Wednesday, December 20, 2006

White Rooms, Part 8, Final (Serial Fiction, Thriller)

(Just joining us? Go back to Part 1)

Day 13, 8:30 A.M.

      The Auditor entered Black Room #12. He stood over the men from White Rooms, G-pod.
      The insertion was a bit sloppy on MT1023, but tolerable. Encased in the plexiglass tube, he breathed perfect, measured breaths. At least the gel around him solidified evenly.
      The Auditor checked feeding tubes, catheters, leads, and intravenous lines. Soon, they would taper the anesthesia.
      The Auditor signaled, and a hatch re-appeared in the depthless black. On the monitors, four stasis tubes radiated from the center of the room like a cross.
      The men within them slept.

1:32 P.M.

      Eyes fluttered open. Groggy.
      Rock blinked, trying to focus. The only light in the room glowed around him.
      The four men appeared to float in nothingness.

2:11 P.M.

      "Wha...? I can't.... Where's the...."
      Sea had trouble shaking the anesthesia. He was last to wake.
      "Hey. Relax over there."
      "I.... I can't...."
      "We're all here," Rock said. "Behind you. Behind your head."
      "I can't move."
      "I know. We're stuck."
      "What? I can't...."
      "Stop struggling. It's pointless."
      "Hmmmmmmph!"
      "Whoa! Stop it!"
      "... h-h-hard to breathe."
      "Easy! Easy! You're going to hurt yourself!"
      Sea's head beat against the prison. "I'm CLAUSTROPHOBIC!"
      "Oh, shit. This guy is losing it!"
      Sea grimaced and fought.
      "Stop your damn screaming!"
      "GET ME OUT!" Sea cried.
      Flame rocked his head from side to side and tried to focus. Sky's face was scrunched, like someone pounded inside his head.
      "Shut him up, Goddamn it! SHUT HIM THE HELL UP!"

2:31 P.M.

      "Are you okay?"
      "I threw up," Sea groaned.
      "Just try to take some deep breaths, okay?"

Day 14, 12:43 A.M.

      "Rock?"
      "Yeah."
      "I think I'm going to the bathroom."
      "That's the catheter."
      "Catheter?"
      "Yeah. You know. They thread it up into your bladder. I felt mine a couple hours ago."
      Silence.
      "Oh."

Day 15, 3:20 P.M.

      "Rock?"
      "Yeah."
      "You want to hear something weird?"
      "Sure."
      "I feel pretty damn good."
      "I guess a day in bed will do that to you."
      "No, I mean my body. I feel stronger. I don't feel hungry."
      "Yeah. I think they're feeding us."
      "Really? Intravenous?"
      "No. I saw that one of those tubes from the floor is bigger than the others. And it's white. Looks like a feeding tube to me. I'm guessing it's implanted directly into our stomachs."
      "I wonder what it tastes like."
      "Who cares."
      "I don't know. I was just wondering."

Day 17, 7:56 A.M.

      "I'm pretty tired," Flame said. "Anyone else?"
      "A little," Sky said.
      "Should we sleep?"
      "Fine with me," Rock said.
      "How long?"
      Rock laughed.
      "I mean a long time or a short time?"
      "Let's make it long."
      "Okay."
      "See you all in the morning."
      They wiggled a little to pretend to get comfortable.
      "Rock?"
      "Yeah."
      "I can really feel my heart beating. I can hear it when it's quiet."
      "I know," Rock said. "Try not to listen."

Day 18, 1:44 P.M.

      "It's your turn."
      Sky sighed. "Oh, I can't think of anything."
      "But it's your turn."
      "Don't worry. I've got a story," Sea said. "I'll tell you about the time my father and I went fishing."
      "Don't leave anything out."
      Sea laughed. "I won't. I'll even throw in some fish."
      "Mmmm. Fish."

Day 19, 4:03 A.M.

      "What's that you're humming?"
      "I don't know. I made it up, I think."

Day 20, 12:19 P.M.

      "Rock?"

1:47 P.M.

      "Yes?"

