This story was inspired by an image from ironage.media prompt post of July 19,2023
The darkness was all encompassing as she crawled through the corridor. Nothing could be seen; she had to navigate by touch and other senses. Then suddenly, a blinding light reveals her hiding in the crawl space. She can't see. The light is blinding, and she has been in the dark too long. She feels something plastic go on her wrist with force, and as she struggles and fights, a dart pricks her neck.
Back to the blackness, but this time, it's earlier. She meets a man with well-groomed features in a grey jumpsuit with black jelled-back hair, a rather handsome man she is amazed to be working with. He says, "Hey, you must be the pretty new girl working for us. I'm Bob Chapman. I'm the head Psyconaut. Let me show you around…"
One of the guys in the background jokingly mocks, "Woah Bob showing the new girl around better make sure your wife doesn't find out." Bob laughs at the joke.
The woman replies, "You married, I take it. Why aren't you wearing a ring."
Bod replies, "The drugs may induce swelling in the hands. I keep the ring on a chain around my neck".
Then the time changes. She is sitting in a sterile room with Bob, herself, and another Psyconaut Max, a man with glasses and short brown hair in good shape, lying on beds with a new piece of technology in the center. Each subject has strange helmets, but no wires connect to the device. A voice on the intercom says soothingly, "Now focus your mind on a place you have been before, another place outside of our existence. Imagine where you want to be, and you will be there." She imagines a place in the clouds where people can fly with wings, and the world begins to change. At first, the device in the center doesn't seem to do anything. Then, it lights up, spins, and transmits a vortex from its center. The Psyconauts looking at the vortex of blackness, are disturbed by its implications and immediately get up from their beds.
“Is this the interdimensional gate we wanted?” Bob asks.
"We think so, but we must get a science team in there to be sure." The intercom replies.
Max stares at the black vortex, mesmerized by the blackness. "Imagine seeing another dimension with my own eyes."
“But Max, you see them in your mind constantly with drugs. This is too dangerous," the woman explains.
"I must see it," Max says as Bob gets in the way to block Max from the portal. Max begins to resist, and a fight starts. The woman stays back, too, terrified of the portal to go near it. Bob puts up a good fight but loses too much ground to Max, determined to get to that vortex, no matter the cost. Bob begins to choke out Max, but Bob is too late. Max touches the outer edge of the vortex, and it begins to pull both men in….
Lights shine on the woman again. She is chained to a chair and is now back from the dream. Finally, you can see the ethereal beauty of the woman with her blonde hair and blue eyes despite the grime of crawling through crawl spaces. The woman for her age gives off a sense of seeing more things in life than her age indicates, giving her a weird presence as she stares at a room of three men. The first is a man in his fifties with a shaved head in good shape with an eagle on his epaulets, a captain on his blue jumpsuit, the second main of central African origin who is trim but not well built and has two bars on his epaulets, a Lieutenant and is carrying a pad with him and finally a Scandinavian looking man who looked like he came out of a weight lifting competition standing by the door with a sergeant insignia on his arm.
“She seems to be coming out of the coma quickly.” The Lieutenant says.
"Remarkably, we shot her with enough drugs to put down an elephant, and she is still coming around fast. Are the restraints secure?” The captain inquires.
“As much as they can be. If not, we got Sergeant Borgeson if it gets out of hand like our last attempt to find this woman.”
“We have two injured crewmen from that attempt to put her in the brig. This time I want answers.” The captain responded in a harsh tone
“What day is it…" she says, a little groggy.
The captain nods. "March fourth. “the lieutenant responses
“So, you’re less than a day from the LaGrange point for your experiment.” The woman states nonchalantly
“What experiment? How does she...” The Lieutenant answers with bewilderment
“Let’s start with some names, shall we, or do I have to pull up the DNA trace evidence ID we got from Earth on our last transmission.”
"Well, since you seem to know so much about me, why don’t you start.” The woman responses
“Your name is Sarah Dawfelt. You were born in Hopelawn, New Jersey. You have a bachelors in mechanical engineering, a master's in aerospace, and a Ph.D. in dimensional mechanics. Okay, that's a new one. And for work history, it just says a resident of the state of Nevada for ten years. I would like to explain how I have a convict that somehow got past the most secure facility on Earth, to get on a spaceship that traveled months from Earth only to be captured a day from a LaGrange point?” The captain demands.
