old dragon inn (part three: escapes)

“Mom was reading by the light of the lamp on her laptop-computer – she was always very proud of having been one of the first to have a solar-powered one, and that’s why she had taken it, even if batteries of any sort weren’t supposed to be necessary on a platform that was fully wired and had several huge generators – so the first thing she noticed was the absence of noise. Not that there was a lack of sounds, the wind and the waves took care of that. Actually, it seemed to be more waves than wind that night, but that happened. But now the platform itself had gone all quiet all of a sudden. No rumbling, no swooshing, no humming of the ventilation system or droning of machines, and no electronic beeping. Then the shouting started, and she heard a few people – technicians, she supposed – stumbling around in the dark. A series of crashing noises, as one of them seemed to fall down the stairs. After that they retreated – it surely was against safety regulations anyway, to try and fix something like that in the dark. And so the whole platform became very silent. It wasn’t a peaceful silence, though, more a terrified one. Like the whole damn thing, and everyone on it, was holding their breath.

My mom wasn’t easily scared, so she remained rational. With the ventilation system off, the air in her small cabin would be going bad pretty soon – she might not actually die from it, but it would be an awfull night that way, and neither healthy nor refreshing. So she decided to go up on deck, at least for a while, and maybe even spend the night there. In a few easy steps she detached the lamp and the battery pack from the rest of her computer, took her blanket with her, and went out the door. She made it along the corridor and up the metal stairs without incident, even if the light of a reading lamp is not really made to navigate a platform that is bobbing on high ocean waves. Once she was out on deck, she didn’t need it anymore, it was a clear night, and even a half moon gives sufficent light if you’re surrounded by water. There really wasn’t much wind, but the waves were unusually high. “Oh well”, she thought “this isn’t too bad. It’s not even cold. I’ll just find myself a good place and I’ll be rocked to sleep like a baby.” Yet, just about after she had settled down on a pile of oilcloth and closed her eyes, she imagined hearing a strange sound. “Now, don’t be silly” she said to herself, “you’re just not used to be outside at night. That’s probably a perfectly normal sound, even if it does sound like… like… like suction cups attaching… and something, someone, heavy, being dragged over the deck… and the suction cups being ripped off again.” She wondered if she was dreaming already, because she didn’t seem to be able to open her eyes, but at the same time she couldn’t stop listening, as the thing, the creature, whatever it was, dragged itself on and on, painfully, closer and closer.

She wanted to move, but didn’t dare to. Maybe that was why she couldn’t open her eyes, too. When the peculiar noise was right besides her, it stopped. Now she most certainly didn’t dare to open her eyes anymore. And then she heared something else. It was like a voice, except that it wasn’t one. Directly behind her, or maybe even in her head, it said:”Stay here. Don’t go back inside. There’s nothing in there you’ll ever need again. Stay here until it gets light, then take the chopper and leave. Leave as soon as possible. Don’t look back. You can take Erik and Sofie, if they can make it outside in time. Don’t take anyone or anything else, and you’ll get home safely. That’s all I can do.” Erik and Sofie were the kitchen staff. They were nice kids, she liked them. They were normal. And they had often snuck her treats for her Octo, even if they weren’t supposed to. She wanted to ask how on earth she should get Erik and Sofie outside in time, if she wasn’t supposed to go back inside. And what the hell about all her research papers – only the synopsis had gone online, all the rest was still down there, in the platform’s computer. The computer that seemed to be totally, inexpicably, absurdly dead. But she still couldn’t seem to move.

She must have fallen asleep, because the next time she managed to open her eyes, it was early, blue-grey dawn. It would be a while before the sun could come up, but the light was sufficient to find one’s way around on deck. She sat up, wondering if it just had been a crazy dream, but somehow she was sure that it wasn’t. The whole platform was deadly quiet. She went to look after her Octo. When she reached the tank, she wasn’t all too surprised to find it empty, the cover smashed, and part of the side wall, like he had broken it down to get out easier, and get some water on deck that he could slide on for the first few meters. It had dried off by now, so it wasn’t obvious which way he had taken, but from a few knocked over things, she could assume that his path might have led him close to where she had been sleeping. However, it was enough for her to follow her impulse, and she went to prepare the chopper for takeoff. While she was struggling to remove the last of the holding gear, that ususally would have been liftet automatically, she heard steps behind her. Quickly she turned, feeling very silly and maybe even criminal all of a sudden. But to her relief it was only Erik and Sofie, somewhat disheveled and bruised from finding their way thorugh the dark intestines of the shut down platform. They looked at her like lost children meeting someone they aren’t sure will be a friend or a foe. But together they managed to get the chopper ready.”

“Yes, my mom knew how to fly such a thing. So she put the kids in the back, and without further ado, started the engine. She expected the sound to provoke some response from the platform, someone running out on deck, trying to stop her. But no one came. The only thing that happened was that the waves seemed to get even higher. Like the sea was actively trying to throw them off the platform. They lifted up into the air. The ocean was a mess, and the huge research platform was bouncing around like a cork in a fast creek. Still no people on deck. She wondered if they were all still sleeping, but how on earth could they? Maybe they were unconscious because of the failed ventilation. She looked at the two youngsters on the back seat. “How did you get out?” she asked. “Not really sure” Sofie answered, visibly shaken. “I just woke up suddenly, and knew I had to get out, no matter what. So I grabbed Fluffy here and drew him out with me. We’re kinda used to get around without seeing where we’re going, carrying all those boxes most of the time, so we found our way eventually. But it feels like it took half the night, and was scary as hell. Glad it’s over now.”

But it wasn’t over. Not by far. Mom was concentrating on flying the chopper, and, just as the Octo had asked of her, didn’t look back as they made their way towards where she thought must be the mainland. But her passengers did, and when they started to scream, louder and louder, more and more hysterically, she finally cast a glance back. There were waves, huge waves. But there was worse. In between the waves enormous, glistening tentacles appeared, throwing themselves around the railings of the platform, suction cups attaching to every surface there was. The whole platform looked like it was taken over by huge worms, or snakes. Like a lonely, doomed meatball in a bowl of angry spaghetti. And they pulled, and they teared. And as she looked back, she just about managed to stifle a scream herself, because they ripped it apart and pulled it under, the whole thing, man and machine, and no trace left. Then it was gone, like it never existed. For a second, my mom had to catch her composure, and somehow it seemed the Octos noticed that, and knew they had been seen, because now suddenly they turned on the chopper. The waves got even higher, and the giant tentacles rose up out of their foaming crowns, reaching, trying to get a grip. Everyone in the chopper was screaming in utter terror, but my mom managed to keep it together somehow, and took it higher up. Out of reach. There was wind up there. A lot of wind. The chopper wasn’t made for that hight, it it got cast around like a toy. It was one hell of a ride. But everything, everything was better than that horror down there, thinly hidden under the black waters of the angry ocean.”

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