Day 21, Midnight

      The men laid in silence. Some eyes stared, and others were tucked closed. No one moved.
      The Auditor rose into the intersection of the cross. No one noticed him.
      "Gentlemen," he said.
      The tubes lurched and began to tip upward.
      Gasps and confusion filled the room.
      The tubes angled towards standing, and when the men were vertical, they rotated. The black-robed figure of the Auditor twisted into their view.
      A white mask stared out in each of the four directions.
      "Gentlemen," he said again. His voice was clipped and quick. "You must listen. You must comprehend. Comply."
      "Who are you?" Rock said.
      "Sky," the Auditor said, ignoring the question. "What is the nature of the sky?"
      "What?" Sky asked.
      "Wrong. Your partner will pay."
      "Ow! Ow!" Sea shouted. He stood across from Sky. Terrified eyes glared down. Sky could not see what was hurting him. The tubes were black from the knees down.
      The Auditor spun towards Sea. The mask facing Sky now had red eyes. "You must listen. You must comprehend. Comply."
      Sea gulped two breaths. "You cut me! You cut my leg!"
      "Sea. You are bird. How do you fly?"
      Sea gaped.
      "Wrong."
      "Ahhh!" Sky screamed. "Stop! Stop it!"
      The Auditor spun toward Rock. The red eyes now glared at Flame.
      "Rock, a frog dies. Why?"
      "Who ARE you?"
      "Wrong."
      Flame shook in his tube.
      "There's a blade down there!" Sky yelled. "I feel the blood running down my leg!"
      The Auditor spun. "Sea, I'm falling. Where will I land?"
      "No! Not again!" Sky said to the red eyes.
      "I don't know," Sea whimpered.
      "Wrong."
      Sky screamed again. "It's cutting off my LEG!"
      The Auditor spun.
      "Flame, are you going to die?"
      Flame gagged as if he were going to vomit.
      "Wrong."
      Rock winced and smashed his head into the back of the tube. Veins bulged.
      The Auditor spun.
      "Sky."
      Sea wailed when he saw red eyes.
      "Stop this!" Sky begged. " I don't understand!"
      "How high is a cloud?"
      "Two miles!"
      "Wrong."
      "Gaaaaa!" Sky screeched.
      The Auditor spun. The red eyes hit Rock.
      "Flame, is Rock going to die?"
      Flame retched, but nothing spilled.
      "Wrong."
      "Noooo!" Rock growled. His eyes blinked and blinked. Tears streamed.
      The Auditor spun.
      "Rock."
      "Fuck you!"
      "Wrong."
      Flame screamed words without form. Rock's tears shook loose from his eyes before they flowed. "Leave him alone!"
      The Auditor spun.
      "Sea. How deep will you go?"
      "I-I-I'll go."
      "Wrong."
      A tiny crack echoed in the room. Sky howled raw.
      "You're breaking his leg!" Sea cried.
      The Auditor spun.
      "Flame. If you kill him, you will go."
      Flame snuffled through his tears.
      "Wrong."
      Another crack snapped in Rock's direction. His mouth stretched wide, but no sound clawed out.
      The Auditor spun.
      "Sea. Will you kill him?"
      "I.... I...."
      "Wrong."
      Sky's cries split the air.
      The Auditor spun.
      "Rock. Kill him. You will be free."
      Rock spit. The phlegm splattered into the floor.
      "Wrong."
      Flame's bellowing couldn't erase an even louder crunch. He gurgled and coughed.
      The Auditor spun.
      "Sea."
      "No!"
      "Sea."
      "No! DO IT TO ME! DO IT ME!"
      The Auditor spun.
      "Sky. Sea would not answer. Kill him or die."
      Sky stared across the room. Sea puffed and puffed. The man was kneeling at the feet of death.
      "You want my leg? TAKE IT! I fucking give it to you! Let me bleed to death you fucking piece of SHIT!"
      Both Sea and Sky went rigid as the blades bit.
      The Auditor spun.
      "Flame."
      The Auditor spun.
      "Rock. One of you will live. The other will die. Speak!"
      The Auditor spun.
      "Flame!"
      Quivering lips clamped. Faces glistened wet with sweat and saliva.
      "Speak!"
      Blades sank into Flame and Rock.
      "Speak!"
      No words through the weeping.
      "SPEAK!"
      Gasping and strangled pain.
      The Auditor waited. Seconds slid slow over rocketing hearts.
      "No one will live?" he whispered. "No one at all?"
      No one spoke.
      The Auditor raised his hands. Blood-red gloves fired in the light. "Execute!"
      Explosive charges in the tubes pop, pop, popped. They split, spilling the men onto the floor. The restraining gel tore into chunks and jiggled on the floor.
      The men grasped at their legs.
      No blood.
      No cloven bone.
      Just a halo of electrodes implanted deep in their skin. And a small wound where a tracking implant had been placed.
      Above the three stitches, a tiny number was tattooed.
      10045.
      10046.
      10047.
      10048.
      Serial numbers.
      "You are born," the Auditor said.

