Sunday, 22 May 2016

Life as a rat

As far as I was aware I'd never signed up for any experiment. I'd never crossed ant grammatical lines, never spoken up or back, hadn't missed any punctuation. Now here I was in some sound lab, headphones on and pad of paper and a pen in front of me. A voice in the phones cut into the BGM and said; "You were never meant to be here, your attendance is a chance occurrence, a random event. It may, in the great scheme count for very little or indeed it may be of some significance. So please consider yourselves to be no better than white mice or lab rats. You are the subjects of a great and long running experiment, one that we did not begin and that we shall not conclude. Only God or the Great Corporation can call a halt to the research and so it is that you must play your part, honestly, humbly and obediently. Understand?"

There was no opportunity to respond. Responding was not any part of the arrangement. We were in a controlled situation that we did not control. We were the experiment. I looked down the line of drawn, white faces. Each one consumed by some kind of new personal drive and horror. Victims and spokespersons for the masses, the chattering careless masses. We'd left them behind in our gloomy departure, we'd asked for no support or counsel as we were shipped like packets of meat in the centre for...experimentation and testing. I presumed this. There was noting else.

Then a buzzer sounded and the countdown began, there was little warning and now we were in the game. The questions came like silver bullets, repeated twice for effect and clarity (they said). I wrote down my answers as if my life depended upon them. It did. This was my moment. My time to fry my brain and make the grade. To be the best example, lab rat or whatever they called us. I was on fire, but not noticeably. I just had to maintain a workmanlike demeanour as the questions hit me like punches and I rolled with them or reeled with their impact. There was not dodging of issues or safe haven. The rats were being put through their paces and pummelled.  I lost track of time, it was shocking but expected. Then in a hour or maybe less it was over. White faces were red, bloated and sweating, papers were scattered. There was muttering, whispering and swearing but no one wanted to give too much away. not yet. Not until we were on the other side of the wire and the steel doors, till there was sunshine and water and the chance of seeing friends.

As I made my way out I cursed under my breath, I mouthed untidy, unclean words. All the rest of my civilised vocabulary had been squeezed out and stretched to breaking point by the time and the test and the heat. I was dried up inside, all that remained was the obscene husk, the bad language and the bitter tongues. That was what they had done to us, to me. As for my result, I never knew it, my transportation across the water was either my reward or my punishment. All part of the plan, keep it as unclear, opaque and difficult as possible and avoid the truth at all costs.

I looked up, now I was free from the test. The sky was blue, there was board and lodgings and, for the time being a place to be. If only I could be clear as to what any of this really meant.

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