Surrender. Short Story.

Thomas sipped his cup of coffee, it was lukewarm. He didn’t really want any coffee, but the cup, hot at the time, had been shoved into his hands and it was all he could do to stop it spilling onto himself. So he dutifully sipped the coffee, swallowing it quickly. Despite his attempts to drink quickly, the flavour of the coffee lingered on his tongue. He never really liked coffee. He would have preferred something like tea, but he hadn’t been given a choice. Thomas put the cup down and tightened the blanket around himself, then he picked up the cup again, lest he get another glare from those around him. They were in the same boat, and they knew that if one was punished, they were all punished. It seemed easier for them all to just go along with what was happening.

Soon after the coffee had gone completely cold, someone moved around the small room and passed out chocolate bars and a few muffins. Thomas’ stomach grumbled at the sight of food, but he wasn’t sure if he trusted it. Sure, he had drank the coffee, but he had no real choice in that matter. A bar of chocolate was shoved unceremoniously into his hands. “Eat.” Thomas nodded once and fumbled with the wrapper. His fingers felt thick and heavy. He peeled back the foil and clumsily broke off a square. He popped it into his mouth which flooded with sugary sweetness. As the chocolate melted on his tongue, it replaced the taste of the coffee, that was something at least. He began to chew methodically, wishing he had some water to help wash it down.

After the food had been eaten, they were ordered to stand and then they were herded out of the small room. They were separated, one by one and put into even smaller rooms. The room Thomas found himself in was about six feet by three with a thin bed pressed against one wall. Thomas sat down on the bed, its mattress was thin but comfortable enough. He leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. It had been a long, long day. The caffeine had helped keep him awake just a little longer. So much had happened and- darkness.

Lights were flashing, alarms were braying. Thomas was running, running so fast. He knew where he needed to be, he needed to get there, do his job. The floor juddered and shifted twenty degrees, sending him stumbling into a wall. He pushed himself off it and leaned against it with one hand as he continued to run. The floor tilted the other way, sending him careening into the other wall. Around him others struggled to move. He was almost there, just another twenty feet and he’d make it. There was a shrill shriek followed by a deep, dull groan. He felt it reverberate through his body as he was thrown from his feet. Someone screamed, the sound harsh and broken before being cut off suddenly. Ice cold water started to fill the corridor. At the shock of it Thomas started to run again, he needed to get to his post, do his job. There was still time. There was another high shriek and the water started coming faster, Thomas continued wading, and a few seconds later, started to swim. His arms and legs were slow to respond, it was so very, very cold. There was another groan and Thomas was drowning. The water was deep and dark, he didn’t know which way was up or down. He started swimming, trying to find a way out, a way to air. The darkness deepened as his limbs stopped responding, his body becoming limp his lungs, screaming for air. Finally he opened his mouth and let the cold, burning water rush in.

Thomas woke, gasping for air. At some point he had gotten tangled with the sheet. He wrestled with it for a moment before reaslising where he was. He stopped and started to take long, slow and deep breaths. When he had calmed himself, he started to unwrap himself from the sheet. When that was done he settled himself down on the bed again. He didn’t know when they would be back, he didn’t want to appear weak. Sure they were probably watching him on camera now, but it would be different when he met someone in person.

It wasn’t a long wait before someone entered the room. She was small, maybe five feet tall, with odd, angular features, a sharp nose and sharp chin, high cheekbones that looked almost as if they were trying to burst through her skin. Her hair was a deep, deep black. Thomas didn’t bother standing.
“If you surrender you will not be asked to share or provide information. You will be treated well and once the hostilities have concluded, you will be returned to your people. Do you accept and surrender?”
Thomas frowned, “we’re not at war. Your people started this. We did not want to go to war.”
“Yet your military vessels patrol our waters. Your words are meaningless. You were not in neutral territory. Whether or not you personally were aware of this is meaningless. You may surrender or not.”
“What happens if I don’t surrender?”
“Summary execution.”
Thomas shivered, he had seen what they did before the execution. It was not a pleasant way to go, never mind the effect it had on families. Somehow they always managed to deliver at least one body part to the relatives of the executed. Thomas thought about it for a moment.
“I surrender.”
The woman smiled, her teeth were pointed and looked sharp, “Good.” She grabbed his upper arm and pulled him from the bed. Thomas let out a gasp of surprise, she was far stronger than she looked. She started to drag him from the room, her grip tight. Thomas tried to struggle for a few seconds, but it was useless. None of the blows made her flinch, none of his struggles slowed her down. They passed others like her in the hallways, short, sharp and angular. One or two were dragging people like she was dragging Thomas.

They entered a large room, ten people were dotted about it, in the centre was a large chair. The woman threw Thomas into it and started to strap him down.
“What are you doing? You said I’d be treated well, I surrendered!”
She smiled at him, “Yes, you have. As I said, we will not ask you questions. We have no need to and once the machine has finished with you, you will be treated quite well. Whether or not you’ll be aware enough to appreciate it is another thing all together. The machine is quite painless, there is no need to worry about that.” She moved behind a raised panel and started to press buttons as Thomas struggled against his bonds. She pushed the final button and the machine started to work. Thomas opened his mouth to scream, but before he could a glazed, vacant look came over him.

Twenty minutes later the machine stopped. She pressed a few more buttons and the bonds released themselves. Thomas stayed sitting, a small, vague grin on his face. “Put him with the others. This one didn’t know anything too important. Still, some of it might be of some use.” Two of the people in the room lifted Thomas to his feet and guided him out through a door. He went willingly, smiling all the while.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 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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