Fogginess, pain, suffering. There was very little else Darian could remember. Distorted shapes danced in front of his eyes. There were muffled sounds with words that he couldn’t make out. He had the feeling of being poked, stabbed, and sewn back together again. He could remember lights, bright lights in his eyes, then darkness again.
The cycles of darkness and light seemed to elude him. He tried to count time, but it seemed out of his reach. The first memory he had from this life, he remembered waking up in a bed. He tried to stand, but failed. The room was dark, but the walls he could see were white. Just a bit of light came from a crack in his white slab door.
He wanted to go to the door, but it hurt too much. After this first time, consciousness came more easily. Each time he woke, he was able to remain coherent for longer periods. He would try to remember, but the memories were the source of the pain, and he would shy away from those recent memories.
Instead, he focused on the past. He remembered college. A girlfriend who loved him and said she’d be with him forever. A simple life. He always had a place to stay literally surrounded by friends. He always had food to eat, presuming his room and board was paid.
He liked cafeteria food. There was always a kind of endearing quality in small portioned out food. It was one of his favorite parts about college, getting to eat in a cafeteria breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Although he had to admit, after a while, all the food began to taste the same.
Unfortunately, the food they left for him was not cafeteria food. It was a slimy porridge, which resembled cream of wheat, yet tasted like ashes. The first time the bowl had mysteriously appeared on a table attached to the far wall, he had eaten it quickly, presuming tomorrow’s meal might be a better choice. The bowl had come with no spoon, and he would have had to sloppily drink from the bowl as if it were a cup to keep his hands from getting dirty. However, by the next day it was the same meal. Then, it was the same meal again. It was the same for every meal; breakfast, lunch and dinner.
He had so far yet to see a single nurse. The room he was in was white, sterile, and small. He presumed he was in a hospital of some sort. The bed, a small bathroom with a toilet and sink, and a small chair and desk were all that were provided in the room. But where were the people? Who was checking up on him, and where was his food coming from?
He quickly began to realize that the place was on a light schedule. There seemed to be more light than there was darkness, but it was difficult to know exactly how long without a watch. Food was replenished 3 times a day whether he ate it or not. After watching the bowl for several hours one day, he realized that a bowl was simply ejected from the wall through a hidden door about the size of his hand. The door was flush with the wall, and the crack was almost nonexistant. Without knowing it was there, and having seen it open, he would have had trouble finding it.
Shortly after discovering where the food was ejected from, he found where he dropped the bowls off at. He already had two stacks of dishes before he located the small knob. Pulling on the knob opened a small panel just large enough for placing the bowls. Anything he left in it was taken the following day. He was able to change clothing in much the same way, leaving his clothing in the panel, then fetching a new one from the nearby dresser, which sat under the table the food came out on.
He quickly began to grow restless. The lights were too bright, and he missed human interaction. He slowly began to recall the events that lead him there. However, recalling the events and understanding them were two very different things. It was still difficult to believe or understand. Perhaps he had gone insane. His current location made a little bit more sense if that was the case.
“If I truly am mad, and if there is someone else in here with me, but I can’t see you through my own delusions, I must say that I am sorry, and I cannot help myself,” He stated aloud.
It always felt nice, sometimes, to play to his ideas. He was always an open minded individual, and part of his open mindedness was that he could accept that all of his preconceived notions were wrong. In a way, it was comforting, to believe he was insane, rather than that he was kidnapped by strange people and taken to a strange place.
None of this stopped the fact that he was incredibly bored. At first, while he was still healing, it was much easier. He slept a lot, and time just seemed to float by in his stupor. However, the more he healed, the more coherent he became, and the more restless as well.
He banged on the door, called out, screamed, but noone ever responded. There was no doorknob to speak of. He had never seen the door open thus far and had no clue how it even opened. It simply looked like a white slab, flush with the wall and only apparent by the faint outline of the edge of the wall.
There also seemed to be no way to bath. He took a sloppy sponge bath every night by using the water in the sink. He didn’t feel like sleeping twelve hours a night, but once the lights went out, there was very little light available for him to see. The room consisted of nothing that wasn’t attached to the floor and walls. If there had been, he might have flung it at the walls of what was quickly becoming his cell. At the very least, he might have moved his bed around the room, to give his room some semblance of difference.
The monotony of day after day was starting to wear on him. He feared he was starting to go mad if he wasn’t already. This made it all the more surprising when the door suddenly opened with a click one of these restless days. The door pushed back two inches, and then slid to the side in the crevice of the wall. Darian was frozen with confusion as he stared at the open door. A man stood in the hallway on the far side of his door. He kept his distance, but beckoned Darian to follow.
