Sunday. 3:00 pm.
She stood in the middle of the dim room, feeling awkward and uncertain. She knew she had a set amount of time, and she was wasting it just standing here, but it was just so ... weird.
"C'mon Rebecca, get a grip." She whispered to herself.
She was not claustrophobic at all, she wouldn't be here if she were. But the room, with its dim lights and thick scent of incense, felt so small. She stood with her back to the door and tried to relax. That's what she was here for, wasn't it? Immediately to her left, in the corner, was a narrow stand-up shower, with no walls, just a drain, a mat, a spa sized shower head and a rack with shampoo and shower gel. Directly in front of her was a chair with a towel draped over it, and behind it was a box with some sort of machinery inside. And there, against the left wall, taking up most of the space in the small room, was The Tank.
It looked like a giant metal coffin.
She had heard of sensory deprivation tanks, or flotation tanks, before, but had never seen one (except maybe in the movies), and didn't know anyone except her friend Renee, who had ever been in one. It was basically a large metal box, eight feet by four feet by four feet, a rectangle with a slanted front where the door opens. Inside is about 10 inches of super dense salt water, in which one is to float, in the dark, in the tank.
She had just heard the orientation/pep talk from the spa employee, explaining what to expect, and emphasizing that one can get out of the tank at any time. No shame.
But to get out of the tank, you had to first get in. Rebecca didn't know why she was feeling so skittish. She had jumped at the chance to try it yesterday, when her friend Renee had to cancel her appointment and offered her session to Rebecca.
"You need this, Rebecca." Renee had said with a pointed look. "You need to just fucking relax for once."
Well, it was true. She had been working too hard and had not taken any time for herself in ages. But she knew what Renee was really saying. She had recently confided in her that she had been having trouble ... well ... achieving orgasm.
"Achieving orgasm? Seriously Rebecca?" Laughed Renee. "See, that right there is part of your problem. You need to loosen up, just let yourself go. Have some fun! That's why you can't get off!"
Well, that was easy for Renee to say. Loosen up. She was so loose she was like an oozing puddle of sex. She had drowned half of the eligible bachelors in the city. And a good portion of the ineligible ones, as well. Rebecca wished she could be more like Renee. She wished she could let go and let her sexuality work for her.
She had always been a little shy, a little timid. But she wasn't a prude for God's sake. She had orgasms. Sometimes. She and her on again off again lover, Frank, had sex and it was fine. It's true, things had gotten strained between them, and he was more off than on right now, and Rebecca couldn't help but think it had to do with her inability to let go lately, when they were together. She didn't know why this was happening, she just couldn't ... relax. The ever helpful Renee had even left her a little present yesterday on her porch. It was a beautiful, elegantly designed ... vibrator. Rebecca's cheeks had grown hot as she held the package in her hand. She couldn't even open it, pretty as it was. She had just stuffed it in the bottom drawer of her bedside table. And tried not to think about it.
Rebecca shook herself resolutely. She stared down the tank squatting there in the corner of the room. This would be good. This would be great. It would be a new experience, no matter what, and that could only be a positive thing, right?
She did as she had been told during the orientation. She undressed and laid her clothes carefully on the chair. She rinsed herself off in the small, open shower. She opened the lightweight, metal door to the tank, and stared inside. It was dark. The salt water scent reminded her of the ocean. She took a deep breath and stepped in. The dense water/salt solution stroked her mid-calf. Rebecca turned, crouched, and closed the door.
An hour later, after the spa staff's requisite knock on the door, Rebecca stepped out of the tank.
An hour later, after the spa staff's requisite knock on the door, Rebecca stepped out of the tank.
Sunday. 4:40 pm.
Rebecca walked home from the spa, shivering against the crisp October air. She pushed her hands deep inside the pockets of her red wool coat and hunched her shoulders against the chill. It was a short walk from the spa to her apartment, and her feet easily found their way along the city streets. Which was a good thing, as her mind was elsewhere. She smiled to herself for about the 100th time since she stepped out of the tank. Her time in the tank was ... well ... it was not what she had expected at all.
She had felt a little silly at first, floating there in the darkness. The water was just about body temperature. It was pitch dark, and there was nothing to hear, except the echo of her breaths against the metal sides of the tank.
