Sam is torn from his home in Ancestral Haven by a new breed of humans.
| Part 2
After what seemed like only moments later, Sam found himself in a sitting position while the gloved hands of his unseen assailants stretched around and bound themselves to him. They no longer felt like hands, but ropes, and the chair he sat on felt rigid. His attempt to stand was futile, and he realized soon why. He was tied to the seat and that it was bound to the ground.
His speech was no longer constricted, and this partial freedom gave him a temporary feeling of control.
“Have some balls and show yourselves!” He found himself screaming, his rage pouring out in unsatisfying drops of sweat and saliva.
Almost on cue the room became bathed in white light, and Sam felt it searing into his retinas. His hands bound, he was unable to shield himself from the onslaught and could only press his eyelids together in a desperate attempt to cease the pain and allow his pupils to adjust in their own time.
Sam managed to squint enough to make out where he was, but even with the light dimmed, came no closer to assuaging his confusion. He was in a bare, pale white square room resembling an interrogation room. There were no markings of any kind, and he had been placed right in the center of it. The seat that bound him was white like the room, and, despite its plastic appearance, felt hard and rigid.
Sam struggled against the bonds; it was a test of strength rather than an act of desperation. His arms and legs were bound to the chair by thick coils, which seemed as rigid and firm as the chair and of the same pale color.
What seemed like hours had passed. Sam’s sense of time had become as unreliable as his sense of space as the intensity of the pervasive white all around him preyed on his senses. He was certain this technique had been ritually utilized to aid in confusing whatever hapless victims had been held there before him. He felt like screaming and shouting to vent his fury and desperation, but the scapegoat was as elusive as his senses, and Sam knew that any more posturing on his end would have likely forced him to reveal his hand too early, whatever aspect of it could still be hidden.
“Hello Sam.” A soft androgynous voice, like a whispering wind, blew out from unseen speakers. He didn’t reply. “We hope you are not too uncomfortable.” Despite the apparent lack of any recognizable analogue he could pin on such an alien a voice, it did manage to sound genuine in its sentiment.
“How do you know me?” Sam felt his rage bubbling to the surface. Finally he was engaging the enemy he had been running from for so long. His had an outlet for his fear and frustration and it felt liberating. “Why won’t you leave us alone? Why won’t ya let us live the way we wanna live?”
The more he indulged his fury, the less desire he felt to control it.
“Choice is an illusion Sam.”
“So you say!”
“The moon is the tide’s mistress, not the Earth.”
“Stop playing games. Either kill me or let me go!” He felt that Death did not frighten him anymore. Acceptance of his fate brought with it a freedom that not even the prison of his chair could invalidate.
“What is it you want Sam? Do you want to go back to the streets of Ancestral haven? Back to the dingy streets of your miserable existence, sporadically nurtured only by the fleeting release of your Moca habit?” Sam was convinced the voice’s sympathetic tone had been employed to confuse him. He felt the beginnings of vertigo as the whitewashed emptiness of the room encroached further upon his senses.
“What d’ya care!!? What business is it if yours if we don’t share your vision of the future. Let us die out dignified if not peaceful!!” As Sam spoke those last words. the light flicked off and Sam found himself covered in darkness again, alone and in despair. He knew the voice would not respond any more and did not attempt to engage it any further. Doing so would allow them more power than he had already betrayed.
For several hours he was forced to sit in pitch blackness until sleep finally washed over him, and the darkness, leveraged by destitution, evaporated into void.
Sam awoke with a start.
He was not sitting this time, but lying in what appeared to be a hospital bed of some kind. His arms and legs were bound, but this had not come as a surprise to his already feverish mind. Even inside the rooms of each of his dreams, he had been incarcerated in one form or another.
The room he found himself in appeared to be not unlike a hospital room, sterile and bare, but beyond that, it lacked something the hospitals of his memories possessed.
There were numerous cylindrical tubes running from the ceiling to the floor with a multi-colored, fluorescent fluid running through them. Various assorted hollow metallic objects stood on tables around the room, some tubular, some cylindrical, some cone shaped, all exhibiting a similar luster.
