How do you explain nothingness to someone? Not the absence of everything but actual nothingness?
If you had asked this detective about nothingness three months ago, I would have told you to go see a head shrink. That was before I entered a world I never knew existed. Like something out of a dystopian sci-fi novel. Only this wasn’t dystopia, nor a novel. This was my real life as a private detective in one of the most corrupt cities in America.
It all started when she entered my life. With her long, skinny legs crossed in front of her sticking up over the top of the desk, she had to be at least six feet tall. Her curls in the corners of her mouth made her look like she was smiling all the time. Her messy hair made her seem like she had just gotten out of bed. Come to think of it… Depending upon how you look at it, I walked into her life instead of her into mine.
She sat there behind the desk I’d seen a dozen times. Just outside the elevator of the basement of the building with no signs on the outside. What a peculiar place for a business. It always felt like the seedy underground I had all too much familiarity with as a former homicide detective. Dim lighting, secret intercom to get into the building, and now an innocent looking dame who I just knew not to cross.
“Mr. Johnson, I presume?”
“I need you to watch this video, take a quick test at the end, and sign the consent form before you can begin.” Casey was her name, and her voice was a sweet as her smile. She handed me a tablet and pointed me in the direction of room number 3.
“I’ve been here before.”
“Great, the video will be a good reminder, and we have a new consent form.”
I took the tablet and sat down in the chair inside room 3. Why room number 3? Why a new consent form? And who is this broad, Casey? The video explained everything about the tank again. Nothing new, it seemed. The prep. Getting in. Getting out. Disembark. Easy to follow. Sign my life away, and hand everything back to Casey.
“Enjoy. I’ll see you in two hours.” Casey was one cheerful broad.
This woman spells trouble, but I figured I was just being a paranoid dick. Boy was I about to be wrong. I closed the door, put in my ear plugs, disrobed, and rinsed off in the shower. Then I opened the hatch to the tank, and it was like I could hear my own soul beckoning me into the dark abyss.
Everything was going exactly as it had the dozen times before. I felt myself calming down and my body becoming seamless with the water. I could see nothing, hear nothing, feel nothing, smell nothing, taste nothing. Full sensory deprivation was underway.
Suddenly, the darkness became darker. I felt cold fingers grip the back of my neck and pull me down to the bottom of an endless pool of ever chilling water. Everything was frigid and moving in slow motion around me. There were people walking through the water in front of me as it began to crystallize. I tried to move and speak, nothing came out, and I began to suffocate.
My body jolted in the tank, and I was back to reality. I heard three knocks and knocked back to let Casey know I heard. I got out of the tank and went through the prescribed routine. I got dressed and head up the stairs that lead to the back alley. This is the kind of alley a detective has nightmares about. Prime location for stashing a dead body.
I called up Dr. Hall later that day to tell him about my experience in the tank. What the hell was that? He assures me that those types of experiences are quite normal, but I know he’s hiding something. I can smell it like a dog smells his least favorite mailman halfway down the block.
The next week, I’m back. None of these shenanigans with videos and consent forms. I’m pretty sure Casey’s hair is even more of a mess than the prior week, but she’s bright and shiny as before. I’m gonna figure this broad out. She’s bad news, and the kind on the front page at that, too.
She points at room 5. Now, I know something’s up. I want room 3, but she says room 3 is down for maintenance. It would be great if people would realize a guy dressed in a 3-piece suite and trench coat with a fedora isn’t a guy you try to pull a fast one on. She tells me she’ll call Dr. Hall to confirm.
Within minutes, Dr. Hall is greeting me. What are they hiding? Maybe I never should have asked.
Dr. Hall explains how they have been able to develop a filtering system that separates the salts from the float tanks when they are cleaning the tanks. The separation process is able to separate what they call light and dark energy. They are then able to fill a tank using the light or dark energy salt, allowing you to be immersed in light or dark energy. It would all sound like BS to me if I hadn’t gotten choked out by Jack Frost during my last session. Everyone always goes for the light energy. Bunch of pussies.
“The dark energy salt is able to attract more dark energy towards you. Since you are immersed in the dark energy, it will bring up the most chilling, disturbing experiences.”
Sounds like my kind of mess. I’m sick in the head. I want more, and I explain to Dr. Hall that he’s not messing with some chump. I can handle this. I’ve seen the worst of the worst when I used to work homicide. There’s nothing I can’t take, or so I thought.
Session after session, I keep being confronted with death, torture, mayhem, and destruction. The worst of the worst. I’m drowned, burned alive, dissected by drugheads while I’m wide awake. The worst my mind can throw at me, I take it like a champ.
