WARNING Some Strong language
Written by Chris (alcoholandaphorisms)
This is not then. This is now. For all those terms can be understood in the face of recent revelations. The world is white. Blinding. Pulsing like the full force of a strobe light. There is a rhythmic whistling, a whine like the sound of dentists drill. The light seems to shift, moving back and forth, as sounds, garbled talking, pushes through, as if trying to reach through water. A shadow passes the light in the shape of a body, looming over, holding a light and shining it directly into his eyes.
Eyelids shut, darkness everywhere for a moment, then open again to see a woman’s face, close over him, her mouth moving to produce garbled sound. She is a police officer, or at least in one’s uniform. Her hand waves back and forth, as she watches for a response.
“Sir. Sir. Can you hear me” Her voice finally resolving into recognisable words “Sir – do you know your name?”
Awake, Gwil rolls away from the light shining into his eyes. His mouth feels desiccated, a dull throb in his skull “What..what have I said?” he asks, wary even as he wakes.
“Sir. Can you tell me who you are?”
A learned defence raises in Gwil “I don’t know. I don’t know, back off”
He tries to turn, to see around him. It is very cold, and he feels wet against his naked skin. He is lying, he realises, naked in a field under the night sky. There is a police car nearby. He looks back to the officer, she is quite young, white skin and blond hair tied back dressed in a high visibility jacket over her uniform. Nearby a young Asian man is running towards them, another officer, thermal blanket in his arms.
“An ambulance is on the way “the man says “I’ll bring blankets for the others”
On hearing of the others Gwil turns his aching neck further, to spy Sanjiv and Ryan, like him they are naked, lying in the snow – face down and still unmoving. The headlights of the cop vehicle glittering off the snow around them.
“Sir. Sir? Can you move?”
In response Gwil reaches out, trying to drag his body across the snow towards where Sanjiv lies. A hand gently but firmly places itself on his shoulder, as a blanket is wrapped around him.
“Sir. Please come this way. your friends will be ok. Ishmael. Ishmael? Can you hurry, I could do with a hand”
Gwil can barely move, his legs frozen and unresponsive, he allows himself to be guided to the police car, but in truth he could not resist even if he wanted. The doors close around him. Alone, he looks up at the night sky, and really looks, looks for the incongruous moments that tell of the interactions of the demiurge.
He doesn’t have to look hard. The night’s sky is filled with snow, falling from a sky filled with vast gears, the size of skyscrapers. The sky is pealing apart to reveal the reality behind it. Screaming Gwil grabs for the door handle, trying to turn it, trying to get out, to get away. “Can you see that. Can you see. It’s out there. its….”
The door opens and then everything goes black again.
Sanjiv knows his eyes are open, but all he sees is static. Static filling the screen of his life. He stares on and on, until an image resolves, as if rising from a macabre magic eye picture. A beach. grey and cold. Snow falling, patterned against the grey sky like the static that had come before. The shop windows are boarded up down the streets of what seems to be a seaside town. Sanjiv shivers, a nagging memory of another beach, a man in a white suit rising from forgotten depths. That isn’t here. He stands upon the railing at the end of a pier as gulls fly overhead. In the distance the snow looks like ash, or maybe just dust, as a solitary man shuffles down the way, moving from bin to bin, rummaging. Long dark lanky brown hair hangs down over his head, tattered jeans and ripped blue trench coat obscuring his body. He steps barefoot, as Sanjiv just stands and watches. The man seems to notice a crushes seagull, splattered like road kill against the ground. The man’s movements become more erratic as he closes on the corpse, dropping to his knees and with spasmodic twitches he pulls the seagull from where it lay with a squelch as it detaches. Almost immediately he shoves the carcass up, forcing it into his face
The sounds that come from the face are not of teeth on flesh, but the grinding of gears – oil and meat spitting out from the pitted face and gears that make up its mouth. Hollow red embers rotate in its eye socket, settling upon the watching Sanjiv. Its mouth is wide open, feathers and flesh stuck between the spinning gears. A squealing sound of connecting modems rises as the man stands, shuffling towards Sanjiv.
