Adam West’s eyes flickered open. White. The only thing he could see was white. No object, just a solid shade of totally blank white. Perfect. Pure. Blinding.
He threw himself forwards, his stomach lurching slightly, his head filling with blood from the movement. Even though his vision was blurry, unnaturally dull due to the blood filling his head, he could still see what was in front of him. A room, empty with smooth, blank walls. In the corner in front of him sat a toilet, the type Adam would have thought that prisoners would use. Prison.
The idea made sense to him. Was he in a prison? Solitary confinement? No, that couldn’t be right. He could remember climbing into his bed in his bedroom, in his house. Where he was now didn’t resemble his room, size or shape wise. He was somewhere else entirely, but prison wasn’t the correct location. Surely.
He turned his head, his neck stiff from sleeping on a solid surface. The barren walls continued, stretched around him to form a square. In the middle of the wall parallel to him sat a door, white, of course, with nothing except for what looked like a wide, metal cat flap at the bottom. There wasn’t even a handle.
The dangling light in the centre of the ceiling, too close to the ceiling for him to reach, sat there without a lightshade. The glow was, of course, a bright white, reflecting from the white of the walls and shining into the pupils of his eyes. Adam began to wonder if even those would turn white within time. It would fit the aesthetic of the room if they did.
He slid his legs over the side of the bed. No. It wasn’t a bed. Standing up and turning around revealed what he had been lying on: what looked like a slab of bright, white stone protruding from the wall, thick enough to avoid snapping from his weight, wide enough for him to fit comfortably without being stuffed into the smooth concrete. Was it concrete? Adam couldn’t tell, not even by feeling the walls. They were perfectly smooth. They didn’t even feel slightly sticky like he expected them to feel due to them having been painted. It was almost as if the architects who had designed the maddening monstrosity which was the chamber had created a new material, almost like plastic but much stronger, less slippery but not firm like brick or concrete.
Adam began to walk around the room, stretching his legs slightly. Despite the situation, he wasn’t panicked, just confused. How had he gotten there? Had he been dragged there by someone, pushed through the handle-less door, laid to rest on the slab of stone and left to rot?
As he thought, a sound came from the door. Adam froze, turned and stared at the flap. It moved, ever so slightly, but it moved. Someone was on the other side.
Adam tried to speak, tried to tell the other person, or other being, that he was in there, trapped, hungry, thirsty, scared, but the words didn’t come. He could feel his vocal cords vibrating against each other, a light buzz in his chest proving that they were functional. But no sound came from his mouth.
He opened his mouth wider, slowly putting more effort into talking, shouting, yelling, screaming, but, still, no noise came.
The flap was pushed open, a hand appearing. Adam leaped forwards, wanting to grab the hand. If he couldn’t communicate through words, he could communicate by actions, force the person to explain what was going on. Though, when he reached the hand, trying to grab it, it slipped away.
Adam dropped to his knees at the flap as it closed. He tried to push it open, but it wouldn’t budge. It was one-way. Maybe, just maybe, he had ruined his opportunity for answers.
He adjusted himself so he was sitting on the hard, shiny floor before he slid back, not stopping until he was pressed against the wall of unknown substance. Running a hand through his dark blonde hair, Adam took a deep breath. At least there was oxygen. Though, with how the situation was, he wouldn’t have been surprised had the supply suddenly dwindled, leaving him to grasp at his throat, choking on nothing.
Then the flap opened again. Adam watched as the hand returned. It slithered in, holding the flap open. Then came a small tray, a second hand holding it, stuffed through the opening and placed on the floor, the first hand retracting, disappearing, leaving the metal flap to swing shut again.
Adam darted forwards, springing to his feet only to fall down again moments later. Food. There was a sandwich, carrot sticks, an apple and a bottle of water.
Adam immediately grabbed the bottle, twisting the cap off before he thrusted the top into his mouth, leaning his head back and taking in the cold liquid. Even though, being almost sixteen, Adam had tasted plenty of water in his lifetime, he swore that the liquid in the bottle was the best tasting drink he had ever consumed.
Then he attacked the food. He savagely snatched the sandwich from the tray, stuffing a large portion of it into his mouth and letting out a near soundless groan of satisfaction at the taste. It was white bread with English mustard slathered on the surface, a slice or two of ham between the pieces to add extra substance. It was gorgeous despite it being so simple.
After he’d brutally demolished the sandwich, the apple was next in line in his onslaught. He tore at the fruit with his teeth, taking more per mouthful than he could realistically swallow, though he managed it, somehow.
As soon as he finished, he began to ravage the carrot sticks. There were only five in total, meaning that they had been devoured within a minute or less, but Adam enjoyed them anyway.
