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Short Story 49



“Please sit down.”


There was a chair, covered in red brocade with lavender throw pillows, it was here that he sat. He couldn’t see the person talking, they were behind a wall made to look like a Japanese shoji screen, their ambiguous shape all to suggest their existence. There was no room for him on the chair with all the pillows.


“Feel free to move them if they’re in the way.”


“Can you see me?”


“Of course, all appointments are recorded, I’m watching from a screen on my side. However, as to not interfere I remain out of site, just imagine me as a comfortable voice inside your head.”


The idea wasn’t necessarily a pleasant one, but what other choice did he have. Taking off the pillows he readjusted his position, the rich fabric revealing a comfortable amount of padding.


“Cozy?”


“Yes.”


“Then shall we begin?”


“Sure.”


There was a strange sound from somewhere in the room, grinding and mechanical.


“What’s that?”


“Nothing.”


“But you heard it?”


“Certainly.”


“But it was nothing?”


“Oh yes, haven’t you noticed that the lights have turned down, it was just the drapes closing. They need to be oiled.”


“So, they’re automatic?”


“Exactly. Now, let’s discuss you. That is why we are here isn’t it?”


“That’s why?


“You didn’t know?”


“I was just told I needed to show up.”


“Well, we are here to talk about you. This whole appointment is for your benefit, so please, begin talking whenever you feel comfortable, and tell me a little about yourself.”


“Yes, well…”


“You’re nervous. There’s no need to be, you’re in a safe place. Feel free to recline if you wish. Some people say it helps.”


“Does it?”


“Oh yes. Try it.”


A few adjustments were made, the peaceful environment adding to the relaxing atmosphere. The scent of warm incense, and the fluttering light passing through the screen was hypnotic.


“Isn’t that better?” The doctor asked from his hiding place.


“Yes, well, it’s very nice.”


“Your comfortable then?”


“Comfortable enough, I suppose.”


“Good then let us begin. I want you to close your eyes.”


“Close my eyes?”


“Yes.”


“But why?”


“It helps.”


“Helps with what?”


“Helps you relax. Give it a try.”


He did so allowing his eyes to close. There was a near instant sense of weariness, as if sleep had just sprung up from somewhere hidden behind his eyelids. It was strange though, he hadn’t been tired before, but he was now. A yawn spread his lips straining his throat and tongue.


“Why don’t you lay back?”


“What like on the armrest?”


“Yes, you can use one of the pillows if you like, and feel free to put your feet up on the sofa.”


“But the fabric’s so nice.”


“That’s alright, it’s there for you to use and be comfortable on.”


“Alright then.”


Reaching for one of the pillows, eyes still closed, the man placed it against the armrest reclining back on it. It was soft, but firm giving in all the right places, and when he lifted his feet to be in full repose absolute comfort was achieved. He would have to lie to himself to say he had ever experienced anything more relaxing. It was to a point that made staying awake very difficult.


“And how is that, comfy?”


“Very.”


“Wonderful, then shall we get started.”


“Sure.”


“Alright then, you are a part of a rather large firm, am I correct?”


“Yes.”


“They represent large clients and manufacturer figurines.”


“Yes, I’m a part of the design team.”


“Is that so?”


“Yes, it’s rewarding when you see your art come to life, but the hours are long, and the work can be tedious.”


“You think so?”


“Yes, but I do enjoy my job.”


“It’s wonderful to hear. Now, tell me how do you see yourself?”


“Sorry, what do you mean?”


“Excuse me, I mean how do you see yourself in the workplace?”


“Well, I do my best, if that’s what you mean. I try to make standards and do as I’m supposed to.”


The grinding sound came again, the friction of metal vibrating off of metal, more subtle than the time before, but just as grating.


“What is that?”


“What is what?”


“That sound.”


“Oh, that’s nothing, just ignore it. Let’s go on. How would you say you get on with your co-workers?”


“Well, enough.”


“How do you feel in groups?”


“Fine, I suppose.”


The grinding came again and with it a sort of heaviness. Sweat began to collect around his face, a choking dryness drawing across his palate.


“This is an evaluation, right?”


“It is.”


“Then what is happening?”


There was an attempt made to rise, to open his eyes, but it was to no avail, he could do neither.


