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The Victory Rule
Fourth Degree Freedom
Today's teaser is from She Floats:
I don't open my eyes when I first wake up, the feeling of floating is too nice to ruin with sight. I feel warm and safe, weightless and free. My serenity is disturbed when a green light flicks on. I open my eyes. It takes me a moment to adjust. At first, I don't know what I'm seeing.
I'm looking into darkness. I can only see a foot or so ahead of me and I can only see that because of the green light. I can't tell where it's coming from. I turn around to find its source, but there's nothing there. I turn my head the other way, and the light seems to follow me.
That's when I realize that I'm turning my head very slowly. I raise my arms to my face. Two equally disturbing sensations hit me at once. I feel like I'm underwater, and my hands can't touch my face. My hands are stopped by a plastic shell. I see them, glowing green in the light. They are pressed against the shield of my helmet, a few inches from my eyes.
I remove my hands from my helmet and look down. The green light follows the movement. It's then that I realize that the light is coming from my helmet. I look down and see that I am in a scuba outfit of sorts. It's a mix between scuba and space suit, something I haven't seen before.
I've no memory of how I got here. No memory of putting on this contraption. I panic. I start to breathe heavily. But I can't do that. I have to calm down. There can only be so much air available to me. I need to calm down.
I take a deep breath. I go over known facts. I am Liza Klein. I am twenty-three years old. I live with my mom, and I work in a restaurant. Somehow, this calms me.
I need to move, need to figure out where I am. I've no idea which way to go. I can only see a foot or two ahead of me. I decide to go forward. I swim. My movements feel slow and clumsy at first. The suit makes movement difficult. I soon get the hang of it and move faster but not actually fast.
I see nothing. I try not to think of what else might be in the water. If I'm in the ocean, there are lots of animals that may be within feet of me. I extend my list of known things in my head. I think of my address, my phone number, names of friends and family. Anything to keep the thought of sharks out.
I am swimming, and then, I am hitting something. I push with my fingertips first, thinking that there is an object in my way. There's no give. I run the palms of my hands over it, it is flat. It takes me a moment to realize what has happened. I've run into a glass wall. I press my mask to the glass as best as I can. More darkness.
I see a flame then, a tiny spark. I can't tell how far it is from me but I can tell it's not close. The spark rises, lights a cigarette. For one brief moment, I see the chin, the lips and the nose of a man. He takes a puff then shakes out the match. The light is gone. I can only see the red cherry of the cigarette. Someone is watching me.
I bang on the glass. The cigarette does not move. I want to panic again. If he can see me and he's not moving, then he must have expected to see me. He put me here. Shit.
I swim upwards. If this is a tank, then there has to be an opening. I crash against the top. I had swum too fast and didn't give myself a chance to slow down. The tank is not that big, maybe three times my own height. I swim around the entire lid, trying to find an opening. There is none. I swim along the edges, looking for a seam, some weakness. Nothing. It's sealed.
I look back out into the room. I see the flame again. He lights another cigarette. I see his hands this time as well as part of his face. He wears jewelry. I can't tell what type. I can't tell if I've seen it before. I don't know who this man is. I only know that he will not help me. Using the light from the match, he points to his watch. The flame goes out.
I look at my own wrist. There is a gauge there. TWENTY MINUTES is all it says on the digital face. I have twenty minutes of oxygen left.
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