Author: Sakina the Fallen Angel PM
There are some things they don't tell you about Tunnel City. Things that you only discover when you try to escape. I guess you could say that if we were still on our mother planet, then I’d describe this prison as hell on earth.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Adventure - Chapters: 19 - Words: 50,323 - Reviews: 284 - Favs: 30 - Follows: 31 - Updated: 04-06-11 - Published: 08-24-10 - id: 2841433
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Voices were telling me to get up, get up, get up, but all I wanted was to tell them to shut the fuck up. My lips mouthed the words, but the sounds refused to come out. I did not like this. Why wouldn't they go away and leave me alone? My mind felt groggy; slow, as if I'd just woken up from a bad dream. I stayed as I was for what felt like an eternity, waiting for the strength was to return to my body and finally, I decided that it was time to open my eyes.
Too much light, too much white, much too bright…
Faces swam before me, peering down with concerned expressions.
I wrinkled my forehead in confusion.
"Where am I? What happened?" Cliché as those two sentences were, I believe the occasion called for them. A feeling of panic was beginning to make itself evident in the rise in tone of my voice. "Why am I strapped down?"
"It's OK," said a soothing voice too close to my ear for comfort.
If I wasn't strapped down, I'd have jumped in my skin. The white-coats pulled back, careful not to startle me further.
"Subject 715, you were one of five randomly selected individuals taken away for routine testing."
Seven one five…my designation number.
It slowly registered that I was in a small room, connected to various beeping machines, with tubes feeding in and out of my veins like I was some Franken-monster. I was too helpless, far too helpless. My senses screamed at me to fight my way out of this set-up, my very worst nightmare. But something didn't feel right. Everything was too white, too shiny, too intense.
"I don't understand what's going on."
"It's natural to feel groggy and disorientated at first, but once the effects have subsided we'll send you back down," said a cool female voice.
There were so many of them, crawling around like insects. Too many for comfort. I felt my own skin crawl, and something nagging at the back of my drugged up mind finally broke through.
My voice cracked, catching in my throat. "But where are the others? Where are Violet and Gold and…" It took an effort to spit the name out. "Gray?"
"Your comrades? They're all fine, 715. Even the one you identify with as Gray. I find it fascinating how your previous interactions with him back on the planet Earth have led to your mind breaking down the very fabrications of your friendship. Fascinating how deep-seated these mistrusts must go."
This white-coat read the confusion and distress upon my face so he added, "If you must know, you never actually left Tunnel City."
Now that was an eye-opener.
"What?" I spluttered, setting off some beeping as my heart rate skyrocketed. "What do you mean, I never left?"
"Please calm down, otherwise the automated sensors will release more sedative into your bloodstream, and it would be extremely bothersome to induce you back into consciousness."
It took a minute for my panic to subside, and during that minute, half a dozen white-coats were scribbling down notes as if I was nothing more than their damn lab rat in their damn cage. I stared at each of them, focusing on random crap like the way their postures differed, or the shapes of their noses. I heard them whispering to each other, conferring in the corner, and I pretended that I didn't know they knew that I knew they were whispering about me.
Eventually, Big Nose stepped forwards, cleared his throat and addressed me.
"In order to facilitate your recovery and assimilation back into your society, we feel that we owe you an explanation for the tests that we subjected upon your psyche, 715."
God, I hated adultspeak.
"Our group has recently developed some architecture, a form of hyper virtual reality. Remember the virtual reality you experienced when riding your V-net?"
Of course I remembered the thrill of jumping into the virtual world after slamming on the headset and tugging on the sensor gloves. It had been such a rush to power headlong into the system which moulded to your every whim.
"Well, we thought, why not go one step further and induce a pseudo-reality that cannot be distinguished from actual-reality? This train of thought led us down our present line of research, all of which has been fascinating!"
I found that I could not share this enthusiasm.
"So in order to collect our necessary data, we tested the effect that our simulation would have upon your mind and your body..."
I nodded dully. Right. Of course. So it had all been a dream. I let the words wash over me, whilst images and fragments of my made up memories replayed over and over again in my mind. Clyde, the clones…none of it had been real then.
"But we spent so long planning our escape from Tunnel City! How can that not have been real?"
