By George Miller
It was the darkness that he realized. It was not simply dark… but blackness as he'd never experienced at any point in his life. He had been trapped in caverns that were not this dark. He had been in enemy prisons that were not as dark as where he was now.
Lee Crane, Captain of the Seaview, felt as if he was just awaking from a bad dream. He had no idea where he was… or how he got there. As he attempted to focus his eyes on his surroundings he found he could not see anything… anything at all.
Even in the darkest places he'd been in he knew he should be able to see a little as his eyes adjusted for the darkness. He tried for several minutes to focus on even the slightest bit of light… but to no avail. There simply was no light.
Wherever he was his vision could not pierce into the blackness. There was nothing. He strained even harder to see… with no success.
Where am I…? Lee thought. Since he was not sure if he was alone in his dark world, he didn't want to make any sounds. He felt that he could not see anything or anyone, perhaps they were as helpless as he was in this dark void and would not know he was here.
I need to find out what's going on. I need to think. Where can I be? Lee thought. How long have I been here? He tried to roll his eyes from side to side. At least he thought he was rolling his eyes… looking for any vision at all. But he realized that he could not feel any motion of his eyes. This isn't right. Something's wrong. Something's very wrong.
Lee tried to remain calm as the realization hit him. I'm blind. Yes, that has to be the explanation. There can be no other reason. He began to wonder, is it permanent… or only temporary. Where's the doc? He can help me… must get to sick bay.
The idea of getting to sick bay to have the doc check out his eyes simply brought back his first question. Where was he? He could see nothing of his surroundings. He would have to stay calm until he got to the doc.
Lee, realizing that he may be blind and since he was putting all his attention into trying to see where he was… he now realized that he could not hear anything around him. He stained his ears to catch the smallest sound… anything that might help him tell where he was.
But… there was only the silence… the deafening silence. The quiet was as overwhelming as the darkness to his lack of vision. His mind searched for an explanation… any small bit of information that would explain what was happening.
Oh no… as if the blindness wasn't enough… now I must be deaf too. What happened, he screamed within his thoughts? Was I captured and taken off the Seaview? Was I even aboard Seaview?
He tried to remember the last thing he'd done… and the last place he'd been, but while his memory seemed to be a little limited in recalling the recent past. He could remember being on Seaview… on assignment, but only older missions. Nothing of the recent past could come to him clearly.
Why can't I remember? I just know if I could remember the happenings within the last twenty-four hours, I may find out where I am now. I must keep trying!
Was there an accident aboard Seaview? Maybe trouble with the nuclear reactor? That could be it… I got caught in a blast of the reactor overload. The flash blinding me. The sound of the explosion was damaging my hearing. Yes…that could be a possibility…
But if that was true, what became of the Seaview? Is the Admiral all right? The men of the Seaview… it's MY responsibility to keep the crew safe. Have I let them down? Have I failed in my duty?
No… I must be wrong. The Seaview and the crew must be just fine. They have to be OK. The Admiral would have found a way to prevent anything like that. No… it has to be something else. I may be blind and deaf… but it can't be permanent… it just can't be. The doc will fix me up. He always has in the past.
Lee tried not to think about his vision or hearing loss. He knew he had to stay calm to figure a way out of this. He tried to raise his hand to his face… but found he could not.
Now what… he thought as he tried again to raise his arm. My arm… what's wrong with my arm? I can't lift it. He tried to feel any bindings that may have him tied down. He couldn't feel anything restraining his arms. But still he could not seem to raise them.
Come on Lee… try again, he told himself. Once again trying to lift his arm. There was no movement. Maybe my fingers… I'll move my fingers. Are they moving? I can't feel them. I don't know if they are moving or not. I have to believe that they are as still as my arm.
What is going on here? I can't see… I can't hear… and now I can't move my arms. I must be tied down. I must have been in an accident of some kind and the doc has me restrained… probably for my own good, the doc would say. It was always hard to keep me in sick bay very long. While I may have been the doc's most frequent patient, I never was a willing one.
Come on doc… untie me… let me up. Get the Admiral down here. I need to know what's going on… I need to see again. Come on, doc… please… I need to get back on duty. The Seaview needs me… and I need to be out of here…
He tried to call out to the doc… to get his attention… if he really was in sick bay. But, while in his thoughts he could hear his own voice… being temporarily deaf, he didn't know if he made any sound at all. Temporarily… that has to be it. Doc will fix me right up. I've got to get to sick bay… or am I there already?
I have to get up. I need to get out of here. Here? Where's here? Lee thought. I need to stay calm. I need to think this through. I need to try and remember the last thing I did… the last place I was…
But try as he did, he still could only remember things from the past. It seemed that the last few days were blocked from his mind. If only he could find out where he was… there has to be a way to find out. I have to concentrate… I need to get out of here, Lee thought.