That, of course, is the idea. The sensory deprivation tank does just that. Deprives you of your five main senses -- sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste -- so that your mind could be opened to relaxation, meditation, creativity, visions, hallucinations, sleep, the options were endless, according to the nice young man who gave her the orientation. Don't worry if you don't have some crazy out of body experience, he had smiled. Just relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. There's no way to do it wrong.
Well, she may have done it a little bit wrong, Rebecca thought sheepishly to herself, her cheeks growing warm. During her orientation, there had been a thinly veiled, polite caution that pretty much said: Please don't masturbate in the tank. And she hadn't planned to! But once she had gotten used to the sensation of floating there in the dark, she had become very relaxed. She may have even dozed a little. She could barely feel the line of water against her skin, but she could feel the fan of her hair brushing her shoulders, and it felt good. In her dreamy state she thought she had felt her nipples tighten. When her fingertips had brushed over her hard nipples it had felt so nice she had let her hands linger, caressing her breasts, running down her stomach and back up her sides. The salt in the water made her skin so smooth and slippery. Before she knew what she was doing, she had let her hands wander down between her legs, feeling the slippery smooth skin of her upper thighs, the damp, downy strip of hair, her soft labial lips.
A chilly gust of wind blew a strand of Rebecca's still damp hair across her face, and she snapped out of her reverie. She was two blocks from home on a Sunday afternoon, and she was surprised to see the streets all but deserted. Maybe there was a football game on she wasn't aware of? Chicago sports fans were nothing if not dedicated, but it still seemed strange to see no one walking along the sidewalks of what was a pretty busy avenue. Three more steps and Rebecca changed her mind. There was an echo of footsteps behind her, almost matching her own. Someone was out, like she was. And from the sound sounds of their footsteps, they were fast approaching.
Being a polite pedestrian, Rebecca moved over to her right so that the person walking behind her could pass on the left. But no one did. The footsteps continued to ring out behind her, they sounded so close! But no one passed. Finally, feeling a little creeped out, Rebecca stopped completely and looked behind her. She braced herself for some kind of unpleasant encounter. But there was no one there. And the footsteps had stopped.
Rebecca turned and started walking again, faster this time. She forgot all her her dreamy reverie and now she just wanted to get home. Again, she heard the echoing footsteps behind her, and again she turned to look. The sidewalk was empty behind her. There weren't even any cars in the street, just a few fallen leaves blowing across the avenue. She started for home once again, and the phantom footsteps followed. She stopped, they stopped.
Rebecca laughed. "Idiot!" she chided herself. Of course, they were just her footsteps, echoing in some strange way against the brick buildings as she walked past. Maybe it was just the salt water residue in her ears making her hear things. Rebecca tilted her head to one side and shook it experimentally. Her ear crackled in response.
"See? Just a little swimmer's ear. Or floater's ear, as the case may be." Rebecca chuckled to herself as she turned off of the main avenue and onto her street. The two-flat she lived in was just three buildings down the block. She looked up at it as she approached and noticed her upstairs neighbor must have decorated for Halloween. The building itself had a bit of spook factor on its own, with its large gray stones and black painted porch and columns. But now there were fake spider webs in the bushes and little jack o lantern lights strung up around the columns. Cute.
Rebecca pushed her key into the front door lock, let herself into the apartment, and closed the door firmly behind her. She shook her head to the side again as she noticed that strange echoing of sound, just like her footsteps on the sidewalk.
She felt sudden exhaustion, even though it was just late afternoon. The tank guy warned her about that, too. She could expect to feel a sense of euphoria, after, or be emotionally and physically drained by the experience. But in a good way. He had stressed that.
She tossed her coat and purse on a chair by the door, and walked through the living room, the dining room, and poured herself a glass of water in her cozy kitchen at the back of her apartment. Her bedroom was off of the dining room, and she headed there next. Though it was small, it had everything she needed. Her warm, comfortable bed, the one-drawer bedside table with the orange and white art deco lamp on top. She had an antique dresser that had belonged to her great-grandfather and a small closet. Mostly for her shoes.