“What is this, what are you doing to me? You tricked me! You made me lay down to take advantage of me!”


His body began to flail and writhe in a rather inhuman fashion. It was only unfortunate that something quite extraordinary had happened, his body was completely against him.


“Now, now, you’re worrying yourself for nothing.”


“Worrying myself for nothing! What on earth are you doing?”


“Nothing really, nothing at least that should bother you. It is socially important that we first make sure that you can function within the role you have been selected for.”


“Socially important? What the heck are you even talking about? How can torturing me help anyone! Let me go!”


There was more grinding and all at once the pressure on his body became that much worse. The soft tension of the sofa was still pleasant, almost too pleasant. There was an attempt to shift a foot, to bend a knee ever so slightly, or just wiggle a finger, but it was all quite impossible.


“Come, come now, there is no reason to struggle so. This is for your benefit. For the benefit of everyone, you’ll see that soon enough.”


“For my benefit indeed. Release me now or…” Something like a thick fabric came down on his mouth trapping his words and causing him to bite his tongue, there was sort of a crude comedic jab that came with that taste of blood in his mouth.


“Now let’s stop there before we both become upset. What is being done for you now is what is best, you will eventually realize this, you are just in a state of mind that prevents such rational thinking. Now just relax and let us help you.”


There was a great struggle that happened at this point. Body for a moment gained the upper hand, as an arm managed to come loose and begin the process of tearing at the strip that was over the mouth and when that wouldn’t budge, he shifted attention to the caps that had somehow been fused to the eyes.


“You shouldn’t struggle like this. Can’t you see how what we are doing here is meant to help you and society as a whole. That is the very reason you came here, right? The smallest sacrifices you make as an individual citizen is actually beneficial for the rest of humanity.”


Something took hold of the resistant arm around the wrist, it was tight and restrictive with small metal teeth that dug into the flesh. It quite mercilessly restrained the limb drawing it down as the heavy restraint was reapplied.


“That’s better, now isn’t it. Don’t worry too much. The process will be over in a few short seconds once we got you properly strapped in.”


There was no more permissible movement, there was only breathing. Breathing and fear, there laying beside him on the couch as he waited, waited, his body incapable of doing anything else, tears shamefully drawing to the edges of his eyes, their escape hampered by the strange patches over his eyes.


-


“Ah yes, I see your name. If you wouldn’t mind taking a seat, we’re not quite ready for you yet.”


The young woman did as she was asked by the secretary sitting rigidly on the standard woodened armed, stiff padded waiting room chair. She didn’t really want to be there, but her employer had stated it was a rather non-voluntary obligation for all employees and that it was being overseen by the local government, which was ordered to do so themselves by the federal government. Somehow that thought made the idea of abdication evaporate. She needed the job; besides that, she was afraid. Afraid of how involved the wider body of society was in all this. It was better to go along with it while it was still somewhat voluntary, it was better than being dragged around and forced to do it. Besides, it’s not like they would do anything to hurt her. Just be agreeable and go with the flow and everything will be fine. It was supposed to only be some kind of evaluation anyway, that was no big deal, right?


Her eyes drifted with a nervous air around the office, coming to a small plaque on the desk where the women sat calmly typing at her computer. It read: Compliance is appreciated. A shiver ran the length of her spine. She shifted uncomfortably, trying to ignore the sick misgivings leaching from her stomach.


The door opened to the office just off the waiting room, a man came out. He appeared to be in his mid-thirties, not ugly and not particularly handsome. Everything about him appeared on level, scrapping neither side of the spectrum with a harsh arrow. It was just that his eyes were held so wide and blinked so little. They shown with something, but appeared matte at the same time, as if all the moisture had been sucked off. There was also his smile, so big and broad it seemed as if someone had pinned it onto his face and against his own will. It even twitched suggesting the muscles were over strained.


He went to the desk and checked out, not even acknowledging her existence before exiting.


“You can go in whenever you’re ready.”


Her throat felt tight, she thought about turning around, but stood instead walking into the room the door closing behind her. There was nothing to be afraid of, after all she was sent there for the greater good.



End



Thank you so much for reading everyone!!



Prompt: There's No I in Team


Word Count:1708


©DecemberKnight 2023


Special thanks to Hans Vivek from Unsplash for the use of the image!


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