OCTOBER 5TH, 9:55 AM
Once Dillon and the remaining HAZMAT people followed Dr. Bohanek out, the tent was empty again.
Lang sighed. “They keep leaving us alone in here.”
“Because they don’t know what to do.” Evan walked over to his bed and leaned against it. He stared down at his PSP, pressing buttons, caught up in the game once more. “And they have to brain-storm outside.”
“But at least they don’t seem that afraid of us.”
“I guess. Mostly they’ve been really great so far, especially Peggy. They just shouldn’t get so loud.”
“That’s true.” Lang walked over to him. “I…I tried praying, a few times. And then things improved. But now I’m not so sure anymore.”
Evan didn’t say anything.
“Evan, have you been praying, like I asked you to?”
He lowered his PSP and stared up at Lang. He shrugged a little bit. “I really haven’t thought about it. Like I said. I only thought God must be doing this, and he’s either protecting us from time, or maybe he’s mad at us, or something.”
Lang again recalled that selfish, ridiculous prayer before all of this took place. If God was mad at anyone, it was at him. He wanted to tell Evan but it would probably just make things worse. “When we commit a sin, what is the remedy?”
“We should ask the Savior for forgiveness, as soon as we can. Why? You think we did something wrong?”
“Well…I don’t know. I’m not sure. Can we say a prayer together?”
Making a half frown, Evan lowered his PSP until only holding it in his right hand. “Sure.”
“Remember Matthew eighteen twenty? For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.”
“Yes, Dad. I remember.” He sighed. “And I’m sorry, about what I did earlier. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“It’s all right.” But it needed to be forgotten now. “We should pray.” Lang held his hands together under the transparent encasing material, doming it outward near his abdomen, and he closed his eyes. “Dear Savior. Please forgive us for our sins, and please--”
“How are you two doing?”
Lang opened his eyes and turned back. Peggy was approaching, carrying a long, thin wood and metal object that had a square platform at one end. Lang quickly recognized it – it was one of those devices used to measure heights.
She slowed down and then halted. “Oh, I’m so sorry. If you two are praying, go right ahead.”
“Thank you, Peggy.” Lang closed his eyes again. “Please, Savior. Be with us, and help us, help us so that this strange, mysterious material can be removed, and we can be returned to normal.” Lang wanted to pray more but sensed urgency from Peggy. “In the Savior’s name we pray, Amen.”
He opened his eyes and smiled at Evan. But Evan only stared, his eyes tired, sad.
“Dr. Bohanek tried calling Pastor Reynolds, but he could only leave a message,” Peggy said. “So hopefully Pastor Reynolds calls back soon. Oh, and this is a stadiometer.” She held out the lengthy object so they could see it better. “It’s designed to take your height. And I want to inform both of you of something else that’s very important. Several people from the Air Force will be arriving soon. They have the resources and manpower to help both of you so much better than any of us.”
“What?” Lang said. “Really? They’ll be here soon?”
“Yes. But they want us to take your height, and try again to get your weights. And I need to ask a few more questions.”
Once she had the stadiometer adjusted and standing, she took each of their heights, along with the approximate width of the encasing material and the air space between it and their body surfaces. She also asked if he and Evan felt all right, and if they were thirsty, or hungry. They both explained they felt fine, and didn’t feel hungry or thirsty, for some reason, which, come to think of it for Lang, was rather odd.
Peggy recorded everything in her electronic tablet.
Dr. Bohanek stepped into the tent, along with several of the HAZMAT people, and he immediately made a bee-line for the scale. He picked it up and walked over and placed it on the floor near Lang. “Just a hunch.” He sounded more upbeat. “Lang, give it a try again?”
“Sure. Why not.” Lang stepped on and quickly heard that Dr. Bohanek’s hunch could be true; he heard creaking from his weight pressing down on the scale. He stared at the digital display: 190.5 pounds. “What? I have weight now! You think it’s playing with us again?”
“Yes, toying with us, playing with us, whatever it is. Didn’t want to have you two appear on the video, or in the mirror, or reflect light, but then it did.” Dr. Bohanek placed his hands on his hips. He asked Peggy for the tablet. She handed it to him. “You normally weigh approximately one hundred ninety, right?”
