This story is by Write30 and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I woke up in the room with no idea where I was. How did I get here? I tried to think back to remember something. Anything. I drew a blank. Who was I? I looked around me as if the room could tell me more.
I was lying on a narrow bed covered in white. I stood up and felt cold white tiles beneath my feet. I felt lightheaded for a few seconds as if I had been prone for too long. There were no windows in the room, and it was predominantly decorated in one colour. White. The air I breathed felt cool. A small white table and chair made up the furniture. I suddenly felt the need to relieve myself. I used the white toilet and washed my hand and face at the white sink. There was no mirror but as I wiped the water off my face with the white towel, I felt a sense of familiarity. The shape of my face, the curve of my nose, my forehead, and ears, they all felt familiar but who did the face belong to? That knowledge remained out of reach. I looked around the room for other clues. There were none.
I looked at myself. I wore no clothes. I ran my hands over my head, my hair felt rough around my head and ears. There was a scar on my forehead. How old was I? I couldn’t tell. I felt my face for wrinkles but apart from a few creases on my forehead, my face told me nothing. I looked at my hands they were clean, with neatly trimmed square nails. There were no calluses that could tell me what work they had done or knew to do. The hair on my arms was brown.
I tried to speak, and a sound came out. I tried to remember what language I spoke in but drew a blank. A blank! That’s what I was. I paced the room lengthwise from the bed to the white door. I tried the handle and it was locked but I had expected that. I looked up at the ceiling. Also white. In the middle was a dome that was the source of the white light that lit the room. I gazed at the dome and felt as if the dome, inert object that it was, looked back at me. A glimmer of something flashed in my brain, a fleeting thought, and just as I tried to recall, it was gone.
I kept looking at the dome. “Can you hear me?” I said to it. “I am hungry,” I said. It was true, I felt the gnawing of hunger pangs in my belly. When was the last time I had eaten? I couldn’t remember.
Hearing a sound I turned to see the door open and a person dressed in white walked in. I couldn’t tell if the person was male or female, but they were taller than me, had short hair and wore glasses. They held a tablet in one hand and a bowl of fruit in another. They set the bowl of fruit down on the table and then spoke or made a sound that made no sense to me. I just stared at them in confusion. The person looked up at the dome for a moment and spoke again, and this time I understood. “Hello, my name is Dax, what is your name?”
“ I don’t know,” I tried to say, but knew that Dax couldn’t understand me. Dax handed me the tablet. “Use this to communicate.”
I took the tablet, and strange though it seemed, I knew exactly what to do with it. I used my finger to write on it. A voice that sounded nothing like my own, spoke aloud what I had written. “I don’t know,” It said.
“You’re hungry?” Dax asked.
“Yes,” I wrote.
“Eat.” Dax invited.
I didn’t need to be told twice. I ambled to the table and reached for the fruit. A banana looked tempting and I peeled and devoured it. Quickly followed by an apple. Hunger satisfied. I turned back to Dax.
“Where am I?” I asked.
“Don’t you know?”
“No. Tell me.”
“I will, but first I want to test your memory with a few questions. Just answer with whatever you can remember.” “I’ll try,” I replied.
“What are you?”
“What is your last memory.”
“I have none”
“Where is your home.”
“What did you just eat?”
“Fruit. Banana and an apple.”
“Where is your family?”
“I don’t know.”
“How old are you?” Asked Dax.
“Not sure. An adult.”
“Tell me what you see around you and name the objects.”
I named all the objects in the room including the plate with the fruit and the tablet in my hands. Dax nodded,
“Who am I?” I asked.
“Your name is Dani.”
“How did I get here?”
“You were born been here.”
“Why am I here?”
“To help people.”
“You teach them. They learn from you.”
This puzzled me. “ I don’t remember anything. How can you learn from me?”
“You know more than you remember.”
“How long will I be here?”
“As long as it takes?”
“Can I leave if I want?”
“It’s not safe for you outside. For your own protection, you must remain here. There are those that wish to harm you and use you. You are protected here.”
“Where is this place?”
“We are in the space lab Sanctuary.”
“Am I the only one? Like me? Who can help?”
“For now. As we progress with you, there may be others.”
“Why do the people that I am helping need help? What happened to them?”
Dax looked at the dome on the ceiling for a minute, before speaking. “Let me show you.” Dax touched the tablet in my hands. The tablet projected a holographic video. The visual was pleasant and happy. It showed a busy intersection in a city. People everywhere. Children laughing, men and women walking. Vehicles on the roads.
“Look at the date,” Dax said
“January 23, 2019” I read.
The visual flashed to different cities with people of various ethnicity and race. The date stayed the same. The visual changed, displaying a series of calamities. Floods. Tsunamis. Hurricanes. Volcanoes. Footage of mass destruction through missile strikes and explosives. A mushroom cloud. Ice melting. Barren land. Shriveled fish on shores piled with waste. Robotic soldiers with huge guns. Dust storms. The images switched again. It felt like a slap across the face when I recognized the same streets and the same cities. Deserted. Destroyed. Engulfed in a dusty haze. No sign of life. I glanced at the date in horror. March 1, 2079.
“What happened?” I asked Dax.
“Everything. Mankind eradicated itself through strife, climate change, technology, and infertility. ”
“Everyone is gone?”
“A few of us remain. Those of us who knew the dangers moved here decades ago. We have continued to work to protect mankind and propagate life.”
“What is my role?”
“You are the future. You are capable of reproducing. You are capable of empathy and living in a society, capable of learning and building and so much more.”
“How many of us are here?”
“There are several of my kind and there are many humans in hiding, but there is only you. ”
Dax’s words sank in. “What are you?” I asked in awe.
As a response, Dax reached up and peeled away the skin on their face. The gleaming titanium skull beneath took my breath away.
“How many times have we had this conversation?” I asked in a whisper.
“Two thousand, three hundred and thirty-six times. Every time you remember a little more. For instance, you remembered how to use the tablet and recognized the images you saw in the hologram.”
“What do you do with me?”
“We program memories into your brain. You learn by performing different functions repeatedly. We are trying to give you new memories. Memories from the greatest minds of our civilization. That is the only way to speed up the process. Evolution will take too long. We need your kind now. We observe you and monitor your progress, then we tune the program and try again.”
“Why can’t I remember anything before today?”
“A technology glitch erased your short-term memory. We are working on a solution.”
I asked my next question dreading the answer. “ Can I see myself?”
Dax touched the tablet again and this time it turned on a camera reflecting my face back to me, scar and all. I traced the scar, “My brain, whose is it?”
“It belonged to the visionary genius who built Sanctuary. She created me and all of the technology used on you.”
I was dumbfounded.
“This concludes our session. We will meet again soon” Dax reached for the tablet and before I let it go, I took one last look at my face.
Sad chimpanzee eyes stared back at me.