Corporeal Passage: Chapter 7: Toilet Capers
by Jeff RandAlthough Ethan and Leu continued to pursue escape, as time progressed, their doubts increased. The girl making the comment about the permanence of their incarceration never returned, yet there were still observers ever present throughout their waking hours. During a period designated for sleep when no one was observing, Ethan roused his son for an escape attempt.
A small pink case holding a few household tools was in a kitchen cabinet, symbolic of a 21st century home aid for residents incapable of performing any real repair. Ethan had to be careful not to break these crude tools, as he worked to remove the oven built into a kitchen cabinet. Ethan hoped to locate the wiring harness and connect oven heating elements directly to it. Then he would use this new tool to burn a hole through the wall, and they would escape through the cabinet. However, when he discovered a flexible clear cable with a multitude of separate filaments as the power conduit to the oven, he was at a loss as to how to proceed. The connection appeared to be similar to a fiber optic cable rather than electric wires. He would have struggled with a three-phase power system, let alone this unusual polyphase apparatus. When he replaced the oven into the cabinet space, it failed to work.
Next day Doug and Jeff returned for the food exchange. As usual they failed to engage in any conversation. However, they must have been aware of the oven failure. The food they left for their prisoners consisted of a raw whole turkey together with the ingredients for stuffing. Ethan made no attempt to say anything about the oven and their inability to roast the turkey. No protein-based foodstuffs were provided during subsequent exchanges. Ethan and Louis had to rely on their diminishing stocks.
By Ethan's reckoning, more than two months had elapsed since they were incarcerated in the 21st century style apartment. Leu appeared more adaptable in spending many of his waking hours engaging interactive software and videos, perhaps due to four years of forced abstinence from this pursuit. Ethan, on the other hand, had just one objective - that of escape. The day after receiving the turkey, he began to formulate a crazy idea, going back to a memory of Winter Camp 44. He would cook the turkey in a Dutch oven.
There were some problems with the idea. Although there was a cast iron kettle available, he had no place to build a fire and no charcoal. These challenges presented new opportunities. Since the bathroom was not visible to the observers outside the apartment cage, he would use it to pursue his project. He began by increasing the amount of soil available for this endeavor by raiding Thomasina's litter box. Each day he kept half the soil and gave the rest to Leu for the exchange with fresh dirt. Since the dirt returned to their captors was laden with feces and urine, Doug and Jeff were too stupid to realize that the quantity of the dirt being returned was greatly reduced.
After several days, Ethan was satisfied he had enough soil and now needed some wood. That night he woke after the observers departed. He opened his dresser and broke off the boards from the back of the drawers, being careful not to wake Leu in the next room, lest he be accused of breaking furniture again. Of course, when the drawers were closed, there was no evidence that some wood had been removed from the dresser.
Ethan took the boards to the bathroom for the next critical phase of the project. He shut the water off to the toilet and drained the bowl. Then he filled the bowl with the dirt he had collected, forming a cavity to hold his wood. He broke the boards into small pieces and placed them in the hole. Then he built a fire in the toilet. Since the bathroom was equipped with modern conveniences, it had a powerful fan above the toilet to dissipate fecal odors. This served an unintended purpose of drawing away the smoke. Ethan allowed the fire to fully engulf the wood before he covered it with the lid of the kettle. He would let the fire smolder through the night, and it would burn the impurities from the wood to produce carbon residue briquettes. He performed the same feat during the next two nights to be satisfied that he had a sufficient supply of homemade charcoal.
The following morning, Ethan informed his son that they would have to share Leu's bathroom, a sharp departure from the individual bathroom approach indicative of life in the 21st century. The observers appeared to be unconcerned that Ethan had to use toilets in separate rooms to serve his needs. In his personal toilet, he removed the homemade charcoal and most of the soil, flushing the residue down the drain. He closed the lid to the toilet and placed Thomasina's litter box on top. Thomasina would have to be satisfied with a new litter box made from a cake pan placed in the alcove by Leu's toilet. He covered the box on his toilet with soil to hold his charcoal. Once he successfully lit the charcoal, he left to allow it to produce the necessary embers.
Ethan enjoyed breakfast with Leu before preparing the turkey and stuffing for his oven. He cut the turkey longitudinally and placed half in his kettle with the stuffing. He brought the kettle to his bathroom and placed it on his toilet stove. He put the lid on the kettle, covering it with two-thirds of the burning embers. Throughout the morning, he feigned frequent bladder problems necessitating a visit to his bathroom. During these visits, he would refresh the charcoal to continue cooking the turkey and keep the exhaust fan engaged.
The prisoners avoided their normal lunch since their food supplies were limited. However, Ethan instructed Leu to prepare mashed potatoes and gravy on the stovetop. When Ethan was satisfied with the preparation of the main course, he flushed the contents from the temporary cakepan litter box down Leu's toilet. In his own bathroom, he flushed the remaining charcoal and excess soil, leaving an indistinct litter box filled with soil for the cat. He was so thorough in his thinking, that his scheme included retaining a turd from the temporary cakepan litter box to be placed in the standard one. When he left the bathroom, he carried a kettle containing a fully cooked turkey and stuffing, leaving no evidence that the toilet had been used in the preparation of this fine meal.
Ethan and Leu feasted on their turkey dinner, making it a prominent display. For the first time during the weeks of captivity, the observer-jailers acted surprised, perhaps even shocked.
That afternoon Ron and two other men approached the apartment holding weapons much like tasers. They were able to open a passage through the transparent wall, pointing the weapons at Ethan and Leu. They pulled a large cage into the room before directing the apartment occupants into the cage. Once Ethan and Leu were secured, the men proceeded to inspect the apartment.
Ethan cried out, "Ron, why are you doing this? You're treating us like beasts!"
