[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 9
The door to the machine closed so smoothly and rapidly that Joey didn’t even have time to react. It was surprising that it didn’t go dark despite the lack of a visible light source. Even more intriguing was that it frightened him.
“Elsa?” He didn’t want her to worry even though he didn’t know how he was going to get out. His voice didn’t seem to make any sound other than inside his own head. There was no echo like there should be inside a metallic cylinder.
He banged on the side with his fist. That also made no noise. It was like being trapped in a vacuum except he could breathe. The button he’d pushed wasn’t there any more. Now he grew concerned.
Joey pounded against the wall with no sound from either side of the machine’s wall. It had to be made of some sound-dampening material, but what?
The sounds of rustling leaves stirred all around him. Even a mild breeze started. The sound and the breeze both increased in intensity. Now was a fine time to panic!
Slamming against the door did no good. In fact it just plain hurt. Tendrils of white shot up from the floor and wrapped up his feet then his legs. He tried to tear them off with no success. Breath came in short gasps.
This can’t be happening. This is a machine! What is it doing to me? Why is it doing this? It shouldn’t even be working it’s so old. God what’s happening!
The white tendrils wrapped his arms to his body snugly, but not uncomfortable. Joey tried to take a deep breath before his face was covered over, but wasn’t successful as it spun its cocoon over his head. He was, however, still able to breathe. He relaxed slightly, but was afraid he might have wet himself. What would it matter? Maybe this was a death machine and Elsa was just waiting outside for him to be dead.
There was a sensation of the floor falling away and everything went dark. By the warm feeling between his legs, Joey was now certain of what he’d done.
The darkness was bitterly cold; almost unbearably cold. He shivered and his teeth chattered slightly. Was this what it felt like to die? You wet yourself and then everything goes dark? But that couldn’t be right. Elsa said that her husband and son disappeared inside the machine. Where did they end up? Was he suddenly going to end up on the moon or something? That would be pretty bad. He’d last for about ten seconds before the freezing cold stiffened his body to nearly absolute zero.
What a way to go. What a stupid thing to do. Pushing that button was not a smart thing to do. What was I thinking?
Light crashed into him brutally. This sure wasn’t the near death experience he’d heard about. Those were supposed to be gentle and serene. This was intense and painful. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be at all. If he was dying, why was he in pain?
The white tendrils that had wrapped him like a mummy were gone now. The floor was a metal grate with a fine, mesh pattern on it. Why am I looking at the floor? Joey tried to lift his head, but it felt as if it were full of water and he bobbed from side to side each time he tried to move. What a horrible feeling.
If he hadn’t just crashed his bike this might not feel so awful, but deep down, he knew it would. Yes. It would hurt.
A pair of black boots stood on the grating in front of him.
“June, get up here. Now!”
The voice was strong and commanding. Was it coming from the person wearing the boots? The person in the boots leaned down. His face was blurry. It had brown hair and a brown caterpillar moustache. If anything, the smile reassured Joey.
“It’s going to be okay, kid. I’ve dealt with this before. Only once before, but before. We’ll take care of you.”
A female voice came from nowhere. “Vic, I’m busy and I’m strapped in. What do you need?”
“June, get up here. We’ve got someone on the ship.”
“What do you mean ‘someone’?”
“You know what I mean now get up here and help me out.”
There was a long silence. The man, his name must be Vic, helped Joey to his feet.
“June is on her way. Everything’s going to be alright, kid. Well, I guess that depends on your version of alright, but it’s the best I can do for you at the moment.”
It was difficult getting to his feet. It was rather like being a half-inflated blow-up toy. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t keep his feet firmly planted.
“Vic, I’m busy. What do you mean…”
The female voice was closer than the speaker but still fuzzy. Joey turned his head and looked down a narrow passageway. Everything was steel gray and dull in appearance. Everything that was except that soft shape in the middle of the passageway.
“Put him on ice until we have a chance to deal with him.”
“Who is he?”
“Like I know that?”
“Well what am I supposed to do with him?”
