OCTOBER 6TH, 7:59 AM (6:59 AM MOUNTAIN TIME)
The fourth decrease event.
So that’s what they’re calling it now, a decrease event? And a fourth one.
The words began repeating in Lang’s mind, unfortunately. Decrease event, decrease event. A fourth decrease event. Yeah, sure, now that he was four feet eleven inches tall in actual height, but a grand five feet two point three inches tall including the air space and the hull itself.
But poor Evan. Evan now stood only four feet two inches in actual height, and four feet five inches with the air space and hull. Lang watched Evan walking ahead down the hallway, his relative height compared to the hallway’s dimensions ruthlessly burning into Lang’s mind.
Well, had to hand it to Colonel Stevens and his fellow officers – their chosen name certainly focused upon the most horrifying part of the stupid light flashes.
Lang looked at his watch again. Instead of 7:00 AM, the time shown on all the clocks nearby, or really 8:00 AM their time, he had 2:24 PM, a time spread similar to Evan’s PSP. Wonderful. Not only still shrinking in size, but still rushing ahead in time. A full-blown panic attack was just nudging its head near the surface of Lang’s entire being, but for some reason, anger, numbness, and frustration were setting up camp much more readily, and thankfully taking over.
That peaceful sensation within his chest. He concentrated a moment. Though he had been feeling it now and then, especially after praying, right now it was barely noticeable.
They entered the MRI room again. Everything looked larger, of course, thanks to the hull, not to mention everyone in this base was moving and speaking even slower than before.
Major Ko and Captain Indalo headed right for the MRI’s control room. Colonel Stevens kept them walking toward the MRI.
Evan caught up to Colonel Stevens, once they were both near the MRI. “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure, Evan,” Colonel Stevens answered. “Just remember to speak slowly. And I’ll try to speak much faster.”
“Could we be dead, like zombies somehow, but being kept alive?”
Lang’s heart skipped a few beats; that was his earlier thought too. But again he didn’t speak a word of it. Evan was going through plenty enough as it was.
Colonel Stevens stopped in his steps and looked down at Evan. “Why do you ask?”
“We are not hungry. Or thirsty. We do not need to use the bathroom at all. And like we said earlier, Dad and I didn’t need to sleep even a second last night. And we’re still not tired!”
“He sure is right about that,” Lang couldn’t help but say, though it sure was annoying to have to speak so slowly and deliberately. “I am wide awake and alert as ever, even after watching TV all night. Evan played his PSP to pass the time.”
Colonel Stevens slowly turned to Lang. “It could simply be stress, and the fact you resided in an unfamiliar building overnight.” He focused back down on Evan. “No. You’re not dead. Your pupils dilate. Remember?”
“Yeah, but…but then maybe our consciousness has been transferred into human robots, or cyborgs, that look just like us, and have eyes that dilate.”
Lang had heard enough. “Evan. Where on earth do you come up with these things?”
“I’m sorry, Dad. But what else can we think?”
“Well, I don’t know, unless a cyborg or zombie can feel warmth in their chest, since I still do, at times. How do you explain that?”
“I know. You sometimes feel it after you’ve prayed, so it could be the Savior.”
Lang sighed. “Hopefully. It keeps me going, especially knowing that aliens could be behind all of this.”
Colonel Stevens ambled closer to Lang. “You know, I can’t tell you exactly what’s going on, and what these aliens want. But I have a friend, Tom, a Christian, like you. I should have discussed this with you yesterday, but I just thought of it now. His faith was severely challenged, because of a scientific explanation he couldn’t disprove. But he came to terms with this, because he realized it doesn’t matter about the facts. Faith is based…on faith, trusting in someone or something when the facts simply don’t exist. Does that make any sense?”
Staring up at Colonel Stevens, Lang realized even more than earlier that his first initial gut feeling about the colonel was proving its truth, and then some. “Yes, it does. Thank you, Colonel.”
“You’re welcome, Lang. Anything I can do to help.”
Major Ko came out of the control room, carrying a cage-like helmet made of cream-colored plastic or fiberglass. “Sir. We have most everything set up.” He handed the helmet to Colonel Stevens.
The colonel held it high up from above and then eased the strange helmet onto his head. His eyes, nose, and mouth were still visible, fortunately.
Evan laughed. “What are you, Hannibal Lecter?”
“Evan,” Lang scolded. “That’s not very funny.”
Colonel Stevens smiled at Evan. “No, it’s okay. I know what he means. But this ugly-looking thing is needed to get a good image of my brain’s activity.” He stared across from the MRI, to the floor near that wall with the control room’s window and the TV above it. “All right. Let’s get started.” Below the window, the floor had been marked off lengthwise with light blue tape, forming about an eight foot long by four foot oval area. Captain Indalo sauntered out of the control room carrying a small red rubber ball and he was looking up and around at several tiny cameras along the walls that were pointing directly at the oval area. Captain Indalo handed the ball to Colonel Stevens. “We want you and Evan to stand within the marked-off space,” Colonel Stevens said. “We will need you to talk to me and I will talk to you two.”
“And what again are you looking for?” Lang asked, once more reminding himself to speak slowly, distinctly.
“Major Ko and Captain Indalo will be monitoring my brain, for auditory and visual activity while I watch both of you. This will hopefully indicate that the aliens responsible for the hull are stimulating certain parts of my brain to produce the images and audio that I perceive of you and Evan.”
“Yeah, but,” Lang said, thinking deeply, “wouldn’t your brain just be responding to all the sights and sounds in here anyway?”
