I am trapped, floating in a thick liquid, barely managing to keep my head above water. It feels like bathing in syrup, cold syrup, colder than winter rain. It makes every movement an immense effort. But the smell of it is not syrupy, but like antiseptic. It makes me retch over and over. Nothing happens. My stomach was emptied a long time ago. I`m captured in darkness. If I try to stretch out my arms and feet, I just hit walls hard like concrete.
Once in a while the syrup cools down and turns into ice. The piercing cold aims for my spine, turning that into a trickle of ice as well. Then the nausea starts. And just then, as when winter turns to spring, the cold slowly releases it’s grip, making my spine melt until I feel completely drained. I float in this soup of my own melted spine until I`m soaked. Soaked with thoughts, blood and tears, while whatever sanity is left inside me dissolves rapidly into the water.
Like it never existed. God, I`m lonely.
In my heart I carry so many memories: glimpses of friendly faces. And life, the sun and the sky and the ocean. And emotions. Good emotions. I cannot seem to attach my heart and brain, and every day I still wonder where I am. Is this what hell is like?
‘Let`s turn it on again,’ the harsh male Voice barely penetrates the thick walls. ‘Button two.’ Now I know the cold is coming again. It makes me shiver deep inside.
The Glass World
I wake up feeling sick. I knew I shouldn`t have had those last two cocktails yesterday. They always make me dream crazy stuff. And lately this weird syrup dream has been chasing me.
‘Kelc!’ Maddie yells from outside my window. Fuck. I have forgotten we are going shopping today. And Maddie is always giving me a hard time about me “always being late”. I jump in my clothes, grab my purse and rush down stairs, putting on the freshest face I am able to fake when hung over. ‘Wow, I`m impressed!’ Maddie smiles. She actually does look impressed. I should become an actress.
When I open the front door I can hear heavy drops of rain trembling on the glass roof that covers the whole town, separating us from any outer influence. I miss the real rain, and the real sun. ‘Hurry, you silly daydreamer,’ Maddie interrupts. “Well sorry, boss!” I say in my most sarcastic voice.
Twenty meters in front of us the air train has arrived. Maddie is already standing beside it, yelling ‘Hurry!’
I reach it by seconds, and jump on with so much effort that the small train bounces in the air. We both put our $100 dollar notes in the box next to the door and sit down. Everything is expensive now, and it is months since I could last afford to buy clothes. As if she knows what I am thinking, Maddie asks how much money I can spend today. ‘Just around a 1000 dollars, so I won`t get more than a sweater, I guess.’ ‘Lucky you!’ Maddie sighs. ‘I`ve only got 800.’
In that moment Maddie and I see something that makes us freeze. We steal a glance each other, and then back at the woman on opposite us. ‘I`d swear on my mother`s grave that is Mrs McGregor,’ Maddie whispers in my ear. ‘I totally agree!’ I try to whisper back, but I`m too shocked to keep my voice down. I`ve got a feeling the woman is looking at us, but I don`t dare to take another look at her.
Mrs McGregor was my neighbor, and the sweetest old woman you could ever imagine. As she got older, she started mixing up names and her memory slowly faded. And suddenly one day she was gone. It took me three days to notice. When she didn`t turn up with homemade bread on Saturday, I got really worried. Mr McGregor refuses to tell us what happened when we see him in the garden, even now, four years later. ‘She`s not dead’, he claims sadly, afraid to say more. ‘Unfortunately’.
Mrs McGregor`s case isn`t exactly unusual. So many people have disappeared in the last five years. You cannot trust anyone anymore.
Seeing Mrs McGregor`s look-a-like takes me back to the dream. I see glimpses of syrup and needles and medical tools. All the pictures are blitzing through my head and melting together, making me feel dizzy. I close my eyes for a second to concentrate. When I open them, I meet the eyes of the woman sitting across me. Then I know it: It`s her. But it`s also another person.
