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The Retreat

A Short Story by Christopher Johnson

Copyright © 1995-2020 Christopher Johnson/SPEKTRUM Creations/spkml.com

Chapter 1

“Demons and Vampires”

          Mike O’Donnell awoke, frantic, sweaty, and misplaced.  It took him a moment before he realized where he was.  His eyes looked over his room.  The blue and silver lava lamp, in the corner, glowed under the blacklight.  The last year had made him accustomed to this scenario.  He rolled his eyes as he shook, afraid that he might never get a good night’s sleep again.

        An hour and fourty-five minutes was all the sleep he got this time.  His nightmares had grown steadily worse, waking him several times throughout the night.  He had fallen off the wagon, over the last couple months and was in a stagnant rut in his life..  He wasn’t aware of things like he used to be.  Yes, he had problems, and he dealt with them proudly.  He wasn’t humble.

        “Damnit!” he blurted out.  He wasn’t pristine either.  How was he, an award winning, best-selling novelist, going to finish his latest novel with all of this on his mind?  

        He knew what was causing the nightmares, but just couldn’t let go.  It was a re-occurring dream.  He was alone, successful, but alone.  He was sailing in the ocean on a ninety-foot yacht.  He would walk the deck, pacing, stopping, and again.  Every once in a while, he would jot down notes pertaining to his latest story about a teenage boy falling in love with a girl who goes to his high school.  He could feel the yearning. Nay, the craving and the emptiness to the point of physically manifested pain. It felt the same as the cravings that, as he understood, heroin addicts feel.  It was a longing straight from the center of the chest: somewhere in there; not from the heart or the lungs, just somewhere in there.  Inexplicable.

        A sinking feeling got to him.  He hears plane engines in stereo: one from the east and another from the west.  They both approach a cotton-ball, white cloud that separates the two.  It’s obvious that they can’t see each other.  Their courses are head-on.  It’s a matter of time, and Mike can’t do anything to stop it.   He pulls out a telescope and sees the plane coming from the east before it heads into the cloud.  He focuses on a passenger’s window.  He sees his parents.  They disappear into the clouds.

        Moments pass, that seems like hours. This part lingers on and on.  Each moment adds tons of pressure to tip the scale that holds in the balance, Mike’s heart.

        Lightning flashes from the cloud that turned an evil charcoal gray.  Fire pours out the top and sides as the heavens start to rain the ignited flesh and debris into the sea.  Sometimes the debris would come down on the yacht and it would start to sink.  Mike was at a point now where he was drowning before waking up.

        Mike opened his nightstand drawer and pulled out an old newspaper.  It had been six months since he had lost his parents.  The headline read:

MID-AIR COLLISION CLAIMS 902

        He continued to read the article.

       Two 747 passenger planes collided over the Atlantic Ocean, twenty-seven miles east off Long Island, New York, on Wednesday.

       He glanced further down the article.

      Among the dead were movie moguls, Joseph and Kimberly O’Donnell, the producer/director team that was finalizing the realistic story of Beatles for the big screen.  The film is slated for release this fall.

        He returned the reminder to its place by his bedside.

        He was in California when it happened, at a book signing.  It was part of the promotion of his second book, “If Speed Killed Lingo…”.  His friend Jesse just started living with him and June.  He released at number three on the best-seller’s list.

        He was into numerology at the time and three was considered a lucky number to him so, he shrugged it off as beginner’s luck.  He thought that he’d have to work harder on the second book than he did on his first but he wrote the entire book in three sittings.  Of course, the time he sat writing each time lasted days.

        He wrote about one hundred-fifty pages during the first sitting.  That lasted about three days.  He was wired and barely ate.  He slept one day, around twenty hours and then got up for the second round.  This time he wrote for four days, and it worked, at the very least, just to keep him going.  After one more day of sleep, he added another sixty pages.  At this sitting he wrote while basically hallucinating.  It was good stuff.  He didn’t know what his name was but he was his story.  He wrote for about eighteen hours and had to go to sleep when he wound down.  He ended it very abruptly.  There was more that he thought he should have resolved but it worked, so he stopped.

