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Incorrect, boomed the mechanical voice from every claustrophobic wall. Every answer was incorrect. I screamed as raw electricity channeled into me. What did they want? Too many wrong answers, too much pain, too many questions but it was always the same question. I could feel the worm in my brain, and I understood the scientist behind the glass was inside my head searching for some specific piece of information. Whatever it was, he would get it. I had answered incorrectly, so my turn was over. My turn would come again soon, and I knew I would answer incorrectly, but I couldn’t do anything. It was someone else’s turn now.
“Question #1,” said the scientist behind the glass. He wore a white coat with a red stain on the sleeve, round glasses, and black shoes. I could see him clearly through my terrified eyes, unable to look anywhere else as my head was strapped to a chair. I knew he was in my brain now, searching for the root of my fear. He was always after fear. “Your mother hands you a pistol and tells you to shoot her in the head. What do you do?”
“No,” I groaned, yanking on my bonds but it was no use. I am a thin man with an anguished expression. “Leave me alone.”
“What do you do?” the scientist repeated firmly. His hand was poised over a red button, and at the sight of it I started to sob because I already expected pain. My heart raced, I was sweating. I had to answer, maybe I would be correct this time, maybe I’d be spared this time.
“I can’t,” I screamed. I could see my mother in my head, but she never gave me any gun. She had the gun herself, pointed at her own head, and I knew she would pull the trigger. I couldn’t stand the thought of doing it myself.
The scientist’s hand hit the button and my entire body shuddered with agony. Incorrect, shrieked some automated voice. The lights were going out. He was moving on. I couldn’t feel any relief because I knew eventually he would come back to me to pluck some other fear out of my head.
I am a frowning woman of 23. “Question #1,” said the scientist in the glass room.
“Go to hell,” I said. But he kept talking.
“You broke some dishes on accident and your husband starts to yell. He grabs you by the throat, choking you. There is a knife on the counter, and water on the floor your husband may slip on if he steps back. Do you kill him with the knife or make him slip in order to escape?”
I was about to swear but then I saw his hand above the red button, and a lump formed in my throat. I didn’t want to think about it. Those thoughts had been in the dark for so long, but now I could feel the fingers dragging them into the light. “Kill him.” A bolt of electricity through my body, some machine yelling INCORRECT, the lights going dark. Every answer was incorrect. He just liked to watch people tear themselves apart.
I am a woman too exhausted to move because I had been crying too long. “Question #1.” I started screaming. I had heard the words too many times, always the same results. It never went past #1. There was no sense of progress. No hope. “Your young daughter is playing outside and she wanders into the road. She does not see the oncoming car, but you do. The car cannot stop in time, and there is no way to save your daughter. What do you do: Go after her anyway and both of you are killed, or turn away and live with the thought that you might have been able to do something?”
I was sobbing again. I didn’t dare think about it, I didn’t care how much the technological parasite in my brain pained me. Even if I didn’t answer, it would still be incorrect. The tests were to make us insane. To study the limits of fear and insanity. I knew because I was a scientist. Was. But I wasn’t afraid anymore. I understood. My turn might never be over, but that scientist behind the glass wouldn’t be there forever. Soon he would be where I was, because that’s what happens to everyone here, eventually. When I saw the lights flicker on the scientist’s side of the glass and he started to look confused, I knew it was his turn. Finally. I wouldn’t have to answer anything today.
I am I scientist with a red stain on the sleeve of my white coat, I wore round glasses and black shoes. I am tied to a chair, struggling, and confused. My heartrate increased and I froze when the lights flickered to life. There was a scientist in a white coat and square glasses on the other side of the glass. I winced when I felt something strange worm its way through my brain, searching. “Question #1,” said the scientist. My heart dropped into my stomach and I felt sick. I struggled but there was no use. Tears started to roll down my face once I had no choice but to stare at the unsuspecting scientist across from me, because I was beginning to understand. I was terrified, just how I was meant to be. I closed my eyes because I couldn’t stand to look at the other scientist, so calm now, but one day would end up where I was.
“What are you afraid of?”
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