4 Months, 7 Days, 18 Hours, 4 Minutes After Birth

      WT1103 shuffled from the elevator across the deepest deck of the parking garage. His trench coat flapped, tangling in his brief case.
      A black employee wished him a good night, but he did not answer. When he passed, his face scowled as if he tasted something foul.
      The man formerly known as MT1023 watched from a dark-tinted car window. He spoke into a concealed microphone.
      "Positive identification on White Target 1103."
      "Roger. Visual on target," a voice answered. "Prepare for target to enter 16th street."
      "Roger. Relay to forward team. Target is leaving work."
      Across the city in the darkening suburbs, two agents monitored WT1103's home.
      "Confirm extraction and rendering tonight, zero three hundred hours."
      "Extraction confirmed."
      MT1023 started the car and follow the target up to street level. He smiled.
      This target would spread no more of his hate.
      And once again, their numbers would grow.


Go back to Part 7.

16 comments:

LiVEwiRe said...

Wow. System overload - I've got to go back and reread this! Talk about testing limits. So much to take in! I'd be interested to know what your motivation was for this piece because it's really involved. Ok, off to reread! =)

anne said...

The Weakest Link finds new, humanist -if not completely humane- applications.
Well done. :)

Anonymous said...

What a painful, dramatic end indeed, Jason. Did not expect this. I like the way the names sort of intermingled; Flame & Rock together with Sea & Sky.
You finished it in time for Christmas but why so fast?
i really liked the drama.

Anonymous said...

Whoa. A re-read is definitely in order.
Superb build of tension though - well done!

Jim said...

Just getting caught up on chapters of this story. None too shabby, Jason. Well played!

Anonymous said...

The utlimate condition training. They had to be pretty tough in the first place to make it to the end.

mermaid said...

"four stasis tubes radiated from the center of the room like a cross."

"And once again, their numbers would grow."

The power of numbers can kill or destroy. One man long ago died on the cross. These four thought they were dying, but life multiplied by 4 increased their faith, their chances of survival over death.

What a beautiful literary gift and message to the world, Jason. If only we would multiply such soldiers in the world.

kgilbert said...

Congratulations on a unique tale and a fine piece of writing. This was an intricate story, woven tightly!

Thanks for a great read.

Kaye

Anonymous said...

A disturbing read, Jason. Dare I say, Happy Christmas?
Addy

Anonymous said...

incredible jason!
the imagery... i could almost feel their pain- i was even wincing with them!
i wonder if things like bigotry and racism could be eliminated if a punishment like this was a possibility?

anne frasier said...

i really enjoyed this last installment, jason. you set up quite a challenge for yourself! nice job!

jason evans said...

Sorry everyone for the slow response! I've had a crazy couple of days.

jason evans said...

Livewire, I was trying to recreate the confusion and intensity of the final scene in the actual reading experience. I probably pushed it too far, though. ;) As for my motivation, it's probably a bit much to get into in comments, but it reflects my belief that every human on Earth is basically the same. Unfortunately we let distance, appearance, and culture trick us into dehumanizing everyone outside of our own construct. This story was a reminder that if you remove the constructs, the commonality returns.

Anne, I LOVE the Weakest Link reference! So true. That lady would be perfect for the Black Rooms. :)

Susan, thank you, my friend. :) The reason I finished the rest in one installment was that I felt it was hanging around too long. I'm happy I undertook the challenge to write this story the way I did, but I don't view it as an overall success.

Terri, much appreciated! I hoped the tension would come across.

jason evans said...

Jim, thanks! It was a bit of a puzzle to put together.

Steve, very true. I was probably a bit too hard on them.

Mermaid, thanks so much for pointing out that angle and the overall hope intended by the story!

Kaye, it was my pleasure to write for you. :)

Addy, it was a bit brutal. Maybe we should sing some carols to clear our minds. :)

Angel, that's a really tough question. I wonder if total re-programming would be morally better than prison or death for those dedicated to harming others. Thanks for the compliment on the story! :)

Anne, thank you! I had fun putting together the final extravaganza. :D

Anonymous said...

Wow! I read the last post first (yeah yeah I know!) and then I went and read the rest in order. Great stuff, really thought provoking.

Anonymous said...

just had a few seconds. this installment needs more! When the hubbub is over I shall come back and read the whole story again.
Excellent work Jason. Yikes! intense!