        He looked at the clock on the nightstand.  It was almost half-past four.

        He got up and walked into his bathroom.  He put on his Betty Boop boxer shorts.  He usually slept naked because he felt restricted by clothing.  That made him tense, when he felt bound, so he couldn’t sleep.  Now it was the nightmares binding him like shackles.

        He was pretty much used to this routine.  He walked into the kitchen and opened the cupboard above the sink.  He pulled out a large tumbler.  He set down the glass and rubbed his eyes.  He filled the glass with bourbon from an unlabeled designer bottle that was part of a set that his ex-wife gave him.

        It was the same dream he’d been having since he heard the news about his parent’s crash.

        The kitchen was small and he hated it.  He missed his house in the Pacific Palisades.  It was huge.  The kitchen had industrial equipment, in order to throw big parties.  The parties are what cost him that house.  No, that’s not true.  His parties are what cost him that house.   June Roberts, his ex, wasn’t into it, at all.  She didn’t like the raucous bunch that Mike attracted, and Jesse living there didn’t help any. She never understood why he needed to squander all that money for so many useless gatherings.  Mike ended up losing the house to her but at least he didn’t have to pay alimony.

        Mike opened the cheap Amana freezer and tossed a few ice cubes into the glass.  After closing the door he walked into his living room.  The ocean pounded the shore on the other side of the sliding-glass door.  Mike turned on his computer in the corner where his ‘office’ was.  He waited for a second.

        “It’s too fuckin’ quiet.  I gotta hear some music.”   He reached over to the tower, which held his collection of CDs.  It would look like he owned two hundred copies of the Beatles “White Album”, but each disc was placed in the plain cases to reduce visual stress.  This had resulted from a previous depression and considering the condition he was in right now, he wondered about the quality of that over-priced, time-consuming therapy.  The only thing that he was convinced of was that he needed some smoke and he needed it now.

        He opened the carved wooden box that sat in the middle of the coffee table.  There were several pre-rolled joints in one compartment, about seven or more grams in another compartment and various items such as papers, roach clips and a pipe in the remaining compartment.  He took out a joint and lit it.  He glanced at his two published works sitting on the coffee table: “If Speed Killed Lingo” and “Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘N’ Roll, & Her Heart”, his first book.  It appeared at number fourteen upon its release.  It was the story of a musician that meets, and has an affair with a mysterious woman.  She takes him out of his element and his obligations and responsibilities don’t allow him to be as transient as she is.

        Mike walked over to the sliding-glass door and opened it.  As he toked, he moved back over to the collection of music.  He browsed the titles and selected an album from the Doors.  He took another hit as he put the disc into the CD drive of his computer.  He pressed play and then he walked out to the balcony.  The crooning of Morrison, to “Riders on the Storm”, came from the living room softly as Mike chased a hit with a suck of bourbon.  A seagull flew over-head and Mike coughed, not being able to hold the hit any longer.

        Mike sang along, “Girl, you gotta love your man…”

        He started thinking about June again.  Why couldn’t she have understood these words.  Why couldn’t she have been like Pam was to Jim.  Mike once attended a past-life regression therapy group and came to believe that he was Jim Morrison reincarnated and that June was Pam.  June hadn’t put up with anything like Pam had.  Still, June wasn’t into anything but had smoked a little pot with him once.  It was only because he hot-boxed their living room with a pound of weed in the fireplace one New Year’s Eve.  On one rare occasion, he convinced her to take a single hit of acid.  She acted like she was drunk.  She laughed and laughed and laughed about the stupidest stuff.  That was the night that she watched Oliver Stone’s “The Doors” with him.  She never drank, even that night.   She did reorganize her sock drawer six times though.

        “Fuck her” he mumbled as he walked inside.  He took another huge hit and retrieved the roach clips from his box.  His routine had pretty much stayed consistent.  He’d wake up at about four in the morning and smoke up until he was baked.  He’d write for a little while if anything came to him and then sometime around eight or nine he’d go to his favorite diner and eat a meal while drinking about four pots of coffee and smoking an entire pack of cigarettes.  He wrote on his laptop while he did this.

