The Room: Chapter 2
“Inmate 11784, get up, it’s Day 2” the voice hammered through the reinforced glass doors waking him up abruptly.
I haven’t slept like that in a long time, he thought to himself as he grumbled his way into a sitting position. He could see the guard standing outside of his door as the privacy in his cell had been completely striped away from him during this “ cleansing process” as they called it. He ran his calloused hand through his beard and scratched his head “I’ll be right there, can I get ready at least?” He barked at the guard, knowing he would never get a reaction from him as he seemingly tried everything from yelling, to cursing to other obscenities.
“You have exactly 15 minutes inmate 11784” the guard said coldly, walking away with footsteps that resembled a metronome. Click clack click clack , black leather boots walking down the hallway around a corner made of solid cement, giving the him a poor angle of anything but the corners of his cell and the solitary hallway leading to it. He stood up and smiled as the creeks and cracks of his knees and bones were now a familiar cacophony of sounds that visited him every morning. The 6 foot cot had seen better days but was not uncomfortable and although the bland colors of his sheets belonged in a hospital, he had slept in far worse places in his life.
He shuffled his feet across the cement floor and caught his reflection off of one of the glass panels from his walls. He rubbed his stomach and exhaled softly, laughing to himself. He had always slept naked, but when he stopped caring that the guards could see him this way, he didn’t know, but Fuck them, he thought. If he was going to do this process he was at least going to put on a show. He stared at himself just a little longer, not in admiration like he might have done in the past but in acceptance. The years had been both kind and murderous to his body and although externally he still presented a capable machine, inside told a different story. As he ran his fingers through the hair on his chest he began to trace the scars on his abdomen, his arm, and his face. Seeing himself so many years younger the night before brought a chilling reality on just how much he had lived and just how much the boy had left to feel. Was he really going to be able to stop it? To stop what got him, them, here? He slowly looked left and right, reminiscing on when he still had space for tattoos and how we sore he would never get his legs covered. He exhaled softly, thinking how distant those thoughts of vanity seemed so listless and empty now. He caught his own gaze staring back at him in the mirror and felt a wave of nostalgia rush over him, could he go back in that room again? It took every ounce of composure and patience to be understanding, to listen, to wait, to hold back and to follow that “fucking script”. His mind reeled throughout the night, tossing and turning as he yearned to say more, to warn, to scream!
He sighed you’re getting soft old man, as he brushed off his lack of focus and began to brush his teeth and get ready for another day. He spit into a tin sink that very much reminded him he was not in a place of comfort. The clear walls, the bland colors of the sheets, the gray cement floor and the yellow dim light all seemed designed to keep him in a perpetual state of malaise and compliance. There was no music, or television or sound of any kind other than the consistent beat of the guard boots that would come observe him five times a day. He was allowed one book a month, chosen by the organization, to allow the inmate to understand the cleansing process. They had allowed him to wear his normal close to make the process easier for the subject. He was never given the direct details on what exactly could or could not be done or why, the professor was excruciatingly difficult this way, but he was given direct orders to avoid wearing something out of the ordinary or to warn the subject about particular details. “Just stick to the script” they told him. It baffled him. None of this seemed natural or even possible but after seeing what he saw the night before and during practice trials, he was driven more than ever to complete this process, or experiment or whatever the fuck it was, he thought. There were risks he was told, quite a bit actually but the results seemed to outweigh all the costs. He couldn’t let things become the way they did, they way it ended. The helplessness, the fear, the rage, all the emotions crashing into his mind as he tried to make sense of not only the how but the why of this whole thing. He flushed red with a sudden rush of guilt …
6 mins inmate 11784! the message blared through the intercom as he barely finished putting on his boots.
Mother fuckers don’t miss a thing, he thought as he stood up rushing to zip up his pants, or maybe they do, as he quickly tucked a small roll of paper in his pocket.
“Alright, inmate 11784 is ready for cleansing process, day 2” he grumbled into the camera at the opposite side of the sink. The camera faced the room in it’s entirety and was only turned off once a day for 20 mins to allow for use of the toilet. The idea at first seemed bizarre to him. Who takes a shit once a day? He thought to himself but after months of solitude the idea of nudity, privacy and bodily secretions became the furthest thing from his mind. On the other hand, 20 mins of being off camera moved to the fore front of his mind as the experiment began to unfold and he began to understand what the final results might be. He had seen the professor talking to the guards and other onlookers with a particular disdain for him. Nothing about this process seemed to feel as they were trying to cleanse anyone by keeping them, instead, it perpetuated a consistent feeling of expendability. Just a number, just another problem, He grimaced.
He walked out of the door as it slid open, managed by a machine somewhere far beyond the hallway. He walked down the brightly lit corridor met half way by the guard and the professor.
