Area 54 - This article is part of a series.
A low buzzing filled Thomas’ head. He could feel it striking against the inside of his skull, like a baby bird trying to escape it’s egg. With every strike the buzzing bloomed into an electrical shock that travelled from head to toe. His thoughts, disjointed from the sensations, struggled to make sense of it all.
He seemed to be floating, but even as the word formed in his mind he knew it wasn’t right. A crackle of static enveloped him. He didn’t flinch. It seemed to be a part of him, deserving as much attention as blood moving through veins. With an effort he tried to focus his thoughts. Floating. It implied a medium. It implied gravity. He knew somehow that neither of those things existed where he was.
Bright light surrounded him. Objects filled in the empty space. He was sitting at a small desk in a room full of other children his own age. At the same time he was floating above, watching the child version of himself, sitting at the small desk. Both perspectives existed at once. Together and independent. He was struggling. Trying to recall something. It was a test.
He watched as the small figure of himself bent closer to the paper. His perspective shifted, and he was floating just above the paper’s surface. His form was microscopic. The paper fibers were as large as tree trunks. To his right was a dark mountain range of graphite, stretching out as far as he could see. The test had become a landscape. An island of wood fibers and graphite boulders.
Looking up, a giant eye filled all the space above above him. It was his eye. Swirling patterns flowed in the iris, like the storms of Jupiter. The pupil, black as the emptiest corners of space, pulled at him. A deep chill flowed through his being. The black emptiness of the pupil tugged harder. Instinctively he reached out for one of the pulpy trunks of paper fiber. But he had no hands. No arms. No body. How could he hold onto anything without a body.
The edges of the pupil, where it met the iris, began to ripple. Circular spots of black bled into the iris, like spilled ink flowing into paint. There were eight spots. He didn’t count them, but knew there were eight. They started to lift away from surface of the giant eye, forming into smooth onyx spheres. Behind them, fleshy strands trailed like monstrous umbilical cords.
From the pitch black center of the pupil emerged a bright point. It extended out, along with the spheres. There was a strange chittering sound that seemed to come from within him. The emerging shape resolved into a sharp beak. He tried to move, to run. But how could he run. He had no legs.
With a lurch Thomas’ eyes flew open. His breathing was fast and shallow. His clothes were soaking wet, and the air around him, thick and humid, tasted of rocks and moss. The memory of the dream, that didn’t feel at all like a dream, faded like smoke caught in a breeze. Straight ahead he saw a faint wash of light illuminate a twisted mess of metal. It looked like the beginnings of a nest formed by a mechanical bird.
Memories started to return. Something had happened while he was in the elevator. It had fallen, and him with it. Feeling around his arms, and legs, there were aches at every point but no sharp pains. How he had managed to survive in the first place, much less without any broken bones was beyond his comprehension.
Struggling, he stood up, and watched as the surface of the water rippled out from his submerged shoes. There was a faint, but clear line of light across the surface of the water, over which his shadow shimmered. With a struggle his mind put the pieces together. The light was coming from behind him.
Turning around, he saw he was at the bottom of a rocky slope. At the top, roughly ten feet away, there was a yellowish light. His shoes heavy with water, he trudged up the rocky embankment, squinting as light and dust burned his eyes.
When he reached the top, water pooling around him, he realized that he was in the remains of a hallway. It was like stumbling onto the ruins of an ancient civilization. It looked like the whole side of hallway had collapsed, its rubble spilling down the embankment, and into the water.
To either side of him yellow lights stared, like the eyes of inquisitive insects perched on the ceiling. He couldn’t see anything beyond the lights. Wet, tired, and aching, he looked back towards the large pool of water.
“Well, shit,” he said aloud. The surroundings seemed to absorb his words, and echo them back with the addition of faint laughter. He was acutely aware of his soaked clothing sticking to his skin, like a cold clammy cocoon. Taking a deep breath, that seemed to awaken soreness around every one of his ribs, he turned to his right, and started walking.
His shoes squished with every step, pressing out water as his weight was applied. Then pulling up from the concrete floor with wet slurping sounds. He felt like he was wearing suction cups, and it didn’t take long for his already aching legs to begin to burn with exertion. He slowed down, but continued forward, supporting himself as he went by pressing his hand against the wall.
He wasn’t sure how far he had gone, but the next set of yellow lights were out, so he trudged along in almost total darkness. Reaching his hand out for the wall, he found nothing but empty air. Falling, his shoulder caught against a hard corner, and pain rippled out across his back. He had reached a turn in the corridor.
Looking ahead, he could see a faint square of illumination hanging in space. He stared at it, unable to comprehend what it might be. With a rush of excitement he realized it was the window of what had to be a door. And on the other side there was light. A renewed sense of hope pushed back the weight of aches and pains, and he made his way towards the door.
The door’s surface was smooth cool metal. The window was smaller than it had seemed when he was farther away. That seemed odd to him, but his mind was too full of fog to care. He couldn’t see through the window. There was some kind of film on the other side that let light seep through, but nothing else. Something like a memory pressed against his consciousness. He felt a slight tingle at the base of his skull. There was an oddly familiar sound, like tools scratching against stone.
Shoving away all the unwanted distractions, Thomas grasped the handle with both of his hands, and pulled the door open.