Feeling slightly better, he took another swig of water, returned the cap to the top of the bottle and, not knowing what to do with the tray, pushed it to rest in front of the flap again. Maybe the person who’d posted it was waiting on the other side.
Satisfied with the meal, Adam stood. The sudden hunger problem had been dealt with, but that wasn’t nearly the biggest problem. Questions floated around inside of his head, asking the same things over and over again, sometimes worded differently though meaning the same thing. Why was he there? Who had put him there? What was the purpose of him being locked in a room? Why was everything the exact same shade? Was he insane, that being the reason why he was trapped? How had he arrived? How had someone, something or, even possibly, no-one at all, taken him from his cosy bed and thrown him into the prison?
There was the word again. Prison. Logic told Adam that he wasn’t in prison, solitary confinement or anything similar. But did he believe it? Originally, yes. He was a logical person, always looking for an answer that made sense. He didn’t believe in anything supernatural, he didn’t believe in any higher power like a god, and he definitely didn’t believe in superstition. But even though he dismissed those ideas, he couldn’t help but look for an answer using them. Had some form of god decided to take him and throw him into what was gradually being envisioned as a torture chamber? Had he been dragged there by non-realistic creatures? Had what had been dubbed as “bad karma” built up and struck him all at once? If any of those possibilities were true, Adam wouldn’t have been surprised. But no. Nothing came. No answer, no explanation, no reason. Nothing.
He sat on his “bed” again, looking around at the walls. Maybe one of the walls were weak? A secret door? Maybe there was a trapdoor hidden in the floor or in the ceiling? The room seemed to be too barren, so empty that it felt like a trick. A deception.
Adam reluctantly stood again, though, at the same time, motivated to escape. Escape. While that word described what he was doing, or at least, what he was trying to do, Adam couldn’t tell if it felt right or silly to describe his intent and actions as “looking for a way to escape.”
He bent over, looking under the slab. Maybe there was a vent. The oxygen was coming from somewhere, wasn’t it? Unless there were tubes pushing oxygen into the room from the other side of the wall on non-used hinges, there would be somewhere for the oxygen to enter and exit. But where?
Despite his expectations, a study of the enclosure revealed no vent. No miniscule window, not even a hole in the wall. The walls were, as they appeared to be, perfectly smooth from top to bottom.
Adam walked in circles, staring at the walls, shifting his gaze to the makeshift door, to the toilet, to the bed, to the door, to the toilet, to the bed, door, toilet bed.
There was a crack beside the toilet. It was tiny, barely noticeable, but there. Adam rushed forwards when he saw it, dizzy, almost falling over and having to stabilise himself on the wall. He leaned his head closer, gawking at the truth. It wasn’t a crack, it was a seam. A seam which made a square surrounding the prison-like waste funnel.
Adam felt it. It was like a tiny dip in the wall. Not like a crack which could have bent inwards or outwards in various places, interchangeably etched into the substance which made the walls. Instead, it was almost like the gap between a door and a door frame. Door.
He grabbed the rim of the toilet bowl and tugged. He knew that it could only go one way because the wall would obstruct the necessity. It swung open. It was stiff, but with enough force, Adam pulled it open.
He let go and walked around the hatch. There was a tunnel. A metre wide, a metre tall. A tunnel which stretched into darkness. It could continue for miles for all Adam could tell. Metres, miles, lightyears. Despite that fact, it was better than staying in the room. In fact, the direct contrast of colour and light was vastly more appealing than remaining in the empty room. At least the tunnel went somewhere.
A chill ran up Adam’s spine. What if it didn’t go anywhere? What if it stretched for ages and abruptly ended? What if he ended up trapped at the end, unable to turn around and crawl back? He dismissed the thoughts. It was a risk he would have to take.
Adam slid onto his stomach, only just realising that there weren’t any pipes coming from the toilet. It was useless, anyway, so it was lucky that he hadn’t needed to use it. He started to slide forwards, his hands stretched past his head. Stretch, grab, pull. Stretch, grab, pull. It didn’t take long for him to get into a rhythm. Stretch, grab, pull.
Light. Sudden. Perfect. Pure. Blinding. White.
A voice. “Come.”
Adam looked up. A woman, tall with straight, brown hair which ended at her shoulders. She looked young, maybe in her late twenties, and she was stern-looking. Impressed, maybe, if Adam squinted.
He didn’t hesitate. What did the woman want? Why did she want him to follow her? The questions swarmed his mind for a moment before he hushed them, supressed them. No time for questions.
The woman turned and began to walk away. He had emerged into a corridor, the very end of the corridor, the only way being straight ahead, behind the woman.
Adam stood and followed.
They walked in silence, Adam not knowing if he was even capable of talking. He hadn’t been able to speak before, he hadn’t been able to produce any sound which could have been conceived as words. But he could groan, sigh. He could at least make some noise.
