Down Time

Solitary confinement is lame. This is day six. Or maybe seven. I can’t remember what day I’m on and I’ve only been held in this goddamn place for about a week.

This room is a prison cell. I have four walls of green steel. It smells like old paint and salt air. There’s a door that opens into a really, really tiny bathroom where there’s a shower, a sink, a toilet and a mirror. Above the sink is a shelf. The shelf is boring. I don’t look at it much. Sometimes I sit on the toilet for no reason. I stood fully clothed in the shower once. Stupid.

The mirror. Ugh. The mirror is a problem. I look into the mirror and I see only myself. I talk into the mirror and I hear only myself. I’m not good company. I’ve already heard all my own jokes.

So… the following is a complete inventory of my personal effects and surroundings: two twin beds, a large desk, paper lamp, one set of clothes (soiled), another set of clothes (not so soiled, wet), slippers, plastic wrapper from slippers, a razor, a small sliver of pink soap, several hotel-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shaving cream. A couple of days ago, I tasted the shaving cream. Don’t try this at home.

For as sparse as the accommodations may be in this little room, I can only imagine what the Japanese holding cells will be like after we dock at Tokyo.

I have nothing here in the way of entertainment. There’s no TV, no radio, no books. Not even a plastic Buddha. The only thing to read is the 2010 calendar taped to the wall. It’s in Japanese. A few days are marked, probably holidays. May 3rd, 4th, and 5th looked like something to celebrate. I should remember to ask about that next year.

The artwork for the month of May is a derelict whaling ship beached on an icy shore. I’ve logged countless hours staring at this rusted old ship in the photo. The ship appears ancient. Maybe built in the Twenties or Thirties. I don’t know. Whatever. It’s old. Only the starboard side is visible. The ship is locked in on the top and port side by a huge snow avalanche that has cascaded into the water from above. The stern is almost completely submerged. The bow sticks up at a thirty-five degree angle. It’s rusted and abandoned and solitary.

They come with food and tea and nothing else. I don’t recognize the attending guard and he’s evidently been instructed not to speak to me. He’s courteous but stoic. He brings me food. I should be happy for that, I guess.

The tea is always cold and the meals are repetitive, but good enough. Usually fish, rice, a vegetable, and some kind of pickled something-or-other that is crunchy and sour. If I were being held in an American prison I’d be eating some kind of spit and gristle loaf and washing it down with weak Kool-Aid. So, I make a point to eat everything they give me. Aside from my morning crap, meals are the most exciting part of my day.

I’d sleep but it’s not easy. It’s not quiet here. Not at all. There’s a persistent sound that permeates every nook and cranny in the room – in the whole ship. It’s a deep churning, droning, rumbling thing that comes from the diesel engines. It’s a remarkably low and mournful sound. At night I toss and turn. I hate it.

I also hear the continual sound of water breaking off the bow and rolling away from the ship. Sometimes I hear horns, beeps, blats and spoken alerts in Japanese. Occasionally, a group will pass by my room and I’ll catch part of a conversation. I don’t understand what they’re saying and they don’t know I’m actually listening. This must be what it’s like to be an infant or a house pet, surrounded by noises and talk you can’t comprehend.

Christ, where is Spegg when I desperately need a hefty dose of his quirky craziness? Can he possibly be done haunting me? I look for Spegg out the porthole and in the mirror and under the bed… but he’s never there. Not even a shadow or a whisper. No tingling. No goose bumps. No madness. I guess the Lilith has run its course. I’m clean and sober now.

I lie on one of the twin beds and stare up at the ceiling. I’ve wadded up the plastic bag that my slippers came in and I’m tossing it up at the ceiling and catching it when it falls. I spent some time calculating the object velocity and distance traveled, as well as the time taken to achieve the given velocity and distance. That was fun for a while, but oddly enough, even math can get boring.

Toss the plastic ball wad. Up to the ceiling… and back down. Up to the ceiling… and back down again. Catch and release.

I once read Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault for a requisite Philosophy course at Yale. In it, Foucault wrote that solitary confinement was a subtle but incredibly powerful controlling mechanism. In extended periods of time, the pains of solitary confinement were supposed to be more effective than those of torture or threats of execution. One week in and I absolutely believe him. The only positive aspect of solitary confinement is that it gives you time to think. If you’re an innocent prisoner, you spend a lot of time thinking about what they’re doing to you. If you’re guilty, you think about what you’ve done. I guess I have both to think about.

I spent my time wisely. I thought long and hard.

Spegg was foremost in my thoughts. I’m just an astrophysicist, goddammit. I was there in Antarctica to do a job for Michael Telders. It was Spegg who landed his fancy space pod on top of my array and came dancing out with his crazy assortment of futuristic bio-engineering toys. He lured me in, juiced me up and turned me. Sure, it was good stuff. What rational scientist would turn away from an opportunity to play with knowledge and technology from 175 years in the fucking future? Mozart would probably shit his breeches twice if he was offered the chance to dick around with a new Roland Synthesizer Keyboard.

