Three creatures of average height, each a different shade of blue, smile with kind faces as they walk me down a brightly lit hallway with grey floors. It is a maze branching off in different directions, and from what I can tell, every branch is identical. Bright, flickering lights wash the grey floor and white walls with a uniform sheen, with the walls marked at even intervals by brown rectangles. I assume each is a portal to another path of the maze. We arrive at a portal that is nondescript, save for the triangular symbol on its front with a strange design in its center. The image looks dangerous. The door swings open silently, and the room beyond is full of machines that beep and whirr, screens that flicker with an ominous light, and large windows on either wall showing two rooms with enormous devices within them. There are more blue creatures in the room, and when I enter, they smile and nod their approval like the others.
One of the creatures breaks off and examines the screens and whirring things that fill the room with a low buzz, while the other two escort me into one of the side rooms, where the toroidal behemoth sticks out its tongue in waiting. They lie me down on the spongy surface, and there is a depression at the base of the protrusion, roughly sized for a human head. It is not comfortable, but it is bearable. My ears are plugged, and a cage is lowered over my head. Large rectangular pads are placed on either side of my head and I am trapped, unable to move from the neck up. A final smile from the creatures as they turn to leave the room, and the beast returns its tongue, with me on it, into its maw.
With a muffled thump, the door to the room closes and the lights outside the behemoth’s mouth dim. Above me are lines of light, about two inches wide, roughly eight inches apart from one another. A device above my eyes mirrors the outside, showing me the silhouettes of the blue creatures as they fiddle with the buzzing and whirring things in the room beyond.
A sound begins, and it is the sound of a descending spaceship in the movies. Or it is the sound of enormous rocks, coated in steel, grating against each other. Perhaps it is the sound of destruction. I imagine the battles in the Bhagavad Gita must have sounded like this. Vimanas, spewing flames during their roaring descent, with Krishna, blue and regal atop them, shooting arrows of light across the plain toward the enemy forces.
But it is the sound of my entrapment, and it fills me with a cold dread. I try to slow my breathing and appreciate the peculiar rhythms the beast generates with its cries, but its voice’s power is such that I vibrate with the different frequencies as they come. The low tones rumble me violently, and the higher squeaks make my teeth chatter. My head is in its vice, and a dull throb forms behind my eyes and in a band across my head. Through the mirrored device, I can see a display reflected against the window, counting down the remaining time of the probing beast’s screams, and I count down with it, learning to read the strange glyphs backwards. I recognize zero, and it is a long way off.
The screams die away as the beast prepares for a second round, inhaling deeply. The earsplitting bellows begin anew, a new rhythm painting their edges with a curious, albeit terrifying song. I count the pulses, which seem to come every second, matching the reflected glyphs as they descend towards zero once again. I focus intently on the glyphs to keep from crying out at the confinement. There is little more than inches separating me from the roof of the beast’s mouth. I count seven hundred and sixty five seconds before the silence comes again. A shallow, mechanical whirr begins near my feet, and the tongue ejects me smoothly. One of the blue creatures is back, but not to release me. A syringe is plunged into my arm, from which a cold liquid flows, directly into my veins, which I can imagine stiffening with the introduction of the foreign substance. The creature’s smile remains plastered on her face, but doesn’t reach her eyes, as she removes the needle and the platform recedes back into the beast, pulling me, unwillingly, back.
The clanging song begins again, and I count, eight hundred and forty seconds this time, before the platform is once again in motion, and the three creatures who placed me in this torturous chamber await me at it’s mouth all smiles once more. My head is removed from its pen and I’m helped to the ground. I smile in return and exchange pleasantries, but a part of me feels violated by the experience, and though my body is once again my own I still feel the chill of the injection as it pumps through my body, into my heart, and back out to my extremities. One of the blue creatures shows me the door and tells me, at long last, the secret of the maze of hallways. I exit the building and look at the afternoon sun. It warms my skin, but the fluid underneath remains cold, for the time being. It needs to work its way through me.