For Christopher Booth with love and thanks…
Dragged along the corridor by rough angry hands, I smell the mildewed and ancient paint flecking and peeling from the walls.
Drab and colourless; a dead, dusty grey and off-white.
The floors are a scratched and dirty white, deep rivets in the stone ground and carved by heavy machinery that has been pushed or pulled across this conduit between the cells and the questioning rooms.
This will be the fourth time I have been brought here.
The colour is slightly deader each time I witness this hallway, this monotonous, horrific and tiresome corridor.
The smell thicker and richer, the scent of paint lingering longer in my nostrils; swirling in the cortex of my mind for hours after.
At first, I noticed nothing; no smells no colour’s, no details, I was picked from my slumber in my tiny, darkened room, were I am accompanied by nothing but silence and bleak, empty space, a tepid quality of air, that is neither warm nor cold, but staid and still.
I am lay sleeping weakly in the pitch darkness before I am woken by heavy, careless hands that lift and pull me from the flattened stone bed and pull me backward through the hallway corridor toward the big grey door to the questioning chamber.
I am never questioned.
The door opens, silent and heavy, I smell a deep wash of colours and warmth before I pulled backwards through to a chair that is then spun round and I am blinded by the white, glare of the lamp.
Every time, before I see the light, I see the walls.
My only colour.
Deep, rich, lively blue.
The blue of the Center of the Ocean. Alive and full of nature and love, life and mystery circling in playful swashes of movement under the surface, and the deeper you go the bluer it is, a white speck of light above heralds the surface and the sunshine, but the blue tempers it and the world is vibrant with its azure charm and welcome.
This room is blue.
It is a blue that hurts my eyes, but warms my heart, the only burst of colour, before I am span, cuffed in and bound to this chair by faceless men who do not answer me or my questions, who leave the room as soon as I am turned and face to face with the light.
My eyes are pried open with delicate wire.
A thin tin that hooks my eyelids up, the light burning into my retinas and I am left here, asking question after question. Every one of them unanswered and hanging. I am screaming by the end of the time I spend in there, before the light is switched off.
How long I have been in here I could not tell you, but I am blind by the time I am grabbed, dragged and flung back into my cell where I howl and wail and scream all night long until the embrace of the Sandman takes me and I sleep, my dark, void of a room for the rest of the evening now a prison of blinding white, scorched angry on the back of my eyes.
Tomorrow is another day.
And I wait in quiet apprehension for the door to open and for me to be grabbed once again and follow the routine of the drab colourless corridor.
The white now a sharper shade, with a fuzzy edge, the floor a grey that sparkles and glints like granite and flint in starlight.
The scent of the paint richer in my mind now, swirling like a hurricane of aroma and a memory of a time I was not ever part of, where they mixed this paint, and I can smell each ingredient, a cocktail of chemicals and additives that clogs and penetrates my senses.
Before the door opens I take a final look, and soak in the details and the fug, then I am pulled backward through the big grey door into my blue haven.
My empire of colour and hue.
My Blue Room.
Hands tightly cuffed and strapped to the chairs charcoal leather.
I stare intently and dreamily to the wall of clear, clean blue.
I meditate on the colour, the only colour in my life and world.
Today the blue is lighter, is muted.
Still my blue, but, less defined, the volume reduced by twenty five percent.
I am still lost within its hypnotic allure. Regardless.
This blue heaven I crave.
It soaks over me, my mind creating illusions of ocean waves crashing down upon me and soaking me.
Stealing me away into the deep, folding brilliance of a tumultuous storm, I feel like a piece of drift wood turned and bobbing effortless and brittle upon the crashing turquoise waves that lumber, roll and crash asunder upon each other, leaving foaming, frothing flotsam and jetsam to dissipate and dissolve.
A liquid circle of life and death.
With me alone and alive, my driftwood self turning and bobbing peaceful and serene upon the surface.
The hands spin me round and the white, brilliant, bastard light stares me down as my wide, anchored open eyes are seared and singed inside my weary, screaming head.
Seconds, minutes, hours.
I no longer no what meaning or power time has.
The only power I crave is the power of the Blue wall, the power of the grey floor and the off white walls.
The silent, solemn darkness of my cell in the morning after I wake up… before this horror and torture begins anew.
No demands, no voices, never.
A silent inquisition of the commanding, accusatory light – and me.
My screams and my tears, my anger and my fury the only noise in the room.
The wails falling in deafened blue walls.
I am alone with the light once again.
Seconds. Minutes. Hours.
I no longer know what time is.
I no longer care about time.
Light and darkness, shades of lifeless nothingness…
The blue wall and the dark silence.
These are all I have. These are my mistresses.
These fragile things and the blinding white light that questions me and questions me and questions me, without ever saying a damn word.
I am guided me blind and sobbing backwards through the channel between the blue room and the black room – and I am thrown into the stone cell, onto my stone shelf and I am left alone with my solitary brightness.
