Corporeal Passage: Chapter 5: Complete Physical
by Jeff RandHis breaths were being obstructed by a covering across his face. Ethan was lying down unable to rise or see beyond the mask. As he became more alert, he discovered that his arms and legs were strapped in place. He could sense various tubes attached to his arm as if providing intravenous fluids. There were wires probing his body at various points. When he tried to move his head, he realized that he was attached to the same type of device that had been the case during the corporeal passage. Ethan continued his struggle to free himself without success. Eventually, he gave up and went to sleep.
Sometime later he awoke and heard indeterminate voices. Unable to speak through the mask, his protests went unnoticed. Again, he was trapped and had little choice but to fall back asleep.
When he finally awakened, his face covering was removed. He observed the two in hazmat suits standing at his side. Their faces were covered with tinted masks, making it impossible to identify them. The men were probing his body with various devices. Since he was attacked by Doug and Jeff earlier while observing these two next to the glowing orb, he quickly discounted Jeff or Doug as suspects. He doubted that Markie and Danielle would be involved, since they had made every effort to facilitate the escape. Realizing that he had been stripped of his clothing, their involvement would add further embarrassment to the situation. That left Ron and Tom as the only suspects. Yet the behaviors of these suited men made no sense for either of them to be the perpetrators.
Ethan was now able to speak, "Who are you? Why are you dressed in those suits? What are you doing to me?"
Rather than offer a response, the men grabbed the frame to which Ethan was strapped. Initially, Ethan thought he was held in some sort of bed. Now, he realized that he was confined to a padded frame, where most of his body was exposed. When the men turned the frame, he was flipped so that they now had access to his backside. Remarkably, laying face-down on just three padded bars, he had no significant pain or pressure on his chest. The experience felt more like floating in a pool of water.
First, he felt devices touching his back, creating various sensations, such as heat and mild shocks. Then there were vibrators with clicking sounds. A cold prick caused his shoulder to become numb, as if preparing for a biopsy. Similar examinations moved to the region of his buttocks, including an anal probe.
"This has gone far enough! Just tell me what you are doing! You locked us in our rooms without explanation! What have you done to my son?" he shouted.
Ethan heard some undescriptive mumbling, but again there was no response. After his legs were examined, he was flipped again. The contraption then adjusted so that he was in a sitting position. The captors put a head harness in place to prevent any movement. The device had several attachments to further limit his control of sensory organs. The men adjusted the eye piece to prevent Ethan from closing his eyelids. He screamed when the nostril guard slid into place to provide maximum flow into his air passages. He never imagined that he would get a mouth guard reminiscent of a scene with the character Hannibal Lecter on the movie Silence of the Lambs. The device keeping Ethan's jaw open had the additional feature of a tongue grabber.
After Ethan's head had been effectively set to excite his sensory organs without his own interference, various probes and wires were attached to his body on every structure and cavity. Then Ethan was wheeled into a small room filled with equipment. The walls were covered with chromite-produced images of his organs, together with a myriad of strange symbols. While he remained in a seated position, he was moved to face a wall featuring an image of a beautiful flower. Indeed, it was a pleasant image, but Ethan could not turn his head or close his eyes. While he could move his eyeballs, the picture was presented on a concave surface that offered no opportunity to see anything else.
When the picture was replaced by a film, Ethan realized that his reactions were being monitored. The movie featured gorgeous outdoor scenes like the opening in the classic The Sound of Music. Then there were more beautiful flowers followed by animals and even human celebrations. Gradually, the scenes in the film became less pleasing, and Ethan could feel the discomfort. He became quite agitated when the film displayed Adolf Hitler exciting a crowd of Nazis. He wanted to turn his head as the film vividly portrayed active gas chambers and the function of the crematory at Auschwitz.
Following the horrifying video, the wall went blank. The pause was brief before Ethan was serenaded with beautiful music. He was not surprised when this auditory experiment proceeded to horrific screams of agony. Then there were olfactory and taste tests. The difference between good and bad was not so pronounced for these. Touch was next. The pleasurable feelings were most gratifying and caused significant reactions. Ethan became most distressed when this series ended with severe pain, worried that he was burned badly and suffered deep lacerations.
His concerns of bodily damage proved unfounded when the test moved to a true multi-sensory experience with gorgeous scenes, beautiful music, delightful aromas, delicious tastes, and pleasurable touches. He was not surprised when this full sensory experience slowly transformed into a more distasteful situation. In the end, it was the most horrific experience imaginable. The multi-media movie provided a full range of hellish sensory experiences, as Ethan saw his entire family being devoured by a caveman creature while Satan blasphemed in the background. Somewhere buried in his consciousness he knew the experience could not be real. If it had been simply horrible sights and sounds, he might maintain his sanity. However, the smells and tastes of death being forced upon his family made it unbearable. When he felt the pain of death being administered to his family, his sanity departed. He lost it when he imagined his liver being ripped from his body, while Satan declared victory.
Ethan screamed in agony and shook with convulsions before one of the men in the hazmat suit stuck a needle in his shoulder.
Ethan awakened back in his bed, except it wasn't the same apartment he had been occupying in Zero Node with his son. He was happy to be dressed again, although not in his familiar clothing. He was wearing long sleeve, ankle length sleepwear that looked to be in style a century earlier. Ethan turned his head and saw his son sleeping in the four-poster bed beside him. As he had observed during his stay in Zero Node, lighting was subdued, but now coming from a small lantern flame glowing on the wall.