Lee tried once again to lift his arms, still with no success. He thought about moving his legs. If the doc tied him down, maybe if he could kick free and get up. He would be able to move in the darkness… and the silence… and perhaps recognize something, anything near him. If I could only break these restraints, I might get someone's attention. Maybe I can get some help.
The thought then came to him that he may not actually in sick bay. What if he had been captured? Was he really alone here or were his captors watching him at this moment? What if I'm not the only captive? Could the Admiral be here too?
Again his thoughts reverted to the Seaview and her crew, as it always did. On many occasions he had put the crews safety ahead of his own and this time would be no different. He thought that whether he was in the Seaview's sick bay or at some sort of enemy location, just laying here was not going to help. He had to take some action. He had to take the risks.
So, while laying in the darkness, he decided to try to get up. He knew if he tried, he could break his restraints. He tried at that moment to kick free of his restraints. He willed his legs to break free. He gave it all he had… but with no affect. He could sense no motion at all in his legs.
Getting more and more concerned, I can't believe this. I can't see… I can't hear… I can't move my arms or legs. What's wrong with me? Why isn't someone helping me? WHERE AM I?
Lee realized now that he was not able to get up from where he was. He also knew that he was unable to call out for help, at least he could not hear himself calling out. Nor could he see any of his surroundings. He had to find a way to draw some attention, with no regard to whether it was friend or foe. He would deal with that when the time came.
His last chance was to make some noise… any kind of noise. He thought that while he was not able to talk… perhaps something as simple as a loud cough would draw some attention. So, he took a deep breath and tried to clear his throat with a series of coughs. But, while being deaf, he thought that he would feel the cough. He would feel himself taking that deep breath. He felt nothing. He didn't cough. He didn't even believe he had taken a deep breath.
The continuation of Lee's lack of ability to move, talk, or see was beginning to take its toll on him. The fact that he did not feel himself taking the deep breath was just a reminder that he felt nothing. He felt no pain. He could not feel the restraints that held him down. There must be something holding me down. There has to be. There can be no other explanation.
Oh, I wish I were in sick bay. I wish that the doc was working on my problem… maybe he really is. I've never felt so helpless. I need to get back to Seaview. I've got my duty to the Admiral and the crew. He thought of all the times in the past when his main desire was getting out of sickbay sooner than the time doc felt was needed. He was having second thoughts now. Doc… I'll listen to you. I'll stay as long as you say. Just help me! I need to see again. I want to be able to get up again. I want to hear again…
Lee was at his wit's end. He tried all he could to find out where he was. He knew of nothing else to attempt. He had tried to move, call out and see his surroundings… all to no avail. Nothing worked. I can't believe all this. I've never been so helpless. I might as well be dead…
The realization hit him… That's it. That has to be it… My God… I'm dead. I must be… it explains everything.
A sort of calmness came over Lee with his latest thought that he was actually dead. While Lee knew he was never a person to give up on anything, he knew that if he was indeed dead, there was nothing he could do about it. He felt nothing. His mind was full of questions, all of which would remain unanswered.
He had no sensations of his body. He could feel nothing… see nothing… hear nothing. He could not move, this was clear to him. But, his mind was still fully coherent, with the exception of the recent past. He still could not remember how he got here… or how he died…
Lee went back into his mind… to remember. His thought took him back over the years of his life. He could remember his family and the good times of his youth. He thought about his first time he was taken to the sea… and developing his great love of the sea. He could remember his time in college and the Naval Academy. He remembered the first time he met his long time friend Chip and the times they spent at the Academy.
He remembered his first time aboard the Seaview. The Seaview… the turning point in his career and his life. He relished the first time he had met Admiral Nelson. The missions of the Seaview along with Admiral Nelson and the rest of the crew took him places he had never even dreamed of.
It was the memory of the Seaview and Nelson, Chip, Sharkey and all the rest of her crew that brought his mind back to the reality of his situation. I wonder how the Seaview is. Did I let her down? Did I fail in keeping the crew safe? Did I die trying? What happened? He kept asking himself this… What happened to me? What became of the Seaview?
His mind was still racing… still asking questions, questions unheard except by himself. If I am dead… why can I still think? Is this really the case? While your body is gone, your mind and your spirit do go on… you really spend eternity remembering. Remembering your entire life… your friends… the special times. If this is true, and who am I to doubt, I'm glad I have so many good memories and friends, as it seems I'll be living them over and over in my mind.
A renewed calm entered Lee's mind as he finally accepted his situation. While it was not what he thought it would be… and who "really" knew what it would be like… He still could not stop wondering about the Seaview and her crew. While he would probably never know the answer to this question, it would not stop him from thinking about it… endlessly.
Lee settled down with his thoughts… continuing to explore the most obscure memories of his life. Things that he had not remembered in years… the smallest details. He felt content. He felt no regrets… and he accepted what he knew now he could not change.
