r e t u r n

a sharp hiss, something pops behind my eyes flashbang searing white heat smoke

where

 

 

 

 

 

am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the chamber. I’m in the chamber.

 

“Jesus FUCK!”

 

 

 

I’ve got about sixty seconds before this thing goes earthquake mode and I come out

 

 

 

somewhere.

 

 

My only hope is that I’m somewhere, anywhere, that you are, too.

Amara.

I’m almost there, baby.

 

My hands go to work on the straps, adjusting the loops for my arms, then I’m sitting. My feet are locked in. Left wrist, secure. Slide in the right, lean.

L E A N

 

Fuck. This was easier at home.

 

So my right wrist isn’t completely secured. What’s the worst that could happen?

 

My eyes are flooded with stop-motion frames: man being ripped apart. Man in pieces. Walls covered in blood. Chunks. of. Parts. of. Hair. of. Teeth. Of. Gnashing.

of me.

Fuck. I try again. My teeth catch the strap and I jerk my neck back hard.

 

Success!

 

The chamber is silent. As in, completely.

No noise. Anechoic.

 

 

 

 

n    o    t    h    i    n     g

 

 

 

Sweat rolling down my forehead is what I’m feeling. My heart racing. Bump-bump-bump in my ears.

 

Baby. Please. If you can hear me, hold on.

 

If this is the last time I die, will I know?

If it was permanent, would I remember

 

you?

life?

anything?

 

 

My jaw clicks. Teeth grinding. Any second.

Any second I’m going to fffffffffff e e l

 

 

 

I feel

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

feel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

s
t

r

 

 

e

 

 

 

t

 

 
c

 

 

 

 

h

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

e

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

d

 

 

 

 

 

 

a

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h

h    h
h

h h h h h h h h h

thinkthinkthink

Our car is a little red Audi we got off a Craigslist ad. It’s a piece of shit, but it gets us from A to B.

I’m tearing through lights downtown when Soliman finally picks up.

 


 

“Mason. I told you to get some rest. This is highly—”

“Doc, listen. I have to go back. I have to use the chamber. Listen to me please don’t hang up.”

“Mason, I don’t think—”

“Just listen, alright? Weird shit is happening. I keep having these—these dreams—everything is so vivid. It’s like I’m there, ya know? And Amara is always a step ahead of me. I think I know a way in. Into her reality. Are you still there?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Doc?”

“Yes, Mason. I’m here. Why don’t you come see me at home?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Mason?”

“At your home?”

“Yes. I’m here now.”

“But—”

“Mason, today is Saturday. The lab is closed. If you want to use the chamber again, we’ll have to wait until Monday. Otherwise, if you still want to talk, you can come to my house, and we’ll talk. Talk Mason. I’m not promising anything.”

“Look, I don’t think you’re hearing me. I just got this weird fucking call and—”

“Mason, if you want to tell me about your day, you can do it on Monday. I don’t have time for this. Come to my house and talk, or I’ll see you when I get back to the office. Ok?”

 

 

 

 

[*click*]

 

 

 

 

Fucking prick.

Who does he think he is?

 

 

I have every right. EVERY RIGHT to be there. Six months now. Six months I’ve been waking up, shaving my body until my skin is raw. Six months I’ve been driving this piece of shit across town, out into the fucking mountains. Middle of goddamn nowhere. Six months of sitting in traffic, listening to thugs bumping rap music, kids crying, yuppies honking. I’ve fucking had it.

 

 

I need to get into that chamber.

But how?

 

 

Soliman said the lab is closed on the weekends. But the techs go in on Saturday nights to prep the Monday samples. Gordon told me about that once. He said he spent the whole night Saturday and most of the morning Sunday prepping the IVs for chamber observations…

 

I know the startup procedures by heart.

 

Six months of the same tests, the same protocols, day in and day out.

 

Clockwork.

 

If I can get in there tonight when the techs open the place up, I could sneak into the observatory and

 

 

 

thinkthinkthink