He tossed and turned in the late morning and ended up only getting about four hours of sleep over a seven hour period before taking 2-3 hours to fully wake up by six or seven o’clock at night.  If he was manic, whatever he did in the afternoon was usually over by five or six and then he’d retreat to his Santa Monica ‘bungalow’, as he like to call it.  It was his favorite word from ‘LA Woman’, even though his abode wasn’t really in Hollywood.  When he arrived home, he would break open a bottle of bourbon, smoke more pot, and fart around with his guitar while watching television.  Mike liked to chase his bourbon with beer, and he normally went through a twelve-pack each night.  He had a few friends that would stop by and party with him occasionally.  He never had any problem throwing them out when he was ready to crash.

        Surprisingly, he slept normally, except for the nightmares.  He maintained this schedule of sleeping from ten-ish to four-ish.  Weekends changed very little for him.  He avoided the local nightclubs.

        He sat back down at his workstation and opened the file of his latest work.  He ignored the signal coming from his email inbox, and then, knowing what it held, opened the email..  

He read:

Mike:   Your deadline is approaching.  Where’s the preview?  Please attend a meeting with us on Friday to discuss your progress on this matter.

                                                                    @ 1:30 p.m. Room 212

                                                                    George Miles II

        Today was Friday and he had no story, nothing on file.  Nothing new at least.  He clicked on the MS Word icon on the Windows program taskbar and opened a file titled “DayzOff.doc”.  A single paragraph sat on the screen.  He read the words, highlighting as he did so.

       Days come and go and night drifts in and out.  To explain why dusk has dawn and vise versa is redundant.  Vampires sleep, dead to the day, as the mortals quench their desires.  Once you didn’t, but now you do.  Like a deja vu, the recycling of the past becomes new to you.  Alone at last with your desire, you spend your days off.

        “What now?” Mike spoke aloud.  Where had he been going with this?  What story did he have?  His thoughts strayed to a riff he’d been working on the night before.  Then he looked back at the highlighted selection and hit the ‘delete’ button.

        “I don’t even know what I’m writing, anymore.” he sneered cynically.  His negativity was consuming him.

        His train of thought used to run really well.  He would come up with a story and develop it over a week or so, and commence with the writing of it within a month.  His train of thought would take over.  But, where was it now?

        Mike was only asking questions.  He used to be definitive.  The type of guy that you could ask something of and even if he didn’t know the answer he’d give the most logical solution that he could think of.  Now, he was insecure and unsure of himself.  He was completely lacking in logical thought.  He couldn’t see a solution to his writing problems, nor to the real problem that was causing it.  He knew what it was, but he didn’t want to believe it was the true answer.  It was what he was used to.  That was his comfort zone, no matter how discomforting it really was to him.

        When he did write, he felt it wasn’t great at all.  And, it wasn’t.  All he was doing was revising poorly thought out ideas.  Something had to change so that it made sense to him as well as to the reader.  How could he begin?

        Maybe some different music would help his creative juices flow better.  He enjoyed the Doors’ music.  But, the drug-induced sputtering of Morrison, no matter how ingenious, just wasn’t doing it for him.  He enjoyed writing in silence also but, right now he needed some activity.  Whatever it was, it couldn’t have lyrics.  They only distracted him.  He wasn’t looking to be entertained or to internalize any deep thought provoking lyrics.  He needed something instrumental; inspiration from a motivated piece of work.  Something with a theme that could ignite the fire inside of him.  Maybe a movie score or a symphonic piece would fuel his creativity.  Perhaps that would give him the stimulation that he needed.

        He looked through his compact discs.  Who should be the source of invigoration.  Gary Hoey, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani; No, they were all too electric.  Maybe some Kenny G would do it?  Hell no.  That was way too mellow.  Beethoven, Mozart…  That’s it!

        He selected a disc of Mozart’s that had “Concerto 20 in D minor” on it.  He put the disc in the player of his workstation and drank the glass of bourbon to half-way down.  The old psychological question of half-full or half-empty came to mind.  ‘Who gives a fuck if it’s half-full or half-empty?’  His ugly cynicism showed in the sneer that crossed his face.