Darian took several quick steps through the door, prompting the man to raise some kind of device in his hand in a threatening manner. Darian tried to lift his arms in a soothing gesture, but this seemed to further agitate the man. He pointed in a direction down the hallway. He was muttering a command that Darian didn’t understand. It was clear that this man couldn’t speak English either.
Darian briefly considered trying to communicate with the man, but when he performed his threatening gesture with the device in his hand once again and pointed down the hallway repeating the same order, Darian decided to go along with him. The hallway was carpeted, unlike his room, with a thin gray carpet. The walls were the same polished white though.
After a brief walk down the hallway, the man suddenly stopped, turned, and opened a door. The door seemed to open through the use of a button on his wrist, but Darian did not get a good look at it. The guard, at least his mannerism gave Darian the impression that he must be a guard, pointed into the room. Darian went quietly. Deciding that his obedience and silence was enough, he turned to speak to the guard.
“Where am I and what is going o…” The door closed in his face.
“Oh, you won’t get much of a response from them, you won’t,” a withered voice said from behind.
Darian jumped, whirling around to face the source of the voice. It was an old man. He wore the same clothing that they provided Darian, although it was fitted to his much smaller frame. He had long stringy gray hair, sunken cheeks, yet right now his eyes seemed to hold a bit of amusement.
“I didn’t mean to startle you, you just looked a little confused there for a second. It’s usually that way after a… session, I suspect it will all come back to you in a second or two.” The old man nodded to Darian before turning and collapsing on a bed.
Darian could see now that he was in a cell almost identical to the one he was in before. One of the few differences was that it consisted of two beds instead of one. The room was no larger for it though. It took Darian a moment or two to realize that the man had spoken in a language he understood.
He took a long look at the man. The man seemed to be occupying himself with a book. It was a heavy volume, but he seemed to be nearing the end. Upon looking at the cover, the words were a nonsense grouping of characters he did not recognize.
“You speak English…,” Darian began.
The man looked up from his book.
“Oh is that what I’m speaking, I don’t think I ever knew the name,” he chuckled.
“How do you not know what you’re speaking?”
The old man blinked, putting his book to the side, “Well as far as I know, you and I are the only people alive that speak that particular language, and frankly, you never told me what it was called.”
“What? Are you saying you just learned to speak English from me?” Darian asked.
“Yes, that one sentence you said was enough for me to construct and speak your entire language,” he declared, his hands outspread as if accepting praise.
“That’s…incredible,” Darian responded in disbelief.
The old man burst out laughing, his face quickly turning to a shade of red. Darian stared at the man with a frown. Was this man insane? He thought to ask as much, but refrained. Whether the man said yes or no meant little and he feared insulting the man.
“No… no…,” The man continued his mirth finally receding a bit, “I don’t think anyone could learn a language with a sentence or two. There is a little thing called context. Without context, knowledge is useless. That is the difference between knowledge and wisdom, a good dollop of context.”
“Wha… Why do you think we are the only people who speak English?” Darian altered his question in mid stride.
“Because I know it, and you know it, and no one else does. It’s a dead language, like the planet it came from, I presume, you know that, “ the old man’s eyes narrowed and his voice became more cautious, “You do know that, don’t you?”
Darian stared at him silently, not quite sure how to respond. Earth, dead? It didn’t make any sense; his mind just couldn’t process this.
“You know where you were found, right? Some people dug you out of some ruins, you were in suspended animation,” the man continued, his voice now moving slowly and deliberately, “You know who I am? You’ve seen me before, haven’t you?”
“I’ve never seen you before in my life, I just woke up… from suspended animation. There were these people. This guy came after me, I was shot, woke up in one of these rooms, and they just brought me here. Who are you?”
The man’s eyes seem to fall and the energy and excitement left him, “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, I knew this day would come. I just hoped we had more time.”
The man laid back his head, sighing as his head pressed against the pillow. Darian stepped forward a few steps and stopped. The man was crying! He didn’t know what madness had hold of the man, but he did know he was trapped in a small room with him. He took several steps to his side, sitting down on the other bed. Just ten minutes prior he would have given anything to have a companion to talk to, now all he wanted was to be alone again.
The accident… what had happened? He had survived, that much he remembered. He must have been put into some kind of suspended animation. His entire world vanished. Everyone he knew was dead. Everything he knew was gone. He thought he would cry. He thought… something. But all he could feel right now was numb. He lied down, his head plopping down on his pillow like the man next to him.
