Over at Terribleminds the current flash fiction challenge is to write the middle of a story that someone started in last week’s challenge. I took this excellent piece, called Isolation, and carried it forward, although I doubt I’ve done justice to what is a brilliant start. Hoping someone will finish this next week because it will make a fantastic story! At 493 words, here is the middle of Isolation.
Ted inched forward cautiously. His palms, he noted, were sweaty. The light coming through the door was blinding, and fresh air was swirling along with it, a tang of machinery and ozone at the back of his throat. Something to smell besides his own pent-up stink.
Outside, a small antechamber. Another door at the far end, still sealed. Floodlights illuminated every corner of this new room. “Little green men,” Ted murmured to himself, tasting the way words felt on his tongue. Thick and rubbery.
There was a flatscreen on one wall, and a bright orange suit hanging on another. The third wall contained only that next door, still sealed. Silent. Waiting.
Ted walked over to the flatscreen and turned it on. Five hundred and one days without a TV. It flickered to brightness. A face loomed, larger than life, and began to speak. It took Ted a minute to begin processing the words, to make sense of the jumble of sounds coming from the tinny speakers. The face looked familiar. He searched for a name.
Dr. Wicksberg. The study coordinator. He’d had several chats with Ted, administered some of the testing, had shaken his hand before Ted was locked in the isolation chamber. “Good man,” he’d said then.
His voice now, was in focus.
“I’m afraid, Ted,” it was saying, “we’ve misled you a bit. But what you are doing, this is for the good of all mankind. This was a hard decision for everyone to make. I hope, in the future, you’ll be able to forgive us…”
Ted paused the recording. The sound of his own heartbeat rushed through his ears. Hunger was making him faint. What did hunger feel like? He would kill for a burrito right now, one the size of a small child, filled with guacamole and cheese…his mouth watered.
He pressed play. The recording continued, “…you’ll find supplies beyond the second antechamber door, as well as a further explanation. At present, you need to focus on one thing: you need to put the suit on that’s hanging on the far wall. I will walk you through the steps.”
He didn’t expect a reply, but still the silence loomed over him.
The suit. There were questions flooding his brain, questions he was doing his best to ignore lest they overwhelm him. Instead, he began to methodically put on the suit as Dr. Wicksberg’s face, on the screen, instructed him.
“Now,” said the recording, “the suit is merely a precaution. Please remain calm. Airlock number two will open in five minutes. Please proceed down the hallway and enter the room you will find on the left.” The screen powered down.
“Airlock,” Ted said into his helmet. There was a growing roiling feeling in the pit of his stomach. “What kind of study is this? Little green men.”
The airlock opened. Beyond, darkness. Ted took a deep breath of the recycled air in his suit and stepped forward.