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One Monday in March of 1960, I'm running a little late after stopping for gas at the Sinclair station not far from my sister's house in Hollywood, Florida. As is my habit, I pull into a parking place down at the port of Miami in sight of the Belcher Oil Company's oil tanks. I am careful to park well away from the docks because when the banana boats arrive to discharge their cargo, the dockworkers will sometimes use a fork lift to move your car making it difficult to find.
My father, who works as an engineer on one of the banana boats, once tore the bumper off his car when he parked it in this area. After he parked, a dockworker came by and placed a vertical piece of pipe, used to keep cars out of certain areas on the dock, into a hole in the pavement. The pipe happened to be between the front of his car and the bumper. When he returned from his banana boat trip to Honduras, he just started his car and began to back out of the parking place. To his surprise, the bumper was torn completely off.
I drive a black 1936 Ford two-door humpback touring car I bought from a friend named Bob Willard, just after I returned home after being discharged from the air force. Bob also helped me make modifications to the engine, brakes, and transmission which made it the fastest 1936 at the illegal drag races at Prospect Field (now closed) in Fort Lauderdale.
I was discharged two months early at Travis Air Force Base, Fairfield, California due to an excess number of airmen in my AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code).
Master Sergeant Andy Major asked at my exit interview, "Airman, what can the air force do to get you to reenlist?"
"Well, Sergeant after four years and four months in this man's air force, the only thing I can think of is to be promoted to staff sergeant," I reply.
"Sorry, Airman, I can offer you a reenlistment bonus, I can offer you six months of training in another AFSC, and I can offer you a choice of what that training will be. However, according to regulations, the one thing I cannot offer you is a promotion."
"In that case, sergeant, I'll say goodbye, air force."
* * *
It is just a short walk across Biscayne Boulevard to the Army Navy Surplus store where I work as a retail clerk and stockman. It is the only job I could find after being discharged.
The Army Navy Surplus store is owned by Artie and Bill. They are veterans of World War II and started their business after they were discharged from the Army. They are both Jewish, Artie is orthodox and very conservative, and Bill is reformed and just the opposite. I am seriously considering quitting this job because Bill and Artie are very tight when it comes to money.
Last week, I asked them for a raise in my weekly pay and they said they couldn't possibly afford to do that the way business had been lately. The very same day Artie came to the store driving a brand new, canary yellow, Cadillac convertible. It was a gift for his wife that he picked up that morning at the dealership.
I get out of my car and turn toward Biscayne Boulevard. Immediately, I have the odd sensation I'm passing through a doorway. A doorway I cannot see, but I definitively feel its presence. I feel nothing touch me or feel any movement. I feel as though I'm momentarily floating in space as my body just melds into thin air. I'm not aware of any change in time, speed or direction. It feels as if I am frozen in midstride and my entire sense of reality changes. I am here one moment and then, I'm not. I was there one moment and the next moment, I'm here!CHAPTER 2
I find myself standing in the middle of a room I come to know as my cell, although it is more like a cage without bars.
It consists of four walls, floor, and ceiling. It is small, only three paces wide and five paces long. The ceiling and floor are an odd cream color that emits light, but it doesn't contain any lights. The wall that I am facing is the same opaque, cream color, just like the floor and ceiling. On this wall, there is an inscription consisting of some strange symbols or icons that are about three inches high.
To the right about one foot above the floor, is an icon and above it the word WASTE in two-inch English block lettering. About three feet above the word waste is another icon with the word RAIN above it in the same block lettering.
To my left, about a foot above a small transparent looking table is an icon [??] with the word FOOD above it and finally about a foot above this is another icon [??] with the word WATER above it.
The other three walls are transparent. It is as if I am looking through glass, but this glass is soft. The outside area appears to be illuminated, but there was nothing there that I can see. There is a couch to my right in the corner between the wall behind me and the sidewall.
I am totally naked and I look around to see if I could find something, anything to cover my privates, but there is absolutely no place to store clothing. No closet, no cabinet, no chest, no drawer, no box, no basket, nothing. I turn completely around expecting to see someone or something, but I am completely alone.
There is a certain sense of urgency rising in my mind. I have an uneasy feeling that I can't quite identify. Suddenly, I realize what this feeling is, panic! I want to escape, but to where. I begin going in circles about my cell. As I pass each wall, I reach out and touch it. I try running against the front wall as if I could somehow break through and be free, but to no avail. I begin pacing from the front wall to back wall. Counting as I go; one, two, three, four, five, turn, one, two, three, four, five, and turn. Again and again, I repeat this process. I have to get free. I am not sure how much time passes before I realize that there is no escape. I stop in the middle of my cell and stand there feeling trapped and fear begins to eat at my mind.
