OCTOBER 7TH, 7:47 AM (6:47 AM MOUNTAIN TIME)
The seventh decrease event.
It didn’t seem possible or real.
Lang felt the horror of it ready to rip apart his sanity, but he inhaled a deep, lung-filling breath, and envisioned that air gradually flowing through his entire body, relaxing every part. There. Relax. Stay relaxed, even while walking. Evan depends upon you! And thankfully the words didn’t begin repeating over and over in his brain, like before. But he couldn’t be getting more used to it, no hardly. Probably just some sort of coping mechanism.
Or maybe his subdued reaction came from the Savior.
“Lang. Again my apologies for not arriving in time,” Colonel Stevens said, his words streaming out slower than ever, though you could tell he gave it all he had to speak faster without making numerous mistakes. “General Tauring had us in a meeting. We were actually discussing, how important it could be, the decrease events coming seven minutes past the hour. And eight hours apart. Seems to be a pattern.”
“Yes, I know.” Lang reminded himself to speak slowly, distinctly. “Evan and I had been talking about that in our room. Seven total of us hull people and Captain Indalo saw seven scenes. We were not too upset no one was there, when the decrease event happened.” He tried keeping in stride with the colonel’s wider steps. They were almost to the examining room. “So, since the seventh decrease event happened at seven minutes past eleven, and they are eight hours apart, another one should be happening at seven past seven?”
“Possibly. We’ll just have to wait and see. But at least we will definitely be present with you then.”
“Good. Thank you.” Memories about the darkness communication attempt suddenly flashed through Lang’s mind. “Colonel. Did you ever figure out why I fell asleep like that? I don’t even remember dreaming.”
“Yes. We concluded that the hull didn’t want you to move, or wake up, so that the final scene could be viewed by Captain Indalo.”
The colonel’s facial expression just had to be seen for this next question. Lang looked up at him, observing closely. “So, that last scene. Captain Indalo was very upset with it. Can you tell me yet, what he saw?”
“Well, don’t worry about you and Evan. He did not see you two in the scene.” Colonel Stevens’ face was relaxed, though tired. Lang couldn’t detect a lie or disturbing thought. “Basically, the hull was probably trying to communicate its displeasure with something we’re doing to it. And Captain Indalo became scared.” Now the colonel’s face appeared to be hiding something.
“So, you cannot tell us exactly what bothered him?”
He looked down at Lang, his eyes concerned and sincere. “General Tauring does not want us to discuss it right now, with you two. Yes, it frightened him, but the general believes it may be because Indalo is basically a nervous fellow, and it’s his own interpretation that frightened him.”
“Okay.” Lang shrugged. “But he has been behaving quite cold and distant toward me and Evan.”
“I will talk to him about that.”
“Thank you. But I want to talk to him too. He needs to know we had nothing to do with it.”
Before long, they were in the examining room again.
Unfortunately, Major Ko went right to his usual routine, of taking their heights. It was definitely the worst part of being in the examining room.
And then the numbers. Lang didn’t want to know them, but he felt compelled to ask anyway; it was the only way to gauge what was happening. His new actual height – about four feet, two inches tall. With the hull and air space? Taller. A whopping four feet five inches tall. And Evan was of course shorter, at only three feet six inches tall for his actual height.
From somewhere deep within Lang’s soul, he wanted to cry out, cry out loudly, and inexplicably. Evan. Reversing in size. How could this be happening? How cruel and so wrong.
Calm. Stay calm. Stay relaxed.
Or redirect thoughts.
While Colonel Stevens and Major Ko checked more of his and Evan’s vital signs, which were all normal and good, Lang watched Captain Indalo. He was of course at his usual job, with the camcorder.
Once Colonel Stevens and Major Ko were done, Lang walked over to Captain Indalo. Keep your speech slow, he reminded himself. “Captain. I am sorry you saw something that was very disturbing. But whatever you saw, you have to realize that Evan and I had no control over it…this thing, this hull. We just want to get out of here, and have our lives back. This has just been so cruel and frightening to us.”
Captain Indalo lowered the camcorder a little, so more of his bronze facial skin and dark brown eyes could be seen. He stared at Lang a moment, and blinked a few times. But he didn’t smile. He only observed Lang, but didn’t care. And he didn’t say a word. He looked back into the camcorder, completely ignoring Lang.
Lang’s heart sank. “Well, again. I am really sorry. I am really sorry this is happening to you. And to me, to Evan, to all of us.”