        The sounds of the concerto came from the speakers and he gets lost for a moment.  He always loved Mozart.  Mike held the belief that Mozart was the first rock ‘n roll artist.  He was defiant and inventive, not to mention egotistical.

        Mike thought about the deleted portion: Vampire.  That on word stuck in his mind.  It was a word that evoked thoughts of magical beauty and unscrupulous power.  What could he do with such a thought.

        Bats started flying across the monitor as the screen saver.  His thoughts pondered the loneliness that a creature of the night must feel.  Depleting the lives of his victims in order to maintain his own immortal life as one of the un-dead.  Or how a bat darts and sneaks and hides out.

        Mike felt like a vampire in so many ways.  The parallel of sucking the life out of the women he’d fucked, screwing them over the way he did.  His conscience was nagging at him suddenly.  He slammed the feelings down into the far recesses of his soul by downing the remaining half-glass of bourbon.  Nothing remained, except for a few bourbon covered ice cubes.

        “Shit!” he mumbled as he dragged the mouse up to undo the deletion.  Maybe he could use this as a springboard to a good story.  Right now though, he wasn’t capable of putting anything down.  There was something, or rather nothing, inside him at this moment.  He couldn’t put his finger on the nagging feeling that welled up inside.  

        Mike got up out of his chair and walked over to the island in the kitchen.  He poured some more bourbon from the bottle, and this time carried the bottle with him into the living room.  He took another pre-rolled joint from the carved box and walked back out onto the balcony.  He set his drink on the wide wooden railing and lit the joint.  It had become rather calm outside, yet he was still having a difficult time lighting the number.  The end of the joint wasn’t very packed and he burnt off almost an inch of it in the first hit.  What a waste.

        The sun had started to light the sky.  It was cool out, not cold or hot, just cool.  A sudden breeze teased Mike’s hair.  A plane flew silently in the distance.  All he could see were the red and blue lights and then a flash the sun reflecting off of the wing.  He thought of its destination.  He thought about the last plane trip that he’d taken.

        About two months after June left him, he went to Las Vegas.  There he was basking in the town that never sleeps.  He played craps, blackjack and poker mainly.  He loved the roulette tables but he never did very well at them.

        Mike sat on the chair on the balcony and then it hit him.  The story he’d been looking for.  It was perfect.  He took another hit, grabbed his drink and practically ran inside.

        He looked at the monitor.  The portion of text was still highlighted.  He read it again.

        Days come and go and night drifts in and out.  To explain why dusk has dawn and vise versa is redundant.  Vampires sleep, dead to the day, as the mortals quench their desires.  Once you didn’t, but now you do.  Like a deja vu, the recycling of the past becomes new to you.  Alone at last with your desire, you spend your days off.

        “That is an award winning intro.”  Mike smiled for the first time in days.

_____________________________

Mike walked into the diner that he’d enjoyed for weeks now.  He knew he’d have to face therapy with some rich asshole who he was convinced wouldn’t give a flying fuck about whether he recuperated or not.  He awarded Steve and George the clout to repair his tattered ego.  Why did it seem that his life was suddenly emerging in his writing as never before.  It was as if the fiction that he’d been writing about all this time was now manifesting itself in his life.

This wouldn’t be that bad except, the craziest part of this reality was that it was as if his life were a car going seventy in a thirty-five and his super-fiction manifestation was doing a hundred in the passing lane.  He felt he was obliged to feel a bit of stress over this.  

When June left him he never thought that she’d leave him for good.  Now, after this exquisite woman left his world, he was unsure if he’d ever find another woman to replace this one.  Was this what he’d talk about in therapy?  Would he have to share this shit with a group or would it be one on one?

____________________________________

Mike walked through the California breezes under the noon Sun which was beating down on him in direct proportion to the winds cooling him off that it kept him from sweating too bad.  He approached the doors of the building of his publisher and went inside.  

After the twelve-floor elevator ride, Mike stepped into George Miles’ office.  George may have been George Miles II to others but to Mike he was just George or Junior but he rarely called him that.

Mike approached the receptionist who invited, “Mike?”

“Yes.”

“Mr. Miles will be with you in a moment.  I’ll let him know you’re here.”  

