. The video cut off.
I copied the videos to my computer, then deleted them from the Dropbox folder so my grandfather wouldn’t find them.