Hands over his ears, Sanjiv runs headlong away from this sight and…
Sanjiv’s hands grip the hand rests, sat in a chair. A television in front of him. A voice screaming. His own. It takes time before he realises that a woman in an orderlies uniform has rushed over to his side, realises that she is muttering quiet words of comfort. He manages to focus on her, a name badge with the name “Gemma Hayes”, mint green orderly uniform, lapel watch and hair tied back. Sanjiv looks a moment longer, trying to see some signs of the constructs they have faced recently. All he can see is genuine concern on her face. The screaming has stopped now, his screaming has stopped. Still breathing heavily he looks around, the television is showing still images of a seaside town, just as the camera turns on Sanjiv swears he can see a man against the pier in a white suit and fedora.
The room he is in now is an institutional beige, barely lit by florescent strip lights above. There is a clinging medicinal smell upon everything. Around him sit people in grey tracksuits. There are no zips on the suits, no buttons, nothing that can catch or be caught upon. Their clothes are but loosely held together as their owners sit, staring blankly into space, or fixated in framed pictures on the walls. One woman sits in the middle of the room, stacking coloured blocks emblazoned with individual letters. An orderly turns from a mid 60’s man who is babbling excitedly at her, looking instead at Sanjiv. The uniformed orderlies’ face pauses, them become inquisitive as she realises that Sanjiv seems to be responding to his surroundings. Waving her hand at another orderly, a black man of late twenties to early thirties she says “I think John is coming to.” approaching Sanjic she crouches down, until she is face to face with him “Sir? Are you ok? Sir, can you tell me what happened to you?”
“Too many bad dreams” Sanjiv replies “too many bad memories”
The male orderly almost jumps at Sanjiv speaking “He is talking? I’ll get Doctor Killmer”
“Hello” the female orderly says “I’m Gemma – can you tell me your name?”
“I’m Sanjiv. Sanjiv Mangat”
“Sanjiv” Gemma smiles “It is really nice to meet you. Do you know where you are?”
“No. No I don’t”
“Well, you are at Bishops gate, Bishops Gate hospital. Do you remember what happened to you?”
Sanjiv goes to reply, then pauses, a look of incomprehension then rising concern passing across his face. His lips move wordlessly in an uncomfortable silence before finally Gemma speaks again.
“Look. I’m really sorry to ask. We just wondered if you could tell us anything. You have been quiet for the couple of weeks since you came to us. Do you remember how you ended up in the field? We found you in the field last January, just outside of Colchester”
“Colchester?” A pained confusion rises again on Sanjiv’s face
“Yeah. We are in Essex now. Do you remember how you got there? Do you have any friends of family we can contact?”
“No. The last thing I remember I was back in London”
“London? I should have known by the accent. Whereabouts in London?
“I. Well, I work out of Waterloo” Sanjiv says, somewhat evasive
“That’s good, you are making good progress. You should take a moment to get some rest – the doctor will be here shortly, in the meanwhile do you have any family members we can contact?”
“My father” Sanjiv says, hesitating “I don’t think I’m ready to see him right now”
“That is fine, we just need a next of kin – we can see if anyone has put in a missing person’s report”
“I know the drill” Sanjiv says with a weak smile “I worked in health and safety – let him know I’m all right. I’d just rather not see him right now”
The conversation halts as a mid 50’s man walks over, looking at them through designer glasses that perch under a comb over attempting to disguise a bald patch. He extends his hand while smiling the disconcerting grin of a used cars salesman. “Ah good evening. I’m Doctor Killmer, it is lovely to see you awake. How do you feel about answering a few question? See if we can get to the bottom of what happened to you, hmm?”
