They won’t let you leave the room. When you enter, you think they will, but trust me, they won’t. You think you’ll leave the room as normal, but you will not leave until they have finished with you. Actually, when you walk into the room, you won’t even know “they” exist. But they know you. Believe me, they know you. They’ve known you for far longer than you could even guess.
For me, it happened on a train.
Arthur expected me to arrive in Brussels at 14:35. My ticket was a crumpled mess from my repeated folding and unfolding to check the time: 13:00 – 14:45 from Rotterdam to Brussels, one coach seat for Marcus Debenham. At 14:07, I tossed my paperback onto a table in the dining car and sat down to treat myself to a late lunch. Ordering my sandwich, double integrals and child psychology terms swam in the corners of my eyes, remnants of the past three weeks of vigorous studying. But for the first time since my last exam (which had ended a mere two hours ago), I sunk into my chair and let the mathematical mumble dissipate in my mind. For at least two months, I wouldn’t have to worry about homework, quizzes, or exams (at least, not my own). Arthur had landed me a position as a summer math tutor at the same school in which he worked; he even offered to share his apartment with me (we both joked about sharing the same bed, although I suspected my jokes were more serious than his). For the first time in a while, I eagerly awaited the upcoming summer.
I wish I hadn’t been so idiotically hopeful.
With a slight rumble in my stomach, my eyes swept across the small dining car. In total, only three other occupants shared the space with me. I estimated the oldest to be around 24: a woman in a gray sweater and shiny black flats seated in the corner. Her shrewd eyes and pallor of her skin matched the sweater; her entire composure radiated efficiency.
The other two passengers, a man and a woman of about 20, the same age as Arthur and I, sat nearer to me, occupying a table in the very center of the car. The man sat with his back to me, only showing a head of curly black hair and coffee colored skin. From what I could see and hear, the woman was telling an animated story about her niece, her curls of honey hair bouncing, while the man listened attentively.
After my brief scan, I turned my attention from the other passengers and began to read. For a time, I remained absorbed in a world of Agatha Christie’s imagination, one filled with mysterious dragon kimonos and evil kidnappings. After a few minutes, the waitress, a pale, middle aged woman with near white blonde hair, caught my eye as she returned, carrying what I assumed to be my sandwich. Looking at the motley assortment scattered in our train car, I allowed myself a small grin. Beyond the couple at the table, none of us shared any sort of connection, yet there we all were, a bunch of strangers speeding along together across the continent.
And then we hit the tunnel.
A brief feeling of disappointment hit me – in the pitch black I couldn’t see anything, much less the words of my book – but logic told me the tunnel couldn’t last long.
I would give anything to go back to that moment, to live forever in those few seconds of blindness and complete ignorance.
Like a thrown switch, the sunlight broke through the windows, bringing the harsh reality into sight.
The waitress lay curled on the floor. Empty eyes stared up at the ceiling. Her wispy hair spread around her as if she was submerged in water, and she could have been just that, a picture of tranquility floating in an open sea. She could have been if the blonde-white wasn’t stained crimson by blood flowing from a gash in her neck.
The image paralyzed me. For a few breaths, I could only stare, and I only snapped back to reality at the sound of a scream from the curly-haired man.
The remaining four of us rose to our feet, each frantically trying to back away from the body, as if the tear in her neck was something we could catch in the air. The gray lady let out a choked noise of disgust. I wanted to let out the same noise. But she kept choking. And kept choking. She grabbed her throat, saliva bubbling from her mouth, before sliding to the floor next to her table, on which rested a half-eaten salad and an empty glass. The choking stopped. The woman didn’t move, only laid with eyes to match those of the waitress.
The man screamed again, louder than before, and dashed to the door, his partner at his heels, the two elbowing me over in their panic. His first yanks at the handle did nothing; the door rattled in its frame but remained firmly closed. He began to throw his entire body against the door, the pounding echoing through the car, while the girl rapidly alternated between glaring at me and glancing furtively over her shoulder.
A faint gasp came from the man. He stopped his frantic efforts, his body leaning on the wall. Shaking hands scrambled at his side as he fell backwards with a thud. From my position on the floor, I could see the glint of a thin needle as it slid back through the keyhole with a quiet hiss.
The girl now turned on me, her suspicion transforming into rage, a guttural scream ripping through her throat, coming at me with fists raised, and I covered my eyes, unable to fight, unable to do anything but cower, waiting for her to beat the life from me.
After a minute without a single blow, I peeked over my arm. The girl lay prone on the floor with a vicious wound in her head. A detached light fixture lay next to her.
I clawed my way backward, into the corner of the car, shaking, wishing I would pass out from the shock, wishing I didn’t have to keep seeing everyone around me, who had somehow been alive less than five minutes ago. But I stayed fully awake, transfixed by the four pictures of death I now shared the dining car with. I expected I would soon follow them. The poison in the sandwich, the needle through the keyhole, it all resembled the horrible script of a murder novel. Some sadistic mind had orchestrated the whole scenario to fulfil some sort of twisted fantasy, there was no other explanation. Having come to this conclusion, and seeing no way to fight such an all-knowing power, I resolved to wait for the moment of my own demise.
