Descent Into Panic

Chapter 8

...Spiders! Euwww, spiders everywhere, crawling all over me! What if they bite me? Get off! Where did they come from? So many, they're all crawling inside my clothes, they're everywhere. Go away; get off me! Nasty horrid tickly itchy beasties. Get them off me. Get off, get off, get OFF!!! There's too many of them...

"Ziggy!" Al cried out in desperation, hammering on his hand link. "We gotta find a way to get through to Sam, right now! Time's running out."

Help was instantly forthcoming, though not from the parallel hybrid computer.

Drew had realized what was happening, and lowered himself back down through the hole. He hurried over to Mr. Quincey, asking the other two to stand back, which they did without even a murmur of protest about the lowly lift attendant giving them orders. Perhaps they were starting to learn, but they still had a long way to go. Throughout the perturbing scene that followed, they kept to the opposite corner of the car and turned their backs, as if it were beneath their dignity to even acknowledge the other man's distress.

"Mr. Quincey?" Drew crouched down and gently placed a hand on the old man's shoulder to help still his trembling.

Aaaaaaah, what was that? Something touched me. Get off! Something's attacking me. Let go! It's choking me. It's smothering me. I can't breathe. I'm getting dizzy. It's trying to kill me! I have to get it off me. Go away! Leave me alone! Arrrh! Everything's closing in around me. I have to get out; I have to get away. I can't move, my body won't respond. Oh, God I'm paralyzed. I can't see, I'm going blind, I'm going crazy, I'm dying, I'm...

"Take a deep breath, Mr. Quincey," Drew advised. He could see by the rapid darting of the old man's eyes and the short panting breaths that he was deep in the grip of an anxiety attack. He was probably having the scary hallucinations again. Although the old man was flailing his arms around wildly as if trying to push him away, Drew did not back off. Instead, he gently restrained his friend so that he didn't hurt himself. "It's all right, sir, I'm here, it'll be all right. Try to calm down."

What? Who said that? Said what? What's going on? I dunno. I'm pinned down, like a moth on a collector's display board - a specimen being studied. I can't move. Shut up, I'm trying to listen. Listen to who? I dunno, shh. Oh, look, there's a stain on the carpet – that should have been cleaned, tut tut. It looks like a poodle. Haha, a puddle that looks like a poodle. Who cares? Will somebody please stop that damn bell ringing? It's just your ears, stupid. Dammit, I really am going crazy, now I'm talking to myself. What's happening to me? You just said it, Beckett; you're going crazy: Hahaha, hehehe you're going crazy, you're going crazy, na-na na-na-na. SHUT UP! Oh, God, help me, somebody help me…

"H-help m-m-me," Sam whimpered, neither knowing nor caring at whom his plea was aimed.

"I'm right here, Sam. It's me – Al - your buddy. Over here, Sam - look at me, pal." Al implored him. "It's okay, it's gonna be okay, you just need to listen to my voice and calm down, okay? Can you do that for me?"

Sam was perspiring profusely.

Where am I? How did I get in here? Its... oh God... it's a giant microwave! I can see the walls glowing! I can smell the heat. I can feel my muscles heating up. Phew, I'm so hot. I'm burning up. I'm cooking alive from the inside out! Oh boy, I'm so dizzy. This is it - this is the end. What a way to die!

"Sam, you need to calm down and look at me, buddy. You need to get a grip. You are Dr. Sam Beckett and you have a job to do. You have to save these people, Sam. There's not much time, do you hear me? So snap out of it, okay? C'mon back to the land of the lucid. We need you, Sam. You can do it. I know you can." Al still didn't check the odds with Ziggy. Right now, he didn't need any further discouragement. He didn't need the cold calculations of the super computer to know that Sam was in a real bad place right now.

Drew took out his own handkerchief and dabbed the old man's forehead gently. "I'm here, sir. Drew, remember? Can you hear me, Mr. Quincey?" Drew asked softly.

"N-no need to sh-shout." Sam put his hands over his ears. Everything seemed to be in extra sharp focus all of a sudden.