"No!" I said out loud. "No!" I repeat. I move quickly into the corner nearest the male image and cower there trying to make myself as small as possible trying to hide my nakedness. I close my eyes and feel the silence closing in around me. I feel denuded both physically and mentally, as if I am being scrutinized by thousands of eyes observing me from all sides. I don't know how long I have been sitting here when my fear begins to subside.
I am a rational human being I think, and there is no imminent danger. No one is threatening me. I am fearful only because I am constrained to this very small space. I am not free to come and go as I wish. I sit here pondering my situation. I realize that I must accept this imprisonment before I go completely out of my mind.
Although I am still feeling very apprehensive, my curiosity eventually gets the better of me and I want to know more about my cell. I walk to the left front corner of my cell and touch the word WATER and nothing happens. The lettering is somehow imbedded in the surface which feels soft like foam rubber, but different because it is solid and can't be penetrated.
I touch the icon [??] below the word water and immediately, a stream of water begins flowing out of the wall from below the icon. There doesn't appear to be an opening, it just comes straight out from the surface. It falls upon the table and immediately disappears without splashing. The surface of the table is as transparent as the walls with nothing below it to catch the water. The water stops flowing when I no longer touch the water icon. It's as if the water is absorbed into the surface and disappears. I touch the icon again and when the water begins to flow, I take a sniff and then a sip. It is very refreshing and has a clean fresh taste.
I then touch the food icon [??] and several pieces of fruit immediately rise up from the surface of the table. When I no longer touch the icon, the fruit is instantly absorbed back into the table. I touch the icon a second time and when the fruit appears, I pick up what looks like an apple before I stop touching the icon. I smell it and take a bite. It smells fresh and is juicy and delicious. It tastes unlike any apple I have ever tasted before, but distinctly like an apple.
I then walk to the corner on my right and touch the rain icon [??]. Water droplets, just like rain, begin falling from a square area of the ceiling above me and when the droplets land on the floor, they too immediately disappear just like the water hitting the surface of the table. The rain stops flowing when I no longer touch the rain icon. I touch the waste icon [??] and nothing happens. I drop the remains of my apple on the floor and it too disappears, absorbed by the floor. Having a need to relieve myself, I urinate on the floor, and it, too, is immediately absorbed.
I want to know more about the icons on the wall. If I remember anything of my captivity, this will be it. The icons are a very strange collection of horizontal and vertical lines drawn inside a square, sometimes rectangular, box. I sit down in front of the wall and try to commit to memory all of the images on this wall.
My curiosity about the icons abates somewhat and I now focus my attention on the transparent walls. When I touch them, they are soft to the touch, just like the floor. As I press harder, they became more rigid and resist any attempts to penetrate them. They are like perfectly clear water, but harder. I walk completely around the room touching the walls looking for a door and can find no opening. The entire periphery is seamless and has no distortion in the corners where one wall meets the other or where the walls meet the floor and ceiling.
Although I know I am in a cage or cell, the fact that these three walls are transparent gives the impression that my view goes a great distance beyond the walls. This prevents me from having feelings of being in an enclosure or feeling claustrophobic.
I walk to the couch and discover it is made of the same transparent material. However, when I sit down, the surface yields to my body weight and it feels very much like a down filled mattress. I later learn that after standing in the rain and then lying down, the couch completely absorbs the remaining water on my body leaving me dry and refreshed.
I am neither hot nor cold standing here in my birthday suit and cannot feel any air movement. The light from the floor, ceiling, and wall with icons is uniform and I cast no shadow.
This whole ordeal has taken its toll on my mind and body and I feel totally exhausted. I lay down on the couch and even though I am still fearful about where and why I am in this cell, I fall into a deep sleep.CHAPTER 3
I am awakened by a loud scream. I instantly sit up and look about and discovered another cell, which is the mirror image of the one I occupy, is sharing the wall opposite my couch. There is a woman standing in the middle of the cell, totally as naked as I am and screaming as loud as she can. She has her right arm up across her breasts and her left hand down as she tries to cover her pubic area.
I feel a little embarrassed so as I turn away I say to her, "Hey, not so loud, you are going to wake the dead."
