I dreamt last night that I was hired to help manage a “special project.” I spent some time with extended family before leaving on the adventure and enjoyed meeting some distant relatives I had never met or spent much time with before. Finally, it was time to depart.
I arrived on the ship one balmy day, wondering what my assignment was. The ship was iconic: grey, darkly lit in most places, torn down in many places, but still running well and fully staffed. No one on the ship seemed to take a superior attitude towards me, so I guessed they regarded me as captain. Still, they seemed to know how to do their jobs without my help. I couldn’t figure out why I was there.
The next day it happened. Some men came running up to me in alarm, a problem was unfolding in a section of the ship, usually sealed off, that I hadn’t seen yet. We crossed through the now unsealed portal, and there was a huge commotion. All the attention centered around a man, normally looking except for the scruffy hair and face that was common at sea, but he started becoming more and more agitated. The men around him were doing their best to calm him down and move him farther away from the door to the main part of the sealed wing, which really angered the scruffy fellow. The host of security detail seemed to know how important their role was, so I let them continue. Then at a certain point, like the striking of a match, everything shifted intensity.
Like the Hulk, the scruffy man transformed into a giant and busted through 4 aisle-ways that used to be separated by book cases. It was now “showtime” for me to take over and I followed the aberration and the brave guards tagged behind me. I had expected them to leave at that point, but they stayed right behind and coordinated their own teams around us as well. We did our best to keep up with the monster as it zigzagged through the sealed wing. Then, as abruptly as he climaxed in intensity, he dropped out of it again, seemingly himself.
What was going on? I got full details about these aberrants who were sealed on this ship. They followed exactly this pattern of climax and return to normalcy. In fact, that was the only reason this ship even existed. It was a floating quarantine. And there were more of him.
It was all becoming clear, and yet they were looking to me to find a solution. I wasn’t a psychiatrist. I wasn’t an exorcist. I was just myself, and yet they needed and trusted me.
A resonant voice boomed from my chest and throat. “Let the man be put in a tank of ocean water.” The water was near freezing, a shiver of dread passed through the officers in my presence. They thought I was exterminating the man, and he apparently did too and welcomed the prospect. “Finally!” He seemed to think.
The man entered the icy tank. It was 10 feet cubed and had observation windows on one end. The water then filled 7 feet of it so he had to swim, but he had plenty of room to breathe. We watched and waited for the man to draw to an end in hypothermia or worse, but just the opposite happened.
The man was exuberant. He explained that in the cold he was free from agitation. His body, he said, must have been operating at such a high rate and temperature that he was on overload all the time. The cold was his only relief in years and years. He wished he could drown in it, but now that he lived and found relief for the first time, he wanted to return to the icy tank again and again.
Experiments were done on the rest of the aberrations with the same result. This brought order to the ship because it cured the explosive episodes that they had left port to shelter society from, but the “patients” demanded more. The icy temperatures felt like room temperature to them and they were exceedingly comfortable. Upon return, they craved it immensely – perhaps like a drug – or perhaps because they found a new home in the experience of life that matched them.
The sealed wing underwent a transformation. By some mechanism, the temperature was reduced in there to sub-zero. Ice-crystals formed on every thing including the floors, walls, beds, windows. The windows no longer functioned, so they were removed from every non-essential place. The aberrants numbered more than 50 and, much like the deaf-community, started to really get to know each other now that they were “home” in this temperature range. Their skin had ice crystals on them and shone like a garment weaved from 5 carat diamonds in the light. They were returned to their humanity, no longer monsters in their own minds, and struggling to create meaning and sense of it all through their relationships with each other.
Then one day it happened. I could feel an explosive rage building in myself every time I returned from visiting the “Ice lepers” as the crew called them. I was afraid of myself when I came “to the surface” as the ice-people called it. And now it was time for me to “take a bath” to see if it helped.
I dove in the icy tank, which now expanded to be the size of an Olympic pool. The icy waters calmed my own agitation now and an inner warmth now sustained me in its icy presence instead of consuming me up above. Shock mixed with the sudden relief. I felt both like an abomination and a super-hero. How was it possible I could like this? That I could live in this range of temperatures and in the world of normal people? Yet I wouldn’t be returning to the surface any time soon. I was way too comfortable here, and went to join my new diamond-clad friends.