It appeared that while unconscious, he had been dressed in a bright orange hospital gown; the clothes he had worn upon his capture were nowhere to be seen. He felt cleaner, as if the old, filthy garments that had been taken from him also harbored the burden of the last few weeks.
Sam accepted that whoever held the key to his prison had no desire to kill him as they could have done so by then. He wondered if he had some information they needed.
Hours passed and Sam tried not to allow his thoughts to torment him, but the more he avoided thinking of his situation the more obsessive they became. While attempting to put together a jigsaw from all the disjointed pieces he could dig up from his memories, he was convinced he could see patterns where instinctively he knew none existed. A sense of persecution had heightened his senses and imagination, and something that stemmed from his paranoia began to construct a strange and terrifying collage of his enemies’ motives and convinced him he had been left alone purely for the purpose of being given ample time with which to torment himself. Just as he felt he was about to lose control, a part of the wall shifted open and two men entered. The opening closed behind them and became a wall again, giving no impression apart from what had just happened that it was anything else.
The two men were now inside the room, wearing the hallmark white robes of what the Ancestral Haven population pejoratively termed as ‘the Tainted’. They were handsome and their faces expressionless, their movements fluid and calculated.
Sam didn’t speak. He lay expressionless as the drones approached either side of his bed.
“We will release you and take you to another room. Be aware that any attempt at resistance or escape will be met with unpleasant consequences.” The drones stared down at him, seemingly waiting for any kind of confirmation. Sam did not budge and continued to stare up at the pale white ceiling, the same spot his gaze had penetrated for the past hours.
The drones seemed to take the silence as confirmation as one of them tapped his fingers rhythmically onto what must have been a console attached to the wall behind Sam’s bed, and seconds later the shackles snapped open and recoiled back into its sides.
Sam lay complacently until the drones beckoned.
“Please stand up and follow us.” Sam complied while they observed him calmly, appearing unafraid of any potential aggression from his side.
They led him towards the same space on the wall that he now knew served as a door, one of the guards in front and the other behind him. The wall slid open once again, and the guard in front led him through it. Shortly after passing through, Sam heard it close behind him. He was about to look back and see if the door was also imperceptible on the other side, but just as the thought crossed his mind, his attention was immediately diverted by the alien landscape around him.
They were in a gigantic atrium on what appeared to be the ground floor of a gigantic building. Sam looked up and his senses swam as he took stock of the immense height of it. His senses, being unused to such heights in an enclosed area, rebelled.
The area of the building was rectangular, and he could see they were close to one of the corners as only yards away to his left, the entrance to the building was visible, a long, transparent glass wall speckled uniformly with glass doors, and just above it a white wall like all the others around him continued its ascent to fill the rest of his vision. On his right, the floor space appeared to stretch off for miles towards the opposite end of the building, only visible because of its sheer height. The center of the building was hollow and surrounded by multi-level railed walkways that climbed as high as his eyes allowed him to see, coalescing at a needle point at the limits of his perspective.
At the center of the Atrium floor stood various symmetrical, floating shapes, suspended in mid-air and oscillating vertically as if floating on slow, steady waves. Spheres, cubes, and various types of hedrons playfully bobbed up and down, forming a perimeter around a dozen large cylindrical tubes very much like the tubes in Sam’s hospital room, but many times larger. They pulsed with bright, fluorescent lights, each of a different hue, which gave the impression of a color wheel. The tubes, like the shapes, oscillated in a slow, sensuous rhythm, appearing to fall and rise out of the ground.
Other than the strange, hypnotic display at the center, the building appeared white and barren apart from the vast number of upper city inhabitants wondering along the ground floor and on each walkway as high as he could see. He realized the sheer number of people present in the building could have reached well into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, if the distant walkways he could not make out from his vantage point were as populated as the ones closer to him. All the denizens appeared to wear the same garb as his guards, white overalls, with long, loose sleeves on the sides, and most had thick, dark hair, causing the whole structure to appear like a magnified ant farm.
There were no windows or doors along the barren walls other than the glass doors on the ground floor to his left. Other than these, all he could make out were white, desolate walls and platforms.
The chaos of ancestral haven had not prepared Sam for such a sensory assault, and he felt like an alien in a strange, foreign land, unable to relate to anything around him.
