Awakening, Part 2 and 2.5 (CONTINUES DIRECTLY AFTER PART 1)
Please note this is much longer than part 1, but I thought that parts 2 and 2.5 were insufficiently long in themselves to break up. As usual, they connect directly to part 1 and can be read together with no break.
“Down in the lobby, the desk attendant was another impeccable clockwork woman. Her face was white and her hair was black, her uniform was pressed and perfect, each fold exact as if made from burnished surgical steel. She wore a dress and pleated jacket, which sported a symmetrical folding collar. It was a modern thing. There was a name etched on a sliver of silver metal across her chest: Belle. She looked at me, waiting for me to say something, her face motionless, betraying nothing. If this place is a hotel – I thought – then this makes sense. There are always lots of perfect lades in fancy hotels, like mannequins in a shop.
I began to talk to her.
She listened politely and responded courteously, answering all of my questions with the greatest of care. I was a guest. The arrival occurred three days ago, and was on business. It was not unusual to forget these things, said she. Sometimes routines can be trying. As for my messiness – which she first asked me about – well that was not a problem. It happened to a lot of people who came here, almost a daily occurrence really. It would be cleaned up, said the velvet sweetness, the voice of silk, the lullaby record with perfect pronunciation – and there would be a new quilt for me. I might even like this one better. It was her pleasure. They aimed to please all of their guests.
Maybe she was right. Maybe things would be fine. It was idiotic to get so spooked over nothing. And Then… there was a sliding, sinking, muffled feeling in me as I listened and she kept talking; the feeling grew. She kept talking, talking, talking … The veil was coming down again over the world, and my mind. What was she talking about? The lips were moving, but I perceived no sound. She smiled, in a very fake and exaggerated manner, and turned. My vision faded, and I saw her back before it was all fuzz.
I don’t remember what happened after that – normal things, I think. The grind – you know. I think I went up that elevator, found a new suit on the couch near the bed, put it on and went to work, and worked like any day I had ever worked before or worked since. I remember it vaguely, I think, but then it could have been any day, don’t you know? People joke about the rat race, the work life, but it grabs and gobbles, bites and chews – leaving us 20, 30 a thousand years older – and then just dead.
Time is a label, an instant you remember, like a bookmark. Loose the instant and loose your place –go floating. Thinking about those years, before waking up, and I remember standing next to a wall in a garden, an urban enclosure, and I am conscious just then, and I am eating a candy bar. It’s always the same candy bar. The sun shines overhead; a huge building of glass glints in its rays, a dazzling light surrounds me. Did I work there? Did I live there? The daily routine takes on the dimensions of a ritual. Time ceases to matter. I did the same thing before; I know I will do it again. Does it ever matter, exactly the date and time? Labels fall away, useless. I can’t tell you what I did after I went back under – back into our collective ex-dream – but I know it wasn’t anything exciting – that is what I have been trying to tell you!”
Master Q paused, staring at the wordless figure in the interrogation recliner.
“Of course, you can’t respond anyway, but I bet you are listening. You even stopped struggling, which is a good thing. It’s not like we are letting you budge much. Anyway, you are probably hearing the first non-lies of your young life. You don’t remember anything but lies, in fact. Open your ears. I don’t like telling my story very much.
The next thing I remember after the reception desk was returning home that night, angry. Something was responsible for blotting my mind and I knew it. It was not normal for days and nights to evaporate. I thought it was either myself, or others. Both possibilities were displeasing, but something in me suggesting it was them and not me. I felt that sleep was what they wanted of me, and maybe people in general – even though I didn’t know then who “they” were – that they wanted us to sleep and repeat our cycles, make our lives into rituals when all the instants, the bookmarks and the feelings are boiled out of us. Empty rags, sacks with no water in them, we’d will fall down the ages being hollow; being no longer able to feel… no longer human. Truthfully, that is still my greatest fear. That and the feeling of melting, sliding, sleeping, slipping – when it grabs control – it means a monstrous thing is calling. It wants my hours, my blood, my life, the seconds that I have still before death – the final, great dream.
I decided then and there no longer give up my seconds. They were, and are, mine.
The floor of my hotel room was just as empty as I left it. The hushed hallway stretched out incredibly clean and hollow in both directions. It was a big building, full of emptiness. Deep space and the bottom of the ocean, all in one – and me lost in the middle of it. There wasn’t even a crumb in the hallway to keep me comfort. I wrestled with the lock –clumsy hands- as if the key was now alien to it. Had I forgotten something? I was sweating, frustrated. The key no longer knew how to penetrate.
