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The Room

The room was smaller than I’d been led to believe.

Not claustrophobic, just…snug.

Roughly shaped like a sphere that’d been sliced almost cleanly in half, the inside marked with hexagonal panels with a pearly sheen to them, the centre of each panel a pale yellow or blue. They faded slowly into existence and then faded away, sometimes replaced with the same colour sometimes not. Sometimes they just remained inactive.

I was sitting in the chair bolted to the floor in the centre of the room. My wrists were restrained by thick straps of leather worn smooth and supple from use over the decades. My ankles were similarly bound, my feet bare. If I tried hard enough, my toes could just brush against the smooth metal that made up the chair’s short dais. Around my head was a similar strap to the ones around my ankles and wrists only in addition to keeping my head facing forward, it had two built in electrical diodes that rested just above my temples. They emitted faint warmth, a sharp contrast to the cool room.

 I stared blankly at the panel in front of me, watching as it blinked blue, yellow, yellow, blue, blue, blue, off, blue, blue, yellow…

My eyes never left the panel, even when I heard the door behind me slide open with a hiss, footsteps approaching.

It didn’t take long, maybe four or five steps until they had to stop or bump into the chair. The room was snug.

Blue, blue, yellow, yellow, blue, blue, yellow, blue, yellow, yellow, yellow…

No pattern that I could make out, not that I was really trying to find one. Playing games to strengthen my memory wasn’t why I was here.

“Is it time?”

My voice is hoarser than I remember, dimly I wonder just how long I’ve been here, staring at that panel of mine.

Minutes, hours, days? Longer?

“It’s already happening.”

The voice is male, soothing and calm, touch of a lilt to his voice.

“Oh.” I wait for him to leave me to my own devices, a sense of peace washing over me knowing that it wouldn’t be long now, but he stays just behind and to the right of me. I can hear his breathing, even and steady. Not like mine at all. “That’s good. Thank you.”

“There wasn’t any other way?”

He’s not accusatory, not like others when they found out about my appointment with this little room, just curious. Maybe even a little sad. Strange.

“No.”

Off, blue, blue, blue, blue, blue, blue, blue, blue…

He’s saying something.

“What?” I ask, my manners ingrained in me since infancy.

“I asked you if you’re comfortable.”

“Sure.” I blink, taking a  moment to let his words sink in properly. “What does it matter? Now?”

“It matters.”

The panel is getting fuzzy, but then it clears and I swallow.

“Oh.” I lick my lips, a sudden and very foreign desire to speak loosening my tongue. “No one ever has really cared about that sort of thing before.”

“Is that why—?”

“No. Not really. It just wasn’t for me.” I smile, some amusement crinkling my eyes. “You don’t get it, do you?”

“I think I do.”

“Really? Because I think it’s different for everyone.” Anger suddenly sparks. Who was this man that thought he knew me so well? That thought he could just commiserate with me like what had happened was something we could commiserate over like old friends? “Why are you here?”

“For this.”

“Well, I don’t need you here—get out!”

“I can’t do that.”

For the first time since I’d been escorted into the room and strapped to the chair, I struggle to get free enough so that I can look at the man. It’s useless, this chair wasn’t made to be gotten away from.

“Then shut up.”

“I can’t do that either.”

I’m quiet, hoping that if I don’t say anything, he won’t either.

“It wasn’t easy.”

I have no idea what he’s talking about but agree anyway, because, yeah, damn right it wasn’t easy. None of it was ever easy. “No.”

“You tried?”

I snort, my heart aching and hands flexing. “I didn’t know how anymore.”

“You can’t do more than try.”

“Other people could.” I close my eyes, tight, fingers curling around the arms of the chair. “Other people always could.”

I hear him inhale, ready to ask another question, but I don’t want to answer anymore.

“How much longer?”

“…not long.” His voice is quiet.

I try to nod but find myself unable so I reopen my eyes and try to look to my right, searching for the man I know is just beyond my view.

“Thank you.”

“For what?”

I’m not entirely sure myself. For being here when no one else was? For staying even though I tried to push him away? For accepting my choice? For letting me do this?

I guess I’m quiet too long because he speaks again.

“You deserved more.”

“No, I didn’t. I got what I deserved and now I’m getting the only thing due me.” My vision blurs again as the panel in front of me blinks yellow. “I wanted this for so long.” My voice is low, barely on the edge of hearing. But the man hears.

“You aren’t alone. You were never alone.” His voice is earnest and I can feel the faint press of fingers at my shoulder. My vision hasn’t cleared, the panel blinking blue and then blue and yellow at the same time, the centre growing brighter.

“Yes, I was.” I whisper, eyes locked on the brightness that seems to be growing. The tight feeling in my chest has disappeared and I no longer feel cold, the warmth from the electrodes around my forehead seems like a distant memory. “I never had anyone. Maybe if you were there—“

“I was there.”

“No, you weren’t.” My voice sounds strange, thick and thin and high and low and everything in between. “I looked for you, sometimes, and you were never there.”

The light is blinding me, everything white.

“I looked for you too. I was right beside you but I couldn’t reach you. I tried.” His voice is thick with emotion. I don’t like that. It makes me feel things I’d been trying to bury. “I tried.”

It’s hard to speak but I manage it, though my voice is still strange and unsteady. “I wish you’d found me.”

There’s a pause, and for a moment I think he’s left, but then he speaks, low and tender. “I did. It just took a while.”

I feel a hand around mine, grip gentle as it tugs me deeper into the light.

“You’re safe now.”

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