Rebecca stripped down to her bra and panties, sighed, and collapsed onto her bed. She didn't even bother drying her hair, or putting on pajamas. She snuggled under the duvet and tried to get back that relaxed feeling she had experienced in the tank. She suddenly propped herself up on one elbow and looked speculatively at the drawer in her nightstand, where the gift from Renee was stashed. But after a moment she decided she was too exhausted to do any more experimenting, and flopped back down on her pillows.
But when she closed her eyes, she couldn't help but remember her experience in the tank. How relaxed she felt, like there was nothing else in the world except the sound of her breathing, the feeling of her hair swirling against her shoulders that raised little goosebumps over her skin and tightened her nipples. And then, and then. Had she really touched herself like that? Rebecca again smiled secretly to herself, there in her bed. It's not like she had never masturbated before, but it had been a really long time. And she wasn't sure she had ever managed to ... get herself completely off, before. She put her hands over her face in embarrassment. But it had felt really good! Rebecca pulled the duvet completely over her head let herself relax and remember.
Suddenly, there in the dark under her covers, she could hear someone breathing. Soft breaths she could almost feel against the side of her face. Rebecca sat upright and pulled the covers off of her head.
"Hello?!?" Her voice trembled. "Is someone there?"
Of course no one was there. She pulled the covers back over her head and listened. It was still there, the soft sound of breathing. Was it her? She held her breath experimentally. The sound ceased.
"Stop freaking yourself out, Rebecca. We're relaxed. Remember?" She closed her eyes and tried to feel the way she had in the tank.
Floating there in the tank, in complete darkness, she could barely feel the water against her skin. It was relegated at almost body temperature, for just that purpose. It was silent, all she could hear was the sound of her own breathing. There was the slight scent of salt water, but she got used to that within a few minutes and it ceased to register on her senses. And there was nothing to taste but her own breath. Her arms floated to her side, her legs drifted slightly apart, she was completely relaxed. And then she had felt her long hair brush her shoulders as it floated in a halo around her head. And then the goosebumps, and the tight nipples and her hands began to explore her slippery wet skin.
Had it really happened the way she remembered? Now that she was relaxed again, letting her memory drift back to the time in the tank, she started to believe she must have dreamed part of it. She must have drifted off into some arousal induced doze. She remembered stroking her skin, her hips, her upper thighs. She remembered letting her hand drift to the softness between her legs, touching her clitoris, slipping her finger between her lips and rubbing delicately until she felt delicious sensations run all through her body. But what had happened next?
She remembered the water moving in waves over her body, circling her breasts, swirling over her taut nipples. She remembered the water surging between her legs, pressing against her delicate opening, pushing gently but insistently. But because of the temperature of the water, she couldn't really feel it, just the pressure between her legs, searching, until she felt opened, taken, the water expanding inside her and constantly moving, like a wave pushing itself inside her. It was relentless and almost excruciating in its gentle, rhythmic surging. She felt filled up like she had never been before. And as the water pushed itself in and out of her, she had braced her hands on the sides of the tank and cried out silently with a truly amazing orgasm.
"But that's impossible. It didn't really happen. I must have been dreaming, or hallucinating. And now I'm talking out loud to myself with the covers over my head."
Whatever it had been, just thinking about it made her feel all warm and tingly. All of her senses, deprived while in the tank, felt heightened now, here, in her bed. Her sheets felt delightfully smooth against her skin. Her skin felt baby soft beneath her fingers, thanks to the exfoliating nature of the salt water. Her room was lit only by the setting autumn sun slanting through her window, and every color, every shape, every texture stood out in a gentle golden hue. She could smell the lingering scent of salt on her skin, in her hair. And something else. Something musky and alluring, filling the spaces between her bare skin and the sheets of her bed. The scent of her own arousal.
Rebecca spared one more thought to the packaged vibrator in the nightstand drawer before she fell fast asleep.
Monday. 4:00 am.
Rebecca awoke confused and in the darkness, thirsty and cold. It took her a few minutes to discern where she was and why she was in bed in just her underwear. She smiled ruefully and slipped into black leggings and a pale blue zip up hoodie. When she picked up her phone to check the time -- 4am -- she noticed she had a bunch of missed calls and voicemail messages.
