• Fraser du Toit

The Experiment


Photo by Wayne from Pexels


I used to be a sailor. Trained and tested in the early days of the great war, I was one of the best. Neither torpedoes nor sabotage could sink me. Young, strong, and confident was I.

Twice the enemy managed to sink the vessel I was stationed on, and both times I swam my way out of death’s maw. I received awards for my valor as I always took the time to help my fellow crewmen.

After the war, I remained with the Navy, my conviction to serve my nation as strong as ever. Without patriotism, we are doomed to sink in the waves of history.

My commanders knew of my dedication and resilience, and I was soon promoted. I was put in command of a warship and charged with patrolling the eastern coast. Peace was simply an illusion, and I would remain a vigilant protector of my people.

Orders came down that we were to return to base for experimental tech to be fitted onto the ship. I was no stranger to testing out new equipment and saw no reason to fear this assignment. My loyal crew never questioned orders.

The installation took several weeks and I grew restless on the land. Scientists wearing plastic suits tinkered on the huge machine located deep in the bowels of my ship. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, but I didn’t have to.

The official line was that it was an advanced radar jamming device of some kind. Once the machine was powered and the concentric rings got to oscillating, it would project a field that would render the ship invisible to radar.

I didn’t pretend to understand the science behind it, but I could understand the need for secrecy. The whole operation had been rated above top secret. My crew had been chosen because of our loyalty, my loyalty. Sworn to secrecy in private briefings and warned of the consequences of treachery.

We left port, and after four weeks ashore, the whole crew was eager to get back on the water. I directed us out to the remote location designated for the test. None of the scientists remained on board, instead choosing to trail behind on an observation vessel.

The yellow button was covered by a clear plastic cover labeled ‘cloak’. I waited for the scientists’ signal and flipped the cover off before pushing the button.

Nothing happened at first other than a growling hum emanating from the steel all around us. I took note that the noise might counteract any potential stealth benefits. The men around me grew sick as a barely visible shockwave passed through us. I had seen the air ripple around heavy guns before, and this was much like that. Nausea came first, followed by blurred vision and dizziness.

There was a sudden flash of impossible color and the ship was gone, I was gone. Looking all around, I could see nothing but empty ocean. The machine worked! It only lasted for a moment before the image warped like a mirage and the ship reappeared, but the sea was gone.

We were barreling down a tunnel of light at high speed. I held fast to the ship’s wheel as we tumbled end over end for what felt like an eternity. Another flash heralded the end of the journey and daylight flooded back in.

I stood shaking at the helm as I took stock of our new surroundings. The ship was back on the water, but I could tell that we were no longer where we had been. Where once had been nothing but open water, there was now a lively pier covered in frightened civilians.

The realization that we had been transported had only just set in when another shockwave rippled through the ship. I felt the familiar sensation of the world dropping away as we fell into the tunnel once more.

This time I was determined to study the phenomenon. We fell through a black tunnel streaked with rainbow colors. Perpendicular tunnels appeared every so often around the sides of the one we fell through. Small specs flew from our deck, sucked into the tributaries of this dark river.

I looked over at my crew around me, some looked to have fallen from their chairs and others had managed to stay at their posts. There was a high-pitched whine coming from below deck.

Another flash of light was followed by the gentle rocking of the sea. I surveyed the waters and confirmed that we had returned to our original location.

The high-pitched whine now registered as the wailing of men in pain. I took a moment to check myself for injury and found that my hands would not relinquish their grip on the wheel. Screams of terror now joined the pained wailing, and I realized that the men in the bridge were the ones screaming.

I followed their wild eyes to see that the men I had assumed had fallen had in fact sunk into the solid steel of the floor. Some men had their chairs caught halfway through their torsos. My first instinct was to help, but my hands still clutched the wheel. Pain lanced through my fingers as I regarded my hands, now sunk into the wood.

Other sailors had escaped unscathed, abandoning their posts and leaping overboard in a desperate attempt to escape the horrors they had witnessed.

We were left there, fused to the ship, for hours before the scientists dared board the cursed vessel. My fingers were turning black where they stuck out on the other side of the wooden wheel.

The scientists took notes of our injuries before ordering the ship to be towed back to port. They had to amputate my hands to free me from the ship’s grasp. Many of my crew were not so lucky, dying in agony as I watched from the bridge. Their organs were unable to function around the metal that had invaded their bodies.

Most of my crew were accounted for, but it seemed as if we had lost some men stationed on the deck. I can only assume that they had been the specs that flew overboard in the tunnel.

My career ended that day. The government put me on pension and provided me with a home far from the sea. I will never sail again.

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