Mike turned to sit on one of the leather chairs that decorated the waiting area of the office.  Before Mike could sit though, he heard a gruff voice call from across the office, “Mike, come talk to me.”

Mike looked up to see George standing in his office door which was now open.  Mike walked over oddly quiet as if in trouble without the usual cheerful greeting one might expect.  It wasn’t until Mike was in the office and George went to close the door that Mike opened with, “So, George, how have you been?”

“Good.”  He paused.  “However…” He rubbed his throat and neck as he paused again, “We’re here to talk about you today.  How are you doing?”

“Fine the book is coming along at a slower pace than I thought.”

“Well”, George turned, looking out the window of his office, “I might have a way that you can put your book on hold for a bit.  I don’t know if you’re mind is settled enough to handle what I’m about to propose though.”  George chuckles.  “Listen to me.  You don’t know what I’m talking about yet.  Nor should you.”

Mike was a little confused, “What are you talking about.  My head is straight.  I’m just still distressed about losing my parents.”

“Yes, your parents.  That’s where I should start with this.”

“With what?  I’m not really interested in group therapy, if that’s what this is about.”

“Therapy, no.  You’ve been invited to go on The Retreat.  Now I’ve been asked to invite you because I’ve been on The Retreat.  Your parents were early passengers on The Retreat.”

Mike had to think for a second before he could respond.  What did George mean by ‘passengers on The Retreat’.  “What is The Retreat?  Some kind of ship ?”

“The Retreat really has to be experienced to be understood.  Your experience will be individual to yourself and to the group you attend with.  No two excursions are the same.”

“I’m confused.”

“I’ll bet.  So was I.”  George turns around his chair and gets up, walking along his windows looking out over the city.  “In 1947 the first excursion took place as a government black-op under DARPA, the Air Force and the Navy.  There were no civilians on that voyage and it wasn’t until 1961 that civilians first took part in the project.”

“I’m still confused”

“Buckle in, ‘cause it’s nothing but a confusion filled chaotic mess that you’re in for.  But it’s worth it.

“Okay now, stop it.  Tell me what this retreat is all about and why am I being invited?  What if I just say no thanks.”

George smiled and snickered with a nasal chuckle.  “You don’t want to pass on this.  The project is time travel.”

Mike sat there for a few moments and then blurted out, “Bullshit!  Is this all you called me down here for?  Are you trying to make a point about my writing, that I should be further along or more creative?  Because honestly, I could write some crazy stuff if you want but I’d prefer not to have my name attached to some of the more sick stuff I’ve come up with.  I don’t think people would forgive me for writing about, well nevermind.

“You’re right but, no, I’m serious.”

“Well, I’m serious too.  I have a story that’s brewing about a vampire in vegas.”

“Interesting but…” George was in need of pause for a second but then reassured Mike, “You see, the reason I’m suspending your deadline is that after The Retreat, you may have a lot of new ideas that you might want to write about instead.  This is no joke.  The Retreat is for the elite, for people who can make a difference and to that end the saying goes ‘of those whom are given great responsibility, great responsibility is expected’.  Or something like that, right?”

“I suppose but, why invite civilians into a black-op?”

“Well, I can’t answer that but the annual excursion of The Retreat is a trip you should take.  They’re going to put you through some trials and tests to see if you can handle it all but if you pass you’ll get a bed.

“A bed?  I don’t get a room?”

“Ha ha ha…  You’re gonna dig this trip.”

Mike was unsure what the next step was but said aloud, “Sure, why not.  It sounds interesting.  By the way, you should see a psychiatrist about those delusions.”

It was right about that time that Mike saw the shadow, felt the sting and watched everything turn white.

“Mike is awake.” That was the first thing Mike actually remembered after regaining conciousness.  “Turn your head and cough.”  He did what he was told and was told to put on a set of clothes provided by the facility that was very hospital like.  For all he knew it was a military hospital but he couldn’t be sure of his current location, having been abducted in the fashion that he was.

He looked down at his skin and the hairs on his arm seemed to stand up and do a little dance, like a rippling of the hair and his complexion on his arm appeared to be very orange or wait, blue?  He couldn’t tell.  That’s when he realized they might have dosed him with some kind of drug that might be causing hallucinations.

