Monday, May 03, 2004

But I'm Not Claustrophobic

I really thought I was okay, up until the moment it started making alien sounds. These rhythmic humming sounds that were not one note, but combinations of notes that I couldn't even begin to analyze to figure out the interval. What the hell is that? It's not major, it's not minor, it's certainly not perfect...what the hell IS THAT SOUND? Even if my music theory class wasn't a hundred years ago, I couldn't calm my nerves enough to sort out what I was hearing. It was simply alien noises, and you couldn't convince me otherwise. An alien concerto in alien flat minor, with heavy emphasis on percussion.

My space capsule was incredibly small, so tiny that there was hardly room between my arms and the walls of the unit. The cool air jets blowing directly on my face helped calm me somewhat, and I would at times become so mesmerized by the alien music as to nearly drift asleep, only to have the little devils shift rhythm and tone, or worse still, stop playing completely, leaving me to wonder if it was over, or if there was more to endure.

"Keep it together, calm down," I would command myself internally, and I would concentrate on the blowing air and the sound of my own breathing. The closeness of the walls around me, dimly lit from an invisible source, were unavoidably reminiscent of the live burial scene in "Kill Bill 2", and a small wave of panic sent tiny acupuncture needles of terror over my body. Given the choice between completely freaking out or trying to make the best of my situation, I persevered in shoving down the wave of terror, but I secretly made a mental note that should I escape my current situation, I would have to learn martial arts, or other such life-saving skills. However, not having such skills, I concentrated on relaxation techniques learned the hard way, at the foot of the High Priestess, more commonly known as my High School Gym Class Yoga Instructor.

The alien sounds buzzed and hummed, stopped and started, in a strangely entertaining way. The song, or series of songs, went on for what seemed like an eternity, always the same few instruments, occasionally altering the pitch violently, and the tone varying from beeps to clangs on metal drums. It was so absurdly foreign, that I actually began to giggle at one point. Which of course made me wonder if I was reacting with actual mirth, or just reacting to my own stress from the situation. I would hardly have time to consider the question, before a new sensation floated in. A human voice.

At first, I thought I had imagined it, but there, it happened again. A distinctly female human voice. Commanding me to do something. I listened more carefully, waiting to hear it again, and it definitely asked me to hold my breath. I did, and let it out deeply when commanded. Whooooosh. Inhale again. Fffffffffttt. Out. Whoosh. Now this time, inhale and hold. Was this real, or was it memory of the High Priestess of Yoga? I didn't care, because I was finding the exercise very soothing, and as long as I was breathing, things were still alright.

I started remembering watching "Gothika" on DVD the night before, and how I unintentionally held my breath during the scene where Halle Berry hides underwater in a pool. They can always hold their breath for a very long time in the movies, usually while vigorously exerting themselves as well, but here I was in my spaceship, turning blue and longing to breathe freely. Oh, how we take for granted what a wonderful sensation it is to breathe freely, until it is no longer available.

Holding my breath. Holding. Holding. But the command to exhale wasn't coming. Why doesn't she say exhale. Did she say it, and I didn't hear it? Did she forget to tell me to exhale, and thought I'd just do so when tired? Was this all a cruel joke? Who could be expected to hold their breath this long?

A new tendril of panic crept up my neck, and I suddenly wanted to violently flail and wrench myself out of the capsule, consequences be damned. I felt a twitch starting in my feet and the fear that I would loose control and let the impulse to flail take over, just as the voice finally, mercifully, said, "Exhale." Whooooooosh. Then silence. I felt the panic drain out of my body with the exhalation, and just turned all my attention to the cool breeze directed at my face for a moment. Panting at first, but then breathing, freely.

The voice then told me that I was done, and for the first time, I arched my head up enough to look above me. There had been space there the whole time! I was too afraid to turn and look before, and had only assumed that my entire head was surrounded, but there had actually been space there! I wish that I had known that throughout the time in the capsule, because it would have been a great relief to know that my head was not completely entombed. I could have just arched my head and looked above me for comfort and contact, only I didn't know it.

The platform slowly slid out of the space capsule, feet first, and I emerged back into the real world. The world I recognized. The world outside of the MRI machine.

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