“Darian,” The man in the bed next to him said, in a voice that displayed much of the numbness he felt.
“Yeah?” Darian responded.
“Devin, my name… you can call me Devin,” He said.
When Darian didn’t respond he continued, “You have been the greatest friend an old man could ever ask for. I will miss you dearly.”
Darian looked over at the man, but continued to say nothing.
“You may think I’m mad, perhaps because I am a little,” Devin offered a forced chuckle that lacked any real force, “but you will need to listen to what I say now.”
Devin sat himself up his head pressed back against the wall, “Right now, you and I are part of an experiment. I won’t give you the specifics, but they won’t be pleasant. I will be here with you, every step of the way, but they will push you to the limits. If we stick together, we might make it through. You will make it through. But you need to be prepared. They will start soon, tomorrow. Stay strong. Think of someone you care about perhaps. Whatever you need to do to keep your sanity. You will one day make it out alive, I believe. I’m afraid my time is over.”
The old man wiped a tear coming from his eye, “My…. Where did that come from… I… I’m not afraid of my future. There will be a time, when you might know me better, where you might understand what I’m saying. Just know that I care for you, and that I regret nothing about the way things turned out.”
Devin turned lying down and covering himself with the blanket,” Good night, and thank you for everything.”
As if on cue, the lights turned off for the night. Darian was not aware the time had gone so quickly. He lied down, turning his back on the crazy man beside him. This place, whatever it was, drove people insane. Would he end up like that before the end? He almost felt sorry for the poor man. At the very least, he believed him about the torture and the experiments.
He walked out of death’s door and ended up as a lab rat. It seems like the good luck that had shadowed his entire life had ended in a spectacular implosion. It was almost too much to bear. As his mind twisted and waned, he began to slip into unconsciousness for another night. His last thought was that Devin had known his name, but he couldn’t recall telling him it. The thought slipped his mind as he went into a dreamless sleep.
The next day, Darian awoke when the bright lights clicked on over head. He couldn’t see any particular source of lights. Whatever panels produced light, they were embedded into the ceiling, and light seemed to come from everywhere equally. It was much brighter than he would have liked, but he supposed it could be worse. Still, he fought the temptation to throw the blanket over his head to try to give himself some semblance of control over the lighting situation.
“Rise and shine, my friend, rise and shine,” Devin exclaimed, chuckling at Darian’s groan.
“Well, you’re certainly in a better mood than you were last night,” Darian growled as he sat himself up, wiping sleep from his eyes.
“Am I? Well I suppose I could be,” The old man chuckled.
Darian walked over to the counter the man was seated at where the bowls of breakfast were deposited. He reached for one of the bowls, but before he grabbed it, Devin blocked his hand.
“Today is your day of the week. Probably a smart idea to wait on eating until after. You’re likely to throw it all up. “
Darian pulled his hand back, glancing at the old man in confusion as he brought his bowl up to his lips, making a large slurping sound as he drank the remainder of the thick porridge. When he finished it, he slapped it down on the table.
“Common tongue,” he stated, looking over at Darian.
“Common tongue, you need to learn common tongue, I figured I should throw that out there, that’s the language everyone speaks. You’ve stopped speaking it, so that means you don’t know it, so that means it’s time to start teaching it to you,” Devin declared.
Darian sighed standing up, leaving his bowl at the counter uneaten. He walked back to his bed, sitting back down on it, facing Devin.
“Can you tell me more about where I am, and what happened to me,” Darian asked, his eyes following Devin as he went into the small washroom.
“I can, but not today,” The old man said as he bent over the sink and washed his hands and face, “You will need time to recover, rest now.”
Darian didn’t ask anything else, but put his head back to the pillow and closed his eyes. His roommate went over to the adjacent bed, lying down as well. He pulled out the book, which he had tucked behind the pillow, and began reading it from somewhere in the middle. It was not very long until the door pulled back and slid to the side, admitting another guard like the one before. He did not think this man was the same man as before, but it was hard to tell.
The man spoke in that language, common tongue? When he didn’t move, the man waved the device at him threateningly again.
“You know the drill. He says go with him, you better do it; those deliberators they carry can be very painful. Stay Strong,” his roommate said, nodding towards the man.
Darian stood up and followed the man through the door. The man stayed behind him as he continued to walk forward along the white hallway with grey carpeted floors. Eventually, he reached the end of the hallway and a set of double doors. They opened and he took a step through.