He had recovered enough from the trauma to his senses to regain control of his faculties. He rose and sat on the edge of his bed. The room was quite different from the more traditional accommodations he had left. Two of the walls were solid, with a doorway on the one. The other two were transparent, although heavily tinted, presumably to facilitate sleep. The transparent wall that the bed was facing had a walkway on the other side, apparently inaccessible from the bedroom. Ethan walked to the wall. The Great Space was once again visible beyond the walkway. Yet he realized he was at a higher level than his prior apartment.
Furniture in the bedroom was minimal. Each bed had a trunk at its foot. A small table held a wash basin, a chamber pot, and a pair of Ethan's glasses. Four sets of outer clothing, consisting of white shirts and corduroy pants, hung on the solid wall, apparently sized for each to have a change. The outerwear was complimented with a pair of leather shoes and a derby hat for each occupant. Ethan proceeded to open his trunk where he found a pair of union suits to use as undergarments, along with some toiletries. The toiletries included a cake of lye soap, a shaving brush, a single blade straight razor, and a leather strap, presumably for sharpening the razor.
Ethan opened the door to the next room. Where he had hoped to find some familiar conveniences, he encountered more spartan accommodations. The minimal furnishings included a small wooden table with two chairs next to some shelves holding several worn leather-bound books. A small oil lamp glowed on the table. The room contained a coal bin next to a stove. A sink was present with no faucet, but with a hand pump instead. When he opened what he thought might be an old refrigerator, he discovered that it was an ice box, not surprisingly containing a block of ice. In the corner, he found an exposed commode without any water source to automate flushing. Next to it was a metal tray filled with sand. There was no other room to explore, so Ethan approached the semi-transparent wall where it overlooked the Great Space. There he found a doorway passage through the wall. He was not surprised that he was unable to open it.
Ethan decided to return to the bedroom to dress in the only clothing style available. He had not paid much attention to his sleeping son earlier, now noticing that he was not alone in his bed. Thomasina was curled up beside him.
Ethan and Leu could not leave the small apartment with its accommodations suited for life in the 19th Century. There was no obvious exit other than the single door passage, and based upon his earlier experience, Ethan opted not to break any furniture trying to escape. There weren't any extra pieces to sacrifice. Ethan expected some comment from his son, but the boy remained subdued, now more reliant on his father.
They found eggs and bacon in the ice box. However, breakfast was delayed, due to the challenges of cooking with a coal stove. Once the coal was burning to Ethan's satisfaction, he placed a pot on the stove filled with hand-pumped water and coffee grounds. When the water was boiling, he added the eggshells to help draw the coffee grounds out of the mixture. Although his coffee brewing skills were limited, Ethan knew that he would not be able to serve the concoction piping hot, as he added some cold water to allow the grounds to settle.
There had been many difficult experiences during the past four years, but to be confined again depressed Ethan, though he tried to be upbeat for the sake of his son. For entertainment there was a deck of playing cards and a checkerboard. The few books available were all classics. They were surprised to find the Holy Bible included. When Ethan grabbed it, he discovered that it was the very same Bible that he had found in Canada. Someone had taken the care to move it from their prior quarters. With this realization, he vowed to keep it should they have opportunity for another escape.
After playing six games of checkers with his son, Ethan decided to read the Bible. Since the term of their incarceration remained uncertain, he determined to begin with the first verse of Genesis. The literature was a bit too highbrow for Leu's tastes, but he settled for The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer because it had the most provocative engraving on the cover. He began by reading about the rooster with seven wives in "The Nun's Priest's Tale."
Leu finished reading Chaucer as he reached the limit of his tolerance for making sense of Middle English, and Ethan had nearly completed the Pentateuch, when they saw activity on the other side of the clear wall overlooking the Great Space. The tinting had long since disappeared as Doug Sutton and Jeff Dryden stood with a cart peering into their room.
"We brought you some supplies," said Doug, his voice clearly audible through the transparent wall.
"Here I thought you came to watch us on the commode," Ethan replied. "Why have you put us in these glass cages?"
Rather than provide an answer, Doug opened a small door to a chute through the window on the edge opposite from the door. "This chute will allow us to provide you food and remove wastes. The passage has a door on each side, making it impossible for both to be open at the same time. Do not plan on trying to use it for escape," he said.
Jeff removed a block of ice in a metal tray and placed it in the chute. Then he placed a tray with various tins, presumably containing food. Finally, he added a tray of sand. "You will take these trays, remove the contents and replace them with any waste products. The sand is for Thomasina."
"What if we keep the trays?" spouted Ethan.
"Then next day, your food will be mixed with the sand and ice," declared Doug.
Upon finding the door would now open on their side of the small chute, Ethan gathered the food and replaced the ice in the ice box, while Leu attended to cleaning Thomasina's litter box. When they finished, the trays and trash were returned to the chute.
As Doug and Jeff gathered the trays, Ethan yelled a series of questions and demands at these captors. The pair departed with no comment.
Time crawled along for Ethan and Leu as prisoners in these cramped quarters. Physical activity was extremely limited causing them to do a lot of reading and card playing. Checkers became interesting when they tried variations such as blindfolds or Leu's invention of feline checkers, where Thomasina was involved. The food was adequate since Jeff and Doug made periodic visits to replenish supplies, always with no meaningful information. However, they were forced to heat water on the coal stove for washing clothes and bathing, always with no privacy.
After several of the slightly longer prodays being used in Zero Node, Ethan woke to find the bedroom fully illuminated with the two walls completely transparent. He saw two people standing on the walkway outside the room. Without his glasses, he could not identify them. He rose and found his glasses. Now that he could see their faces to identify these interlopers, he gasped at the sight of two strange men.