TWENTY-TWO: MAN IN A BOX
FOR AS FAR BACK as I can remember I’ve only ever had the one dream.
That is apart from the one of me fighting in jellied air. But we’ve talked about that one already. It was the other dream we didn’t talk about. Nightmare, really. And it was always the same.
Well, that ain’t quite true, there’s always a bit of difference from time to time, but there’s a definite theme going on.
I’m always bound to some sort of object, that never changes. The differences come in what I’m bound with, and what I’m bound to. I could be strapped to a chair, handcuffed to a radiator, even chained to a mountain top. Regardless, I’m stuck for good, and despite my best efforts, I can never manage to get loose.
What also doesn’t change is that sooner or later, as I’m struggling to break myself free, someone, or some thing, comes along, opens up my belly, and then casually begins to pull my insides out. I usually wake screaming at that point. Then it’s off to the kitchen for a warm glass of milk.
Eventually I’ll fall back asleep, but sometimes, like last night, it starts all over again.
Fortunately I don’t have the dream all that often.
Unfortunately, I was having the dream now.
I was strapped to a hospital bed, my arms and legs bound by thick, leather manacles. Above me are lights that burn and stab at my eyes. They blind me so that I see nothing else. That is until two figures step into the light, standing over me. They’re some sort of doctors. But like none I’ve ever seen before. They’re dressed in surgical scrubs, but over the top of them these fellas wore long, leather aprons, stained with the blood of countless patients... or victims, I suppose. I couldn’t see their faces neither due to the gas masks that covered their heads, which, in a clinical situation, could be found to be somewhat off putting.
They spoke to each other as they gazed down on me, poking at me with fingers like steel rods. I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. It was alien, like the chattering of birds mixed with the backward masking of an old record. One of them pulled a syringe of pale liquid from somewhere out of my line of sight. He attached a needle to it, screwing in on in a casual manner as the two continued to converse.
I tried to speak but nothing came out. I struggled against my bonds but it was no good. I was held fast and would have to endure whatever it was the doctors had in store for me.
Once the doctor had the needle on the syringe, he pressed the plunger and a thin jet of the pale liquid arched out to land on my chest where it popped and fizzed, eating through the gown they’d put me in.
Then the liquid came into contact with my skin.
The pain was almost unbearable and I thrashed about on the bed, straining against the straps and screaming a noiseless scream.
The two doctors began to argue at that point, and though I couldn’t understand what they said, the meaning was quite clear. The one with the needle wanted to stick me, the other—who’d produced a foot long blade with a wicked looking hook at the tip—clearly wanted me awake when he cut into me.
I continued to struggle, hoping that with enough pressure the straps would snap and I’d be free to deal with these monsters in my own way. But it was clear that my strength would give out before the straps did. Didn’t stop me from trying, however.
In the end the doc with the knife won out and he bent over me, lifting the gown to expose the skin of my belly. He sliced into me and I found that I couldn’t move, I was frozen in place as the doctor made his incision.
To make matters worse, a surgical mirror appeared above me so that I could see every little thing that they did. I tried to close my eyes, but they wouldn’t respond. So I had to watch it all.
The incision reached from one hip, curved up to sail just under my belly button, then ended at my other hip. The other doctor dropped the needle and reached into the incision, using both hands to grab onto, and then pull out what I preferred to keep inside me. There was no medical reason for what the doctor was doing, he just simply reached in and came out with my guts, holding him out to his partner who used the knife to separate them from my body and then place them on a little tray next to me.
Satisfied that they’d gotten what they needed the doc with the knife placed the blade on the tray next to my innards. He reached up and lifted the gas mask away from his face. What was underneath wasn’t at all human.
His face was that of a vulture, its red eyes staring into me.
I woke with a start and rolled off the bunk, my breath whooshing out of me as I hit the cold, painted concrete floor. I lay there and let my breathing relax before grasping hold of the bars of the cell to pull myself to my feet.
The cell they’d put me in shared a large room with five others that were identical to mine. Apart from the stainless steel toilet and the dull gray blankets that sat rumpled on the cot, everything in the big room was white. White floors, white ceiling, even the bared walls of the cages were white. It was like waking up in a dang mayonnaise jar.
I quickly scanned the other five cages and found that I was the only occupant. The cells ran the length of the room, three on one side and three on the other, with a walkway set between. The walkway was wide enough that two average sized people could walk along between the cells without worry of an inmate being able to reach out and take hold of them.
At one end of the two rows of cells, the end furthest from me, was a door that lead to a guard station, beyond which were stairs. At my end of the room was another door. I had no idea where that led.
The back wall of each cell was concrete and painted white, leaving the other three walls made up of bars.
We were underground and there were no windows to the outside world. They’d confiscated my pocket watch when I was brought in, so I had no idea how long I’d been out, though I’d guess I’d been sleeping for a few hours based on my physical state. Every injury I’d suffered before I’d been locked up were now fully healed and despite the nightmare, I felt refreshed and whole.
I leaned against the bars and rubbed my eyes, clearing the sleep so that I could make out the clock at the end of the hall. It was coming up on One. But whether it was One in the afternoon or One in the morning, I hadn’t the slightest.
“Hello?” I called out. “Anyone out there?”
There was no answer.
Six cameras, also in white, hung from the ceiling and looked into the cells, one per cage. I looked up at mine and waved, not knowing if anyone was watching.
There was nothing more to do at that point than wait. I turned my back on the camera and eye-balled the toilet. The sight of the thing sticking out from the back wall stirred something in my bladder and I sighed. I’m not one to make water in front of an audience, but I was alone among the holding cells, so I did my business. There was no sink in the cell so my hands remained unwashed.
A buzzer sounded and the door at the far end of the room swung open. Eudora Police Chief Patricia McCrea strode in, a smile on her face.
“Morning,” she said as she approached my cell.
“Morning?” I said.
“It’s One in the AM, you’ve been asleep nearly ten hours. Open six,” she called out.
Another buzzer sounded and the door to my cell clanked and then swung open about two inches. Pat pulled it open the rest of the way.
“You fell asleep almost immediately,” she said.
“You couldn’t let me finish out the night?”
“Well, you don’t look like you need it, and I need you more. Besides, you’re technically free to go.”
“Abner’s not pressing charges then?”
“Nope,” she said. “Didn’t think he would.”
“So I can go?” I said.
“Of course,” she said “But...”
“Well,” she looked back at the exit, stepped closer to me, and spoke so that no one in the room beyond might hear. “One of my officers brought in a guy about twenty minutes ago, and frankly, I’m not sure what to do with him.”
She paused, throwing another glance back at the door.
“Well, I was hoping you might want to come have a look at him.”
“Why would I want to look at him?”
“Because you deal with all this weird crap.”
“He says his fiancé was abducted earlier tonight.”
“Another one? Sweet Mary Jane Parker, Pat. What’s happening to our town?”
“Yeah, well, we may have a lead this time. If you want to call it that.”
“That’s good,” I said.
“Maybe,” she said. “This guy says she was taken by aliens.”
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