The Volunteer

David M. Levy

© Copyright 2004 by David M. Levy


I had just arrived in Los Angeles, and my money had just run out. I had driven through the dark night for fourteen hours out of a small town, making a hopeful journey into the unknown. With a bubbling sense of excitement inside of me, I had felt no qualms leaving a good hotel job and an adequate dwelling behind. I was seeking the proverbial "Promised Land." I assumed that the same hotel in L.A would hire me on the spot to get things going.

The minute I realized all my money was spent felt like being taken to prison when the cell door shuts. The hotel didn't hire me. Reality became a dull ache far down inside of me in some deep space between my stomache and lower back. The Venice Beach Police took away my car. I forgot to wear my seat belt in an alley while driving five miles per hour, so they found that my license was expired. I was now on foot. Alone, I stood numb in front of the waves and sand.

Forever walking with no idea of where to go, I one day found the page in my hands with the words that made sense: "Volunteers will be paid . . . drug study . . . meals and housing provided . . . " They were looking for people who were depressed.

The next thing I knew, I was lounging (by invitation) in a spacious lobby that looked more like a tropical resort to me. There were fountains and palm trees and marble floors and the tantalizing smells of delicious cuisine wafting through the air. "What kind of hospital is this?" I wondered. A beautiful woman welcomed me and said that she will be bringing me a free carton of my favorite cigarettes.

I met with a doctor in his office. I signed a contract which I skimmed hastily. It seemed there was some mention of genetically altering DNA. I was alarmed for about two seconds, but there was no way I was backing out. Give me the pill.

When Charles Dickens wrote "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," he wasn't kidding! My life was in ruins, but the hospital courtyard was paradise as music played and sun pounded down. Tiffany was sexy, energetic and free-spirited. I was playing basketball, dancing aerobics with Tiffany, laughing, having deep conversations and singing. I had all the cigarettes I wanted and delicious meals served three times a day. I slept like a baby and looked forward to each day. It dawned on me that I was changing, though. The more I took the pill, the more I considered that I was being experimented on with an unknown formula. I realized that I was growing physically stronger with ever-increasing power, speed, and precision. My innate talent for martial arts was self-developing. I obsessed on a host of katas, as well as the movements of Jeet Kun Do, Bruce Lee's style based on circles, water and the fusion of all disciplines. At the same time, I became aware that I was transforming mentally, reaching hyper-intelligence of an undocumented I.Q. level. "Of Course!" I realized as the days went by, "The contracts had mentioned genetics and altering DNA. I was transforming at the cellular level. They must have used genes from a cat, to cause these kind of changes in my body and reflexes, and my brain wouldn't stop working as a robot's. I was becoming half cat, and half robot!

The heat continued to pound down upon the courtyard. I met with the doctor a few times. He was pleased with my progress. He indicated that I really didn't have to leave - I could stay longer. It occurred to me that I was his ticket to making a million dollars. They weren't finding subjects with the response they needed. Every few days I watched as another volunteer was handed a fat check and left the hospital. One day, Tiffany and I wrote letters to eachother. That night we met under the stars and kissed. I had never met a woman like her in my entire life. She was really into me. But she left.

One of life's terrifying enigma's is the moment you are accused of something you never did. Those who have ever experienced this know how a feeling of invincibility can suddenly shatter, exposing a nightmarish realm of helpless bewilderment. One evening, I decided I was ready to leave the study, and I requested my check from the office. A man came to my room holding a file. He told me that I was documented as assaulting a patient. "What??" I choked. I was not allowed to leave. Panic formed. "How can someone be accused of something they never did?" I thought. Even more absurd than this, "How can they keep me here against my will? They owe me money and are refusing to pay!" I became aware of the unscrupulous doctor's agenda. My protest was a logical, diplomatic appeal. I explained to someone that a mistake had been made because I was simply a volunteer, as opposed to a patient. I explained that furthermore, I was promised money and the option to leave anytime I like in writing. I had watched several volunteers simply ask for their check and depart. When they ignored this, I asked to use the same hallway payphone I had used several times during my stay. When they calmly informed me that I was not allowed to call anyone an alarm sounded off in my head like the siren that means "air raid!" during war time. I located the Patient Rights Hotline posted on a wall, shimmied undetected like a ninja to the phone, and began to press the buttons. Suddenly the hospital muscleman was there! "Put that phone down right now," he said in an even, yet delighted tone of voice. I rejected the order and he said "Man, I will lay hands on you" with even more delight.

