With the meal out of the way, my speculative mind was brought sharply back into focus as Alistair led me back to the lab.
Waiting by the TST and the dentist’s chair for us was Paul and a very young looking woman who I guessed must be Sarah, the woman that Paul had mentioned before lunch. She appeared to be no more than maybe twenty-two, which made her seem very young in the present company. Another thing that marked her out as different from everybody else was her height. She was scarcely five and a half feet, making her the shortest person by far I had yet seen in the complex. It was not only her height that made her stand out: she also looked incredibly sexy.
Paul did the introductions and I said hello and shook her hand for the first time. Or was it? I had the strangest feeling that I had met her before, yet I really did not recognise her and certainly could not place her. She certainly did not act as though we had met before. I decided not to say anything, fearing that whatever I said would sound like a clumsy chat up line. Nevertheless, I really did have the strangest feeling about her, but could not really say why. That was the second time that something strange had happened to me today. First there was the strange shadowy figure that was, or was not, in the MDT chamber, and now Sarah. Alistair had promised on more than one occasion that my time here would be weird; however, this was starting to be an awful lot stranger than I ever could have imagined.
I followed Paul’s instructions and made myself comfortable in the chair. Alistair and Paul were both deep in conversation and carefully going over some notes as well as checking the equipment. It was Sarah that attached the various monitoring leads onto me. I thought it best not to say anything and just keep quiet; however, it was Sarah that spoke first.
‘So, looking forward to travelling through the other dimensions?’
‘I suppose so, although I’m not really sure what I’m letting myself in for.’
She flashed a provocative smile at me before saying, ‘Oh it’s going to be a wild ride Martin, a wild ride!’
‘What do you mean by that?’ I asked.
After a girlish giggle she answered, ‘There’s really nothing to worry about, but you’ll find out…believe me, when I say a wild ride!’
‘Hang on a minute Sarah; Alistair never said anything about a wild ride. I was told that nobody knows what the experience is going to be like. So what is it that you know and that I’ve not been told?’
‘It’s nothing like that Martin, nothing at all. It’s true that none of us here knows what will happen if it all works out. But if you just stand back from the whole thing and use your imagination, the possibilities are endless…hence the wild ride. Anyway, you have nothing to worry about; I will always be here to hold your hand.’ As she finished talking she patted my hand and then turned to both Alistair and Paul.
I noticed that I felt a very odd sensation that I simply could not understand whenever Sarah came close or actually touched me. It was very strange.
‘We are all ready when you are,’ she said addressing them both.
‘Good, let’s get started then,’ said Alistair. ‘Sarah, as you will be assisting Paul for the run tomorrow, why don’t you do the whole thing today with Paul just looking on, and I will catch up with you guys a little later on.’
Both Paul and Sarah agreed, and Alistair then came over to me in the chair. ‘This is all going to be a bit of fun for you, so just relax and enjoy it. I have a lot to do, so I’ll leave you in the very capable hands of Sarah and Paul, and I’ll then catch up with you tonight at 19:30 in the meeting room. We’ll then go through a few final things with Davila for tomorrow. Alright with you?’
‘Fine by me,’ I replied.
‘Good, I will collect you from your room a little before 19:30. Enjoy your new dreams - but not too much!’
We said our goodbyes and then Paul came over. ‘Sarah will do the entire procedure with you Martin. I’m going to monitor the whole process from the Central Hub. Okay with that?’
‘I’m just fine, just do whatever you do, don’t worry about me.’
He then made his way to the Central Hub, and now it was the turn of Sarah to come over. ‘This is it Martin, you’re about to take your first step before the real thing tomorrow. I know you have been told about the procedure, but before I do anything, I will quickly explain it to you again…as it’s your first time,’ she finished talking, with her silly, girlish laugh.
The more we were together, the more I was convinced that I somehow knew her – and yet deep down I was also pretty sure that we had never met. It was more than a little confusing, not to mention very surreal.