Ron offered no response as the inspection continued for nearly a jiffy. When the inspection was complete, Ethan and Leu were released from the cage. Ron and the other inspectors retrieved the cage and left. Ethan remarked to his son that these people were idiots, and it was only a matter of time before an escape would be successful.
Miraculously, the oven started working again and life returned to normal, at least as could be expected for the prisoners in a comfortable apartment.
While their basic needs were met, Ethan continued to be troubled by a sense that the jailers would never willingly release them. Although he had enjoyed more than 40 years of being a free man, his son could spend most of his life in this prison. He noticed that the observers were becoming more varied and wondered where they came from. There had to be much more to Zero Node than he had initially realized. Ethan sought to clarify his thoughts by creating a journal. Thankfully, his captors had provided the tools to express his thoughts with pen and paper:
May 5, 2032: I can't be sure of the date or much of anything, but I will call it May 5th to recognize Steve Donohue's birthday. We have been held as prisoners for nearly four months, and it does not look like we will ever be released. The watchers are an odd bunch and will not communicate with us. Even the folks we thought to be our friends continue to ignore our pleas. I know that our captors may read this journal and punish us, but I hope that it remains for some future historian.
May 6: Yesterday we enjoyed our turkey dinner. The idiot guards could not determine how I cooked the bird without an oven. Ron Olds was part of the team that entered our apartment that afternoon. He locked us in a cage while the others ransacked the place trying to figure out how we did it. Perhaps I am too kind in calling them idiots. It is Ron that worries me most. I can't trust him.
May 7: I have been struggling to understand this place called Zero Node submerged in the Pacific. How could it possibly exist as if it is the remnant of an advanced civilization. Perhaps there is truth to the legend of the Lost City of Atlantis. I know that we didn't find this place in the Atlantic Ocean, but would the ancients have known of another ocean? It would all be the same to them. The Great Space could be the library described in the legend.
May 8: I do not think the residents of Zero Node come from our same genetic lineage. Could their ancestors have been some other hominoid? School children are taught that Neanderthals were dumber than Homo sapiens, but some scientists believe the opposite to be true. Perhaps these folks are from yet another hominoid branch of superior height and intellect. Of course, Ron and the others we have encountered seem to lack this level of intelligence, perhaps due to generations of inbreeding.
May 9: I have been wondering about gravity. Everything seems lighter since we experienced the Corporeal Passage. As I have given it much thought, I now conclude that the Corporeal Passage is actually a large tunnel going through the earth's mantle. I believe the whole Zero Node module passed through this Corporeal Passage to the civilization inside the earth during the event when I was unconscious. If we can get a scale, perhaps we can weigh some things to determine how far we fell inside the earth.
May 10: Today we were visited by Danielle Jeddo when she accompanied Doug Sutton for our food exchange. I sensed some nonverbal communication between her and Leu.
May 11: I suppose it would be Mike Osvath's 70th birthday. I hope he and the others were successful in their journey and will return to rescue us.
May 12: There were three children joining the observers today. I think the woman who came with them was their mother. The kids just stared and pointed at us. There was no modesty among this group. We weren't surprised to see the woman topless, but the kids were naked. Leu and I have resorted to changing clothes in our bathrooms to avoid the perverts outside our cell.
May 13: There was a mix of strangers today to see us in our apartment. They looked like a group of tourists.
May 14: Danielle is becoming a regular visitor, taking charge of the exchange for Thomasina. Leu has taken a special interest in this and has been recording notes of the details.
After a month, Ethan was becoming very agitated over a constant stream of gawkers looking into the apartment. Other than taking a bathroom break, there was no privacy. Leu was less disturbed, becoming accustomed to the selective nudity of the strangers. He looked forward to the exchange with Danielle, who had kept herself properly clothed for the visits. After numerous exchanges with her, he pulled his father aside. "I have something very important to tell you," he whispered.
"What is that?" asked Ethan, as they retreated to the couch. Ethan tuned to a video featuring "acid rock" and increased the volume.
Leu explained, "Danielle knew I was interested in Scouting history and had studied the Cub Scout Wolf Book from the 1960s. Because I kept detailed notes of the things she provided for Thomasina, I noted that she was giving us 16 pellets of cat food each day. When I complained that it wasn't enough to feed our cat, she increased the count. Then I noted that the quantity changed each day to 36-24-31-29-17-35-25-30-17. I recalled the secret code elective in the Wolf book. First, I was confused. However, when I subtracted 16 from each daily count, I understood the message. She had spelled 'Thomasina.' The next three days I returned some pellets, spelling 'cat.' After that she gave me the real message. You are to make your toilet flood the bathroom."
Given the circumstances, Ethan had no reason to doubt Leu's story and he truly hoped that Danielle was looking out for their interests. That night during his regular visit to express his bladder, he opened the cabinet with the water connections to the toilet. He twisted the tubing with his hands to create a modest leak spilling onto the floor. When he woke in the morning, water was flowing from the bathroom covering much of his bedroom.
It didn't take long for Ron to arrive outside the apartment with a cage. He was joined by a repairman, before entering the apartment with the cage. Once again, Ethan and Leu were confined to it while the repairman fixed the leak. Ron proceeded to thoroughly inspect the apartment. Before releasing his captives and leaving with the repairman, Ron offered a bit of advice, "You won't have any further opportunity for shenanigans."
Ethan was enraged towards Ron and felt they had been duped by Danielle. He went to bed vowing to find a way to escape from this lunatic asylum.
Ethan woke in the middle of the night when he was aroused by a stranger. He grabbed his glasses to identify the intruder. It was Ron. "What the?" cried Ethan, almost uttering a profanity.
Ron replied sharply, "You and Leu must grab your packs and leave with me at once. You won't be coming back here."