“I figured you’d be the best one to deal with him as you’ve been through this too.”
“June, we’re in the middle of an emergency here. I don’t have time to argue with you. Just please take him downstairs and give him something.”
June grunted and put her arm around Joey’s waist. Vic put Joey’s arm around June’s shoulders.
“June’s going to take care of you kid. I think you two might even have a few things to talk about while you’re down there. Might make the transition easier.”
Joey managed to open his mouth and squeak a couple words out. “What transition?”
“I don’t have time, kid. June will have to answer that.”
And Vic disappeared. The sudden loss of Vic meant he had to put all his weight on June. She was softer than Vic and Joey didn’t like being a burden on her. It took away all his masculinity. He tried to stand up.
“Don’t even try it, bud. I tried to be all tough when I got here too. It’s not going to get you anywhere. Just let me lead you down to where you can lie down until this feeling passes.”
“It took me a few hours.”
“You don’t want to know right now, bud. Trust me on that one.”
Joey fought with his brain. He did want to know. He had to know. He obviously wasn’t in Elsa’s garage anymore. That machine still worked. It had transported him somewhere and two people were here at least, Vic and June. Could Vic be Victor, Elsa’s son? That wasn’t possible. Vic would be in his fifties at least. This man’s face, although blurry and hard to make out, couldn’t have been more than twenty five or thirty.
“I’m not going to tell you anything and I don’t think you should try to talk. I’m going to ask you some simple questions and you can just nod or shake your head. Do you understand?”
“Have you eaten recently?”
Had he? He’d had tea with Elsa and he’d left home before he’d had dinner. Suddenly he realized how hungry he was. He shook his head.
“We’ll have to get something into your stomach. It’ll help this feeling go away faster. I’m going to take you to the kitchen. When was the last time you went to the bathroom?” June looked down at Joey’s pants. “Aw that sucks. Look, I’ll help you get some food, but you’re changing that yourself. I’ll get you some overalls or something but I’m not playing nurse. That’s not my job.”
Joey would have blushed if he had control over his body but he didn’t. He could still feel the cold wetness in his pants.
“So you look all tore up, what happened? No, on second thought, tell me later. At least it looks like someone bound you up before you came here. I guess we know that the machine is still working.”
“What is it?”
“I told you I’ll tell you later. You need to get better first. Here’s the kitchen. Watch your head.”
The doorway into the kitchen was low and Joey lolled his head forward, it wanted to loll to the side, and accidentally nuzzled June’s neck. Her hair was strawberry-blonde and felt nice on his face. She smelled good, but something reminded Joey of his mother.
“Hey! I’m here to help you out, not be your boy toy.”
“And you should be.”
She dumped him into a seat. His body tensed in pain and his eyes came back into focus for a moment then blurred again. With his focused vision he got a brief glimpse of the kitchen. It looked like two long picnic tables constructed of the same metal as the walls but with some padding. There were lines along one wall that Joey thought might be cabinets and when June opened one, he was proud of himself for figuring that out.
“Look, Vic, I can only do one thing at a time you know.”
“June! Belt in! We need to stop and make another jump. Should be quick this time. Make sure the kid is belted in too.”
June sighed, slammed the cabinet closed, and sat down next to Joey.
“Okay, bud. You’re going to get your first experience with hyperspace.” She pulled a seatbelt-looking device from under the bench seat and buckled herself in. She then pushed a button on the buckle. “This is like a seat belt in a car, but will place a dampening field around you. You’re already sick and this will probably make it worse.” She did the same for Joey and he could do nothing to resist. “Now just try to take deep breaths and relax. We’re going to be doing this a few times I guess. Just go with it. I’ll try to feed you when we’re not making jumps.”
Dampening field? Hyperspace? Those things weren’t real yet she spoke as if they were reality. Why did he push that button?
Joey felt his insides turn outside. If he had eaten anything it would have surely come up. There was a brief sensation of no movement and weightlessness before the lurching sensation happened again.
“Welcome to the Spaceship Acid Rat, bud.”
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