The unique, low clattering thuds, of the hull allowing Evan’s quick footsteps to express weight along the hard linoleum floor portion of the room sounded behind Lang. “Dad. Come over to the desk. We need to start another communication now.”
Great. More of that nonsense.
But at least he had tried with Captain Indalo. The poor man. He would say a prayer for him, when some quiet time arose.
Lang walked over and stood by the desk, which unfortunately was now even larger than the last time. Disturbing, to say the least. But he could still view the table’s surface easily. The same communication program, with the large text box and touch-screen keyboard and yes or no buttons, was yet present on the flat computer screen embedded in the table. Captain Indalo came over too, but kept his distance.
Evan stepped closer to the desk. But he was barely watching the computer screen. He was playing his PSP even more now than before.
Major Ko gazed at his tablet. “Even though the hull made some type of communication endeavor with Captain Indalo, many questions are left unanswered. Consequently, Colonel Stevens and I decided on some new phrases to deliver.” His words flowed slowly, though it was obvious he was attempting to speak faster. “Hopefully they work.” He cleared his throat, so strange to hear as in a slow motion video. He kept his sight on the computer screen. “What is your place of origin in the universe?”
As usual with this contraption, nothing happened. The stupid text box, yes and no buttons, and the touch-screen keyboard didn’t change one speck. Nor did Lang feel even the slightest force from the hull to make his fingers type something on the keyboard.
“What is your physical composition?”
“What was the purpose of those images you showed Captain Indalo? Do they have hidden meanings?”
“Our base commander, General Tauring, has implemented experiments and conditions to release Lang and Evan from what we call the hull, your advanced enclosing technology, simply because we do not like to live imprisoned. We prefer freedom. We will continue our experiments and conditions to release Lang and Evan, which could also reveal more about you, and the hull. If you release Lang and Evan, and the others, we will stop. Ultimately, we seek to co-exist with you peacefully, and to be able to communicate with you more successfully.”
From his eye’s corner, since his gaze had been mostly on Major Ko, Lang saw a change on the computer screen. He stared right at it. The entire communication program, with its text box, yes and no buttons, and keyboard, were gone, minimized to the taskbar.
Colonel Stevens drew closer to the screen. “What just happened?”
Right after he spoke those words, a black command prompt window popped up. Then a WordPad window popped up. And then a Word document window appeared. All three were onscreen at once, each taking up about a third of the screen’s view.
“Colonel Stevens!” Evan said. Lang looked at him. Evan was shaking his PSP. He was jabbing hard on some of its buttons.
Lang moved closer to him. “What’s wrong?” The others hovered around Evan too.
“That PSP notepad program I got. My game’s gone, and notepad is on-screen instead.”
“Oh my God,” Colonel Stevens said. “This must be it!”
“Look! My PSP, and on the computer screen! What are they doing?”
On both Evan’s PSP screen and the computer screen, lines of text were somehow being typed in each of the open programs. The text’s words were being typed with increasing speed, and then once the entire sentence was finished, it started all over again, the same exact line of text on the next line. Lang felt the need to read it out loud. “You cannot determine. You do not have the ability. But it is not Lang, Evan, Akina, Nahas, Kyleigh, Robert, and Alan who should be afraid.” He eyed the text lines closely. “Am I seeing things? Why all the repeating?”
“You’re not seeing things, Lang,” Colonel Stevens said. “And why on Evan’s PSP too? We never made any communication attempts with it.”
Evan’s breathing was coming more rapid. “This is MY PSP!” He shook his PSP several times again, this time more in anger.
“Evan, now stay calm,” Lang told him, struggling to get closer, but the repulsion prevented it. “The hull is just trying to tell us something.”
Motion from behind made Lang look back. Captain Indalo was alternating the camcorder’s view between the computer screen and Evan’s PSP. But he wasn’t doing so well; like Evan, his breathing was getting rapid. And his hands were shaking, badly. He fumbled the camcorder, nearly dropping it.
Lang had to ask something. “Colonel Stevens. Akina, Nahas, and the other names. Are those the other hull people?”
“Yes.” Colonel Stevens eyed Major Ko. “Ask more questions of Evan’s hull.”
For the first time since Lang met the tough, confident man, Major Ko showed weakness. His hands trembled and he struggled to search for questions on his tablet. Finally finding them, he glanced around the hull surrounding Evan, until settling his focus near Evan’s face. “What is it you want from us?”
Intermittently Lang watched Evan’s PSP and the computer screen. The text lines scrolled by even faster. And due to the time difference, they were whizzing by even quicker on Evan’s PSP.
