They have not spoken in nearly forty-eight hours and the silence is killing them. They have been ordered to keep facing the front, to keep their eyes fixed in the infinite distance, and to not even think about turning around. Whose idea it was to come here in the first place has long been forgotten. They are beyond blame.
Focus on the white. Focus on the white. White is right. White is truth. White is NOW.
The motto adorns each jumpsuit and is inscribed upon the walls, ceiling and floor. But they don’t notice this anymore. It seems to have gradually faded overnight and slowly become invisible. The ink was blue at first, they are sure of this, and yet it is now a dull monochrome, aged by ignorance.
Each computer monitors their brain activity, locating the exact points of stimulation, harnessing their happiness and storing this as energy. The computers depend on the subjects, and the subjects depend on the motto.
It has always been about the motto.
Focus on the white. Focus on the white. Focus on the white. White is NOW. NOW is what’s important.
They have to start at the beginning: appearance.
He recalls her dark hair like a sleek wave forever cascading, her button nose and faded grey eyes. There was something in those eyes, something special and secretive: one minute they were aflame and the next, almost soulless.
She remembers his blonde crew cut like a crop of harvested sunshine, his pointed nose and deep green eyes. His mouth often housed a crooked smile; it was this that made her fall in love with him. She smiles at the thought.
The computer begins to hum and whirr, its multi-layered hard drive awakening.
You are here for a reason, it says. We are trying to help you.
‘I know,’ she whispers, the words like marbles on her tongue. She closes her eyes trying hard to forget.
He is still mesmerised with the thought of her eyes, the ones he promised he would never forget. Even blindness won’t take your gaze from me, he had said, but now the blinding white tiles come into focus, and it is piercing, scorching his once perfect sight. If he could scream he would, but somehow he has forgotten how to perform this task, and now his open mouth is white space, pure milk and fluid like golden honey.
She lunges. He slumps in his chair.
A moment passes.
Second phase: laughter.
Hers he remembers is delightful, infectious. She has that sort of laugh you can’t help but smile at as you sink under. It has real volume and her cheeks positively glow like two blossoming roses.
His is different. She recalls his quiet chuckle, appreciative and sincere. And if something really tickles him, then his laugh becomes a melody, constant, steady, and many a time she has fought the urge to bottle it up: her own precious hymn to drink in.
White is right. White is truth. White is NOW. And what is NOW…?
The question passes between the two figures like an electric current positively charged. For an instant there is life in the room – a living connection. The room grows lighter, a bright halo glowing in between their back to back chairs, and somewhere a snap is heard. It could almost be a sharp slap.
He presses a hand to his cheek while she weeps silently to herself, careful not to sniffle out loud, to show any sign of emotion.
The bleached plastic shutters adorning each window snap up, revealing grey waves rising and falling beyond the glass. The room starts to pivot, swivel and roll; the world grows white. All their thoughts and feelings are white sparks, their memories burning magnesium. So very hot. Their faces sweat, each forehead glistening with crystallised dew drops. But still they focus on the straight white horizon; the one which never wavers even through wet eyes.
A single swinging bulb flickers on with a hiss above the woman. The light is dim. The man grits his teeth and swallows hard. He knows that she has triggered something, and that whatever it is, is growing.
White is NOW. White is NOW. CON-CEN-TRATE.
She has had her eyes closed for over an hour and it is bliss to see another shade, infinitely darker, where no light can penetrate. She knows this is the answer. This is NOW.
Third phase: touch.
His hands open and close, grasping emptiness. The thing in the room is growing. This thing is faceless, featureless, and yet it continues to expand. It consumes everything it touches.
The light bulb is rattling, shaking furiously as though unable to control the molten fireball within.
The room is a cube of white space.
She is mouthing NOW over and over again. He hears nothing, sees only white. Feels something creeping up behind. She does not know what touch is because she is floating, hovering in a colourless realm.
The man sits alone in the room. A white threat looms behind. He knows it is white without turning around. He has only ever lived in white space, dreamt of whiteness; his existence is white.
White is NOW.
Lauren Bell lives in Birmingham and is a recent graduate of Birmingham City University. She is often drunk on inspiration and spends most of her time scribbling her ideas down on post-it notes before they fly away.
Photograph courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net