The whole world on fire in white flame, the darkness burned away with a sheen and glow of white that will not leave my eyes.
Tomorrow is another day.
Finally the screams fall quiet and tamed, the whiteness drifts away and the blackness creeps back in, and I am soulfully silent and I am calm, awaiting the hands and the hallway and the journey from room to room.
Today the hallways walls seem fuzzier, the white now a mottled, blotchy graphite grey.
The floors are darker and deader, I struggle to see the rivets and canyons of scratched imperfection in the floor.
But I smell them.
The dirt between the scratches sings to me, its scent rich in bacteria and tiny flecks of skin and dust.
The paint peels more around me, and I can smell the adhesive in the chemical cocktail that allows it to stick and dry a shiny gloss.
As it peels from the sandstone wall, I smell the gloss spray new particles into the air with each wilt and curl of dying paint.
The grey door today seems black, shadow and contrast is broken, and I am struggling to make out the shapes of things.
The blue room beckons me in, but the colour now is a military navy blue, darker and more angry.
Less the sea and ocean of before, now a blanket of night, starless and devoid of mystery or life, its less inviting, it’s less mine. I am angry that this isolation of colour I clutch to for salvation is now sullied by darkness.
Have they painted over it?
Have the smeared it?
Do they know how much I need and long for this in my dreams and the gaps between torture and sleep?
The blue room is now cracked, like a fine china plate that you use only at special occasions, chipped and spoiled by a petulant child.
Hands bound, wrists tied, eyes wired, I am turned gently and slowly, the blur of blue, navy and dark, a stale night sky blanketed above – bleeding into the brilliant and furious white light, the millisecond between the wall and the light merging, I see my blue.
My heaven; a fine slither of blue ocean that suddenly is torn and wretched from my grasp and the light is forced white-hot and lustily into my eyes.
Screaming for a living once again.
And yet again I spill my guts and I give up my secrets and my lies and my truths and my desires and my heart breaks once more that I still do not know what I am here for.
The light follows me all the way to the cell as the hands of my captors carry me, I am slumped and defeated.
Silent today, no tears and no screams.
Everywhere I turn my head I paint white upon the contours of the walls I know are to my left and right, I paint perfect bright, burning white onto the rivets and scratches on the floor I know to be below my feet, every imperfection and scored violent chip and chink in the stone now painted with a white and flawless wash.
By my cell I stop the guards by planting my feet by the door, and stand myself up. They let go of my arms as I turn, and walk through the open door, and walk tiptoe toward my bunk shelf, step by step, through the open portal I instinctively know to be there, but which I cannot see.
All there is in my mind is a white hole upon a white vista of nothing, below a white marble looking sheet at the end of which is a white edgeless bed.
And I sit, staring at the perfect white shadows of the perfect white guards in my perfect white corridor, and I say…
“Please close my door. And leave me to my hell.”
That night I do not sleep.
And the blinding white does not leave me.
And I wait for the guards stood, ready for them when the door opens.
My eyes are red raw, I can sense it, tears of pink liquid are streaming from them – or so I picture and imagine.
The guards gasp errantly as they open the door.
They do not grab me as I am already walking out the door as soon as it is opened.
The walls are white, but a darker white that makes shapes and textures disappear and merge into a single fluid contour. I walk, gliding the surface, on a floor of shapeless white. Toward a portal that seeps a faint blue aura through a crack in the blue fluid tunnel.
I am stood before what was previously a giant grey door, and it opens toward a room of sky blue now.
The walls a faint, almost imperceptible sky blue.
I sit down on the chair that I am usually thrown onto.
And I wait for the light to be shone in my eyes, the chair turning, I catching again the thinnest slither of my blue as light meets wall and my eyes are forced into the void once more.
No pain, no hurt, no violent torture.
Just a calming wash of warmth.
As the door is shut, something I hear today for the first time, clearly, and I can hear four sets of footsteps walk away as well – where usually I would be aware of only the two men guiding and grabbing me, there is two more as well.
I smell the difference in air pressure between the corridor outside the blue room, and the room itself.
I can smell the sweat of the two guards, both shocked to find me stood and waiting, calm and no longer needing their assistance.
A sweaty, heady mix of fear and revulsion, of dirt and of machine oil.
The room itself smells of summer, a sun caked warmth that flushes and dances on your skin, the paint in here is fresher, by a fair few years than the paint on the sandstone walls outside the door.
The light is hot today, my skin prickles and I feel the hairs tingle and dance awake and alive on my goose-pimpled skin.
Finally, I can smell my own eyes, baking in the glow of this light.
Saltwater cooking on a soft white orb.
Whether my eyes have adjusted to the light, or am I dying, I do not know.
But though there are still no questions, there are no more tears either.
Except the feint, sweet pink lines that pour from my red eyes.
I cannot stop this if I want too.
It is part of me now.
Soon, the blue line of my heavenly escape is torn away, and only the white survives.
