The Eighth Hour

November 16, 2010
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The tall trees almost blocked out the sun. As Matt quietly plodded through the lush rainforests of the Amazon River, he saw something out of the corner of his eye. He turned to look, but only tall trees were present. Matt had the sickening feeling of being followed. Swish! There it went again. It moved so fast, that Matt’s eyes could barely see it.

He stepped out into a clearing, and let the sun shine down on him. As he bathed in the sunlight, he recalled his life just two weeks ago.

* * * *

For all of his life, Matt had loved the jungle. He watched all of the shows on jungle life and read plenty about it too. So when Matt encountered a once in a lifetime opportunity to fly to South America, and go on a tour of the rainforest for free, he was quick to accept.

The next week, Matt pulled up to the airport. The plane they were taking was clearly labeled as “South American Tour.” The plane was brand new. It shined in the morning light. Matt had never seen, or much less been on a plane this advanced.

After a few minutes of wandering around trying to find the rest of the group, he heard an announcement. “All people departing on flight #7659 to South America please go to gate 34B.” Matt checked his ticket, and took off sprinting, almost forgetting his bags. To his utter surprise, there were at least 20 other people at the terminal. Matt’s dismay was put to rest as he saw that there were at least twice as many guides. With shocking little delay, they boarded the plane.

Take off went as planned, with the classic, “Please fasten your seatbelts and put your trays down.” Matt was going to need energy later, so he lay back, and in no time, had fallen asleep.

The flight was going perfectly for 7 hours. Then, on the eighth hour, Matt awoke to minor turbulence. Before he could set his head back down, a crystal rock flew by his window. Matt heard a sputter and a pop, and before he knew it, the plane was on a one-way trip to the ground.

Matt woke up to the sight of utter carnage and catastrophe. Plane parts, bodies, luggage, you name it, it was scattered around. Matt managed to find some water, and downed it all, quenching his thirst.

After a few hours of walking around, and trying to figure out what to do, he heard a moan. He frantically tried to locate the person. Any other person could mean a chance for survival. When Matt located the source, he found him under a wing. Fortunately, the wing wasn’t covering his whole body. The man had managed to get most of his body out. Only one calf remained stuck, but it was stuck well.

Pacing around the wing, Matt noticed that a flap was mangled and ajar. Normally, Matt wouldn’t have tried to muscle it loose, but there was no time to waste now. Being powered by need, Matt took hold and yanked. It creaked. Matt became angry, and tried again. It didn’t budge this time. Matt was enraged! He stomped on that flap with all his might. Nothing. He looked away, as if he could find a solution just by calming down. Something caught the corner of his eye. He turned around, and anger suddenly returned, full force. With a shout, he put all of his weight into crushing the already mangled bolts. The flap seemed to give without any force. Cool, Matt thought.

While Matt hauled the flap around to the other side of the plane, he formulated a plan. Using the alloy control surface as an axe, he would cut part of the wing out, freeing the man’s leg.

Like a hot knife through butter, the elevator tore apart the wing. The man was free! Hope surged through Matt.

“Follow me!” Matt said, hiding the fear in his voice, “We must get to the water!”

They sped towards the river, with the recently freed man nearly gasping for water. Matt had salvaged a water filtering straw from the tour guide’s backpack, so they could drink the water. As they arrived at the river, they knelt by the bank. Both people drank like stranded desert survivors. The other man decided to wade in, to clean up a bit. Before Matt could stop him, it was too late. The miniscule scratches on the man’s leg shocked the piranhas into biting. Blood sprayed everywhere as the piranhas feasted on his flesh. Matt called out, but he was already gone.
* * * *
Now, two weeks later, solo traveling had come to be expected. Life had become more and more difficult. He had yet to find any sign of civilization. That wasn’t too miserable though. The trees block out enough sun, water was plentiful, and…woosh! It swept by again. Matt became curious, and started running in the direction of the glinting steel craft.
Finally, it stopped abruptly, and fell to the ground. Matt rushed to where it lay, and opened it up to find out what was inside. What he found inside was simply magical. It was a rock. But not an ordinary rock. As he stared at it, something hit his head.
Dang, another one was the last thing he thought as his body crumbled beneath him.
* * * *

“We found him, Sir” said a man dressed in a white lab coat into a black walkie talkie.
“Bring him back here,” responded a commanding voice. The man in the white lab coat signaled to his assistant, clearly female, dressed in a white coat.
“He’s seen too much,” continued the man.
Reluctantly, the assistant picked up the boy with help from some flying drones, and put him in the back of their vehicle.
* * * *
What was that thing? It had glinted silvery in the strong light of the clearing.
More importantly, where was he? As Matt stood up, he slowly began to take in his surroundings. He was still a bit dazed. Back to the room. In one corner, a gentle brook was flowing much like a stream near his old home. But this one was more lush. It had bright green leaves, with plentiful flowers residing on the muddy banks. The petals reflected the bright light. The water never stayed still for long, for the gracefully leaping frogs kept it in a constant state of flux.

