The train shuddered a little as it started down the track, then that distinct floating sensation and the gentle hum of electricity. The underground tunnels vibrated with its energy. And plummeting through the pitchy tubes, standing stolid in the belly of the great metal beast, was Travis. With his feet planted, eyes focused straight ahead, he was carried by that meandering machination through the underworld, the old city, its walls long built over and buried. Above, in the open air, the new civilization thrived. Its people were wealthier, looked better, lived longer. Those below were discarded, forgotten. Most had never even seen the sky.
Travis was one such individual, and on the train, surrounded by hundreds of other under-dwellers like himself, he did not stand out. He stood up, like everyone else, the right way. Eyes ahead, hands in pockets, silent as the tomb through which they rode. He was dressed right; the right pants, right shirt, right shoes, the right coat draped across his shoulders. He, in everyday terms, was right.
She was wrong; she was so wrong. Everything about her was wrong, the way she sat, the way she looked, the way she dressed. Her clothes were dirty and her hair too long. It was tied up in an unkempt knot on the top of her head. It bobbed up and down every time her vision shifted, and it shifted often. She glanced up and down, over and over again, her gaze landing directly, wrongly, on the faces of those around her. She’d boarded the train at the same time as Travis and had positioned herself on the ground a little ahead of him, using her bag as a seat cushion. She slumped against the wall of the train, hunched over her crossed legs and the pad of paper that rested there.
Travis found it difficult not to look at her. He’d never seen real paper before. He’d seen pictures, images of books and old newspapers. It was an absurd notion, really, a wrong idea. Why anyone would use paper he’d never understand but this girl…this girl. He wanted to see what she was doing with it, the paper, he wanted to see how it was used, but he knew that was a wrong desire. It was wrong to want to look at other people. It was wrong to wonder.
Every child grows up with the knowledge that to look at another person in public is wrong, that to speak directly to others is inappropriate, that if one had something to say they should say it electronically. Face to face communication was strictly prohibited, particularly between those of opposite sexes. Raised in the Academy, Travis had never even seen a girl until after his Initiation, much less ever tried to speak to one. None had ever tried to speak to him either, and that was fine. That was right.
She was looking at him; he could tell. He could feel her eyes on his face. On his face and then on her paper, back and forth, while her hands did something he couldn’t understand, something he had never witnessed. He wasn’t sure, but he thought they might be writing, a practice he had only heard about in his history lessons, a skill he had never learned. He kept peeking at her out of the corner of his eye, knowing that he shouldn’t, knowing it was wrong, realizing he couldn’t help himself.
And then once while he peeked, she looked at him and smiled, and he felt so wrong he didn’t look again until the train stopped, and it was time to get off.
The doors opened and a flood of people spilled out on the streets of the underground city. One by one the scores of under-dwellers dissipated along the dimly lit streets, one by one returning to their single-person homes, never speaking, never looking, each and every one of them alone.
Except for Travis. Travis was followed by the girl, who still carried her paper, even as she walked, writing. He made his way through the streets, aware of her presence behind him, always tempted to glance back and see. He was right not to, he told himself, right to keep going despite the shadow of her wrongness.
He was sure others were not looking and would not look. They were all right, walking right among all the little, right, square houses. Once perfectly white, all of the walls were grayed with dust, shaded with age and soot from ages past. All of the buildings in the city looked this way, and there were countless other cities below it, their walls darker, their electric lighting dimmer, the lowest levels completely bathed in darkness and ash. Each time a new city was built, another, deeper one died. The ones more than three or four levels down were completely deserted, but a few stragglers often lingered in the dark, suffering in their solitude, their isolation. They were quite literally the lowest of the low, the poorest of the poor, the scum of the city that covered the earth. Those who mattered lived above, always, and they never ventured down into the caverns of the forgotten metropolis.
Travis made it all the way to the stairs of his own home before acknowledging the girl. Then they were alone on the street, and all was quiet. Quiet, until her voice rang out through the clear, charged air, till its sound raised the hair along his neck and arms, until he froze at the base of the steps and heard, for a moment, the pounding of his own heart.
“Hey!” she said loudly, brashly. “Hey, wait!”
He stood on the steps, paralyzed. He had no idea how to react, if he should ignore her, if he should speak. He didn’t know what to say. He wouldn’t know where to start.
“Wait,” she said, and he could hear she was closer. “I have something for you.”
