Story A Week (SAW) 13: March 26th, 2018
By Adam O’Sullivan
A black pool.
Ripples on the surface of the black liquid.
The pool starts to swirl.
I am swimming in the black pool.
I am grabbed by the current and swirled around, brought down under the water.
I try to breathe but my lungs are filled with black liquid.
I can’t breathe.
I am going to die.
When I think I am about to pass out, I see a bright flash of light. Of life.
I open my eyes, and the light seems to sear into my retinas. I hear a noise and I realise that I am screaming. I can feel the muscles of my body moving of their own accord. I have no control over my limbs, as if a bolt of lightning has been passed through and is making me involuntarily twist and turn. I can feel a pain throughout my entire body, like a current from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. Suddenly the pain stops and I fall onto my back. I am breathing heavily, no longer screaming, my eyes shut tight, and the pain ebbs away from my body. Through the squinting, I can just start to make out some of my surroundings.
I am in a pool of black liquid.
I slowly start to open my eyes. The light is so bright, blinding, and I rub my eyes. As my eyes adjust, I realise that there isn’t actually much light in the room, just barely enough for me to see the rest of my body.
“Hello,” I call out into the darkness. The room is silent.
“Hi there,” comes a voice from all around the room. I don’t know where it is coming from, and the room doesn’t look big enough for someone to hide even if the light is low.
“I’m communicating to you from outside the room. Do you understand?” I nod.
“Welcome back. Do you think you’re ready to get out of the bath?” I nod again.
“Good. Take the towel beside the bath and dry yourself off.” I pull myself up and look over the edge of the container I’m sitting in. I see some sort of cloth on the floor beside it. I stand, slip, fall down. I try again and get the same result. I grab hold of the side of the bath and pull myself up. The liquid is slippery, that’s for sure, but my legs are also weak. I stand bent over, holding the side of the bath, until I feel strong enough to try and stand up.
I manage to stand for seconds before I fall on my ass again.
“Take your time.” Comes the voice from outside the room. His voice is slightly muffled, as if he’s eating. My stomach growls.
Eventually I manage to stand and pull myself out of the bath. I crawl to the towel and start to dry myself off. Then I stand on my own. Then I am dry, naked, standing in a small room. The towel is black and sticky from the liquid. I wait but nothing else happens. I bang against the wall with my hand.
“Oh yes, sorry.” Comes the voice again. “I’m going to raise the light level in the room. Let me know if it’s too much.”
Slowly the light level raises in the room. My eyes adjust accordingly until I can see the room more clearly, no shadows. A door slides open in front of me with a small hissing sound.
I walk through and find an even smaller room. Sticking out the top of the room are these grey protrusions, stalks with a circular thing on the end and covered in holes. As I enter, the door closes behind me. Then water begins to shoot out of the things on the walls. I clean myself off thoroughly this time. The water stops and another door opens. This leads to a greenish coloured room. There is another ‘towel’ there and I dry myself off.
“Please put on the clothing laid out on the table”
There is a wooden structure, a ‘table’ in the room. On it is more cloth, coloured bright orange this time. I pick it up, and it appears to be in the same shape as my body. It must be some sort of covering. I step inside the covering and pull it up. I feel the opening close at the back, perhaps by itself or operated by the voice. Then another door opens.
In this is a device for sitting. The walls shine in a way I haven’t seen before, and when I walk into the room, I can see someone who looks like me. I move my arm and he moves his.
It is my reflection.
Next to my reflection in another person. He stands waiting, looking at me. He is wearing green and appears bigger than I am. I get the feeling that he is stronger than I am. I hope I don’t have to fight him. I hope he doesn’t mean him harm.
He motions to the device in the middle of the room. “Sit,” he says. “In the chair, please.” His voice is different from the one I heard before. I am sure it is not the same voice.
I sit down and he moves around behind me. I can see him in the reflection in the wall. I see him looking at me, actual me, not the reflection. He lifts my hair, lets it fall. There is a lot of it. He moves around to my front and looks at my face. I can see him now, I don’t need to look in the reflection.
He moves to the back, behind the chair again and then kneels. I can’t see what he’s doing but I hear a beep and something opening. Then it closes again. Then a buzzing noise. And he’s back on his feet, standing behind me. In his hand is something grey with a black tip, making the buzzing noise.
“What are you going to do?” I say in my hesitant voice. If he tells me he’s going to hurt me, I don’t know what to do.
“I’m going to give you a haircut.” I relax a bit. It is a grooming ritual. Like the cleaning room, but for my long hair. He also trims the hair on my face. I soon look much better. When he is done, and starts cleaning up, I stand and look at myself in the reflection. I run my hand over my trimmed face hair. It feels prickly.
“Thank you.” I say. He doesn’t reply and I turn to look at him. He’s no longer cleaning, he’s standing there, looking at me. His face is confused, but his body is tense, as if he’s waiting for me to do something. He almost looks afraid of me.
Then another door opens, and I step through. There is nothing in the room.
“Please wait there” I hear the voice say, as if I have any options on where to go as the door slides closed behind me. I wait. Soon, a part of the wall slides away and reveals a door. If I hadn’t seen it open, I never would have known the door was there. Two large men, bigger than the one who trimmed me, step through and stand either side of the door. Then a small man with white hair steps through. He stands between the two bigger men, looking me up and down.
