Nothing Was The Same After That.

It is 1984 – I’m in an old tractor tire bouncing down the jagged slope of a steep green hill somewhere in eastern Pennsylvania. My teeth rattle like gambler’s dice in my head. My hands grip the inner rim of the tire like an action figure, legs locked firmly into place. As the world passes by in a sickening spiral, I am quietly amazed at how crystal clear everything suddenly appears in comparison.

Nothing was the same after that.

It is 1992 – I am one of two Americans locked inside a gated compound ringed by two circles of chain link fence approximately 15-feet high, topped by wicked scribbles of concertina wire. The magazines dotting the compound are filled with bombs, probably enough explosive to significantly reshape the geographic silhouette of the Kintyre Peninsula. It is imperative that I reach the main building soon, because ‘soon’ is when the Royal Air Force K-9 unit will be setting their dogs loose for the night. The dogs typically hunt wild rabbits, but I’ve seen them attack their handlers during routine training sessions. Those guys wear heavy padding, and know all the control words. I’m wearing a thin, cotton coverall, and I don’t know jack shit. Clearly, time is of the essence. But I just need another minute.

Standing atop a 20-foot blast revetment, a reinforced man-made hill designed to funnel accidental explosions upwards (thereby preventing a catastrophic chain reaction), I am transfixed by the moon. It is easily the biggest, most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my entire life. The detail is crisp, perfect. It takes my breath away. I feel certain that if I could only reach a little further, my fingertips would brush it. There must be something amiss. Maybe the moon has fallen out of orbit, leaving the rest of the world in a screaming panic! And now I’m irreversibly doomed, forgotten here with the bombs, destined to be crushed. If I could just touch it, maybe I could hold it back all by myself.

I was lost in reverie when the night was split by three ear-splintering blasts – the warning signal for the dogs! Suddenly I’m asses and elbows down the hill to the main building, arriving just in time, ahead of the pack, sliding the heavy metal blast door shut.

Nothing was ever the same after that.

It is 1998 – I peel back the plastic, hold it to the light. The guy at the bar called it BeWare, version 2.0. Looks almost alive to me. I’ve made preparations, I am ready to upload. Program complete, enter when ready.

After half an hour without GUI, I thought I’d been gypped. But wait! Did you see that? Crisscrossed colors and fuzzy lights swarm, forming minute mathematical patterns like electronic armies on a field of battle. My eyes are hollow glass spheres in my skull, filled with gasoline, waiting for the match. I feel as though I could speak Japanese. I am determined to hold on to cognitive thought as long as possible, hands white knuckled on the safety rail while a silent tornado rages on, rumbling like a lion in the sky, lifting me, pulling, tugging at me. I see ragged faces with flaming eyes swirling above me in the maelstrom, and everything’s gone soft around the edge. I feel a pull in my muscles, like someone waving an electro-magnet over me. Suddenly I’m permanently re-aligned, north to south. It’s all slow motion now. My skin dissolves in a puff of smoke, and I glide up and out like cigarette smoke in a vacuum chamber, a bonfire on the morning after. Such a mind fuck this is, like porn for the nervous system. Angels spin and whirl above me like a swarm of straw locusts, wings, robes, flesh opens, prepared to devour the sun…

Nothing was the same after that.

2001 – I’m sitting on the open bridge of a multi-million dollar vessel, swaddled in layers of polypropylene, fleece, and the all-protective dry suit that makes me feel like a fucking action hero. The steady drone of the engines, the rocking of the waves, the trapped heat of my body numbs my mind. I’m comfortable to the point of fighting sleep. I fantasize about dinner to keep my mind alert. All around me, the soft green and red lights of half a dozen control panels show our present heading, water temperature, waypoints. We’re doing about 20 knots, and no one is speaking. This goes on for some time. Things fade away, my eyes close…

Suddenly my head whips forward, and I’m hanging face down in space. We’ve come unglued from the earth and we’re looking down the back side of a large wave. If I hadn’t been buckled in, I’d have been catapulted into the water. Time slows to a crawl, and I watch the sea climb toward me as though on hands and knees. The bow has vanished from sight. The wall approaches me, passes through me. I feel only a light slap of contact. There is nothing but silence. It’s as if my molecules moved aside to let the sea water pass. For a moment there is nothing but the roar of green water, billions of bubbles like infant stars in some unexplored part of the sky, and the overpowering taste of salt. The keel slaps down hard, I collide with my seat, and time resumes. The coxswain puts the engines to neutral, and the crew erupts in shouts. Everyone is counting off, someone runs below to check the engines. Once we’ve established that no one was lost overboard (and no damage was done to this multi-million dollar machine!), we begin whooping, laughing, high-fives. Everyone is wide awake now.

Nothing was the same after that.


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