‘I’m going to give you an injection which is no more than a mild sedative. It will put you to sleep for a maximum of around fifteen minutes. In fact it will probably only put you to sleep between nine and twelve minutes, so you won’t be out for long. Once we have established that you are completely asleep, the helmet will be lowered and we can then record your dream wave patterns. This will only take around two or three minutes and we will then move onto the next phase. Using your known dream wave patterns, we will then transmit directly into your mind a short recording, which you should be able to recall with crystal clarity when you awake. The playback into your mind will last exactly one minute, although it will probably feel longer when you wake up. Any questions?’
I could not think of anything to ask at all and replied, ‘No questions Sarah.’
‘Okay, let’s do it, shall we?’
My mind had been going off in so many different directions over the course of the day that I had not really given any thought to what I was about to do. Now that Sarah had said we were about to go ahead with the procedure, all of my initial worries suddenly came flooding back. However, I knew that I had to do this and did not want to appear worried.
‘Not getting nervous, are we?’ enquired Sarah.
‘No, not at all, I’m fine.’
She smiled at me before saying, ‘You are forgetting Martin, that we have you all wired…and I can see from the monitors that your pulse rate is suddenly up. However, everyone who has gone through this for the first time, and that includes me, has had their pulse rate rise before going under. It’s normal and I expected it to happen, so you just relax and I’ll give your injection.’
As Sarah finished talking, I noticed for the first time that she had a syringe in her hand. She rolled up my shirtsleeve and injected the sedative into my arm. I did not feel a thing. She smiled at me before saying, ‘The sedative will take around two minutes, so I’ll start to get the machine ready. Enjoy the experience, and I will see you in less than fifteen minutes.’
I could feel myself getting sleepy as I watched her walk towards the machine’s numerous instruments and monitors. With all of the strange sounds emanating from the equipment around me, I now closed my eyes.
The sound of rushing wind slowly disappeared as I became confused by the sound of a girl’s voice saying, ‘Its okay to open your eyes now Martin. How are you doing?’
I opened my eyes and for a few moments, I was completely disorientated by my surroundings. Just a short while ago, I had jumped out of an aeroplane, had the roaring of the wind in my ears, and now, I found myself in a very weird place.
‘Martin, are you with us yet?’
I turned my head slightly to see Sarah standing beside me with a huge smile. ‘Remember me Martin?’ she asked.
I looked around the room and then realised that I was in the lab.
‘Whoa…that was incredible, what the hell happened? I was gone for hours, but you told me it would be a few minutes.’ I replied.
After she had finished removing all of the leads from my body she answered, ‘Martin, you have been asleep for just over eleven minutes, and I can assure you that you have been the perfect patient. Everything has gone as planned, so we are on for tomorrow. If you feel up to it, you should really get out of the chair and stretch yourself.’
I did as instructed: however, when I stood up for the first time I felt decidedly wobbly for a moment or two. ‘Take it easy, you will feel a little out of sorts for two or three minutes which is normal after such a deep sleep,’ advised Sarah before adding, ‘I need to ask you a few questions, and we will do that in the canteen over a hot drink. How are we doing?’
I now felt that I was pretty much back in control and knew where we were. ‘I certainly could do with that hot drink – if not something a little stronger!’ I replied. I noticed that Paul was now coming towards us.
‘That all went rather well. How do you feel?’ he enquired.
‘I’m fine now, but for a few moments…I felt…’
‘Rather confused? Didn’t know where you were?’ interjected Paul.
‘Exactly,’ I replied.
‘Good, that means that you’re no different from any of us then, and that’s what we needed to know. Anyway you get off to the canteen with Sarah. Get yourself a well-deserved drink, and I will see you tomorrow for the real thing! Looking forward to it Martin?’
‘I think so. Tell you what, ask me again tomorrow. I’m still feeling more than a little odd just now.’
‘You get yourself off to the canteen, relax a little, and I’ll see you tomorrow, and I’ll see you in about an hour or so Sarah.’
After saying goodbye to Paul, both Sarah and I then made our way to the canteen. During our walk Sarah explained to me that she would have to get straight back to the lab after we had finished in the canteen, as there was still a good deal of preparation to be done for tomorrow.
We got our drinks and sat down at one of the many empty tables. Once again, there were no more than about twenty people at the tables.
‘Tell me Sarah, what’s the largest number of people that you’ve seen in here?’
‘Well, I’ve been here for eighteen months now, and this is about as busy as it gets. Mind you, they had some sort of an exercise here a few months back, and there was easily around a hundred or so military people here.’
