Under Pressure 1.03 - The Ghost in the Abyss
EPISODE 3: THE GHOST IN THE ABYSS
DR JAMIE MACMILLAN-BARRIE
DR RAMONA RAMIREZ
DR HAMISH TURIN
SCENE ONE: Jamie’s Office – Day
JAMIE MACMILLAN-BARRIE (GETTING THE HANG OF THIS) This is Dr Jamie MacMillan-Barrie, transmitting notes from the DSS Amphitrite for review by the board of the Cassida Memorial Research Fund.
SOUND INTRO MUSIC
JAMIE CONT'D I've been down here for 4 weeks now, and though the pecking order was easy enough to suss out, but I find myself still adjusting to the physical differences in living so far below the surface. Living underwater is...strange. It changes the way our minds and bodies interact with the world around us. (UNDER HER BREATH) Talk about being "so far from the light."
SOUND (SMALL METAL HINGES BENDING/SQUEAKING AS JAMIE ADJUSTS HER DESK LAMP)
JAMIE Meanwhile, this light is constantly drooping downward. I think the threads in the screws that hold it in position are worn down, which is a little absurd given that it was just installed 3 months ago.
SOUND (MORE SQUEAKING)
JAMIE CONT'D (SIGH) Hopefully that'll hold for a while. Anyway. This far down, there are things you can't do, like certain types of exercise. There are things you can't get, regardless of how many requisition forms you fill out. There are foods that can't be safely transported or stored, apparently. For example: there's coffee -- really great whole bean coffee, actually -- but no real cream, or even milk. Just the powdered stuff. Or canned evaporated milk, which is almost as bad. Either way it's not the same, it's not the real thing.
JAMIE In...in addition to the dietary oddities, there are also more...experiential aspects to it. Your senses behave differently. JAMIE CONT’D OVER
JAMIE CONT’D Everything really does get distorted. Smell doesn't work quite the same way, something about the pressure, the composition of the air. For example, food smells...stick more. There's more air molecules so for some reason it's harder somehow to filter the food smell particles out of the air.
SOUND METALLING CLANGING OF PIPES...AND A BUMP AGAINST THE STATION HULL FROM OUTSIDE
JAMIE Uh. (DELIBERATELY FOCUSING) One of the things they recommend to avoid the food smell issue is cooking things sous vide, and there's a stack of specialty cookbooks in the kitchen. Apparently hardly anybody makes the effort, though, because it takes forever and it's generally a pain. You have to heat up the water, seal your food in a bag, attach a weight to the bag so it stays submerged, then stick your food in the water and wait for a long time.
JAMIE CONT’D It's supposedly great for making "the perfect steak," for example, but it takes an hour, minimum. Not that we have any steak down here anyway.
JAMIE CONT'D On the plus side, it's also supposed to be hard to overcook anything using sous vide. Which, given the habits of scientists, like forgetting to take breaks and eat meals, is probably for the best.
SOUND ANOTHER BUMP AGAINST THE HULL, SLIDING NOISE AS SOMETHING BRUSHES AGAINST IT -- SOMETHING LARGE
JAMIE CONT'D (SUDDEN SHIFT IN TONE)...Can you tell I'm dying for some real home-cooked food? Sorry. A woman can only live for so long on instant noodles and microwave meals. Maybe I'll give the whole sous vide thing a try.
SOUND (CHAIR SQUEAKS AS SHE LEANS BACK, SPINS AROUND)
JAMIE CONT'D It's funny, though -- the title of one of them is "Under Pressure," like it's supposed to be a play on the meaning of the term sous vide. But what sous vide actually means is "under vacuum," not "under pr--" (BREAKS OFF MID-WORD INTO A SHRIEK)
SOUND PEN, RECORDER, NOTEBOOK, CHAIR ALL CLATTERING
JAMIE CONT’D (OFF MIC, SCARED, SHAKY) What the hell was that?
SOUND SILENCE, BREATHING, MISC STATION NOISE
JAMIE CONT’D Okay. It's-- it's gone now. I hope. I'm going to--
SOUND RECORDER PICKED UP, STEPS, SOUND OF HATCH CLOSING
SOUND (BEAT) STEPS ALONG A METAL SURFACE, APPROACHING
JACK VERNON (FADING IN AS HE APPROACHES, BOTH OFF MIC AS RECORDER IS HELD AT JAMIE'S SIDE) Doc Barrie? Was that you screaming? (AMUSED AT HIS OWN JOKE) Did you see a mouse in your office?
JAMIE Jack! No, I-- there was something outside my porthole.
JACK (UNIMPRESSED) Alright. You know it can't get in, right?
JAMIE (FRUSTRATED, STILL OFF-KILTER) It was an eyeball the size of the entire porthole. (BEAT) It looked at me!