Sanjiv looks back and forth Between Gemma and Killmer, looking for some hint of what his answer should be, before letting out a cautious “All right”
“Doctor I really don’t..” Gemma says
“If I’d have wanted your opinion nurse Hayes I would have asked for it. Now get me a coffee darling” Killmer tosses a snide wink at Sanjiv “Girls eh? Hmm? We didn’t spend so long getting degrees for nurses to ask us question like that did we? Now, I say, your case is absolutely fascinating” Pulling out a tape recorder and hitting record Killmer continues “Sanjiv? Indian name yes?”
“Have you any relative in Punjabi? I spent some time there, lovely people”
“I have some extended family out there, I haven’t seen them in years”
“Of course, probably bettered yourself, hmm?” Killmers says “Now, if you could tell me what in gods name happened to you?”
Another time. Another place. Gwil comes awake, or a close approximation of it. He feels calm, far too calm considering. He remembers a needle under his skin, sedating him. The cell around him is a uniform grey, a police cell. Chelmsford – they put him here in Chelmsford to keep him secure.
Time passes in the dark, an age. Doors buzz people out in the distance. Screams pass what could be night, screams about insects everywhere. Replies telling that person to shut the fuck up. None of it seems to matter. In his more lucid moments Gwil walks the small cell, grasping at imaginary doorknobs, trying to open an invisible door out from this cell. Considering all that has happened the past days this seems a perfectly logical course of action to Gwil, but has no result.
Footsteps approach, and he hears the peep hole open in the door behind him, followed by the rattling of keys. He does not resist as the police guide him out, a desk sergeant watches as he leaves, a bored glance from a body that turns to overweight, sat behind a stack of forms .
The two officers accompanying him look familiar. A woman of mid thirties, face pale and tired, grey hairs showing and lines around her mouth. A man, bearded and with dark hair, shorter and heavier set, possible of Asian background at a guess. Both dressed in cheap nondescript grey suits. As they lead Gwil into the interview room the man fades into the background, the woman leading staring up the tape recorded.
“This is Detective Sergeant Eve, with Detective Constable Ishmael.” She recites time and date before turning to Gwil “So, what happened to you? How did you come to be in the field we found you in. For the record, the interview subject was found on the edge of Millers Farm, just outside Colchester. His ID is yet to be determined”
“Do you have any wipes?” Gwil interrupts, rubbing his hands together compulsively “Cleaning wipes, anything like that? I need to clean my hands”
“We can get some. Would you like some tea as well?”
Gwil pauses, as if expecting some trap “How do I take it?”
The sergeant looks confused “I don’t know. Sir? Do you know who you are?”
“Am I under arrest?”
“No but we have a duty of care. We don’t think it is in your best interest to let you go, but if you insist, and if you give us details of someone who is responsible for you, then you can go. We thing however it is best for your health and safety that..”
A burst of inappropriate laughter comes from Gwil “Heh. Health and safety. Like Sanjiv. hehhehe”
“Sanjiv? Is that your name?”
Gwil pauses, eyes flicking around the room “Possibly”
“We found you in the snow you know? If we hadn’t have found you then you could have died”
“I don’t have to say anything “Gwil crosses his arms “I remember that”
Eve sighs “You aren’t a suspect. Do you have any relatives or friends?”
“I’d really like some wipes. Like, right now. I haven’t cleaned my hands for ages”
“Right. Interview paused”
As soon as the officers have left the room Gwil slides across to the tape recorder, rewinding it and playing it back, listening to points where the words recorded don’t match the words that came out of his mouth. There are none, or so it seems for now. Standing Gwil moves to the door of the interview room, testing the handle and finding it locked. Suspicious he looks up at the cctv camera that pans, following him around the room. An eye, a machine eye watching him. Moments later police pile into the room, wrenching Gwil away from the camera as he tried to tear it from the wall.
“Why are you doing this? I’m not suspected of anything. Why are you doing this?” Gwil cries as they push him hard back into the chair, cuffing his arms to the legs.