Then it happened… while deep in his memories… it happened…
There was a piercing bright light… a white light that seared into his unseeing eyes. It was so intense. It seemed brighter than staring right into the sun, but there was no pain. This is it… this must be the "light" … the light that those with near death experiences claim to have seen. But this is not "near-death" for me. For me, this IS the light… a continuation of my journey…
Then as the intense white light went deeper into his mind, as the light began to block out all his thoughts… all his memories… he felt himself begin to panic. Not my memories! They're all I have.
The light, as quickly as it appeared, began to fade. The darkness returned to Lee's mind and along with the loss of the light… so went Lee's memories. Gone…
Voices? Could those actually be voices? Lee thought he could hear voices. They seemed to be in the distance and could not make out any words. The voices were so faint that he could not tell who they were or if they were real. He also had another sensation… that of pain. He could begin to feel pain. Every muscle in his body seemed to hurt. This can't be happening. I don't understand any of this…
The voices were getting closer, or they seemed to anyway. His eyes were still closed, but he could feel them moving under his eyelids. There was a faint glow that he could see, even with his eyes closed. I must be imagining this… this can't be real.
But, the voices became clearer. He didn't think it would work, but he tried to open his eyes… only a little. He saw light. Not as bright as before and as he opened his eyes a little wider, he saw a blurry image of a man. His vision began to clear… to a point where he could identify the person. It was the doc.
"Admiral," doc called over to a somber Admiral Nelson. "I think he's coming out of it."
Harry never moved quite so fast as he did to Lee's bedside. "Are you sure?"
"See for yourself." The doc added as he was busily taking Lee's vital signs.
The Admiral bent over his Captain… and friend, "Lee… can you hear me?"
Slowly, Lee focused on the familiar face of Admiral Nelson and faintly said, "Yes… Admiral… is that really you?"
"Yes, Lee," Nelson said with a smile appearing on his face. "Yes, indeed it is."
Still not sure if this was real or in his mind, "Where am I?"
"You're in sick bay… and we're glad to have you back."
Lee looked around the room as it all was becoming in focus. Sick bay… he really was here. He knew that getting here was all he needed. "But, Admiral… where was I? Where did you find me? Was I always aboard Seaview?"
"Slow down, Lee. Relax. Yes, you were aboard the Seaview. Chip and Kowalski found you."
"Where?" Lee asked.
"Well, we searched the entire submarine three times till we found you. You were in the number four torpedo tube."
"Torpedo tube? But how…" Then Lee remembered, "The light… the bright light…"
"That light would have been from the hatch opening. You really don't remember, do you?" The Admiral asked.
"No… I don't. I have no memory of the last few days." He looked to the doc. "What happened to me, doc?"
"Well, you don't remember, but you will. When Dr. Franklin came aboard for his project, it seemed that you remembered him from the past. You warned me about him and you were right, Lee. He saw you on board after we had sailed and he could not change his plans, so he had to get rid of you before you had a chance to tell me about him. But he was too late. It wasn't long after you warned me about Dr. Franklin that he drugged you and placed you in the torpedo tube."
Lee, thinking clearer now asked, "How long was I in there? There's not that much oxygen in the tubes?"
The doc stepped up to the bed, "That's right Lee. There's not. But that's where Dr. Franklin actually saved your life by drugging you. He gave you a drug that slowed down your body functions almost to the point of death. It slowed your breathing and your heartbeat so low that your oxygen needs were very low. The drug also would have an effect on all your muscle activity."
Looking to the doc expectedly, "You'll be able to fix me up though, right?"
"No problem Lee. We'll have you on your feet in a few days."
"Doc," said Admiral Nelson, "A few days? You know our Captain. You won't keep him in sickbay for a few days." Looking to Lee, "Right, Lee? You probably want to get back to duty right away."
"With all due respect, Admiral… The doc's in charge here. I will take his orders… and stay here until he decides I'm ready for duty."
"What?" Nelson asked. Knowing how Lee can't stand to spend time in sick bay, "Are you sure he's OK, Doc? He's going to actually listen to your orders?"
"Just as surprised as you, Admiral." Doc said, "but I'm not going to question it. Captain Lee Crane is actually going to take all of his doctor's orders. Now that will be a first."
Nelson turned to Lee, "You get some rest. I'll make the announcement to the crew that you're going to be just fine. Keep me informed of Lee's condition, Doc."
The doc then began to prepare some medication for the pain that Lee was experiencing from being cramped in the torpedo tube for all that time. "Lee, take this. It will relieve the pain you are feeling."
"Doc, if it's all the same to you… I'll hold off on that for a little longer. Every muscle and bone in my body aches… and it feels wonderful."
Questioningly, the doc asked, "Wonderful?"
Yes doc, it really is wonderful… I just want to feel the pain a little longer." After all the time with no feelings at all… without any movement, sound or sight… any feeling is great… even pain. At least for now…Lee thought. I'm back… I'm really back…
Authors note: Who was Dr. Franklin... what did Lee Crane know about him... what actually was he doing aboard Seaview... and how did Admiral Nelson deal with him? Someday, when Lee is feeling better we may be able to tell the whole story...
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