I’m not sure if today is the hottest it’s ever been or if this place is starting to crack me up. The heat always seems to come from everywhere at once; there is no more or no less of it anywhere in my eight by ten foot world. Heat is only the most obvious part of this hell made of regularity, its unchanging intensity is just like everything else in this place; exactly the same, day after day.
It’s the things that seem irrelevant that will eventually drive a man insane. I never would have guessed that color – or the lack thereof – would affect me like it has. My world is pink. My bed, bedsheets, walls, pillow, clothing, floor, ceiling, shoes, and skin are pink. It is as if the world has gone crazy and refused to admit the existence of any other color. My world is pink.
The sound of iron-shod boots ringing against the concrete floor somewhere outside my world startles me, as it always startles me. The grate in the center of the pink door slides open noisily, “water,” says the voice. It’s the same voice as yesterday and it will be the same voice tomorrow – it’s always the same voice.
“Michaels, is that you?” I ask, my voice hoarse with thirst. No matter how thirsty I am I always try talking to Michaels. My need for contact with another person always feels more urgent.
“Water,” the voice replies robotically.
I skootch myself to the door and hold my mouth open beneath the water spout poking through the grate. Freezing, life-giving, shocking water pours into my mouth. I don’t let a single drop hit the floor. I vaguely remember a time when I would waste some of the water on the floor, the memory is distant, detached, like someone else’s thoughts. The rhythm of time passing has slowly managed to overtake my thoughts. Lights on, water, porridge, water, water, porridge, water, water, lights off, sleep.
“What time is it Michaels?” I plead. The grate closes and the sound of iron-clad boots ringing against concrete fades away down the hall. One day Michaels will speak with me, I’m sure of it. There is no way this silence can last forever.
How long have I been left alone with my thoughts? How many light – dark cycles have passed since I got here? What was my world like before I got here? Was I alive before this place? Is this all there is?
I regularly find my thoughts spiraling towards what things were like before I was in this world – my eight by ten foot reality. I have a few foggy memories of a childhood spent somewhere other than here but I have a hard time bringing specifics to light. I can’t even remember how I know that Michaels’ name is Michaels, as far as I know no one has ever told me his name. I’m not even sure that Michaels is a person, he could just as easily be some sort of automaton. I’ve not seen another face since this place became my world.
A loud and terrifying sound suddenly reverberates through my world; like a gunshot in a library. I find myself curled up in a ball in the corner of my bed when the shock fades enough for me to look around. Something has changed about this place – the air feels foreign somehow – it’s like being lost somewhere I’ve been a million times.
The endless pink of my world is broken! There is a small sliver of grey peeking through the left hand side of what I have always assumed to be the door. I crab-walk over the floor to inspect this sudden invasion of color.
I am stopped halfway across the room by a strange tickling sensation on my face. I quickly retreat back to the corner of my bed. What was that? It felt like my beard was moving of its own accord.
I let my courage build for a moment and slowly slide back towards the door. I notice the same strange tickling in my beard but instead of retreating I reach out towards the door. The same queer tickling feeling travels up my hand and arm. What’s going on here?
Something foreign and familiar hits my nose and my stomach revolts – fresh air – I nearly vomit on the floor. I’m positive that if my stomach contained any food I would have ejected it all over the floor. The door is open. I can feel air moving through my beard and brushing against the back of my hand.
The idea of moving air is novel but not strange. I stand up and close the distance to the door in a single stride, confident that I am in no danger from this new familiar sensation. I press my face into the crack formed between the pink door and the pink wall and spend long moments reveling in the sensation of cool air moving over my skin. The coolness of the air outside my world feels as though it’s coming from a place outside of reality. The sudden change in temperature has such a profound effect on me that I start to feel uncomfortable. The addition of cool air into the heat of my world is impossible. If there is cool air then why is my world always hot? There is no way this is really happening. My world is hot. Heat is safe. I know heat.
Yet the coolness of the place that can’t exist continues to blow through the thick hair of my beard. The intrusive shade of grey continues to intrude upon the pinkness of my world.
A loud, pleasant chime sounds from somewhere outside my world. “Inmate, please exit your cell.” The voice says in its regular, robotic tone.
What is this? Some sort of trick? Exit my cell? There is nothing out there for me. Everything I know is in here. I quickly slam the door to the left, closing it with a crash.
The door whirrs, bangs, and slides open. The loud bang of the door opening is not as surprising as the first time. I hear the chime sound outside my world but quickly slam the door shut, not waiting for the voice to make another crazy announcement.
I take two short strides back to my bed and curl up in the corner with my arms wrapped tightly around my legs. I will wait for something to happen. My stomach grumbles loudly, it must be nearly porridge time. Soon I can go to sleep and forget this business of open doors and moving air.
The sound of iron-clad boots ringing on concrete starts me from my reverie. How long have I been curled up in the corner? I try to gauge how much time has passed since the door opened by how hungry I am. The footsteps halt outside the door. “A4,” the voice says. The door clicks open and, instead of stopping, continues to roll open, reveling a large man clad entirely in black.
This man is a blatant imposition upon my reality; there is no room for another man in my world. I find myself filled with a silent, insane rage. I can neither stand nor speak, I am paralyzed by the sheer audacity of the figure standing before me. How dare he open the door? Who does he think he is?
“It’s okay Evan, it’s over.” The man says, his voice stolen from the voice. The shattering of my world is complete; it is as though reality has been cracked open and revealed to be a huge joke.
The man takes a step towards me, causing my paralysis to snap. I leap to my feet and lunge at him, snarling in an animal rage. Without any reaction on his part the man stops me dead in my tracks. Is he crying? Why is he crying? The tears streaming down his face sweep every trace of rage from my mind. I collapse onto the ground; a quivering mass of sorrow and confusion.
The man kneels down next to me, tears dropping from his chin onto the pink floor. “It’s over Evan. You can go now.”
Go? Go where? “What time is it Michaels?” My voice creaks. Is this how my voice is supposed to sound?
The man’s whole face seems to screw up, his chin twitches in double time rhythm to the sobbing of his chest. “I wanted to answer, I always wanted to answer.”
I close my eyes and try to piece together my racing thoughts. “What doe-” I open my eyes and the man is gone. I’ll always be alone in my pink world.