From beneath that cumbersome, ugly mask, Lang could see Colonel Stevens crack a smile. “Very good question, Lang. That is why we will be conversing, with all other background sounds diminished to a minimum, while you two toss the ball back and forth. In coordination with several video cameras in this room, we will then be able to determine, especially as my eyes watch the ball move back and forth, exactly what I am seeing and hearing.” He tossed the ball up and down a few times, the ball’s motion strangely sluggish, similar to a slow motion video clip. “Ready for a catch?”
“Sure thing.” Lang held his hull-covered hands ready. “If I can hold a pen, then I can catch a ball with these clobbers.”
The red ball headed toward him and immediately Lang felt like being on another planet, where gravity was lighter. “Wow.” He put his hands up and clumsily enclosed his hull-covered hands around the plunging ball. “Never experienced that before. Weird.”
“Yeah, but good catch.” Evan rushed over and stood at the farthest side of the oval. “Come on, Dad. Hurry up. Colonel Stevens is getting in the MRI now.”
Lang walked over and placed himself at the opposite end of the oval. “You ready?”
“Yeah, Dad. Pitch it to me.”
He did. And Evan caught it awkwardly too, but let out a laugh. Again it felt good, however temporary, to hear him laugh, even if the first laugh was at Colonel Stevens. Evan threw the ball back. “This is actually pretty fun.”
Lang caught the ball. “I know, like throwing in weaker gravity.”
“Good observation, Lang,” Major Ko shouted, from behind the window.
Lang glanced at them a moment before catching the returning throw. Major Ko was instructing Captain Indalo where to point the camcorder. Their eyes were wide, amused. Of course. Something moving by itself again on that darn LCD screen, at his and Evan’s expense.
“That has to be pretty cool, though,” Evan said, smiling, also noticing their wide eyes. “To see this ball move back and forth by itself.”
“Yeah, I know.” Lang caught the ball, but he held it and looked at Colonel Stevens, slowly climbing into the MRI’s seat. Major Ko left the control room and walked over to Colonel Stevens, his motion at a tortoise pace. He helped strap the belt around the colonel.
“Dad. What are you waiting for?”
“Well, it takes them forever to do anything.”
Major Ko walked back toward the control room, but kept his eyes on Lang. “We’re ready now. Keep tossing the ball.”
“And make certain Captain Indalo keeps the camera directed on the computer’s monitor,” Colonel Stevens told Major Ko.
The MRI began its mild humming noise, once Major Ko sat before the computer.
“Lang,” Colonel Stevens said. “Toss the ball. And talk to me. Now.”
He did and he and Evan got back into their former tossing rhythm.
“Okay, I have a question.” Evan spoke his words, slow, loud, and direct. “Those things that fell out of my Dad’s hull last night. Are they real?”
“Yes,” Colonel Stevens answered. “As much as we can tell so far, they all tested authentic.”
Evan inhaled a breath and readied himself to speak again. “So what time in the afternoon are those other people coming?”
“About fourteen hundred hours, or 2:00 PM, tomorrow. And now I have a question for you two. Are your electronic devices showing any decreases in battery life?”
Lang recalled his filled battery icon. “No, not for me. My phone is showing no decrease in battery life whatsoever since this whole thing began yesterday.”
“Same here.” Evan slammed a hard throw, though Lang caught it readily. “My PSP’s battery is the same as yesterday.”
“Okay, sir.” Major Ko spoke over the speakerphone. “The images are about to start developing.”
“Keep on doing what you’re doing,” Colonel Stevens told Lang.
“I have one for you,” Evan said, getting ever more vigorous with his throws. “Are we at a place like Area 51?”
Colonel Stevens hesitated more than usual. “Uh, no, Evan.”
“Then where are we?”
“Well, that’s classified, unfortunately. I’m sorry, but I can’t--”
Blinding yellow light brightened everywhere.
Lang shut his eyes and ignored the catch. The ball smacked into the hull over his abdomen and bounced off somewhere. Instantly the MRI stopped working. Its slowly decreasing humming blanketed the entire room. And then for a moment not a sound could be heard anywhere.
“Dad. Sorry I hit you. It happened again!”
“I know, I know.” Lang opened his eyes. The room was darker, though the yellowish flash spots in his eyes nearly negated the room’s darkness for him. The only true light sources were the slight orange glow of the hull around him and Evan, and some dim light coming out of the control room. He looked in the control room. Immediately a sick feeling dove into his core; he stood shorter, by about three inches, compared to his position by the window from before. He looked at Evan and the sick feeling intensified; Evan stood shorter too in comparison to the window.
“It happened at 0707 hours,” Major Ko said, out of breath, slowly trotting out of the control room, his speech disturbingly slower than before. “We saw it. But only for a second. The precise brain areas needed.” Captain Indalo was following him. “Indalo saved some images on his camera.”
The door from the hallway opened and several DFRs gradually entered, though their movement definitely appeared hurried, in reality. They carried their weapons in a readied stance. “Colonel. Sir. The lights went out in here. Can you explain this?”
“Yes.” Colonel Stevens exited the MRI and slowly removed the eerie-looking helmet. “The MRI probably malfunctioned and blew a fuse. You two can position yourselves back out in the hallway.”
But they didn’t budge. And Colonel Stevens didn’t seem eager to fight it, merely stepping closer to them.
One of the DFRs lifted a cell phone or some sort of transceiver to his ear, began speaking, and after what seemed like ten minutes or so, though probably much shorter in their time, he finally ended the call. “Colonel. General Tauring requests that we conduct an investigation. He doesn’t believe the MRI malfunctioned.”
As the DFRs began walking around the room, Lang was hit with those same resonating words again, only this time with one difference: decrease event, decrease event – a fifth – decrease event.