No sooner had the thought been completed than the doctor, sitting in the room with Mike, spoke up to inform him, “We’ve given you a drug that will cause you some confusion and possibly will be accompanied by hallucinations and delusions.  This is being done because you will be taking this drug during The Retreat as the effects during time-travel will allow the drug to act in a manner that will give you greater focus and help you cope, allowing you to keep a conscious connection to what would otherwise cause serious psychosis through the overloading of the senses during the passage of time travel.  This drug helps you to process the sensations without overwhelming you so we must make sure you have no other adverse side-effects with the drug.  

“Also during this time you will be kept in an isolation chamber where your heart will be stopped and kept alive through an electromagnetic static chamber which will provide you with all the electrical energy needed to keep your body alive.  The body will be hydrated through the precise moisture level in the air, and the drug helps keep the body from evacuating or even using caloric energy, which aids in creating a time-deprevation chamber that can keep you from hours to weeks so we can study how you respond being disconnected from any indication of time.  

Mike was curious enough to ask, “Why is that?”

“When you travel through time, you do not sense the passage.  The sensation is that of time-deprivation but in such a way as to make it feel like you are only experiencing entire sequences of time as a mere moment so we must make sure that you don’t suffer from any severe disorientation sickness or something like that.

“Or something like that?

“Well there’s more to it but I can’t waste my breath telling you about it.  You have to experience it yourself.

“That’s what I hear.”

Mike was led down a series of corridors to a room that looked like a triage unit.  He was given a hospital-style gown to go over the one that he was wearing and was led to a bed in a smaller room where he laid down.  After he was hooked up to the monitors to take his vitals, he was asked a long series of questions from i.q. tests, personality tests and a bunch of other mental tests.

“Why are you asking me all these questions from another room?” Mike finally asked?

“Nevermind. It would take too long to explain and we have a schedule.  Relax and please refrain from your questions.”

The purpose was mainly to keep an atmosphere of isolation and to set a mindset of physical testing.  The questions were designed to prepare the individual, in this case Mike, for the journey by bringing relevant knowledge to the forefront of his mind.

“Explain your understanding of history.

“I’m not sure I understand.”  Mike was confused.  Did they mean the known historical time-line or perhaps they wanted him to explain the relation of time to history…

“Explain your understanding of history.”  He was asked once again.

“Alright, well.  History seems to be subjective stories of events that happen over time, told and are retold and passed down by the those in charge of media to either control populations or to aid in helping people learn from their mistakes or both.  I tend to think that the more we know about history, the more we can discern what most likely actually happened since it seems that history is told by the winners of wars, or so I’ve been told.”

“Explain your understanding of electomagnatism.”

“Electromagnetism?  It’s one of the four known forces in physics, though based on my understanding, gravity is not gravity, although the math seems to work in practice.  I believe gravity is better described by electromagnetism and fluid dynamics, coupled with the strong and weak nuclear forces, which again are mathematically close enough to work.  I see the universe as simply waves and ripples of electromagnetic interactions, flux fields and basically little more than physics to run the entire foundation of all that is real.

“Explain your understanding of physics.”

“I think I explained this already.” Mike offered.

“Explain your understanding of physics.”

“Alright, physics is what allows us to quantify reality into understandable fragments of interaction between such fragments in order to grasp the eternal structure of the universe.”

“Explain your understanding of life and death.”

“It seems to me that if neither energy nor matter can be created nor destroyed, then life as popularly defined by Westerners is wrong.  Death is only a point of transformation.  It seems all the other systems in the body support the most important one, the nervous system.  So, if the electrical energy that ceases in the brain can’t just die, it has to dissipate into the ether, or the space around the body.”

“Good.  Are you ready to die?”

Mike was completely in the frame of mind that they needed him since they were about to stop his heart.  They gave him an anti-coagulant and a concoction of chemicals that would keep his flesh and bloodstream in a preserved state so as not to decay with the lack of blood-flow.

Down another set of corridors to the end of a hall, Mike was pushed on a gurney to a room where he was left alone.  When they left the room, they closed the curtain and the glass door behind it.  The urge to get up and look around was first on Mike’s mind.

