Rolling over, I reached out for my phone. Instead, my fingertips brushed against cold, hard tile. Suddenly very much awake, I sat upright, inhaling deeply. Once, I didn't take in my surroundings before moving and ended up knee deep in a pile of manure. Another time, I woke up as I almost rolled off the side of a suspension bridge. Lesson learned the hard way – don't move until you know which way to move.
Sitting still, I breathed in another lungful of air: clean and cool, with a top note of recycled air. Slowly, I stood up, hand out, brushing against a wall. Point two. It wasn't pitch black dark wherever I had ended up. It was dark enough that I wasn't sure if I was in a long skinny box or a long skinny corridor. Point one beneath me, point two beside me. I took five big steps parallel to the wall on my left, brushing my fingertips along the surface as I walked, and didn't faceplant into a wall, or worse.
So far so good. I exhaled quietly and turned 90 degrees towards the right, and took another five big steps. Or at least tried to.
Thump. On step three, I walked into a wall, nose firmly planted into wall.
"Ow," I muttered, taking half a step back and rubbing my nose. Point three. I ran my hands across the wall. My fingers caught an edge, then another and another. Panels. I brushed against what felt like a switch and pressed.
Soft light broke through the panels, starting at one end of the corridor and moving to the far end. Soon the corridor was filled with enough warm light that I could move freely around.
I counted my three points again: floor, wall, wall. At the base of the third point, there should be a – I looked down – a kit. Exactly where it should be. After the first couple of times, I stopped questioning why there was always a kit and learned to just go with it.
It was about the size of a large shoebox, wrapped in what could only be described as stiff matte grey parcel paper. I ran a fingernail across the seam on the end, finding the easy-open tab and pulled. Inside, there was a change of clothes and shoes, a cuff-looking smart device, a handsfree-like earbud, and a subdermal gun and cartridge with tape on it. Written across the tape were two words: "Inject Me."
Eyeing the subdermal gun, I prepped the injection site – my left wrist. Another thing I stopped wondering about was what exactly was in that cartridge and why I had to keep on doing this. Breathing in and then out, I braced myself as I squeezed the trigger. Done. The one thing I'll never get used to what how much it stung. It always stung, regardless of the year I was in. It was enough that I almost didn't hear the ding from the other end of the corridor, which was followed by the dull thud of boots.
Hissing through my teeth, I quickly got dressed, pulling the clothes over the base layer tank top, shorts and socks I always woke up in. Jamming my feet into the high top shoes, which tightened automatically around my feet, I slid the cuff onto my other wrist and stuffed the earpod into my left ear, slightly panicking. The boots were getting closer and I had seconds to get rid of the packing and sub-dermal gun.
How – where – could I get rid of these? My eyes searched the section of corridor that I was in.
In my frantic sweep I almost missed it. It was a small panel, with tiny lip for a handle, labeled incinerator. In a move that would make any volleyball player jealous, I grabbed the everything, opened the panel and stuffed it in. There was a soft poof sound as the squeak of soles as the boots came to a stop.
"Step away from the wall and put your hands where I can see them," a voice barked out.