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Interface by Ash Scott-Lockyer

You wake and try to open your eyes. This is an abject failure, they don’t respond to your commands. Bright flashes explode in the silent black and deep red void, but no vision comes. You drift back into sleep.

Later you awake again, how much later you don’t know, time has lost its purpose. Your whole world is brilliant, featureless white. You try to close your eyes against the glare, once more they refuse to obey. You reason you must be drugged. That’s why things feel peculiar. An accident, you must be in hospital. You think for a moment. You were driving, it was dark and you were travelling fast. The world spun – then you were here.

‘Oh Christ I’m dead,’ you think. Then the ridiculousness of that occurs to you. ‘If I’m dead why in hell do I itch so much?’ Your whole body seems to crawl with the irritation. You move your right arm to scratch a particularly troublesome sensation by your right ear, nothing happens.

‘Oh dear sweet Jesus Christ I’m paralysed…’ you shout. There’s no sound apart from the thought itself and the silent, white-noise-hiss that has been with you since waking. You thrash, trying to hurl yourself around whatever bed or gurney they have you on. Your body makes no response. It may be shock or panic that slides you into unconsciousness again.

The next time you wake, it’s with hope. Perhaps this is the worst nightmare you have ever had. That hope is soon extinguished as the familiar, featureless white expanse sinks into whatever senses you can still use.

‘People go mad,’ you think. There was a documentary you saw once about sensory deprivation; experiments they’d done. ‘I’m going to go insane in here and nobody will ever know.’

You cry, but no tears fall, nor do your eyelids blink.

It’s a long while later, you’re sulking. The world turns for a brief moment from fridge-door white to blue and then back. This immediately gets your attention. You wait for a repeat of the phenomenon. A short while later everything turns green. A while again and everything turns red and then returns to white again.

You wait another age without any reoccurrence of the colour changes. You sigh, or would do – but apparently you don’t exhale, or for that matter inhale, any more. When you first discovered this you tried holding your breath, the neural command did nothing. By now you’re almost resigned to the strangeness of this new world.

Then, one by one, blue dots appear, floating in front of you. They form a pattern, twelve dots in two vertical columns. Three dots link the columns on the horizontal axis at their centre points. You study the shape. ‘It’s a letter H,’ you think. Instantly the pattern disappears, to be replaced with another. One vertical, three horizontals – the letter E. Your excitement is overwhelming.

You have no idea how long it takes you to read, but at last someone has said: ‘HELLO – CUNNINGHAM.’

The name means nothing to you, yet you are desperate to answer, to let this other human being know you are alive.

‘WE-KNOW-YOU-CAN-SEE. WE-CHECK-YOUR-SERATONIN-LEVELS.’

You let this sink in. You are obviously in such a bad way that they are forced to communicate like this. ‘Am I blind, deaf, dumb, paralyzed? Dear god, what’s happened to me?’

After a while your world turns green once more, then blue, then red; repeating the cycle over and over. It’s distracting – no, infuriating.

Letters spell as the colours change ‘YOU CAN MAKE-IT-STOP.’

You will the colours to stop – they freeze on green. ‘I’d sooner have had red,’ you think. Instantly the colour changes to red. You think blue and the colour changes again. You try to imagine other colours and make them appear, but it seems your palate is limited to red, green and blue. ‘I wonder what happens if I have them at the same time?’ You think.

Your world turns black.

‘THAT’S BETTER.’

Now the words appear in their entirety and roll across your vision, reminding you of old screens from the early days of computers.

‘YOU NEED TO LEARN TO USE THE INTERFACE. WE CAN’T HELP.’

Your perception of time no longer exists. You sleep when tired, in no pattern of day or night. There are a million questions to be asked, but for the moment the communication is one way.

You seem to have been working on influencing your limited world for days, maybe weeks. There’s no hunger, no need to pass urine or defecate.

You awake and turn your world black. You still have no memories except fragments, but now you have a purpose.

‘GOOD MORNING CUNNINGHAM, PLEASE USE THE KEYBOARD.’

Under the scrolling text is a line of characters, the alphabet. You concentrate; the letter W turns briefly red then a W appears in the scrolling message line.

‘WHAT HAPPENED TO ME, WHERE AM I, WHO ARE YOU?’ You laboriously type; the mental strain is agonising.

‘THERE WAS AN ACCIDENT,’ There’s a long pause. The typing continues. ‘YOU ARE STILL AT THE FACILLITY.’

Memories begin to seep back into the ragged edges of your mind. You were working late, you, Purcell and Davies. The dog was doing well – at least, what was left of it. You left the machines running, keeping it alive. The bottle of scotch in your desk drawer provided a celebratory drink. You shouldn’t have driven; the bend was only the first after you left the main gates.

‘DAVIES?’ You type.

‘IT’S PURCELL, ACTUALLY.’ The answer comes.

‘Oh sweet Jesus, oh Christ help me,’ you scream, unheard.

‘WE WERE FIRST ON THE SCENE… BROUGHT YOU BACK IN.’

‘Oh no, please make the typing stop.’ You don’t want to see… but you know…

‘WE COULDN’T SAVE ALL OF YOU. YOU WERE HORRIBLY BURNED AND CRUSHED… ’

You’re just like the dog…

‘IT WAS MOSTLY YOUR BRAIN WE ADMIRED DOCTOR CUNNINGHAM.’

———————

Ash Scott-Lockyer is an equestrian photographer, writer and horse rider. His work ranges from horror to fantasy and include Archolus, a full length, dark, rural fantasy novel. He is in his fifties, married, lives in East London but rides horses in the Essex countryside. His influences range from pulp fifties sci-fi to English folklore and legend. His website is http://www.shadowtales.co.uk

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