The darkened corners of the room were emphasized with the low, swinging light that swung overhead. It hung in a peculiar spot that illuminated just enough space to keep whatever was not at the table hidden from all sight. The light swung gently, keeping the methodical movement in a constant pendulum-like manner.
Of course, I knew what I had done to be here; even though what I had done was cruel, I didn't know whether I was going to be rewarded or punished. One thing was only sure in my mind at that table, in that dusty darkened room: I was a dead man.
My daddy had told me to grow up strong, or grow up smart; either one of those qualities can help you through the stickiest of situations. I learned I was a fighter at an early age. Growing up, protecting the smaller children from the older bullies of the neighborhood. From my first fight on, I knew I wanted to protect people for a living.
It felt good– the type of good you feel after winning an award, or flying over the moon for the first time. As a child, I got into a load of trouble, though I only wanted the best for people. I often got into arguments with my teacher about whether what I did was right. Wrong came out the most, and I was punished in a sick way. Back when I was young, I got more than just a slap on the wrists; don't get me wrong, I got that at school, but it was the real punishment that awaited me when I walked home.
The punishments at home were usually consisting of whippings, and lying on glass. The worst punishment I had wasn't even due to a painful object, or weapon. It was the verbal abuse that got to me mentally. The words stuck with me; the wounds healed. The one that he said to me the most was:
"You might as well be hanging out with the negro children." By hanging, he meant from trees. It was the 30's, and at the time, racism was a big "entertainment" part of every white man's life.
By the time I left the house, I had my fair share of beatings and had moved on to begin police training. I was the top of the class with everything except for the actual pen-to-paper parts of the training. Like I said, I chose to grow up strong; not smart. Other than my exceedingly low IQ, I had taken the physical training fairly well. I ran through courses and took yelling like I had been deaf the entire time.
I graduated at the middle of my class and turned out to be a pretty respectable cop. I roamed the streets in my cruiser with my partner, a skinny twig of a man named Jerry. I only chased after the people who were causing some sort of real trouble and was respected by the black community as well. My whole career thrived on me catching criminals, and since I pretty well deprived crime out of that town, I was promoted to Chief Officer.
Later in my years, I was married, and had two children; I swore not to raise them like my father raised me. My life was going pretty well– that is until these incidents started happening.
The gravel road leading to our town had been especially deserted that month of May. I had been sitting in front of an ad for some sandwich shop when I first spotted them. I like to call them "the spots". I noticed them about a few weeks ago. They appeared seemingly at random– starting at the ground, then stretching upwards into the sky. It was only for a few seconds, but I swore the spots seemed to be shaped like cars, or at least the wheels of the cars. I took notice after a few days of coming out to the border of our town to the highway, and seeing these spots.
Of course, I’ve never said anything about them to anyone; otherwise, I’d be in the local loony bin. For the time, I just kept quiet, and never spoke a word out of my duties as Chief Officer. That is, until they started to become more disturbing. I watched as more and more of these black spots showed up; they started to get more detailed than cars– they started to turn into shapes of people now. I could see their ghostly, inky-black faces from a mile away, and you know what they did? They flew right up over me– over our entire town, as if we were just an obstacle in its way. I’ve been raised to be proper, to be logical, but nothing I could think of could possibly explain this particular phenomenon. I watched them at a closer distance, and as I moved up towards them, I noticed there was a repelling force, a feeling of unspoken secrecy. I needed to know what they were made of– what they felt like. What made them– them.
It took me a while before I realized just what was going on. The town had been nearly unnoticeably sunny the past few weeks. Living in Texas at the time, I didn’t expect there to be too much rain at any given time. I noticed, however, for the past few days, there had been no clouds whatsoever. I didn’t know what was strange, but after I realized this, I began going around town asking people. What all of them said in reply was: “Nope, I don’t recall there being any forecasts saying anything ‘bout clouds.”
I went on for the rest of the week, with highway traffic being nearly non-existent. There was almost no traffic except for these black vans, always coming in two or three at a time. Of course, I would have followed them, if they didn’t drive right through town. I would have left them alone– hell, I wish I did. I wish I didn’t follow them; god dammit, I wish I hadn’t found out what happened to our town. At the same time, I’m grateful I found out. Those damn vans were bugging me; later in the week, getting more and more numbers in through our town. I would’ve stopped them if they hadn’t been so oblivious to my siren.
There was a long way before I hit it. I hit something that was impossible; an invisible wall. The black vans went right through it. When I hit the wall, it was like any other wall. I woke up inside my cruiser, with glass shattered around me. After I got treated at the hospital, I told my wife about it. Her response was a little underwhelming, just a little:
“That is a bit odd, isn’t it?”