‘What sort of an exercise?’ I wanted to know.
Sarah, who had now finished shuffling some papers around on her clipboard, looked at me and smiled before saying, ‘Now now Martin, you know that you won’t get answers to those types of questions. This is a top secret place you know.’
‘I only asked out of curiosity,’ I answered.
‘You know what they say, ‘curiosity killed the cat’, she replied before continuing, ‘Anyway, I need to ask a few questions about your dream experience and then we’ll be done.’
‘Fine, you just ask away.’
‘Well, just tell me what you remember as well as how you felt.’
‘It was bl
I paused before looking directly at Sarah, ‘You know something strange, I can still remember in detail all of those weapons and how to use them. Were they fictional, or do I now know how those weapons work?’
Sarah, who had been taking notes, now looked directly at me. ‘For a bit of fun we decided to make you a weapons expert and yes, as far as the weapons in the case are concerned, you are now an expert in every detail, and I do mean, every detail of their function.’
I sat there for a few moments thinking before I then said, ‘Bloody Hell Sarah, this is more than a little spooky. Are you telling me that all you have to do is to put someone to sleep for ten minutes and you can then make that person an expert in anything?’
‘Pretty much. However, today it was all done for a bit of fun as well as demonstrating to you exactly what this technology does. Anyway, please continue with the recall of your dream.’
‘After taking my weapons case, I had to make my way to an airbase to meet with my contact.’
‘What was the name of the airbase and your contact?’
‘The airbase was called Arrisma and my contact was Colonel Geoff Smith, but I knew that was not his real name.’
Now that I had answered Sarah, I realised that I could remember in great detail my entire dream. That was probably why she had asked me, to see if I could recall all the details of the transmitted dream sequence.
‘Please continue Martin.’
‘My contact, Colonel Geoff Smith, gave me some briefing notes, which I was to only open after I had landed safely after parachuting out of a plane into enemy territory. I can remember getting on the aircraft, taking off, sitting there thinking about my mission. It felt as if I was in the aircraft a couple of hours or so. I then jumped out. I remember that through my goggles I could see the land below me, and hear the tremendous noise of the rushing wind. I was in the process of deploying my parachute, then I heard a girl’s voice, yes…yes it was your voice asking if I was okay. The whole experience felt like hours, and when I awoke I simply did not know what was going on for a minute or two.’
‘And now, how do you feel?’
‘I feel like…like I’ve been to a fairground. No, no, it’s more like Disneyland, except that this was a whole lot more real and intense - and a hell of a lot more fun! Then again, if I stop and begin to analyse what has happened and all of its ramifications…then it becomes pretty scary, if you know what I mean.’
Sarah had been sitting there in silence, just listening intently to my every word, and now she put her pen and clipboard down. ‘Yes, I know just what you mean. You see, we gave you that dream not just for fun, but also to see how you would react to some pretty scary and serious situations – and let’s face it, not everybody would be happy jumping out of a military plane and into enemy territory. However, you took it all in your stride which is very important, especially as we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Now we can all be confident, including you, that no matter what happens tomorrow, you are in good shape and will be in no danger.’
‘Tell me Sarah, if the dream sequence lasted for only one minute, why on earth did it feel like I had been away for what seemed like five or six hours?’
‘It’s just the way that your brain interprets the transmitted sequences when you are asleep, that’s all, nothing else. Anyway, I think it’s fair to say that we are all done for now. It’s very clear that you have absolutely no problems with the recall from your dream, so we should all be ready for tomorrow. Any questions at all?’
I shook my head before replying, ‘I think I’m all out of questions for now. So, what about you? Are you looking forward to tomorrow’s events?’
‘You bet I am, I can’t wait. Anyway, I’m always looking for new experiences, aren’t you?’ she again finished off with one of her girlish laughs.
I found myself staring at her – yes she was very flirtatious, but there was no doubt that she really was very nice. And to compound things, I had this strange feeling that I knew her very well – and yet I knew that to be impossible.
‘I’m always looking for new experiences myself Sarah, I just hope tomorrow’s will be a good one.’