Before long, the repeating sentences became a blur of unrecognizable white and grey lines on all the word documents of both screens.
“No! This can’t be happening!” Evan’s shoulders heaved up and down, and his arms trembled. “The hull has no right to do this to me!” In a flash of motion, Evan stuffed his PSP into his jacket’s pocket and then plunged several hard punches at the hull. Unsatisfied, he plunged his punches even faster, fueled with anger.
“Evan!” Lang spoke sternly. “I told you, you need to calm down. Think clearly! This behavior won’t help things!”
“He’s right, Evan,” Colonel Stevens said. “In dire times, especially in combat, a cool head prevails.”
Yet the colonel’s wise words did nothing to change Evan’s behavior.
But then, in one smooth, unexpected motion, Evan ceased the punching, turned, and ran to the door. Once there he seized the doorknob with both hands. He struggled to turn the knob to get out.
Lang’s heart pounded harder. “Evan. What are you doing?”
Evan couldn’t open the door. He slammed his hull-covered fists against the door’s metal surface, striking it repeatedly, the loud clanging hits filling the room. “Let me out!” he yelled. “I want to get out of here!”
A dark, sinking feeling crushed within Lang. He ran toward the door.
Sweeping his arms back the farthest yet, Evan plunged his fists into the door. But no loud metal clang sounded. And Evan’s frenzied motion could no longer be seen.
Lang stopped in his tracks and stared. Evan was gone.
“What the…” Lang ran to the door and grabbed the doorknob. “Evan! What happened?” He attempted to turn the knob, but couldn’t.
Major Ko arrived from behind, sealed his hands around the doorknob, and finally opened it.
Lang quickly remembered the tall, dreaded DFRs were just outside the door. Eyes wide, he searched for Evan, but glanced at the DFRs often. Evan was there, in the hallway, punching at the hull again, and kicking at it now too. The DFRs, though moving slower than Evan’s swift motion, grasped their M4s and readied them. “Don’t hurt him!” Lang told them. “He’s just scared!”
“He’s not dangerous,” Colonel Stevens called out from behind Lang. “Stand down.”
Slowly the DFRs lowered their M4s.
Evan continued his angry attempt to rid himself of the hull. He thrashed about like a crazed animal now. “Get off me you lousy thing!” He slashed his arms around like sickles. He punched rapidly, a boxer machine-gunning a punching bag. “Leave me alone! Just leave me alone!” His raised voice rattled down and around the hallway.
From what Lang could see clearly for a split second, other DFRs and Air Force personnel down the long hallway drew nearer, their eyes locked on Evan. The two nearby DFRs walked closer to Evan, though they didn’t draw their M4s again. But their closer presence was troublesome enough. Lang stepped as close as he could to Evan. “Evan. Please. Stop! Calm down. You’re just wearing yourself out. Think rationally!”
A light switch turning off, Evan completely ceased his crazed behavior. He turned until his eyes, glaring, stared at Lang. Rage was in that glare. What had the hull done to him? “Rationally, Dad? Are you listening to yourself? Nothing is rational about this!” He clenched his fists. He puffed harder breaths. “Nothing!”
“Evan,” Colonel Stevens said. “You’re agitating the entire base. You need to stop.”
Evan looked up at the tall, determined DFRs. “I don’t care.” He smirked at Colonel Stevens. “You don’t get it, do you. They can’t hurt us. We are not really here.” Keeping his eyes on everyone nearby, Evan randomly thrashed his arms around, in a pointless, rough manner, and walked backwards until the hull surrounding his back pressed up against the wall. “I’m not staying here anymore.”
“What are you talking about?” Lang asked.
Evan quickly swung around, tossed his fists back over his head, and then plunged them into the wall.
“No!” Lang yelled. “Evan!”
But Lang’s words came meaningless.
Evan disappeared into the wall.
Lang rushed to the same spot and pounded his fists against the wall. The hull took the blows, his hands barely feeling the force. But, nothing! He threw himself against the wall. Again, nothing. Crippling panic destroyed his rationality; he threw himself against the wall again and again. Fortunately the DFRs didn’t interfere.
Yet it was all worthless. He stopped. His heart and breathing raced. “What is behind…this wall?”
Colonel Stevens pressed his hands around the same area where Evan had entered, feeling for any soft spots. But his presses revealed no give. “Nothing. No other rooms. Only wiring, plumbing, and a narrow air space between the outside wall and the granite earth.”
“What?” Intense dread ripped through Lang. “Lord! Please! Help us!”