It was wrong, he thought to himself, it was wrong and he knew it. He should go inside. He should leave.
But he didn’t. He turned and found himself face to face with the girl, her eyes matched with his, less than a foot away.
She smiled. He remained expressionless.
“Here,” she said, holding the top sheet of paper from her pad. She moved her hand towards him, the white square trembling ever so slightly between her fingers. He stared at it, grateful to remove his eyes from hers. It was an object completely foreign to him, but still it was better than looking her in the face. He could hardly bear that.
“Take it,” she said, waving it startlingly. “It’s for you.”
He said nothing, gazing mesmerized at the taught muscles of her lithe, graphite-stained hand, the bones showing white through pale skin, stretched thin. There was dirt under her fingernails; they were practically black. Wrong, he thought. His own were pristine in comparison, glowing clean and right as he reached up to take the paper. It slid easily into his hand, slipped gently from between her thumb and a curled, greasy forefinger. A gray fingerprint remained preserved on the softly rough surface, a texture he had never felt before, but didn’t altogether dislike.
“Go ahead,” she encouraged him. “Open it.”
He frowned, unsure of what she meant. The square was small, too small for the size of the pad she still carried under her arm. It shifted in his hand. It was folded, he realized. Clever, he thought, for something so primitive.
The square opened into a rectangle, and then a larger rectangle. Finally it was flat again, thin and creased, and in the center of it was an image. A picture. A portrait of him.
He gazed at it curiously, amazed at first, stunned. It looked just like him, he thought, like looking at a digital image, or in the mirror. For a second, it made him smile. For the first time he glanced up at her, the wrong girl, the smile still on his face matching the one on hers.
“Do you like it?” she asked.
He glanced back down at it, glanced over his own face again. Yes, he thought, it was wonderful. Of course he liked it…but no. No, it was wrong. The smile faded from his lips and a frown began to form along his brow. Now that he looked a little closer, the picture was wrong too. It didn’t look like him. In fact, it wasn’t him, it couldn’t be.
“What’s wrong?” the girl asked, seeing his reaction.
He looked at her pointedly, angrily. How dare she ask that question?
“This is not me,” he told her.
“Yes it is,” she said. “It looks just like you.”
“No,” he said. “Now please, leave me alone. This is wrong.”
“Wrong?” she scoffed. “What do you mean wrong?”
“I mean wrong!” he said, dropped the page and ran up his steps without another word. Before ducking into his home, he took one last wrong glance down at the girl in the street. She just stood there, the paper at her feet. It was the last thing he saw before going inside.
He shouldn’t have stopped to talk to her at all, he chastised himself. He should have just kept walking, ignored her cry for attention. He should have, but he didn’t, and now he would have to deal with the consequences of his actions. He didn’t think anyone had seen, so he doubted he would face internment. He didn’t deserve that really; in this case he was the victim. They would understand that, wouldn’t they? The paranoia engulfed him as he prepared for bed.
He had turned to look.
He had spoken to her.
He was wrong.
It kept him up all night. Each and every time he closed his eyes he saw that image, the drawing she had done of him, swimming up before his eyes. He tried so hard to forget it, to repress it, to ignore it.
When he had lain awake for several hours he got up, stretched, went to the kitchen to make himself a cup of warm milk. At the academy, when you couldn’t sleep, a Nurse would come in with an injection. It knocked you out in seconds, a shot to the arm, distributed by the unfeeling metallic arms of a first aid droid. Those cold pitiless eyes looking down on you.
Travis found that warm milk had a similar effect on him. It wasn’t quite as fast-acting, but it always made him feel better, and it wasn’t accompanied by shooting pain and the unease of cold metal fingers pressing hard into his skin. It was only warmth, a stream of it, trickling down his throat, dissipating the hard knots of anxiety in his chest and the cool tingling discomfort in the pit of his stomach. He drank it and instantly felt right all over.
He wandered to the window with his cup and looked out at the sleeping city. It never really looked asleep, he mused, its lights always burning. After ten p.m. everyone was supposed to be inside. That was what they called ‘curfew,’ and it was strictly observed. After that time, the streets were silent, no continuous pounding of feet, no constant running of railway cars, only the soft purr of the electric lights, the perpetual luminance of the under-dwellings.
It was a familiar sight, their shadow-less orange glow. He glanced down to the street below, feeling content and pleasantly groggy.