‘Martin, all of us on the team are all pretty jealous that it’s you and not one of us that’s going on the first run tomorrow. I for one would give anything to have that new experience, and I am convinced that it will all go well, and like I said before, it’s going to be a wild ride. You have nothing to worry about at all. Anyway, time is getting on and I must return you to your room. You will then be collected at 18:15 for dinner, and then Alistair will collect you just before 19:30.’
We finished off at the canteen, and Sarah then escorted me to my room as promised. It was only now that I realised that no matter where I went in the complex, I would always be escorted and not just accompanied, because I did not know the way. Anyway, I was not really bothered. The run would be tomorrow, followed by the debriefing, which could go into the next day, and then, having had my fun, I would be on my way home.
I showered and relaxed for about an hour by watching the television. I was collected for my evening meal and then returned to my room. With about half an hour to go, I now awaited the knock on the door from Alistair.
Now that I was not actually doing anything and just hanging around, I became aware of how terribly tired I had become. I had done so much, been told so much, and had seen so much, I was now finding it all a bit difficult trying to keep my mind focused. In spite of all the truly amazing machinery I had seen, not to mention my roller-coaster dream experience, there were other matters that stubbornly refused to leave the forefront of my mind.
I could not get out of my mind the image of the very strange shadowy figure that I knew I had seen in the chamber. Another thing that played on my mind was Sarah. What the hell was that all about? It was as though my soul, if there was such a thing, knew her very well, and yet, I knew that to be impossible. The more I thought about these two experiences, the more fearful and confused I felt.
There was a knocking on the door, and I knew that it was Alistair to take me to the briefing with Davila. With any luck, he would also take my mind away from all things strange!
‘Feeling tired Martin?’ said Alistair as he greeted me at the door.
‘Is it that obvious?’
‘No – but you should be, and if you’re not, then I want to know why!’ he answered with a loud laugh, firmly thumping me on the back.
We both made idle chitchat as we walked for the next couple of minutes which made a pleasant change. I instantly recognised the lift that I knew took us down about one level directly into the briefing room. As the doors of the lift opened, Davila greeted us.
We all sat down as we had yesterday evening. ‘So Martin, tell me about your day,’ began Davila.
‘I’m not sure that I would know where to begin…but I can tell you that it’s been as Alistair had promised; weird all the way…and then some…’
‘And then some…I’m not sure that I like the sound of that…and then some…but what exactly do you mean?’
I could feel by her tone as well as her mannerism that her question was definitely going somewhere, but I was damned if I knew where. She had not smiled once since we were seated. I did not know what she wanted me to say, and looking at them both, I replied, ‘I know that this is going somewhere, so what’s the big deal?’
‘Martin, if you remember, one of the many reasons that you are here on this very expensive seven year project is your questioning mind. It is imperative that you bring to our immediate attention anything that you consider out of the ordinary. We are agreed on that, aren’t we?’ She finished off with a glare across the table. I still had no idea of where this was going.
‘So do tell - what was your impression of our fabulous MDT machine in the chamber? Pretty impressive eh?’ Enquired Alistair. After the stern approach from Davila, his friendly question seemed very odd and out of place.
‘I don’t think that there are any words that can describe that amazing contraption Alistair but tell me, what’s the connection with what Davila has just said?’
Davila finished taking a sip of water before saying, ‘When you were in the chamber, our monitoring equipment told us that there were only three of you in there, including the sergeant. So tell me, who was that person that was standing beside you – you remember, a sort of shadowy person that was not there when you turned to look at them?’
I was stunned and completely taken aback. I clearly remember that I had only briefly mentioned that I thought I had seen somebody to Alistair, only to deliberately take it back immediately afterwards. I sat there for a few moments thinking what to say next before finally saying, ‘Alistair, yes it’s true that for a moment I thought that I saw someone, but as you know, when I turned around there was nobody to be seen. So why would I want to mention it again?’ I asked looking at them both.
‘You see Martin, yours is not the first sighting of a strange shadowy person that is never to be seen as soon as you look directly at them,’ said Alistair before continuing. ‘In fact yours is now the third sighting that we have had in the chamber. The first happened during the construction of the chamber. The poor guy that saw this strange figure was so terrified that he never returned to the complex, ever again. The second sighting was by our very own Sarah. That was only last week. And you want to know why we know of her experience?’
