It has been two hours, thirty-two minutes, and eight seconds since I woke up handcuffed to a metal bed in the middle of an empty room. I know exactly how long it has been, because there is an enormous digital clock that has been annoyingly counting since my eyes opened.
If you had come up to me yesterday, or at least, I think it was yesterday, and asked, “If you woke up in a strange place, handcuffed, and in different clothes than what you left the house in, how would you feel?” I would have said something about freaking out at the mere notion of such an abnormality.
Though sitting here now, I feel eerily calm and clear-headed. I mean sure it’s accurate that I’ve been violated, at the very least in the sense someone undressed, and then redressed me into a black singlet and shorts. I take comfort knowing they at least hadn’t changed my underwear, which I promptly checked with my free hand when I realised the wardrobe change had occurred.
Within the first twenty minutes after waking up, I had managed to pry a piece of the metal from the bed and picked the lock of the handcuff. Of course, that resulted in a few cuts on my hand but I quickly sort to those as well.
I honestly couldn’t believe how calm I was. For instance, when the clock ticked over the sixty minute mark, I had gone around the entire room multiple times, trying to find anything that would give me some indication of where I had been taken. I came up empty handed.
The room, by the way, was impressive in its non-impressiveness. The room was white, and I mean the entire room, the floors, ceiling, walls, everything. My head hurt from the brightness of the white, coupled with the fluorescents that lit the room; which had also timely decided to come on as soon as I opened my eyes.
I’m guessing that isn’t a coincidence and that someone is watching me, but I still can’t see any cameras. Not to mention that as much information as my senses were offering, I couldn’t find any windows, entrances, or exits to this room.
Again, under normal circumstances, my anxiety would be through the roof. But for whatever reason, the psychological reactions I normally had, like when I would replay a conversation over and over again in my head thinking I should have said something different, just aren’t around. I wonder if they drugged me…I laughed at myself, “They drugged me with anti-anxiety medication!” I’m being ridiculous.
Four hours ago, I tried calling out for what must have been the hundredth time, to see if anyone would respond, but alas, my attempts of conversation were in vain apparently. Now I’m just lying on the floor, which is unsurprisingly more comfortable than the metal bed, watching each second tick away.
It has only just occurred to me that this clock might be counting up to something in particular. Fantastic, a clock which is no doubt counting to my imminent doom. I’m starting to have another epiphany…I’m starving. Fifty-five, fifty-six, fifty-seven, fifty-eight, fifty-nine, and we are officially at seven hours. I hear a low rumble, yeah I definitely need to eat.
I shoot up from the floor, that wasn’t my stomach, where is that coming from? I stand in the dead centre of the room, and turn in each direction to try and see where the rumble and feint hum is coming from, but I did not expect the floor to become transparent, and then the walls and ceiling.
I’m now standing in an invisible cube hovering in the middle of an extraordinary underground chasm that was almost too big to see where it ended. I was so preoccupied with how far from the ground I was, that I didn’t even notice the identical rooms that spread across the distance, from one end to the other. I say rooms, but all I can see are countless metal framed beds floating.
I see a group of people in lines of twenty on the ground. What the hell is going on? I mean, sure technology has probably gotten to the point where a room’s exterior could be altered. Plus, anti-gravitational devices could also exist…I guess. But the thing that has me confused is why the hell is that clock counting?
My room starts moving, but if my eyes were shut, I wouldn’t know the difference…shock inertia dampeners? I’m just spouting of things I’ve heard on science fiction shows now.
A man is standing close enough that I would be able to hear him talking. We’re still at the same height from the ground as we were before, but that doesn’t stop him from walking across thin air. Obviously there’s a walkway that’s transparent like this room, but I still back away, not know what to expect when he reaches me.
“I am the Engineer. Please come forward so I may attach your clock.” From his voice it seems like he is bored, and I feel like I have no choice in the matter and so I step forward.
He has a transparent clock in his hands that has neon red digital numbers continuing to count, mimicking the main one in my room. He steps closer and says, “This clock counts to ten hours. If you are not back in your quarters by that point, you will be terminated. This is going to burn, but after the pain you should act like the others. Pretend, and you’ll survive.”
What the hell did he…I feel the cold clock touch my chest and then I buckle in excruciating pain, but the Engineer catches me and keeps me in place. I can see the clock burning into my flesh, but I’m too scared to touch it. As intense as the pain was and as quickly as it came, it disappears, and I am left with red digits ticking away directly on my chest like a tattoo.
As he begins to escort me across the invisible bridge, I touch my chest and can’t feel anything. Will it ever come off? I mean, it’s a part of me now or at least it feels like my body absorbed it or something.
We stand still as a lift takes us down to the ground, and under his breath the Engineer reiterates, “Pretend. Survive.”
As we walk towards the people so neatly filed in lines, I see they all have the same digital clocks, but with different amounts of time. They all seemed out of it, everyone is just staring blankly at the back of the person in front of them.
I take my place in the formation, and a projection on the wall displays a group of business men gathered around a table. One of them promptly speaks, “Gentlemen, welcome to the beginning of the new utopian society. These are our righteous soldiers who will execute our plans. They are emotionless, detached, and above all else, they will follow our every command. They are effectively human robots. Training will begin immediately.”
The man looks at the other men who don’t seem as convinced, and he directs his attention back at all of us, “Fine. I believe a demonstration is in order. Soldier number thirty-two, self destruct.”
I woman, a few rows ahead, steps out of formation, bends down, picks up a copper rod, and doesn’t hesitate to send the rod through her stomach. She slowly pulls it out and stabs herself again.
By Naomi Eleanor