Elysian Fields Facility:
Smith Wing, First Corridor.
Beginning. Nice room. Pretty big. An inert form rested upon the one large bed adjacent to the entry hallway, clothed in a set of comfortable looking sweat attire – Fields logos, intact just under the waste band, upon the breast of the t-shirt. The form was youth incarnate; young, fourteen. His name had been Con Smith. The pseudonym had been masterfully created; manufactured as a point of personal pride, yet also of profession, anonymity. And, until about ten hours ago…Con Smith had been quite dead. Things change quickly when you’re famous. Or maybe infamous is a better word.
He was usually wearing an outstretched bandana over his head. So you couldn’t see his hair. So you couldn’t see his eyes. The cataracts made his eyes look like they were porcelain, streaked with pearl, certainly not vacant. He was blind at birth, and remained blind; however, the term didn’t apply in the strictest terms to the teenager, to his abilities. Sight equals vision. But perception in the broadest sense of the word, is more. Con was more. He’d never liked the idea of people being uncomfortable when they looked at him, though he could perceive their every facial movement, every muscle movement, twitch and motion. Eyes were the windows; ‘drawn’, the house became ominous, bleak. Lonely. So he hid his ‘darkness’ in more darkness. It was a fitting farce. He preferred to let other people see ‘no evil’…and feel good about it. That had always worked for him. However…at this point, normal was just fucking out of the question.
Con awakened, startled. Not quite scared. He had no reason whatsoever to look around. He ‘felt’. Scanned. Knew. Air bounced off of everything, giving it life, motion, depth, mass. Form. This wasn’t right. This…wasn’t…right.
Con moved his head to one side, then the other. He sat bolt upright, then realized in bold pause from the sensations of his odd clothing and from the resonations his movements made against his surroundings that he was in a broad room with a closed door. It wasn’t what he’d call a normal door. It had no knob, no latch or hinges. It didn’t alarm him. He’d ‘seen’ plenty. The lights were on, dim. The pitch was undeniable, the heat minimal. Much less than normal light bulbs or florescent light he’d encountered. It didn’t matter. There was no sunlight audible, the shades were drawn. The windows behind them were…Con’s stomach dropped and he lost his perspective on his surroundings. Dismissed them, didn’t care. He knew he wasn’t wearing his bandana. It didn’t matter. The blood was everywhere. It had to be everywhere. Con breathed quickly, felt dizzy as he ‘felt’ around the bed for anything. Anything that made sense. Nothing made sense. Broken songs were in his head. Whistling. Sick, dreadful posturing in his throat, the notes in tow.
Con touched his chest, palm to cotton, what was obviously cotton, no polyester, waiting for the warmth, the wetness of the blood to creep up, onto his fingertips. The blood never came. Had it been there? The breaking glass had been deafening. It was gone now, all silent, but the memory made him want to wretch. Where was the nightmare? This wasn’t it. This wasn’t it. Con actually felt, with his fingertips, around the bed, unsure why he wanted to. He was above the covers. He wasn’t in any pain. Nothing hurt. Was it a positive, or a negative concealed by shock? It didn’t matter. Con’s fingers then graced upon what he recognized as a pile of clothes, nicely folded. He knew the clothes, regardless of color, were the kind he would wear, possibly feel comfortable in. There was a small piece of paper at the top of the pile.
Con grabbed the paper up in a brashness – impatiently, boldly. He knew what he would find, felt it already. Braille crested the note. The indentations he knew; read them with perceived fingertips, senses honed to include, not rely upon touch. So, he read the short message, without fingertips, used only perception:
‘Get dressed and come to the end of the hallway outside your room. It’s to your right. The sneakers are new. Don’t be afraid.’
