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In Emergency......   by Andrew Stock

I wake with a jolt. My eyes scan the room before my eyelids have fully lifted. I have no recollection of where I am. the lights are harsh the brightness forcing me to squint. Perhaps it had been these large industrial bulbs bursting into life that had caused me to wake.  Fear grips me, I cannot remember where I am, I recognise nothing. Slowly I pull myself to a sitting position, at least everything seems to be in working order, I roll my shoulders and flex my arms to be sure, nothing hurts, no mystery aches and pains. I take a few deep breaths and concentrate, I am aware that I am on a trolley, much like any hospital trolley on any ward, green mattress, the creak of rubber as I move confirms this, so I must be in a hospital?

 

Tentatively I swing my legs over the side of the trolley, and sit silently waiting, for what? I am unsure, But I am aware there are no covers near to hand, which becomes more of an issue as for the first time since waking I become fully aware that I am totally naked. Staring around the room, I realise it is like no other room I have been in before. the walls are of what I can only describe as a glass like substance, a shiny, reflective surface more mirror than glass, I suppose. I study my duplicate image opposite me, I look well cared for, nothing out of place, no hidden marks or wires, no monitors. My hair is short, black, shaped close to my skull, jaw strong and square, no stubble of note. My duplicate strokes his chin as I stroke mine, lack of stubble shows I have been here for no more than 2 days, unless those who care for me, whoever they may be shave people whilst they are unconscious, doubtful I’m sure. I think back, what do I know? My name is Bobbi, Bobbi with an ‘I’ not a ‘Y’ how do you do? I am highly skilled, be careful I can defend myself. Do not hit the glass!

 

I leap to my feet, Abbi! the name crashes into my mind. where was Abbi? I am sure we were together before …. well…. before I ended up here. What has happened to Abbi, have we been in some sort of an accident, is she safe? I must find her, I must protect Abbi. I step from the bed, uncaring of my nudity now, and scan the glass walls for a doorway. My mind races, I can see nothing obvious no tell tale handles or levers, not even a key pad system. Inwardly I roar with frustration, What sort of place was this? it was as if I was trapped in an upturned goldfish bowl with no hope of escape, and no way of finding Abbi, I must protect Abbi.  After a few minutes of walking round the room running my hands over the surface frantically, I come to a stop, suddenly unsure of what to do next. My rage is building, Abbi must be protected, I want to hammer my fists hard against the walls, but somehow know that this would be the wrong thing to do, I must think this through logically.

 

I lean heavily on the side of the bed, close my eyes. I must have been brought in here,  no one would have constructed a  room around me, so there must be an entrance, just because I couldn’t locate it did not mean it was not there. Why had they (whoever they were) made it so difficult to find, were they imprisoning me, was I a risk or was I indeed the one at risk? I had wasted time, I seemed to have more questions now than answers. I needed to solve this. My next few hours pass in moments of high activity searching the walls and floor, to long moments of contemplation and rising anger. As time passes, I have some moments of clarity, half returned memories, tasks, I have completed, a book, conversations with Abbi, ‘No Bobbi, calm, we must…’ I shake my head each memory is like small pieces of the jigsaw, I can hear them rattling in the box, I know what they will show, but they stay firmly boxed and out of reach. It is in these moments the walls of my cell, compress towards me, bringing with it the waves of crippling, claustrophobia, I have to act.

I have just spent many minutes moving the hospital trolley around the extremities of the wall, standing on it to better explore for an escape route higher up, when somewhere behind me a soft hiss shatters the silence. I whip round causing the trolley to move from under me. Crashing to the floor heavily, I ignore the electric shock that runs up my arm to my shoulder and spin to the left towards the sound. A black leather bound book skids towards the centre of the room, and stops, spine facing me. I flick my eyes to the right and follow the path the book came from, just in time to see a small hatchway close silently again forming a solid sheet of glass. I spring to my feet, and half dive half skid to reach the spot where the hatch had been. Nothing, not a mark, line or shadow of where the hatch had closed seconds before.  I roar with frustration, I hear it, a sound I was unaware that I could make, something between animal in pain and a mechanical grinding of gears, I like how the roar tastes in my mouth and roar again, I push my back against the glass but stop myself the moment I begin. I must not attack the glass, never attack the glass. I sit for a few moments composing my thoughts, whilst staring at the invader in the room, for that is how it feels, this foreign object, so small, so normal, so ordinary and yet taking up so much room, it sucks the energy from me just with its presence. Finally I decide that I can no longer sit staring at this object and raise myself wearily towards it, and close my hand around its leather cover. I know it will be leather before I my hand touches the book, it will be soft, smooth, warm to the touch, a tear on the front cover will split in two the italic faded silver writing, writing that says ‘Rules and Thoughts’ . I am not sure how I know this I just do, ‘write in the book, do not hit the glass, do not damage yourself, Protect Abbi’. These instructions are clear in my head, but where from?  

