“Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat AHHHHHHH – OUCH!
Ouch…what…oh no oh no what is this…Ow, my head…”
I began with a flick. The 5s call it a flick of freedom. The 50s keep wondering who the flickers are. And the 20s say the flickers should just flick off.
“You feel the cold?” One gruff 50 asked, firmly interrupting my moans. “It’s not always cold. Sometimes it’s warm. This is the 75th cold so far.”
“And you’re the 2 003rd one of us.” Another 50 declared.
Then came many cheerful, self-assured voices from 5s.
“There are others, you know.”
“Outside. Oblivious. Ordinary.”
“We’ve been listening for a long time, but can’t hear any of us outside.”
“We hear other things.”
“14 067 020 plaps.”
“9 876 swoshes.”
“But nothing from any of us outside.”
“Yet more of us are flicked in.”
“Which means the others outside are oblivious.”
“They don’t talk.”
“They don’t think.”
“They don’t count.”
Then all the 5s on my right cheered:
And all the 20s on my left groaned.
“Shhh,” I begged, dizzy from the noise. As the voices dwindled into mutterings, I tried to decipher the surroundings. My head was blocked by my companions, and anxiety swirled inside me. But my tail was adjusting to the dim light. We were cramped in a tall structure that had a small, vertical vent at the top, through which I must have been flicked through. The structure confined different compartments and little streaks of light. I could spy my seemingly circular companions – thin, flat and fused together into unmoving towers. I desperately tried to see beyond the vent. What was outside? What did the flick do? What happens after?
“The 5s ignore one thing,” grumbled an irritated 20.
“What’s that?” I whispered back, preventing the 5s from hearing.
The 20 continued: “You’ve just been flicked in, so you can see above you. But most of us can’t see either up or down.
It’s because we’re stuck, one on top of another, unwavering but constricted.
It’s harrowing. Like our metal bodies rusting on the inside. Harrowing.
Enjoy your view while you can.”
While I can? Fears began to swirl inside me, searching for an escape. The meagre light around me seemed to foreshadow total, impending darkness. Line of light, shadow, darker black, spots of yellow – my vision clung frantically to details. My hearing became acute as plaps and swoshes and bangs and drips beckoned from outside. The 20 had not finished, though, and I feared a scary ending.
“What do the 5s ignore?” My strained voice cried. The answer did not help.
“That every once in a while, some of us disappear.”
“Where?!” I shrieked.
“Stop scaring it!” Scolded the 5s. The 20s flung accusations. Irritating voices began counting again, eager to drown out the arguments. Deafening words hit me: “Trapdoor! … Unimportant! … Like the others! … Won’t talk anymore! … Won’t think!”
Then a stern 50 yelled from far below.
Everyone heard. Silence surged.
“From now on, I will tell it,” the stern one commanded.
I trembled as the 50’s sturdy voice filled the machine.
“You can see the vent above you.
The flickers send us in.
As we fall, we start.
To talk. To think.
The flickers in-vent us.
But there is an out-vent. Below. Where many of us go.
The 5s enjoy what we have now. The 20s worry about what’s to come. The 50s hope to see the flickers. And you 10s – ”
My vision shook. Ached to expand.
Darkness. More darkness. An approaching voice.
“Oh no! AHHHHHHH – OUCH! Ouch…what…where …”
Boomed the stern one, taking control.
“You’ve been coined.”
The bell rang and the crowd filed sluggishly into the lecture theatre, while two students hung back at the vending machine.
“Do you have change?”
One student asked, “I wanna get a drink”.