Sergeant Eve and Ishmael return to this scene of chaos. Setting a box of wipes down on the table Eve looks Gwil straight in his eyes “Sir? With the greatest respect. What are you doing?”
“I don’t like being watched”
“Sir, what happened? I don’t think you are being entirely honest with us.”
“You’re right” Gwil says “I’m not Sanjiv”
“Good. That’s good. Who are you?”
Gwil pauses “That is a good question”
“Sir. I have a duty of care. I have the ability to administer chemical sedatives if need be and then can transfer you to a secure unit? Do you want that?”
Gwil looks at them, remembering something “Can I…can I see some id?”
The two officers exchange glances then present their official ID.
“Huh. Erm, do you know a Detective Grey?”
“What area would he be in?”
“I don’t know” Gwil says, muttering to himself “Detective Grey would know more.”
“What is your name?”
“I’m..I’m…why do you want to know again? .. I’m, I’m Michael ” Gwil says finally.
“What were you doing in that field?”
“I don’t know. That honestly the truth”
“Do you have next of kin?”
“Do you have a permanent residence?”
“Got a flat. Kind of.”
“What can you tell us about the other two people you were found with?”
“Listen, can I see them? Are they ok?”
“They are not in a state to communicate at the moment”
Gwil pauses, frowning “Wait, is Sanjiv ok?…ah PISS. piss piss, fucking piss!”
“Sanjiv? That is better. Sanjiv is not talking. You are the only one conscious. We need you to tell us what happened”
“I DON’T KNOW! I SERIOUSLY DON’T KNOW! I just don’t remember, Please. If I can contact someone can they come pick me up? Please? I’ve told you all I know, honest!”
The officers look at each other “Interview terminated at oh five forty five. Returning the individual to the cells for now”
As two uniformed officers come in, dragging Gwil back to the cells, he grabs out, trying to swipe the cleaning wipes from the table. Eve takes out one, and hand sit to him “you co-operate with is, and we will co-operate with you. Understand”
“Fucking police. All the fucking same”
Abandoned back in the cells, Gwil rubs the wipe across his hands, cleansing himself for as long as he can, until it is dry and empty. No one comes.
Back in the institute, weeks later, Sanjiv stands in the room of Doctor Killmer, who now sits behind a heavy oak desk that smells of polish and resin. A top of the line Macintosh computer upon it, and a traditional pendulum clock on the wall behind him. The bookcases are filled with books on psychology, a drinks decanter half full with expensive aged scotch. On the wall is a framed photo of the doctor with Ian Duncan Smith. Killmer waves to a comfortable seat in front of him
“Please sit” Placing his hands behind his head Killmer loudly cracks his knuckles “Do you have any recollection at all about what happened?”
“Nothing since London” Sanjiv says “I’ve been trying to remember. I was in Romford, last I recall. after that, there is just a huge nothing.”
Killmer scribbles illegible notes with a gleaming fountain pen “So, judging by this, you have missing time for six months at least. Are you familiar with Sigmund Freud Sanjiv?”
“I know of him, some of his work” Sanjiv says “Psychoanalysis and the theory of repression of the ego between the super ego and the id – his early book Studies On Hysteria – he was the first to say that a man could be hysterical”
Killmer smiles “You are obviously a scholar of some renown.. It is so rare these days to deal with someone so educated. The mind is a complex mechanism. Freud’s work with repression, on desires not sated is very relevant. The mind shuts down in response to what it cannot face -I suspect something similar has happened. You must have been in a fugue state for a long time but, you see, you seem physically health. You are in a healthy weight range, you hair has been cut in the last week or so and there is no evident beard growth. This suggests that someone was looking after you, or maybe you took care of yourself and have no recollection. The same is true of the other two. One has been uncooperative, the young woman is comatosed. This is fascinating. I suggest a radical proposal. It is your right to decide so I will explain fully what I propose.”