She pondered the fact that she had been sleeping for 12 hours straight as she listened to her messages.
"Rebecca, it's Renee. So ... how was it? Was it great? Would you do it again? Did you have any visions or hallucinations? Were you able to reeeelax? Haha. Call me, I'm dying to know if you liked it."
"Rebecca, where are you? I hope you didn't drown in there! Call me! Oh, and don't forget about Tricia's Halloween party on Thursday. Costumes required. You know, slutty whatever ... "
"Hey! Where are you? I'm dying over here! I'm going to bed. Call me from work tomorrow, it doesn't matter what time."
"Uh. Hi Rebecca. It's me. Um, Frank. I just, I don't know, it was kind of weird, and I don't want to make it weirder by calling you right after, it's just that, I mean, it was great, better than great, but, you know, we haven't talked in a while, so, I don't know. I just wanted to talk to you about it. Since we, you know, didn't talk much. Earlier. Heh."
Rebecca stared at her phone. What the hell? When did he call? 2 am? Was he drunk dialing her? What in the world was he talking about? She hadn't talked to Frank in almost two weeks, and even then it had been a lukewarm hey, what have you been up to, we have to get together soon, sad, depressing kind of conversation. Talk about weird. She would have to call him tomorrow and figure that out.
Well, now that she had slept so long, she was not in the least bit tired. She padded on bare feet out to her kitchen, god she was starving. She had a leftover sandwich from Panes that was calling her name. Rebecca pulled open the fridge door and leaned in, looking for her foil wrapped sandwich. She pushed aside containers of greek yogurt and coconut milk, the eggs, the bread ... and nothing. No sandwich.
"What the hell?" She muttered. Where was it?
Maybe she threw it away by mistake? She checked the recycling bin and aha! There was the foil her sandwich had been wrapped in. But no sandwich. Not in the trash, not in the sink. But, there was a plate in the sink with some crumbs on it. She didn't remember putting it there, but she must have. Was she sleep eating? The guy at the spa had told her to be prepared for anything. She didn't expect to be eating sandwiches in her sleep. And hey, if she already ate her sandwich, why was she so hungry?
Rebecca felt too wired and confused to figure it out. She shrugged, grabbed a yogurt, and sat down at her dining room table. She spent the next two hours at the table, working, but found it hard to concentrate. She kept hearing strange noises, those same echoing sounds, and even though she knew she was alone, she could not resist the urge, many times, to look over her shoulder.
Monday. 12:30 pm.
"Hi Renee, it's me."
"Rebecca! Finally! I've been trying to get a hold of you!"
"I know. Sorry. I feel asleep yesterday after I got home and I didn't wake up until 4am. It was really strange!"
"Are you ok? You sound kind of funny. What phone are you on, there's like this weird echo."
"Really? I swear I've been hearing that all day. I'm just on my cell. But I only have a minute."
"Ok! Ok! Tell me! Did you love it?"
"I kind of did! It was very, um, relaxing." Rebecca laughed, remembering how relaxed she had been. "I think I fell asleep, or had a dream, or something, it was kind of an odd sensation, but I liked it. I would definitely do it again. I might even go back this week, if they have an opening."
"Wow, really? That's great! Do you want me to go with you? Oh wait, I told Trish I would help her set up for the party. Don't forget!"
"I won't. I don't have a costume, though. What are you going to wear?"
"I'll bring a few things over for you, if you want. I'm going to wear this totally sexy steam punk costume, you'll love it."
"Slutty steam punk babe?"
"You know it, sister."
Rebecca laughed and said goodbye. Talking to the vivacious Renee always made her feel better. Normal. It grounded her and made her realize all these strange things she thought were happening were just in her imagination. And what did she really think was happening? She just had a little water in her ear and it was messing with her hearing. And so she forgot she ate a sandwich. She was totally stressed out at work, racking up some insane hours. That's why she wanted to try the tank in the first place. To de-stress. Obviously she needed more of that. She felt so good floating in that peaceful darkness, she couldn't wait to do it again. She would even promise to be good and keep her hands off of herself. Maybe. Rebecca smirked all the way down the hall to her next meeting.