I knew I was babbling, that I should have just kept my mouth shut, but panic had me spilling my guts and singing like a fucking bird. Not that it mattered anyway if what these guys said was true. Truth or lies, real or not real…I no longer had any fucking clue.
"A failed attempt," clucked the white-coats. "You were taken out of the community before you became a major threat to security."
Big Nose laughed. "Still don't believe us?"
It was the footage that they showed me that clinched it. Now, all the fight had gone out of my body. They gave me something that made my mind foggy, made it hard to cling onto my thoughts so that I was wandering around in a permanent haze, and then after a quick once-over they slapped me on my back and sent me away.
Accompanied by two guards, I was marched down to Tunnel City, back to my home.
Over the next few weeks I went through the motions: marching in line, working the Machines, mouthing off at the authorities. Even though I despised the place so much, it was kinda comforting to be back in the safety of these walls. Even my cold, metal bunk welcomed me home. I spoke to Gray, told him about the reality that I had created for myself and apologised for turning him into a traitor. In response, he laughed and verified the white-coat's story, that there had never been an escape attempt.
Apparently, I had been removed from Tunnel City in my sleep, weeks before the designated explosion was deemed to have taken place and since then, I had been placed under a form of psychosis for those bastards to study. It was enough to enrage anyone, but somehow, I was unable to call up the emotion, unable to vent out my feelings.
It seemed that life was to now go on as normal. We even had a new inmate – a little girl who could not have been more than six or seven. What was someone so young doing in a place like this? There was something oddly familiar about her; I swear that I had seen her before, yet, how could I?
Figure it out Red, I kept on telling myself through my mental fog. There's something not right here, and only you can figure it out.
I'd tried to describe my unease to the others, but they just laughed it off and called me crazy, told me to get a grip and quit thinking so hard.
All the while, the edges flickered.
Was I going crazy?
I could see the guards keeping even more of an eye on me, so I just played it normal, but the more the fog ate away at my mind, the more I was losing pieces of myself. Slowly, my confidence and arrogance was slipping away, and the worst thing is that I wasn't even aware of it.
One morning, I awoke to the sound of Violet's sobbing. As my eyes fluttered open, it took me a few seconds to remember that she'd had a nightmare and so Gray had let her sleep in his bunk.
I swung out of my bunk and climbed up the rungs to the one above mine. It was still dark, but in the meagre light, I saw that she was curled up in the foetal position, blond hair shielding her face – totally looking like – what was it that Gold had called her in my psychosis? A little mouse?
"I can't stop seeing things even when my eyes are closed."
I laid my hand upon her shoulder, trying to think of the right words to say. I couldn't remember if I had was the sentimental type, which is why no words came to my mind. But it seemed that my touch was enough. I felt her muscles relax slightly, and then she shifted, turning around to look at me.
Those eyes, those eyes, I was shocked by the intensity and the pain reflected in her round, round eyes. And I knew things were getting critical now, because I was finally waxing lyrical.
"Red?" Her voice was a whisper. "You have to save us."
I think I crinkled my forehead.
"Save us from what?"
There was so much despair in her gaze, so much anguish and I felt so bad because I didn't know why she was experiencing so much sorrow. She must have seen my own helpless expression because she shook her head and murmured, "Red, what's happened to you?"
I don't understand!
"What do you mean?"
Shaking her head forcefully, she broke from my grip and turned her back to me. I tried several times to talk to her, but she just ignored me, and in the end, I gave up and went back to my bunk to wait for the morning bell. All the while, I was so damn confused.
It was as if there was something she was trying to tell me, but I just couldn't see it.
During the day, I was wiping sweat from my brow, taking a three second break from working the infernal Machines when something made me look up. There, three or four levels above me – a tiny hollow face, peering down with wide eyes. It was the new girl, the one who I knew with certainty should not be here.
There was something in her eyes, something that did not belong. I blinked, and in that split second, the little girl had disappeared.
I asked Gray about her later on, but he looked at me as if I was crazy, and just told me to forget about it.
"Why would there be anybody that young here? What the hell would they have been sent to Tunnel City for?"
That night, Violet was crying again. This time, she had sought refuge in my bunk. I sat down beside her, not sure if she was still angry at me.
Her shoulders heaved, and with a sniff, she looked up at me with reproachful eyes.