JACK Huh. You sure about that? Usually something that big, we see it on sonar before it gets anywhere near the station. Not just the atmosphere getting to you?
JAMIE Of course I'm sure! I didn't just-- hallucinate it! (REALIZATION) I heard it bump into the station!
JACK (PLACATING/PATRONIZING) All right, all right. You saw a big critter.
JAMIE You aren't-- concerned about it?
JACK Not unless it's gonna take a bite out of the station. Sea creatures, that's more Ramirez's area of expertise.
JAMIE Right. Mona-- right.
SOUND FOOTSTEPS ON METAL
JAMIE (COMING BACK ON MIC AS SHE BRINGS IT UP WHILE WALKING) Guess I'm going to go...consult Mona-- Dr. Ramirez. Surely she has some kind of professional opinion on exactly how big the creatures down here can get, though...I'm not sure I actually want to know the answer.
SOUND FOOTSTEPS ON METAL
SOUND (PAUSE, THEN) KNOCKING ON HATCH DOOR
JAMIE Dr. Ramirez?
SOUND CLANG OF HATCH OPENING
RAMONA RAMIREZ (OFF MIC) Jamie? I know I told you to call me Mona.
HAMISH (FURTHER OFF MIC, PLEASED) Oh, is that Jamie?
RAMONA Come on in! What brings you to our humble laboratory?
HAMISH (CONCERNED) Are you alright, Jamie? You look quite pale.
RAMONA Oh, I didn't, uh-- yes, here, sit down.
JAMIE Thank you. I'm okay, but I-- saw something, just now, outside my cabin window-- porthole.
RAMONA Oh! (EXCITED) What did it look like?
JAMIE All I could see was its eyeball. Which was the size of the entire window.
RAMONA (IT'S HER BIRTHDAY AND THERE'S A PONY IN THE FRONT YARD) Really?!
HAMISH (DRY) Goodness.
JAMIE Is that...normal?
RAMONA Down here? Probably! But I've been on the Amphitrite for months and I haven't seen anything THAT big. Really?
JAMIE Really, I swear. One second, dark water; the next, giant sea monster eyeball. (HORRIFIED)
RAMONA That's amazing-- ahhhh, I'm so jealous!
SOUND (SOUND OF CHAIR SPINNING, RAMONA RUSHES OVER TO PORTHOLE)
RAMONA CONT'D (OFF MIC AS SHE PEERS OUTSIDE) I wish I'd seen it!
JAMIE (LOW) I wish I hadn't seen it.
HAMISH (STIFLED LAUGHTER)
RAMONA (STILL OFF MIC) You weren't, I don't know...tapping on the glass or flashing a light, or anything like that, were you?
JAMIE (IMMEDIATELY, ALMOST INTERRUPTING) No, absolutely not. (BEAT) I think.
RAMONA You think? Did something happen?
JAMIE Uh, my desk lamp was falling down again so I had to adjust it. JAMIE CONT’D OVER
JAMIE CONT’D Maybe that-- maybe while I was adjusting it, the light shone out through the porthole and...that attracted it?
RAMONA (THOUGHTFUL, COMING BACK MORE ON MIC) Your desk lamp? We don't turn on the floodlights on the outside of the station much. Maybe it could be lured back...
JAMIE Lured back?! Shouldn't it be driven away? Isn't it risky to try and lure something that big into spending time around the station? What if it's big enough to do serious damage? How big is it, if the eyeball alone is the size of my porthole window?
HAMISH (SOOTHING, BUT AMUSED) Take a breath, Doctor.
JAMIE I-- Yes. (INHALE, EXHALE) Sorry.
HAMISH You don't want to hyperventilate. Passing out is even less fun than normal in a high-pressure environment.
JAMIE (WEAK CHUCKLE) Yeah, I can imagine. Okay. Not panicking. Not panicking about the extremely large sea creature that apparently responds to my lamp like a cat to a laser pointer.
RAMONA (DISTRACTED, THINKING) To answer your questions, though -- if the eyeball was the size of your porthole, and we know the station portholes are, hmm, call it twelve inches...
SOUND (PAPER RUSTLES AS RAMONA GRABS IT)
RAMONA Yes, here we go -- in general, the very large deep-sea cephalopods are likely Teuthida or Vampyromorphida, not Cirrina or Incirrina--
RAMONA The long squiddly types, not the round fat octopus ones.
HAMISH I want to make some kind of joke about it but that does actually quite clarify the difference.
JAMIE Speak for yourself.
RAMONA (NOT REALLY LISTENING, STILL THINKING ABOUT IT) That still doesn't narrow it down a great deal, but judging from the size of previously observed giant squid specimens, I think we could be looking at a creature anywhere from, uh, forty-five to seventy-five feet in length.