“You see, there are many ways of cracking through a protective shell. The shell that your brain has built up around traumatic memories. Psychic diving, ECT – a controversial step, one that many people see almost as a medieval torture. Myself I am interested in regression and talking therapy which has been used to quite a degree of success in America. Tell me Sanjiv, have you ever been hypnotised?”
“Well I would like to induce a hypnotic state to allow your mind to come to terms with that has happened to it. We may need to try a range of interventions, but I’d like to try hypnotherapy first. What do you think?”
“I suppose” Sanjiv says, with little enthusiasm
“Fantastic. Please, take a seat over there”
Sanjiv looks over to a couch, the traditional psychiatric couch of pop culture, as Sanjvic lies down upon it a looping white noise starts paying from the Macintosh speakers, filling the room with an oscillating rhythm. Tapping twice on the edge of a needle, bubbles gurgling up from the sedative within, Killmer turns to Sanjiv to find him gripping the edge of the seat, teeth biting down, and eyes wide, barely in control in response to the return of that familiar sound.
Killmer blinks, unsure what to make of this “Fascinating” Slipping the syringe away once more, he halts the white noise and lifts the lights once more “We have made great progress here Sanjiv. I think we have identified one of the key triggers. We will try something new tomorrow, but for now it is important that you rest. I think you need sleep. thank you for doing this, I am very excited in what we will find out”
As an orderly escorts him back to his room Sanjiv finds it hard to quell the growing sense of unease rising. “The others who were out with me, where are they?”
“They are sleeping”
The corridors are quiet, as they pass a common room they can see people, sat, blankly staring at the flickering televisions in the common room. None moving or speaking, the shadows thin against a worn down patterned carpet. Sanjiv’s room turns out to be cramped nigh cupboard, with a hospital bed and a handful of books – however the bars across the windows leave no doubt as to the nature of the facility.
“Lights out is half ten” the orderly says, indicating for Sanjiv to sit on the bed “That’s a few minutes, you have on suite facilities. Breakfast call is seven in the morning. Before lights go off is there anything I can do for you?”
“Is Gemma still around?” Sanjiv says, his voice thin
“She is off shift, she will be back tomorrow”
“Ok. I think I need to follow up something. I’ll try to catch her in the morning then”
Lying back, Sanjiv closes his eyes, the lights shutting off shortly after, the light beating against his closed lids ceasing. Everything is dark, and after time, a broken sleep comes.
In dreams come what may be memories. Ryan and Sanjiv running along that beaten cycle path towards the warehouse. The end goal they have been striving for so long, where they will find Dave. Where they will find all who were assigned there for so called job training, and then vanished.
The warehouse is before them, though Sanjiv has no idea how long they have been travelling. A set of twelve industrial units, air conditioning units bolted onto their sides and boards nailed over covers of prefab steel. It is overgrown, rusting white vans in the parking lot, weeds breaking up through the concrete below and a chain link fence surrounding the entire thing.
As they stand and stare at this broken down sight, the sounds of the city echo around them Police sirens, the rattling of trains and the roaring of planes setting off to destinations unknown. Ryan steps forwards, through the open gates in the chain link fence, looking disbelieving at a rust touched old company logo that hangs above the unit they have come to find, a single red door, twisted and slightly ajar the only visible entrance. “Is this it? This is where Dave vanished? Where so many others vanished? This place?” She looks around to Sanjiv “Why am I not getting a good feeling about that door being ajar?” She looks back again “for that matter, what happened to Gwil?”