‘Help me!’ someone whispers inside my head, weakly, barely loud enough to hear.
‘Damn, that was freaky…’ Maddie`s eyes and mouth are wide open. ‘I`ve got goosebumps!’ she says, showing me her arm. I show her mine as we walk towards the mall. “Me, too!”
Because it`s Saturday the mall is teeming, people hurrying from one store to another. But sadly without the shopping bags as when I was little and used to go here with Mum. We cannot shop as much as before, due to shortages of everything. I really miss the feeling of cotton touching my skin, soft. And wearing several different outfits in one day. Not having to eat left overs. And I miss meat! One time last year, when my Dad got the worst meat munchies ever, he finished off our cat. Today I still thank God for making Dad lie and say it was pork, and that little Missie had gone to Cat Heaven, that she had taken her “last nap”.
We are lucky today, Maddie and I. We both get one pair of jeans and one sweater each, because they have some holes in them. So now we each have a brand new outfit.
When I get home, a man is hanging from the glass roof over the roof of our house, working on a small crack. ‘What`s wrong?’ I yell, worried that some in my family might be harmed by the sun. ‘Just one small crack. A woman sent me a message through the air tube system earlier today, and I rushed here instantly. I think I got here in time, it seems as it hasn`t done any harm.’ It must be my Mum who tubed him then, I guess. ‘Oh, thanks,’ I add. On the other side of the fence I can see Mr McGregor staring at me with a strange look on his face. I wonder if I should tell him anything about his wife`s look-a-like I saw on the air train today, but I keep my mouth shut. He has suffered enough.
Inside, my Mum has prepared dinner. Canned food, as always. From AusBiotech, the only food brand left. We eat our dinner slowly, trying not to taste the artificial food, while Mum frets about the crack in the glass over our roof. The food upsets my stomach as it usually does, but this time I get cramps as well. My dad gives me a BioNeuro to make it go away. The drug is so strong that I fall asleep on the couch at once.
I`m floating in the darkness again. If I have counted correctly, my body has been frozen and defrosted at least fifteen times. Something new happened last time. A giant needle was stuck into my spine with so much force that I only felt the pain for a couple of seconds, and then fainted. I have only dared to move my hand to my back once, feeling my fingers disappear into a hole the size of an orange. It`s completely numb.
I try to organise the memories that are flashing through my head into something meaningful. But I fail again and again. One picture in particular returns constantly: A little girl in a fenced garden eating fresh bread. I cannot seem to get why this is so important to me.
My abdominal pain has gotten so bad that I cannot lie still on the couch. If feels like something inside me is twisting harder and harder. Warmth spreads through my whole body within seconds. It is a bad kind of warmth, the kind you get when feverish. Or the warm, disgusting feeling deep inside a kid when he does something he knows is terribly wrong, the kind of inner warmth that makes you sweat on the inside as well as the outside. My heart is pounding faster and faster, losing its usual rhythm. ‘I am airing you to the hospital right now!’ I can tell by my father`s voice he is worried.
I must have fallen asleep again, because the next thing I know I am lying in the back seat of our air car, bouncing up and down. Dad is driving even faster than usual. I can feel a warm breath in my ear crying ‘Help me, help me’. I turn my head around to see who is there, but beside me there is only the door of the car. Then everything turns black.
‘Her intestine isn`t working. We have to remove…’ I can hear someone whisper far away. ‘But isn`t she too young?’ someone else asks. Then I fall back to sleep again.
I wake up to find three letters in the air tube beside my bed. One from Maddie and one from my parents, both saying they will come here this afternoon to visit me. The last one is from Mr McGregor. ‘Get well soon, Kelcey. When you get home, I’ll tell you the story about the little girl in the garden.’
At first I don’t get it.
