Room and Reel

I wake up in the white room. I cannot remember who I am, or how I arrived there. “Hello?” I hear myself say, not recognizing the sound coming out of my mouth. There is no answer.

The room is entirely smooth white, lit by panel lamps in the high ceiling. If there is a door, I cannot see it. The only evidence of a world outside the room is a single electrical outlet in the farthest corner. Connected to it by a black cord is the squat gray body of a reel-to-reel tape player.

The unmoving black reels remind me of dead eyes, and, unsettled, I turn away from it to inspect myself.

It’s when I check for ID that I notice my hands are bloodstained. There are matching red splashes on my pajamas, though my body appears unharmed.

My pockets contain no wallet or ID of any kind, only a unmarked bottle of beige oblong pills. Pressed onto one side of the bottle is a bloody thumbprint the exact size of my thumb.

That’s when the panic sets in. Like a tsunami it sweeps me up and carries me away.

I’m a prisoner. I’m a medical experiment. My mind is being played with. My memories have been stolen. I’m in danger.

I run my hands over the walls, clawing at them, trying to find purchase, but they yield nothing. The light fixtures in the ceiling are much too high but I leap for them anyways, flailing like a zoo monkey. All while screaming, “Let me out! Let me out!”

My efforts are as ineffective as a wave crashing itself against the rocks.

When panic fails, anger rises to replace it. My mind fills with visions of my faceless tormentors and I rail at them, screaming profane threats of murder and brutality, clawing again at those damned white walls.

Finally, after God knows how long, the madness leaves me, and I am spent, collapsing to the floor in my fatigue.

Still, there is the tape player.

With one shaking finger I reach out, pressing a Play button also decorated with a bloody print. The reels spin to life.

“Hello, David,” the recording says, and it’s my voice I hear, the voice now gone hoarse from screaming and shouting.

“That’s your name: David,” it continues. “You’re probably confused, and I’m sorry about that. The things is, something in your brain has gone, well…wrong, and it’s caused you a bit of a psychotic break. ‘Extreme paranoia couple with violent psychopathy,’ the doctors say. You’ve got people working on fixing you, but you’re far too dangerous to be around anyone. The room you’re in is to keep you safe, and you keep you from hurting anyone else.

“Now inside your pocket, there should be a bottle of pills. It’s just a sedative, and while you sleep, your physical and medical needs will be taken care of. I know this is scary, but I need you to trust me. Things are just going to be weird for a little while.

“Good luck, David.” The recorder clicks off, and then automatically rewinds itself.

The bottle has fallen from my pocket and rolled across the floor. I retrieve it and fish one of the pills out, dry-swallowing it. I have no reason to trust the recording, but it also hasn’t lied to me that I can prove.

The effect is immediate. My limbs go numb, and very quickly I sink into a white, white sea, deeper and deeper until everything is black.

*********

I wake up in the white room….

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