The destination wasn’t clear. Not in the slightest. They walked past doors to rooms, openings to other hallways, windows, pictures, bare walls. It was pleasant to see other things after having spent however long in the bare room. How long had he been in there? Had it been for minutes? Hours? Days? Weeks? No. He had no memory of being in the room before, and his internal clock couldn’t possibly have been so far off that he’d interpret hours as minutes. Adam had spent between five and ten minutes in that room. No more, no less. Surely.
It didn’t take long for Adam to begin to want to talk to the woman. She, while looking stern, could have been the key to the answers he wanted. What if she could tell him everything he’d wondered since waking up in the bare room? What if she could tell him how he’d arrived there, why he was there, what was the point of everything being white, clean, bare? But, at the same time, she was slightly taller than him, maybe six foot tall, and definitely didn’t look to be weak. If he managed to annoy her or aggravate her with the questions, she’d probably be able to beat him in a fight.
A pang of interest struck Adam. He glanced down. A white, short-sleeved shirt, white trousers, no socks or shoes. Of course. He had to fit in with the aesthetic of the room. Though, when considering it, Adam suddenly realised that, even though the clothes that he was wearing were reminding him of the room he’d not long escaped, at least he wasn’t naked.
Adam turned his attention to the surrounding area. Some of the doors had windows embedded in them, allowing him to see into the rooms. Though what he saw was confusing.
One of the rooms they walked past was laid out like a hospital. Plenty of beds, maybe up to twelve in total, in two rows, six on one wall, six on the opposite wall. There were IV drips, privacy curtains, chairs for possible visitors. What was even more confusing was that, in one of the furthest beds from the door, a man was tucked into the sheets. A heartrate monitor beeped, sounding his pulse though Adam couldn’t hear it through the door. Suddenly, the cleanliness of the area made sense. Or, at least, that room partially hinted at the reason.
The next room was full of guns. Adam had to look again, barely catching wind of what he saw as they passed and continued down the corridor. But no, his eyes weren’t deceiving him. Guns. Some military-grade, an M15 catching his attention first, though there were also pistols, shotguns, rifles, snipers. Some knives were strapped to the wall, real military-grade hunting knives. There was even a katana, though it seemed more like decoration in comparison to the other weapons.
Next came various office rooms. One after the other, continuing on either side of the hall for six doors. They were standard, or at least what Adam deemed to be standard as he’d never properly seen one in person. There were desks, chairs, computers, whiteboards hanging from the walls, potted plants, paintings. Some rooms had people sitting behind the desks, some didn’t.
Then there were the long rooms, made to look like shooting ranges. Again, Adam had never been to one, but they were exactly how he had imagined them to be. There were sections separated by large sheets of plastic which stretched to the roof and, in the distance, cut-outs of humans with circled areas. Head, heart, stomach.
They turned. Adam barely realised though his body continued to follow the woman down the new corridor. There weren’t any extra rooms, now only two doors in the hallway. One set of double doors, big and grand on the left which appeared to be a ginormous cavern containing various aircrafts, and the other door on the right. Adam didn’t have a chance to see through the window before they turned, the woman pushing the door open and entering the room.
Another office, though this one seemed to be larger. Adam moved without meaning to, immediately seeing and sitting on a chair on the side of the desk which was closest to the door. The woman continued around the desk, taking a seat in the chair by the computer. Both chairs were nice, leather covered on wheels.
“I’m sure you’re wondering why you’re here,” the woman started, smiling at Adam for a second before her stern look returned. “It’s the same with everyone who comes here. They’re placed into that room, tasked with escaping and, if they manage it, they come here for a… debriefing, of sorts.”
Adam stared at her. Other people. Other people went through the same thing, possibly on a daily basis. Who was to say that he wasn’t the first in weeks?
The woman looked at Adam, watched him, observed him. She seemed to be contemplating what to say next, maybe waiting for him to respond. Just as Adam was about to open his mouth and attempt to speak, she beat him to it.
“I’m sure you want answers, quick ones that make sense and are easy to digest,” she started, looking through him, almost. Adam felt as if she were looking around him even though her eyes were directed at his. “You’ll have those answers tomorrow,” she said. Adam was about to speak before she held her right hand up. He thought that she was hushing him, not wanting him to speak, though she continued at the same time and made it seem as if she wasn’t even aware of his presence, his actions. “Don’t worry about the specifics,” she said before she leaned her hand against her temple.