“Do you know who you are?” he asks.
“Of course not. I don’t know why I ask. Maybe one time I’m hoping you’ll remember. One of you will remember. Sure, you remember small things, like how to talk and some basic objects. But nothing higher than a 5 year old. Hold out your arms please.”
I do and he steps towards me. From behind him he reveals he has been holding thick chains. He clamps them onto my wrists.
“What have I done.”
“Well, technically you haven’t done it, although the protestors would love to hear me say that. Come with me please.” He walks to another door, and the large men follow, almost nudging me to keep up. The man with white hair places his hand against a black panel and then the door opens. In it is a very small room that we all barely fit into. The door closes and I get the feeling that we are moving upwards.
“Now yes, you have done something, but technically these hands here have not committed the deed. Although who can technically say our hands have done any deed? Our cells are replaced so rapidly. You’re a clone, see. A duplicate. A facsimile of the original. A copy.”
“Who am I a copy of?”
“A terrible person. Gert Springball. The Sunshine State Killer. Tortured and killed about 20 people that we know about. Your last victim, Kathie May, managed to alert the police. But by the time they got there, you had taken your own life.”
“Why bring me back, if I was such a terrible person?”
“All for show and morale. You see, we can’t have a high profile case like this end without a sense of justice. Without closure. In cases like this, we make clones of the perpetrators. So you can face the victims, or in this case, the singular victim that got away. And then the victim will get to shoot you to death. The nation rejoices. Everyone feels better.”
“What..” I feel hands behind me, moving quickly, and my mouth is covered by something. I hear a ripping noise and a second strip of something sticky is placed over my mouth. I can’t speak. I mumble and scream under the strips covering my mouth. I look down at the old man, my eyes pleading for answers, growing into wide eyed terror when I realise what he has said is true.
“Thing is, that scared look in your eyes, the audience just eats it up. It looks like you’re really terrified of the punishment for your crimes. I think some people know, deep down inside, that it’s false. We manage to catch enough of the real criminals so it’s difficult to tell who is a clone and who isn’t. The cloning process only takes a month. We keep the normal prisoners for that long too. Tell people we’re ‘getting them ready’. Gives the victims time to take shooting practice.”
The small room stops moving.
“Look son, you’re doing something good for humanity. Some people who got fucked over get to feel good for a change. Others get to watch at home and forget their shitty lives. Who cares about your crap job, your terrible boss, when a real life monster Is being executed? Don’t worry, it’ll all be over soon. You’ll have technically only been alive for a month. But you’ve only been conscious about half an hour. Not even enough time to recollect your thoughts. Not enough time too see if you would remember what you’ve done. Not even enough time to ask questions. You never wondered why your hair was so long? You never wondered why your stomach makes those noises even though you haven’t started feeling hungry? You never wondered why you don’t have a dick?”
The large men place their hands on me. They feel ready to pick me up and carry me to where I need to go, if I refuse to move.
“Simple answers, really. The hair grows while your body grows. Why took out your sensations except for pain so you don’t feel hungry. And as for the dick, well, you’re never going to need one, and no-one out there needs to see if you got one or not, now do they? So why give you one in the first place”
He laughed a deep throated laugh whilst pressing a button to the side to make the door open. We were in a pitch black room, but I could still feel that it was very tiny. The only light came from a flashing light on the wall. It changed from red to green as we stepped into the room. I felt the old man step aside to let me and the goons through. They pushed me into the wall opposite and it opened like a door.
This time, the lights really were too bright. A wall of sound engulfed me. There were constant bright flashes. I could hear people all around. The room we had stepped into was enormous compared to the rooms I had seen thus far. The door we had stepped through was part of the back wall, although our section was encased in a see through material. As we stepped through a door in the see through material, I could see the back wall was covered in small holes. A light flashed above the door we had entered through, although this one currently flashed red. A push from the big men made me turn back around, to look in front of me. The floor looked like earth, and a distance away was another wall, made of the see through material. Small openings were in the wall, and on the other side was little wooden structures. Silver items flashed on the… tables. I could see some people on the other side, including a woman with brown hair. When she saw me, she burst into tears. The big guys pushed me to the centre of the room, and undid the chains. They then clamped them onto my feet and attached them to a small thing sticking up out of the dirt of the ground. I couldn’t move very far. My whole body was numb. I kept staring at the crying woman. This must be Kathie. The woman I hurt… that my original hurt. The only woman who got away. I can see people around her, comforting her and giving her strength. She composes herself and moves to one of the little wooden tables. She picks up the metal thing and points it at me through one of the openings in the clear wall. I’m looking at her face, trying to remember something, anything. Her face is not familiar at all. There is nothing in my memory about this woman.
She holds the silver thing through the hole. It shakes slightly. Then her face is twisted in anger, and she’s yelling, screaming. I hear a loud bang and something whizzes past my ear.
On the second bang, I feel something hot graze my cheek. Blood drips onto my hands. I can hear the crowd cheering. On the third bang, my shoulder is hit. I stumble to the ground and see the blood ooze from me, red and hot. I reach down to touch it.
A fourth bang and nothing more.