Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Age of Pandora: Day One

Damn it's been a while since I posted... well, I'd like to revive this blog, and I think a good way to do it is to dramatize my workout routine, which is the Age of Pandora program from darebee.com. It is, essentially, a choose-your-own-adventure book that incorporates bodyweight and aerobic exercises. Each "chapter" is a set of exercises that relate (more or less) to the story at hand. So, let's begin...

Day One

Whatever I had been dreaming about, the blaring siren instantly banished it from my mind. I jolted awake, unsure of who I was or where I was or why a siren was wailing overhead. The fog of sleep cleared from my mind... but the memories weren't there. Why weren't they there? What was happening?

Panic started rising in my chest, but I did my best to swallow it and take stock of my surroundings. I was in some sort of glass container, not much larger than a coffin, at a slight recline. (How did I know what I coffin was if I couldn't remember my own name?) Outside was a hallway extending to the left and right, with bare concrete floor and equally bare concrete wall. Every few yards, a red light pulsed in alarm; they were the only illumination. I groped for a latch, a handle, a switch - something to open the box. Nothing. I reached up and felt the top of the box, discovering the cool metal of a vent. No air filtered through, as far as I could tell. It was starting to get warm.

I pounded on the glass with my fist. "HELP! HELP! SOMEBODY!" My voice rang in the confined space, but I wasn't sure if anyone could hear me over that damn siren. I banged on the glass some more, but no one came. The hallway was, as far as I could tell, completely abandoned. Sweat broke out on my forehead, and I stopped to catch my breath. The air was starting to feel stale. I needed to get out of there.

I started hitting the glass again, but this time with more force and more purpose. My hands bruised; I switched to my elbows. Finally - finally! - a crack appeared. By this time sweat was dripping from my face. "Let... me... out... let... me... out!" I grunted. The crack grew into a small spiderweb of fractures. My elbows aching, I switched to my knees. "God DAMN it!" I howled, and with a final strike the glass shattered into a constellation of fractures and partially fell away, leaving a small hole. I clawed at the hole with my hands, breaking off kernels of glass until the hole was big enough for me to get through. (40 palm strikes, 40 elbow strikes, 40 knee strikes)

Stumbling to my feet, I paused to catch my breath, my bloodied hands on my bruised knees. On either side of my container, going all up and down the hallway, were similar glass coffins; some were broken much like mine, while others were opened through a mechanism I hadn't been able to discover. But no one was in any of them. I stood upright, my body aching, and debated whether to go right or left. The choices seemed identical; in both directions, the hallway stretched about twenty yards before ending in a T-junction. "Two roads diverged in a wood," I thought with fleeting amusement, and then wondered what had brought that phrase to mind.

A scream cut over the siren, and I whirled to the right to search for its source. Whoever it was, they weren't coming any closer to me. They were just screaming and screaming - and then, nothing. No, not nothing; I strained my ears, and beneath the wail of the siren I could hear growls and grunts. They weren't human.

My mouth went to ash and my limbs froze. Whatever it was, it sounded like it was busy eating the poor sap in the next hallway over. I glanced down towards the left end of the hallway. I had no idea what lay in that direction, but it couldn't be worse than what I was hearing to the right. Slowly, I crept towards the left junction; I had no idea how keen of hearing whatever-it-was had, and I didn't want to risk it.  (Three sets of: 10 lunges, 10 lunge step-ups, 10 side lunges)

When I reached the end of the hallway, I ran. I took another left without fully realizing what I was doing or where I was going. I was vaguely aware of passing some computer terminals, some more glass coffins, a dolly - this was a factory or some other kind of facility. Ahead of me was a set of fire doors; I burst through and found myself on a catwalk over a large open space, with rows of equipment-laden tables beneath. My feet clanged on the metal grating as I sprinted across, my lungs burning. At the far end was a stairwell, which I almost tumbled down in my hurry. When I reached the bottom, clinging to the railing for balance, I heard the fire doors open again and a chittering growl.

"Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck." I didn't even spare a glance up to see what was chasing me. I didn't want to know. I bolted down the rows of tables, dodging wire shelving and file cabinets and other debris that had been scattered in whatever struggle just took place here. Above, I heard the pounding of feet - paws - as whatever-it-was chased after me. (Three sets of: 10 high knees, 2 jump knee tucks, 10 high knees, jump right, 10 high knees, 2 jump knee tucks, 10 high knees, jump left)

I found another hallway and ran down it, my breath ragged, the red emergency lights still the only illumination. Ahead of me, on the right, I spotted a large metal door. I skidded to a stop in front of it and yanked on the handle. It didn't move. I tried again. Nothing. It was only then I spotted the keypad lock. "Oh come on," I wailed, staggering back in defeat. At the far end of the hallway, I heard that chittering growl again. Dread and bile in my throat, I turned to face whatever-it-was - and was yanked into a dark alcove opposite the door, my scream muffled by a hand - a human hand - over my mouth. I could just barely see a male figure looming over me. "Don't. Move," he hissed, keeping one hand on my mouth and the other clasped around my wrist.

