“We didn’t think anybody would find us out here,” declared the first scientist, rising to his feet.
“It’s in the middle of nowhere, isn’t it?” I consoled.
“Quite,” replied the man. His handlebar moustache only added to the eccentricity of his getup. I could somewhat understand the tough walking boots for finding himself out here in the country- but the bow-tie? Hinted at overdoing the antiquity look.
“You came here as a response for our advertisement for a volunteer?” asked the other, joining the man on his feet. The lady-scientist stood about two feet taller than her partner, but this was simply because her body, though bending in at the expected places, mimicked the straight-line determination of a bamboo cane.
With a light voice, she called for me to join them. “You must understand that we have the requirement to measure you, take medical details, et cetera, before we explain what you will be doing.” In contrast to the gentleman, the woman’s façade was toned down, but her accent betrayed her own old-fashioned style.
“What’s your name?” inquired the gentleman, the minute he stretched a tape measure from my hip to my left foot. He must have sensed the same nervousness in the atmosphere that I did, the desire not to be interrogated by two strangers.
“Twenty three. Um, does this matter?”
“It does not,” replied the woman. She leant down and snapped away the tape measure, ignoring that its trajectory had to brush right back across my leg. “I do apologise for my husband’s inquisition. He does occasionally forget that science is our main aim in our subjects. Now, this I must ask: do you have any medical requirements or physical illnesses?”
This is pondered carefully. I was sick of working with cows, but I didn’t think that really counted in this circumstance.
“No…well, I don’t think so. I used to wear reading glasses when I was younger, but I don’t read much anymore. I have an allergy to nuts, if that makes any difference.”
The snap of a notebook closing drew my attention to the man, who had been taking notes, apparently. “Well, I think that just about covers the questions. You are very welcome to begin working with us.”
In my curious rush to observe these creatures, I had forgotten the tease of money that had first encouraged me to appear in their presence. Even now, with questions atop my tongue, did not the query of payment arise. Instead, I went with the foremost matter.
“Could I ask…?”
“Oh, you want to see your task. Yes, you must!”
“Please, come this way.”
Almost out of traditional requirement, the woman took my hand and guided me through the room I had wandered into. It must have been used as a laboratory, with bar tables thrown into place and fume cabinets as a border to my sight. However, a something nudged at my mind as we walked through. There remained an eerie feeling of unsettlement until we had actually crossed through another of those wooden doors, into a chamber.
‘Chamber’ was the right word to describe it. Off to my right crept a darker passageway, but aside from that intrusion, the room had almost been built to a circle. On a platform in the centre of this room-of-no-things hung a curtain of no colour, shimmering in the reflected light as if it had tiny mirrors sewn into its body. At first, I had imagined that it was suspended in the mid-air, but, at my second look, it was clear that an iron rail shot up from the platform, bigger than it had first seemed.
Towards this glided the woman, who gave me a smile that beckoned, before she threw back the curtain.
Behind the shimmering curtain lay an ineffable box. Something without words, it reminded me of a photo-booth, or a room in which a younger child might go to nap.