“So this material has no mass itself, it seems. Unless of course we include that one half pound. But that could be attributable to water gain, clothing, etc., so that may not mean anything.”
“Maybe it’s hiding its own weight.”
“Good observation, Lang.” Dr. Bohanek looked at Evan and motioned his hand toward the scale. “How ‘bout it, Evan?”
Leaning forward, Evan stood up straighter and walked over to the scale.
“Funny, I didn’t think to notice this earlier,” Dr. Bohanek said, eying Evan’s feet carefully. “You’ll register a weight now Evan. I see your feet pressing into the tent’s floor.”
Lang looked down at his own two encased feet, his brown dress shoes an uncomfortable reminder that he should be at Brinwell now instead of being stuck in this insanity. He moved his feet up and down. The tent’s yellow floor wrinkled in clumps, sounding like crumpled plastic wrap wherever his feet pressed down. “You’re right. No wonder it felt like walking on air.”
“That’s true, Dad. But we are on a cushion of air anyway so we’ll probably feel it no matter what.” Evan stepped on the scale. Lang moved around until he had a good view of the display. It showed 107 pounds.
“But you said about a hundred and five pounds,” Dr. Bohanek said. “I wish we knew for certain. Though I think this material is messing with us, we could at least get some idea, by subtracting your weight and--”
Bright, yellow-green light suddenly filled the tent. Lang shut his eyes from the stinging, intense brightness. “Owe!”
“What the hell was that?” Dr. Bohanek yelled.
“No kidding!” Evan said. “Did something happen outside?”
Lang opened his eyes and blinked enough until the spots in his eyes diminished somewhat and his sight adjusted better.
Peggy and the HAZMAT people rushed to the tent’s opening and went outside.
“Be right back,” Dr. Bohanek said, following after them.
Lang focused his eyes better and looked around. Huh? This can’t be! Something was very wrong; confusion and heat swept through him; his view differed – everything, except Evan, appeared taller. He looked down. His feet were still in the same spot, but somehow seemed smaller in comparison to the tent material’s star-shaped wrinkles near each foot.
“Dad. Something really weird just happened.” Evan, yet standing on the scale, was staring down at it. “Now it says I weigh one hundred eight point seven. And everything looks a little larger or something.”
“You noticed it too?” Lang stepped closer and looked at the scale. “Wow. You’re right. You weigh more now. What on earth is going on?”
The tent flaps whipping open, Dr. Bohanek stepped in and walked right over to them. Though his urgency was elevated, his motion didn’t seem as fast as it should be, oddly. “Whatever produced that blue flash, it happened in here. Everything’s absolutely fine outside.” His speech even sounded a little slower. He stood still, blinking, staring incredulously at Lang, and then at Evan. He noticed Evan’s eyes on the scale’s display and stared down at it too. “One hundred eight point seven? Now it has you weighing more?”
“Wait,” Lang said. Peggy and even more HAZMAT people than earlier were stepping into the tent. “What do you mean by blue light? I saw yellowish, or yellow-green, but not blue.”
“Me too,” Evan said. “It was definitely more on the yellow side. And it was really bright.”
“Everyone outside near the tent wondered if we had just snapped a photo with a powerful camera.” Again Dr. Bohanek’s words flowed slower. “They saw bluish light.”
Peggy and several of the HAZMAT men confirmed this, even stating the light flash had an aqua tint.
Strange. Peggy and those others seemed to be speaking a bit slower too.
Watching and listening closely, with some of the HAZMAT people quietly conversing amongst themselves, Lang felt convinced; everyone’s speech, motion, and behaviors, except Evan’s, were slightly slower. Lang’s breathing began picking up again and his pulse pounded in his ears. “Dr. Bohanek. Please. What is happening? And I swear things seem slower from you and everyone else in here.”
“And I think we’re shorter now too,” Evan said, his voice shaky.
Dr. Bohanek held concern, maybe even shock, in his eyes. “All right. Evan, step off the scale.” Evan did. “Lang, step on please.”