But, after a couple of minutes, when I do, I can’t breathe. It is as if the air around me has turned too thick and humid to reach my lungs, provoking my whole body to shiver. What is it that Mr McGregor knows about my dreams? I try to control my shivers enough to get out of bed, but it’s impossible. I’m stuck. When I lift my blanket, I can see my feet are cuffed. ‘Noooooo!’ I scream. I try to move desperately whilst I feel tears and snot wet my lips, leaving a taste of antiseptic in my mouth. All of a sudden a man runs into my room. ‘Relax girl,’ he says, tonelessly, while he penetrates a tap through my forehead. An immense pain spreads through my head. I’ve heard that Voice before.
The lights over my head are blinding me. Several voices are talking in the room, but I cannot see them because of a curtain that is set up to separate my upper and lower body. ‘Scalpel, please!’ the Voice commands. Through the curtain I can see the shadow of Him doing something to my abdomen. What are they doing to me? Why don’t they tell me anything? I wanna run, but I cannot feel my feet. A nurse walks up to me and takes my hand. ‘Relax, girl, you’re gonna be okay,’ she smiles. But, when my eyes meet hers, I know she is lying.
‘I give up, she’s not good enough. Let’s move her!’ he states harshly. Within seconds, uncountable white-dressed people have torn down the curtain, thrown away heavy metal tools, cuffed my hands and rolled me out of the room. Only a tall man and the nurse are still with me as I am rolled through an over-lit hallway, faster and faster. ‘Noooooo!’ I try to scream but the sound gets stuck in my throat. It rests there a while before the waves of it change direction, aiming for my core to upset me even more. Where the hell are they taking me? Do my parents know about this? I look up at the nurse holding my bed, but she doesn’t allow her eyes to meet mine.
We reach an elevator that is already open, and they push my bed inside with so much effort my body jumps. Only the cuffs, cutting deep into my wrists and ankles, prevent me from falling out. Then we go down. Down, down, down. I’m trembling. ‘Mum, Dad?’ I manage to get out of my mouth. The nurse and the man exchange looks, before the man nods at the nurse, implying her so say something. ‘You don’t have a mum and dad anymore. You must never, ever think of them again. Or else you will get them in trouble, too,’ the nurse whispers before she turns her back to me.
I want my old life back. I wanna get cold and frozen from the rain and I wanna feel the air embed my body, I wanna be with my family. ‘Help, help, help!’ the voice in my head is growing stronger as the elevator goes deeper and hits ground. When the doors open a moist heat hits my face. Rows of huge boiler tanks even bigger than humans, fill the whole basement. There must be hundreds of them. The man rolls me out of the elevator, leaving the nurse behind. As we pass tank by tank, I can see each one is labeled “Australian Government Perfection Programme”.
When we have reached one of the end corners, the man stops and walks back the same direction we came from, leaving me alone. As minutes pass, the numbness slowly releases my body, inviting the pain to play me once again. The quietness is overwhelming. ‘Dunk, dunk.’ I can feel the heartbeats in my stomach. ‘Dunk, dunk.’
’Help!’ someone suddenly cries. I jump. It’s not coming from my head as it usually does. Through a small glass window in the tank beside me one pair of frightened eyes meet mine. I recognise those eyes.
I am floating in a thick syrupy liquid. My stomach has just been emptied, not a trace of innards is left. I am experiencing one of my most disgusting nightmares. I wish I could wake up, but the problem is, I’m already awake. Next week I’m out on testing. I am testing “Georgia May”. Like Kelcey Schafer never existed.
Mr McGregor’s heart stings as he watches the Shafers read the tube mail of the day. Mrs Schafer cannot even stand up, so her husband has to carry her inside. ‘They’d be better off if they actually were dead,’ Mr McGregor whispers on his way up the ladder he has placed against the house wall. When he reaches the glass roof, he stops for a minute. Tears fill his eyes as he folds his hands and prays: ‘For my love, and for the little girl in the garden.’ He bangs his sledgehammer against the glass roof as hard as he can.