Right having taken into consideration deb's comment I have lengthened my line scene...and will now post the revised version plus several paragraphs more...it is a lot in one hit :)
I continue to stand in the line, staring aimlessly into space. My mind tries to wander, but it is like walking through a series of deserted warehouses. No matter where I turn, there is nothing there. At last, some vestiges of emotion seep through my body. I know for certain that my mind should wander to other things, other thoughts- the past, the future, anything. But it doesn’t. Now I am starting to panic, adrenalin coursing through my body, wildly pounding through my veins. The unshakeable placidity that had encased me like glass shatters around me. I want to scream but it seems almost blasphemous to make such a display when everyone else is still standing there with bovine docility plastered across their faces. Instead I smother the scream in my throat and take another look around.
It is now that other details come crashing into my mind, or rather, the absence of detail. Wherever this line is, it is not a place in any of the normal sense of the word. Everything that might define a place is missing. There are no walls, no floor, no sky or ground. There is not a breath of wind, no heat and no cold, in fact there is no temperature at all. If you were to paint the scene you would need shades less coloured than white and a page less detailed than blank. There is only the interminable line and my own increasing sense of apprehension.
I wonder that it is only now that I am noticing these things. How could I have missed the glaringly obvious oddities of the line? I form the intention to do something, I hardly know what, but before I have even made the slightest movement a feeling of numbness starts spreading across me. It starts as a vague tiredness in my limbs and a heaviness in my head and then swims through my veins until it saturates my very soul. My emotions fall limp, like a rag doll, and suddenly everything seems like too much effort. My lethargic mind is a marshland and my thoughts are weary travellers that cannot pull their feet from the sludgy waters beneath them.
I give myself up to this feeling and waft away.
After a long period of being nothing more than an afterthought, the barely remembered fragments of someone’s daydream, I feel an insistent tapping. The tapping confuses me temporarily until I remember that I have a shoulder to be tapped upon. I peer around, revelling in the sensation of my eyelids sliding upwards over my eyes. My eyes meet the sight of an elderly, fussy-looking gentleman. He peers out from under his hat in much the same way that a turtle peers out from under its shell.
“Did you ever figure out how long you’ve been in line?” the Tortuga asks me, blinking his ponderous eyes slowly at me.
I look at him with no comprehension and echo him, “Line?”
With the side of his lip twitching in disgust, he gestures around to an immense line that we appear to be in the midst of. It is a very strange sort of line, with people facing in both directions without much of an idea why. It is also completely stationary, and I have the sense that it hasn’t moved for a long while. Some far flung part of my mind suggests that all this strangeness should concern me, but the emotion is a colourless thing that barely touches me.
I turn to the now annoyed looking Tortuga to ask him, “Has it moved at all since you’ve…?” But the words catch in my throat and I am struck by the strangest feeling. An unsettled feeling sinks deep into my stomach, a tingly eeriness shivers all over my body like ghostly fingers fluttering lightly over my skin. Most of all I have desperate feeling of familiarity menacingly pulsing through me, but I have no idea why. Instead of decreasing, this feeling increases with every second that passes. My mind spins wildly, careening around my skull, a caged animal desperate to burst free.
The effort I am expending to keep myself from screaming at last overcomes me completely. I collapse and instead of merely falling to where my feet once stood, I continue to plummet until falling loses meaning. Then with no warning, I stop. I am no longer in the line, no longer in that infinite expanse of nowhere. Now I am standing in front of a woman.
Although she would be enough to captivate anyone, the sight of her only holds my gaze for a second or two before it is snatched away by something entirely more remarkable. I am somewhere again! I suppose that it’s a room of some kind, but whilst it has more detail than wherever I was before, it is still wrong somehow. It is as if someone has built a room and then smudged out all the edges. There is a floor, covered in some kind of…something, but it is nebulous in form, neither a fabric nor any kind of natural substance. And the colour keeps changing, too fast for me to fix it as a single shade. It just leaves the vague impression that it has some kind of hue. Despite these oddities, it’s such a vast improvement on that ghastly nowhere of before that I am quite calm.
I slide my gaze up towards the woman, who strangely, has been standing silently whilst I feast my eyes on my surrounds. She is a lovely creature, with golden hair in cascading curls. But there is a smoothness to all of her features that unnerves me a little. It makes me think of a carving that has been sanded too much.
“You’ve noticed something, haven’t you?” she asks, her voice chiming out like bells of crystal.
To this strange comment, I am not quite sure how to respond, so I go for banality.
“I’ve noticed lots of things.”
“You weren’t supposed to notice so soon,” she says, sounding a little frustrated. “Why couldn’t you be like the others? They were contented enough with the line.”
I really don’t know how to respond to this odd little speech so I decide to say nothing.
“What did you notice first?” she asks. “And be exact if you can, because it’s important.”
