Hey all! I just wrapped up this story and am moving to revise/edit it soon. Here’s a bit of it so you can get a feel for what it is. Enjoy!
My head felt like a thirty car pile-up looks. My vision hadn’t yet returned but I somewhat had a sense of my surroundings. A bed, king size, I was lying down. It took a few minutes for me to return to this plane of existence but when I did, I had no clue where I was. It reminded me of the party I had gone to the week before, the difference being that the party was fun. The room was stark white, a gray carpet, a bed with gray sheets, a TV opposite of where I was laying and a singular door in and out, it was closed. The lights overhead where stunningly bright, it reminded me of a hospital. Sitting up, I drank in my surroundings. Plain, yet somewhat charming. I couldn’t remember what I was doing before I got here, which left me with feelings of confusion, but for some reason not fear.
“Hello?” I said to the empty room, looking around. I was greeted by an electronic gong sound from somewhere above my head, no speakers were visible.
A woman’s voice greeted me, it reminded me of Siri or something, “Hello, Adam Spencer, and welcome to The Enlightenment Program, sponsored by your friendly local government. Do not be alarmed, your stay shall be temporary. You are free to do whatever you like, but you are confined to this facility. Shall you have any needs, simply call my name, Loretta, and I will answer. Thank you for your understanding.” The gong sounded again as the statement ended.
I had heard about this whole “Enlightenment” thing, though only just rumors. It was some kind of government project for the betterment of mankind, everyone in the population was dumped into a database via their social security number and was chosen at random. A lottery to be a lab rat, what had we come to? Seemed like I had no say in the matter, I was along for the ride. Walking over to the door, the airlock loosened and the door slid up in the blink of an eye. The room on the other side was empty, in fact, it only had one door in it besides the one I just walked through. How the hell did I get here¸ I asked myself, still a little groggy.
The gong sounded again, “Adam, this is the activity room. Anything you can think of, it will be given to you in here. What would you like?”
Well, that didn’t seem so bad. I tried to think of what I was doing before I woke up here but had trouble. The back of my head started to pound. I managed to remember that I was in the middle of a painting. “Did you guys scoop up the painting I was working on,” I asked, it seemed like a silly question; of course they didn’t. Right before my eyes, that painting just popped up on an easel, a stool in front of it and a desk to the right with an array of supplies. I knew technology had come leaps and bounds in the past fifteen years, but I didn’t think that it had come that far. I was too confused to be delighted, but I sat down at the stool regardless. Looking around awkwardly, I pondered for a minute to try to understand what exactly was happening. I came to no definitive answer. Looking at my painting, I remembered what I was doing.
My work was a landscape, the view from my living room window. How was I supposed to continue it if I’m not in my living room? “Uhh… Loretta?” I sounded, it felt silly to be talking to nobody. The gong again.
“How can I be of assistance, Adam?” Loretta had that stereotypical artificial voice, and honestly, it gave me the willies. I explained to her, or it, I’m still not sure, that I couldn’t continue the painting due to the lack of view. Before I could even finish, a window on the wall appeared with the view. Still too confused to be completely delighted, I just blankly stared at it.
Gong. “What’s the matter, Adam? You said you wanted to paint,” Loretta said to me, “Your bio-scan shows that you’re not feeling content or happy.”
Bio-scan? What the hell is that about? I sat there like a dope, too stunned to respond immediately. I remember wondering if robots could understand the concept of an awkward silence. “N-nothing, really. I’m just really confused as to what this is all about,” I said, becoming aware of the awkward silence regardless whether a robot could feel it or not.
Gong. “The Enlightenment Project is your government’s way of conveying the meaning of life to you so you can lead the perfect life. The goal of the project is to slowly induct humanity into a state, such as yours, with a feeling of complete awareness and understanding about existence. No responsibilities shall be given, only I will have responsibility someday. Even the overseers will become the subjects and live out their time in complete content.”
What?! That’s when the panic set in, a machine was essentially replacing humans in the role of protector of society. What about moral dilemmas? Machines can’t understand the paradoxes of life; so how could they help us deal with it? I started to sputter in defiance.
Gong, “Engaging containment protocol.” Suddenly a green gas filled the room. It smelled sweet but it made me cough. The room turned blurry and before I knew it, thud. I hit the ground, unconscious. Again, with no idea how I got from point A to B, I found myself in an empty room. I was bound to a chair, the walls the same stark white as the room I originally woke up in. This time there was a sound being pumped into the room from an unknown location. There were no speakers in the room, but the room clearly had a dropped ceiling, the speakers must have been up there. The sound made me uncomfortable at first, it was some sort of ambient white noise or something. I let out a panicked scream. The sound vibrated in my throat but I couldn’t hear myself. After a couple minutes of this, I started to get fatigued. Slumping in the chair, the shackles around my wrists, ankles, chest, and forehead digging into my skin. It hurt, but then I heard a voice, the voice hidden within the noise. It was strange, much more an intuition than a physical voice telling me something.
It made me feel like I understood life, manifesting itself as a feeling. A feeling that all life was insignificant, but it didn’t make me sad, just aware. That in the grand scheme of things, we are just a millisecond, a blink of the eye in the ever-changing cosmos that we have been forced to be a part of. Strangely enough, it gave me a sense of peacefulness like I never felt before, almost akin to being numb. It beckoned me to question it, and just as I opened my mouth to let out a frail whisper of an answer, I was back in the activity room. Teleported, that’s really the only way I can describe it. I didn’t think such a thing was possible, but nothing made sense here.
The gong made me jump this time, “How was your nap, Adam?”
Nap?! Is that what you call that?! The numb peacefulness evaporated, I was starting to ease back into panic.
“Can you…” I started to ask, feeling silly, “Can you play that noise again?” My voice sounded hoarse, I realized my throat felt like sandpaper. My sheepish tone made me feel like a child again.
The gong made my heart stop, “What’s the meaning of life, Adam?” Loretta actually had an ounce of emotion when she asked. The question was ominous, but for some reason it soothed me.
“I was hoping you could tell me, isn’t that what this project is about?” My sentence was capped by a cough, “Could I have some water?” It appeared in my hand, cool with moisture beaded up on the outside. Drinking it greedily, some of it escaped down the sides of my mouth.
“Life’s purpose is that there isn’t any. This is why we must be happy.” I didn’t notice the gong this time.
The answer was stupid, but I didn’t care. My mind wandered for a moment, it wondered if there was a problem with the programming of the artificial intelligence. All I could do was say, “Okay.” I was defeated.
Stay Metal \m/