What time is it? I did not want to recognise the loss of hours. A watch – where did that come from? – said it was 10.30 PM. I half wondered what time it would be next. Would that sliding feeling come back? The repeating ritual, stealer of life, the adversary, the depressing theft of another day – I would not allow it to happen if the feeling came back.
No feeling came, no deep obedience took over. The key was in my hands, then the doorknob in my hands; I controlled them. My eyes were seeing. My eyes – mine, my hands – mine. Mine, like my seconds.
The door opened and the mirror that rested beside it added a coat to my suit. When did I put that on? So much was already lost in the dimness, the failed memory. I was afraid to ask myself the question: How many years have I already lost to the monster that eats my mind?
The bed was over there in the corner, lumbering. It had new white pillows and new white sheets. The machine-lady did it. The comforter was white too, but it was embossed with a bold, pornographic scene, which I shall not describe. I felt a twitching sensation.
Was I seeing this? Is it that feeling again? The fear of the unknown returned, but I stood up to it this time, the only way I knew how.
Next: the perfect geometry of the lobby, back with the black-haired pale woman – and me. Things were clear. There was sharpness. My hands were very dry, my heart beating rapidly. This time she had a fancy hat on, the kind that fancy women wear to funerals or 1940s movie stars used to wear. A black netting protruded from the front of her hat and partially covered her face. There was also a hair pin which was made of a silvery metal. It glinted in the strange bland light of the lobby. The rest of her appearance was as perfect as usual. Perfect makeup, lipstick, uniform . . .
I stood before her wrapped in the obscene comforter, pyjamas underneath. It encircled my back and shoulders, warmly comforting. I don’t know what happened to my work clothes. No shoes either. It was all gone with the void of my mind.
Belle the counter woman stared at me intently, coldly, clinically. The mouth attached to me fumbled, its tongue lolling around uselessly.
What to say? How to say it?
It was not pain, not hate, not exhaustion – is this what rebellion feels like? Love? If I could put all my thoughts together I would know what and why – and know this picture, this figure buried in the carpets, inscribed on the walls, know this place and its creepy half-humans. I could name this monster. This slipperiness, the ritual, it isn’t normal, isn’t right. Things cannot be as I am seeing them.
The Fatal thought came crashing through the glass of a fake universe, a thought that could never, ever be undone: This world is a lie.
Bell continued to stare at me, waiting. Somewhere far away I heard the sound of an escalator, lapping, like a river.
Then I blurted it out, towards her neutral face:
“I don’t want this anymore.” I said as I ungrasped my hands from the object, letting the offending comforter slide to the ground. It clattered.
How does something soft clatter?
And the scales fell from my eyes, very suddenly.
I looked down, and it was a very different thing, what I previously had in my hands a moment ago. It was more like a harness, with metallic circles, wires, conjoining a web, over a quilt unwelcoming, criminal, institutional, scientific – cruel. I saw what it was, fear rose in me, from a dark place. I had reason to fear.
Did they see what I saw? Where is this? The world seemed to be on edge.
Silence roared in the white-tile-floor shiny-metal lobby. The geometrical furniture sat dumbly. Fancy ladies and fancy men, who had been talking behind me, suddenly obtruded into my mental landscape. I noticed because they suddenly stopped talking and turned to stare. I could see them in the reflective metal behind the hostess.
“What?” barked the desk-lady hostess-mannequin. Her lips parted and I could almost see the dry rivulets of the powdered makeup on her face crack as she spoke.
I answered her back: “I do not want this thing.”
Her face was horror-struck. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN?” she screamed something wild, scandalising the polite, watching furniture and its resident people. Her hands seem to grasp either the counter on the other side the desk or some invisible object with fanatic energy.
She pressed me with another shriek, this time less incensed and more imperative, “WHAT do you mean?”
Heavy words. No retreat now.
“I don’t want this. . . and I don’t want any other LIKE IT.”
“Fine” she replied, smiling that fake smile, “But you will have a new one. What kind you will get – that is out of my hands. It will be out of my hands” – I left the lobby not listening – with the mechanical thing, one of the beasts that eats time, thrown on a white-and-black sofa in math-book-cover lobby. None of the dainties dared to approach me. I saw now they had no eyes, no faces – it chilled me to know that they had never been real. The whole time she was still mumbling under her breath “out of my hands . . . out of my hands . . . out of my hands.” Empowered and terrified, feet slapped the cold marble floor leaving ghostly sweat marks. I know now I was feeling a sensation best described as fun. Something about rebellion is fun. Sounds seemed to crowd around me too, pointless sounds like the scraping of metal, the slapping of my feet, the whoosh of air, and my own breath. I was getting things dirty. The sliding, sinking feeling had sunk and dissapeared; I was soaring now.