He was jolted again to awareness by the realization that she, the wrong girl, was still standing below, just standing in the street, gazing up at his window, as if she knew he was there, watching. He jumped back into the shadow of his room, knowing she had seen him, feeling guilty for looking in the first place.
What was she doing down there? he wondered frantically. Why was she still tormenting him? What did she want? The cup of warm milk fell from his hand and spilt across his feet as icy terror once more froze over his innards. There was no escaping it, he feared; she would follow him forever if he didn’t do something about it, but first he had to do something about the puddle at his feet. He mopped it up quickly and slipped haphazardly back into his clothes. Then, shaking with uncertainty, he crept out of his apartment and back down into the street.
It was warmer out than he expected, or perhaps the heat was his own. He was sweating. He knew he wasn’t supposed to be out there. She wasn’t supposed to be out there either, yet there she was, smiling, waiting.
“Hey,” she said, nonchalantly. Her voice sounded so loud, echoing through that silent street. He glanced around to make sure no one had heard. “You forgot your picture,” she said.
He ignored her attempts at conversation. He wasn’t really sure how to reply anyway. “Please go away,” he said stiffly, almost angrily. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“I shouldn’t?” she said quizzically. “Who are you to tell me where I should and shouldn’t be?”
“It’s past curfew and–”
“Curfew shmurfew!” she shrugged. “No one cares.”
He looked up and down the street again, just to double check it was empty.
“Don’t worry, no one’s looking,” she teased with a mischievous grin. “Why are you so nervous anyway?”
“Because,” he said adamantly, “this is–”
“I know, wrong,” she mocked him. “Relax, would you? Live a little. What’s your name anyway?”
He hesitated to answer, unsure if he really wanted her to know his name. She really was a peculiar girl. Even the way she spoke was strange to him. She used words he’d never even heard of; what was ‘shmurfew?’
Eventually, he replied, “Travis.”
“Travis,” she repeated thoughtfully. “Mine’s Amber.” She held out her hand to him, open, inviting. To him it was like a lunging snake, reaching to strike, teeth bared. He shied nervously.
She frowned at him curiously and said, “Don’t be rude, it’s a handshake.”
“A handshake?” he said, confused.
“Yeah,” she said, reaching for his hand. He jerked it out of reach momentarily, but then she’d gripped his fingers, then his entire hand. Clenched mercilessly in her rough palm, he squirmed awkwardly. She shook his arm up and down before releasing it.
“What are you doing?” he hissed, suddenly enraged.
“Shaking your hand,” she replied plainly.
“That is not appropriate!” he snapped at her. “You’re not supposed to–”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh please, it’s not that big a deal! You’ve never heard of a ‘handshake’ before?”
He watched her carefully from beneath his furrowed brow, wary of those surprisingly strong, dirtied hands.
“You probably haven’t heard about a lot of things, huh?” she said knowingly, slyly. “What about rebellion?”
He shook his head slowly, his frown deepening.
“I guess that wouldn’t be in the Academy’s vocabulary,” she mused. “How about ‘war?’ ‘Poverty?’ ‘Revolution?’”
He only blinked at her. He didn’t know what to say.
“What about paper?” she said with a smirk.
He brightened momentarily, glancing down at the page in his hand.
“So you know what that is?” she said happily.
“Yes,” he said. “I’ve seen images of it before, but I thought it was obsolete. I didn’t think it existed.”
“They don’t make paper like that anymore,” she said gesturing to his page. “It took me a long time to find this. The paper they make now is practically worthless for drawing.”
Drawing, he thought, that’s what it was called. He looked to the pad under her arm. She followed his eyes and smiled, pulling it out to show him.
“This is a sketchbook,” she explained. “It’s where I do all of my drawings.” She flipped through some of the pages, displaying hundreds more pencil drawn images of people and faces, buildings, and…trees? Travis stopped her, gazing intently at the elongated silhouettes, the reaching leafy fingers, captured flawlessly on this strange new plane. He ran his hand over it, feeling the dusty irregularity. When he pulled away his palm was stained with subtle gray.
“You know they’re growing trees again, down below,” she said cleverly.
He frowned at her curiously.
“Entire forests,” she went on, “cultivated with artificial light in the underworlds. You know there’s only five?”
“Five what?” he asked.
“Five underworlds. Five levels below the sky level,” she explained. “They want us to think there are more, that this has been happening forever, but it’s a relatively new thing. They build a new city every five hundred years. That’s it. Five hundred years! Can you believe it?”
