When I woke up, as usual I couldn’t remember anything. Maybe it was one of the side effects of the drugs I had to take. They called it “vitamin supplements”, but I didn’t know what it was. I just was obliged to take them. Or it was just because my brain worked really slowly here and it needed some time to start thinking. By the way, I used to lie in bed as usual, stared at the ceiling and enjoyed my own company. It’s funny how I didn’t even notice the time going by. Several of my acquaintances used to make glib remarks about my laziness; I tried not to attach any importance to this. However, everything I knew from the past real life I remembered in the early mornings. All my knowledge about myself before this terrible «rescue» was that I had a family, it wasn’t very big. I guess just a couple of people, but we were really close. The person I remember most is my elder brother. I couldn’t recall any memories or looks, only feelings. Also, I remember my cat, Clancy. He was gray and soft, I suppose. I was not allowed to have a pet here because no one had. Also, I hated soup. When I ate it here, I was wondering why it caused such hatred. I don’t know why I had these memories but I really valued them. When all I could remember was brother, cat, and hate to the soup, it was obvious that I would value every single remembrance I had. It was so strange, I knew a lot about science but I didn’t conjecture where I got it from. I wanted to understand why I decided to go there, but I didn’t have any guesses. If only I could change something, there would be no way in hell when I had decided to go here. It’d been a month since Chris, my best friend and the last of us except me, passed away. I found it funny and at the same time sad that we don’t understand how dear is a person to us until we lose him. When we were together in this unfortunate place I thought I could handle all this. But after his death, I was not so sure. There are always a lot of people around us and when I was alone it was really difficult. I used to be near someone all the time, so the best punishment for me was loneliness. And that was exactly what they did. At first, I didn’t understand it, but later I got it. It was better for me to die than to fight with the loneliness.
A vintage hand of clock was counting down one second after another, making one circle after another on a scratched dial. A few more dozen of a turn clockwise and the arrows would be in a position indicating the onset of seven o’clock in the morning. And they would come. I had been waiting for this for a really long time. At first, I had hoped that they would come sooner but then I understood they are very punctual. I was trying to hurt their feelings but they were unshakable. All I had to do was to wait. It was already 6.57 am, but the arrows were not in a hurry, as if they were stretching “pleasure.” And the ticking that came out every time they changed position started to annoy me. I looked at the dial and hypnotize the hands, driving them, but achieved exactly the opposite effect. For a few seconds before seven, I thought I heard a sound of shots. I shuddered at my own idea, attempting to banish this repulsive notion. I continued looking on the dial. But the minute hand was lazily overcoming the last millimeter. My heart skipped a beat on the moment when it showed seven. But then nothing happened. I looked at the door and didn’t see any movement. I was really surprised and I also didn’t know what to do. They should have come. They had to. They wouldn’t miss a chance to kill me after what I had done. I sat on the bed and started waiting. I guess I had no choice but sitting here and staring at the door. I thought it would make them come. My head was full of thoughts, but at the same time I couldn’t think about anything, couldn’t grab a hold of any thoughts. Time was racing and the more time passed, the more frightened it made me feel. It was already half past seven and they didn’t appear. But then I heard a noise of a siren, but it was more likely to stun you than to warn, that something bad had happened. The last time I heard it was when I ran away so it could mean one thing – calamity. I wanted to see what was going on. But at the next second, I didn’t have to do anything to get some answers. Mr. Franco with a gun came into my room and said something about that – it would be only my fault. Of course, I didn’t understand why he was talking to me like this. He pointed the gun on me and gave me a passing, curve smile. I closed my eyes and got ready for a shot. My hands weren’t shaking. I had been thinking about this moment for a really long time. Then I heard a shot, but I was okay. I slowly opened my eyes and saw a dozen of people in black protective suits, as policemen had, came into my room. They shouted that they wouldn’t hurt me if I would do everything they say. I could hear them half the time, but I didn’t have to listen to all of the parts of their speech in order to understand, that they are not «them»; I was looking on the motionless dead body of Mr. Franco, which was lying near my feet and I was dismayed. It seemed to me that all I could do was to stand up and would not fight back. They thought they had scared me, but I was not scared of anyone anymore. Everything I remembered next was a black hole. Some people helped me to stand up and carried me out to another room. When I woke from a stupor, I was sitting next to the table in a white room (I had been there before only one time because it was an interrogation room) in front of a middle-aged man, who was waving his hand right in front of my face. His face seemed familiar to me, so I was looking at him, trying to recognize him. He had a sickly complexion. He didn’t just have“ bags” under his eyes, he had… a luggage. His skin was really pale and haggard. Also, I couldn’t discern the color of his eyes. They were whether green or gray. A fatigue was read in his posture as he rallied his spirits tolerably, but I seemed to feel it most acutely. He had this devious look in his eyes, so I looked at him with a challenge to show that I was not afraid of him. He was trying to talk to me and finally, I heard what he was saying:
“What’s wrong with you? Can you hear me?” It was the only thing I heard. The man was looking right into my eyes with an unreadable expression on his face. When he found out that I was listening to him, he sighed with a relief. “Do you remember anything? From your real life in the real world? Not in this deathtrap.”
