Johnathan Davis woke in a panic.
He was certain that cold water had just been poured over his face, but he lifted his hands to discover that he was completely dry. His head was pounding and his heart was racing. It felt like he had been given a massive dose of sugar and shaken up to energetic overload. He took a deep breath and tried to calm himself. His eyes were just coming back into focus, but he could see that he was sitting atop what might have been the most uncomfortable bed he’d ever felt. It’s surface was hard and slick, with only a little give for cushioning.
In fact, he realized the entire room was white. Solid white.
Uncharacteristically and uncomfortably white.
It was hard to tell where the floor stopped and the walls began, save for a little black rectangle that appeared to be cut out of the wall. It was a doorway, complete with a glass door and a simple blue light that was illuminated above it.
He leaned forward, collapsing off the bed, or whatever that monstrosity was, and forced himself to get his footing. He was still rather wobbly. He fumbled toward the black rectangle until he reached the glass threshold and made a thud against its spotless surface. What he saw beyond the doorway made him feel… concerned.
While the white room was clean and without blemish, the hallway outside was black and dilapidated. There were a few flickering lights that barely illuminated the hallway, making for a spooky scene if ever there was one. For a moment he considered staying put. He could shuffle over to the table thing and just wait it out. Maybe this was all a dream, or someone would come along to get him, right?
Just as he contemplated his options, he heard someone call out. “Hello!”
“Uh, hello?” he answered, only then noting how dry his mouth was.
“Welcome, new citizen! Congratulations on your arrival!”
“Please proceed to the glass door and exit into the hallway.”
“Why would I—”
The voice cracked and then repeated. “Please proceed to the glass door and exit into the hallway.”
It was a recording of some kind. Something along the lines of a guided assistant. He was still looking at the dark hallway outside of his white room. He could do what the recording said, or he could stay here. A final glance around the room and he knew he had little reason to stay. There was nothing here for him. Cleanliness wouldn’t sate his appetite.
So, he reached down and took the door handle. A little pull and the glass door popped right open, like it had only been held in place with a small magnet. He stepped into the hallway and the glass door closed behind him. When it closed, however, there was a sudden clank and a thick metal door slid out from between the door and the hallway, sealing the white room away. It didn’t move fast enough to startle him, but it still shut with an authoritative sound.
“Wonderful job, citizen!” the recording continued now that he was in the hallway. “Please proceed down the walkway to the exit platform.”
He looked to his right, then to his left. One way the hallway marched on, but the other way had several large pieces of wood barricading the path.
“Not that way, I suppose,” he mumbled to himself before he started walking down the open hallway. Despite the exposed wires and poor lighting, there was nothing outlandishly dangerous about the path ahead. It smelled old… like exposed electrical power, or dry hot air, but nothing made him fear for his life, so his nervous steps soon turned to a normal stride.
Before long, he reached the hallway exit.
Reluctantly, he stepped outside of the hall and was immediately hit with a warm and damp air that was sweeping across a large open platform. It was perfectly flat and large enough to hold at least three football fields. Above him was a ceiling, but it had to be close to a hundred feet high, if not higher. The platform stretched outward from the hallway exit a massive distance, but then just dropped off like a cliff. He took a few steps toward the edge, but then fear got the better of him.
“Congratulations, citizen!” the recording made him jump. “We have been alerted of your arrival and we are on our way to retrieve you. Please be patient, as it may take several hours before we can reach you!”
Time is the enemy of someone that has nothing to do.
John had become brave enough, within the first ten minutes, to get on his hands and knees and scoot toward the edge of the platform. The closer he got, the stronger the winds were that blew up and over the edge. He made it close, maybe within twenty feet of the edge, before he finally gave up and retreated to the hallway entrance. It wasn’t long after that before he heard a sound that was quite familiar to him.
It chopped through the air with a phewp phewp phewp sound, and it was getting louder.
He thought about hiding, for a brief moment, and then he decided it would be best to face whatever was coming. The nice recording had said they wanted to help, and if they were lying about that, well there wasn’t much waiting for him back in the hallway anyway.
The sound grew ever louder until he saw a massive vehicle with spinning blades pop up over the edge of the platform. He knew it immediately. It was a helicopter. Simple stuff. Everyone knew what a helicopter was, right?
It leaned forward and drew closer before lowering down onto the platform with a gentle tap. From the open side of the aircraft, a single individual, a young woman from the looks of it, stepped out. She was holding something in one hand and she rushed right up to him with a gentle smile appearing on her face as she arrived.
“Hello!” she said. “My name is Ruby. I’m here to help. Take this paper. Write your name.”
“Uh, okay,” he said, reaching out for the paper and writing utensil that she offered. He scribbled his name on the paper as she’d requested, only then realizing that aside from his name he wasn’t sure he remembered anything.
