Greetings, readers! In the last year, I’ve published five stories on this website: “The Girl the Universe Forgot,” “Ed,” “Relax FM,” “Xanadu,” and “Summer Sky.” All five have been met with great support, and I thank all of you for that. However, today, I want to share with all of you not a story of fiction, but of a real experience from my own life.
So for this story, the main character won’t be Sean, or Christopher, or Tony, or Sierra, or Ray, it’ll be about Dan Di Benedetto. If you noticed the cover of this story, you probably recognize that outfit as a hazmat suit. Well, when I’m not sitting here behind my computer writing stories or submitting constructive criticism on other works on Creepypastaxyz, that’s my job: being a CBRN Marine. CBRN is an acronym, short for “Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Defense Specialist.” Sounds fancy, but my job mostly involves me getting in suit and using chemical detection equipment or Radiac meters to scan an environment for contamination.
Don’t get me wrong, my job has its badass parts; I can plot nuclear fallout by hand, I gas fellow Marines in chambers with CS, a viciously awful tear gas, to test their ability to respond to chemical warfare, and even study the chemical makeup of chemical warfare agents. But, as previously stated, nine times out of ten, I’m fumbling around in IPE (Individual Protective Equipment) and looking for a rad source or chemical or bioweapon.
But what makes this scary? What makes this a creepypasta? That’s a little something we CBRN Marines like to call “Suit Psychosis.”
Suit Psychosis is the name given to the gradual decay of a human’s state of mind when wearing IPE. Now, not to turn this to some CBRN class, but there are four kinds of hazmat suits: Level A, Level B, Level C, and Level D. Level D doesn’t really count; it’s not a type of suit, but rather, a level of protection involving gloves and a respirator. That’s it. A guy in collared shirt, jeans, nitrile gloves, and an M50 Field Protective Mask (known colloquially as a “gas mask”) is in Level D. However, once you ascend the protection levels, it gets more complicated.
Level C covers the entire body in what appears to be a tarp-like suit. The wearer is shielded from alpha and beta radiological particulates, biological agents like y. pestis (the bacteria that causes the Black Plague), and chemical warfare agents, as well as some toxic industrial materials. However, it’s not as resistant to contamination as Level B and Level A. Also, it can’t be worn in an IDLH environment (Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health.) IDLH environments include, but are not limited to, oxygen deficient or oxygen rich environments, flammable environments, corrosive environments, environments with heavily concentrated contamination, and so on. The reason Level C can’t be worn in this environment is because Level C implies the wearer is equipped with only an APR (Air Purifying Respirator) such as a “gas mask.” A gas mask only filters out CBRN particles, not supplies oxygen, and can only filter so much contamination. This makes it useless in IDLH environments. For those, one must be in Level A or Level B.
Level A and Level B both fully protect the wearer from CBRN particles through the respiratory tract because both are equipped with SCBA gear (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus.) Essentially, it’s an air tank, like SCUBA gear, except it isn’t designed for underwater use. The difference between the suits is how much cover they provide. While both cover the entire body, Level B has two components, and Level A is a single suit. Level B is a bodysuit with a “mane” for the wearer’s head. It zips onto the body piece over the mask. Level A, however, is what you imagine in your brain when you hear “hazmat suit;” it is fully encapsulating. The entire suit zips on, and the wearer is separated from the world completely by it.
Level B is worn in flammable environments, because, though it is less chemically protective, and is almost useless in the wake of liquid contaminants, it will not shrink wrap the wearer in the event of a BLEVE (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion.)
Level A is used in harshly corrosive or chemical-concentrated environments, as the components of the suit make it resistant to 21 distinct, dangerous chemicals.
Now that that’s understood, we’ll get to Suit Psychosis.
Suit Psychosis occurs gradually, inclining the longer the wearer is in suit. For beginners, it can set in as chillingly soon as fifteen minutes. For experienced hazmat operators, it can take longer, around an hour, but inevitably, it will start to occur.