From the look on his face I could say that he despised this place. Well, who didn’t? But this city made something terrible to him or to someone he loved. I didn’t know what I should have said. I hadn’t decided if I could trust him or not. He didn’t seem dangerous, but the looks can be deceptive. I understood it really clearly.
“Who are you and what do you want from me?” I decided to ignore his questions and asked my own ones. I thought that my question would bore him into a stupor or at least surprise, but he only sniggered up like he knew that I was going to say it. He looked at me with a mournful facial expression.
“I have an offer to you. You will tell me everything that has happened to you here and all you know about the people, who live in this city and I will tell you everything about your past, your family and how you got here.” He was looking right in my face and expected an answer, but by the look in my eyes, he could already have the response. “So, what do you think about it?” he was trying to be marginally agitated in the eyes, but I saw that he was nervous. It was difficult for him to do the talking.
“Okay, but I want the brutal honesty from you.” I sighed and started a story about my residence here. “It all started almost four years ago. I woke up in a room, which was more like a hospital ward. My head was pounding and all my body was hurting. A few doctors were standing next to me, shining a flashlight right in my face. When they saw that I woke up, they were really surprised. They said that they didn’t expect me to be awake so soon. Doctors started running back and forth, they disconnected some devices and showed each other tablets with information. I didn’t understand anything and my only wish was to kick them out of this room and get some sleep. A man in a black mantle, who was standing behind everyone, asked doctors to leave, because he wanted to talk to me. As I learned later, he was one of the rulers of Paradise, and also he was the main surgeon. When everyone except us left he told me that his name was James Franco and I was a lucky one. I was taken aback a little. Furthermore, he asked me if I could remember anything. Of course, I couldn’t. My brain refused to work and every memory I had disappeared at the same moment as it appeared. All I remembered was that my name was Gevorge and I was twenty-five. He was looking at me and couldn’t keep a smile. He told me that I was in Paradise – a wonderful City, closed from extraneous eyes. Out here, there was a war and people, who wanted to survive, could go to Paradise to be safe. But some people lost their memory while they were crossing the border. As it turned out, everybody lost memory. But he assured me, that it was even good for me not to remember all the terrible things, which were going on outside the city. Also, he told me that I could get parts of my memories back; citizens had all the resources to do it. I arrived with a group of twenty people, but they hadn’t woken up yet. I was wondering why I decided to move here, because I didn’t have negative feelings about the external world, but I did have those feelings about the man in front of me and his every word. By the way, I had to spend some time in another room until everyone else would wake up. These people escorted me and left alone for one or two days, I can’t clearly remember. My room was a Double and I was speculating would anybody live with me. I was there alone and had nothing to do, but think. When boredom became intolerable, a person brought me a book. It was a constitution, written in such a strange language that I did not understand anything. But it kept my mind occupied for some time. All this time they gave me some drugs, which should make me feel better. And it worked. After a few days, a man with some people, whom I had never seen before, came into my room. The man looked pretty wilted that day; he didn’t even talk to me or answer any of my questions. I guess he was in some kind of shock, or he was afraid that he lost his memory. We never talked about it. I was trying to talk to him, but he ignored me. After a lot of tries I gave up. But the next day he told me, that his name was Chris and he wanted to eat. Before he said that I didn’t even think about hunger and only at that moment I understood that I was starving. These people didn’t give us any food. I didn’t know what they were thinking about, may be they thought we were robots or something like that. Anyway, when we reminded them of our existence, they finally gave us some food. At first glance, it didn’t seem edible, but we didn’t have any choice. I was really glad that he talked to me, but those few sentences were everything he told me that day. But Chris and I had to wait in this room for about two weeks and every day he talked to me more and more. He was thinking out loud about different and complicated things, that sometimes I lost track of the conversation. I couldn’t even imagine how he got those thoughts, because he was talking about life goals, nature, and features of human communication. Maybe he never lost his memories, but I was too busy with my own problems, that didn’t even think about it. While we were locked up we became very close as friends. He was talking all the time and I was asking him questions. I still wonder how he was not infuriated by my questions. He was talking a lot about nothing, but he said one thing that even after four years I remember. He told me that everything we see is just an illusion. Sometimes at the end of our stay in the room, I could predict some of his words. Thus, when they let us out we decided to stay together. There were another eighteen people and all of them were different. At first, most of them were quiet and reserved. But there were really aggressive ones. For example, there was a girl named Tessa and she was trying to strangle Mr. Franco. It was funny to watch, but unfortunately, we didn’t see her again. I was afraid that Chris would find someone else and I will be alone, but he didn’t. We had to stay in the building for some time and wait for a moment when vitamins would work. But it was not so boring, as it was in the room because we were allowed to use the computers room and find any information we needed. I was trying to get to know how Paradise City appeared, but I couldn’t find anything.
