Episode 1 is here
‘Time to get up.’
The voice is smooth, assured and you strain your eyes to see who it is that has woken you. All you can make out is a silhouette and then you are helped to your feet with a brusque care that unnerves you. Normally, you need coffee and gentle coaxing like a wild animal trapped underneath your porch to do anything in the morning.
Not that you are sure what time it is. It is academic, you are on your feet and your legs wobble with the last vestiges of fatigue still in your muscles and bones. The gown is short, and you go to pull the hem down but you hear the voice tell you no, in a firm, polite tone.
‘Sir doesn’t like that. Don’t make this difficult for yourself.’
The hand goes to the small of your back and guides you forwards. The light streaming in from the door hurts your eyes and you lower your chin to your chest to avoid it cutting into your eyes. The hand at your back does not falter, insistent in guiding you out of the room.
You find yourself joining a line of women, all clad in gowns. You are stood behind a tall blonde woman, with shoulders and thighs that she has spent hours feeding and sculpting. Her hair is tied back in a french plait that falls between her shoulder blades. She looks over her shoulder at you, green eyes glinting with excitement and trepidation. You turn and look at the guard. She has a feral androgyny, with short black hair, high cheekbones with her lips pressed together. She had on a black t shirt and cargo pants, a black belt and on her hip, a small black box attached to a pistol grip.
‘Face forward. Don’t hold up the line.’
The woman in front did not turn around, kept moving forward but she gave a small sigh. You lean forward, afraid that this might be seen as an infraction but curiosity gives courage to your tongue.
‘What’s going on? I just woke up here.’
The woman does not turn and you both shuffle forward.
‘We get processed then assessed.’
Processed has a mechanical ring to it that makes your throat tight with discomfort. You are suddenly conscious of the length of the gown again. It keeps riding up on the backs of your legs, exposing them to the eyes of the guards that stand and watch you.
‘Processed and assessed for what?’
You hear her lips smack together.
The discomfort moves down from your throat into your chest, heating the air in your lungs and then sinking into your stomach.
‘I don’t remember how I got here.’
She gave a soft laugh, lending you the memory of high school all over again, the laughter that lived and died the moment you walked into the classroom or the lunchroom.
‘It affects all of us differently. Don’t worry, just do as you’re told, you’ll be fine.’
You go to ask her again but a guard catches your eye and puts his index finger to his lips whilst fixing you with a harsh glare. You get the message, sinking into yourself and following the line.
The corridor leads to a large hall, where the single line that you are in splits in two, leading to two large doors through which the women continue to file through. A guard stands at each door, waves each woman down with a tablet that they tap into before nodding and letting them walk through.
‘That depends on what I am being told to do.’
You stop thinking for a time, letting yourself go inside your head, focusing on your breathing and when you find yourself at the door, you blink heavily as the guard waves the tablet over you and nods.
‘What’s the tablet for?’
The guard, blonde hair with curls that resist taming and the look of a dissolute, slightly degraded surfer in the line of his jaw and the bright smile that he gives, raises an eyebrow.
‘Medical. You can go through now.’
The door opens and your heart hammers against your ribs. Inside is a rich, velvety darkness and there is a change in temperature, slightly chill compared to the corridor that you walked through. Perhaps it was the proximity of the other women, but for now, you are alone.
The door closes behind you. For a moment you are in absolute darkness, absolute silence.
A spotlight comes on, harsh as a slap and you raise your hand to shield your eyes. Your gown rides up at the front and your other hand holds it down.
The voice snakes out of the darkness. You cannot make out anyone but the voice is low, confident in it’s primacy. A voice that does not need to be raised to be heard, but you can hear the capacity for it.
‘What are you doing?’
There is a pause. You can make out the shapes of others.
An audience, distinguished only by the different patterns of breathing and the shift of bodies in constant motion. Their eyes glint in the darkness, a thousand flavours of hunger, all of them focused on you. You shift, uncomfortable with the scrutiny.
‘Whatever I want.’
A lilting amusement is there.
Processing has begun.
TO BE CONTINUED.