Then it happens. Time slows to next to nothing. I’m watching myself age slowly. I feel my heart beating in slow motion. I think, no big deal. I only have two hours in the tank. Reality is reality. I figure I’m out of here in 90 minutes tops.
90 minutes isn’t coming. I start counting each minute. I lost track around 30 minutes, so I figure I can’t have much more than 30 minutes left. I tried counting again. I swear I repeated that 30 minute count a dozen times. Something isn’t right. Where the hell is Casey? Did I get locked in here and another world war broke out?
I lift my hands, but I can’t feel myself doing so in the tank. There is no part of me in the tank. I’m stuck in this mental trap of fake reality. Not Charlie Chaplin being president fake reality. This is real fake reality. Where the hell are these thoughts coming from?
This is where you start thinking I get have some great epiphany about nothing.
I felt cheated.
I started feeling like a sick drughead with a borderline addiction to these intense sessions. Dr. Hall consults me after each session and seems to think I’m progressing rather well. The darkness doesn’t even exist anymore. I feel like an enlightened beatnik, but Dr. Hall assures me that what I’m experiencing is quite normal given the frequency of the sessions.
He also says that they have started to notice that there is more light energy salt in the tank after my sessions. The thought of my mind cleaning up anything sounds like a load of crap to me. What I’ve seen. What I’ve been through. I’m surprised the salt doesn’t turn into a solid rock each time I’m in the tank.
The next session, it happens. Now, I’m not going to pretend to be some philosophical Socrates or something, but I can tell you that nothingness… It’s real. Not as a concept or idea or absence of everything. But nothingness as in the origin of the universe nothingness. It’s vast and endless, yet nonexistent at the same time. It’s the ultimate state of awareness. It’s a lot like if God was a detective.
As crazy as that might sound, it’s nothing like my last session. This time in the tank everything is going as usual. Then I start going through a sequences where I’m watching myself die in every possible way. I’m not just watching myself, I’m experiencing it in real-time. I’m feeling it for real. Each time, I’m feeling actual death.
Then it hit me. He hit me! I knew this wasn’t real, but no matter how much I told myself it wasn’t real, it became more real.
I was in an apartment. It felt familiar. It even looked familiar. But I had never been to this apartment before. And yet I already know that I will be there.
He keeps striking me over and over and over. Who could this creep be? Suddenly, I could see myself separate from her body. I was on the 14th floor in the Archer building in downtown and slowly floating away from that scene of domestic violence. Who was that man?
My body jolted in the tank. I was back, but where the hell had I been? How long did I have left in the tank. Surely Casey would be knocking soon to let me know my time was up. I need to get back to that scene!
“How could you be so stupid?”
What the hell was that voice? I’ve heard of people losing their minds in the tank and never returning. Why now? Why after two dozen times? What did Casey do wrong? Why am I blaming someone I have no proof did anything wrong?
Knock knock knock
I got out of the tank, nearly sure I was losing my mind. Maybe this is what that damn consent form change was for way back when? I hear Casey knock on my door.
“Mr. Johnson, are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Casey. Just had an unusual occurrence in the tank.”
“I know. I’m very sorry, Mr. Johnson.”
I knew Casey was trouble, and maybe I should have listened to my gut at that time. I got dressed and exited the room. Casey and Dr. Hall are waiting for me. This smells like trouble, so I smile. I’ve been through much worse.
“Mr. Johnson, proper protocol was not followed. I’m very sorry you had the experience you had today. It appears you experienced some unexpected results.” Dr. Hall was dancing like a prima ballerina.
“You could say that.” And then it happened. I knew exactly what happened in the tank. I knew exactly who that woman was getting beaten and who that asshole was who was giving her the beat down. How the hell did I know that? And what the hell did Dr. Hall just say?
“Can you repeat that, please?” I looked at Dr. Hall and he knocked on the desk three times.
Knock knock knock
Wasn’t that the plot twist? I was in a tank inside a tank. I know what you’re thinking. Mr. Johnson is tripping balls right now, but this time I’m really back in reality. Only I can’t remember who the woman was, but I still remember the face of that asshole was who was giving her the beat down on the 14th floor of the Archer building in downtown.
There’s no Casey and Dr. Hall waiting outside my room. It’s the usual exit. Out the backdoor into the creepy alley. There’s a newspaper sitting in the rain just outside the door. There’s a familiar face on the cover. It’s the beat down jerk. He just won a big contract to build the new city hall in downtown. Figures.