Before I could think of what to say, Davila quickly answered for me, ‘We know why, because she told us all about it, so we knew what she had seen - and could make comparisons with the first sighting…unlike you Martin.’
‘Okay, yes I admit that I did see something. However, I deliberately kept quiet, as I knew that nobody else had seen it and I suspected that my eyes had probably deceived me. Now of course I know different - I never realised, and it was never made clear to me, that I would have to report anything weird before the experiment had actually begun.’
As I finished talking I noticed that Davila was now looking a little more relaxed than she had only a few moments ago. I quickly came to the conclusion that she was like a lot of people in authority that I had met before, always blowing hot and cold.
‘Okay, I think it’s fair to say that you get the point. As Alistair would like to say, everything here in this complex is very weird. This is just one of many examples of why we need you to be very alert and commun
So, I had seen something, but what? I was beginning to feel very much more relieved now that I knew that it was not only me that was seeing things. However, after the firm cross-examination from Davila, the thought that she may suspect something about my strange feeling when Sarah was around me, immediately crossed my mind. Did she know anything? If she did, how could she? I quickly came to the conclusion not to mention it, unless of course I once again got the third degree.
‘Point taken Davila’ I answered ‘so tell me then, what the hell did I see?’
‘Before we go any further with this, I think it’s time for a hot drink. How about you two?’ She asked getting out of her chair.
I knew the routine now. We sat down, got rather cold and then warmed ourselves with some pretty horrible coffee from the drinks machine.
‘It’s not only you Martin that would like to know what you saw or experienced with the shadowy person,’ said Alistair, whilst cupping his hands around his steaming coffee. ‘You see the truth of it is, we genuinely do not know. We never really paid much credence to what the poor construction guy said about his sighting. In fact we did consider that he may just be a little daft. However, that said, we did keep quiet about what had happened, due to the nature of what we are doing in the complex.’
‘As you can imagine Martin, our views were dramatically changed when the same thing happened to Sarah,’ stated Davila.
‘Did Sarah know about the first sighting?’ I wanted to know.
I noticed that both Davila and Alistair exchanged glances before Davila answered, ‘No, and she still does not know as it’s a classified matter. Which is why, with two identical sightings – as well as yours, we know for a fact that there is some sort of a presence, or whatever you want to call it.’
‘Tell me Alistair, this shadowy person…is it one of your dimension travellers here in the complex doing some sort of a scouting mission…you know, giving it the once over before you try to do the same tomorrow?’ I finished my question with a bit of a smirk.
Alistair responded with a bit of a chuckle and a big smile before saying, ‘Actually, that’s a very intelligent question Martin and one that deserves an answer…of sorts. It’s like I said to you earlier, we really do not know, we can only surmise. Is it a dimension traveller? Well it may be, but then if it is, why did it appear during the construction of the chamber before the MDT was even finished and switched on?
‘The only thing we can say with any certainty is that we have never been able to detect anything on any of our equipment, and it goes without saying that we do have a lot of expensive high-tech monitoring stuff in here. The only other certainty is that including you, three people have seen it, whatever it is.’
‘If you both then accept that this shadowy person is real, how do you know that it is not in any way malevolent? And if it is, will it try to do something when I am supposed to be travelling through into the other dimensions?’ I asked looking at them both.
‘Before answering you, let’s go back to our seats,’ responded Davila moving back to the table. Once we were all seated Davila now continued, ‘If its absolute certainties that you are looking for, then we have none to give, none at all, but then you probably knew that already.
‘We have, however, done a lot of analysis on this subject, and we do not consider that this figure will in any way be a problem. So, as far as we are concerned - it’s business as usual. What about you Martin, you saw this figure, it’s obviously been playing on your mind, so what do you think about all of this?’
I could see that Davila was beginning to look about as relaxed as she was yesterday, and now she had very deliberately put the ball back into my court. Now it was me that had to give her an answer.