The woman named Ruby took the paper and read it over. “Nice to meet you, John.”
“You too, Ruby,” John replied. “I’m afraid I’m very confused about all of this.”
“Obviously,” she said with a smirk. “First. A hug.”
She stepped forward with outstretched arms and took him into a great embrace. It was awkward, to say the least, but it was also comforting in a way that John hadn’t expected. It was like she told him, with this one gesture, that everything was going to be okay.
“Feeling better?” she asked when she finally cut him loose.
“That’s what we like to hear. Now, come on, let’s move along.”
Ruby escorted him to the helicopter and helped him strap in. She had him lay flat on a type of gurney that was secured in place. In the pilot’s seat was a strapping gentleman with an amazing hat and beautiful white teeth. He nodded to John and John didn’t know how to respond, so he didn’t.
A few moments later Ruby took her seat at the edge of the helicopter’s side opening and signaled to the pilot, who clicked a few switches and pulled back on the controls to make the them take flight once more. The helicopter dropped over the platform edge and then swept downward so fast that John’s stomach rose into his throat. His head started spinning, though he wasn’t sure if it was the pilot’s flying or his own anxiety that was causing it.
“I think I feel a bit… woozy…”
He tried to reach out Ruby, but before he could get her, he passed out.
A white light flashed in his vision.
The final time, it lingered.
“He’s waking up,” an unrecognized voice said.
John cracked his eyes open and saw that the light was coming from a small flashlight in the hands of a new face. A man in a white coat. When the two locked eyes, the man smiled warmly. “Hello there.”
“My name is Caleb Vann. I’m the town doctor.”
“Hi Caleb,” John said as casually as he could muster, despite his panic. “Am I in a dentist office?”
The doctor nodded, acknowledging his words, but otherwise going about his business. “You’re a new arrival, so I assume you’re rather sparse on details?”
“The quick answer is a dentist office is all I’ve got, so that’s what I work with. As to your other questions, just save those for Samantha. She will sort you out. We just need to draw some blood real quick. Standard procedure.”
The doctor’s warm smile lingered, but something else marked his face… was it sympathy?
Another woman, not Ruby, stepped into the room and she had a syringe in hand.
“This will probably hurt a bit,” Caleb added as he stepped out of the woman’s way. “I’m training young Emma here to help with some of my responsibilities. Of course, you only learn through practice, so…”
“I don’t know if—”
Jon’s objection went unnoticed and he grimaced as the woman plunged the needle into his arm.
“Not bad,” Caleb said, leaning in to look at the damage. “Now, let’s try again, but aim for the vein this time.”
After the blood was drawn, John was directed to wait for Samantha in the small lobby of the dentist office, but he didn’t even make it through the door before he saw a woman approaching him. She had blonde hair and, while she looked to be an adult, there was a strangely youthful quality about her. Perhaps it was her walk, or her expression? John couldn’t quite pin it down.
“Johnathan David?” she asked
“It’s Davis,” he corrected.
“Right,” Samantha said, scratching out something on a notepad in her hand and writing a note. “Note takers, am I right? Okay, Johnathan Davis, come along!”
John followed her through the lobby and toward the exit, but when they stepped outside he froze stiff in the doorway.
“You okay?” she asked, turning to look at him.
“I uh, just… wow.”
Before him was a full blown main street district. A bustling huddle of buildings with people going in and out, all while a gentle breeze blew limbs of the trees that grew along the sidewalk. He looked up to see a mostly blue sky. For a brief moment he thought maybe the experience he’d had in the dark room had been a dream, but then he saw something… there was a small line that ran straight across the sky before disappearing into the horizon.
“What’s that line in the sky?” he asked.
Samantha looked at it and then back to him. “That’s the sun track. The light follows that each morning to evening. That’s how we get daylight here.”
“Where are we?”
Samantha smiled. “We’ve got a lot to talk about, John. Let’s get you to your new home and all settled in. I’m sure you’re hungry and tired after your experience. We can talk about everything in more detail once we have you feeling healthy again. Bonus news, food shouldn’t be a problem since you will be living on top of a restaurant. I’m sure Chef Lafayette will be overjoyed to make you something. Discovering our favorite foods is one of the highlights here!”
John bit his tongue before it could form another question and followed Samantha as she gestured to a black car in the street.
“Jump in,” she said, heading to the driver’s side. “So much to do. So much to learn. Our town has much to offer.”
John did as she said, but he doubted his questions would be so easily answered. A sun track in the sky. The dark hallway and his arrival in this strange place. No, this kind of situation wouldn’t be solved in one day. He took a deep breath and reminded himself of that. He wasn’t going to figure this out right now. He needed to calm down and prepare for the long road to the answers he really wanted.