The White Complex

Everything changes for 1109853, more commonly known as Christine, when her closest friend discovers cracks in the white complex, a massive living space filled with teenagers without memories. When people start to disappear, to what lengths will Christine take to escape the white?

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1. Numbers of White

I hope no one hears the noise. I crumple my body in tight and push into the small space, my knees and back continually banging against the metal that surrounds me. I want to be careful and  make the least amount of noise possible, but it is also important we get out of here fast. Ahead of me, another body creeps forward with gusto, slinking along effortlessly. I try to imitate my predecessor, but my movements continue clunkily and sloppily, rushed but restrained in the tight space. No sooner do I finally manage to get my whole body in and start to crawl then I hear more noise behind me. A girl, short and red haired follows in my wake. I think her name is Clara but I can’t remember for certain. Slowly, I can hear more people filing into the shaft as we move along the cold metal.

Minutes later, there is a loud clang. The last person in must have just replaced the vent cover. We are all in. On our way out. Twelve pairs on knees pounding against the boundaries that restrain us. Everyone is silent, in hopes of our positions remaining secret. This is the only chance of getting out of our prison. We all know the odds are slim and everything is stacked against us, but there is no harm in trying.

 

Five weeks ago:

 

“Christine,” a voice calls after me as I make my way from the mess hall.  I tilt my head curiously in the direction of the outburst. In the bumbling crowd of young people I distinguish the sandy dark blond head of hair with which I am so familiar.

“Mark?” I call uncertainly, and slowly he pushed his way towards me.

“Hey,” He says when he reaches me.

“Hey,” I reply uneasily, slightly unsure of his strange demeanor and word choice. He seems forcibly relaxed, unlike his normally rigid and “say-it-like-it-is” self. He coughs forcibly and gently pushes me towards the wall of the hall in which we walk. He tries to act normal, but I can tell from his upturned eyes scanning the ceiling that something wasn't right. “What’s the problem?” I whisper ever so softly.

“We need to talk,” He says and with that, we part. I already know what he means. I blend aimlessly back into the crowd, as did he, and continue my ways down the long, white corridor.

Eventually, the hall cuts off and the crowd dispersed into a large, high ceilinged, stark white room. Huge white fans whirr over my heads as I walk, producing cool currents of air which waft throughout the large space. I swivel my head to take in the rest of my surroundings. Many teens bumble about, some taking seats at one of the many octogonal white tables stationed throughout the premise. Most seem happy enough, chatting with their friends about their day or trading tips on maintaining hair silkiness. In one corner, a girl and a boy wrestle on the white padded floor, surrounded by a circle of cheering spectators chanting the contesters names. I smirk at the silly game, but still continue on my unmarked path. Ahead of me I see a familiar a white door, a recent addition to the white complex. Above the door is a pixelated screen, several lit up, red numbers running across it in a blurring, blood red stream not too unlike those is stock exchanges. My eyes continue to return the display, although I try not to think about it. 1109853. The numbers run through my head. 1109853. 1109853. 1109853. Although the number sequence clogs my mind, it never appears on the glowing screen. I dread the day it does. Everyone in the white complex has a number. Just until recently, that number didn’t mean much, except your formal identification, although most everyone here has some sort of nickname. Everything was different after the door manifested.

The large white door with the ominous screen had just appeared last week, I assume while everyone was asleep. Numbers would appear on the screen, and if the sequence matched your identification, you were allowed to enter, as told by the high, indistinct,  disembodied voice that protruded from a small speaker when you approached the door. So far, seventeen kids had entered, and eight had returned. The returned teens seemed alright at first, but soon became sluggish and noncommittal. They did not speak unless spoken too and were very blunt and uncaring, almost in a sense “zombiefied”. None of us in the complex knowing how to handle the situation, we let “the returned” wander about aimlessly, doing nothing and leaving them alone. Like clockwork they ate and returned to their sleeping quarters each day, but other than that, they seemed rather lifeless. The thought sickened me. Each day, more people entered the door, and more returned. If your number was posted and you didn’t enter the door, they took you in the night, or so I had heard from the others. I didn’t want to become like that, nor did most.

I cautiously walk past the ominous door, although the thought stuck in my mind, playing like a winning,  broken record along the catchy track of my repeating ID number. I could see the tangled nerves of the others, continually peeking at the screen amidst their drawn out conversations or games. It might be nice to sit a talk a while with a friend, but I had business to attend to. I soon exit the large communal area and enter another white hall. Various narrow white opening cut into the hall down which I travel, leading off into other corridors which led to other rooms. I continue down the main hallway until it split into two paths. I cut left and continued my walk with a determined pace, almost rushing. I suddenly stopped myself, returning to a slow, nonchalant, leisurely gait, staring up at the opalescent, spherical bulbs attached to the ceilings. They were watching. They were always watching us, or so you had to assume if you were smart. I continue at this pace and took another turn, right this time, into a thin corridor. This corridor specific was lit with slight differentiation from the rest of the complex. Darker. I can’t tell if this is from fewer lights, or brighter bulbs. I continue down a ways before I silently sweep through a blank curtain hanging over an opening. The communal baths. The one place in the whole compound without cameras or microphones. Mark is here already, his arms hanging from a heavy duty, metal shower rod suspended from the ceiling. I approach him and we silently make our way to the far back corner of the baths and turn on a faucet, letting it run on full blast to drown out our words. Under the rush of water we speak in hushed tones. “What is it that you need me to come here for?” I question Mark, curiosity spilling over like a fountain. We don’t meet like this often, only when we need to talk without being overheard. This is one of the few places they can’t hear us. Mark looks at me, and for once I can see worry brewing underneath his cold, determined eyes. “What?” I question further.

“It’s about that door. It worries me,” He says uneasily, glancing towards the curtain door.

"I know. What happens to them when they go through?" I ask.

"I don't know, but you can bet I want to find out. I just wish I knew more about everything outside the white complex. About the people who put us here," Mark says forlorn.

"Don't we all," I say with a sad half-hearted smile. "I think I might have to agree with your theory though," I say.

"What theory?" He questions.

"About the memory erasing. You would think one of us might have seen them before when them come inside to make repairs and such. Like you said about Charlotte. She says she stayed up late and was sitting in the common room. Then suddenly she is her sleeping quarter. It's happened too many times to be coincidence,” I pause and take a deep breath. “I just feel so helpless sometimes. The people controlling us are so powerful and we can't help it," I say, my voice cracking with emotion.

"Maybe we can," says Mark, looking at me sympathetically, his dark eyes softening.

"What?" I mutter, not understanding.

"Maybe we can help what they do to us. Not directly, but maybe we can escape. I don't know about you but I'm sick and tired of being watched, listened to, and puppeted. Not to mention... all the blanks. It's like I know there was more to my life before all this," he gestures to the room around us, “but I can’t remember.”

“I know,” I whisper lightly with a sign. “Now could you please explain about this great, impossible escape?” I ask with doubted humor, the sheer hopelessness of the idea overwhelming me like rushing waters from which I can not run.

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