Back at my bedroom, I fashioned the covers on my bed to appear as if I was inside of them sound asleep. Down the hall there was a door to the outside which opened any time someone approached and typed several numbers on a small black keypad to the left of the door. I decided I would wait for this sequence happening at a good time, and be there to keep the door from shutting behind its opener. I became aware of my heart beat and I could feel my pulse in my face.

After that, they were dragging me to another wing. "Would I like an injection?" they offered. They assured me that it would reduce me to a babbling vegetable. They put me into a medieval cement room with a thick, heavy steel door and only a bed. I was told that if I had to go to the bathroom, I was to use the corner of the cell! I was shocked that they had this kind of thing in a hospital. Beating the metal door with my fists until they were numb, I screamed in rage that I would have them all fired. The fury dissolved and a cool wave of resolve washed over me then. It was as cold and hard as the stone that imprisoned me. With my robotic mind I visualized the building and personnel schematics the way one might see them flash across a computer screen. I considered each subsequent obstacle between me and freedom, utilizing every detail I had learned about the facility since my first day there. Filed away in my memory, they were now somehow rapidly appearing and associating themselves with designated points along an escape route. The courtyard was surrounded by a high stone wall. There was a tree near the wall. I removed the matress from the metal frame of the narrow bed and put the head of the bed against the cell door - the widths of each matched. At the foot of the bed frame there was a small space before the wall opposite the door. I laid on my back in that space, with body contracted, ready to expand. This created a lineup of wall, compacted body, bed frame and cell door. I put my feet against the foot of the bed. Using my enhanced body strength and martial arts chi-transferrance technique, I summoned my entire chi into one ball of energy. From a moment of exact nothingness (think of Newtonian equal and opposite reaction or the upswing of a sledgehammer) I exploded force through my feet and through the length of the bed frame.

What I remember most of all is the massive, all-permeating sound. The boom of some great canon combined with the smack of the hand of God upon a canyon floor was the resonation that left me stunned, and the guards too. I blinked and saw my cell door wide open. "Oh My God," I gasped. I remember thinking that it was time for some football. I scrambled around a corner and it was now my shoulder verses the door to the courtyard. I crashed once, twice and then through it like a batter ram. Suddenly I was plunged into the blackness of night, ran in slow motion. I heard my name being called out desperately into the night by men and women. I heard faceless appeals being made to me: "David, Let us help you!" pleaded one, and I even had time to chuckle at this as I flew. I jumped, grasped the tree's branch, and like a pole vault athlete I threw my legs high above my head to straddle the wall, then hurling my upper body onto the wall as well. My legs slipped and still dangled inside as I struggled to hang onto the wall, and I heard voices frantically ordering each other, "Grab his legs!" I felt large hands grabbing my feet, and I attempted to pull myself over the top of wall, but the strength simply drained from my entire body, giving way to pathetic weakness. I called out to the Lord God, "I can't do it Lord! I can't do it Lord! Free Me, Lord! Free Me Lord..." That is when the Lord lifted me over the wall. I hung by my hands and looked down. It was too far to drop! "We want to help you!" the voices pleaded ludicrously. "It's too far, Lord, too far" I begged. I dropped and landed like a cat outside the wall. All I could see were parking lots stretched in every direction and no way out. I walked like a circus clown, my limp body devoid of any strength, and saw a guy getting out of his car. "Excuse me, Sir, where is the entrance?" I asked him in my best innocent voice. It took so much energy just to speak to the man. He pointed. "Thank you," I muttered.

I walked and walked through the night streets, hearing helicopters and sirens there. I remember thinking that I must find the word "volunteer" in the dictionary. I walked the whole of the night, an endless walk with no rest, until that time just before the sun comes up on a new day. "Venice Beach," a sign read! I staggered forward into the surf, fell to my knees and let the waves wash in over me. I was overwhelmed by a feeling of relief indescribable by words. An exhilaration filled me as if I was a hot air baloon that would lift off and soar. As the sun began to rise over the horizon, casting its ripples of red and orange across the dark blue sky. The sounds of ocean and wind and birds flooded into my head from all around as the cool waters baptized me into freedom. "Oh Thank You God," I uttered, "Thank you."

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