“To answer your questions, I got past the facility carefully. Very carefully if that makes your report sound good, and there was a 90% chance that your security forces would eventually capture me on the ship. I just didn't think it would take you this long. I worked for the government, just a little more off the books. I'm a Psyconaut.”
"Now, what the heck is a Pscyonaut?” the captain questions.
“In the 1950s and 1960s, the USA, along with other powers, began experimenting with hallucinogens in projects like Mk ultra to see if they could persuade information from people. Their results were mixed. But later, programs like Projects Stargate that used other substances led to experiments where people traveled to different worlds through their minds. These were the first Pscyonauts. The goal was to travel to these worlds, explore these interdimensional realms, and hopefully bring back technology to improve our lives on Earth.” Sarah explains.
“So let me get this straight you're a druggy that travels imaginary worlds in your mind, and you dream up technology, and somehow the government pays for this. Congress will fund anything.” The captain jests.
"I never looked into the books of my organization, but I'm pretty sure. But speaking that you can’t find my work history. The budget is classified.” Sarah retorts.
"That's enough. I have wasted enough of my time with this insanity. Get the security team in here and get her to the brig.” The captain demands.
“Wait! I only did this to warn you there is an 80% probability that the ship will be lost in the experiment if you don't listen to me. Do not activate the device, say it didn’t work, say you’re out of resources, say whatever you must. Please don't activate that device for your life; the crew’s lives depend on it. Please don’t do it!” Sarah implores.
“I don’t take advice from bums.” As the captain leaves, four security guards come.
Just before the guards take Sarah away, she asks, "Lieutenant, what’s your name?”
"Um, Maxwell, ma’am," Maxwell answers
As the guards begin to bind her and carry her away, she offers no resistance. "Next time we meet, remember to jump toward the cell, not away, okay” Maxwell is uncertain how to react, but he has this perplexed look on his face as Sarah is hauled off down the hall of the ship.
*** a few hours later***
Maxwell enters a small room with a guard at the post. You can see the next room in the small cell containing Sarah with a screen where she is reading the Odyssey. Maxwell goes to a little intercom in front of the door. The guard nods, and Maxwell pushes the button. “Doing a little light reading.”
“It’s one of my favorite stories when I’m on a doomed ship. It gives me hope that the gods may grant us favor to get us home. I especially like how Odysseus lashed himself to the mast to hear the siren's song but protected his crew. A lesser man wouldn't have been curious, but not him. He had to explore the world and hear the song.”
“Interesting, so you believe in gods?”
“Meet a few of what our ancestors’ called gods. There is A God, and that is important to remember. But many things that were demons and angels, elves, dwarves, dragons, and fairies are just some forms of interdimensional being that came to Earth at some point and got folded into our mythology.”
“And how do you know this?” Maxwell says in that tone reserved for only when you know you're talking to the mentally ill.
"Because I'm part alien or fey born or whatever you want to say, part of those interdimensional beings somehow got enfolded into my DNA, and that is how I can travel between dimensions so well and am so gifted.”
“I’m down here to…”
“You’re down here to ascertain how I infiltrated your base and your ship and evaded you for so long. Although this is strange to you, we have had this conversation about ten times before; sometimes you are a woman, sometimes you are Asian, sometimes you are European, but I think we are in the right universe where we might survive this, but that is just my gut speaking.”
“Life is about walking through probabilities; when you walk through dimensions, that only increases. The chances of you getting hit by a bus in the Sahara are slim, but they go up a bunch in New York City. That's how I infiltrate places.”
"That makes no dang sense" As Maxwell says, the ship begins to rumble, and strange light comes from everywhere. The ship begins to ripple and distort. Maxwell and the guard begin to jump and move back, but then Maxwell remembers the earlier conversation and moves toward the cell. The guard moves toward the door, and a rift opens to a gray, white realm, and shortly after, the rift closes.
“What was that?" Maxwell pushes the intercom in trepidation.
“Your brilliant captain has decided to completely ignore my advice and activate the device. Good thing I planned for this. Did you get the code for the cell this time?”
"What, no, the guards are the only ones with the codes.”
“Well, let’s hope this still works then.” Sarah goes over to her screen and types in a code Circe on the screen, and the door opens. "Good, my program still works. We need to get to my stash near engineering. That is also where the device is, so it's two birds with one stone.”
“But how do we do it with the ship coming apart from these rifts? What if something comes through?"
