Grey shuffled down another hallway that was exactly the same as the last one. Blue and green coloured striplights ran along the ceiling. He had followed a yellow one for a few turns, but then it had stopped at an inaccessible door, so he picked up the green. Green for outside, right?
He was beginning to realise he didn't have a plan. The words in his head had gone silent just after he had found some clothes. Just outside his tube room there was a small room with a shower, a padlocked fridge, a microwave and a closet with pants and tshirts. They looked like Bill's clothes. Slightly too large.
As he turned down the next hallway to follow the green, he noticed a hum of machinery in the distance. This was more hopeful. Grey staggered along the hall, palming the walls to stay steady.
"Fucking Becca, man," came a voice from down the hall in front of Grey. He momentarily froze before silently launching himself towards a nearby door. The handle came off as he twisted, but the door opened. The room inside was dark and he pressed himself back against the door holding it closed. Grey slid down to a sitting position and listened.
"-a fucking bitch!"
"Yeah, she told me she didn't think we'd work out. Her in ResDev and me in Cleanup. Like she's all high and fucking mighty in ResDev. Crazy fucking scientists."
The footsteps passed by the doorway Grey was up against.
"Listen, we'll find you some new recruit bitch that you can use your skills on. New recruits every week in Cleanup. Surely some slut is going to be stupid enough to fall for your bullshit."
"Hey, fuck you man. I just know what the ladies want! A warm-"
The voices disappeared down another hallway. Grey finally looked around the room he was sitting in. In the corner was a orange bulb. In the other corner was a tube. In the tube was a... thing. It was a human, made of wires and cables and blobs of muscle and flesh and bone and fat. As he watched, the chest - he assumed it was their chest - raised and lowered rhythmically. Breathing. He guessed.
Banks of monitors lined the room, tiny lights periodically flicking on and off. Grey got up and hobbled over to a screen with 'MEMREC276.2' scrawled on masking tape above it. A bar was slowly inching its way across the top of the screen. The rest of the screen was a scrolling repeat of the same text, over and over:
We had a dog. She was brown. She liked to run around licking our faces. She got fat and one day she had puppies. I went out to see them. She began to eat them. One tiny puppy howled blindly at me until her jaws crunched down on the puppy's skull. She ate them all. When she came to lick me, the blood from the puppies spread over my face. Some got in my mouth. It tasted like batteries. I wanted more.
Grey looked up from the monitor to the thing in the tube. He shuffled over to the cables running out from the bottom of the tube to a box on the wall. Tiny yellow dots of light ran along the cables towards the tube.
He grabbed the cables and pulled. Muscles ached from atrophy. He pulled. Symbols swam across his vision. He pulled. His legs buckled under the strain. He pulled and he pulled.
The cables tore out of the box on the wall, sending Grey thumping to the floor. The lights came on in the room. A rapid beeping came from the box on the wall. In the distance, a klaxon howled. Grey quickly got to his feet and stumbled to the door. He cautiously opened the door, scanned the empty hallway, then rapidly made his way back down the hallway following the green lights on the ceiling. He turned the corner and pushed through the first door he came to, slumping down against the door in the safety of darkness.
"-the fuck was on duty?" Grey heard, muffled through the door. Footsteps clacking on the metal floor came to a brisk snap outside the room Grey had been in.
"Supposed to be William, ma'am."
"Well where the fuck is he?"
"No idea, ma'am."
"So go and find him! Jesus fucking Christmas trees, do I have to do everything?"
One pair of feet thumped down the hallway past the room Grey was in.
"-such a fucking bitch any time of the month, not just-"
Grey's shoulders slumped. He closed his eyes.
WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO
I don't know.
OH YOU'RE FINALLY BACK
YOU WENT DARK FOR HALF AN HOUR
YES BUT NOT NOW LATER WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO TO START THE SIRENS
I pulled out some cables.
No. I found them in someone else.
WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU PULL THE CABLES OUT OF SOMEONE ELSE
I don't know. I think... I think...
FUCK STOP YOU DON'T HAVE TIME TO THINK YOU NEED TO GET OUT OF THERE
IN A FEW MINUTES TWO MEN ARE GOING TO WALK PAST THE DOOR AND HEAD TO THE OTHER ROOM
How do you know?