JAMIE (HORRIFIED) Seventy-five feet long?! Aren't you worried about something that size damaging the station?
RAMONA Ehhh. Not...really? The station is a big heavy metal structure attached pretty securely to the trench wall. The kind of force even a seventy-five foot squid can exert isn't that much compared to what the station is expected to withstand just from the pressure of the water down here. I think. (RUSHING ALONG) But you know, octopi are pretty amazing, I could show you some great YouTube videos about how they can open up cans and jars and squeeze through incredibly small spaces--
JAMIE (CUTTNG IN) NO THANK YOU. But you're not...just saying the station will be fine to reassure me, are you?
RAMONA (BEAT, THEN: FALSE BRIGHTNESS) O-of course not!
HAMISH Mona, dear, you're not very convincing.
RAMONA (SIGH) Sorry. But I'm sure it's fine. The station is built to withstand a lot of pressure.
HAMISH Why are you so familiar with giant squid and octopus varieties, anyway, given that your specialty is exactly the opposite?
RAMONA (PAPER RUSTLES AGAIN) I had a colleague draw me a cheat sheet!
HAMISH Oh, those are some very clever little drawings.
JAMIE There's something to all those stories about the monsters in the deep, I guess. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Moby Dick. "Here there be dragons." Jaws. (BEAT) Lovecraft.
RAMONA Yes! So many of the things that live in the sea are still completely alien to us. RAMONA CONT’D OVER
RAMONA CONT’D On land, we put names to the most massive of creatures hundreds of years ago -- moose, elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus -- because we can see them. They're right there, humanity has been co-existing with them throughout history.
HAMISH My forebears delved into the so-called "darkest heart of Africa" and slapped new labels on everything centuries ago. Couldn't do any better than Moby Dick when it comes to sea creatures, though.
JAMIE Well -- Moby Dick, and the occasional extremely unscientific (AIR QUOTES) kraken.
HAMISH Quite right.
RAMONA Exactly. In the depths of the ocean, we've still barely even seen some of the largest creatures, or the ones that live in the deepest parts.
JAMIE We don't even know what we don't know about what lives down here because people don't live down here. We weren't around to make myths about this stuff, except for what we could see from the surface and what washed up on beaches. There's Moby Dick, sure, but beyond that-- it's all "sea monsters."
RAMONA We know so little about what's really down here, there's not-- did you know there's not a single aquarium in the world with a giant squid on display? There's no conservation effort for giant squid. You can't buy paintings created by endangered giant squid being exploited and kept in captivity.
JAMIE (BEAT) Well, there's always Seaworld.
RAMONA (DISGUSTED NOISE)
JAMIE Look. Mona. Is there anything you can tell me that's going to make me feel less terrified of the forty-five to seventy-five foot giant squid swimming around near the station?
RAMONA (AWKWARD PAUSE, THEN CONFESSION) Probably not.
JAMIE Great. Wonderful. Okay. This has been a good talk.
JAMIE No, that's-- I came to your lab to learn, and I have learned. Many things. Thank you.
HAMISH Chat with you later, Jamie.
HAMISH CONT’D OVER
HAMISH CONT’D I'll come rest these bones on your couch and we can debate the merits of the current front-runners in the category of "how are we most likely to die aboard the Amphitrite today."
SOUND (HATCH CLANGING CLOSED, FOOTSTEPS ON METAL)
JAMIE (COMING HOT ON MIC AS SHE BRINGS IT UP) That was...well. I've had smarter ideas in my life. I suppose I should have known better. (SIGH) I should go back to my office-- cabin, and do some more work. More thinking about the impermeable darkness all around us, and what that does to our minds and the way we think about our world.
JAMIE (BEAT) Yippee. Now, what I'm actually going to do.
SOUND (FOOTSTEPS ON METAL)
JAMIE Jack? Mr. Vernon?
JACK Yeah, Doc?
JAMIE Yes, it's me again. Dr. MacMillan-Barrie.
JACK Something else happen? Your cabin leaking?
JAMIE (SUSPICIOUS) No, my cabin is fine.
JACK (RELIEVED) Oh good.
JAMIE (BEAT) O-kay. Well. I'm going to choose not to think about that. The thing I saw. Mona says it was probably a giant squid, maybe seventy-five feet long. Is there any danger to the station? Should I be worried?
JACK Giant squid? Nah.
SOUND (THUMPS A FIST AGAINST THE BULKHEAD)
JACK This place is built to last. Commissioning specs stated it must be able to withstand half again the expected pressure at this depth -- that's a total of nine hundred atmospheres. I don't care how big this giant squid or whatever is, it's not exerting another three hundred atmospheres' worth of pressure on the station. That's-- (PAUSES TO DO MENTAL MATH, FAILS) a lot of pressure, in any case.