“We must have positive emotional states to get through this. Think happy thoughts." She looks around for a bit and thinks, "Hey, you got anything that plays music?”
“My personal device has a small speaker on it. It has some songs from my personal collection but not a lot.”
"Well, let me see.” Maxwell removes a small cell phone-looking device from his pocket and gives it to Sarah, unlocked. "Ah, this will work positive music for positive vibes, Bob Marley.”
“Should we get guns for the monsters that come through the portals?" Maxwell says, terrified.
"If that will make you feel secure, then sure, let’s get guns, but just remember these creatures are just as lost as you are to be gentle with them," Sarah explains.
The two go through the corridors of the ship that look like a rave is going on, random portals of bright light opening and closing around them. Nothing seems to be coming through the music, and the bright lights seem to be repelling the creatures from the other side until they get to the armory. The room is oddly quiet as they appear to be the first to the arsenal. Maxwell opens the locker with his command code, and the room still has its full complement of rifles and pistols in case the ship needs them for some unknown reason. As soon as they both get their guns, a creature slithers out of a portal with a large slug-like body and a head similar to a fly. The creature moves towards the two would-be companions. As it progresses, it emits a sound like “Buzith, Buzith..Buzith”. Maxwell pulls up his rifle to shoot, but Sarah gently puts her hand on the barrel and lowers it.
“You must understand your way out of this problem." She explains. She goes over to the creature and says, "This is not your home, imagine home, and you will go there" As she speaks, a green-gray portal opens, and the creature slithers through. After that, she goes back for more ammo.
“What happened to understanding your way around problems?” Maxwell asks.
"This isn't for now. It's for later. I don’t plan on losing any men to this Scylla. As we go, we should gather the crew and keep them safe. Unfortunately, we haven't seen any besides that guard that got lost in the rift.”
“How do you deal with not getting lost in a rift?”
“Think of home, think of Earth, think of grounding thoughts that attach you to this plane of existence. And you won't generate a rift of wonder about other worlds, and you will. It is that simple." Sarah explains in a calm tone.
“I got it.” Maxwell responses
The two begin to move, finding some crew explaining the rifts to the crew. As they add crew, the music collection grows; they add soothing jazz, rhythm and blues, and classical music to keep people calm and grounded toward this plane of existence as they arrive at a small crawl space near engineering. "Give me five minutes to remain calm and focused; I will get you home, promise.” She goes up the crawl space and returns with a large duffel bag within a few minutes.
“What’s that?” Maxwell asks.
“This is an experimental rig," as Sara pulls out a helmet similar to the one in her flashback and pulls out some other equipment meant for the body, "In theory, it is supposed to allow a person to travel between dimensions without any warping or mutation, but it has never been tested. No time like the present for a field run.” The crew helps Sarah put on the equipment, and they move toward engineering.
When they get, there are several rifts surrounding the device. Maxwell asks, “Now what?”
“Now we go get a friend who can stabilize these rifts. Move toward the edge of engineering and keep playing that music.” The crew does so, and Sarah opens a rift to a black dimension apart from the crew and jumps into the portal.
She hears no sounds, a series of horrifying images cross her mind, and then she remembers a hold tune and begins to sing to herself, "There’s a dark and a troubled side of life, there’s a bright and a sunny side too; though we meet with the darkness and strife; the sunny side we also may view …. Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side" She begins to move toward a cow-like creature with the mangled face of a human and looks at it. She sees on its chest a wedding ring embedded in it. "Time to go home, Bob," she opens a portal back to the ship, grabs hold of Bod, and they go through.
Bob's presence seems to disrupt the portals around the device as Sarah moves in to reprogram the device. Maxwell and the remaining crew come over, and it.
“Is that it?” Maxwell asks, freaked out at the sight of Bob.
"For you, yes, Bob will stay here and stabilize the rift. According to the device, ten people were lost in the rifts, and I still need to find some other Pscyonauts that went missing over the years. The ship will act as my beacon, and I will complete my missions, so this is where I leave everyone. You got one of those communicators with bluegrass on it. That helps me mellow out.”
"Take mine. We can reprogram it at the ship's console here.” They reprogram the device and, with a nod from Bob. Sarah opens a portal and leaves through her first portal to find the rest of the crew from the monster Scylla, as a song plays “Can the circle be unbroken” by the Carter Family.
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