Death of a Technician

by Jeff Rand

Doug listened attentively to the steady putter of the engine in his 1965 Volkswagen. As he relaxed in the Spartan, but well preserved interior, he remembered an advertisement made decades ago about this marvel of German engineering. The Volkswagen was every man's car, built so solidly that it would float. Doug had secured the car in its parking place and connected a section of hose from the exhaust pipe to the passenger compartment.

Doug sat securely fastened in his air tight chamber. He relaxed on the small seat, placing himself on the passenger side of the car. A careful examination showed all doors locked and the vehicle secure for what would be its final service to Douglas Ronald Wilson.

Now the engine had been recently tuned, but no internal combustion engine, no matter how well it operated, could burn gasoline without producing carbon monoxide. As the Volkswagen engine puttered along, it pumped all of its carbon monoxide into the car, compressing and depleting the oxygen level available to Doug. Molecule by molecule the atmosphere transformed from life to death, creating a toxic tomb.

As the seconds flowed in concert with the noxious fumes, Doug pondered his life and the chain of events that had brought him to the brink of extinction. Like anyone he supposed he had experienced his share of good and bad times, yet what brought him to this moment was much more fundamental than these fleeting moments of life. Many who had a set up a similar situation to end their lives were thought to be cowards, but Doug, even as he approached total introspection, could not be totally self degrading.

The ever decreasing air supply made Doug much less aware of what was outside in favor of a self awareness more significant than the night he kept the vigil at Charles Howell Scout Reservation. He was sorry for the things he done growing up. Funny how vivid the images of mockery towards Harold Oatley and pranks he had done to Steve Wilson. He remembered these things now in the scarce moments that remained. Why had he set explosives to a building during this turbulent youth? Why did he slug little Ellen on the playground during second grade? And why did he wet the bed when his parents made him go to his room for being naughty when he was three and a half years old? These were the memories of a childhood he had almost forgotten.

Doug coughed as he continued a steady decline in muscular control. He could not open his eyes, even if it were his greatest remaining desire. He had no such desire. His fingers and toes tingled, but his attention now focused on things he had done with the Order of the Arrow. True, it had provided some reward, yet now he most remembered the emotions he had felt. Fear flanked his consciouses when he thought of a dark crawl through Gehenna. The dark fear prevailed as he remembered borrowing into the bowels of the earth. Then there was denial that had been so suppressed, through no normal means would it ever surface. These, the lies to himself, he most remembered. How could he have been so depraved and convince himself otherwise? How much of his life had been besieged with self deception?

His breathing became shallow, as Doug now slumped completely. His jaw sagged and limbs were numb. As remaining heartbeats could now be counted, Doug was physically unable to remove himself from this poisonous crypt. The will to live had once been strong in this man, but now he simply did not and could not care. A period of complete helplessness ushered itself upon him.

In his few remaining seconds, Doug's thoughts turned to Winter Camp. This more than any of his life's events, more than marriage to Joy, had set the stage for his current performance. The bizarre circumstance created by Winter Camp drove many to abnormality, but to Doug much more. Dozens of images raced through his head as fading echoes. Perhaps it was Winter Camp's morbid fixation with time, particularly the future, which drove him to this point. Voices of the past, long sought after opportunities, friendships, and the zest for life no longer mattered.

Death would come soon now. For many seconds the oxygen had been depleted and replaced with carbon monoxide. Doug slipped into coma. The quest of the Winter Camp Future Society might end here. Doug had been called to service by the Society because of his engineering prowess. That he sought to rise to the task was more than admirable. Building a time capsule was no engineering marvel. But a thousand year time capsule ...

Doug spent many hours in pursuit of engineering excellence. To put it to the ultimate test for the sake of a dream, meant total veneration.

The last glass ball completed its route through the maze to its final resting place. The weight now sufficient caused a momentary pause at the fulcrum before shifting the mass, as if Schroedinger's Cat had made a decision. The mechanism worked quickly. The engine subsided and fresh air flooded in to revive Douglas, as planned. The mechanical timer passed the test. Doug would be alive to set it for a thousand years.

Unfortunately for the occupant of the nearby Suburban, the electronic timer was not quite successful. Poor Mike.

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