In laymen’s terms, it’s the natural reaction to a human having all their senses nearly severed, while also being in a high stress environment, and knowing any mistake could cause immediate death. We’re going to be speaking specifically of Suit Psychosis in the instance of Level A suits.
It all begins with a call.
“Good afternoon, sir or ma’am, this is Lance Corporal Di Benedetto. How can I help you?”
“There’s a chemical spill in the warehouse on Miramar Way. We’re not sure what it is but we’re suspecting it could be chlorine.”
“Gotcha. We’re on it.”
And from that moment on, I’m on a time hack. Every second that chemical is pouring out, more and more equipment is being contaminated, and mitigation will be more difficult. Me and my team strip off our boots and cammies (the camouflage combat utilities we wear) and get in green-on-green (essentially a green undershirt and undershorts we wear while in uniform.) We move out to the DRSKO set, popping out Level A suits, backplates, masks, and pressurized bottles of air from their place of storage. We attach the bottle to the rig. Now we dress each other. Most of the time, it’s a team of three getting suited. We roll out the suit, unzipping it from the top to the bottom. We PMCS it, inspecting it for tears or punctures. Literally one hole the size of the head of pencil can leave us exposed to a chemical, and that can get us in critical condition before we know it. When we’re affirmative it’s serviceable, we find a partner and get in suit. We throw our rig on our back, throw on our mask, and then climb into the suit, one leg at a time. It’s hot outside, around ninety degrees, and it’s about twenty degrees hotter in suit. I can already feel it on my legs, like I’m sticking them into an oven. I put my covered feet through large, cumbersome green boots. Next, I pull the suit up to my shoulders.
Now I grab the receptacle of my SCBA. My partner turns my tank on, and I attach the receptacle to my mask.
I take my first breath of air from the tank.
The mask makes this hissing sound, and a cold gust of air hits my face. While the diaphragm of the SCBA is very sensitive to make breathing feel natural, it still feels incomplete, and your body knows you’re not getting a full breath of air through the channel.
My partner throws my suit over my shoulders and my backplate, and I slide my arms into it, my hands finally filling into the thick black gloves at the end. At last, my partner throws the head over me, and my full field of clear vision is replaced with a plate of glass, as if I’m looking through a window. Now I really sense the heat of the suit. It’s like being in a greenhouse. Sweat coats my body instantly.
I say goodbye to the outside atmosphere as my partner conclusively zips the suit. Zipping and unzipping the suit can only be done by somebody else. This means that once it’s on, you yourself can’t get it off. When it’s zipped up, the feelings of isolation begin.
I know I have about forty-five minutes of air in my bottle. All of my senses are cut in half. I can barely hear a thing through the suit. Voices sound like muffled, misfired pitches, almost like the adults from a Charlie Brown episode. Making conversation becomes a very difficult task. The glass facepiece becomes foggier and foggier as my gases escape into the suit, and my body heat creates condensation, as well as my exhalation. Before I know it, I’m staring through thick white smog on the glass, leaving me around a five-foot range of visibility. I can’t feel anything through the suit, even the outside air, because the suit is impermeable. I can’t smell anything, and the only thing I taste is my saline sweat collecting on my lips.
When we’re all suited up, we walk a long distance, and it feels longer in the suit. It’s hard to stay balanced; the suit makes you clumsy. The boots are huge and clunky, and not being able to feel anything around you really makes you lose your sense of direction. Even worse, one of us is dragging a cart full of detection equipment, mitigation materials, and spare bottles in the event of a catastrophe.
It’s that first moment you realize that the buzzing in your ears is the sound of your partner trying to talk to you that the psychosis begins to set in.
“That was a voice?” you think.
All you can hear is the sound of your breathing, which you almost don’t believe is your breathing, because while you can hear it, you always feel a little out of breath. You try to do something as simple as talk to your partner, but can hardly make out what they’re saying. You scream at each other, and suddenly you’re gasping for air, because you didn’t realize how much air it takes to scream.
