Saturday, December 20, 2008

V II Declassified -- Item 5: How To Build a Better Mouse Trap

<a href="">How to Build a Better Mousetrap / Unnheimlich by Hosey</a>

Kevin is half-drunk and falling through the sea. The ferocious currents of the Gulf Stream propel him like a heavy artillery shell headed for reinforced concrete. The currents are layered, each one flowing in its own direction, and as Kevin sinks through them he feels like a baby being rocked to sleep during a bombing run. Looking up, he sees the moon wavering at the water's surface, briefly obscured by the violence of the surf. The stars won't keep still long enough for him to spot any constellations, but he's pretty sure he wouldn't be able to figure out where he was anyway. Tiring of this scene, he lifts an arm to push against the water to flip himself over and finds himself spiraling through the sea currents like a perfectly launched football. He slows to a stop facing the ocean floor and spies an airplane flying parallel with him about three hundred feet below. The propellers slice through the water unperturbed, stirring up thousand of small bubbles that engulf Kevin, tickling their way into every loose seam of his fatigues. He considers for a moment that this is what it feels like to be vanilla ice cream dropped in a fresh glass of Barqs' root beer. He's in danger of drifting to sleep dreaming about cold root beer floats, made with Barqs'. Always and only Barqs'. But, there are more important things to deal with right now, like why is there a U.S. aircraft swimming hundreds of feet under the sea? Kevin knows it's not just Allied, but specifically a U.S. plane. Not only that, he knows what model it is. He's pretty sure he has flown aboard one like it before. Oh shit! he thinks, then aloud, "I'm on the plane!" The words squeeze through his larynx and burst out of his mouth as bubbles almost three feet in diameter that descend forward beneath him for a brief moment before exploding into titanic ripples, obscuring all sensation.

As the water steadies and Kevin's field of vision clears, he finds himself stuffed in a corner of the carriage of a medium aircraft. Everything is completely silent. Someone who may or may not ever have had a face is bleeding into the corner diagonally across from him. Evidence of severe damage is scattered everywhere, but strangely enough, no holes in the craft are to be found. No exits or doors of any kind, for that matter. When Kevin tries to look towards the cockpit he always finds himself looking to his right down an endless hallway of half-digested metal.

Wait! It's not exactly silent in here. Someone is sleeping nearby. Lots of people. The gentle rhythmic tide of breath that comes from rest, not the labored desperation of the wounded and dying. Slow deep breaths, interrupted only by buzzing snores or the shifting of body weight. Suddenly, the aircraft begins a steep descent, the uneven quickly spinning kind that has only one possible outcome. As the pressure builds, pinning Kevin to the corner of the plane, he is certain that he is dreaming. He can distinctly hear the silent murmur of the bunkhouse to which he's assigned. The g-forces in the plane increase, throwing his head back hard against the wall. He hears the ominous sweeping of the large ventilation fans that must be run even in Winter because of the number of men crammed into this one tiny bunkhouse. The plane approaches terminal velocity, the pressure is forcing Kevin's throat closed. He can make out the quiet bootsteps of the guards patrolling the P.O.W. camp. The pressure to respire is becoming more intense, Kevin can't tell if he needs to breathe in or out, but either way, he can do neither. The gums of his front teeth begin to creep back. His front incisors slowly twist in their sockets, each nerve and blood vessel snapping torturously one at a time, the roots finally releasing with the tearing crunch of an old Magnolia tree in a Summer storm. Kevin feels the teeth slide loose, the sensation starting just under his nose. Only a dream! Only a dream! his mind is screaming as he feels the loosed teeth brutally force their way through the back of his mouth. He feels his jaw twist sideways, and knows now that he'll wake up soon, it's only a matter of patience. I'm probably already awake now, just unaware of it. This dream is already over, I'm just a little behind, that's all and his jaw, pressed hard against his throat, is twisted clockwise against the roof of his mouth, shattering teeth and ripping tendons that stretch all the way to the inner ear. Why this ending, every time? and summoning an immense amount of mental strength he forces his jaw back into place; snapping whatever tendons he has left.

Kevin feels himself being slung back into his physical body, which is already frantically running its tongue over its teeth, counting to make sure it still has the ones it went to sleep with. Kevin and his body's teeth are all accounted for, but the feeling of suffocation lingers. He takes a deep breath, but nothing happens.

I really can't breathe!

Kevin opens his eyes to a large monster of a man looming over him. He grasps at enormous hands, double-clenched around his neck. "You're grinding your teeth! Stop! Stop grinding your teeth!" the man is screaming over and over, his eyes streaming tears, mouth frothing and spraying Kevin's face. Just as Kevin is getting a foot between himself and his attacker, his top bunk mate, Trilby, dives onto the giant's back and wraps his arms around the man's sizable neck. Kevin is able to pry himself loose and roll to the floor on the opposite side of the bed once the large shadow removes a hand to shake off Trilby. He tries to shout to rouse others, but the only sound he can muster is an inaudible wheeze. It doesn't matter, the screaming giant is still at it and everyone who is going to wake up already has. Kevin isn't surprised to see them staring blankly at the scene as he whips around the bunk to help Trilby. A few other P.O.W.s are already lending a hand. Kevin knows them from the plane that was supposed to carry him to Tunisia: Chris the lodemaster, and Tim the pilot. 

The giant menace is a first-day arrival from God knows what front of the war. He is clearly mad. No one knows him. After Kevin, Trilby, and the others have him sufficiently subdued, Trilby looks at Kevin and for what must be the hundredth time says, "See? You're going to get along beautifully here!"

"Fuck that! We're getting out of here," and Kevin looks up, solely for drama since there's nothing above them but rotten wooden planks. "Any of you know anything about Astronomy?"

Originally Posted Saturday, December 20th, 2008