A clang — the darkness is thrown over you like a blanket.
You’re crowded against several others in a small cage, unable to speak or otherwise move. The chamber proper is much larger: walls towering straight up and joining at right angles with the ceiling.
All you can remember is being surrounded by skin before being deposited into this cage. Before that... everything is a blur. Darkness. Dampness. Light.
You stop yourself. “Why?” is a question far beyond your comprehension. Besides, the chamber has just shuddered. There — it shudders again.
You hear a noise from its rough center as if something is being pushed forth. The sound of water rushing becomes clear. A click. A hiss. The same water you heard now slaps you in the head; you fall against a couple of your unseen companions, unable to hold yourself upright against such a vicious, burning torrent.
You’re drowning, aren’t you?
A whoosh. Something foamy is mixed into the water now, covering you and, you presume, the rest of the chamber. Abruptly, the streams of water pause; they start again in a different pattern, blasting the foam off your surface with uncomfortable force. More foam — more water — you lose yourself in the cycle; it’s easier to forget yourself and succumb than to think too hard about what you cannot understand anyway.
When you think you can stand no more, when the water and foam have torn every speck of foreign material from your body, the cycle stops. You listen; no more water, save for the clouds of steam that feel as heavy as weights.
Is it all over?
When you start to think it is, the temperature rises. Steam is vented through an unseen filter as the remainder of water resting on your skin is brushed away by the heat. The heat would be comforting save for two problems: how preternatural it seems, and how much it increases.
You burn. You burn till any remaining moisture has been stripped from the air, and then a little longer.
Then the heat, like the steam before it, dissipates. You suddenly feel alone. The question “why?” presents itself again, and this time, you do not refuse it: In the dark, lying at an awkward angle against cold metal and plastic, you have nothing better to do than think. So you think, and you wait, and you think while you wait, and you wait while you think—
O, glorious fortune! — the light returns, and you feel the touch of free air and are assuaged. Even when a giant’s grasp reclaims you and bears you into the unknown, you don’t have fear.
You are laid upon a light paper bed. “What’re we eating, mommy?” queries an eager voice above you; you both hear and feel vibrations of excitement through the table, courtesy of a little girl’s bouncing.
“Spaghetti,” is the reply. Thump, and the plate lands beside you.
“With meatballs,” the mother assures her daughter. “But you have to eat up before they’re cold!”
You’re lifted again. You feel the vague impressions of skin, air, light, and tomato sauce in rapid succession as if they’re a blurred film strip.