Meanwhile, an eerie darkness hung over the opposite corner. Storm clouds loomed over the darkened plain. The plain was lifeless, bleak. All the grass was scorched. Not from sun, but lightening. Lightening, blazing out of the sky as if trying to pinpoint a single spot, but failing and trying again. Although there was an obscene amount of lightening, rain was not plentiful. Without grass and water, nothing could survive there. The occasionally pathetic dull colored moths were taken down by the relentless lightening. Matt could nearly feel his eardrums being shattered by the gargantuan thunder claps.
When Matt turned back to where the avid stream should have been, he was flabbergasted. The lively stream had been replaced by a barren desert. The yellow-white sand filled him with disgust. The snarling sandstorms tore across the desolated wasteland. Matt could sense the vile sandstorm approaching. As if turning away could help, When began to run backwards, away from the swirling sand storm. As he turned around, a massive black clump flew at his head.
In this new, black room, Matt longed for the gentle, lively feel of the lush stream.
“Matthew Hendenweiss” a booming voice announced.
“Dad?” Matt guessed, almost comically.
“Try again” the booming voice retorted, angrier this time.
A flash of light suddenly came throughout the room. Then another one. Fluently, like a wave, bright lights sprang into life. The previously undefined figure became obvious. A man, dressed in a scarlet suit approached Matt. His hair was perfectly straight, and down to his shoulders. The pitch colored hair accentuated his bottomless black eyes, and only made the bird atop his shoulder look even more pale. The radiant light bounced off of the shiny, reflective alloy-steel walls. Matt saw hundreds of shadows of himself.
The man came closer, holding a long, sharp needle. Images of Matt’s life flashed before his eyes. The man came closer. Matt tried to plead, but the words just wouldn’t come out. The man pulled back the plunger, sucking liquid into the tube. The needle penetrated quickly into his arm. For the split second he could still see, a glinting metal wing flew across the room, quickly examined the room, and moved on.
He woke up in a bed. Matt had to blink the stars away. Suddenly, the door flew open.
“Doctor!” Said the nurse in a wildly annoyed tone, “The kid woke up!”
“Where am I?” Matt asked.
“Do you really think I care?” the nurse returned.
“Well, I…” The nurse slammed the door before he could finish his sentence After a few minutes, a different person walked in.
“Sorry about the nurse. I’m Doctor Smith.” There was a sort of sly tone to his voice. Matt didn’t really care at this point. The doctor was a middle aged man. He had pale blond hair down to his ears.
“Would you like some coffee?”
That sly tone again.
For a second, Matt had to think about the question. For so long, he had nobody to talk to. Nor had he had anything other than water to drink. “Yes, Please!”
“Very well.” The doctor left the room, lightly shutting the door. In a few minutes, the poignant smell of coffee filled the room; there was no doubt of the doctor’s return. Soon enough, Matt heard the door knob turn. It was made out of the same rock that Matt found in the silver craft by the river. The doctor came in, and set the coffee down on the table. “How are you feeling?” The doctor inquired as he produced his own cup of coffee from another table and sat down. The metal that the chair was made out of was the same metal as the thickly plated silvery crafts. Come to think of it, the walls of the room he was in earlier were also made out of the reflective steel. The doctor waved a hand in front of his face, as if to get his attention. Matt flinched. “Oh, sorry. I’m feeling a little out of it. I’m feeling better though,” Matt didn’t want to talk about the room with the stream, plain, and desert. “That’s good,” the doctor responded gently.
Matt reached for the coffee. The mug was that same rock, which happened to be very light. The coffee was just the way he liked it. How did the doctor know?
“What happened to me?” Matt inquired, treading carefully.
“That’s classified,” the doctor responded lightly, but sure footed.
“Can’t you tell me?” Matt almost screamed.
“You wouldn’t want to know,” the doctor returned, not shaken at all.
As the doctor stood up to leave, he warned Matt. “Whatever you do, don’t leave the room. Do you hear me boy? Don’t leave the room!” Right before the doctor shut the door, he flicked a small white switch that Matt couldn’t read the word on. With his senses of curiosity ignited, Matt rolled out of bed, encountering slight resistance followed by the metallic clanking of thin steel. Just as Matt righted himself, and hopped off the bed, his legs crumbled and collapsed beneath him, and his eyes shut, but not before catching a brief glimpse of the panel. All Matt saw was, “C AN DE G S”.
* * * *
“Turn that off!” said a man dressed in red. “We don’t want to kill him!”
Obediently, the nurse turned a concealed knob, and the hiss of gas stopped.
* * * *
As Matt’s eyes moved for the first time in what felt like weeks, so did two other things. The first was a switch. The second was the doorknob.
In walked a faintly familiar person. She was dressed in white, and looked annoyed. Matt was too stunned to say anything when a further familiar face showed itself at the doorway. The pale blond hair looked comforting. Briefly, this man walked in, asked if Matt was ok, and left with the other person.
For some unknown reason, Matt got up. He walked around the room, testing his legs. He walked near the door, where he encountered a switch. It read, “CYANIDE GAS.” That struck a match in the back of Matt’s head, but he couldn’t figure out what it was trying to light. He couldn’t really remember any thing now.