He followed the expressionless, drone-like beings before him across the atrium, past the strange light show at the center, past hundreds of other drones dressed in the same overalls, who wore the same expressionless faces. Despite his conspicuous, orange overalls, he drew no attention from the specters as they calmly went about their business, oblivious to or uninterested in the orange prisoner in their midst.
They approached a wall at the far end of the atrium fifty yards or so towards its center. The wall once again swished open at their approach to reveal an entryway, and Sam wondered if the building, or in fact the whole of the grand upper city, had similar entryways and how its inhabitants knew where they were located. The survival instinct within him, oblivious to his resignation of hope, searched for any clues the wall might have given to suggest such an egress, but could not find a single impression or area of discoloration. Either the inhabitants possessed some extra-sensory perception he was unaware of, or they had memorized each location, or at least those relevant to each of them.
The guards led him through the door and into a closet-sized, enclosed space with nothing but white around and above them as the egress turned back into a wall with a sudden and barely perceptible swish. He felt a tugging sensation pulling him down for a split second, indicating to him that this must have been an elevator and they had begun to ascend.
Sam heard no sound at all and felt as if he was enclosed in a white, empty tomb with nothing but two distant, impassive beings. A suffocating feeling of isolation began to well up within him, and for the first time, he understood claustrophobia and the panic that follows.
The elevator did not take long, and when the wall opened once again before him, he felt relief pass over him like a cool breeze. He was led by the procession through it and out into the vast walkway that hugged the walls of the massive building. Unlike the walkways he had observed from below, this one had a central walkway cutting through to the other side, dividing the oblong space in half. This indicated to Sam that he must have been higher up than he could have seen from the atrium as he did not remember seeing the walkway from below. This was confirmed to him as he peered up to see a white dome ceiling a hundred feet above with no further walkways. He looked down past the railing of the central walkway while being led across it, attempting to catch a glimpse of the atrium where he had been just a minute before. All he could see was an endless procession of walkways below him coalescing into a point like he had seen before when looking up from below.
The realization that he had been taken to the top floor made him realize he was not just another prisoner. Whatever they wanted from him must have been much more important than ratting out some rebels or surrendering information about The Three.
At the end of the walkway his procession reached yet another hidden egress, which now less unexpectedly opened before him.
Through the door, Sam found himself in the largest single room he had ever seen. He heard stories from escapees of the upper city in the slums of Ancestral Haven, but he had regarded these stories with the same pinch of salt he did all urban myths and tales he had heard over drinks. Having gazed at a room that made the grand Basilicas seem claustrophobic, Sam humbly realized that not all stories from drunks were exaggerations.
The inside was as white as the rest of the building although unusual shapes were scattered symmetrically against the sides of the walls, similar to but larger than the ones he had seen in the atrium, and like them, floating seemingly in mid-air. The interior of the dome ceiling above contained waves cascading atop each other along its circular perimeter. Being unused to such heights, Sam had trouble discerning how high the dome was. Or indeed how large the waves were.
He could see no other conspicuous adornments apart from a regal looking grey carpet inscribed with interlocking tessellated patterns several yards wide, which started at Sam’s feet and continued across to the other side of the room, where in the distance Sam could see a single large desk with a very high backed chair behind it.
The shapes at the sides of the room pulsed with vibrant pastel colors as they bobbed up and down slowly and asymmetrically on invisible waves. Although they were not perfectly synchronized, they appeared to dance to the same tacit rhythm.
Sam’s guards beckoned him along the carpet. The dancing shapes at the sides of the room pulsed to the rhythm of his steps while the stifling weight of the profound expanse of the room began to weigh him down.
As Sam’s procession approached the far side of the room, he could make out the desk a lot more clearly. It appeared to be made of white opaque glass. A high-backed chair stood behind it where a woman sat stooped over and engrossed in her work. The chair appeared wooden, its back several feet tall, dwarfing the figure sitting in its shadow.
Sam could not make her out clearly but noticed she had dark brown hair that went down to her shoulders. Her overalls were white like all the others he had seen in the building; only the august furniture and grandeur of the room appeared to be monuments to her semblant high status.
As he approached the chair and figure perched upon it, his heart sank.
“Emily.” He whispered, his tone soft and desperate. It couldn’t have been Emily, he thought.