Travis shook his head. He’d always been told there were hundreds, thousands, countless levels of disregarded conurbation. Five seemed more manageable, more imaginable. He could visualize five elevators. He could hardly comprehend the term “countless.”
“Neither could I.” she said.
Travis was back to the sketchbook, turning pages. He was absolutely captivated by it, by its substance, its feeling. He liked the way the paper felt between his fingers, the gentle resistance to his skin. The images brushed across its surface compelling, enthralling. He couldn’t look away. He’d never seen anything like it.
He’d never seen sky either, but there it was, and as soon as he turned the page, he knew what to call it: wonder.
No concrete. No ceiling. No smothering darkness. This was a different kind of gloom, one that allowed tiny bits of light, specks of revelation, a translucence he did not grasp, but understood as beautiful.
“That’s the night sky,” she told him gingerly, “above ground. On the sky level.”
“They used to talk about the sky,” Travis remarked quietly. “At the academy in our lessons they would tell us about it, about how open it was, how big. Like some great secret that we couldn’t figure out and couldn’t see, but was always there, over us. Back then I felt like the ceiling protected us from it, like it was dangerous, but…it can’t be.”
She watched him with a smile on her face, and her hand gently landed over his. He started momentarily, glanced up, concerned.
“Would you like to see it?” she asked.
A tremor in his chest like an earthquake, a sudden surge like a wave against a cliff, a thousand year old tree, crashing to the ground; all of these images he would never know, never see, and yet he felt them within, like a thunderclap, a lightning strike, the pounding fist against stone. Her fist against the stony exterior of his heart.
“We can’t,” he protested. “We’re not supposed to-.”
“Do you think I care if we’re supposed to?” she asked. She grabbed his hand again, but this time he did not resist. “Come on,” she said, dragging him away down the street.
He stumbled after her, stunned into silence. In the quiet of the street, the only sounds were their footsteps, pounded between the walls, echoing off the ceiling. It seemed they were the only two on the earth.
She led him through the long winding streets, under the vaguely flickering lamps, her eager shoulders bathed in orange light. She still carried her sketchpad under one arm, while the other strained behind her, tugging Travis along. He was only less than willing to go with her, barely resistant, his steps slightly slower than hers. She didn’t seem to mind though; so excited was she to be moving, running, tearing through the streets as they were. His was more an emotion of fear and suspicion, looking everywhere for the eyes he hoped weren’t watching, for the eyes he prayed wouldn’t see.
They ran until they were bent over out of breath, neither of them able to speak. Glancing around, Travis had no idea where they were. It was an obscure part of the city with narrow, cramped streets and even less light. He had never been there before.
“Where are we?” he asked nervously, turning to Amber as they both gasped for air.
“In the oldest part of the city,” she said in a hushed tone. “This is where construction for the sky level began, and there’s still a service elevator that works. No one knows about it of course, and it’s not regulated like the main car is.”
“Are you sure?” he asked, wiping some sweat from his brow.
“Sure,” she said, rising from her bent position. “I use it all the time.”
“How did you find out it was here?” he asked, following her as she disappeared into a shadowed corner.
She didn’t answer, and he couldn’t see her.
“Amber?” he said worriedly.
“Relax, I’m right here!” she called out from the dark. They were in an alley where the lamplight did not reach. Her voice reverberated from this black cave, and a moment of sudden stinging terror was indisputable for Travis. What was he doing? Why was he here? How had this happened to him?
His shock was intensified by the electric flash of a fluorescent bulb, illuminated above the elevator entrance. It filled the whole alleyway with bright white light, gleaming on Amber’s dingy skin.
“There we go,” she said with a grin. “Still working.”
He gazed at the rectangular doorway, open-mouthed. He couldn’t believe where he was, what he was about to do. It was unfathomable, or would have been a few hours ago.
“Are you ready?” she asked impatiently, waiting at the elevator entrance.
He swallowed anxiously; he couldn’t believe what he was about to do.
“Well come on,” she said. “We don’t have all night.”
Without a word he followed her into the car. His stomach lurched when he heard how it creaked and groaned, unused to his weight. The doors closed behind them and he suddenly feared he couldn’t breathe. His heart nearly stopped when he felt them moving, shooting up, up, up, to the sky level, to the ground above. He felt sick to his stomach, and it was obvious.
Amber laughed at him. “Looking a little green around the gills there,” she said.
