I write so I can breathe. I am constantly evolving, mindless at times, frustrating even perhaps but heck, I wouldn't change the smell of freedom that comes with writing.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mid-Watch at Sea

I woke in a sweat. The teddy bear fell atop me from the shelf above. It was quiet, too quiet. The water splashed against the ship’s hull, the porthole dark. The luminous dial read three past four. I waited. It was as if I had a premonition. The radio transmission crackled a desperate “Aw shit…no!” There was no mistaking the panic…

Five seconds is all it took. The tearing of metal grated into my ears. That is another five seconds. Two monsters collided, dragging, embracing, tearing away, and rotating on a forced axis. I jumped. Even as the metal tore, I changed into my uniform yelling at Jyotsna to get up to be dressed. I was out in less than thirty seconds, dressed, having slapped the hysterical Jyotsna, ordering her to get to the Radio Room promptly. Noise built up in quick succession, the alarm screamed into the air, foreboding and ominous. Feet hurried through the corridors, up through the hatches. “Hands to action stations! Hands to action station!” the radio broadcasted, the vessel groaning to the starboard. I sprinted up to the Radio Room.

The slowing down was hurried and hurtled most sideways.

Ordered to check the damage, I went down.

“Stop bloody panicking and get to your stations!” I bellowed; dragging out two seamen crouched in corner. The ship was inclining. I ran through the hatch out into the fog and rain.

I swore. The torch skimmed the waters. I leaned holding to the derrick, the freeboard too close for comfort. The air stank of diesel. The torchlight moved ahead mid-ship. My heart hammered against the chest. The entire hull, some ten meters away, was torn. A little below, to the bulkhead was another rip and way too close. Zero visibility, rain pouring, fuel all around, the damage below yet unknown. Seven past four!

The icy November air bit into the soaked uniform. I rushed back, up to the Bridge. I barely saw sailors around. A large number of them had assembled at the helo-deck, life jackets inflated, two groups of them flanked beside the lifeboats. Dammit! The radio crackled yet again. “Hands to action station! Hands to action station!” The nerds at emergency station! The head count revealed a sailor missing; a search dragged him out from a fire closet.

Lightning continued to light up the weather deck, ghost-like. The Commanding Officer stood at the helm, the Navigating Officer barked off orders. The Replenishment Officer monitored fuel levels shifted cargo to the port, the ballast tanks suitably emptied and filled. The ship moaned upright slowly. The OOW shivered in shock. It was his first solo watch on the busy Straits of Malacca.

Four ten.
The cramped Radio Room was at work. The signals flew around, encrypting and decrypting, rapid noise of the typewriter blending with headsets cracking transmission.

Speed was down to five knots. The Boatswain Mate shouted orders. Finally, the sailors clambered to their action stations. Divers would have to wait till daybreak. A difference of two seconds would have sunk the ship…or would it still sink? The tilt began again.

Down at the Galley, chaos reigned. The NBCD Officer called in reports. Hot oil was on the floor, slippery and spreading. Two hands were at work throwing wheat flour on it to contain the spread. Two of them had burns, one a fracture. I sent them to the sickbay. The ship sloped sharply. Shouts broke out in terror.

“Stay put. Carry on with work!” I went off, further below to the stores. The place was strewn with glass.

“Where is the Lieutenant?” I inquired. There was no reply, just a blank stare. The next announcement brought her to the quarterdeck. She was petrified.
"Are we going to die?”

I glowered. What a blooming idiot of an Officer!

“Stop it! Get on with taking charge.” I hissed,” I’ll throw you overboard without a life jacket. The propellers are fifteen metres away.”

“Yes Ma’am!”

Four forty! Orders passed back and forth to the Engine Room. No leakages so far.

“I don’t know what’s wrong. It keeps tilting. I’ve tried everything.” Said the Replenishment Officer.

“Keep trying.”

The ship’s see saw persisted; despair hanging in the air, shroud-like. The nearest port was two hundred miles away.

Five thirty...

Would we make it?


(Did they make it? There is a Sequel.)


  1. wow!! read something really gripping after a long time.. waiting for the next..