Nov 11

She: Name

She stood in front of the sinks, staring into the mirror. She studied the face looking back at her, puzzling if this was a face she recognized, remembered. Lost in the details, it didn’t feel familiar. It didn’t feel not-familiar. Who was this girl?

She studied her, hoping to jog a memory. Smooth, butterscotch-colored skin. A face with no lines, but angular features: high, pronounced cheekbones, a long narrow nose, slightly upturned eyes with hooded lids and irises a startling shade of jade green. Her hands moved by themselves, working the comb through her dark chestnut hair. A crease appeared between her brows as she struggled to discover that comforting familiarity.

The comb snagged on a tangle of hair and pulled at her scalp, and she swore. The curse burst from her mouth without conscious thought and passed into the surrounding silence without her notice. She was attempting to pull apart the tangled strands of hair to free the comb, but every tug seemed to tighten as much tangle as it loosened. In frustration, she threw the comb down to dangle from her hair at waist level. The ends of her hair trailed further, down to her knees, and it was just too much to deal with. Had she ever worn her hair so long?

She doubted she would have had the patience.

She sorted through her pile of objects from the drawer, now arrayed untidily on the counter in front of her, and pulled out the scissors. Grabbing a hank of hair at her elbow, she began sawing away at it with the small blades.  Loose strands cascaded to the floor in rapid succession as she hacked away, pausing only long enough to cut the comb out of its tangle.

When she ran out of steam, she stood in the midst of a pile of hair on the floor, and her head felt lighter. She looked at herself in the mirror again, pulling her hair forward over her shoulders. The cut was ragged and uneven so, with calm focus, she again applied the scissors, neatly trimming the ends.

Once finished, the wave in her hair was more pronounced, and it sprang up to just a few inches below her shoulders. She smiled at herself, her temper finally soothed. She looked at the girl in the mirror approvingly.

She finally felt somewhat human again. Although she supposed she couldn’t stay in the bathroom forever. She began collecting her things and stuffing them back in her pockets. She was pleased to find a loop of elastic, stretchy material. She knew what that was for.

She quickly pulled her hair back into a tail, and twisted the loop around it to hold it in place.

* * *

She continued walking down the hallway, beginning to realize that “lost” might be a meaningless concept in a place where there may not be such a thing as “found.” This made her bolder, at least, which seemed to make the walking less exhausting.  She still paused to catch her breath at what seemed like too-frequent intervals, but other than a hand lightly trailing the wall to steady herself, she no longer felt a need to cling onto any handhold to hold herself up.

That was better, at least.

But she still didn’t quite know what to do.

The doors all looked the same, or nearly so. She finally noticed markings on them, each set a bit different than the last, but meaning, if there was any, eluded her. Her shoulders became tense at the thought that she didn’t know whether that opacity was because of the symbols or her inability to remember what they were supposed to mean. “C-47?” Was there meaning in that?

She started opening doors, sticking her head inside in the hopes of learning… something, anything. But maddeningly, each room seemed to be much like the last. Smallish, with more and more pods in every one. How many people were in this place? And why were they all in these strange chambers?

At the seventh room, she paused for a moment, stepping inside, hesitantly approaching one of the tubes. Her stomach flipped a little, but she felt compelled. She wanted — needed — to know.

What if she were the only one?

She tried to silence that voice, but it nagged at her, pushing her forward. Placing her hands on the lid, she leaned over to peer inside. The windows in this one seemed to be frosted over, and the metal of the lid seemed colder than… that other pod. She breathed on the panel, trying to clear her view, and pressed her face against the glass.

He just looked like he was sleeping. Granted, with tubes and wires all over him, but he seemed… peaceful. His hair and beard were a medium sandy blonde, and very long — his hair was nearly as long as hers had been, she thought. She stepped back, noting the small green light glowing on a panel on the tube’s side.

He wasn’t a rotten corpse. So… that was good, right?

She wondered if it was possible to wake him. She studied the outside of the tube, but had no grasp of how it might work, not even to know how to, perhaps, just turn it off… even supposing that doing so would wake him instead of kill him.

Biting her lip, she backed away, unwilling to take the risk.

* * *

She skipped the next several doors. She didn’t think it would matter. She moved more quickly, trying to discover some logic in the layout, some clue that would explain this place or what she was doing here. Not a minute later she came to another hallway, crossing her path at a somewhat off-from-square angle. Tired of the endless, identical doors, she turned right, heading down the hall that appeared to have no doors at all.

It was fairly short, as it turned out, leading to another corridor that appeared to run parallel to the one she’d just left behind. Immediately in front of her was a set of doors — two of them this time, set in a wider doorway. C-81 was marked across both doors. This seemed promising. Or at least different.

She approached the doors, and after a moment of emitting an annoying high-pitched whine, they slid open.

Inside was a bunch of… equipment. Definitely familiar. It was all bolted to the floor, she noticed, in a grid pattern with narrow aisles in between. Too narrow to accommodate any of those strange pods with people inside them. It was, in its way, a relief — finally, a room not stuffed to the ceiling with disturbingly imprisoned unconscious people.

She sat on the bench of the nearest piece of equipment. The pad was softer than the thing’s metal frame, though its smooth surface material was cracked. She reached above her head to a metal bar hung by a cable from the overhead frame. She pulled at it. It was heavier than she expected.

And it clicked. She knew what this room was. A fitness room. She remembered… not specific events, really, but the idea of being in a place like this, of moving from bench to bench, working her body until she was tired and warm and sweaty. It had felt good.

She stood, moving through the rows of equipment, letting her mind and body remind her what each one was for. A faint smile tugged at her lips.

Then she came to the last row of machines, and behind them — a wall of windows.

She stopped dead, staring. Her blood ran cold.

Beyond the clear, floor-to-ceiling panels, all she could see was a field of deep, inky blackness, pierced by thousands of tiny pinpricks of light.

Stars. Nighttime.

No. She approached the window slowly, her feet moving of their own accord. Placing a palm on the glass, she could see everything. She could see nothing.

No ground.

I’m in SPACE.

Her disbelieving brain seemed frozen. It seemed so difficult to pull ideas together into a coherent thought. She just stood, staring — it was endless. There was nothing out there!

She turned her head, searching for something to see besides the dark. There was an overhang above the window, enormous panels of nondescript metal set at a gently-sloping angle. It extended for meters and meters to either side. Straining to see, with her left cheek against the glass, she saw the gigantic symbols marked on the metal in chipped black paint.


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