“What does that mean?” he asked weakly.
She sighed, “It’s such a shame they got rid of all those old sayings. It means you look ill.”
She looked like she was about to say something else, but then the car came to a stop, and they both fell silent, waiting, frozen, for the doors to open.
Then suddenly it was there. The city, rising up before them, gleaming towers and brightly lit windows, pristine roadways, structures too phenomenal to imagine. And the sounds, oh the sounds of the nightlife, electric rumblings and shrieks, the rush of fresh air through the streets. It floored him, quite literally, as he stumbled back against the wall of the elevator, struck most of all by the brilliance of the night sky.
The ceiling of black speckled with tiny stars, so much brighter than the lights of the underworlds, so much more vibrant, and hovering directly above, more beautiful than anything he’d ever seen, filling the sky with its luminance, was the moon. The glorious white orb, dramatic, vivid, filling the elevator car with its magnificence; Travis could only stare, motionless, forcing himself to breathe lest he forget and faint from awe.
Amber sauntered out of the elevator and paused, watching the wonder play across his face. “Aren’t you coming?” she asked, smiling.
He nodded. He gulped. He took a deep breath.
He stepped out of the elevator cautiously, as if the ground would fall out from under him should he appear too zealous. Somehow, it remained stable, and once he found himself firmly on solid ground, bathed in open air, he took another steadying breath and felt that tremendously satisfying release. The joy he felt, just to be there, to be experiencing this new world, with all its new sights, sounds, even smells. The very air tasted different, lingering longer in his nose than the air of the underworlds. It was crisper, drier, delicious. He wanted to drink it in, gulp it down, imbibe it until he was sick. He could’ve stood there for hours, just to breathe, but of course this was not possible.
They had emerged in the middle of another alley, its mouth facing a busy street. It had been empty when they walked out.
“Hey!” came the shout, as a dark form rounded the corner. “What are you doing here?”
“We should go,” Amber said, grabbing Travis’s arm.
“Hey, stop!” the silhouette shouted.
Travis didn’t even bother to look, and Amber barely had to pull him. They took off at a full sprint to the back of the alley. It stretched far into the dark, and for a while, they were running blind, the only things guiding them: their own labored breathing and the daunting footsteps following close behind. When they emerged once more into the light, Amber veered around a corner, and Travis momentarily lost sight of her. He skidded to a halt, his heartbeat deafening in his ears. When he rounded the corner and didn’t see her, panic stopped him in his tracks.
“Up here!” she shouted from the rungs of a ladder. “Hurry!” She was climbing for the roof of the building to his right, and he quickly clambered after her.
He didn’t look down until they reached the top, and when he had he was sorry for it. He staggered away from the edge; head swimming, struggling to catch his breath. Still reeling from their close encounter with the man in the alley, he sprawled out on his back and closed his eyes. Who was that? he wondered. Why had he chased them? Why had he even spoken to them? Perhaps it was different above, perhaps people actually spoke here.
“Well that was an adventure,” Amber mused beside him. He turned his head and saw her face, lying close beside his own.
“What was he doing?” he asked. “Why did he chase us?”
Amber shrugged. “Because we’re under-dwellers, and people up here don’t like us. Our lives are completely different down there.”
“Why?” Travis asked. “Why are we so different?”
She watched his face a moment, observed the intense sorrow behind his eyes, the concern in the creases of his brow. “Because they make it that way,” she replied. “They keep you under their thumbs, under their control, make you believe you shouldn’t question the world around you. They lie, Travis. They lie to keep you in your place, below them. They convince you of what is right and wrong, make it so that you can’t dispute it, but they don’t know any more than we do. They’re just people. They’re just people who control the world.”
“Who?” Travis said. “Who controls the world?”
She turned away from him and said, “Look at the sky. It’s beautiful from here.”
He turned his gaze heavenward, taking her grim advice. The great glimmering moon seemed to press down upon him, driving him into the ground. Only he was so high off the ground it seemed more like floating through the air, like being stamped into a cloud, although he’d never know what clouds were. He found himself so much closer to the sky than he’d ever dreamed, than he’d ever hoped to be. It filled him with a fantastically right feeling, the wrongness of where he was, of what he was doing.
It took him a moment to name it. He wasn’t sure he’d ever felt this way before.
He turned to Amber and said, “I’ve never been so happy. Thank you for showing me this.”