JUST LISTEN OKAY WHEN THEY WALK PAST YOU NEED TO QUIETLY LEAVE THE ROOM AND WALK DOWN THE HALLWAY THEY HAVE COME FROM
LOOK FOR A DOOR ON YOUR RIGHT THAT HAS TWO GREEN LIGHTS ABOVE IT
Is that all?
Grey opened his eyes, blinked twice, then closed them. He waited.
"Fucking pissed, man. Keep your shit together in there. If anything happened to 276, she'll be looking for someone to fuck up."
"Yeah, but why would-"
The voices headed around the corner and into the other room.
Grey slowly got up and then quietly pushed his way out of the dark room. He didn't bother exploring this one. Probably just another monster to vanquish.
He turned right and headed down the hallway, following the green tube lighting until he found the door with two green lights above it. Green for outside, right? He pushed open the door and quickly closed it behind him.
Grey turned his head slightly to the left, gazing down the length of the blue-lined corridor. Ten feet away, two scientists had their pistols aimed steadily at his head.
"Hey, 274," the one on the left said. A man's voice. "Hey. So, listen, you wouldn't have anything to do with the sirens, right? Listen, so, you need to go back to Fabrication, right, so we can sort this out, yeah?"
The one on the right took half a step forward.
"Yeah," she added. The other one. "It's time to head back. You've had a nice walk around. Wasn't it nice? You've had some fun. But it's time to go back."
Grey took half a step backwards. Shoes. He needed shoes. Brown runners. Light brown laces. Memoriesss55s55.~_... 4H.RhH_he pulled himself back, left hand twitching and shaking. He clenched his fist to stop the spasm.
"You're not done yet, 274," the man said.
"You're unstable," the woman said.
"You're unfinished, 274."
"We need to take you back."
"Stop, 274. We don't want to have to use these," he said, gesturing with his pistol.
Grey blinked twice. He decided to play with them.
"hoo..." he began, tasting the words, "hoo-hoo who a'm I eyeye I... ?"
"You need to come with us, 274."
"ggg-raaeey. th-The otherszzs callll cul call me'e greayy. Gh. Gh-ray. Grey."
The man turned to the woman. He whispered something. Grey noticed the whispering. He noticed the lips. He paid attention to the lips. Two? Too... far... Too far gone. Grey understood. Speech was difficult. Thinking was not. Thinking right now, in this moment. Thinking about the pass55stt broO'ught o0n the tremors5s.
"Wilgo. Wil go wit'h yoouu," drooled Grey, turning his palms upwards and slowly walking toward the man and the woman.
The woman's eyes widened slightly, imperceptibly. Grey noticed. An unexpected turn of events.
"Richard..." she began.
The guns were still pointing.
"Shutup Sam, this is my chance," he answered.
His voice wobbling. Grey noticed.
"Your chance to what?"
Her voice quavered.
"Fucking stop, 274," the man said.
He was nearly within arm's reach.
"Please, Richard, we're not-"
"Shut the fuck up, Sam! Maybe I'll kill this fucker and then the Acquas will take me. Get me out of this fucking memory bullshit."
The gun still aimed at Grey's head.
Grey tilted his head slightly to the left and widened his eyes in a gesture of innocence.
"why am i?"
The man's eyes darted to his left. That was enough.
Grey stepped over the man's torso, bloody footprints walking with him down the blue-and-red-lined corridor as he advanced on the whimpering woman.
"Puhhh-lee..." she croaked and wheezed out of her bruised windpipe. No chance of fatality. One hundred percent recovery within a week. Emotional scarring will take longer.
Grey stopped in front of her, bending down to stare into her eyes. He showed no remorse. Perhaps the woman could be convinced to tell him something. He gave her one last chance.
"Why am I?"
And as he spoke he realised that didn't matter as much as the next question.
"Why am I 274?"
"Huh?" She finally returned his stare.
"274. Two hundred and seventy three others like me?"
"At... at least." She coughed. "I guess."
His eyebrows furrowed. Her heart rate increased. She stammered.
"You... you need to ask.. talk to... to Bill... or Gary. Please, I don't know. Please."
Grey looked at her tears and regretted it. He blinked twice, stood up, then walked down the blue-and-red-lined corridor towards an orange door with a small, green sign above it that said 'Exit'.