Sanjiv shakes his head “I don’t know, I lost him a while back. It is odd, he has seen as much of this as we have, but I get the impression he knows more. Something more is going on with him”
Ryen looks away, shoulders lumping, holding back a choked sob. Eyes pink and teeth gritted. In this moment, finally all the events of the past days coming to a head. “Nate. Oh, damn, Nate. Sanjiv…Sanjiv, I don’t think I can hold it together here. I don’t know if you can feel it, just, almost despair around us. Like there is a cliff and I’m heading straight towards it. I see that building and I’m terrified. About what is in it. About the fact my best friend threw himself in front of a fucking train and I don’t know what is going on. I can’t piece it together like a normal person. I think I’m going mad, or maybe just god really does want to kill us all. I don’t know how I’m going to deal with this, how the fuck I’m going to get through this. I just feel so much inside, so much anger and that’s all I can feel right now – but I’m scared, scared about what happens when all this is done”
“Right now, I wish I had answers” Sanjiv says quietly “Once maybe I thought I did. The only thing I know is this. We have got as far as we have, and we have gone through hell, by doing it one step at a time. If there is anything we can do, if there is any answer to be found it lies in there, in that unit block. If we are to have a chance at saving Dave, we have to go in there. If we are to have a chance to…stop .. slow, I don’t know, anything, against that thing – we have to go in there.”
Ryan nods, too exhausted to properly reply. Looking at the cracked open entrance Sanjiv hesitates “We need a better plan than just going in the” front door though
“How do we burn it the fuck down?” Ryan says in pained breaths
“I don’t know. Can we bring in the cavalry?”
“What cavalry?” Ryan says, despair showing “It’s just us. That’s it”
“Well .. this place, this investigation, who knows about it. We do. That journalist, your friend, he knows about it”
“He was the only one, the only one I trusted with this.”
Sanjiv looks around, trying to weave a plan out of the air “Well – What if, well, what if we were to report an incident – anonymously? How would the police respond? What would they do?”
Ryan stares into the air, before answering, as if reciting by rote in a fugue state “Cordon the area off. Establish a command structure. If terrorist threat believed likely then bring in an armed response team. isolate the area. Find out of hostages exist. What demands are made, if any. Then…I don’t know anymore. I don’t even know if they would turn up. Or if they did if they would even be human, or those… things” Ryan blinks, shaking herself together. “We need to get in there. We need to find Dave. Or, we send people in there for us. Oh go, I don’t know if I could do that to other people. Make them face that. What happens if it takes them too, if we never see them again? I don’t know what this thing can do. There are gas mains around here, make it look like fire. Burn this fucking thing to the ground”
“What about Dave” Sanjiv says, interjecting gently
“Then, … we go in, we see if we can find him. then we burn it. It’s a warehouse for fucks sake. It can’t be that big, can it?
“Unless it’s bigger on the inside”
Ryans hands start to shake, breath coming faster and faster, hyperventilating. pacing, restless. Sanjiv still speaking, quiet but solid, trying to reassure “You’re ok, you’re not alone. You are still you, you know who you are. Maybe we don’t know the situation, but its not just you this thing is screwing with. It’s trying to break us all down … and I’m afraid with Gwil it looks like it succeeded”
There is another dream, elsewhere, another time. Gwil sleeps, drugged and unable to cloak rational lies to dispel his fears. He dreams and remembers, the police piling onto him outside Romford station – stress holds that leave no bruises, no evidence, as they dragged him into the back of a police riot van. Cuffed to the wall of the van, Gwil can but look, bleary eyed and shocked at the officers as they fill the van around him, self righteous grins, and banter flung back and forth about their new catch. A female officer, lifts Gwil’s head, staring into his eyes “We couldn’t believe it, could not fucking believe it when you walked up to us, bold as you fucking like. Boy, the shit that is going to happen to you when you get to the station. After what you did..” Gwil tries just to drag his head down again, trembling, mumbling to himself. He knows the game here, knows that if he dares bleed on police officers he will get charged with vandalising police property. Another officer, still clad in stab vest, and asp baton, leans in “Ere, mate, is it true you went medieval on one the old boys out from CID?”