One day Mr. Franco asked me to come to his office, he told me that I shouldn’t try to do this because all the information was lost. Citizens – that’s how we called people from Paradise – said, that most of us were scientists and our knowledge in this area was not lost (it was true because we passed many tests) and they gave us a choice what to do next: work for them or try to find a job ourselves. Chris and I decided to stay, so did fifteen people of my group. And we started working. I was a neuroscientist and I spent a lot of time in the Building, that’s the name of the science laboratory where I woke up. It was the main lab in the city, so all the inventions were made there. We did a lot of research about the human brain and everything was really fine. I lived in a pretty affluent area and my salary was high, I loved my job and citizens respected me. At least, I thought so. But I hadn’t found any friends, except Chris and the girl who lived in the next apartment, people from my group were afraid of me because of my close connection with the government. Actually, I didn’t need anybody, but a couple of friends, it was really handy. So, I spent two years like this until David, one of my group and concurrently my colleague, walked right into my apartment. He was worried about something and couldn’t say a word. I let him in and led him to the hall. He sat on a sofa and looked up. I didn’t ask what had happened: I thought that he should tell it himself. He had been sitting there for about an hour and finally said that he remembered me and everything else. To say that I was surprised is to say nothing. He told me what I can’t clearly remember now, but we spent three hours talking. When he was gone, it was way past midnight. The next day we told about it Mr. Franco, I remember how furious he was. He was so angry, that couldn’t hold back but he just told us to work. The next day David didn’t come to work. Like the next day and all the following days. I had a lot of questions, but forgot about them soon… until I had to study David’s brain. And it could mean only one thing, he was dead. It was nothing, because he could just die in the accident, but later I found a note in my room, where David and I were talking. It said that I had to stop taking the drugs and I should study them. At that moment I thought I started to understand what was going on. I decided to tell Chris about everything, and I don’t think he was very much surprised – like he was waiting for it. So, we made a decision not to tell anybody about it and start our investigation. It turned out that all this time we were taking memory blockers and all of our resources were aimed at finding an improved version of this drug. Also, it had to make us feel that all we had is what we needed. So, that way everybody would be happy. We were trying to be very careful and didn’t let anybody know what we were doing. I think we did it great. Another year full of stress passed and only five people were left of our group. Each of us knew, what was happening but we didn’t talk about it. We didn’t want to be the next ones. All of us stopped taking drugs and I remembered something from my life, but chose not to tell them, even Chris. Now I think, citizens knew that we found out that their People Research Project was not about creating new technologies. But I didn’t have the answers to a lot of my questions. Why did they have to kill people who could remember something? Why did we study their brains? And why were we still alive? One day we found out that one more died. That’s was the last straw, we started to plan an escape. It took six months to set up. We didn’t know what we would do outside, but everything was better than staying here. Four of us had a big part in the escape operation and every detail was planned. And we did it. Firstly, I deleted all the information that we found and which was found before us. We got to the border, fooled the guards, and practically moved over the wall, but at that moment we were fired upon. Girls, who were with us, were shot and Chris got a bullet in the shoulder. I couldn’t leave him and of course, we were caught. The citizens locked us in the room, where Chris and I had met, they did not help him with a shoulder. I was so sorry, that I did not have the skills of a doctor. Chris lived for another week and all the time he was talking about the external world. He told me how beautiful it was and that I had to get out of this place and see it myself. Also, he wanted me to remember all the things he told me in this room four years ago. When he passed away, the citizens and Mr. Franco came immediately to pick him up. Mr. Franco said that the same would happen to me, but not in the shoulder – in the head this time. He was talking really angrily, but his eyes were really sad. I didn’t know why they had to keep me there but every day with food I got the number of days left. But later I understood that it was the best punishment, just sitting in the room where my best friend died and waiting for the same thing to me. Today was the day when my death had to happen”.