And after an hour and twenty five minutes – I know because today, with no tears, no screams and no terror, I count instead to keep my mind occupied and to help me build my plan of attack… I am freed from my bonds and I step up myself, and turn and walk out the room, down the corridor and toward my cell, stood waiting and quiet, before a guard can stop me.
I move like a ballet dancer, having remembered and borne these routine steps a million times, they are muscle memory now and I am not in control, my body drives itself.
The cell door is opened by a push from a guard to my left who has ran down the corridor and chased me.
I turn to him, and a smile, nodding a curt thank you.
I wonder what I look like after all this time, the light scorching in my face and pouring into my pried open eyes?
As I hear him gasp and swallow hard, and smell the flush of perspiration and horror from his pores. Which I hear open and exude the sweat, a feint pop and shove noise.
I smile wider, eyes open and lips apart to show my teeth.
I know them to be yellow and stained, I can smell the decay setting in the back molar, I can smell and taste each cavity and the sheen of tartar that coats them.
I walk through my door, and turn round, and smile again as the guard shuts the door fast and tight.
And I sit cross-legged in the white blinding beauty of my cell, and I finally see the edges and plan of the room in my blindness.
I do not sleep.
For the morning to come.
When it does the world is still white.
No shades, no shapes.
I am blind.
The door opens of its own power and accord, and I stand, and walk out to the corridor.
There is silence and emptiness and I am caught unprepared for the world of smell, the sounds and the physical feedback of the world at large.
It hits me like a concussive force, and I put my hands over my ears, I hold my breath to allow this sensory tidal wave settle down.
My eyes are burned out and useless, and I see nothing but the perfect glare of the light that has been forced upon me for – I do not know how long now.
I am drowning in emotion and sense and taste and scent and sound.
So I concentrate hard, and I push with all I have to block and grasp these senses, and control them, and with a scream that – to me – sounds like a shrill fire alarm, I force my body to crack and absorb these feelings and senses and then squeeze them to diamond in my belly.
I am in control, my chest pounding and heaving up and down, gasping like a drowning man for air, that now has a feint, bitter iron tang – this is fresh air – not before tasted like this, I feel it on the air stream, and follow it down the corridor, barefooted, padding gently toward the blue room.
The door is not there, instead, it is just an iron sheet blocking the access.
But to my right, I feel a tingle of cold, and realize that the end of the corridor has another concealed door I have never noticed.
The wall is pushed in, and a doorway exists, I feel with my fingers round the cool parting in the stone, and when I conclude the door is there, I push, and I realize I am outside…
I walk tentatively and raise my head to the sky.
I picture perfect blue skies and a warm ball of yellow… But in truth, all I see is white.
I imagine green lush grass under my bare feet, flowers blooming of every colour and scent, an intoxicating, beautiful aroma of life… But all I see is white, and all I can smell is decay, and rot and the stench of dead things.
I instinctively turn toward the door to go back, but already it is closing…
I grab an edge, but it is heavy and automated and my fingers will be shorn straight from the hand if I continue this futile pursuit.
A klaxon goes off.
And I can sense the red or amber light above me swirling round, I see nothing but white, but I can sense the thing spinning as I feel the burst of light upon my skin when it turns toward me, the klaxon shrill is deafening and I fall to my knees, back to the now closed door, and the smell of flesh in my nostrils.
Flesh and iron and rust and debris and bullet casings and sulphur and plastic and death.
And then I hear the voice.
“You have done so well.”
“You have excelled way beyond any of the previous test subjects. We really do applaud and wish you well on this next test… We are all so proud of you.”
The sound of a gentle female clicks over the tannoy killing the klaxon bleat, there is a buzz of static and then a click of the microphone a millisecond before silence, then her voice comes in a crackle of air and radio waves.
It’s quiet, not loud enough to hear beyond the doorway.
I spin round and round trying to get my bearings, but, I am blind and sense alone will not help me in this alien environment.
I push hard against the door and ask why I am here? What I am supposed to do?
I try and relax by thinking of the blue sky and the blue wall, and the ocean that was my haven.
But I instinctively know this world has red scorched skies, and dead brown earth, and oceans that are black and as crude as oil.
“We love you and we thank you for your sacrifice.”
The tannoy says.
And even before I taste the warmth of the breath before me, even before I hear the smack of the tongue and the crack of the teeth, I hear the heartbeat of the fifty or so things before me…
“Just think of the blue room. Think of the blue wall. Think of your ocean.”
The voice says.
“And know that we love you.”
The voice cutting out as the static gives way to the sharp, harsh klaxon bleat again.
Now blind, and deaf, I stand.
My back is against the doorway, the world before me white and dead. The sound of the creatures approaching and the grumble in their throats and bellies at the sight of me roaring as loud as the klaxon does.
I think of my blue room.
My blue wall.
And I scream and charge down whatever is coming for me.
Diving into the unknown as if I was diving into the cool welcoming embrace of the center of the deepest, bluest ocean.
Beckoning it to hold me safe…