Matt began slowly plodding towards the door. It opened at the slightest touch. He flew out of the door, wanting to see other parts of the building, completely forgetting what the doctor said about leaving the room, among many other things. When he stepped out of the doorway, he found himself in a hall of highly polished metal. He could hear a faint buzzing, and started to run towards it. He heard the buzzing grow louder, so the identical rooms were easily navigated. He jolted into the room, and was swallowed by the green light.
Inside, there were plenty of computers, each with a green lamp residing over it. As he peered into one of the computers that were blinking, he saw a few words on the bottom. “Test Subject 1.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw some action on another screen. A swarm of steel leaving a room. On a different monitor, he saw them approaching a different room. A green room. The only green room. Within seconds, shiny metal flying wings swarmed into the room.
They entered the room, sirens blaring, lights flashing. They looked vaguely familiar, as if he had seen them in a dream. The formed a circle around him. For a moment, they hovered in perfect formation, silently. Then, as sudden as a summer thunder storm, one charged full speed at him. Matt ducked, just in time to dodge the flying creatures. Matt’s only choice was to run. He would have loved to fight, but there were far too many.
Out he ran, pursued by the reflective steel crafts. Although he had no clue where to go, he kept running, determined to find an exit. As Matt moved farther and farther away from the green room, he felt a surge of memories wash over him. Thoughts of the plane crashing, freeing the survivor, even finding the eerie colored rock came over him. Also memories of bright, cheery streams, blackened plains and whirling deserts. He remembered a large black blob knocking him out, followed by waking up in a room with glinting metal walls. And the last thing-slowly coming back…Cy… Cyanide gas! That was the last straw. Matt took off sprinting as fast as humanely possible through the monotonously colored walls.
After a harrowing ten minutes of running through the boring, hopeless walls, Matt was about to give up.
An image from inside the green room flashed before his eyes. “A map!” He silently exclaimed. This threw a jolt of new hope into Matt. He continued to run, putting all his faith into the map. As he neared the exit, he could almost feel the fresh outside air. The first natural light he had seen in weeks trickled into the hall. The gentle, rejuvenating wind was a relief to Matt’s deprived body. Without proper amounts of nutrition, Matt’s strength was severely reduced. That didn’t matter. Matt ran out of fear. Fear of what would happen to him if he stayed.
Finally, the gates. Wide open. Inviting him to walk right on through. Matt took a step forward, even broke into a jog. Then Matt stopped dead. Dare he go any further? These people would not be foolish enough to just let him go like that.
During Matt’s moment of contemplation, the gates slowly started to swing shut. Shocked by the sudden movement, Matt flinched. As soon as he realized what was going on, he sprinted forward, ignoring any previous concerns. The doors shut on his shoelaces. He pulled with all his might to pull the laces out of the gate. Freedom was mere inches away. A loud pop rang through the woods, as the final strand of Matt’s shoelace was pulled apart.
Matt wanted to get as far away as he possibly could. Curiosity, however, got the better of him. He had experienced so much since his arrival. He couldn’t just walk away and be confused for life. Besides, he was outside the facility. They couldn’t get him now.
Matt wandered around the outdated looking building while wondering how the outside could be so dilapidated, yet the inside so sophisticated. He continued to walk around the perimeter of the old, slowly crumbling brick building. Around the back of te building, the was a large, highly reflective tube. As he looked through polycarbonate tubes, he saw something inside them, arcing to the steel tube. Above it, a thick wire carried a massive amount of current with an unmistakable shower of sparks. The wires coming off of the main glowed menacingly, led into the green room. Matt walked closer to the clear polycarbonate tubes to further examine them. Inside was the all too familiar glow of the crystal rocks. They seemed to be the source of all the energy arcing to the steel. Just as Matt turned to run away with this new knowledge, the man dressed in red with bottomless eyes swept him up. Matt was off his feet, dangling.

“Who are you, and what are those crystal rocks?
“I am Mark. I run this place. As for those rocks, I’ll tell you, but it won’t really matter. Nobody will ever find out.”
“What do you mean?” said Matt, still shocked from being picked up. The man cut him off. “Those rocks are the future of energy. We found them on an archaeological dig 10 miles away from here. They power everything in this place, right down to the flying drones you are so familiar with. They were created for the sole purpose of protecting this building. Here they are now.” As the man concluded his speech, ten drones flew in, picked Matt out of the man’s hands, and carried him back into the building.
Inside, Matt was back at the same room, on the same bed, looking at the same doctor. Hope once again was fading away. “So now, you know pretty much everything about this place. All of our closely guarded secrets, found out in a matter of days. But that’s fine, because you won’t ever be leaving.”

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