UNDERWATER ALIEN - WRITING ASSIGMENT BASED ON A TRUE INCIDENT
Weird Happening on Zombie Reef Based on an underwater true event
Class didn't agree - Sigh - Very bad mark
from Louis C's 4th year Windsor U Creative Writing course
I don’t care if you believe me or not. Sometimes I think I made it all up. Then there was last Friday when I was yelled at by former dive buddy Dr. J in the Miami Airport, and we-are-not-alone truth of what happened on Zombie Reef comes back full bore.
By Stephen Weir This truth goes back a decade or so. I picked up a gig with a TV show, Strange Undersea Adventures. It was done-on-the-real-cheap. Each week the show would visit a different dive destination in the Caribbean. The host country picked up the tickets. The dozen crew members stayed on a live-aboard boat moored overtop of the dive sites to be featured. And when we were in port we’d pray someone would pick up the bar tab.
The alcoholic producer dragged me along on this segment ‘cause of my last name. Weir. Weird. All the same to him. The week’s show was called The Weird Zombie Reef. No questions asked. I got the job.
Zombie Reef is a shallow strip of coral between the volcanic islands of St Vincent and Petite Martinique. Zombie Reef has become a local Bermuda Triangle, with ships going down with a fearsome regularity. The Navy said it was caused by pirates, drug runners and crappy-time motorboats. The locals blame Duppies and Underwater Zombies.
We steamed the tranquil waters of the Zombie, half-heartedly jumping in the waters in our gear hoping to find two-headed sharks, octopi that could open peanut butter jars underwater and hope-upon-hope an old wreck with skeletons still bending over their deck cannons.
Nada. Nuff ‘n. Sweet Fuck All.
But we did tape a coupla things that were tarted up later in studio to make passable “weird” TV. Two come to mind. Satan’s Bubbles. Inside Out Star Fish.
We were moored in a stretch of open sea offshore of St Vincent. A volcanic isle, the 1,500-meter-tall active stratovolcano known as Soufrière towers over the country spewing out smoke clouds most days.
Dropping off the stern of the boat, three divers gently drift down to the sand bottom. Cameras at the ready. But what to shoot? No fish. No coral. No shipwrecks. No Zombies here my friends.
Blurp. Blurp. Blurp. Quick Cameras on. Suddenly there are thousands of tiny bubbles coming out from the sand up towards us. Satan’s Bubbles. Who knew bubbles can be heard popping underwater? And they smell too.
The sulphur bubbles were coming from cracked lava tubes buried under the sand bottom. Volcano gas was pushing its way into the water and streaming to the surface. Worthy filming, but stinky bubbles do not make a good TV show.
Cue the Starfish. Giant Caribbean Starfish are marine invertebrates, meaning they don’t have bones, yet grow to be 40cm across. Stiff. No legs. They do, however have dozens of dozens of tiny hydraulic "feet" that can move them a metre or two a day.
Cruel perhaps, but Hollywood called. A Star Starfish Was Born. The Giant Caribbean Starfish is picked up and put upside down in the sand. The cameras roll.
Over the course of 15-minutes it slowly wiggles and shrugs its outer shell. It gives a shudder and plops right side up once again. Back on the boat the tape is speeded up, and all signs of human life (flipper here, dive mask there) is removed, it looks like an underwater space creature doing a Zombie dance.
And Then Came the Weir(d) Stuff
Back to solid ground. Back to privacy. Back to not always looking for Weird stuff. (Stop pointing at me.)
The sun was a few hours from setting. We decided to make one wet stop at an underwater coral tower 10 kms from land. Group photo time. There were twelve of us, from our underwater Gaffer to our snorkelling Gofer.
The plan is simple. Two shooters. Ten divers. 10 Meters down. All facing the open sea with the coral barrier behind them. Fish bits chummed in the water, we wanted to make sure there were wildlife around us when the snap was taken.
I orchestrated the picture, using swooping arm motions to direct the divers where to position themselves. Wish I had had a baton.
The camera guy had a Nikonis to shoot the stills and a small hand-held video dangling from his vest.
Sounds easy? Wrong. 25-minutes. Almost out of air and not a single picture taken.
Was all set to give the 5-4-3-2-1 when I realised something was wrong. I did a body count.
Holy Crap. No one was missing. It was the opposite. There was one too many divers. A tall man, with a white shirt under his dive gear! I stared at him, but couldn’t see his face. His mask was fogged. He waved at me like I was a kid standing inside a crib
Our ten divers were impatient, all pointing to their air gauges. Screw it. Signal for the pictures to be taken. Within a minute our divers were heading back to the boat, leaving nothing but their bubbles.
I did a head count on the deck. Everyone who should be back on board was. No diver in white to be seen. Grabbing a fresh tank, I went back down to look for him. Nothing. Came back when my air ran out. No boats in sight. Land an hours long swim away. There was no man in white above or below the water.
The director called me into the galley and said I was not to talk about Mr. UFO. I corrected him. Mr. Underwater Swimming Object. The USO of Zombie Reef.
We had the real thing on camera. We had a dozen witnesses. But we all had to sign NDAs, to get paid. The mass line was: no Zombie. The film was lost.
Now so long after, I stopped thinking of the USO. I doubt my sanity. Until last week. Coming into the customs’ line I spot Dr J, the Grateful Dead’s former chiropractor. He had been part of our Zombie Reef expedition.
“I saw him too,” he yelled at me as we passed. “Keeping telling the story Brother!”
I just did Dr J. I just did. And if I am lucky, you will pass it on too.
copyright - Stephen Weir 2023
Images created by Dall-E AI