“Well it’s kind of hard to describe,” I say, grasping for the appropriate words. “I just felt wrong; or rather I didn’t feel anything, which was wrong. And then, the place was wrong too. It was missing all the things it should have had. I guess it all comes down to the details.”
“The details, it’s always the details,” she responds, annoyance souring her delicate voice. “You can’t imagine how hard it is to dream up a place like this and make sure that every trifling little detail you people expect is in place. And all for what, so that a few hours or days down the line someone who fancies themselves a bit clever can point out all the things that are wrong with it.”
I regard this accusation as wildly unfair, but I try and push this aside to ask a more important question.
“Exactly how long was I in that line?”
At this she gives a contemptuous grin that quite mars the perfection of her face. “So you haven’t worked it all out then?”
“I haven’t worked anything out, and you certainly haven’t told me anything that has helped clear things up,” I say, frustration getting the better of me.
“Well then, I’ll tell you shall I?” Her smug self-satisfaction is really starting to grate on me. “The line is a sort of holding-pen. It’s where you wait, whilst we process you and figure out what to do with you. We try and make you comfortable of course, by subduing all your more unfortunate emotions and helping you overcome that pesky memory of yours. That way, you can wait happily for years if needs be, without ever distressing yourselves about the whys and wherefores of your situation.” She smiles indulgently at me, looking really affected by her own benevolence in giving the gift of imbecility.
“So how long was I there, in this holding-pen of yours?” I ask, desperate to know how long I was in a state of unconscious serenity.
“I should think you were there at least 2 months,” she told me. “And now there is the far more serious question of what to do with you. Frankly, I don’t really care, my job is to monitor and make sure I pick up any troublemakers before their dissent spreads down the line. So now, I wash my hands of you.”
I look around it bewilderment. She is gone, or maybe I am gone because my surroundings are different again. But I have the uneasy feeling that this change took place a while ago and I am only just coming to an awareness of it now. The room I am in now is more normal, if anywhere is this strange place can be described in such terms. It boasts a chair, which at the moment I am just grateful to sink into. Wild speculations run through my head about where I can possibly be. It seems fairly certain that I am a prisoner, although I have to admit that it is a strangely nonchalant sort of captivity. If that woman from before was any kind of indication, then my captors clearly regard me as some kind of cattle, to be kept tranquil and unsuspecting. The idea unsettles me greatly; I think I would prefer outright cruelty to this enforced calm.
Time passes, but since I no longer trust my temporal sense, I don’t care to speculate on whether it is a little or a lot. Whatever quantity it is, my captors clearly judge it enough, for another person appears before me with as little warning as the last. He is different to the other in almost every respect, dark hair and broad masculine features, but there is an odd similarity to them that I can’t quite pin down.
“Well it appears we have a problem with you,” the man before me says. He cocks his head quizzically as if amused by me. “Unfortunately, it’s up to me to solve that problem.”
I just nod, since there doesn’t seem to be much I can add.
“So how much did Greer tell you?”
Assuming that Greer is the name of the smug one I answer, “She mentioned holding-pens.”
“Greer is a very fine monitor, but tact is hardly her strong point,” he replies, shaking his head. “My philosophy is that if someone has the intelligence to become aware, we really ought to give that person the truth. But I would be interested to hear your theories first, if you wouldn’t mind?”
“Well it seems fairly obvious,” I bristle. “For some reason, you and your collaborators have imprisoned and drugged me, along with all those other people in that…other place. Your motivations for this, I admit are still a complete mystery to me.”
At this explanation, the man laughs out loud in pure, pealing tones.
Frostily I tell him that I fail to see what is so amusing.
“Your ideas are really quite singular. I am sorry that you have taken up such a sinister idea, and if I had of known this was your impression I would have come to the point a lot faster. But first, I need to do something.”
I glance at him suspiciously, not liking the look in his strange, blank eyes at all.
“Georgia, this might feel a little strange.”
The name careens into my mind like a clapper hitting the lip of a bell. My whole head reverberates with the impact. A raging torrent of memories rush towards me, filling in parts I hadn’t even realised were absent. My name, something I had never thought to lose, comes rushing toward me and with it an entire identity surges forth, threatening to completely engulf the tiny speck I had been since becoming aware in the line. I try to sift through these new memories, but there are so many of them all crowding around me for attention. Now I am terrified, wondering what drug would give someone such precise control over my memories. Knowledge rushes up to greet me, details of neuropsychological studies clamber to invade my mind but I push it all ruthlessly to one side. I look up at the man, and suddenly all the glaring oddities of his appearance are obvious to me. For one thing, his skin is completely texture-less, more like moulded plastic than human skin. The colour of his hair dances around wildly, but worst of all are his eyes. They have no pupils at all, just an iris, shifting hue as quickly as his hair. It seems to me that there is nothing behind those eyes at all, just space.
Shakily, I ask him if he is an alien. It sounds ridiculous, even to me, but I have no other way of understanding what is happening.
For the first time, his tone is almost completely serious, “The truth my dear, is rather simpler than that.”