PATIENT: NUMBER ONE
Recently admitted to test facility. Tagged for approx 6 years. Showed early signs of infection. Close interaction with former Number 2 is suspected cause – continuing tests to see if infection is contagious.
Number One has shown signs of struggle since being excluded from public contact. Currently sedated. Has been contained in Stimulation Room for 19mins. Still not awoken from sedation. Heart rate normal. Reacted well to sedation.
If Number One does not awake by 2am force will be used.
1:54am – Number One is showing signs of waking.
The Stimulation will begin.
All I can see are bright colours. Pink. Green. Orange. I can smell them, if that’s possible. With each colour, a different smell comes. My back hurts too but it’s comforted somewhat by the mattress I’m lying on - not that it’s really a very comfortable mattress. Mother will probably put a word in to the Council if I ask her to. She’s always hated our representative though; she might not want to ask...
Last night’s events have suddenly come back to my mind. So I know that I’m not in my own bed. I must be in the tower... because I’m Number One. The name makes me feel queasy: I feel too young to die. To distract myself, I try to analyse my surroundings, still keeping my eyes shut. Wherever I am, it’s cold. Maybe that’s a thing that comes with The Tower? A low temperature. It’s not the most terrifying defence if it is.
Fear shoots through me as I hear something by my feet. It sounds just like breathing. Very heavy breathing. My eyes slowly open and I see nothing. Nothing that can breathe. And I’m not lay on a mattress, just the floor. In this room, all that accompanies me is a large wooden table. Because I am not sure what to do, I just stare around the room for a while. I am the only person in here. It makes me nervous, knowing that I’m alone. The breathing I heard was so distinct – I’m sure I didn’t imagine it. This room, it seems, is driving me insane.
Upon the table, I notice, is a metal box. I know that I must look inside it. A feeling in my gut is telling me that it will help me get out of here. Perhaps not back to Jaden... but out of this room at least. Sitting up makes my head ache but I know I have to ignore the pain. Focus on getting out. That is what I must do.
Jaden’s promise enters my mind now: “I’ll find you. I swear to God I’ll find a way to get you out of there.” I know there is no use hoping for something that can never happen. But mother always tells me to keep my spirits up. Maybe he will find me. I trust him to try.
So I stand and get my bearings. This room isn’t very big. There is not much space for something to truly happen. I cross my fingers and hope that that’s a good omen. After all the stories I’ve heard about this place, I still don’t really know what occurs inside. So really, hoping is all I have.
Still keeping one eye on the room around me, I tiptoe over to the table. I don’t know why I’m tiptoeing but something about this room tells me I must. The box I see is old and beaten down. It has dents in its walls and rust has begun to form at the clasp. If I was going to hide something in a box then I’d make it more secure than this. But maybe that means I am supposed to open it. I reach my hand out towards it, going to pick it up.
Somebody coughs behind me. I spin around to see that the room is still empty. My heart is hammering in my chest: I know I didn’t just imagine that. Even so, there is no one else here. I am completely alone. As I turn back to the table, my stomach lurches in fear: a note has been placed on top of the box. That means that I’m not imagining anything.
Something is in here with me.
My eyes scan the room once again but it still seems that I’m alone. Whoever is trying to scare me obviously doesn’t want me to find them... yet.
I know I must read the note they have left me. It would not have been left there if I couldn’t. My hands shake as I pick it up, my heart still pounding with fright. The note is hand written. It’s strange: everything we see in the Blocks is typed. The message is about the contents of the box, I know that straight away:
Use what is inside
If you want to stay alive.
A half-rhyme. I’m taken back to English lessons back in school. Being told I’m incapable of writing a sentence properly... but I can recognise a half rhyme. This person has tried to be creative, it seems. The thought makes me sick.
I put the note back down and reach for the box. This time, nothing interrupts me. After I’ve fumbled with the clasp for a while, it is open. The object inside is small and oddly shaped. It reminds of a coffee bean. In my hands, it feels smooth. But I don’t know what it is. All I can do is frown at it.
Now I listen closely, I can hear noise. Not from the room, from the thing in my hand. Realisation now strikes me: it’s an ear piece. Cautiously, I place it in my ear.
“Bloody hell,” someone says, “About time too! I thought you were gonna bail on us!” Their accent is Scottish, I notice. They speak as if they can see me. I turn around again but I see nothing. No hidden cameras, just nothing.
“Can you see me?” I ask, my voice shaking. I need to stop that: it will make me look weak. I’m already weak enough.
“Yes,” the man says, “We all can.” His voice sounds as if it’s laced with worry for me. It makes me feel queasy again.
The room around me is still silent. I don’t know what to do and I’m starting to panic. My voice shakes as I ask, “Who are you?” The man sighs. He sighs as if he has been dreading this question.
“Number Four.” He answers. My stomach lurches. So it is real. Whatever is happening to me is real. I’m in The Tower.
“I’m Number One?” I ask. I can feel tears forming in my eyes and I blink them away. I will not cry now.
“Yes, I’m sorry.” Four says and he sounds like he means it, “But I’m here with Number Two and Number Three. We’re going to help you.” I nod, knowing they can see me.
“So, from what we can see, you’re in an empty room. Am I right?” Four continues. I nod again, “Yes. Well, except from the table.” I turn to gesture to the table, showing it to them. But I find nothing. The table has been moved. How can they have moved a table without me noticing? My heart feels like it is going to burst through my chest. I can’t believe I have been so blind. Somebody – maybe even two people – has been in here with me and I didn’t even notice.
