Corporeal Passage: Chapter 3: Trapped
by Jeff RandEthan spent a less restful night back in his quarters. He went right to bed trying to avoid further confrontation with his son. He was not happy with Louis but eventually determined that there was something driving Louis more than just infatuation with a girl. He realized that Louis had spent more than a quarter of his life on the run without much human contact. It could make sense to stay in Zero Node at the bottom of the ocean rather than face the devastation across the surface of the earth again. Yet, the girl, Danielle Jeddo, appeared and acted no older than his son, but by all calculations was 20 years older than Ethan himself. Then there was the odd behavior from Doug Sutton, who was apparently withholding information. It took nearly a dozen jiffies before Ethan fell asleep.
"Dad. Wake-up!" cried Leu, as he rattled his father in bed.
"What's wrong?" asked Ethan.
"I can't get the door to open. I wanted to leave our apartment to take a walk, and I could not get out. We're trapped."
Ethan rose quickly from his bed and rushed from his room down the stairs with his son. When he placed his hand on the panel to open the door and leave their apartment, nothing happened. He tried it with his left hand just in case it had some issue reading his right. He repeated the verbal command to activate the exit receiving no response. Shortly after Ethan and Leu had arrived in Zero Node, Markie demonstrated a few procedures in case of emergency. She demonstrated how to manually slide the door open if there was an issue preventing it from activating automatically. Ethan found the latch and turned the lever to force the door. It did not move.
"Did you try the one upstairs?" he asked his son.
"No. I didn't want to disturb you."
The pair returned to the second floor and proceeded to the door exiting on the balcony. The door and the entire surface of the glass-like walls were opaque with darkened hues intended to be suitable for a period of sleep. As was the case on the lower floor, Ethan was unable to open the door. In addition, he was unable to change the wall configuration from the subdued opaque surface to one of transparency. They were trapped in their quarters with no ability to see anything outside this space.
Uncharacteristically, Ethan became enraged and ran down the stairs so quickly he missed the last six steps. Although he expected the landing to be painful, it was as soft as just taking a single step. He grabbed a chair and swung it at the door, planning to break the glass. Using his full strength, it hit hard enough to induce significant pain in his shoulder. The legs of the chair were broken. When he looked at the glass door, he couldn't even find a scratch.
Ethan nearly uttered a profanity in front of his son but caught himself in the middle of the word. Despite their current dilemma, the action didn't escape Leu's attention, though he chose not to say anything at this time.
"Something's not working right. We need to contact the others," remarked Ethan, after calming himself.
"I tried to reach Danielle earlier," Leu replied.
"Then we'll try again," said Ethan as he activated a large video panel. Images appeared on the wall offering various cinema choices, educational programs, and environmental controls. The selection for communications was grayed. When Ethan tried this choice, he received the message of 'ACCESS DENIED.'
Once again, Ethan was tempted to swear. He was now motivated to further aggressive action. Throughout the morning, he pursued various means of escape. These produced more damage, as he tried to break the glass with a frying pan and a toilet seat. Leu assisted when they tried a pry bar. The floors, walls, and ceilings were also impenetrable. Although they could not contact anyone or get information helpful to their escape, at least the video system provided for recreational and educational pursuits.
When it came time for lunch, they were surprised to find their apartment well stocked with provisions, although they did not know how these supplies were acquired. As they sat down for lunch, Ethan was still upset and remarked to his son, "It looks like they plan to keep us locked-up again. At least, I don't think you are responsible this time."
Leu jumped to defend himself, "I was the one who escaped from the lighthouse and helped get us food. I think that Doug and Jeff are responsible. Weren't they really our jailers on the island?"
Ethan paused and calmed himself again, "I am sorry. You have been exceptionally brave and helpful during the last four years. I regret that your childhood was cut short. You saved our lives. And yes, I believe the Corporeal Passage, whatever it was, gave them sick minds."