"Have you figured it out yet? Why you have to save us?"
"I…" My voice died in my throat.
Rocking back on the balls of my feet, I ran my hands through my hair, focusing on the texture created by each and every strand combined. This was a real feeling, I thought, exhaling loudly as I tried and tried to just make myself think. It really was like being cocooned up in cotton wool, with every thought coming up against a soft wall if I tried to follow it away from the bright, shininess that was my central mind-core.
But the texture of my hair had not been a shiny sensation. In fact, it had felt solid, real, certain. The only thing that I had been certain of since coming back here.
Without warning, I grabbed Violet's shoulders, and twirled the silky strands of her hair between my fingers. Real.
Her prison shirt had a texture that was rough and durable, and so did mine. Both were real.
She gazed at me, mouth wide in a surprised 'o', but her eyes gleamed with hope.
Her eyes, those eyes…
So innocent, like, like the eyes of – think, Red! – of the girl from today.
But where else had I seen her?
It felt like I'd known her from a long, long time ago…
"That's right," I whispered, nose inches away from Violet's yet I was so far away. "I had a life before Tunnel City."
The girl must have been from the time before the now, but it was so damn hard to remember. Violet just stared at me, flashing me a timid smile and an encouraging nod.
A life before…
I knew I'd done something bad – otherwise why else was I here?
I began to wander aimlessly back and forth or stay sitting on my bunk, head clutched in my hands until the guards would come to beat me for slacking. I became vacant, unresponsive – people had to repeat what they said three or four times before their words would filter through my consciousness and even then I would only be half listening. For I fear that if I devoted my full attention to the world around me, then I would lose the tiny silver thread of thought forever.
Man, I was in such a fucked up state.
There was talk of taking me back to the white-coats, so I knew that I now had a deadline in which to figure it all out before they did something even worse to me.
It was so frustrating, because I knew it was all there, right before my eyes.
I only saw the girl one more time. It was on the morning when they were marching me back to the white-coats. Her face appeared in the shadows, and even though she was across the cavern, I heard her words as clear as day:
"Thank you for saving me from the fire."
Fire burns orange, like the fires in our Machines. I let my eyes rest upon the flickering flames, and watched the black, black smoke curl upwards. And then, I remembered.
The night of the explosion.
The little girl in the room of v-screens.
Having my face snapped up by her bastard father.
Picking her up and flying her to safety.
Leaving him there to die.
And with this memory unlocked, the rest came tumbling out.
This was the final kick that I needed to break free.
I opened my eyes to the sound of a voice that I hated before I was even aware of to whom it belonged to.
"Fascinating. Your worst nightmare is much deeper than I could have hoped to give you credit for."
My fists clenched in response. A low growl rose in my throat, and I swear that if I was not strapped down or shaking from my psychosis, then I would have taken out that bastard before he finished his sentence. Breathing heavily, I could only content myself by calling him every single goddamn expletive that I had in my personal arsenal whilst Clyde stood by with a bored expression.
Once I'd finished recovering from my latest bout of anger, I turned my head to both sides and saw that both Gold and Violet were unconscious. Presumably, Gold was also in her own personal hell right now.
"How long have I been out?" I spat, eyes narrowing to pinpricks.
Clyde smiled with approval. "Very impressive; you broke out of my induced psychosis after only eight hours."
Eight hours…that hell had felt like it'd lasted weeks! I was suddenly gripped by the shivers, as my mind replayed over the horror of not being able to distinguish reality from fantasy, of being stuck in a freaking zombie haze twenty-four seven, of being told that everything I had worked for had been utterly pointless.
Even in my psychosis, Gray had been a traitor.
Damn them all to hell!
I swore there and then that I would not let everything that we had worked for be in vain. Pretty tall order, considering I had just witnessed firsthand what kind of cruelty Clyde was capable of. And from the looks of things, it didn't seem as though he was in any danger of quitting anytime soon.
Decided to make this chapter have a more serious tone – besides the temporary personality glitch, I'm hoping that Red is still in character – if otherwise, any comments are most definitely appreciated! At the moment, I've started my hardcore revision schedule, so fp is one of the few joys left in my life. If I go MIA on updating…prod me. Please.
~ Sakina xxx