I didn’t know what was wrong with my wife. She seemed too robotic to be another living being– another human. I left later that night, wanting to seek answers, that and frankly, my wife’s skin felt rather cold. I felt like I was only a short distance away from the outer-rim of the shield; I decided to call it. But, as I got closer to the barrier, I felt the town stayed at the same distance. It was almost like I was on an endless factory treadmill. I finally reached the outer barrier and felt around after I got out of my car. The barrier finally showed itself when I touched this part of invisible wall, where upon contact, burned my finger, and sputtered out a flash of light. The barrier was solid, too. I whispered to myself, “What the fuck?”, as I tried to understand what in God’s name was being presented in front of me. I heard tires, minutes later, and before I knew what was going on, I found myself knocked out. There was pitch blackness, and a smell of old, dusty fabric. I could tell from the situation there on, I knew nothing good could come from this situation. I struggled a bit more, with no solutions.
Hours later, I had the bag lifted from my head. The dingy room I was in was completely dark, except for a single over-head light that only shone on the table and a part of my face and body. And so, here I was: in a dark, slightly illuminated room. It was musty and damp, and I thought it was good that the light didn’t show the corners of the room. I could only think of what disease-ridden dust must have been hidden away from sight.
Soon enough, there was the sound of an opening door, with a bright blue and white light breaching the left side of the room. The light brought a buzzing sound into the room that seemed to disappear all at once when the door closed. The man that walked in walked slowly, looked like one of those higher-sector police officers. The man was wearing one of those beige overcoats with a fancy sort of flat hat. The man sat down at the illuminated table. He started talking.
“We saw that you caught onto the signs, mister 17-A.”
He spoke with such conviction, and smoothness it almost bothered me. I replied soon afterwards.
“What signs? What are you talking about? And what, may I ask, the hell am I doing here?”
He gazed at me for a second, then looked down at the table, then folded his arms onto the table. He looked at me, hard. I couldn’t tell if he was angry, or he was wanting me to do something, but why he was looking at me like that for, I didn’t know why. I tried to look back at him, but it hurt my head to look back into his eyes.
“Questions,” he said, as he looked down, and pulled out a brown folder.
“Every one of you has questions.”
He stared at me for a long period of time, with the brown folder taunting me. I wanted to know what was inside it, but I didn’t know if he wanted me to or not. I felt like a vampire; that I was only allowed to look at it if I was invited to. For the meanwhile, I only stared at his eyes, my head hurting more and more. He gestured toward what the envelope.
“Well," he said. “Open it.”
I opened the folder. The papers, and pictures inside disturbed me. They were pictures of my wife from afar, shots of me and my family eating at the table, with the picture being taken from inside the kitchen. There were also documents describing events and deaths that happened in my life as if they were going to happen in the near future.
The next thing that I noticed were blueprints of a sort of technology. They described a dome sort of building with “reflectors” and “visibility cloaks”. It almost seemed kind of like a cage for some sort of animal.
“What the hell is this?”
The man took up the documents and placed them inside his overcoat.
“This is your life.”
I felt my face get red and hot. Had this really been my life? For my entire life, had I lived under here? Had I lived inside a cage my whole life? It couldn’t have been. I flew to Vegas. I went outside of the country many times to visit friends in other parts of the world.
“You have been chosen from our billions of other little projects to be put into the fueling program, and thus, you will be proceeded into the tank.”
What was this guy talking about? I didn’t understand this at all, and I felt the more I was in this room, the hotter it’s become. I looked into the other man's eyes, and they felt less and less human.
“What I mean to say is: yes, you have been in a 'cage' your entire life. The entire world has been projected on a highly sophisticated screen. Those places you visited? They were all on a giant treadmill. What you’re going to do now is, you’re going to be put into a separate program than you were earlier. Then, you will have no recollection of these events.”
I swore it was getting hotter and hotter. I didn’t even pay attention to what he was saying. I was absolutely astounded that the guy hadn’t even broken a sweat; if he even was a guy. The room's walls were getting further apart. The next thing the guy said really struck a chord with me.
“Even your family, and dear wife were faked.”
I felt my face get hot– hotter than the rest of my body. The walls dispersed further and I swore I could see orange and red flames part from the corners of the room. What the fuck is going on? I struggled for something to say.
“This better not happen next time.”
Was the sentence I felt made the most sense in the situation.
The man chuckled, clearly not even a human laugh.
“Mister 17-A,” the man said as the walls dispersed even further, revealing most of the blazing hot fire from beneath.
“There won’t be a next time,” he said, as he slowly took off his mask.
Written by Crickshaw