Harry Adam Knight
On a deserted oil rig lurks the ultimate horror -
A genetically-engineered killing machine that cannot be destroyed -
And only six people stand between it… and you!
One by one it took them…
…and death was only the beginning!
They were stopping it from eating.
When it was stronger they would be powerless against it. It would scare them away as if they were minnows but now it was confused and the spark of violence was dim. It was weak. It needed food. If only it could return to the sea but they wouldn't let it…
The problem was that it could not really understand where they were. Sometimes it felt their presence close by and was aware of the power they were exerting over it. But even at these times it could sense their terror. It knew they would be easy prey if only it could find them. Yet it never could…
It knew instinctively that in this alien environment it could not rely on its senses any more. Everything was differ-ent. No longer was it possible to move effortlessly through the fluid medium that also served as an extension of its sen-sory organs; this simplicity had been replaced by a strange, dry world where it felt heavy and awkward. Sounds didn't carry as well and the light was too bright and harsh.
Why had everything changed, it sometimes wondered. And the fact it was capable of rudimentary curiosity revealed that it too had changed. Strange thoughts and images now flickered through its mind where before its con-sciousness had been untroubled by anything except the urges to eat and mate.
And in spite of all the changes the former urge remained the dominant one, as it had in the sea. The need for food would blot out everything else and it would be seized in a terrible blood lust that would send it stalking through the endless white corridors, images of torn and bloody flesh fill-ing its mind.
But there was no food to be found within them any more. It was all gone. And they wouldn't let it go back to the sea where the food was plentiful. But they were getting weaker too. It could feel it. Soon they would be so weak they'd be unable to prevent it from returning to its own world. And there it would overwhelm them completely.
Then it would be free to feed endlessly.
Christ, it's cold!
thought Paul Latham. His face was red raw from the wind except for two white patches on either side of his mouth caused by the effort of keeping his jaws clenched together. He wasn't going to let his teeth chatter like those stupid clockwork dentures that Mark had found so funny back on the yacht.
He knew he would have to give in to the weather soon but for the moment it was important to him to be the last to surrender. Four of the other five in the small boat were holding their thin clothes tightly together and pressing hard into the only source of warmth they had - each other. Mark and Chris looked like they were welded into a single, motionless statue, the only sign of movement being Chris's long red hair whipping across the front of Mark's blue plaid shirt. Linda was burrowed against Paul, her face turned from the wind and Rochelle was similarly clinging to Alex.
Alex, like Paul, was playing the stoic. Both sat upright in the dinghy, shirt collars undone, taunting the cold unnecessarily. Paul's eyes never met Alex's, but his peripheral vision was on full alert for any sign of Alex giving in to common sense. And he knew that Alex was waiting for the same sign from him.
It was, Paul realised, a stupid and futile game they were playing. There could be no clear winner, except the weather itself. But at least it kept him occupied and stopped him from sinking into the despair that he knew gripped the other four.
Not that they didn't have good reason for feeling low - they had been adrift now for nearly three days and their meagre supply of food and water had practically run out. At first they had been confident that they would be quickly rescued; the yacht had sunk, after all, in the middle of one of the busiest sections of the North Sea. Mark, whose father's yacht it had been, had said it would only be a matter of hours before they were picked up. But then dawn had broken to reveal a grey mist that hadn't been there the day before. And the mist had stayed ever since, reducing visibility to less than a hundred feet in any direction. On several occasions during the last three days they had heard the sound of a helicopter flying overhead, no doubt on its way to or from one of the many oil rigs in the area, and once they had heard the sound of a ship's fog horn close by, but though they had yelled themselves hoarse they had remained undetected.
The only thing in their favour was the calmness of the sea. True, it was the middle of summer but that was no guarantee of good weather in the North Sea. Yet ever since the yacht had sunk the water had been remarkably calm and even now with this cold wind that had suddenly sprung up there was only a light swell. It was as if the small dinghy had been nailed to a huge, grey board.
He felt Linda shift slightly. She raised her head, put her lips to his ear. 'I need to take another piss,' she whispered.
He felt a stab of annoyance. 'Again? You had one only a few hours ago. Where's it all coming from? All you've had to drink today is a half a cup of water.'
'I can't help it,' she protested, a little louder. 'It must be the cold.'
Paul looked directly at Alex. He was obviously straining to hear what they were saying. Paul whispered, 'Try and hang on for a while longer. It must be late afternoon by now. It should be getting dark soon.'
She sighed. 'Okay, I'll try. But I don't know if I can wait that long.'
Alex was the cause of this exchange. Whenever anyone had to answer a call of nature over the side of the boat the others all politely looked away. With the exception of Alex. He regarded it as a great joke, particularly when one of the women was involved, even Rochelle. He would leer openly at them and make obscene comments. On the last occasion, when Linda had needed to urinate that morning, Paul had come close to attacking Alex even though he knew that any kind of struggle in the small boat would capsize it. But Linda had succeeded in calming him down just in time.