“Lawyer” Gwil manages to croak “I want a lawyer. Not saying anything without a lawyer”
“I heard you put him through a bus shelter. Bust his kidney. Trust me, you got nothing to worry from the people here, we are going to make sure you get in nice and safe. The guvnor there… well let’s just say you are going to take a lot of trips to stairs, you clumsy boy. Such a shame you can’t keep on your feet on them”
Gwil barks out a harsh laugh “You think that you can do worse? You can’t do worse than what it can!”
“We have a special cell for you we…”
The walky-talkies screech, high pitch whine starting over the vans radio and coms. The van screeches to a halt, driver first, then the others, clamping their hands over their ears in agony. “Fuck. What the fuck is that noise?”
Gwil doesn’t know which officer said that, he is too busy kicking out, trying to break free from the cuffs, from the van, from anything. He knows better than any what is coming and jerks like an animal caught in a trap.
Blazing white light fills the van, ball lightning forming from static bursts on the walls, covering the police, filling them – An officer opposite jerks back, head snapping back, blood and spit frothing out of his mouth before he collapses forwards again, his head limp in front of Gwil’s, eyes filled with static. Gwil jerks again and again, blood coming from where the cuffs cut into his wrists. The van filled with just him and the bodies of the dead.
“Gwil. You are an anomalous factor. Please refrain from harming your corporeal vessel” The voice is coming from the body before him, the voice of the controller spilling from the corpse police.
“Life is pain. Life is suffering” Gwil says, reciting from memory “No wonder you don’t want it. Life is everything against you”
“Gwil, Gwil, Gwil. So melodramatic. I gave you a choice. I gave you the choice to have this all reset, to have all your friends back”
“What friends? I have people who ignore me and people who hate me”
“Gwil, Gwil. You know what I mean. What do you think you will gain from telling these people what you have seen?”
The words hang in the air, amongst corpses with hollow, burnt out sockets, shattered jaws and limbs. “Your two compatriots have reached the vicinity of our works. Your part in the purpose demands you are present. That is where we are going”
“Why? Why do you actually need us to act against you?”
“Gwil, you are an interesting anomaly. You I cannot predict, you and your follower – the dead thing that follows you around. We should remove that thing”
“Ha. You can’t. I heard you back there. There are limits on what you can do, if you could have got rid of it you would have by now”
“There are, at times, but then again, sometimes, well, how does the phrase go? Sometimes the gloves come off”
“Well. What is there to stop me just walking away and piss on your precious purpose?”
“Why? Because you are already there”
Static extends in wings from the corpses’ back, and image of an angel rising. Then…
Gwil is standing on a gantry, a cavernous warehouse around him, cogs turning and grinding in every corner. A production line moving below, a production line for human bodies -pistons pushing from the walls, invading every orifice. Bodies being enclosed and…
“Welcome Gwil. This is our human resources department”
Gwil snaps awake screaming, banging his arms and head against the headboard until the cell door opens once more and a needle finds his veins, sedatives pushing him back below into darkness. Hours pass. Days pass. Time in unmeasured lengths passes, measured only by repeated injections, Gwil watching dust motes bounce across the ceiling. Feeling nothing. A woman’s voice speaks somewhere out in the vast cotton wool nothingness
“Section 19, the 1984 mental health act”
Then time is black and nothing. The drugs are continuous now. He does not feel the pushing, the prodding, the taking of blood. Nothing.
The room around him is beige, institutionally bland. A TV ahead of him. A woman sits nearby, combing her hair with slow, deliberate, repeated motions. Her other, right, hand is by her side, hanging loose and ending early. Every finger is missing from her right hand, and marks indicate it is from amputation, not a birth defect. When she realises Gwil is looking at her she breaks into a dumb smile. Trying to keep his body still, Gwil flicks his eyes around the room – Sanjiv is sat not too far from him, an iv drip setup into his veins, his eyes staring dead into space. Green garbed orderlies seem to patrol the room, not yet aware that Gwil in conscious. Light just about manages to enter the room, the shadow patterns hinting at snow outside. None of them seem to see, the walls are crumbling, cogs moving behind them – the people moving around have circuit patterns etched onto their skin, on their faces and arms, yet they move happily, blithely unaware. Pistons pump alongside windows, and white noise hums from the television set, drowning out the sound of a police show. Somewhere above whines the sound of dentist’s drill.
