FICTION: Chapter 19 Cages (First Draft, Updated)

19: CAGE

Robbie

I’m trying out the fancy gel pens on toilet paper. I’m literally tearing through a lot of toilet paper.

This will be a short one.

Fiona’s gone. All the Fionas are gone. My bedroom door is no longer locked. It’s been a week, I think.

There’s no electricity, and no running water, hot or cold, which suggests there’s also no gas. If I hadn’t discovered some bottles of water in the big fridge in the downstairs kitchen things would be much more serious.

The smell in the house, but especially here in my room, is beyond description. It’s a living thing. It has opinions.

The first night after my screeching monkey show, I had trouble sleeping. Consumed with guilt. I should never have done that. I had done a dreadful thing, broken a fundamental code of decent behaviour. My mum would have been horrified. She would have told me my conduct has nothing to do with what other people do to me. My conduct is always my conduct, based on my own principles and beliefs at all times, no matter what. And especially in a crisis or an emergency, she’d say. If you stick to your principles and behave accordingly, and do what’s right when things are bad, you are doing well, and your mum would be proud of you. Fiona burned your book? That is a big deal, but you were wrong to retaliate like that. That was, well, a shitty thing to do. You will need to apologise.

Mum wasn’t even here, but I knew exactly what she would say. And I knew that Dad would look at me, and look across at Mum, and he’d nod at her, indicating her greater wisdom, and then he’d nod back at me very significantly, indicating his endorsememt of what she just said. Mum by this point would be off getting a meal ready or something, but her words would still be there in the living room, working hard for decency.

But I was just so angry. My book! The messages from Future Bastard, the letter from Dad! The thing was like a suburban holy artefact. I felt close to it in a way I never felt close to any other physical thing in my life. I slept with it under my pillow. I took it everywhere in case of a stray thought. It kept me from feeling too anxious. Having it meant I always felt able to express myself, that I would know what to say, unlike my poor dad.

I wondered, during the long silent dark and cold night how my parents were doing, the ones back in 1979 and the ones here in this time. Future Bastard said that they were still together, happier and closer than ever despite their great age. I clung to that image, and longed to meet them. If Fiona and her droogs had in fact simply left, abandoned the project (after, it seemed to me, not trying too hard), maybe I could get out of this house and try to find them. They must be out there. It must be possible to find people. There were phones, so there must still be phone books, though with many more people these days I assumed phone books these days would be truly colossal! You might need folding plastic trolleys just to move them around, I mused, thinking in a futuristic mode.

I looked at the black rectangle on the wall. I never did get up the nerve to switch it on. There always seemed about it a glamour of pent-up menace, of barely leashed unholy power. I had on several occasions approached it, and had even started working some of the tiny buttons, but I always stopped, shivering, chills washing through me, before I came to the button I increasingly thought might be the on/off control. I hovered my finger over it several times, biting my lip, tense and knotted all through, wondering if I dared, if I had the nerve. It was the Apple iPhone 7 all over again. Did I want to cut through the plastic and actually see the thing, hold the thing, start it up, use it, make use of it, wield its unprecedented power? And here I was again, poised on the event horizon of the future. It was just television, I told myself. How bad could it be? You know how it’ll be. There’ll be shows, commercials, some news, all the usual stuff. Three channels, lots of static, everything over and done with by midnight. Probably all or mostly in colour, of course. Big screen like this could probably do colour really well.

And now I’ll never know. I had a powerful urge as the silent, dark abandonment went on, to pull that TV from the wall and hurl it through the window.

Today is I think day three since the Fionas left, which makes today about day 12 since she abducted me. My room’s door was in fact unlocked. It opened outwards into a beige hallway. Other doors, other bedrooms, none of them locked, none of them occupied. Some showed signs of hasty, even emergency departure. There were piles of women’s clothing strewn across beds, abandoned. There were a couple of electronic devices that had keyboards and screens that folded up and down that I had never seen before. I grabbed one and a cable that went with it. What I planned to do with it I had no idea. Where I came from, computers were “mainframes”, they were giant beasts of things that occupied buildings, attended by castes of technicians and engineers, and people had “accounts” giving them amounts of “access time” when you could run programs, or try to. I had a powerful sense that this folding gadget I’d snagged was somehow a form of future computer as well, but that was as far as my brain could go.

This was, I decided, after looking in the fridge, with just about nothing in it besides water, nobody’s actual home. This was rented or leased, somehow. There was money behind whatever this project had been about. And that gave me my first real chill. Two-story beach-house in out of the way, quiet area. Someone had paid a lot of money to set this up, but now it was all abandoned.

But not quite, I discovered.

There was no access to the outside world. The front and rear doors, the door leading to the carport and to the patio, were all electronically locked, and those locks were all still alive and working, running on a separate power circuit from the rest of the house. I looked at the glass walls everywhere. It looked thick and dense. I threw some chairs at it. The glass wobbled a little and the chairs bounced back at me.

My cage had expanded in size, but I was still in a cage.

In the course of throwing things at the glass, I spotted CCTV cameras up in the ceiling. They all still featured glowing telltale lights, small blue ones. Some of the cameras could track along the ceiling to follow me as I moved around.

I said out loud, “I need something to eat, and some clothes, please.” The hunger filled my body like a cancer, eating me from the inside, angry. I could feel it all times, chewing constantly. I was always burping, and my breath was (even more) disgusting.

There was no response, not then, and not the next day, either. But first thing the day after that, I came to regret everything. I came to regret my first post-birth squalling breath. I had been much better off tucked up safely inside my mum–and she’d been much better off that way, too, before I was loosed upon the world, ready to ruin and destroy everything I touched and those people closest to me.

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