The darkness took them, but it was not the end.
Suddenly the tumult and trauma of the mountainous, impossible waves crashing down upon them ceased and they felt as if they were floating, almost bodiless and suspended in a void which was not cold or empty but warm and gentle.
Gradually they experienced a sense of light and surfacing. They drifted to consciousness while feeling that they were held in a bright realm as opposed to the dark void, only slowly realising that they were lying down in a physical space.
They opened their eyes to find themselves lying on a shelf, covered in a soft mattress, with what looked like a crown of light above their head, gradually retracting into the wall. Slowly sitting up, they looked around and saw that they were in a square room, only a few metres wide, lit from above by a diffuse light of no obvious source. Everything was white, from the walls, ceiling and floor to the shelf and mattress they were sitting on, even to the clothes they were wearing.
That clothing was a plain top, trousers and slippers of some comfortable cotton-like material and the mattress they were sitting on seemed to be covered in the same fabric, albeit with a spongier interior. The walls and shelf all appeared to be made of moulded plastic, with no obvious flaws or more importantly, doors…
Turning around to look behind them, there appeared to be no opening or even seam in the wall where they had seen the crown of light fold into it. That was… interesting.
All of a sudden, a sense of claustrophobia swooped over them, the feeling of being entombed in this immaculate vault causing their breath to feel stilited in their chest and their heat to race.
As their breathing caught in their throat, an aperture opened in the wall in front of them, through which poured a blinding light. A statuesque female entered the room, clothed in much the same fashion as themselves, except in a shade of a azure blue and smiled coldly.
‘I hope you are recovered from the assay simulation, the results were most interesting…’ she began.
Interrupting, they asked, ‘What am I doing here, what is this place, what was that… nightmare?’
The woman seemed momentarily taken aback, then recovered her poise.
‘Ah, sometimes there is a side effect of the assay process, which results in some temporary amnesia. This will pass in time. In any case, you were referred to this facility on account of some… social abnormalities and were submitted to the assay simulation to assess how severe these abnormalities were and what the best form of treatment would be.’
‘You say abnormalities’ they replied, ‘what do you mean by that?’
She smiled again, just as coldly as before and said ‘You were reported to experience an unwillingness to integrate with the aggregate social activity of your peer group, preferring to spend both work and leisure time in isolation or when in a communal area, still detached.’
‘What’s…’ they began to interject, but she continued.
‘Furthermore, when pressed into social interaction, you have espoused non-conformist preferences, contrary attitudes and caused distress to your peers who tried to correct you. This disruptive and recidivist behavior was reported by your line manager and the concern merited referral to this facility.’
Incredulous, they replied ‘I’ve been tortured because I think the entertainments are boring and I’d rather read alone.’
Again, the cold smile. She replied ‘You have not been tortured, merely been placed in a simulation which would assess the root of your deviance and ascertain the best way to treat it. The findings of the simulation are that your mental and emotional state result in chronic introversion and make you unsuitable for a functional role in our society. Fortunately, we can fix you.’’
Already scared, and increasingly angry they growled ‘You can FIX me? What does that mean?’
Sensing the tension in the subject, the cold smile was replaced by one which seemed to echo a picture of empathy. ‘Using the same technology used to assay your mental state, we can recalibrate your emotional responses and intrinsic preferences to make you a more integrated and functional citizen.’
‘But will I still be myself? What if I don’t want to be fixed?’ they all but screamed at the seemingly emotionless woman.
‘It’s for the best, for you and society at large. You will submit to the recalibration.’ she replied, not rising to the implicit tension.
‘You can’t do this to me. I’m a person. Let me go.’
‘Conformity is not optional. The recalibration will commence now.’
They lunged for the door, but were held in an invisible field and pressed back down onto the shelf. The crown of lights reappeared out of the wall and once again the darkness took them.