I stopped talking and looked right in the eyes of the man in front of me. He was listening very carefully and looked at me with a horror and sympathy. I was trying to guess what he was thinking about because he was really focused. He had been thinking what to say for a few minutes and finally started.
“Okay, my name is Thomas Vicious and I am your brother. And it was I who sent you here”…
He told me about my family and friends. Apparently, Chris and I were not friends before all of this; rather, we hated each other. My family wasn’t very big only Thomas, me, and our mother, but we were really close. Our dad died in World War III. And I didn’t remember him but always trying to become like him. That’s why I became a neuroscientist and passed military courses. Out there was a terrible mess after a war, but during that time Paradise City was formed. A lot of people ran off here to be safe. But after a couple of years it turned out, that living in Paradise was even worse. When he was talking to me, I had some kind of déjà vu. But after a great part about our life and the story of Paradise, he had to tell me how I got here. Both of us were working for a government and one of the assignments was to destroy Paradise by whatever it takes. I was a volunteer to go on a mission and nobody could dissuade me. I had passed a lot of tests and my participation was agreed. Chris and everyone from my group were people from the government. They occupied different positions but most were scientists. Just before the trip, Chris and I were injected with a serum not to forget anything. But something went wrong and I couldn’t remember anything, while Chris was okay. But when everyone got some of their memories back – I didn’t. People outside were tracking our physical condition, when I and Chris were the only left they decided to intervene. But they weren’t here in time to save Chris. And that’s how they got to Paradise. I was amazed and a little bit curious. He had answered lot of my questions, but still not everyone. It was so nice to have around a person who knew me. However, the only question I asked was about the future of citizens. For some reason, it seemed to me that something really bad could happen to them. After a look on my face, Thomas started to get nervous. Luckily, his answer calmed me down because he said that if citizens wouldn’t do anything to hurt him or others volunteer, nothing amiss would happen.
After that, we talked for a little bit about things I couldn’t remember and the external world. Thomas was pretty funny and kind. At least, he seemed to me. But, unfortunately, we couldn’t stay in this room forever and should cross the border before it got dark. When we came out of the room, a lot of soldiers were running around the corridors, screaming about some “Operation B”. Thomas told me that we had to stick together not to get lost and then he would pass me on to his friend, who would help me to get out. I thought it was a good idea because I couldn’t stay in the Building any longer. So, we were marching quickly toward the exit. I was looking around and soon was shocked me with the scenery. There were a lot of people, they weren’t soldiers and most of them were crying or cowering in fear. I was looking at them with my eyes wide opened. I took a look at Thomas; his face remained deadpan like he knew everything that was going on here. He was greeting some people, at the same time holding my wrist tight. People were crying and they didn’t know what was happening. A “perfect” world, where they lived in, was destroyed in one moment. They saw pain and sufferings which they never knew before. A man near me was screaming on a woman with a child because she was crying and couldn’t stop it. He just pulled a gun out of his pocket and shot her. It all took a moment and she was dead, like many people in these premises. A shiver ran down my body, the solder didn’t have any emotions on his face, but a little bit of irritation. He nodded to my brother as a greeting and continued walking his way. People weren’t surprised, nobody even screamed, as it usually happened. Only I was looking around with a fear in my face. At this moment I understood, that I had to run and I would be better to stop all of this, because these people were not guilty. Thomas touched his earphone, which I hadn’t noticed until this moment, and told someone that every soldier was in the building and they were ready to go to the City. Also, he said that he needed someone to withdraw me out of the building. While talking, he was looking at me, trying to find any emotion on my face. I tried to hide them and, I guess, managed to do it very well. As I had been working here for some time I knew every entrance and exit as well as I knew all the security systems. There was a loophole to notify the City about a danger and made them hide. Mr. Franco told me about it