No one else sees a thing.
Everything goes white, a sense of remembering, dark shapes at the edges of vision. The sound of drills rising. There are creatures there, with elongated faces and huge eyes, watching as a drill bit moves, spinning, closer and closer to Gwil’s eyes. The screams start. They are his own. The drill boring into his eyes and flaying the skin away.
In the care home Gwil thrashes his arms, screaming once more until a needle punctures his skin once more. Sanjiv’s head lolls to one side, consciousness slowly returning to the sight of Gwil, pinned to the ground, Orderlies trying to hold him still to sedate him again.
“GWIL. Gwil!” Sanjiv shouts.
Recognising the voice , Gwil tries to pull his arms free and cover his face “Cover your eyes! Sanjiv cover your eyes!”
“They are back. The drill people are here”
“I don’t see anything”
Shoved, numb with sedatives, back into his chair, Gwil slurs “They are here, trust me, they are here”
Something wakes at the back of Sanjiv’s mind, the sound of a drill, of cogs and pain. As he pushes the memory away he becomes aware of Gwils face, inches form his own, having dragged himself across the floor. His breath heavy of Sanjiv’s cheek “We can’t fight it” Gwil whispers “It wanted us at the warehouse. Even when we fight it we do what it wants”
“There must be a way. What are we missing?”
Pushing himself back Gwil laughs wildly, drawing everyone’s attention. Stares as he laughs uncontrollably at Sanjiv’s words. Bleary eyed he points at Sanjiv “He told a funny joke” Pulling himself closer again he continues in a whisper, his words more loose and less guarded due to the drugs “It is still out there. It is an abomination, but ours not theirs. The child still roams” Taking Sanjivs hand in his own he continues “Keep strong. Strong of earth and blood. We are suffering and earth not wire and the machine”
“The child?” Sanjiv says, cutting Gwil off.
Gwil blinks “Forget I said anything. We need, we need to get one of them alone. One with the cogs and the wires, find out what they know. First we need to stop the injections and the drugs, need to be able to think”
His piece said, Gwil shuffles back to his chair, looking around, watching the wired ones. The woman brushing her hair watches him as he does so “You see them don’t you?” She says
The people, the clockwork people”
Gwil smiles, taking her arm “What has risen can fall, what has fallen can rise again. They can be stopped”
“I know” The woman raises her mangled right arm “I made bargain. I don’t know who with, but it made them stop. It isn’t pretty but I still have my hair”
“Keep an eye on them, watch them – I will too”
“I don’t want to lose my eyes”
“This suffering, this is what keep us strong. they can’t do it, they are electronic, they recoil from it”
“I think” the woman says “That there is a woman out there that has my life. Most of it, they didn’t take all of me. Maybe she will come back for it, that last bit. I can’t remember what I offered her and what she offered me. Maybe it was everything, maybe it was nothing. Will you make a deal with them, when they come? Yes? No? Whatever you do, don’t go to the top floor. That’s where the processing plant is. That’s where they take your dreams, your mind. Your bad memories. They’ve put something in your head, I can see it – behind your eyes. How do you know, how do you know the faces you are wearing are your own? How do you know that they aren’t out there living ordinary lives. I saw a mannequin once. Maybe it wished it was me”
Gwil shakes his head “I know. I would never get an ordinary life” Turning he sees his face in the mirror. Something just behind his eyes. Moving closer he looks, to the iris surrounding the pupils. They are cogs now, cogs the colour of his eyes.
The room fills with screams and the sound of breaking glass. Hands bloodied, Gwil grabs a shard of the broken mirror, turning it on his own eyes as he is piled to the ground once more, and then everything goes black.