Paul hadn't known it was possible to hate another human being so much. Before the trip he hadn't even disliked him. On the contrary, he admired the good looking Mexican-American with his cool, street-wise manner and the impressive stories of doing drug-runs from Columbia to Florida. But then on the voyage to Morocco, living with him in such close proximity for several days, he realised he was an arrogant, unpleasant pain in the arse. And then, when he had made a blatant play for Linda right in front of Paul…
Since the sinking of the yacht he'd become even worse. He'd become increasingly belligerent and cruel, goading them all the time and acting like
It was odd, reflected Paul, how the crisis had affected each of them differently. Mark's reaction had been to retreat behind a screen of nervous jokes while his girlfriend, Chris, had sunk into a cocoon of self-pity. Alex's girl, Rochelle, coped with the situation by becoming a sleep-walker, taking very little interest in what was happening. Paul himself, he knew, had taken on the role of the stoic, level-headed, natural-born leader. He wondered how long he'd be able to maintain the performance.
The only person who hadn't changed was Linda. She was a little more irritable than usual, true, but otherwise she was the same calm, selfless Linda. He squeezed her shoulder, not caring if Alex interpreted the gesture as an attempt to get extra warmth. She held him more tightly and Paul felt a wave of sick guilt sweep through him. It was because of him she was in the mess. She had been against the trip from the start but he wouldn't listen to her. Alex's grandiose scheme for making a certain
200,000 by doing a dope run to Morocco had blinded him. Now they had lost everything - the dope was at the bottom of the North Sea with the yacht, along with the
4,000 that Linda and he had invested in the trip. And now they might even lose their lives…
How much longer could they last, he wondered? All of them were fit - well, perhaps not Mark. But none of them were suffering any serious discomfort yet. That wouldn't start until the last of the food and water were gone, which would be tonight. After then? What would get them first? Exposure? Perhaps, if this cold got any worse. After that thirst would be the big problem. Death by starvation was the least likely scenario. There was a fishing line in the dinghy so they could always catch fish. The trouble was he hated fish. The smell, the taste, even the feel of them were loathsome to him. The thought of eating raw fish made him want to gag.
'God, I'm hungry,' said Chris in a clear, loud voice.
Her voice had the effect of rousing everyone from their private thoughts. It was as if they were a bunch of robots whose power had suddenly been restored. Alex grinned at her and gripped his crotch. 'I got some meat right here you're welcome to chew on anytime, kid, long as you don't bite too hard.'
Chris flushed and looked away. Mark pretended he hadn't heard what Alex said. 'Don't talk about food, Chrissie,' he told her, 'you'll only make things worse.'
Rochelle groaned and moved slowly as though afraid she might crack. Sleepily, she said, 'Jesus, I'm freezing. What time is it?'
'Almost dinner time,' said Alex. 'We drew straws while you were asleep and you lost, baby You're it. I get the breasts and thighs so unwrap them and we'll get started.'
'Asshole,' said Rochelle and closed her eyes again. Nothing Alex said ever seemed to rattle her. Not for the first time Paul wondered what the hell she saw in the creep.
Alex grinned. 'Okay, so what are we gonna do, guys?' He looked straight at Paul. 'What about you, Action Man? Any clever ideas?'
His laid-back Californian accent couldn't have got further up Paul's nose if it had been pushed in with a stick. He almost sneered openly at Alex. He knew the game he was playing now. He was trying to make Paul look small; trying to take over. Well, they both knew that Paul had established himself as the leader early on and had the backing of the others. Alex was outnumbered.
'Surely you have some smart ideas, Rinaldo,' said Paul, his voice annoying him by cracking slightly from dryness.
'I say we start using the paddles again. Just sitting here is dumb.'
'And paddle in which direction? We don't have a compass. It's a waste of time,' said Paul.
'At least we'd keep warm.'
Paul shook his head. 'As soon as you stopped you'd get cold again, and probably a chill too. It would be a waste of energy. We've got to conserve our strength. But you go ahead if you want, Rinaldo. If there's one person I'd like to watch buried at sea it's you…'
Linda squeezed his hand in warning. She was right. A comment like that didn't help anyone. He should be trying to keep the situation calm, not stir up trouble.
Alex glared at him through narrowed eyes. 'You think if we just sit here we're going to get rescued, hey? Come on, Action Man, face facts. Nobody's even looking for us. Nobody even knows we're out here.'
That was true. When the fire had started on the yacht they hadn't radioed for help. How could they, with three-quarters of a ton of dope on board?
Paul said nothing.
Alex went on, 'We could be waiting months out here in this pea-soup for someone to stumble over us. And by that time we'll be providing a buffet meal for the seagulls.'
'The mist will clear soon,' said Paul with a conviction he didn't feel.
'Yeah? Can I have that in writing, Action Man?' laughed Alex.
'Look, smart-arse, you're the man as far as you're concerned -you got us into this, so why don't you get us out of it.'
'I didn't set fire to the goddamned boat,' said Alex and looked at Mark. 'He did.'
Mark looked hurt. 'Hey, I told you before it wasn't my fault. There must have been a build-up of gasoline fumes down below. Petrol vapour is heavier than air - it collects in the bilges...'
'And who went down there to work on the pump with a lighted joint in his mouth?' sneered Alex.
Mark winced. 'My old man is going to kill me. He loved that damned boat.'
'Serves you right, you stupid dork,' said Alex, 'We were that close to making a fortune and you blew it for all of us.'