She offered him a crooked smile and replied, “You’re welcome Travis.”
He felt her grip his hand again, felt those smudgy, grubby fingers wrap around his. They were pleasantly warm, and he quickly realized, so was he. He looked at the moon. It was absolutely breathtaking. He looked back at her, both of them lying on their backs to watch the sky; absolutely beautiful.
Quite suddenly the moon’s bright light was replaced by the blinding blue floodlight and the overwhelming noise of whirring helicopter blades.
The metallic bird of prey drifted, loudly, ominously over the rooftop, pinning them with its bright eye and booming voice.
“Do not move!” it said robotically. “Any attempt to escape will be met with terminating force!”
“What’s going on?” Travis shouted, frozen with fear.
“Just stay calm,” she yelled back. “Everything will be fine.”
“It will?” he said, finding it difficult to make himself heard over the sound of the helicopter. He certainly didn’t hear Amber’s reply because a few seconds later, everything went black.
He awoke in a small, clean, white room, containing only a cot. He lay there for barely a minute before a door he hadn’t noticed opened, and a woman, dressed in the same white of the room, entered.
“Good morning, Travis,” she said. “How are you feeling?”
Travis said nothing, resisted the urge to reply, to ask all of the questions that suddenly filled his mind. His head hurt; it was a phenomenon he’d never experienced before.
“Your readings say you have a slight headache,” the woman said. “Don’t worry, it will go away in time.”
He couldn’t resist. “Where am I?” he asked. “Where’s Amber?”
“She’s fine,” the woman replied. “And you’re safe. We’ll be replacing you in your home this afternoon. We just wanted to ask you some questions first.”
“I don’t want to talk to you,” he said firmly.
“Of course you don’t” the woman said. “We understand that Amber told you some things, things that would make you suspicious of us, but there’s something you need to know about Amber.”
“She said you’re liars,” Travis interjected.
“How do you know she wasn’t a liar, Travis?” the woman asked. “Did you ever think about that?”
He was silent.
“Of course you didn’t,” she said. “You went right along with everything she said. You didn’t even question it, did you?”
Again, he said nothing.
“You see, Travis, the truth is that you ignored everything you’ve learned, everything you were taught, because some girl drew a picture of you.” She pulled the folded drawing out of her own pocket and showed it to him. “It is a very good rendition. Looks just like you, don’t you think?”
He gazed at the drawing thoughtfully. Yes it was him, but it was a different him. A Travis he didn’t know. He looked at this Travis, this face on paper that he would never see again, and he felt something else, something new.
He felt despair.
“No,” he told the woman. “It’s not me.”
“You don’t think so?” she said quizzically, glancing at the picture herself. “Hmm, I guess not.”
“May I go home now?” he asked quietly, looking to the floor.
“Yes,” the woman obliged with a smile, “someone will be here to escort you momentarily.” Then she exited the room, stepping from the pristine white into a well-decorated hallway, her shoes clicking along the polished floor. She marched smugly to the observation room, from which a man watched Travis in his room. He was just sitting there, his hands folded in his lap.
“Well,” she said, “that didn’t last long. He’s been the easiest to convince out of all of them.”
“Yes,” the man agreed, “but we can’t take his case into consideration really.”
“Why not?” she asked argumentatively. “It ran perfectly. He was-.”
“Attracted to the Implant,” the man interrupted. “That was not factored into our experiment, nor should it be. Amazing though, isn’t it? That deprived of any form of romantic love for thousands of years, our race still feels that desire?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I think it’s slightly more amazing how quickly he bounced back from Amber’s influence. How quickly he was influenced by Amber, for that matter.”
“People have always been easily influenced, my dear,” he said. “All it takes is a little bribery, some reverse psychology; tell someone what they want to hear, and they’re yours.” He paused dourly, shaking his head at Travis on screen. “All the same, wipe his memory and send him home. Make sure he won’t remember anything about this night.”
“Very well,” the woman said, sounding a bit disappointed. “Shall we prep Amber for her next-.”
“No,” he answered sternly. “Prep her for termination instead, along with the rest of them. We’re done here.”
“But, sir-,” she protested.
“These experiments prove nothing,” he spat. “They only reinforce what we already know, what we’ve known for years. These people suffer enough already. Why put them through any more torment?” With that he left the room, abandoning his plan, his experiments, his employee. Abandoning once and for all his great work.
[Image by Nuttakit, edited by SW]