Anchors No More #2: The More Things ChangeJan 27, 2014
Gary struggled to move, squirming, panicked by the sudden awareness that he was trapped, his arms pressed to his sides, bound in some strange substance. He opened his eyes and what he saw did little to ease the immediacy of his anxiety. He was cocooned in an opaque greyish membrane that wrapped around him tightly. More, this cocoon was filled with a thick liquid, tiny impurities floated past his eyes as he slowly understood his predicament, as it dawned on him that he was submerged in this liquid, that he was somehow breathing it.
He took a deep inhalation, filling his lungs with the syrupy fluid, moving his head around trying to get a sense of where he was, of what had happened. Trying hard to remain calm, he flexed his fingers, stretched them out to find the oily membrane. He scratched at it, dug his nails into its surface. Finally, after minutes of clawing he managed to tear through and plunged his hand into the opening, ripping upwards, freeing himself even more. Liquid poured out as he continued pulling and tearing until he thrust his head and arms free of the cocoon, wiggling out of it onto the cold concrete floor.
Winded by his efforts, Gary took a deep breath and found his lungs would not respond. His eyes widened as he tried again. Nothing. It felt as if his lungs had been filled with concrete, heavy and solid. He rolled over onto his stomach, crawled to his hands and knees. Kneeling there in the dark room, he bashed his fist against his chest, retching, heaving. Gagging, he began coughing out the thick liquid, vomiting it into a warm pool around his shaking body. When he was finished, when he could pull in long, deep breaths, he lay down in the cold puddle and wrapped his arms around himself, shivering, trying to remember what had happened. Last thing he could recall, he was with Holly in the pod. She pressed the button, there was a light as the machine rose to full power, he felt warmth and chill at the same time, nauseous, disoriented… that was what, a few seconds ago? Yesterday? Last month? Oh Christ, what happened?
He realized he was wearing the same clothes, the tight black wetsuit over his cotton pants and tee shirt. Slowly he sat up and pulled the suit’s cap down, ran his fingers through his short hair. He looked around, trying to get his bearings. The room he was in was dark but as his eyes slowly adjusted he recognized where he was. He was in the lab’s basement, right where he started, but the membrane, the now empty basement that had just been filled with machinery and shelves lined with spare technology and parts. Something had happened, right?
He heard a sound, a dull scraping coming from the back of the room. His eyes grew wide in horror as he saw what it was: Holly, writhing and kicking in her own slimy cocoon. He ran over to where she lay and ripped her free, pulling her from the membrane and laying her over his knee, forcing her to cough up the thick liquid in her lungs. When she finished, he laid her down, her head in his lap, and removed her cap, stroking her blonde hair as she breathed in, her blue eyes fluttering, her body shivering. “It’s okay,” he said softly, “We’re here. We’re still in the basement.”
She didn’t answer. She just lay still, wrapped her arms around herself and tried to settle her mind and queasy stomach down. After a few minutes, when she had gained control of her senses, she could finally look at Gary, “We’re here?” she asked, not daring to confirm this with her own eyes. He nodded his head yes, continuing to touch her hair, her wet forehead, her soft cheek. She let out a sighing breath, “Good,” she said and she sat up, rubbing her face. Looking back at the membrane he had freed her from she shook her head in disbelief, “I don’t know what the hell that is. That didn’t…” she shuddered when her mind flashed to what had happened, the strange blank spot in her memory of the last several moments, the timeless blackout between then and now, “… this wasn’t part of the equation.”
Gary would have smiled if he had been able, instead he tentatively said, “Yeah,” and stood up. He walked over to his cocoon and saw what he was looking for, his backpack. He pulled it out and unzipped it, at last gathering a smile when he confirmed its contents were still there and intact. He bent over and touched the membrane, fondling it between his fingers. “Maybe it’s some kind of plasma… shield… thing?” He wasn’t sure what to call it and simply tried to go through the list of theoretical possibilities in his mind. “Some kind of oxygenated liquid, embryonic or something. We were breathing it.” Holly nodded yes as she knelt down before her own cocoon, pulling the pack from the gooey shell.
“Well,” she said, slinging the bag around one shoulder, “welcome to the future.”
They were silent for several minutes after that, looking around the dark empty basement, considering the implications of their efforts and actions. Where was the machine? And why was the fully stuffed basement now devoid of stock, dusty and still enough to appear to have been unused for some time now? These were questions that would have to wait, for a sound from the far side of the room drew their attention, a sliver of light illuminated a yellow slice at the top of the stairs, a pair of footsteps clicking in the black caused them to look at one another apprehensively while the voice caused them to hold their breaths in fear. “Who’s down here?” it asked, “Don’t make any movements, we are armed and have the authority. We will kill you where you stand.”
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.