The room he stepped into had a much higher ceiling than the rest of the hallways he had come in from. The walls were the same bright white wash, but littered with hooks, sinks, tanks and cabinets. In center of the room contained a seat. The room reminded him of a dentist room, although it was much larger than that.
The guard jerked the device in his hand towards the seat in the center of the room. The seat was cushioned in a red color but had metal braces for arms and legs which included straps. He began to take several steps back. There was absolutely no way he was going onto that thing.
A blinding pain racked through him as the guard jammed the device into his back. The pain felt sharp, shooting through his arms and legs in spasm and preventing him from using either. He dropped to the floor like a brick. After the man finally removed the device from his back, he felt a dull ache, as if his entire body had run a marathon.
The guard shouted a command at him, pointing towards the chair. He attempted to get onto all fours, attempted to crawl away, although in truth he didn’t really know which direction the chair was in, as his vision was spinning. The guard shoved the device; the deliberator Devin had called it, into the back of his head. The world went white.
He could not be sure how long the pain shot through his body. He also wasn’t sure if he was screaming or not. When his sight finally began to clear the room was spinning. However, he felt like he was being dragged. The guard was starting to tie him into the chair. There were two straps for each arm and leg. The guard made sure to make them tight.
The world continued to spin as he sat in dizziness. At this point, he was glad at his roommate’s advice. He most likely would have thrown up if he had had anything to eat. Even with an empty stomach, he fought the urge to dry heave. He was not the kind of person who vomited easy, but between the dizziness, dull pain, and bright lights, he considered it. He still considered wretching, but the guard was strapping his forehead down and it would have ended up in his lap if he tried.
Once the guard finished, he left the room, and Darian was stuck in the middle of the room in relative immobilization. After a few minutes, the door reopened and a man walked in. He was a tall man in a lab coat, but seemed to slouch a lot more than was needed. He had straggly brown hair, a long pointy chin, and hollow cheeks. He kept his eyes downcast, but Darian could see dark rings of exhaustion under them.
The man also dragged a large machine behind him, which he rolled out into the middle of the room next to Darian. It consisted of a large base and a massive dish that resembled a satellite dish. The man set up the device in silence, refusing to take a single look at Darian, pretending he wasn’t there. The man positioned the dish directly over Darian, pointing right at his abdomen. He was starting to become very worried. What was this machine going to do?
When he finished setting up the equipment, he went behind the heavy machine. The machine rumbled as it sprang to life. The man clicked away some controls for a few minutes, mumbling words to himself that Darian did not understand. He finally finished whatever he was doing and left the room. The machine continued to rumble away.
Darian began to fill a warmness emitting from dish over his head. It felt kind of good, a comforting warmth pressing down on him. After about a minute, Darian began to feel the warmth increase. It started to push the limits of comfort and started to feel like it was burning. The machine did not change, nor did the dish. He did not see anything come from it, but he could feel it. Was this some kind of microwave? Were they cooking him alive as some kind of sport? To see what would happen to humans?
The burning grew and pain began to sprout through his body. He trashed from side to side, but realized that the straps were strong and he wasn’t able to move a muscle. The chair was much sturdier than he had given it credit for as well. The pain came in waves, a rhythmic thump thump thump. With each thump the pain sprouted anew and he could feel it burning through his body.
The thump thump thump of the pain resonated with his heartbeat, making each beat agony. He opened his mouth to scream, realizing that there was something in his mouth, holding it apart already. He had not noticed when the guard had put it in, but now his teeth clinched down on it as a muffled scream escaped his throat.
The pain did not subside. It grew, worse and worse. And he screamed, screamed as much as his lungs would allow. His body throbbed and burned, it felt as if every single cell of his body was being torn apart piece by piece. Then, all there was left was pain.
He couldn’t have said how long the mindblowing pain coursed through his body, but one minute it was there, and then it was gone. He felt like he was falling, falling into darkness. The pain had been with him for so long, that he didn’t know what else there was. He felt himself being picked up, being moved. He didn’t know if he was. He couldn’t remember if he was carried or he walked, but the next thing he could remember was being in a bed back in the room with Devin.
His head was in the old man’s lap and he cried. He couldn’t seem to stop crying. It hurt, it hurt so much. The old man, seeming saner than Darian had ever seen him, gently stroked his head as he cried.
“It will be OK,” Devin said in his withered, tired voice, “Tomorrow, you will understand more tomorrow.”