“Do not get up.  Do not get off the gurney.  Your heart will be stopped now and if you get off the gurney you will die.”

“Is this safe?”

“As long as you stay on the gurney.”

“Okay.  I’m ready.”

“Again.  This is the time deprivation chamber and your heart will be stopped.  We are monitoring you and will continue to.  Stay on the gurney and be patient.  

Mike responded, “Alright, kill me.”

With that, there was a surge in the air and that’s when he noticed the rails on the wall were electromagnetic generators and he could hear them hum as the electricity from them joined with the electrostatic charge in the precisely controlled air chamber, designed with gas and humidity controls to maintain his electrical neural impulses through the atmosphere in the room with the gurney keeping him grounded, thus keeping his system functional even though his heart was stopped.  In  all actuality, his heart was only slowed to one beat a minute.

Mike really struggled with the isolation aspect of the time deprivation trial.  He could feel his chest seemed to hurt since his heart was basically stopped.  He eventually began to entertain himself by singing some Clapton and humming some Mozart.  For a while he meditated.  He couldn’t sleep for some reason.  Although it was very much like a lucid dream-state, his eyes were wide open.

He felt imprisoned at one point and then like he was six and grounded.  He was patient though but didn’t suffer too harshly, still holding his faculties in check…  for ten days.

As soon as his heart was restarted and his vitals returned to normal, Mike had to piss something fierce.  He had drank the entire cup of water they brought him, which he used to chase the anti-bacterial concoction they gave him.  It was meant to aid in making sure his bodily functions didn’t suffer from to much in the way of harmful effects of any toxins in the body.  It was all so scientific past the understanding of the  time’s understanding by the civilian poplulous.

Mike was led into another area that was sealed.  There was a hallway with stations at either end, like nurses stations, rooms lining the opposite wall and in the middle was a separate viewing room.  There were bathrooms at one end of the hallway and a lounge with a dining area and small kitchen at the other end.

He was led to his bed and told that he could lie down after a brief conference with one of the staff members, whose function he wasn’t sure of.  He was led into the office and was joined by another woman who seemed like a psychiatrist.

He was asked a few questions that he couldn’t articulate back if asked but it was due to being sleep deprived.  The questions were designed to make sure that he was not suffering too much from the sleep deprivation, like seeing or hearing things.  It would be normal to have some hallucinations but its the extremes they were looking for, just to make sure he wasn’t suffering from any psychosis.  He wasn’t, they determined and he was led to the main counter of the sealed viewing area where he was checked in and where they took his vitals one more time.  He was then given some unknown pill and was told he could sleep now.

He walked down the corridor in a daze.  They reminded him, “You’re in room 4.”

“I know.  Just checking things out.”  He walked around and sat in the lounge for a couple minutes when he felt the pill taking effect, urging him to find his bed soon.

He found it without incident between two other men, one of which was snoring.  It didn’t bother Mike even though it normally would.  He was beyond exhausted.   He noticed what looked like monitors of some sort in the cieling instead of tiles and it had some wierd yellow writing…  He slept well.

The moment came when Mike opened his eyes.  He was surprised to find they were serving breakfast even.  He felt refreshed which had recently been an unheard of thing.  He noted that he didn’t have any nightmares and he was wide awake.

He found a seat in the dining area at a table next to some of the other people.  Some of them looked like military people just by the way they held themselves.  Mike noticed that there was a sign on the wall that stated clearly:

Shhh…

Do not speak to other guests.

Speak only when spoken to by staff.

Mike smiled and looked at one of the other ‘guests’ that seemed to be military and was shut down by a shake of the head and a grunt as if to say, “Tourist”.

He took the cover off of the plate and found scrambled eggs, ham, mixed fruit and a muffin.  He ate quickly, noticing the more military-esque types doing so and felt he should follow suit.

In the course of this trial, Mike would separate himself from the group, which was the goal; to experience the journey as an individual.

Mike was the last one left eating.  He didn’t rush himself at that point.  So far as he knew, there was no time-table that he must follow.  He figured he’d t