Next, I thought, to the elevator. Get stuff, then get out. Water. Food. No more lost time. In the streets, under a bridge, under a tree, in the woods – in a cave, anywhere but not here, I could live free. Not with things that taint your mind, steal your moments. No machine blankets. No funny water. No accidents in bed. It was the medicine, the drugs, the television, the music… all engineered, all tainted. The past came flooding back. The prosperity. The water… the food… thirst… even the air, clothes, sheets, television, anaesthetics… sticks and carrots – our jobs, our lives, to pass them in peace. No more war. Just happiness, bliss – sleep.
Not now though, no. My mind is my own now. I’m awake.
Clearer and clearer, brighter and brighter, the world became a billion points of brightness – seeing all, hearing all around me, it was intoxicating. I could feel the seconds pass, the air on my skin, my feet on the cold floor, gloriously clammy. It was like yesterday
I have more memories from that elevator than I did of the past 20 years of my life.
Of course I never made it to my apartment. When the door opened, the fancy ladies and gentlemen of the lobby were there, but no longer fancy – just frightening. They had masks on. White masks. That is why I perceived them as having no eyes, no mouths. Their formalwear was replaced with body armour, black and shining in the lights of the hall. They did the same things to me that I imagine they have done to you. Security is always the same. Brutality never changes. We both know that neither of us had a dramatic escape, since it is nearly impossible these days. The system that plugs us in is the same one that immediately warns security as soon as we begin to drop out of it. They knew all along. The “hotel” was a holding facility, and my strange findings, lack of clothes, diarrhoea, the things I saw – or imagined – were all side effects of withdrawal or hallucinations caused by withdrawal, all of which is very common for a rejecting figure like myself. The memory of my previous living place had been wiped. I was never out of sight. The new blanket? That was just another reinforcement mechanism, as nearly everything was and is in that place – and a strong one at that. The water we drink, the food we eat, the television, the air, the bed, the blankets, practically the very sun in the sky are all devices to fool us into a dream.
We are both rejecting figures, and for this reason we are speaking right now, or more precisely, I am speaking and you are listening.
For whatever reason, our unique personal biologies were able to make it out of the maze of drugs that the Prosperity has perfected over many years. We are both awake now, and that is why you are here. I apologise for the gag, the blind, your nakedness and if security dishonoured you as they did to me. Clothes can be provided if you cooperate, as well. I am sure you would like the use of your arms and legs. The bands around you are very tight. I remember when they were first placed on me, many years ago. Please do not hate me too much: keep in mind that we are not very different – merely individuals at different places in our lives.
Do you expect to die now? You still might, you know. There is no reason to lie to you about it. And if you do die here, in our care, it will be a horrible, painful death. That will be out of my hands. Security will do it, and we both know what they are like. Let’s discuss the alternative to you dying, which is a much happier subject.
I’ll be direct with you: In order for you to live, you must give us the story of how you woke up and your experiences during withdrawal. Precisely. You are to provide all details with total honesty, then and only then you will not need to die screaming in agony. We will be monitoring your vial signs to verify your truthfulness during the entire narration of your personal story. You will only have one chance to do this. Any attempts at deception will require security forces to classify you as a hostile rejecter figure. Hostile rejecter figures are automatically discarded from the Prosperity. I have already informed you of this.
As you might have gathered, current mind control mechanisms – drugs, subliminal suggestions, reinforcement mechanisms and simple tranquilizers – are not yet entirely perfect. It’s certainly true that the vast majority of people are influenced by one, another or all of the objects that make up the web of control – often using details supplied by their own minds –but some figures are less influenced and some ultimately reject all influences. Understanding the rejecter, how he rejects, what he sees, and why he finally chooses – and research indicates it is a choice – to surface himself from the sea of illusions around him – is a topic of supreme importance and interest to us.
In short: we value your experience, and are extremely interested in why you did not simply work and live in total peace and contentedness for the rest of your life. We want to know how you arrived at this room, naked and strapped to a steel chair with your head in a blackout mask. It’s a question that concerns society in general.
I am sure you are full of questions right now. In fact you are probably asking yourself just how you arrived here as well. That is a very reasonable place to begin, and certainly more details can be provided….
Well, after you tell us, what you are going to tell us – I am sure you will not decline our offer – we can discuss how security works. In fact, we can discuss how everything works, because will be training you. Yes. Training. You will be made ready to fulfil the only possible role that a fully awake rejecter can ever have in our society full of dreaming, drugged, contented and happy citizens – the role of a ruler.