“There was a table here a second ago,” I tell them, my voice still shaky, “I swear. I saw it. I-It was here. Right in front of me.” I’m shaking now. Why did they pick me? I’m just a normal girl from Block 362. I’ve done nothing wrong.
“One? I am Two.” Somebody introduces themselves. His accent suggests to me that English is not his first language. But right now, I do not bother myself with the task of trying to work out where he may be from.
“Hi.” I say. I’m staring at the wall, trying to control my fear. Introductions are not my highest priority right now.
“Calm down, okay?” Two tells me, his voice is consoling. I suck in a breath trying to calm my racing heart, “That’s easier said than done.”
Two laughs a little, “I need you to promise me that you are going to stay calm. Believe nothing that you see in that room.” He suddenly sounds stern. He is trying to impress this point on me. I realise, after a moment, that I must not be alone.
“What’s behind me?” I whisper, terror shooting through me. Two doesn’t answer right away and when he does he avoids my question, “Promise me you will keep calm.” He doesn’t sound calm himself. I know that whatever is here will scare me.
“How did it get in here?” I ask. There is no noise. Ever since I have begun speaking to Two and Four the room has been silent. I heard nothing enter this room, I heard nothing leave it.
“She didn’t...” Two says, “She just... appeared.” I hear Four curse and know that this is serious. Slowly, I turn around to face whatever it is.
My mother starts to sob when I turn. I clasp my hands to my face. The tears from before are threatening to spill, this time more forcefully. She is chained to a chair in the middle of the room. Her mouth is gagged and she is covered in blood. It runs from a deep wound on her head. There are more wounds littered about her body, her clothes torn in places. They’ve attacked my mother. I run over to her and hold her face in my hands.
“Mum.” I say, through tears, “Mum! Mum, what happened to you?” My mother just begins to sob. She fights with the chains binding her but is unable to free herself. I try to remove the gag from her face but she sobs even harder, cringing away from me. She doesn’t recognise me, I realise. Whatever they have done to her has scared her so much that she doesn’t know who I am.
I am vaguely aware of Two and Four shouting at me through the ear piece.
“That’s not your mother.” They’re saying. They are shouting it to me, over and over again. I just shake my head at them and run around to the back of the chair to free her. The chains are pad locked in place. Only a key could open them. Shaking, I look around the room for something I can use to force them open. But again, there is absolutely nothing.
A small sob escapes me. I swallow it down again, not wanting to scare my mother any more. Clutching my head in despair, I panic. The voices in the ear piece are distracting me. They’re telling me to be careful. They’re distracting me from my mother... I then realise that she has stopped crying. I can hear nothing again.
I turn back to her. But she’s not there. I stare at the now empty chair. The chains that bound mother look as if they have been sawn through. I didn’t even hear her move.
“Where did she go?” I breathe. Two and Four sound worried.
“Remember, One. It is not real.” Two tells me, “Just remember that none of it is real.” I feel tears slide down my cheeks. I know that something is in this room. Something that posed as my mother is somewhere in here with me.
“Where is she?” I demand from them. They are hesitating to answer me. I hear someone sigh and then Two speaks: “Turn around.”
“What do you mean turn around?” I ask, “All that’s behind me is a wall.” Four curses again. But that’s not the thing terrifies me. Somebody is breathing heavily. And it’s coming from behind me. I slowly turn to be faced with the wall. Confused, I frown at it.
“There’s nobody here.” I say. Four laughs, but there is no humour in it.
“One,” He says, “Look up.” He lets out a long breath and I know what is there before I see it.
I look up... and she’s there.
My mother is clinging to the wall, perching just at the corner where it meets the ceiling. She is staring at me with a look that is, almost, hungry. For a moment, I just stare at her. And then I scream.
She loves it. She smiles. The smile is more of a grin, her teeth coated blood. It drips down her chin and bubbles as she starts to laugh. To laugh at my fear. My mother. The woman who raised me.
In my ear, Four and Two are desperately trying to console me but their comforting is lost under my petrified screams. I can’t stop myself. She starts to hiss at me and climb steadily down the wall. Shaking, I begin to back away. My mother sneers at me as the tears begin to flow down my face again.
That’s when I hear a new voice. A voice I recognise from long ago, as I’ve heard it only in a dream. He is shouting at me. He is impatient. And I know who he is: he’s Number Three.
“Listen to me!” He shouts, “Listen! Stop crying and listen!” He is angry and I can’t understand why. My mother has reached the floor and is walking towards me.
“That is not your mother.” He tells me. He says it in such a way that I have no other choice than to agree.
“I know,” I whimper, “I know. But I’m scared.” My mother laughs again at this. She is getting closer and closer.
“You shouldn’t be.” Three says, “You look into her eyes and you tell me they’re real.” I don’t want to. I back away from her even more and feel my back press against the wall. My breathing is rapid and I’m scared stiff. Mother looks gleeful.
“Do it!” Three shouts, “Look into her eyes! She’s not real, for Christ’s sake!”
This time I do look. She is horrific. But he is right. Her eyes are not my mother’s. They have golden flecks in them and they look like glass. They’re not real. I realise it now.
“She’s not real.” I murmur. Mother hears this and stops. She is right in front of me now. So close that I can feel her breath on my face. She spits at me. The blood hits my face. It feels real. But I remember Three’s words. So certain, so forceful.
“You’re not real.” I tell her. Her face contorts. She frowns at me. My mother doesn’t seem to be so scary anymore – not now that I know she’s not real.
“It’s not real.” I say. I repeat it. Over and over. Calming myself down.
“It’s not real.”
“It’s not real.”
“It’s not real.”
End of stimulation.