We did some crazy shit, Spegg and I. We trashed the lab, got high on Lilith, and played around with his golden computer. Those were the halcyon days, a wonderful state of drug-induced bliss. I only remember the high-level stuff now. We made really long-distance phone calls to all his friends in outer space. We played around with DNA and hatched an LMO-seal hybrid. We let that freaky thing run wild and feed on penguins. Good times.

Things quickly got out of control in Antarctica. I can’t shuck myself of the bad feelings from playing a part in the grand scheme of things. But I can rest in the knowledge that I was not entirely myself. The whole experience had its positive and negative aspects. When I was under the Lilith, I was overjoyed with most every little aspect of life. That shit’s like a massive dose of mood elevators, tempered with a sweet opium high. You’re blissfully okay with everything going on around you. You’re incredibly suggestible. Then a living modified organism that’s half human and half fish tells you that you’re going to help it call in a small army of the same fish-type creatures from 200+ Megaparsecs out and 175 years in the future. I was so zonked out that I couldn’t rationalize any aspect of what I was doing. Just let it all happen.

The Station soon became home base for nineteen more LMOs that Spegg had called up and directed to our location. This led to a raid by Russian soldiers and a subsequent raid by American soldiers. I was locked in a cage until the American forces released me. They were suspicious, sure. But at that point, I had been drugged up and locked up. I was innocent of everything except not reporting the signal I found and the arrival of Spegg’s pod. So, I made a run for the door.

The SEALs were all over me in a heartbeat. Not a wise choice. That shit almost got me transferred into the custody of American forces on a naval super carrier called the Nimitz. Fortunately, we had to ditch the naval helicopter they were transporting me with because Russian fighter jets decided to shoot the damn thing to pieces and send it all crashing into the water below. A Navy SEAL and I fell out of the sky and parachuted into the ocean where I kinda killed him and commandeered his boat. He was going to take me back to the authorities and have me tried in a military courtroom as a traitor to the country. Ever seen someone plead their innocence to a military court? Not good. It was a tough decision but that guy had so much flak in his abdomen that I had probably helped him avoid a slow death. Still though… I wince when I think about it. Jesus, what a world of shit.

From there, my ocean journey brought me here to the Nisshin Maru. It was then that I learned that the Russians attacked the American Navy off the coast of Alexander Island and touched off one great big motherfucker of a war. It’s like a really depressing and final Tom Clancy book. Everyone dies in a great big ball of fire. The big players – the United States, Russia, England, France, Canada, and Germany – they’re all gone. You like fine food, rock music, and fast cars? Find a new hobby.

Tensions are high. Having been found in a military raft in the middle of the ocean, I stick out like a sore thumb on a three-thousand pound gorilla wearing a pink ballet tutu. Needless to say, I attracted some serious attention. I made another mistake in phoning up Michael Telders at his new station in North Korea.

Fearing that I’m some super spy turncoat traitor, good old Captain Moriyama now has me all locked up in my little green metal room. Here I am, waiting to be turned over to Japanese authorities who are anticipating our arrival in Tokyo.

I don’t know how the Japanese managed to escape thermonuclear eradication but it’s now their planet to rule. It’s a brand new world. And the rules are being re-written on an hourly basis. Thinking about it makes me anxious. I have no idea how this is going to go down. I can only anticipate the worst. Great.

There’s one card up my sleeve. Unbeknownst to the people on this ship and the authorities I’ll meet in Tokyo. I’m one of the few living people on Earth who knows just what the hell happened and what precipitated that hailstorm of fission-boosted fusion weapons that left most of the planet uninhabitable. I may be able to hold out under questioning. It’s a relief of sorts that the Lilith is apparently out of my system. I can think a little clearer now.

Nevertheless, it’s going to be really interesting to try to explain all this shit to a bunch of over-anxious Japanese officials who have no reason to believe any of it. No sir, I’m not a spy or a traitor. I’m just a lab guy who befriended an alien creature from the future. Check me out. I’m an innocent bystander in this colossal fuck-fest we call The End of Civilization. Can I go now?

Even if the Japanese believed me and decided to simply let me go… where would I go and what the hell would I do for the duration of the Apocalypse?

That tears it. I gotta get out of here any way I can. Maybe Telders will know what to do. That would be cool. What I wouldn’t give to be safely back in Antarctica working for Telders. We were working on something really great together. Opportunity of a lifetime. It was gonna be huge.

Oh, well… Toss the plastic ball wad again. Up to the ceiling… and back down. Fuck. The wadded ball bounced off my palm and popped up behind the headboard.

I rolled off the bed and was about to fish it out, when I saw a scrap of paper lying against the baseboard. I looked up at the open porthole directly above. At first, I thought that some belligerent passer-by had thrown his trash into my little cell room. As I picked it up, I realized that it was intended for me. The small note had been carefully folded into an envelope shape. I pulled at the small tab in front and stared in disbelief at the words on the paper.

‘Wayne. Do not stop believe. – Yumi’

What did she mean? Was she trying to be encouraging? Was she a Journey fan? Or did she actually have a plan? I read it again and again, trying to discern her meaning.

I reached for my wad of plastic behind the headboard and bounced it on the back of my hand. Hrm. Perhaps fortune somehow smiles upon the doomed.