The figure looked up at him. A handsome woman in her late 40s, she looked more beautiful than he remembered. The wisdom in her eyes had been replaced by some sort of knowledge that held Sam at a distance.
“Sam.” She remarked confidently. Her face gave away showed no emotion, only the determination and somberness that Sam had seen in all the inhabitants of the upper city. He found it oppressive.
“Have a seat.” She beckoned at the empty space on the floor in front of the desk, when almost on cue the floor produced a chair from its amorphous surface, as if it floor itself had morphed into it. Like when the walls gave way to passages, it happened so suddenly and unexpectedly that it startled him, which he attempted to hide.
The chair, unlike the grand wooden one behind the desk, was of a regular size and made of the same texture as the floor: opaque, white, nondescript marble that was cold to the touch.
He extended a shaking hand to hold onto the back of the chair, attempting to steal back the sense of balance his emotions took from him. Inside himself he had nothing to hold onto, like an unanchored ship in a storm.
“Surprised?” Emily asked. Sam searched for any kind of emotion behind her eyes, looking for any remnant hint his ex-wife was still inside somewhere.
“Surprise doesn’t do justice to what I’m feeling right now Emily.” He spoke softly and evenly, but the intensity of his gaze fell on nothing.
“I know Sam”.
“Do you?” He replied instantly. Emily didn’t respond but stared reflectively. He knew he had stumbled on territory which was no longer her domain, but this served only to propel Sam into a deeper sense of despair instead of granting him the upper hand as he had hoped.
“We need you.”
“You need me now?” As the despair to hold of him, he was confronted with the memories that had until then been submerged by the weight of his situation. He saw his then wife chose them over him. The adulation of an ideal had proved far more potent than her love for him, their inability to conceive children perhaps the final bitter ingredient of her decision.
“Sam, you were chosen for a reason. I chose you.” Emily paused, and her eyes pierced Sam in a way he hadn’t allowed anyone to since their separation. He could almost swear that behind the cold, empty gaze lay some old sentiment. “We want something from you; The City wants something from you, and what you will get in return will far outweigh what we take.”
“I won’t become one of you!”
“Calm yourself. It’s not what you think.”
“You have sacrificed your humanity to become one of your emotionless drones!”
“Our emotions operate on a level you are not yet evolved enough to understand.”
“I won’t do it!”
“You have no choice.”
“I’ll fight you!”
“The course of the river is set Sam. Altering it is beyond your power or understanding.” Sam was exasperated by his inability to break through. He was certain she was at least partially right; he was powerless to stop it. Emily’s gaze never left his, and by some power of the past, she held Sam in it.
“It’s not what you think Sam. Allow me to explain at the very least. Calm your emotions and listen to reason.”
He felt too drained to fight, irrespective of his desires. His emotions overflowed into all his mental faculties, and he no longer had the strength to remind himself that he was the prisoner. Emily allowed her words to sink in, and when she saw he no longer resisted, continued.
“We have run into a wall Sam. Humanity’s experiment was only a partial success.”
Sam remembered the time when, before humanity experienced the largest schism in all its history, he and Emily had been happy together. Unable to conceive children, Emily dedicated her life to her work and research into cognitive biology and psychology. Her effort to escape the pain of her infertility fueled her passion for her work. Sam loved her for the very passion that her discovery squelched.
He remembered vividly her excitement in embracing her success and her desire for Sam to embrace it. Sam had fought her and pleaded with her, but her pain had been far greater than Sam could have imagined, and she had succumbed.
He had lost her that day. All the light that ebbed and flowed tenderly through the haze of his days and nights was suddenly extinguished. Only the haze remained, like a fog on a cool, autumn morning.
“Our vision of a humanity unencumbered by its historical shackles, while lofty, was not perfect. Our species was bound to repeat the mistakes of its past due to our obsolete mammalian programming.” Emily’s words carried like a lofty, monotone lecture, a lecture he had heard all too many times before. It brought back the pain of hearing it for the first time.
“I’ve heard this all before.” Sam interjected.
“Let me finish Sam!” Emily reproached. Sam felt she was not used to being interrupted. He doubted any of them were used to any emotional outbursts, except perhaps on rare occasions from the captured denizens of the slums below.