‘Well I can tell you both that whatever I saw in the chamber, whilst it did give me a bit of a start, it did not really spook me, but of course I did naturally wonder what I had seen, and yes to answer your question, it has been playing on my mind. Now that you’ve told me that other people have seen it…it kind of changes things a little. On the one hand, it’s good to be reassured that I am not going mad and seeing strange things here and there. Then of course on the other hand, I now know that it is real and in a way that makes it all a little more…uncertain, or scary. You know what I mean I’m sure.’
‘Of course we do, we take these sightings very seriously and we will continue to monitor the ongoing situation right up until the first run is due to begin. Now, how about you tell us both exactly what you saw and felt with the shadowy person in the chamber and please, be as specific as you can, leaving out absolutely nothing’ responded Davila.
I proceeded to tell them everything that had happened in as much detail that I could remember. I also went on to explain how I had felt afterwards as well as assuring them both that in spite of my wonder, it really did not bother me that much. They never once interrupted me or cross-examined anything that I said, which did rather surprise me, and they both looked completely relaxed and laid back throughout.
‘So, the figure you saw, whoever he, she, or it is, is the very same as seen by Sarah and the construction guy’ responded Alistair. ‘It’s all very interesting, but we really are no further forward. However, as Davila has already stated, as far as we are concerned, its business as usual for tomorrow. The test run with the dream sequence went as expected…so what about it Martin…are you up for it tomorrow?’
I could sense that Davila and Alistair were now looking for some sort of a commitment from me, as they both now waited for my response. The thought that I could tell them outright that I was now off home, and thanks for the experience did rather amuse me - ever so slightly.
‘Let’s understand each other, right now you are not really interested with what has happened to me so far here in the complex, or indeed what I think about all this. In fact, the only thing that you want to hear from me is a firm yes, I will do the run tomorrow. Am I right?’
Davila sat there rigid, completely expressionless; I could see that she wanted to say nothing more. She now waited for me to continue. However, it was Alistair that responded in his booming voice, ‘Of course we do man! You don’t think we invited you into the complex for conversation and cheap coffee do you? No, you are right here, right now, so that you can do the first run with us tomorrow. Now, I know you Martin, know you well, so don’t try to even begin to think that you’re not going to do it. You are going to say yes!’ He finished talking by giving me the firmest thump on the back that I had had in a long time.
Alistair was right, he knew me only too well. He knew that curiosity would get the better of me, even if it did end up by killing somebody’s cat! There was only one thing that I could do. ‘Yes you bastard! You knew all along that I would agree to do the run, didn’t you?’ I replied, looking at them both. I could feel myself smiling, but I was not really sure why, as my head was still full of too many uncertainties.
For the first time since I had entered the meeting room I could see that Davila was now completely relaxed, as her wide smile returned. It was clear to me now that she was genuinely worried that I might indeed call it a day. She clearly did not know me as Alistair did.
She closed up her notes on the table before saying, ‘There’s not really anything else we can say to you about tomorrow, except to say that I am very glad that you are going to be part of this very special team. I know that on one level you must understandably be a little apprehensive about it all, we can all understand that. All I will say to you is that you are in the hands of some the finest scientists around who will do everything possible to make this a success. This project has been in the making for seven long hard years and foolproof failsafe mechanisms have been built in at every level. You should also remember that unless we are one hundred per cent happy with absolutely everything prior to the first run, then it will not happen. It’s as simple as that. Do you have any last questions, anything at all?’
I shook my head and smiled before saying in a loud voice ‘No more questions, no more facts and figures. Let’s just do it!’
I knew what I had done. I had to say that I was now resolutely committed to the project – not just to them, but also to myself. I needed to make certain to myself that I would not change my mind, no matter what. I had done so, as openly as I could - agreeing and to commit myself to this unbelievable adventure.
The next morning I met up with Alistair for breakfast in the near deserted canteen. As we ate, he explained that I would have the whole morning to myself in my room, have lunch and then all going well, I was to do the first run in the afternoon.
Alistair returned me to my room and as we parted he boomed, ‘Now don’t forget Martin,’ his arms waving frantically in front of him, ‘you absolutely cannot be late for the first run this afternoon, it’s scheduled for 14:30. As you well know, this is what some of us have been working towards for seven years.’ With that he was gone.
Martin by Andrew Weaver / Actions & Adventure / Science Fiction have rating 3.8 out of 5 / Based on19 votes