After clearing the lunch mess, Ethan decided to return to his room to search for anything that might facilitate their escape by exploring the educational programs available. Leu was happy to see his father leave. Leu was now of the age where the child believes he is smarter than his parents. The old man was getting dumber every day.
As Leu sat in the sofa that Ethan did not destroy in his attempts to break out of the apartment, Leu thought of the folks he had encountered in the past few years. Yes, he loved his father, but the guy was an idiot sometimes. He had been with Michaela King and her father for the past four years before they departed on the submarine. Michaela was a few years older and usually likable. But she could be bossy. Her father Keith or K2 as he preferred to be called was another example of an adult that could be rational at times and an idiot at others. They had rescued Mr. Donohue twice, once from a Neural Virtual Reality center in Siberia and again months later close to death on a piece of a raft in the Pacific Ocean. He seemed smart enough, but he was old and decrepit. The other guy they rescued in Siberia must have drowned in the ocean.
After they were captured and brought to Zero Node in the submarine a few weeks ago, he got to know some other folks. Wilbur was sensible except for the stories he told that he was descended from a famous aviator and was named after a Wright brother, who invented powered flight. Wilbur left with Mr. Donohue and the Kings on the submarine. Then there was the other old guy who ruled the folks in Zero Node before leaving on the sub. They called him the Infinite Wisdom, but Mr. Donohue called him Ozzie and seemed to give him orders. Apparently, he had been in Zero Node for many years but was one of the original people to attend Winter Camp and knew the other old men.
The other six people all appeared young and said they have spent their entire lives in Zero Node. Two of them cannot be trusted. Doug Sutton and Jeff Dryden are the oldest and the ones responsible for holding Leu and his group hostage in the lighthouse on Howland Island. Once Leu tried to escape, they had to be the ones to capture him since the hand that grabbed him had to come from one of these tall people. Only when instructed by the Infinite Wisdom did they free his group and bring them to Zero Node. The two other male residents of Zero Node were less of a concern. Tom Wilder was quiet and usually helpful. Ron Olds could be foul-mouthed and nasty, but he was a lot of fun. The Jeddo sisters were the two long-term female residents of Zero Node. Markie relished the task of taking care of her younger sister, Danielle. Danielle appeared to be about the same age as Leu and there was some mutual attraction. Leu was puzzled when Danielle celebrated her birthday for living through 224 blue moons, making her older than his father.
Leu activated the video console planning to watch a film. As he navigated through the selections, he was not pleased to find anything new. He was still irritated at his father and knew he hit pay dirt when he came across the title Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask. This was perfect since he felt his father had neglected to provide information on this important subject. When he activated the control to view the film, he received a message, "Sorry Junior. You must be at least 60 to view this film without parental permission."
"That's bull shi...," screamed Leu, failing to finish the word. Leu did not realize the impact that his dad had on him in his unconscious abatement to properly utter profanity. Ethan had acquired the ability to check himself mid swear word from his father who reportedly picked up the habit from his high school principal in Allen Park, Michigan.
Leu settled for the original science fiction classic Planet of the Apes, starring Charleton Heston and Roddy McDowall.
Ethan struggled with the Zero Node education base for much of the afternoon watching videos on the chromite-covered walls in his room. These were supplemented with surround sound and occasional aromas to provide the full sensory experience. However, every time he got close to some information that might help them escape from their apartment, he would get the message 'ACCESS DENIED' together with the walls, floor, and the ceiling to the room turning blood red. After all he had been through with his son, a new tragedy was now in the making. Perhaps the departure of the Infinite Wisdom allowed Doug and Jeff to revert to their natural behaviors as torturers.
Ethan rose from his seat and headed to the stairs to check on his son. As he descended, he could see the video of the wall but not yet see Leu on the other side of the room. He paused for a moment to observe what Leu was watching. The opening credits flashed on the wall. It was the original Twilight Zone in black and white, titled "People are Alike All Over," starring Roddy McDowall. Ethan continued down the stairs to face his son. Seated next to him on the sofa was Danielle. "Hello. Mr. Rein," she said.