Lang did so. The scale now read 193.5 pounds. “What? How?” He stepped off, waited a moment, and then stepped on again. The digital display still showed 193.5. “I just gained three pounds?”
“Weirder by the second, Dad. And now I’m really starting to regret saying that, because it’s getting way too weird.”
Dr. Bohanek didn’t say anything for a moment, his face blank in expression. “Peggy. Bring that stadiometer back over. And bring up your recorded measurements.”
Calm. Stay calm.
Lang drew in a deep breath, but it did little to subdue his pounding heart. But he had to know. “Do you think…did we shrink in size?”
“No. Whatever that light flash was, I don’t believe you shrunk in size.” Peggy placed the stadiometer near Lang and handed the tablet to Dr. Bohanek. He searched through the tablet’s entries. “An optical illusion is going on here, knowing this material’s behavior so far.” He looked at Dillon standing nearby. “Can you measure Lang?”
Dillon walked over and adjusted the top wooden measuring flap above Lang’s head. “Including the unknown matter, from foot bottom to top of head, Lang is about seventy-three inches in height.”
“No,” Dr. Bohanek said, “that can’t be. He was seventy-six point five inches before. Measure him again.”
Dillon did, but obtained the same number.
Dr. Bohanek asked Peggy if she had measured him properly, and she said she had.
“Measure Evan now,” Dr. Bohanek said.
Lang moved away from the stadiometer and allowed Evan to stand beneath it.
“I know Evan’s total height was about sixty-five point five inches before,” Peggy said. “What are you getting now?”
Dillon carefully adjusted the flap on top of the encasing material covering Evan’s head. “About…sixty-two point five inches, looks like.”
Dr. Bohanek stepped closer to Evan. He eyed Evan up and down a few times. “All right, let me do it.” Dillon stepped out of the way and Dr. Bohanek adjusted the flap. He stared in disbelief; the wooden flap again rested at 62.5 inches. “This...this can’t be. It has to be a matter of time. We didn’t see you in the mirror, then we did. We didn’t see you on video, but then we did. We didn’t--”
“See us at our regular height,” Lang said, and swallowed, “but then you will?”
“Yes. Exactly.” Dr. Bohanek turned to Mark. “I need that laser again.”
Mark stepped closer and handed it to him.
“Lang,” Dr. Bohanek said, “hold out your arm.”
Dr. Bohanek pointed the laser beam at the top of Lang’s forearm. Thankfully, the beam lighted his tan jacket sleeve with that red dot; the conniving, intelligent material at least wasn’t denying his presence now. Yet, the beam had a crooked path, slanting away once entering the air space between the material and Lang’s sleeve.
“You see that too?” Dr. Bohanek asked.
“Yeah. It’s not a straight line path. Is that what you meant by refraction, when you said it earlier?”
“Yes, that’s right. But refraction only occurs when a light ray is sent through a medium at an angle.” Dr. Bohanek positioned the laser beam straight down toward Lang’s tan sleeve. No slanted path showed. “You see what I mean?”
“Yes. Maybe I remember this from high school.”
“Only when the incoming ray is at an angle to the perpendicular line from the surface will refraction take place.” He moved closer, his HAZMAT shield-covered face within inches from the material. He pointed the beam at varying angles to that imaginary perpendicular line. “Refraction occurs when light travels from a medium of one density to a medium of another density. The light changes speed. That’s what causes the refraction.”
Dr. Bohanek finally held the beam in one position, not moving his hand. He stared at the red beam. “What we’re seeing here is similar to light traveling in glass and then traveling through air.”
Evan stepped closer. “Like fiber optics?”
“Yes, similar. Clever of you to ask.” Dr. Bohanek kept his stare and hand steady. “Well, with fiber optics, we can get total internal reflection.”
“I know,” Evan said. “I’ve read that before.”
“But why light is traveling faster in the air space beneath the material…I don’t get it.” Dr. Bohanek moved the laser away and stood up. He looked at Lang. “You breathing okay? Plenty of air?”
Lang inhaled deeply and then paid close attention to his normal breathing. Everything felt fine. “Yes. Same as earlier. There is definitely plenty of air.”