She stops screaming and starts to cry and between sobs asks, "What's happening? Where am I?"
She seems to be genuinely embarrassed about her situation, but doesn't seem to be overcome with fear and panic as I was when I first realized that I had been abducted. I assume that having another human being in a cell next to her and being aware that she is not alone calmed these primal feelings.
I tell her, "All I know is that I suddenly ended up in this cell as naked as you are and have no idea where I am or why I'm here."
She begins to calm down somewhat as I speak and she asks, "Who are you and how long have you been here?"
"My name is Charlie and I don't know how long it has been since I arrived here, wherever here is!"
"I don't know what happened to my clothes," she says looking about frantically just as I did when I discovered that I was naked. "They have to be here somewhere."
"I don't think so," I say. "I've looked everywhere and there is no place to put them inside these transparent walls."
"Stop looking at me!" she yells and I again turn away thinking it might help her calm down further. "What's your name and where are you from?" I ask just to keep the conversation going.
"My name is Adele and I am from Atlanta, Georgia. I have never in my life been totally naked in front of a stranger before, and not only am I frightened, I am totally embarrassed and humiliated."
"Well I have been totally naked in front of several people in my life including girlfriends, my older sister, and my mother and as far as I can tell, it's no big deal."
She continues to stand with her back to me and starts to look around her cell. "What are those symbols on the wall and what do you think they mean?" she asks.
"I think they have something to do with who we are and why we are here."
"Oh my God!" she screams. "We're in a zoo!"
That thought had not even entered my mind until she said that. I stand up and turn to look straight at her and repeat very loudly, "We're in a zoo?"
She then says equally loudly, "I told you not to look at me."
I realize then that I have seen signs posted with messages and photos similar to the inscription on the back wall of our cells in the zoos that I have visited. The lettering gives a short description of the animal in the cage and has a figure or photograph of the animal.
"You are worried about me looking at you, what about them, whoever they are. What about them looking at you. There could be hundreds of them out there and we would never know."
"Oh God, oh God, what can I do, I don't think I can live through this," she says between sobs.
"Well, just calm down, don't worry. I don't think they mean us any harm. I think they just want to observe us, scientifically that is."
"What will we do for food and water?" she asks.
"Well, the food and water have been taken care of and I guess we exercise by jogging in place. We'll just have to take turns. I'll turn away and you jog and then you turn away and I'll jog," I say, being very practical.
"Where is the food?" she asks. "Stress always makes me hungry."
"Go to the wall with the symbols on it and to your right, you will see the word food. Just touch the icon under it and food will appear. The same goes for the icon under the word water."
"Are you looking at me?"
"No, go ahead; I won't look at you," I say as I turn away.
I cheat and take a peak as she walks to the corner. She still has her arm over her breasts and her hand covering her crotch. I take note that she is short, perhaps five feet four inches. Not thin and not heavy. She has blond hair just below her shoulders, high cheekbones, and thin lips. From what I can see she has medium-sized breasts, flat tummy, and a slightly protruding navel.
"You're looking at me. I can see you looking at me. I told you not to look at me."
"Hey, I'm trying to be nice here. If I wanted to look at you, I can go over to the wall and just stand there and stare at you and there is nothing you can do about it. You need to just calm down, think of our predicament rationally, and try to be less sensitive about being naked. I am not going to suddenly run over there and rape you because as far as I can tell, we are separated by an impenetrable wall."
"OK, OK, I am going to go over and sit down on that place that looks like a couch. Don't look at me until I say it's OK."
"All right, whatever you say. Go ahead, I am not looking."
"OK, I am sitting down now. You can turn around and look."
Before I turn around, I place both my hands over my pubic area and check to see how much of me I am showing. As I turn, I see that she has turned away from me and is sitting cross-legged with both arms now covering her breasts. I sit down slowly and turn slightly away from her while still covering my privates.
"Now we can talk. Where are you from?" she asks.
"I'm from Miami, Florida, I'm twenty-six years old, I was discharged from the air force a little over a year ago. I am saving up enough money to go to the University of Miami to get a degree in engineering, how about you?"
"As I said, my name is Adele, I'm from Atlanta, Georgia, I am twenty-three years old and I attend the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University. I am in my senior year and hope to graduate this year."
Excerpted from HOMO SAPIENS, ENDANGERED SPECIES by C. D. SMITH. Copyright © 2013 C. D. Smith. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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