“How was your first day 11784, I am assuming it was a bit awkward but nevertheless, inviting and possibly refreshing was it not?” Her voice seemed as mechanical as ever as her voice dripped with arrogance.
“It was very awkward ma’m but I stuck to the script as best I could. I did kind off..” He was cut off.
“Yes, we noticed you mentioned the loss of your so called friend. Please adhere from doing that until day three 11784, we do not want the subject having too much stimulation, as it could completely throw off the balance of what we are trying to accomplish here. Please stick to the script”
“Well, what exactly are we trying to accomplish? You can’t expect me to keep everything from him” his face flushed red with rage.
“ What I expect you to do and what I demand you to do are two different things 11784. You will work harder to stick the script we worked months on assembling or you’ll be released from this experiment and continue your sentence in that glass box until your expiration date.” Her words cutting the air like glass shards.
He clenched his jaw so hard he almost chipped his teeth. He knew talking back and the tough guy act only got him beaten and his process delayed and as much as he wanted to fight back, the small roll of paper in his pocket brought him solace. We are going to this my way, he thought to himself holding back a grin as he slowly relaxed his jaws and unclenched his fist.
The professor seemed unbothered by the inmates reaction as the trio walked down the corridor. The guard and the professors steps hitting the ground in an unsettling unison as the inmate trailed slightly behind with the sound of boots sliding against the polished cement. Hey passed door after door, as the man noticed unsettling dates and descriptions on each door. To his regret and proving that ignorance is truly bliss, he had never taking the time to pick up his head during his walks. His eye shuffled from door to door as his gut clinched tightly with an untold dread.
A- 87 “Cleansing Process 1992”
A-113 “Cleansing Process 2001”
A- 129 - “Cleansing Process 2017”
The year struck a chord with him, slightly loosing his step as kept on looking.
A- 237 “Cleansing Process 2020”
A- 305 “Cleansing Process 2031”
A- 331 “ Cleansing Process Complete/Expired”
A- 345 “Cleansing Process Complete/Expired”
Complete, Expired? He whispered the words quietly to himself as he read them over and over on various doors. The words ran across his mind ominously. The word “Expired” had been used against him his entire sentence. The idea of completion seemed a possible task but his earlier gut feeling this whole process might not be actual salvation worsened by each and every door he passed. His stomach sank as he reached for the paper in his pocket hoping no one heard is whisper.
“Not to worry 11784, we were told you would be a very compliant inmate despite your emotional outbursts and due to your status against The Organization. As you can see, there are some set backs to the earlier trials but we have vastly improved on levels B and C. Your current location is a result of your violent crimes and it’s consequences, not the possible success rate of your cleansing process. Stay focused and stick the script.” The professor having heard the old mans whisper, exclaimed her words with a touch of condescending venom, and as if her scripted response was beginning to bore her.
He kept shuffling forward trying his hardest not to seemed bothered by her attitude. Too much was at stake he thought, if there was a chance he could change things, even just a little, it would mean he could save them…
“We are here inmate 11784, make sure we stick to the script. We will be giving you another filled flask and 2 cigars. This particular brand of cigar was very difficult to find, do not squander it and make sure the subject receives his at the beginning of the conversation. We want all matters to be as calming for the subject as possible as you attempt to rehabilitate your past, is this understood? Any further deviation from our script, props or agenda will result in an extended stay in isolation or a rescheduling of your expiration date.” The professor had taken a stern voice. She was standing next to a wooden door, unlike any of the doors in the hallway. The door seemed purposely aged with a brand new brass handle, on this side of the door, that didn’t belong with the aged wood. She stood there emotionless holding her small tablet that she was constantly typing on or frowning at. He short dark hair made her pale skin almost translucent which only worsened the dark circles around her dark, lifeless eyes.
He hated her face. Everything about it made him shake with anger. She ran this process like a gestapo guard and had done nothing, not for a single second, to make his life less miserable. From extra hours of isolation, dark rooms, less food, to days on end without human contact or communication. Granted, he hadn’t made his own life easy, but this woman represented everything he hated and sadly, needed. If there was a single way out of this hell, the pat few years, or of this life time, it would be with her at first and then through her.
She caught him staring at her, “Is that understood 11784”, she said viscerally as her eyes squinted with disgust. This one will not last, what a poor subject she thought, as her face continued to exuded utter disappointment.
“Yes ma’m” he said, as he accepted his rustic flask and 2 cigars from the guard. He placed both cigars in his back pocket and the flask in his left front pocket, taking extra care not to bring any attention to the rolled paper that sat firmly on his right leg. He took a deep breath and grasped the brass door handle.
You got your script, and I have mine mother fuckers, he brooded, as he took a deep breath and walked in.