By the minute, you start to feel more and more alienated from the world. You can’t see, you can’t hear, you can’t pick something up because of the thick, rigid gloves that are longer than your fingers. You can barely walk. You can barely breathe. Things like this: simple, instinctive things you’ve been doing since you were born, or in your earliest stages of life, are now a stressfully arduous task.
You’re burning up.
All you want is to get out of the suit.
Then you remember, you can’t get out of the suit. Not without help.
Ominous conclusions begin to cloud your mind.
“If I ran out of air in this, this suit is impermeable. I’d suffocate in here. Like I’m walking around in my own coffin.”
“If I trip and god forbid displace my oxygen receptacle, I wonder if I’d be able to attach it again through this suit with these gloves on.”
“It’s so hot… Will I be a heat case? Am I going to pass out in this? I don’t think I hydrated enough for this…”
“What if there’s a tear in the suit that I missed? Something like VX could kill me in fifteen minutes just by making contact with my skin… Am I sure I checked everything?”
When me and my team finally get down to the warehouse, I’m scared we’ll run out of air before we make it back. The five-minute walk feels like a twenty-minute walk due to all the complications and stresses. I grab an AN/PDR-77 with an alpha probe attached and a camera. One of my partners grabs an Identifinder U and a radio, and the last guy grabs a Multirae and a JCAD. We’re all wearing AN/UDR-13’s, small dosimeters that will let us know if we’re absorbing too much radiation, in the event we come across it.
We radio in that we’ve arrived and ask for permission to enter. When the IC gives us a green light, we label the door with the suspected hazard, the door chem and rad readings, and our date time group of arrival. Then the operation begins.
But my mind isn’t quite on the mission. I keep vividly imagining just getting out of this suit, feeling the outside air on my damp skin again. I try to understand my teammates as we enter. Now it’s a game of “lava on the ground,” but it’s an inverted version. The ground is okay to touch, but not the walls, or anything else. Anything could be contaminated. I’m documenting everything on the camera at this point.
We follow the hovering, portentous, thin green mist, floating around like an aimless phantom. The JCAD screeches and the Multirae flashes and rings. We comprehend that if it were to enter our lungs, we could face death.
None of us want to die in that suit.
We trust that they were carefully inspected and are serviceable, and push through the mist, finding a punctured barrel leaking chlorine onto the ground, before offgassing into the mist around us. If that liquid makes contact with the suit, it will likely seep through and poison us. We very carefully overpack it. When it’s secured, we carry it back to the cart. Another team will come down and clean up the mess. For now, we have the source of contamination secured, and limited time on air. Our way back is once again mired with despairing thoughts.
The worst is the consideration that you’re out of time on air, and that you’re going to eat rubber. Eating rubber is when your tank is empty, and attempting to breathe causes the mask to collapse against your face. Now, it’s all nonsense: you have a psi gauge hanging from your right shoulder strap, and you know you have enough air. But somehow, you doubt its accuracy.
You feel dehydrated, like you might just pass out from heat exhaustion.
Your glass is so foggy, you’re stumbling into each other, and on every rock and pothole between you and the cold zone. You’re so thirsty. The need for water is inscrutable.
When you finally get back and are stripped out of suit, the feeling is indescribable. You’re met with the faces of your brothers, and they zip you out. You feel the outside atmosphere again. The ninety-degree weather feels like a cool autumn breeze as it caresses your soaked skin. You rip the mask off and watch as sweat splashes out of it onto the ground. You climb out of the suit, and your green-on-green is five shades darker. It looks like you went swimming.
It’s one hell of a feeling. Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m experienced at my job now. I don’t get like this anymore, unless I’m in suit for extreme amounts of time. But for beginners, or experienced hazmat operators enduring extended operations, that feeling is nightmarish. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever felt in real life. The claustrophobia, the complete sense of isolation from the rest of the world around you… It’s beyond terrifying.
Thank you for taking a trip through my life and living one of my experiences with me. While I love writing fiction, it’s interesting for me getting to write as myself on this website, and it’s my pleasure to share it with my readers!