Clean Up

Drawing: A person in a heavy deep-sea diving suit, in an undersea area with lots of life. There are three barrels, with one leaking something into the water, and large tentacles are wrapping around the diver. Caption reads: “I didn’t do this, I’m just part of the crew here to clean it up.”

Clean Up short story by Iris Carden

I am not responsible for this.  I didn’t do it, and I would never have supported it being done.  I’m just part of the team hired to help clean up the mess.

I want to make that clear, because I think I’m being blamed, held responsible, for something that isn’t my responsibility.

We don’t know who did it, or how long ago. Someone dumped a lot of waste here, apparently over a long period of time.  As far as we can find there was no official approval.

So here, on the seabed, are barrels of we don’t know what.

It’s not the kind of salvage my team normally does.  Normally we salvage sunken vessels, things like that.  

There’s no-one who normally does this. 

I’m the mug who drew the short straw.  I’m the one in the diving suit, trying to work out what we’re dealing with.  

I’m carrying a Geiger counter, knowing that if this stuff is radioactive, by the time I’m close enough to get a proper reading, I’m already too close for safety.

As for taking samples, I can’t open the barrels underwater, because whatever is in them will enter the water, polluting the environment and the food chain.  

All I planned to do on this initial dive was a visual check. I was supposed to see if there was anything written on the barrels to indicate what was inside.

Apart from that I need to see how strong and stable they are, because that will affect how we get them out. The easiest way to remove them would be with the winch, but the barrels have to be strong enough to withstand the winch chains and the forces involved in the lift and the changing water pressure.  Salvage involves some serious science.

As it turns out, the worst possible thing is already happening.  One of the barrels has a hole in the side.  Something is seeping out into the water.  I don’t know what it is, but it is glowing, which I’m pretty sure is a bad sign. 

I was about to try to wedge something into the hole in the barrel, to try to limit how much is escaping,  when I felt something around my waist.  A deep sea diving kit is pretty tough.  It takes a bit to feel something through it.

I looked down, and saw a huge tentacle wrapped around me.  

Then another wrapped around my helmet.

Looking up, I can see one is now wrapping around my air line.

I know there is no way anyone on the surface can help me now.

I don’t know how to plead with a giant squid, but I didn’t do this damage.  I don’t deserve to die here.

While you’re here…

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.


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