“Our crass, outdated emotional core had no place in a society that was fast becoming powerful enough to destroy itself. War, greed, and the uncontrollable human ego, while only a minor scratch in the past, had become a gaping, infectious wound in the modern age. This is why I say our intentions were lofty Sam. We wanted to rid humanity of not only the cancer that had already set in but of the very cells that were potentially cancerous.”
“So you thought you could eliminate something inconvenient, and everything would just be ok?”
“We weren’t that arrogant. We knew there would be obstacles to overcome.”
“I take it you’ve hit one of these obstacles?”
“We have, but please let me finish.” Sam sat back, resigned. “By eliminating our most rudimentary emotional core, we inadvertently extinguished, or at least dimmed, the very flame in every human spirit responsible for the gift of inspiration.” Emily’s words fell into place like puzzle pieces, perfectly summarizing what Sam felt deep down to be true.
“We thought, initially, that inspiration would be unnecessary were our cognitive abilities enhanced beyond imaginable scope. We have found, unfortunately, that our creativity is inexplicably linked to that emotional core and that the loss of that spark has anchored our cognition, disabling it from reaching the heights we have aspired to. We can build upon what we already know, but have lost that spark that leads has pushed humans away from the beaten path for millenia”
“You can’t get rid of the Soul that easily. You always laughed at me when I said that, scoffin’ at me whenever you even heard me utter the word ‘Soul’. You listened, but you never absorbed the weight of what I was sayin’. You were used to the elite intellectuals you worked and socialized with.” Sam could not withhold the air of smugness he felt he was projecting, but reminded himself that the less than human creature that sat before him and so remarkably resembled his ex-wife could probably no longer pick up on, nor care about such cues. “The Soul is more than a religious thing Emily, more than even a spiritual thing. It’s the very core of what makes us what we are! Otherwise we’re no better than the silly mechanical contraptions and shapes that I’ve seen on every corner of this vacuum!”
“I never listened to you Sam. I admit that now. I was arrogant. I thought I was brilliant and that you were no equal for my intellect. But I loved you. I now know you had, and still have, more wisdom than I ever gave you credit for.” Sam felt the weight of Emily’s words and his own misdirected feelings. The being sitting before him was not Emily, but he could not suppress the welling up of affection he felt for the person this shadow represented.
“But through our enhanced intellect we have realized our own past follies. We now know that we cannot simply erase our base emotional core only to leave room for enhanced cognition. So with the aid of further research, we have found ways to expand the intellect whilst leaving that same fundamental core intact, with only minor exceptions that relate to the most rudimentary, primal force responsible for traumas, irrational fears and uncontrollable urges. We have refined our process Sam, and this is where you come in.”
“You wanna to try it on me first? Is that all I am? A lab rat?”
“No, you are not an experiment Sam. I would never do that to you,” Emily quickly explained, “we have enough data to ascertain the success of the process. Your task is special Sam. We need you to be the vanguard of the new species, the new and improved human species.”
“I’d no longer be human Emily! Don’t you get that?” Sam slammed his fist down on the table. He felt a jolt of pain shoot up his arm and immediately felt shame for losing control.
“What is human Sam? It’s just a label! What about people born with Aspergers, bereft of empathy, those who process emotions differently than what is considered the norm? Are they any less human than you?” Sam remembered how difficult it had always been to argue with her. Even when he was aware on some level that he had been right, he would always find himself on the losing end of a verbal joust. “Besides, we will not take anything away from you apart from the most primitive emotional core, which I can guarantee is only a hindrance.
“What you will gain will far outstrip what we take away. Think of that Sam, cognitive abilities far beyond that which you could ever imagine, coupled with a creative capacity undreamt of. You will be the vanguard of a new race of Einsteins, Mozarts and Picassos!”
“It’s not up to us to play God!”
“Oh come now, you can do better than rely on such an antiquated line. We have the tools, the capacity and a reason to enhance ourselves!”
“You got the wisdom?”
“No Sam, but you do… and we’ll enhance it. We’ll enhance you.” Emily smiled and Sam, for the first time, saw what appeared to be visible emotion on her face, but knew, in Emily’s case, it was only muscle memory of the emotion she was expected to portray.