Author : W. Kevin Christian

The room was not cold. It was not wet. It was not noisy or colorful. It was quiet and white. No pictures on the walls. No carpet on the floors. There was just a table with a man on it and a black-and-white digital clock hung from the ceiling directly above his head.

The clock read: 9,999 years, 364 days, 23 hours, 58 minutes, 11 seconds…12…13…

The man felt no physical pain, no fatigue nor hunger. In fact, he was perfectly comfortable because he felt very little. It had paralyzed him. Though he could breathe and move is eyes, he could not blink. Not that there was much to see.

The man wiggled his eyes back and forth. He wanted to see how many times he could do it in a minute, a game he had invented.

9,999 years, 364 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes, 10 seconds…11…12…

He set a new personal record.

The man tried to picture the Earth, his home, his childhood. The vaguest shadows flickered in the back of his mind, but all he could really picture was a bright white ceiling and a black-and-white digital clock.

9,999 years, 364 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes, 45 seconds…46…47…

The man had been trying not to get his hopes up for 10,000 years. He had been disappointed before: at 1 day, at 1 week, at 1 month, at 1 year, at 10 years, at 25 years, at 50 years, at 100 years, at 500 years, at 1,000 years, at 5,000 years. But still there was that hope. He waited anxiously.

9,999 years, 364 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes, 57 seconds…58…59…

And then he came out of it. He was back in the bald man’s basement. Reminders of distant memories flooded his senses: a leaky pipe dripping into a small puddle, the smell of mildew and wet wood. They burned his mind like no fire could. He had muscle control! He was hungry! He hurt! There were so many possibilities! The feelings overwhelmed him like boiling water overwhelms an ice cube. And somewhere deep within, the cube cracked.

The man howled.

A perverse grin crossed the bald man’s face, his mouth letting out a slow, toad-like chuckle. The feeling of power intoxicated him. The look 30 seconds with the program could put on a person’s face! It tickled him in the darkest of ways, as if holding something young and innocent at the edge of a cliff overlooking hell. The power! The suffering!

“Are you ready to talk?” the bald-man asked.

“Anyyy…thing…,” the man said shakily, “…juuuusss ett it down…”

The bald man placed a chrome-colored metal box about the size of a deck cards on a black, homemade-looking table.

“So where is she?”

“Phoenix. Thaddriss…in…my wallet.”

The bald man chuckled again and grabbed the chrome box. He poked at it with his index finger and turned its backlit screen towards the man.

“How does 10 minutes sound?”

The man screamed and fought against the metal cuffs that bound him, blood streaming from his wrists as he did so.

The bald man rumbled with laughter. “Hmmm, I don’t know if I can wait that long. Better just make it five.”

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