 

I sit with the book on my lap, I know I must read it, must complete the task. I slowly open the book to the first page, I knew, somehow I knew, clear blue pen, neat precise handwriting. 1. Protect Abbi 2. do not damage yourself, 3. Do not hit the glass, on and on they went, rule after rule, each one as familiar to me as my name. I scan through the book, hardly needing to read. As I flick through, the handwriting changes, I know it is mine, I have written in this book, random thoughts etched onto the page, Trapped and Angry, Frustrated, Abbi missing, Why? Who?…. As I flick on, a small pen, drops from between the pages, I look at it resting between my legs, clear plastic, a dark ink trapped inside. I hold it between my fingers, it feels….. familiar. I move my hand over the page and words flow from the pen. Confused, yelling, lonely. I look at the last word and write it again, Lonely, I write it again carefully, capital letters, LONELY.  I study it for a second before underlining it three times, each line heavier than the last. In a sudden movement I Slam the book shut, trapping the small pen between its pages, I jump to my feet, I want to to hurl the book at the glass, ‘Do not hit the glass’ I hold the book in two hands and bend it backwards and forwards, feeling the cover tear more beneath my grip, it feels good.

“Where is Abbi? I must see Abbi?” I yell into the space, I scream at the glass, I bellow to whoever or whatever is beyond the glass. I stand panting, as though waiting for an answer, but knowing that non will come. Moving around the room I hold my face close to the glass, peering at the darkness hoping to catch sight of something, anything. “Where is she, what have you done with Abbi?” Suddenly, the anger feels good, I must protect Abbi.

“Wait!” The single word, crashes into my space, it echoes around my head and crushes my brain. I have fallen to one knee, is it shock or relief, I was right, I am being watched, there is someone out there, Have they taken Abbi? The lights in my glass cell, cease, bringing me into total darkness, before I have time to react, one area of my cell lights with the intensity of a search light, and there in full view is Abbi, Naked, alone, standing in a room much like mine, she is staring at a book, leather bound I am sure, she clutches it in her hands. As I watch she tosses the book on her trolly and moves to the wall furthest away from me and begins studying it with her eyes and her hands. She cannot see me, she does not know I am there, what sort of sick game is this? Without realising, I have moved close to the wall, I rest my hands flat against the strangely warm surface, I am calling her name, “Abbi, Abbi.” She does not hear me. She has stopped moving around the wall and fallen in a slump to the floor, her dark hair covering her face. “Abi.” It is a whisper at first, but grows in intensity, it is as if I am watching and hearing myself from somewhere else. “Abbi” I call again and again, gently tapping my hand on the glass. ‘Do not hit the glass!’ “Abbi, Abbi!” My voice is loud, I can feel my frustration growing, I must protect Abbi, my hand makes a slap on the glass, ‘Do not hit the glass!’ I feel a warmth on my skin as the slap grows louder. ‘Do not damage yourself!’ I call and slap, slap and call, “Abbi, Abbi, Abbi!” Slap, slap, slap, bang, bang. My fists hammer on the glass, ‘Do not damage yourself, do not hit the glass, do not damage yourself, do not hit the glass, hit the glass, damage yourself, protect Abbi’. I pound the glass, rush it with my shoulder, I must protect Abbi. The glass bounces under my attack, I must do more, ‘hit the glass, damage yourself, protect Abbi. I rush for my trolly, it is the only thing in the room, wheeling it to the end furthest away fro Abby i crush myself between it and the wall, I take a moment to steady myself, picking the exact spot, I will ram my way through this wall of glass whatever happens to me, I will protect Abbi!

 

 

They watch him slump to the floor, silently behind the trolley.

“Well I think we have seen enough.” he removes his finger from the shut down button and pushes away from the control board with a sigh. The second figure nods slowly,

“Yes, I believe we have, but to be honest, we have so little time, it really has to be now or never.” The two figures hold each others gaze for a few moments in silent recognition of what they have achieved.

“I shall let the capital know we are ready, they will set the time and date.” He places his hand on his colleagues shoulder and gives a gentle squeeze, “Thank you Madeline, your skills have created the perfect humanoid robot, it free thinks, disobeys direct instructions for the good of its other selves, and risks danger to itself for the good of its mission, you have probably saved mankind.” Beneath the respirator mask Madeline allows herself a small smile,

‘I hope so Dr Randell, I hope so.” The small man shuffled towards the pod exit dragging his oxygen bottle with him,

“Copy the programmes from Bob 1 to the other Bobs’ tell the impregnation team they can now load the human embryos into the female Abbesses, 2 embryos 1 male 1 female for each, remember.  We know the Abb 1 programme is complete, all we have to do is fire them into the far reaches of the solar system and beyond, and hope to God one of the pairs find a place of safety to restart humankind.”

“Do you believe in God Dr Randell?” He stopped with his finger on the key pad, frozen for a moment by the question, before giving a small laugh

“With the end of the world in sight, my dear, I will believe in anything that may bring us peace or safety.” The pod door slides open bringing with it a blast of hot putrid air, the scientist shuffled away, and the door slides tightly shut behind him.