It never came. I spent the rest of the train ride shivering on the floor, alone. Maybe I did black out at one point, because my next memory was of me sitting alone on a bench at the end of an evacuated train platform.
I returned to reality because of Arthur. I spotted him on the other end of the platform, speaking to a group of police officers who blocked his path to me. He ran his hand through his curly hair, brown as chocolate, his eyes flashing anger. He had come to pick me up. I stood up from the bench in a daze and began walking slowly towards the group. When I was halfway, a mask of fear replaced the anger mutilating Arthur’s face, one I could see even from the distance, and my feet stuck to the floor. He looked at me, began to slowly back away, then turned and sprinted from the station. The police suspected me, and they told Arthur, they told him I was a murderer, and he believed them, and now he feared me. He was gone. Arthur was gone. I couldn’t even bring myself back to the bench; I fell to my knees right there on the platform, near a cold, unmoving train.
A deep voice drifted from an open train window by where I lay.
“He reacted to the scenario just as expected.”
A chuckle, followed by another deep voice. “Of course, what else did you expect?”
The first voice laughed as well before responding. “Either way, we got to see the patterns. I’ll leave the documents here, let’s check out the front of the train first.”
Next memory: riding in a police car to a hotel, a bulge in my pocket I hoped they wouldn’t notice.
Next memory: midnight, alone in a room, papers spread out on a desk.
I wish I hadn’t snuck onto the train for those papers. And I wish I hadn’t read them. And I wish I hadn’t followed the documents to find out more. But I did. I did it all.
A psychopathic serial killer, read the official police report, a complete contradiction from what I found (“methodical homicide for the amelioration of psychological knowledge”). I almost want to laugh at the idea of an “official report” though. They could have the report read “crazy donkey snuck onto train and accidentally killed 4 passengers,” and there would be no argument. They can control whatever they’d like. It’s why I got off so easy, and it’s why nobody remembered or seemed to care about for deaths on one train.
If you aren’t already aware of what I’m telling you, then someday you, too, will find yourself in some room. Everything will seem normal. You might even be happy (please, try not to be so happy; it hurts too much later). But then everything will go insane. People might die, you might find yourself facing an impossible task, I’ve even heard of one person who entered a port-a-potty and came out to find themselves on a mountain swarming with cannibals. They want to know how you react to an extreme. And I’m sorry, but after that things don’t improve.
The papers I stole from the train car were tucked inside of my Agatha Christie novel. The test was designed specifically for me, with my stupid mystery books and an idiotic desire to be caught up in some exciting happenstance. They knew what book I would have on the train, predicted it years in advance actually, and they tailored a twisted scenario to match. I found the Marcus Debenham papers. They knew everything about me.
And they know the same about you. Like I said, they’ve known you longer than you would believe. Maybe you think they’ve been following you since elementary school, chronicling your moves since you began to learn your ABC’s. Or maybe you think, “Oh, I can’t be surprised, I bet whoever he’s talking about has been following me since I was born.” But you’re wrong. They’ve known you long before that. They’ve known you since before your grandparents were even an idea. Before your grandma and grandpa were even born, they knew how you would behave, how you would react to a variety of scenarios, how you would react to every possible stimulus known to man. Masters of psychology, wannabe gods, sadistic scientists, whatever you want to call them, whatever you think they are, it’s probably true.
They’ve monitored every situation in your life, having already documented every important aspect of your personality long before you were born. Most of the people in your life work for them, planted, trained to observe you, act out every scenario they dream of, gather data in a cold and calculated way. Your best friend would slit your throat if given the order. I’m sorry to tell you this, I really am.
I don’t know exactly how long this “experiment,” if it can be called that, has been going on, or what exists beyond the boundaries of the “lab,” or if “they” are even human. I don’t know much. But I do know that this has happened for generations at least. For generations, they’ve known everything about everyone, inside and out.
And even this, what I’m telling you right now, they knew I would say it, they know everything I’ll say. Oh, come on, after strictly controlling every possible scenario for years, did you really think they would be so careless as to let me eavesdrop on a “secret” conversation, that they would let me gather all this information on them without their knowledge? I thought so too at first, but then I stumbled upon the reports about me, on what I was learning and it’s just another variable. I am. They want to see how a subject would react to discovering the truth of their situation. They called me a subject.
And do you know what they predicted I’d do with that knowledge?
They predicted that I would tell people. That I would spread the story online, that I would let others know, and they’re oh so curious to see how others react, if readers will take it seriously or not. And I know that I’m just doing exactly what they’re predicting, that I’m just playing along but I just… I feel like I have to spread it either way, even if they know I will, know that I am. I feel like I need to make it known, that others deserve to know, and to do what they’d like with the knowledge.
I have not felt at peace or comfortable in any way since that stupid train came out of that tunnel. I don’t think I ever will. And I know that they already know exactly what I’ll do before it even occurs to me. I know that nothing I do is my own. I know that they understand everything I will ever do. I know all of that. But at least I will do something.
Story entries for the January - February 2018 Sixpenceee Story Contest can be found here. Simply submit a story to enter. Stories don't necessarily have to be creepy, for example, thought provoking stories or stories with a twist are definitely acceptable.
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