JAMIE Okay. And that's-- there's no mega squid monster out there that we know of that's big enough or strong enough to exert that kind of force?
JACK (SCOFFS) No way. Not happening. Like I said, Ramirez is the closest thing we got to an expert on critters. But the Amph's a sturdy ship. No matter what you saw, there's no squid out there that's gonna cause trouble.
JAMIE Okay. Thanks. (DEEP BREATH) Thanks.
JACK Yeah, sure thing, Doc.
SOUND (FOOTSTEPS WALKING AWAY)
JAMIE Okay. Okay. (DEEP BREATH) Everything is fine, I'm going to go back to my cabin, and I'm going to close the curtain over my porthole window, and I'm not going to think about seventy-five foot long sea monsters outside that everyone seems very convinced won't be able to crack this station open like an egg.
SOUND (FOOTSTEPS ON METAL AS JAMIE GETS UP, LEAVES LAB, WALKS BACK TO HER OWN CABIN)
JAMIE (QUIET, BARELY AUDIBLE OFF MIC) Forty-five to seventy-five feet.
SOUND (RATTLE OF PULL BLINDS, SETTLING BACK INTO HER CHAIR)
JAMIE Let the record show that if the station is destroyed by an angry deep-sea monster, I saw it first. (BEAT) And then never looked out my cabin window again.
SOUND (MOMENT OF THOUGHTFUL SILENCE)
JAMIE (INTROSPECTIVE) What Mona was talking about, about so much of the ocean still being unseen, the lack of human residence in the depths -- maybe there's something I can dig into about that. She's right that there's not much out there that gets more specific than "big fancy whale" or "big fancy squid." Beyond that, when it comes to sea creatures in literature, you more or less skip straight to Lovecraftian-type horrors that are intentionally exaggerated and disconnected from reality. If, all this time, we could have seen all the way down to the bottom of the ocean from the surface, I wonder what stories we'd tell.
SOUND (KNOCK ON DOOR AS RAMONA ENTERS)
RAMONA Jamie? Can I come in?
JAMIE Mona! Of course, I was just-- you're not here to tell me more things about giant squid that I don't want to hear, right?
RAMONA No, I won't. I promise.
SOUND (AWKWARD SILENCE)
RAMONA I didn't mean to scare you. Deep sea creatures aren't my specialty as a biologist, but they still fascinate me! I know they're not everybody's cup of tea, though.
SOUND (MUG OF TEA BEING SET DOWN, THEN NUDGED ACROSS DESK)
RAMONA CONT'D Here. Apology for creeping you out.
JAMIE (SO CUTE, SO SMOOTH) Oh! That's-- Thank you. I promise I won't hold your giant squid over-enthusiasm against you.
RAMONA I'm glad. And thank you -- now that you've seen the giant squid, I'm keeping a closer eye on the sonar and the external cameras. Later I'm going to send out one of the rovers to look for any signs of it. We'll know it's coming next time. I hope.
JAMIE You hope? Mona, you said you weren't here to scare me about the squid again!
RAMONA I'm sorry! I was trying to be reassuring.
JAMIE You couldn't just have left it at "we'll know it's coming next time?"
RAMONA I...also wanted to be honest.
JAMIE (LAUGH) Okay.
RAMONA (BEAT) Well, I should get back to work.
JAMIE Right. Thanks again, Mona.
RAMONA Sure! See you around, Jamie.
SOUND (HATCH CLANGING CLOSED BEHIND RAMONA)
JAMIE (WITH A SMILE) That was sweet of her. (PAUSE) A giant squid. Great. Giant squid, giant octopus, all the other horrifying things I've seen in Mona's lab, things with way too many teeth...philosophically speaking, we don't even know what all might be down here. We don't have a whole lot in the way of ancient myths and legends to inform the conscious and unconscious beliefs we've brought down with us. To our lizard brains, the deep sea is full of mysteries, pressing right up against the hull of the station, constantly -- all around us, at all times. (BEAT) Not a cheery or reassuring thought, to be honest. Well. If I am eaten by a giant squid, and these recordings are all that's left of me...this was Jamie MacMillan-Barrie, signing off.
SOUND EXIT MUSIC THE END
CREDITS Under Pressure is a production of the Procyon Podcast Network. This episode was written by Phoebe Seiders and edited by Margaret Clark. Madison Schaeffer played Jamie, Zach Valenti played Jack Vernon, Thea Rodgers played Mona, and Greg Martin played Hamish. You can find us at procyonpodcasts.com/underpressure, on tumblr at underpressurepodcast.tumblr.com, and on twitter @U_P_podcast or @ProcyonPodcasts.