Seclusion. Short Story.

“Good morning Mark.”
Mark groaned and rolled over, mumbling something. After a second he swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat up, he rubbed at his eyes, “Good morning.” He stumbled from the bed to the small sink and started to brush his teeth as the lights slowly returned to full brightness.

“What’s on the docket today?”
“Nothing too strenuous, some mental exercises.”
“Good, I’m still wiped out from yesterday.”
“You did very well, you should be proud of yourself.”

A slot opened in the wall and a tray was slid through onto the table attached, “Enjoy your breakfast.”

Mark sat down at the table and looked over the food, scrambled eggs, toast, a small glass of juice and a banana. He started to eat, enjoying it, that was one upside, the food was usually pretty good. When he finished eating he wiped his mouth with a napkin and slid the tray towards the slot, as it neared the slot opened and he pushed it through. Once his hand was clear the slot closed again. He stood from the table and went to the small sink again, filling up a glass of water, he drank half quickly, then refilled it.

“Are you ready?”
“Yes. I think so. Can I bring my water?”
“You can if you like, there will be refreshments provided should you need them.”
One of the doors in the room opened and Mark stepped through, the second room was about ten foot by ten foot, at the centre was a desk and a chair, on the desk were a stack of papers. The rest of the room was white, the walls were all the same. The only break in the smooth surface was along the ceiling, where gaps were filled with lights. Mark sat at the table and looked at the top sheet, reading over the instructions.
“You may begin when you are ready.”
Mark picked up the pen and got to work.

Six hours later, he stretched and groaned, he felt tired, drained. At some point a panel in the wall had opened revealing a pack of bottled water and some snacks, Mark hadn’t bothered getting any of them. His stomach growled faintly as he stood, he approached the snacks and looked them over. He shook his head slightly, it was almost time for lunch anyway. The door behind him opened and Mark left the room, returning to his own. Already his lunch had been placed on the table, a sandwich and a bag of potato chips. Mark sat at the table and began to eat. The room he was in was larger than the other, but still had the same colour scheme. Everything was white or silver. There was a small, comfortable bed attached to the wall, a table, also attached to the wall, a chair, a toilet and sink. A nozzle extended from one part of the wall along with a few knobs, providing him with a shower.
“How are you feeling?”
“Tired.”
“That’s to be expected. It was a difficult test.”
Mark nodded.
“How are you doing emotionally?”
Mark shrugged, “can’t complain.”
“No fears or worries? No anger or anything?”
“Nope, not that I’m aware of.”
“Good. I’m glad.”
“How long is left?”
There was a brief silence, “approximately three months.”
“That long huh?”
“As of tomorrow you will hit the halfway point.”
“How are things outside?”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that.”
“Well, it was worth a shot, right?”

“Would you like anything?”
“No. I don’t think so.”

Mark sat on the bed and crossed his legs, he leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. Only a few more months and he would be free from this place. He wondered what it would be like once this was over. It was so strange, he did most things because he felt like he should rather than because of any need. He knew he was being monitored at all times and as such he continued doing what he would normally do if he was still in the outside world. It had taken a little while to get used to using the shower and toilet knowing that someone was watching him, but it had become surprisingly easy. He had never met any of the voices that spoke to him, perhaps he would after this was over, but for now they weren’t really people. They hadn’t explained to him what they were testing for, only assuring him that he would be completely safe and if there were problems it would be shut down immediately. So far everything had run smoothly. The only real entertainment he had were books, he was permitted one new book each week, but to get it he had to return the last one he was given. Besides the books the only things for distraction were the tests that were performed and the voices. The tests seemed to have covered everything so far. He had undergone exams that were both physical and mental. Half the time he didn’t understand what was going on, but he tried his best at each one. The room only had two doors, the one which he entered, and the one that connected to the testing room. He knew that there had to be other doors in the testing room as the layout and contents of the room changed regularly. They were allowed talk to him for a set period of time throughout the day, Mark was never quite sure how long it was. He had reached the limit most days, but the conversations were so spread out it was hard to keep track of how long they had been talking. When the limit was reached he received no response to his questions. He knew that they were still listening though, he had tested it by asking for a bottle of cola, and he found the idea comforting. Even if he was just rambling away to himself, someone would still hear him.

 

Six months of his life gone for this, but the pay was good and he wasn’t doing anything else with his life beforehand. He had been unemployed for the last two years and was single, his family and friends seemed to be hesitantly supportive of his decision. They knew he was safe though and they were allowed ring for updates on him. Mark expected that only his parents would take advantage of that. He sometimes passed the time by planning what he would do once he was out of the study, perhaps he would use the money saved to go travelling somewhere. He deserved a little holiday after this, but he had already decided it would be somewhere loud and filled with people.

 

He opened his eyes at the sound of the tray sliding across the table, he must have dozed off. He uncrossed his legs and waited for the pins and needles to pass before he stood. Dinner was spaghetti Bolognese and garlic bread. He sat at the table and started to eat. Once he had finished and returned the tray, a voice spoke, “Could you please enter the testing room?”
Mark walked through the door and found it had the same layout as earlier, he was glad, he didn’t think he’d be able to handle any kind of exercise or endurance test after the meal. He sat at the table, “Please start at any time.”

He looked at the first page, frowning slightly. The first question had small boxes, each one filled with a different colour, he was asked to pick the colour that seemed the most intelligent. He sighed, one of these again. He picked up the pen and started to work. These always took him awhile, good thing there was no time limits. He circled the off brown colour and moved on to the next question. Just a few more months and he would be off somewhere nice. He would go somewhere with hot weather and long, wide beaches. He stifled a yawn, he was feeling drowsy after the food. He shook his head then rubbed his eyes, focus, he needed to focus.

 

When the test was over he stumbled back into his small room and collapsed onto the bed, not bothering to change out of his thin clothes. He had never thought doing tests could be so exhausting. He turned over once and fell asleep. Tomorrow he would wake up and it would begin all over again.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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