"Sam? You okay, Sam?" Al brushed absently at his face, hoping his friend wouldn't notice the glistening in his eye. Sam seemed to have snapped back as suddenly as he'd zoned out.

Sam looked from Al to Drew and back again, a puzzled expression on his face.

"Numb," he muttered. He clenched and unclenched his fists. "Euwww, tingly, crawly." He shuddered as the weird feeling enveloped him all over.

"That's normal, sir, remember?" Drew told him. "Try to stand up, get the circulation going."

Sam tried to stand, with Drew's support. His legs started shaking – violent tremors that made it hard to keep to one spot, like saplings in a hurricane. He could feel a tingling running the length of his spine, in his hands and feet, his face, and even his tongue.

"Steady, there, sir." Drew held his elbow, and put a hand behind his back. "Take it slowly, Mr. Quincey."

"Is he over it?" Al asked, both of the heedless Drew, and the all-knowing Ziggy.

"Dr. Beckett is still feeling some residual effects of the panic attack, Admiral. His pulse and respiratory rate are both rapid; blood pressure elevated. However, I believe he has survived the worst of it."

"Legs feel like jelly," Sam observed, as they gave way beneath him. Drew caught him mid-slump, and eased him back against the wall.

"So tired." Sam declared, leaning his head back and closing his eyes.

"Take it easy, sir." Drew advised, "Just try to breathe slowly and naturally."

"Oh God, that was so scary!" Sam whispered to his invisible friend. "You wouldn't believe some of the crazy, irrational thoughts I was having." He shuddered again. A shaky hand tracked across his forehead, as if to erase the recollection of his nightmare imaginings.

"That was the worst attack you've had in weeks," Drew confirmed.

"I feel sick," Sam declared weakly, "and… exhausted. I need to sleep now." He slumped further down and curled up in the corner of the elevator car.

"Sorry, pal, no can do," Al informed him regretfully. "I know you're wiped out, Sam, but you gotta hang in there or you're all gonna die. There's not much time left."

"How long was I out of it?" Sam wanted to know, wrapping his arms protectively around his torso and hugging himself as if afraid he'd literally as well as emotionally fall apart if he didn't. "It felt like hours."

"Only seven minutes, Sam," Al informed him, "but it sure felt a lot longer to me too. You had me worried sick, buddy."

"It was only a few minutes, sir," Drew confirmed, "I'm surprised you came out of it so soon to be honest. The first attack I witnessed wasn't anywhere near as severe, but you were delirious for twice as long. You probably don't remember but I had to help you back to your room that time. You told me next day that it was nearly an hour before you'd fully calmed down. Then you slept the whole of the rest of the day."

"I can't exactly say I'm calm now," Sam confessed, holding a hand out in front of him to show it was still trembling. "I feel like hell."

At last the other passengers deigned to acknowledge his existence, if only for the Diva to tut again at his choice of language. Wayneforth even showed an ounce of compassion. He reached into his inside jacket pocket and drew out a monogrammed silver flask.

"Here, have a snort of this. A drop of whiskey'll soon steady your nerves."

"Thanks," Sam acknowledged with a nod, "but no thanks. I don't think clouding my judgment with alcohol is going to help us get out of here." His head felt muzzy enough as it was. It was taking all his will power not to throw up or pass out, or both.

"Suit yourself," Wayneforth shrugged. He held it out to Ms Mancini in silent invitation, but she declined with a slight wave of her hand. Her expression hinted that she'd have liked to accept, but would not lower herself to drink from a common flask. Ignoring Drew, who would have turned it down anyway, Wayneforth shrugged again before taking a swig himself.

"You should go easy on that," cautioned Sam, but he could see that the advice was unlikely to be heeded. In fact, Wayneforth defiantly tipped the flask and took a deeper draught of the liquid.

"Save your breath, Sam," advised Al.

Sam nodded resignedly. Then, with a weary sigh and some welcome assistance from the ever-attentive Drew, he struggled to his feet again and prepared to resume his mission impossible.

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