With hot water pipes gurgling just inches from my ear, I complied. In the hallway, I could hear whatever-it-was galloping closer and closer - and then past us, further down the hallway, still making that bizarre cry. (Wall sit for 60 seconds)

When whatever-it-was had passed, the man released his grip and peered out into the hallway. In the relatively brighter light, I finally got a halfway decent look at him. He had one of those weatherbeaten faces that made it impossible to accurately guess his age; in the red light, I couldn't tell whether his greasy hair was gray or blond. An ugly scar ran down the middle of his forehead, beside the right side of his nose, and over both lips before ending just above his chin. He looked back at me and jerked his head in a gesture to follow him. "Come with me if you want to live," he said.

The phrase sounded familiar, and the hint of a smile from the man made me even more suspicious. But what did I know? Nothing - not my name, not where I'd heard that phrase before, not anything. So I just nodded and fell into step behind him as he headed back towards the open room and crept along the outer wall. Soon we reached another hallway, one I'd missed in my earlier blind flight. I continued to wrack my brain as he led me several dozen yards down the hall. I felt a cool breeze on my face, and we came to a large hole in the wall that opened to the outside. Suddenly, something in my brain clicked. "Terminator!" I said. "The movie!"

The man chuckled. "Hey, you're quicker 'n' most." He clambered over the rubble and reached a hand back to help me up.

I stood atop the pile of shattered concrete and gazed out over the landscape. Whatever I had expected, it hadn't been... this. A craggy mountain terrain sprawled out in front of me. Although there were forests, they seemed thin and sickly, little more than buckthorn brambles. A few roads crossed the land, but they were in obvious disrepair, with large patches of crabgrass and other weeds growing from their cracks. There was something profoundly wrong with this land, but I couldn't explain what.

Noticing my bewilderment, the man chuckled again. "Welcome to - "

A large, bluish blur darted down from the roof of the facility. All I could make out was some sort of exoskeleton, an insectoid set of jaws - and then a spray of blood. It took me a second to realize the man's head was gone. "HOLY SHIT!" I tumbled sideways off the rubble and to the dusty earth, then scrambled to my feet as I bolted for the nearest strand of trees. My legs, still not recovered from my other recent flight, screamed and burned in protest; my heart thudded manically in my ears. As soon as I reached the thick brush, I dove down and prayed that the insect thing hadn't followed. (Three sets of: 6 jumping jacks, 6 hop heel clicks, 6 side leg raises, 6 straight leg bounds, 6 butt kicks, 6 split jacks)

When my heart had finally calmed and my breath had returned to normal, I poked my head up to check for danger. Nothing. I guessed the giant insect had enough food already. I sat up and tried to order my thoughts. Going back to that facility wasn't an option. Staying in one place until I starved to death (or got eaten) also didn't sound good. So the only thing for me to do was to go deeper into the forest and find someplace relatively safe to stay. Minor details like my name and where I'd come from would have to come later.

Keeping low to the ground, I made my way through the buckthorn bramble. The sun was setting behind me, so I figured I was heading east. Eventually, in a hollow beneath a curved dome of branches, I found the remains of the camp. Maybe it belonged to that stranger who'd saved me; if that were the case, he wouldn't need it anymore. I picked up the canvas backpack propped beneath a tree trunk and rifled through it: some warm clothes, a knife, a rope, a bit of food, and a beaten map.

Without hesitation I stripped off the strange silver jumpsuit I'd woken up in and put on the stranger's clothes; as night came on and the heat of all my exertion wore away, it was obvious that my initial attire was too thin to keep the growing cold at bay. As I removed the jumpsuit, something jingled around my neck: a set of dog tags on a silver chain. I held them up to the rapidly-dying light to examine them. No name, unfortunately, dashing my hopes for an easy answer to at least one of my questions. Their only markings were an engraving of a phoenix, another one of those bits of knowledge that sprung to my consciousness without me knowing the source. I kept the dog tags around my neck as I put on my new outfit. The clothing was obviously for someone much larger than me - I had to roll up the hem of the pants and the cuffs of the sleeves several times - but it was relatively clean, and it was comfortable.

Next to the backpack was a bedroll - no more than a couple strategically-folded blankets. As my adrenaline had worn off, a deep exhaustion had set in, one that penetrated to the marrow of my bones. I curled up and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. (Three sets of: 6 knee-to-elbow crunches, 6 flutter kicks, 6 crunch kicks, 6 hundreds, 6 bridges, 6 Superman stretches)

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