The Village of Hope – Part IV

​Rai was woken up by the sound of dripping. It was incredibly loud despite his fuzzyheadedness, and he struggled to echo-locate its source. Wherever he was smelled of recirculated air, and he could taste the hint of something metallic in the air that reminded him of being on a float when he was in the Corps.

Six months on a ship from Okinawa, Japan to South Korea and back makes one familiar with the individual rust marks on the bulkhead above your rack. And your rack made you infinitely more familiar with not only the contour of your Bunk mate’s backside than you cared for, but its malodorous essence as well. Or as Edwards used to put it, “his half-showering stank ass.”

“Good thing it stinks, the way you’re missing your girl, it might lead you to a decision you would regret later,” he teased his Navy friend.

“Man, forget you. If I want a woman on this ship, I’ll get a Swabbie like everybody else.”

Rai tried to focus on his immediate dilemma. He had a pounding headache, and couldn’t open his eyes more than a slit. He tried to look through what people referred to as the, “third eye,” though he detested the wildly inaccurate misnomer. Nothing.

Assimilating his every sensual clue as best he could, and interpreting that with his presently limited cognitive resources, he came to the conclusion that something was masking his magic. Worse than that, the water was dripping directly on his forehead, that’s why it was so loud.

Rai forced one eye open all the way with the strength of his will. It hurt like hell, and he could only do it with the other eye squeezed shut and his mouth contorted so he imagined that he looked like Popeye, sans the pipe.

Water splashed and burned his irritated eye. It tasted of rust, but he licked his lips anyway, since his mouth was as dry as Conan O’Brien’s monologue.

It was dank and dark. The bulkheads were that puke gray you found on ships, and the little he could see suggested the beginning curve at the top and bottom. He thought he could make out a wheel on what would be a hatch in the dimness, but knew that might be his imagination.

When he tried to interpret the ambient sounds, all he could hear was the drip, drip, drip pounding on his skull. He could feel the water boring into his skull, and now understood how this incessant type of action could wear down a rock, carve out vast canyons from the earth, and make you feel like you had to take a piss.

He was strapped down firmly, arms, legs, and head completely immobilized. He began to feel the strap across his forehead cutting into his skin, and speaking of skin, he didn’t have so much as skivvies on.

Just as seeing blood on an injury makes a child realize that it hurts, he realized he was cold too, and began to shiver. The muscles would generate some body heat through thermogenesis, but he decided to speed things up and relaxed his bladder, releasing a warm stream that saturated his groin before dripping off the platform he was strapped to, and onto the floor.

“Well, there’s a lot you can do to my body, fools, but you will never be able to control my mind. That was too strong for you even before I learned the Way,” he thought.

Rai Washington slowed his breathing, and gained control of his heartbeat. It hadn’t been racing as it should have, so he knew he had been drugged. He slowed the beat even more, and entered a meditative state.

The colors shifted and morphed behind his eyelids. He looked for the brightest spark in the kaleidescope pattern, his North Star, as he always thought of it. Finding it, he held it in place for a moment before it slid from him and rejoined the swirl of colors. Frustrated, he remembered that he had to catch the spark without trying, had to make it want to be caught, and in effect, come to him. He wasn’t going anywhere, so the one thing he had was time. He would have to muster patience.

That was when he heard the muffled voices and the click of heels on the deck outside the chamber he was in. He managed to open both eyes, and confirmed a single hatch was at the far end of the room. Whoever was coming, they were close.

“Shit! Okay, now I gotta hurry up and be patient or I’m screwed.”

He held the spark stationary on his next try, and like reeling in a fish, he didn’t jerk it or move too quickly as he tried to center it, but coaxed it there.

“Gotcha, Bitch,” he said to himself out loud, though his ears disagreed with the pronunciation in his head. “Sayonara, suckers, he mumbled before he felt his astral project detach from his corporeal form.

He floated to the ceiling and along the bulkhead to the hatch. His interlopers were just outside. He decided he needed to apprise the Village of his situation before he did anything else and went to float through the bulkhead. He couldn’t. It was as if he was solid. He felt the breeze stirred up as the wheel spun on the hatch and it swung open toward his wraith-like self.

A young woman stepped through the hatch —

“Wait a minute, that’s a teenager!”

“Yes, I am, Master Rai. And you may as well rejoin your body, this cell is psychically sealed. No coming and going without so much as a by your leave for you, she snickered.

Please continue to regale us with all the Articles of Faith and the subversive mission of the Village,” she said wryly as she stepped farther into the room. Three other stern men wearing white labcoats followed her in.

Lastly came a Navy Captain with no small amount of Fruit Salad on his chest. This guy was more decorated than the Christmas tree at Thirty Rock.

“Hello, Corporal Washington, good to see you again.”

The face was vaguely familiar, but the only Swabbie he knew was — “Edwards??!!”
M. Zane McClellan
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