“Problem?” Freyja echoed. “I didn’t mean ‘problem’. There won’t be any ‘problems’.”
“You said ‘problem’,” Jamal said. “What’d you mean by that?”
The door opened again and the room was empty. G’fon stepped in this time, looking eager to get away from this conversation. “She didn’t mean problem,” Kink said as the door closed. “There will be no problems. It’s just it might not be very pleasant. The experience isn’t, you know, great. But you go through the whole instability thing all the time, so you’re used to it.”
“My instability thing?”
“You know,” she said, “your boson box.”
Kink shrugged. “Whatever. That thing hurts you, right? But you’re used to it. It’s the same thing with this thing.” She gestured at the door that began to open. It’s not the most pleasant experience.“ Kink walked into the other room. “But, hey, what’s a little excruciating pain between friends, huh?”
“Oh, it’s not that bad,” Freyja said. “She’s just exaggerating because she thinks it’s funny.”
“Ok, maybe a little bit,” Kink admitted, as the doors started to close. “It’s only excruciating the first time.”
“Oh, great,” I said as the doors slammed shut behind Kink.
“Suck it up, Frank,” Freyja said. “This is for the betterment of all reality. You’re supposed to be a hero after all, aren’t you?”
“I never claimed to be a hero.”
“But you are one,” Tilly said. I had to admit I was a little touched to hear her say that. She was a teenager after all, sincerity wasn’t usually her deal. “You’re a hero, Frank. We all are and we do what we have to to help everyone. Even if it hurts to do it.”
“Right.” I took a deep breath and slowly let it out. The door opened again. I guess I had no choice now. It was my turn. I had to do this. “See you soon,” I said as I walked inside.
“Don’t do anything too stupid,” Jamal said.
“I just stepped into a room that will untether me from time because Kink and Freyja told me to. Is that stupid enough for you?”
Jamal laughed. “All right. You just set the bar, now try to stay under it.”
“I think he’s supposed to go over it,” Tilly said. “Right? Setting the bar high is supposed to be really hard. Isn’t it?”
“What? It’s like limbo,” Jamal said. “You’ve got to go under it.”
“No. It think it’s like high jump. You’ve got to go over it.”
“Does it matter?” I asked, as the doors started to close. “We should all just try not to do something incredibly dumb and get killed, ok?”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea, Frank,” Jamal said. “Don’t get…” And then the door slammed shut and I was alone in the untethering room.
Panels on the wall began to glow red. Then blue light began to stream up from the floor. I started to feel very warm throughout my body. The lights went off, replaced by an orange light from above. All the warmth was taken from my body, like I had just plunged into ice water. I could feel the heat continue to be pulled from my body. I wrapped my arms around my body but it didn’t help at all. I shivered mightily, but it was soon forgotten because then came the pain.
It felt like a steel umbrella had been inserted in my spine and quickly opened, over and over again until my entire back was torn open. I screamed as every synapse in my body was laid bare and set on fire. The pain continued seemingly forever. I was having a hard time thinking about a time when there was no pain.
And then it stopped. For a microsecond, I got to feel relief and then my perception of everything got real small. It was as if everything that I was or ever would be got squished down into a single point in time and space. And then that winked out. Then there was nothingness and I was nothing. I had strange awareness of this nothingness. Like I was on the outside, looking at the nothingness. I could look and see that there was nothing and that that nothing was me. It only lasted for a split second, but it seemed to be much longer. Both forever and in the blink of an eye, as if there was no such thing as time. Nothing and yet being. This was my situation.
And then I was something again. There was no sense of growing. I was just suddenly back to myself, as if woken from a dream. I was no longer cold and the pain was just a very vivid memory. Everything felt normal again…for the most part.
I was no longer in the untethering room anymore. I was in a restaurant, sitting at a table and I wasn’t alone. Three strangers sat across from me. They were calmly eating noodles as if someone magically appearing across from them was normal. The woman sitting next to me put her arm around my shoulders and pulled me closer to her. She held up a pair of glasses. “Here put these on.”
to be continued…