So much for answers. But new sneakers were new sneakers. They fit, too. Like a glove. Suddenly, this was a messed up version of Christmas. One of several to add to the pile. Con wore the sneakers, but shunned the clothing. This wasn’t a game he wanted to play. He was already dressed well enough for the occasion. Artillery was absent, but speed was a weapon. The weapon remained unloaded, and Con couldn’t force himself into pushing rounds quickly, at all. He hadn’t been ready…he hadn’t been ready. He sat upon the bed, in what Con felt certain was a stupor…and he thought, absently.
He remembered ‘looking’ out of the window. Con would do that sometimes; face towards a window, find the glass with his fingers without need. He would listen hard. Noises mold images. Sounds make sense. He would listen and whistle along to what he heard. It was fun. A game he played with all creation. Creation had played its game…last night? He was too groggy for it to have been any time soon. But he’d played his game with all creation. Then…he’d heard the gunshots. The popping he was so familiar with, the bass so horrifying, he could never have whistled over it. The sounds had dragged him down, jarring the breath from him. But his own gasps hadn’t been the last thing he’d heard; the last thing he’d heard had been…that…whistling. Had it been him? Someone else? The resonance remained the same, regardless of host.
He hadn’t had time to be scared then…whenever. But now…the release came. Con jolted and gasped, nearly collapsing off of the probably queen-sized bed; blood draining from his face, he fell to his knees, floor soft carpet, hands grabbing a hold of the smooth, cool bedspread. He buried his face in it, convulsing – shuddering uncontrollably. Still squeezing the covers in tight fists, Con hid his face…and he sobbed. For ages. He didn’t know why. He didn’t care why. He didn’t have anyone watching his eyes now. It was screaming or crying. His body had chosen the quieter.
After a while, Con felt better and when he’d sat with his head resting on the bed for a few luxurious minutes, he stood up and collected himself. One article of the pile of clothes…he would accept. He took up the bandana of god knows what color, and rubbed his eyes with the back of his wrist one good, last time before wrapping the cloth around his head in his usual way. So they couldn’t see his hair. So they couldn’t see his eyes. Then he felt whole. Con hoped no one would find out about his magnificent display. He’d probably never live it down; but it had been uncontrollable. He didn’t care. Had no one to impress. He hadn’t been crying when plastered with five rounds to the chest…to…the back. Had it been…five? He didn’t remember feeling any of them.Con felt sick again, so he stopped thinking about it as best he could.
Was he alone? What about…? And-? Anyone? Hadn’t…anyone-? Made it? Con stood in ‘his’ room for a few more moments debating what to do. There was a door. There were windows. He chose the door.
Making sure he was truly collected, and that his body wouldn’t decide to throw another shit fit and get him… …uh…noticed prematurely, Con made a beeline down the short hallway to the door without hinges or a knob. In fact, it wasn’t locked; this was obvious as it slid open with his approach. It was motion sensitive. How convenient. How ridiculously unnecessary. If this was the Union, they had exclusive parts of it the staff wasn’t letting the public in on. Not the general public, anyway. Con felt neither general, nor exclusive as he ‘peered’ out into the other hallway he’d been forewarned about in the letter. The coast was clear.
Con tried to calm himself enough to concentrate, to hear heartbeats, breath, voices, anything. The only thing he could make out was his own heart beginning to jack hammer. He wasn’t scared, that wasn’t the problem; he was giddy, adrenaline pelting his sinuses. He felt like laughing, but strained against it. Concentrated harder. He would have fumbled for some kind of weapon to defend himself with, but he figured anyone who’d…done whatever they had…knew exactly where he was. Had it been Harman? A training exercise? That…was utterly like Harman, just as sadistic. But it just…didn’t fit.
Con eased out into the hallway, and listened again for any movement besides his own. He was suddenly aware of the fact that there was a door directly opposite his…and that air was being gulped into it; it was open. This meant only one thing, and con doubted seriously that that thing was the malfunction of the door mechanism. Someone was standing in the doorway, inside the other room.
Con was already in fighting position
as that person launched into the hallway, full force.