Title: Into the Alter: One Man/Two Worlds
Author: Matthew J. Seaton
Genre: Speculative Fiction/Science Fiction
Dylan Grady had everything. Then he lost it all. After a difficult divorce, Dylan’s ex-wife, Corina, spun tales to turn his daughters against him. As they grew older, the lies took hold, and he struggled to maintain his relationship with his children. Dylan moved on, finding joy once again in a new family only to have it all fall apart when one of his children stumbles across his journal. Their lives in a tailspin, both families collapse beneath the weight of revelation. Everything Dylan ever cared for crumbles before him. Believing there is nothing left, Dylan chooses to enter a controversial project that promises to give him a new start: Alter-life. There, he finds a world of action and adventure, a new life restrained only by the limits of his imagination. But as Dylan soon discovers, it’s not so easy to escape from yourself.
“Sweet dreams, Mr. Grady.”
The chamber door screeches as the rubber seals interlock, entombing my naked body.
The man in charge of the lab coats has a rather enigmatic look. He could have been transported out of an old 1970s sitcom. Brown curly hair sits on top of his head in a perfect globe-like sphere. His almond eyes, which open mere millimeters, still manage to pierce through me. He reaches down, grabs ahold of the chamber latch, turns it, and with a loud mechanical click, it locks.
The voice in the corner of my mind chastises, what have you done? And with that, I question everything. Is this my chance for a new beginning or the day of reckoning? Some would say I have the perfect life and perhaps a few weeks ago, I would have agreed. Life is all about choices. The choices you make bring you closer to things or further away. All you have in life are your choices. I chose this, but did I choose wisely, or did I simply react to my grief again?
I lie here naked and afraid. Doubt slithers in, and I realize my life will never be the same again, but more importantly, their lives will never be the same again. My heart pounds, and my breath shallows when I think about all that has led me here.
I hear running water, and I’m bounced back into the moment. I peer down at my feet and observe the chamber filling with liquid. It is a clear, water-like substance, however more viscous, and I note it’s nearly a gel-like consistency as a glop runs down the side of my foot. In a matter of seconds, my shoulders submerge and, ironically, it isn’t warm, nor is it cold for that matter. It is exactly 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit, matching the human body temperature and infused with small bubbles, like carbonation, that tickle me as they explode on my bare skin.
The liquid covers my abdomen, which sits before me like a bowl of jelly, independent of the rest of my body. I have really let myself go. I have a tendency to eat myself through my depression which, in the end, only creates more depression, a deadly cycle of abuse and self-pity.
It fills past my ears, and I panic. My eyes dart back and forth, and I try to make eye contact with one of the lab coats, but that damn Brillo pad has his back turned to me, slamming away at his keyboard.
“Hey! Hey! help!” I shout, but my attempts are useless.
I recall reading that the chambers are soundproofed to prevent external noise contamination until the unit registers I have woken. I wish I had read that damn pamphlet more thoroughly. Perhaps then I would know what to expect next.
The liquid covers my eyes, and I lift my chin higher, trying to take as many breaths as I can manage. Did they forget to turn it off? I’m going to drown in here! When the liquid reaches my lips, I extend a few millimeters more and take in one final, penetrating breath.
I hold it so long I feel my face turn red. My eyes pop open and bulge from their sockets. I kick and stomp at the hatch to get their attention when a woman with a broad smile hangs over me and signals for me to breathe. Unable to hold my breath any longer, anyway, I gasp and feel the liquid rush into my mouth.
I choke as it runs down my throat. It rushes into my chest, and I feel it coat my lungs. With a gulp, a large bubble releases to the top of the chamber. I can breathe! Not only can I breathe, but it feels like the bubbles are breathing for me. I feel weightless. I’m floating.
Just as I am adapting to my ability to breathe in this substance, a rush, like cold metal, pours into my veins, and I notice they are now closely monitoring my vitals. I wonder why, but only for a moment. I see a nurse injecting a green liquid into my IV.
It hurts! It burns! I can feel every micrometer as it branches out through my vascular system. My ears unexpectedly pop as if descending from a mountain. My hearing intensifies, sending the EKG machine’s continuous beep bouncing through my skull as though it’s a pinball machine.
A shockwave pushes through my body. My muscles flex in pairs, and up and down my body it travels. Muscles I didn’t even know I had, contract and release, sending electricity, jolting up and down my spinal cord. I presume this may be the Aqua-tens I was warned about and it is remarkably uncomfortable.
Suddenly, with extreme clarity, I realize this is all wrong! My anxiety soars, and I watch my heart rate and blood pressure climb. The alarms sound, and their attention is now drawn to their machines, and the Brillo pad slams away at his keyboard ferociously.
The speaker inside of my chamber activates with a loud, piercing squeal, “Everything is alright, Dylan. Mr. Grady, please try to relax! It will all be over soon.”
I holler, “I’ve changed my mind,” but my lips don’t move. My voice can only be heard, echoing regret within my head. The man’s face remains above me with a look of distress, and I understand there is no turning back now. My choice is forever solidified a mistake. They don’t deserve this.
My chest tightens. The lights outside my chamber, like those seen in an operating suite, intensify, blinding me and sending my eyes to the back of my skull. In flashes, I am launched into glimpses of the world that lies ahead, but first, I am forced to revisit the horrific drama that led me here. Vivid pictures dart across my eyes, and the pain, both physical and emotional, shudder through me.
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Matthew J. Seaton is an American fictional novelist. He particularly enjoys writing science fiction and is the author of Into the Alter: One Man/Two Worlds. Writing puts him into a meditative trance, a stenographer detailing the action that unfolds within his mind. Matthew enjoys creating memorable characters and placing them within unique worlds loaded with drama, adventure, and intrigue. Matthew lives in New Jersey, is married, and has three beautiful children. He also has two dogs that fill his life with indescribable joy.
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