I Still Hear Her Last Six Words

Christopher Bloodworth

I work as a controls system programmer for one of the major players in the oil business. I’m not going to name names so don’t bother asking. I still work for the company and I’m not interested in trying to find another job at this point in my life. Everyone that was there that day had to sign non-disclosure agreements so details WILL be obfuscated so no one will be able to point any fingers at me.

This happened on my third day of employment.

The managers in my division thought it would be a good idea to bring all of the greenies—what they called first years—out to one of the refineries so we could better understand what our code would be monitoring and controlling.

I know that was all a bunch of bullshit now, but at the time I was in awe. Seeing the huge towers, smelling the hydrocarbon, feeling the heat. We were all given corporate branded towels at the beginning of the tour. They came in handy for wiping the sweat off your face in the heat.

I felt a sense of purpose which was probably part of the reason they took us greenies out there.

One of the other greenies named Emron was a joker. He liked playing pranks and tricking people. That sort of thing never really impressed me, but occasionally he did something pretty funny.

This was not one of those days.

We were walking through one of the operating units, where crude oil is distilled into gasoline, kero, jet fuel, etc.

Emron was laughing and joking around as usual. I saw him get this look on his face.

I knew that look.

Nothing good ever came from that look.

He walked over to a valve, talking to the group about something. As soon as he got there, he put his hand on it and started screaming. He’s screaming his head off that his hand has melted to the valve and it’s burning.

Most of us that knew Emron knew he was joking, but this one girl in our group named Shannon didn’t.

She screamed at us to help her as she ran to his aid. She grabbed his hand, which gripped the valve, and pulled as hard as she could.

Emron’s hand flew off, opening the valve, and liquid from inside the pipe started spraying out the open end. We found out later that the pipe was filled with caustic. Caustic (sodium hydroxide) is a very strong base.

It splashed across Shannon’s face and everything was silent, except for the hissing valve. Shannon had time to blink a single time before she started screaming. She brought the towel to her face and started scrubbing the stuff off.

When she finally quit screaming, she dropped the towel and several of the people in our group threw up.

Shannon lifted her head. Most of her face was on the towel at her feet, her right eye leaked what looked like clear jelly, and you could see her muscles and tendons clearly. In some places you could even see her skull peeking out.

Her one good eye scanned all of us before fixing on Emron.

Her teeth grinding side to side, she spoke quietly as she looked down at the towel where her face lay in clumps.

Before she passed out, and eventually died, Shannon whispered six words.

“I can smell my face melting.”