‹ Prequel: Hurricane Heart
Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

Day One


The following morning, it got worse. I was woken up by a harsh siren screaming through my dream, and five minutes later my door slid open automatically. As I was new, a guard stood outside, immediately telling me to get up and follow him in a harsh, disinterested tone. I complied, just for the sake of it, wandering out into the corridor, rubbing at my sleep-filled eyes.

Outside, many other Dreamers were filing out of their cells, both along my row and from the row opposite, all wearing the matching grey suits, with wires clipped around their ankles to monitor them.

They were silent, and that scared me. With this many Dreamers in one confined place, you’d think it would be productive, thoughtful, almost exciting. But it was the opposite. Because what shocked me more than anything was the empty expression that every one of them wore.

A girl walked close beside me. She was pretty, with fair hair like mine, only blonder, and blue eyes. Looking into them, I expected to see some sort of thoughtfulness, but there was nothing. They were vacant and, well, soulless. They contained no emotion and no dreams.

I began to panic.

‘Excuse me,’ I said, waving my hand in front of her face. She blinked rapidly.

‘Yes?’ she replied politely, her voice sounding courteous but uninteresting.

‘Silence!’ a security guard said. He was standing by the metal wall dressed in all black, an unnecessarily large gun in his hands. He watched us with hawk eyes as we filed past.

I waited until I passed him before carrying on whispering to the girl. I felt uncomfortably conspicuous doing so; I was the only Dreamer talking out of all of them.

‘What’s going on?’ I asked.

‘We’re going to the showers,’ she said, her tone unbearably emotionless. ‘Why?’

‘Never mind,’ I muttered. I would have to wait until rec time before talking to everyone—I noticed the guard take a step closer to me, his dark eyes fixated on the back of my head.

I followed the crowds into the showers, which was this huge room, tiled in a dark, steel grey, as though normal decor wasn’t quite depressing enough for us, panicking more and more as I saw people file into separate areas for men and women. I walked in with the men and watched as the first ones began to get into cubicles, pulling the curtains for privacy. The rest of us stood around as the showers all started up simultaneously.

Precisely five minutes later, they were all stopped, and the first lot of men appeared a moment later, all wearing towels and still damp with water. The next lot of men, myself included, filed into the cubicles.

Inside was a white towel and a tiny pot of shampoo and soap. When the showers started up—it seemed they were started from a central point rather than by us, I washed quickly, realising my limited time, and got out when instructed to do so.

I got dressed and brushed my teeth and shaved, all in silence and all in a bit of a hurry, and we were led into a final metallically decorated room where we all congregated around a central point. Still we were all quiet, and it began to frighten me more and more. Why? Was this place really so soul destroying?

The man at the front of the room began to read out a list of names, followed by times.

‘Simeon Stryder,’ he finally stated at the end. ‘Your time is 11:45 am, however as you are new, today you will go to see your doctor immediately.’

I didn’t know what to say or do, but my instinct was to resist. However, it seemed that the guards on duty were prepared for this, and they grabbed me with full force, dragging me out of the room.

I was marched at gunpoint through the eerily silent building, towards what must be my demise. Whatever they had done to the rest of the Dreamers, they were about to do to me; I was sure of it.

‘Now,’ the guard said curtly, ‘today you’re going to be visiting Doctor Jameson. You will then be brought to him twice a week for every week after this until you are released in six months' time; more often if we see that you are misbehaving. Understood?’

‘Whatever,’ I grumbled. I didn’t have much longer as me left. From this point onwards, I was a zombie until they finally opened the doors to my freedom in six months' time. And even then, I’d heard that it took days, if not weeks, to fully get back to your full self. I’d seen people return from the Institutions before; they were confused and disorientated and couldn’t even remember their own names. They often had to be locked up for their own good for at least a week. These places drained all your power. These places broke you.

My ‘disrespectful tone’—God, it sounded like I was back at school again—earned me a sharp push that caused me to stagger across the corridor. The bastard! I would have fought back, had I not known that I was outnumbered probably one hundred to one. After all, the other Dreamers in this place weren’t exactly up to helping.

