Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Silent Room: Part 8

Number 11

Number 11 woke slowly from sleep.  The steady thrum of a heart beat faded slowly away into nothingness as consciousness returned.  When he finally opened his eyes, it was to find only the disorienting combination of utter silence and a darkness so complete he wasn't sure if he was waking or sleeping. He opened and shut his eyes, trying to find even a ray of light somewhere in his surroundings.  The cocoon of darkness closed in on him and for a moment, with the steady thrum and unreality of dreams still caught in his memory, he feared himself to be a grown man trapped in the suffocating envelope of a womb.

He had read a story about that once. About a man who was sewn into a synthetic womb and kept there for month after month, year after year of experiments.  What if he had been sewn into a synthetic womb while he slept? Ice clawed at his throat.  He tried to think of details from the story, but the where and the when and the why of the story slid sideways away from him, scattered into the darkness like the clattering toenails of so many invisible rats running for cover.

Hazily, as if through cobwebs, the memory of a darkening attic in the fading light of the sun came back to him.  Maybe he was still there.  He strained his eyes for any hint of light- a star standing out in the door frame, a tractor beam flashing across the fields.  Nothing. He refused to cave again to the madness of his nightmares and continued to strain his eyes.

At last, when he had given up and begun to think he would have to wait through all the slow hours until dawn might come, he noticed  a dim light emanating from beneath his left sleeve.  Sliding it up, he found a watch he didn't remember being there earlier. Its face glowed with a pale green-white light. It read 7:00 pm 9-9.  Holding his arm up and out from him, he used the dim light of the watch face to illuminate the room.  He found the slant of the roof above him and the vague outline of the door frame off to his right. A deep sense of relief washed through him.  Beyond the door frame was complete and utter darkness.   He sighed. The clouds must have come in to cover up the stars.   He let his arm drop back down to his knee, careful to keep his sleeve rolled up, and simply stared at the watch face.  Maybe he could let it lull him back into the oblivion of sleep.

The 9-9 of the date rearranged itself in his mind into a neat squat 81.  It had a weight and solidity to it, that was stronger than the wafting balloon sensation of the nines alone.   How odd.  He had never thought of numbers that way before, he didn't think.  He let his mind wander on from the 81, thinking of other numbers, tripping his way through the familiar numbers of the times tables and feeling the new strange weights of these numbers too.  His eyes slid shut and his thoughts drifted gently on, the numbers the times table giving way to simpler strings of 1's and 0's   At first they were only a few solo numbers scattered here and there and then as they carried on, they grew into forests of 1's and 0's, all rushing through his mind faster and faster. Suddenly he found himself emptied out into a narrow hallway.  Shadows hung around him heavy and think.

Number 11 pushed out with his hand as though shoving away a tapestry and found himself standing instead in a dark and dreary  room made mostly of stone. Above him  the ceiling disappeared, its repeating arches nearly obscured by darkness. He was not alone.  His attention caught on the man to his left.  The man sat slumped in a wheelchair garbed only in the faded green fabric of a hospital gown.  His head rested against his chest in the uncomfortable weight of a medicated slumber. Drool wet the front of his gown in a large ever widening patch.  His feet were bare and blue in the chill of the room.  On his head, which had been shaved clean, were plastered  layers of monitoring and control patches. Led lights glittered across the surface of the patches is ever shifting patterns.  He wondered what they were monitoring. He looked closer.  The man looked familiar. Did he...

A sound drew his attention away.

At the center of the room eight shadowy figures stood gathered around a Watching Table. Their dark black hoods hung low, obscuring any view of their faces. From where he stood, he could now hear the faint mumbling noise of speaking voices, although the longer he listened the more the sounds settled into a single equal strand of sound.  As though, really, the figures were all merely eight representatives of one mind, speaking together in collective unison.  His mind struggled to put the pieces together.  Eight. Collective. Unison. He pushed against the shadows clouding his thoughts, seeking an answer.  Was he watching the Collective of the Watchers at work?

Something in their attention seemed to shift, and they stiffened abruptly. As one they raised their right arms to hover eerily above their heads.

"No, it is not possible. He cannot do this."   The voices of the robed men rose, their attention focusing in taught as a bow string. 

"We will break his power. One cannot drain us so. We will not allow it!"

Number 11 felt the man to his left  begin to twitch, as though he was the target of a thousand competing commands. He hardly knew where to look, who to watch.

"He will take the program. He must. He doe not have the antidote within him. He cannot break our hold."  The last words echoed like a somber shout of command in the stone arches.

"Together then!"

As one they brought their hands down upon a single spot within the Watching Table.

He saw them shiver and appear to be pressing forward into the very table itself.  Suddenly he felt as though his head were caught in a vice grip of curved nails boring down into his skull, his body stretching thin as though he were being dragged forcefully into the body to his left.. He began to scream, as his vision faded down into a diminishing circular tunnel filled only with pain.  . The last image as he blacked out was of the Watchers disintegrating into a black mist and disappearing into the table.

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