January 6th, 1986, Alaska, freezing middle of darn nowhere, with the only speck of life for miles around was my coworkers, my boss, and I. When you look at life, you never think things could change. Change so suddenly, so fast, so instantaneously that you never even saw it coming. I was like each one of you, living life to the fullest, and dullest, working for pay. I sound real interesting don’t I? But I’m not here to interest any one of you, I’m here to say that I was one of you until January 6th. And that day changed the life of one Joshua Asbury. Me. Just a regular guy like each of you.
Don’t get intimidated by me. It’s not my fault what happened. It was a freak accident. Promise. Most people think that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time when said accident happened, but how could I? I drill oil for a living. In the middle of Alaska. Where freak accidents are far and few between. Others would have you believe that just because I dropped out of school, I was caught being stupid by Death and well, he took me out of the equation. Which would be an absolute lie. And a ridiculous one at that, as I’m smarter than what most think.
Don’t worry, it’s not one of those tales where you’re bored to sleep because I got some promotion, or my wife bore me a son, or my children changed the world through a college degree. Nope, not I, I’m not that lucky, because if I was, where’s my million dollar lottery ticket?
Back to January 6th. I can recall that it was a day like any other: I was drilling oil for my company and listening to orders being tossed from my boss, Lou Reinfield. Lou was not the lenient, or the kindest boss in the world. In fact, I don’t think I can ever recall him ever being nice at all. He barked orders like he was born to do so, and he could fire you at the flick of a wrist. You knew you were in trouble when he gave his trademark sullen looked, raised eyebrow, and flicked his finger upward. On top of that he was so serious all the time. Out of my twenty years here, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile.
Drilling oil is dangerous business, and laughing around and having a jolly good time is a sure-fire way to screw up and mortally wound/kill somebody, I can understand that, but when your mother delivers you a birthday cake, on your day off, and, did I mention, on your birthday, and you still look like somebody shot your puppy in front of you, I can only imagine what kind of personality you have to make you so grumpy.
And how could I fail to mention that he also involved us in various crimes of both felonous and mis-demeanor-like and dared us to say a word? He was the only one of us that had a slate clean record and wasn’t deemed a menace to society. He hired people, like me, who had grievous charges against them, and have even spent jail time for it, to drill oil in harsh, dangerous conditions, and the only reason he did it was to paint a picture that he was creating a better life for felons and whatnot. You know, to keep us “clean and jail free” and all that. But it was all a gigantic ploy, so that way he could dominate someone who has no one to turn to in their life for fun, and he knew he held the whip over us all. He could do whatever he wanted to us, and we couldn’t say a word, after all, I AM a criminal, and when you’re in the system, people just wait for scum like you to die. Now if you think I’m going to spill what I have done on his orders, you’d better think twice and watch your mouth. If I let THAT slip, I’d be in jail for life, and that’s something I wanted to avoid.
Anyhow you’re probably wondering, why do I work for a jerk like him? The same reason any of you put up with half the people in your life. To provide for my family- my only driving point-and to ensure that they have enough to be comfortable.
I always smile at the thought of when I could come home to my children screaming, “Daddy!” and a kiss from Lana, my wife. Ah, I’m still smiling at the thought.
I was working like a dog on the rig, which was stationed near the edge of a cliff, as Lou shouted orders at my buddy, Randolph Jerringer, who manned the machines beside me, and I, who manned the drill. Randolph had been more than a work buddy, and more than a friend. He was almost like a brother to me. He was somebody I could trust, and that list was very, very, very short.
Randolph whispered to me the best he could over the roaring robots, “You’d think he’d run outta things to say.”
I gave him a hearty chuckle and plunged my drill deep into the ice. Then all of a sudden, I never thought about what would happen next; I heard this nasty sounding crack and sat petrified as my rig started to move on its own. I looked around for Randolph, praying for his, and God’s, help, but my old friend had vanished. Gee thanks for the help buddy.
Then, in the midst of feeling betrayed, terrified, and all around frozen I heard silence. Silence. Enough for me to realize my mistake, I had drilled too deep and caused the rig to slip. By the time I regained motion from my paralysis, men were shouting at me to move and jump, and that’s when I realized that I had two choices. I could stay and die, or jump and die. And it was obvious I was gonna die anyway, so I just sat there and droned out the sound of chaos as I thought of my family. How would Lana take care of the children? So many thoughts rolled through my head, and I could recall every eternal moment of my life being my very last.
Forty-seven. Forty-seven. Too young to die yet, but old enough to die of tragedy. And this was not how I expected to leave this world either (Really, I expected more to be shot or run over, which was more predictable for the likes of me, but not this) As I fell forward life thrusted into slow motion and the universe muted every sound. Every sound but my screams and the crumbling of more ice falling away. The abyss swallowing me. Falling. Falling. I see ice above my head, then black. Cold, black nothing.