I knew it got worse as the days went on. For the first couple of weeks, I wouldn’t be too bad. My mind would be hazy and drugged up, and I certainly wouldn’t feel much like retaliating, but, like a mental illness, it would get progressively worse as the weeks and months went on. Still, there were obviously some people who could overcome it better than others, certainly near the beginning, because there was always trouble. They had straightjackets ready on hand; they had dark, solitary isolation cells in the basement—cells that really were something out of the history books, straight from the medieval era. I’d even heard of various incidences of torture. Well, they tortured everyone anyway, but the isolation cells were even worse.

We stopped outside a black door down another endless, windowless corridor. The pristine plaque on the outside read Doctor Jameson.

‘Well, go in then,’ the guard said curtly, nudging me towards it. When I didn’t respond immediately—just enjoying the last few moments of freedom in my mind I would have for quite a long time—he nudged me again and pressed a button for me, making the door slide open automatically.

‘Get in there, traitor,’ he muttered. That was the other thing that got me. I’d heard it before: in this place, they didn’t call you ‘Dreamer,’ they didn’t call you ‘prisoner,’ they didn’t even call you ‘boy’ or ‘kid.’ We were all ‘terrorists’ and ‘traitors’ and ‘bastards’ here.

I stepped inside the office, and was overwhelmed by the sheer soullessness of this place. Looking into Dr Jameson’s eyes, it was worse than any contact I’d ever had with any marauding Dream-Snatchers. Because he had power. He had no reason to hurt people; no beliefs or ideals; no incentive other than some sort of sick pleasure that came from shattering others’ dreams, but he still did it. To ‘serve his country’ or whatever crap he would come up with. But he was still doing the worst thing that I could imagine. Less than fifty years ago, this would have been unthinkable. Now it was the norm.

The place was brightly lit with stark white walls and a metal floor, and smelt faintly of some sort of clinical scent—that irritatingly clean, neat, sterilised smell of cheap plastic and new paint and medicine and doctors surgeries, but knowing what this place was made even the most innocent things like that seem sinister. After the dim lighting and cold metal of the corridors and the cells, this place was surprising.

‘Hello, Simeon,’ said the doctor in the same emotionless, curt fashion as the way all the guards spoke to me. ‘Sit down.’

I did as I was told, and I heard the door automatically slide quietly shut behind me.

‘So, let’s start from the beginning,’ the doctor said. ‘My name is Dr Jameson. And you’re Simeon Stryder, am I correct?'

‘Yeah,’ I said with a shrug. I hoped that, if I could try and act like this whole thing wasn’t affecting me, the doctor would get slightly less pleasure out of torturing me.

‘And what have you been convicted of, Simeon?’ he asked.

I scoffed. ‘How the fuck should I know? Having an imagination?’

Dr Jameson fixed me with a disapproving look. ‘Profanity is not tolerated in this Institution, Simeon.’

‘Well fuck that,’ I muttered. It earned me another glare.

‘As I said, Simeon, I would strongly recommend you stop using foul and profane language. I know you’re new here, so today, and today alone, I will turn a blind eye. Once you’ve started your treatment, things will change.’

‘Whatever,’ I said.

‘That’s on the condition that you show me some respect of course,’ the doctor added. ‘It’s all about mutual respect, Simeon.’

‘Whatever, doctor,’ I said. If things weren’t so dire, my situation would be almost laughable. It was just like being back in the headmaster’s office ten years or more ago.

‘I’m sure we’ll improve over the next few months,’ Dr Jameson said. ‘That’ll do for now. So Simeon, I would like you to tell me about the so-called Dreamers.’ He stopped speaking for a moment and stood up, pushing a stray lock of dark hair out of his face. He reached for something on the table—a sort of wire thing, which he then wrapped around my left wrist; the wrist that didn’t already have the hospital-like bracelet tag, and then placed another bit on my finger. Another wire was attached just in front of my ear, on the side of my head, remaining there as I sat, frozen, in the chair. Now, the nerves were finally kicking in.

‘I’m sure you’ll recognise this as a lie detector, Simeon,’ Dr Jameson said. ‘It’s quite straightforward; I will ask you some questions, and you will answer them truthfully. Should you choose to disobey, the lie detector will tell me, which will in turn gain you a punishment. Understand?’

‘Yeah,’ I muttered, my breathing quickening, deciding perhaps to stay away from the ‘whatever’s’ for now.

‘So, Simeon,’ the doctor began, ‘what in this world made you want to become a terrorist?’

So this was how it was going to be.
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Please comment. I know it's just a lot of description and setting the scene now, but I've got to set the scene somehow.