just before our unsuccessful escape. I knew that I shouldn’t think well of the person who was trying to kill me, but I couldn’t do anything with that. He was like a father to me; he always directed me and told the right ways to make things better. There was the main computer which could warn the population about the danger and make them hide as well as it would provide security. This computer was in Mr. Franco’s office, which was located on the twelfth floor, and the only way to get there was to use the elevator, but there were so many soldiers nearby, that the plan was almost impossible. I looked at my brother again and started thinking about how I trusted him only an hour ago and he was talking to me with such care, but now I could only read a threat in his look. I didn’t understand why he didn’t bring me out already, as he told me before, but I was glad he didn’t. There were stairs near me and nobody was there. So, the regular solder came to my brother to convey some information and to say that he was ready to get away with me. At this moment I understood that it would be no better time to run, thus I scooted toward the stairs as fast as I could. Of course, they ran after me, but the luck was on my side, I knew all the corridors and turns. I hid in the laboratory, which was designed to study human behavior. Chris and I spent a lot of time there, because the boards on the walls were the best way to predict the response of the human body to any medication. My heart was beating so fast, I was afraid that someone would hear it. I was trying to find something that would help me to get to the elevator. Regretfully, there was nothing, but I saw an alarm which had to prevent about the fire or gas leak. Without any ponders, I pressed it on. Terrible hum rang out and at that moment I heard sounds of running soldiers. An elevator was free, so I ran to it, I was so happy when I didn’t see anyone running after me, but when doors were almost closed, I saw Thomas in a gap. He was running but didn’t get in time, luckily. I was on the elevator for a minute, but this time seemed like an eternity. The last time I had been there was more than a month ago. The elevator was glazed so that I could see myself. I didn’t attach a lot of attention to my look, but at that time I was chained to a mirror. I ran my hand through the bleached hair and tried to remember the features of my face. Frightened eyes looked at me from all sides, but I heard the sound of the bell, which meant that I had to hurry up. The twelfth floor was full of soldiers, but I thought, they knew who I was and that I wasn’t their enemy. I got to the main office without problems and immediately came to the computer. I knew that my brother would be there at any second and I had to work fast if I wanted to do something. It didn’t take a lot of time to deal with the security system, but the problem was to find the desired file. Had to tinker with this for a few minutes, but I found it – I had to know the password and my head was empty. I couldn’t even imagine which one Mr. Franco would pick. At that moment I remembered that at the beginning of my acquaintance with Chris, he told me that everything was just an illusion. Scared, I typed this word and it was right. In the other time, I would be glad, but I didn’t have enough time to celebrate. When I was ready to push “Alter People” button, Thomas came in. The gun in his hands was directed at me.
“Put your hands behind your head and leave the room. Now”, -he was screaming on me. I looked right in his eyes and understood that he would do it despite the fact that I am his brother. But it was too late to warn me, I was ready to die this morning and nothing had changed, but at this time I could do something helpful. So, I pressed the button and looked on Thomas with a readiness. He looked at me with a fear and misunderstanding. But he couldn’t let me out of this room. His look is the last thing I remember. The bullet flew right into my head.
A man stood over his brother’s body, his hands were shaking and tears spilled involuntarily. He sat down next to the body and took his hand. Tiredness was read in the pose of a man, his shoulders sank, and he closed his eyes by the hand. He killed his brother, a person he knew better than anyone else. He was sitting there for some time until a soldier came in the office. Solder told that they were ready to go to the City. The man just looked at him with a grin and said:
“It is too late, Mike, too late”
A month ago Gevorge was told, that he would be killed by a shot in the head and it turned out to be true. In most cultures of the ancient world a man is represented only as an extra absolutely helpless creature in front of power of fate. Whatever you do, the end will be the same. And if it doesn’t overtake him right away, it will happen a bit later. There is no way to run away from a destiny.