“Same with me, Dad.”
“That’s good, Evan,” Lang said. “But why is our breathing important now?” He stared at Dr. Bohanek’s face, puzzlement all over it.
“Not sure. Maybe the air molecules changed, or altered their position.” Dr. Bohanek stepped back a short distance. He pointed the red beam into Lang’s right shoulder area. “Just trying a few more angles. Maybe I’ll even get some internal reflection, like Evan mentioned.”
Evan didn’t smile, but appeared pleased.
Turning his head and contorting his neck until getting a better view and staring past the layers of the transparent material, Lang could finally see the red beam. It entered just above his shoulder at an angle, similar to how it behaved by his arm.
Suddenly numerous red lines crossed before his sight.
“This sly stuff,” Dr. Bohanek said. “Total internal reflection?”
Startled, Lang looked down around his body. He blinked several times, not believing his eyes. Hundreds of red laser beam lines filled every available air space between his clothing’s surface on up to the transparent material’s inner border, completely surrounding his torso, arms, legs, and feet, the lines’ paths straight until hitting a curve and then striking straight to the next curve. Maybe only an eighth of an inch separated each line. “What the…what is this!”
Thick darkness suddenly began circling Lang.
“Lang! What’s happening!” Dr. Bohanek’s voice came high pitched and fear-filled. “Are you all right?”
“Dad!” Evan called out, his voice frantic.
The tent’s interior and everyone within it vanished.
That same thick darkness, the blackest Lang had ever encountered, completely immersed him now. Quickly though he could see the encasing material glowed a dim, light orange around his arms, his hands, and everywhere else around him except before his eyes. He wasn’t in a small enclosure, like a cave or closet completely devoid of light, but could somehow sense immense distances all around him. He looked down and pressed with his feet. His heart nearly exploded; nothing was beneath him. He was floating. “Oh dear Lord. Where am I? Help me, please!”
Yet he wasn’t sinking downward into the horrible dark depths. Something was moving him, floating him straight ahead. He stared in that direction, blinking to clear his watering eyes. Far ahead in the distance was a lighted silver disk. A spacecraft in outer space? But he couldn’t see any stars or planets, yet still felt as tiny as a speck of dust inside an infinitely large, dark barrel.
His breathing pumped away relentlessly.
No. Stop. Don’t panic!
An odd, calming feeling unexpectedly settled within his inner chest but it was too late.
Never had such fear seized him.
Lang began thrashing his legs and arms uncontrollably. He bellowed out sounds and yells he couldn’t understand or stop.
Light brightened around him. “Ahhh!” He struggled to contain himself, but could barely do so. “Noooo!” His thrashing feet abruptly hit solid ground, catapulting him forward until his encased hands landed hard on a yellow surface, breaking his fall. “Ahhh! What…what’s happening?”
“Dad! Are you all right?”
“Evan!” Relief streamed through Lang. Sobs and tears sprung forth from him that he couldn’t stop. “Thank you, Lord. Thank you.” Yellow. Yellow floor. Of course. He was back in the tent. He pushed up with his trembling arms until he could kneel.
He looked up.
Evan knelt down. “Dad. Wh-where d-d-did you go?” From under the horrible encasing wrap tears streamed from Evan’s eyes. “What happened?”
“I’m okay, Evan. I’m okay now.” His arms and legs still shaking, Lang tried to stand up, but couldn’t.
Two sets of glove-covered hands seized the enchasing material around his upper arms and lifted him to a standing position. His legs yet wobbled but the hands held him steady. He looked at both HAZMAT people. Dr. Bohanek and Dillon were holding him firmly.
“Lang, are you…are you all right?” Dr. Bohanek was breathing heavily and shock gave out from his eyes and voice. “You completely disappeared.”
“Y-y-yes.” Lang’s own rapid breathing wasn’t decreasing much. “I believe so.”
“Major Eiken and Major C’est…from the Air Force…will be here…within several minutes. Everything…is going to be all right now.”
Lang couldn’t think straight. Dr. Bohanek’s words only came as a sick joke. “Okay,” Lang said between huffs. “I…I hope so.”