March Madness Flash Fiction: CRUSH DEPTH by Mairi Kilaine
TODAY’S BREW: So much.
Mairi Kilaine is such a comfort of a person. I get warm all over when I talk to her. Not like that. Good lord, you guys. But she’s reassured me more times than I can count, and been a backbone for me when I needed one. You can pick up the anthology CHRISTMAS NOOKIES (Best title ever) to see some of her work! http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Nookies-Holiday-Reads-Book-ebook/dp/B00Q80PRSQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1424718727&sr=1-1&keywords=christmas+nookies but find her budding blog here http://www.mairikilaine.wordpress.com/ and definitely find her on twitter https://twitter.com/Mairvin. Love you Mairi.
by Mairi Kilaine
crush depth: the depth at which a submarine’s hull collapses due to pressure
As a child, my greatest fear was immaculate conception. My family isn’t religious, so I’m not sure where this came from. Even at the naive age of 8, I thought that sharing my fear with my parents would be akin to preemptively covering my tracks. I spent hours figuring out how to explain to my parents that I’d been spiritually knocked up. Perhaps if I’d had a personal relationship with God, He could let them know it was all cool.
As a teenager, I laughingly explained my childhood fear to my dad, though a tiny part of me still cringed when I thought of it. My dad, the scholar, explained that it was impossible. Not because God didn’t exist, but because The Immaculate Conception is a term that can only be ascribed to Mary and her status as a woman without sin. If I were to become inexplicably pregnant, it would be parthenogenesis. I would like to say this was comforting, but it only served to create a parallel phobia of scientifically impossible and spiritual pregnancies. How would I be able to tell the two apart? I shoplifted some gum, just in case.
I’m not pregnant and never have been. This isn’t the story of how I brought forth a demigod or defied science by naturally producing a clone of myself. I’d also like to point out that I’m not afraid of a naturally occurring pregnancy. I feel like you need to know this about me to truly understand what was going through my mind when my period stopped, my guts went haywire, and my abdomen swelled while on a four-month journey with an all-female crew, having crossed however many leagues beneath the sea.
I didn’t tell Doc what I really suspected. I played it cool and lobbed out less terrifying suspicions like a massive uterine tumor or acute liver disease. It didn’t help that she was stumped. Her testing capabilities were limited and we wouldn’t surface for another three days.
“Do you have a history of anxiety?”
“No,” I said. “Should I not be anxious about this? Because it feels like I should be anxious.”
“I was thinking it might be psychosomatic, like a hysterical pregnancy. I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“Sorry. I really hated my Psych rotation. Between you and me and the deep blue sea, I barely passed that shelf exam. A six week rotation at the VA would drive anybody crazy.”
Doc was great. I don’t want to give the impression that she was unpleasant or bad at her job, but she wasn’t a psychologist. We were all restricted to the very specific jobs we’d been trained to do, but just enough to pass our tests. None of us had active experience.
We weren’t analyzing data or tracking enemy vessels or observing the effects of deep sea diving on hamsters. If anything, we were the guinea pigs, an all-female crew, test subjects for new air circulators in the racks where we slept. Still, I felt lucky for the opportunity. I didn’t want to jeopardize my chances for future missions.
I kept it between Doc and me.
Everyone had put on some weight, but I was getting self-conscious about my belly. I started doing crunches in between racks while DeMello was on watch. I was on my sixth rep when DeMello burst into our berthing compartment and slammed the hatch. Her hand was clamped against her mouth. She shook her head at the sight of me.
“What’s wrong? Are you ok?”
I scrambled up to sweep the dark curls from her face. Her normally warm brown skin was ashen and she pleaded for help with her eyes. I eased her fingers from her lips, revealing her teeth, which hung loosely like chimes dangling in the breeze.
“Want me to get Doc?”
She nodded, tears pouring down her cheeks, dotting her blue coveralls.
It took me longer than expected to track down the good doctor. She was sequestered in Captain Marksman’s stateroom and you don’t just enter the Captain’s closed stateroom. The thought of DeMello’s pendulous teeth prodded me along and I knocked, opening a crack as I did. “Excuse me, Ma’am. It’s an emergency. DeMello is-”
The Captain was laid out, pant legs pushed up as high as they could go. Her face was hard, but tear tracks were still visible on her cheeks. Doc hunched over her knees. I say, ‘her knees,’ but in reality it was where her knees should have been. Her kneecaps had slid out of place, one down her shin and the other drooping to the side. Sweat drenched Doc’s collar.
“We’ve had quite a few of those. I’ll see her in a moment. Gather available crew in the crew’s mess.”
“At least twelve of our eighty-eight submariners have experienced fear-based medical anomalies. At this point, I think it’s fair to suspect that we are the ones being monitored, not the circulation machines.”
“This is stupid.” Chief Machinist’s Mate Moser, lead tech for all those machines, rose from her bench seat, rattling the table as she stalked out of the mess. Doc eyed Moser who wiped sweat from her brow as she fled.
“Anyone else-” Doc started.
“Yes!” Cookie yelped. She leapt up from behind the mess counter, pushing through the crowd and opening her coveralls. Her normally smooth, ochre stomach was marred by an outcropping of small, bloodless holes.
Doc rose suddenly and tore out of the mess. I jumped to follow, hand instinctively on my swollen belly. I caught only the tail end of their argument up above before Doc came crashing down the ladder from the upper deck. Moser stumbled down after and checked her vitals, but it was too late. Doc was gone. Moser’s whole body convulsed as she let out a keening wail.
“Please don’t send me to the brig!”
I couldn’t breathe. Three more days until surfacing.