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CHAPTER ONE: GET THE *BEEP* OUT
Deep as the October sun, Dom’s eyes opened, revealing irises that could hold a universe all their own. The seconds between when his eyes opened and the realization came that he was trapped in a plastic dome, sent energy from the part of his brain that induces anxiety, – the amygdala – then, finally releasing dynorphin through the synaptic receptors. Thoughts of not knowing what happened in between the gas station parking lot and waking up under the dome brought waves of fear and panic that anyone could have done anything to him while he was out-cold. Being prodded, poked, or probed had no favor in his wishes for himself.
Recent, light-weighted memories flashed through his mind, like they often do after waking and first thinking of a dream. Human brains are well-oiled machines, but don’t know if memories were actually a dream or not until it connects the dots with other memories and categorizes them. You may know the feeling – autonomous mind mechanisms attempting to piece together links from other memories to establish a place in waking life just after getting up from dreaming in deep sleep. The memories of waking life should connect with going to sleep or waking up. They also should make sense – it’s the same type of semi-autonomous mind retrieval function that helps a person remember that one word on the tip of their tongue after not thinking about it for some time.
Nothing came to Dom rather fast and it didn’t link up with any other recent memories when he was awake. Must have been another dream, Dom thought.
My insightful aspiration . . .
Dom’s finger tips swept the underside perimeter of the dome looking for a way out. He ripped the sticky electrode pads off of his body and pushed upward against the dome with his legs, attempting to break free.
“Wholedon, wa gwonna ket yugh ougt,” LJ said. Dom couldn’t understand the words.
Two feet abruptly landed on top of the dome. LJ looked straight down through the dome at Dom and barked some more incomprehensible words while batting his feet on the plastic.
Catch-22, LJ thought. He remembered a book he once read by the same name, Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. Little known fact was that the popular American-english phrase was coined from the title of this book and not the other way around. Catch-22 meant being in a situation that you can’t get out of because of contradictory limitations. Except this was the worst kind of catch-22 because it wasn’t a logical catch-22 or even a catch-22 that resulted from rules or authority. This was a physical catch-22 . . . trapped in a room with nowhere to go.
“It can’t be that difficult, LJ. Just jump off my . . . ” Vic said.
“Yeah, but how do we get Dom out? Ugh, I’m sweatin’. Starting to get hot in here again,” LJ said.
He attempted to jump off of Vic’s clasped hands, and onto the wall and up to grab a hold of the hatch door at the top of the room to escape, but failed and landed back onto the dome with another thud.
In this room, the temperature wasn’t stable. Air was blowing through vents but, when it became hot it wasn’t enough air conditioning to bring the temperature down to a comfortable level. Twenty or so odd minutes later it would become very brisk and stifling, cold air continuing to blow just the same. Far from freezing cold, but in this room it made the blood run thick, bones heavy and difficult to move. On it’s own good time, the room wafted upward, sometimes downward, and rotated around in different directions.
“This has to be some kind of sick joke,” said LJ. “We spent all this time trying to get to Dom and now look at him. Look at us! We are trapped. Rom and Marlon, MIA.” He looked over at Vic. She was feeling all the crevasses of the cold, metal walls, around the windows and doors with her fingertips and palms looking for something, anything that would get Dom out and allow them to escape the room.
. . . is operational . . .
“Well, look on the bright side. Dom is alive; we are alive. I need to admit that something is very strange about this, LJ. I don’t think we are where we think we are. Everything feels different.” Vic finished talking just before a deep, groaning noise passed by, somewhere outside the room. “Just imagine looking into a perfect mirror and it was so perfect that you couldn’t tell it was a mirror,” Vic paused. “And, the mirror you are looking into is entangled, it is somewhere else altogether, existing in two places at the same time, reflecting the light from a distant place into our eyes. How would you know it wasn’t a mirror you were actually looking into instead of what you thought was in front of you? Could there be a mirror-type-insert device in our optical nerve or something?”
“ARE YOU SCREWING WITH ME VICTORIA? YOU SOUND LIKE A MANIAC. IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.” LJ’s eyes widened. “Are we dead?”
LJ remembered reading an article somewhere in the deep corners of the internet about memory injection and replacement. It furthered his troubling thoughts. Thinking you might have died at some point and didn’t know it left scarring effects, forcing you to question everything around you, left you scanning distant memories, looking for a possible missed sign of death. Then, he forcibly convened in himself, just enough to be calm again. Besides, even if it was remotely true, nothing could be done about it.
“I promise to God, if I find out you are screwing with me, Vic . . .”
LJ laid his hands upon his knees, hunched over in a hard breath. Compounding possibilities of ‘what’s really going on?’ raced through his mind. Was Vic really messing with him or was her question a valid one? What a dark notion to think the one closest to you would have anything to do with a grim situation like this. But, it happens every day. You turn on the TV, there’s some deranged story about a significant other, hell bent on destroying not only the relationship, but also the other significant other. One must weigh the possibility of being a part of such a situation, and while no one likes considering such things; how many souls did themselves an injustice by not thinking of it, by being in denial about something deranged and maliced was on the hunt for something to devour? What little faith that remained in LJ’s view of reality, it would be crushed if it was true. Make it not true, he thought.
. . . Now, I can dream, too.
“You have a lot of problems right now LJ, but I’m not one of them. I guarantee it,” Vic assured LJ.
“Oh yeah? So you are thinking I am making a problem out of you, huh? You are my easiest target right now? Well you are right. You are my only target. Now, here we are floating off to the afterlife in this thing. I left all my possessions. No more doors. No more keys. No more home. No more racing! Ugh, I haven’t been home in so long.” LJ said and hung his head low, a side-thought about how it would be nice to keep his worldly objects, even after death, keeping them inside a keepsake box of sorts, for use in the afterlife. But, he had none of it.
LJ kicked the metal wall. A thud sustained a loose echo into a brash, nothingness. Dom’s feet slammed the underside of the dome again. Now, something peculiar happened . . .
© 2020, S.D. McKinley
Guys, until next time – may you find all the happiness that your life can fit in it’s happy spot – S.D. McKinley