I was an officer on the USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered submarine on the day that would come to be known as Pollen. We were on maneuvers in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of the United States when I fell ill – grievously ill, as it turned out, so I was placed in hermetic quarantine in the submarine’s medical facility and put into a chemically induced coma. I have absolutely no recollection of the days leading up to my incapacitation, but remember only waking up stewing in my own soil and filth. I quickly discovered that the mechanical diaper that was supposed to keep me clean and sanitized had clogged. It took me hours in my weakened and emaciated state, but I was finally able to extricate myself from the various IV lines, feeding tubes, ventilators, and other devices that kept me alive—for many months unattended, as it turned out—and to this day I marvel at the fact that I didn’t contract a life-ending infection.
I slowly crawled out of the bed and cleaned myself. All the while I kept calling for help but no one came to my aid. I pushed the button that opened the sealed glass door and once again called out, and once again, no one came. After a while I discovered that I was completely alone on the submarine and that it had run aground. This was astounding. A professional and highly disciplined crew of naval officers and the enlisted seamen under their charge would never simply run a submarine aground then abandon ship. This just does not happen.
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