Adam was close to doing a test. It genuinely seemed as if this woman, whoever she was, didn’t know that he was there. She was talking to him, clearly, speaking in a way that could only be directed to another person, to another entity, at least, but it didn’t feel as if she were talking to him. What was stopping him from knocking something over and watching how she would react? What was keeping him from standing up and leaving the room? Would she continue talking if he did? Would she continue to address the wall behind him, or would she stop, maybe follow him, call for him to return to his seat? Adam was so close to trying, an eye on a plant on the desk which he could very easily tip over, though he found himself unable to move. He didn’t struggle against it, whatever force was keeping his hands on his thighs, but he questioned it slightly. Now that he’d noticed it, it felt as if he were completely rigid, incapable of any form of movement. Even then, he noticed that he wasn’t blinking or breathing. Still. Completely. To an eerie and impossible level.
“I hope you enjoyed the experience that you’ve had so far,” she said, not specifying what she was referring to, though Adam guessed that she was referring to the white room. “Now that you’ve seen some of the building, as well, you’re almost definitely wondering what we do here. Now, all of that will be answered tomorrow, so don’t you worry about that for now.”
Tomorrow. She kept mentioning the following day. Why? What was so important about the day after? And, anyway, if the day after would give him the answers that he wanted, why have him go through that test the day before? Why not wait an extra day to shove him into the room and observe his way of thinking, his observation skills?
“You’ve proved that you’re of use to us by getting out of that room,” she stated. “The speed of which you managed to escape is irrelevant, what matters is the outcome. Had you failed to find the exit, we would have ignored you. I’m sure that you’re somewhat aware of the time that it took you to make it out, so you can celebrate that on your own if you wish, though don’t expect a variation in the reward we’ll give you.”
That confused Adam. She was talking about it almost as if escaping were a game, something to be rewarded. And the mention of a reward was even more perplexing as he couldn’t fathom what it could be. What would a reasonable reward for escaping a room be?
“Tomorrow,” the woman started, perking Adam’s interest. The fabled day after. The day which would give him the answers. What else would he get? “Tomorrow,” she repeated, “will be your last normal day.” She let that sink in, but to Adam, it was meaningless. He didn’t know why, but it felt as if he knew the answer. This wasn’t a come and go thing, it wasn’t an event that would be irrelevant a month in the future. That much was obvious. What would come as a result of the event was the thing that, hopefully, was about to be explained.
“Tomorrow will be like every other day of your life,” the woman elaborated. “Average. The very definition of average.” She shifted her gaze, turning to look at the plant. Now, more than ever, was the best chance to make a move, knock it over, see how she would react. Though, like before, Adam found that he couldn’t move. He sensed that the meeting, or whatever it was, was close to an end. He didn’t know what that would mean, but he wanted to test to see if that woman was really interacting with him. Though, nothing. The fight he tried to put up was useless, not even the slightest change. He still wasn’t blinking. He still wasn’t breathing. He was bound to the chair and, suddenly, the woman felt sinister. Trapped on a chair, she could do anything to him. Beat him, torture him, kill him. It felt dangerous and Adam would have barely been able to suppress the sudden urge to run had he been in control.
“After tomorrow,” the woman continued, oblivious to the distress that Adam was in. “Everything will change for you.”
Adam processed the sentence.
“Now, wake up.”
Life went dark.
Adam’s eyes snapped open. He couldn’t recall the dream that he had, like most nights. There was a void, the only thing that he could remember. Like he hadn’t dreamed anything. Not once. Not in the handful of REM stages that his brain entered.
He wiped at his eyes, almost as if he were trying to swat the comfort of sleep away. It was clear to him that he hadn’t slept well and that it would probably be difficult to refrain from drifting off again.
Reluctantly, Adam threw back the covers and slid off the bed, barely staying on his feet. The exhaustion hit like a bag of bricks being dropped on his head from hundreds of feet in the air. It physically hurt for a moment, only until he stretched, yawned, and smacked himself in the face to jolt his nerves. That would keep him up.
Into the wardrobe went his hands as he felt around for his school uniform. That was something he despised. The idea of school was fine, the way that lessons were handled, tests, homework, none of that bothered him. What left a stain on his view of the mandatory education system was the fact that, in Britain, school uniforms existed, unlike the vast majority of the rest of the world where pupils would go to school in their own clothing. Adam didn’t like it, he felt grimy wearing the same clothes for five days in a row. And with that day being a Thursday, the fourth day in the cycle, he felt dirty just getting into it.
As soon as he finished, Adam grabbed his phone from his bedside table the moment that the alarm sounded. He hadn’t processed that he’d woken up before it, mainly because of the terrible sleep that he’d endured, so it was surprising that he’d gotten up earlier than usual. It was almost as if something had forced him from his slumber.
Sliding his phone into his pocket, Adam grabbed his bag and started to stuff the books that he would need into it: History book, French book, Physics book, Maths book, English book. Along with those, his pencil case sat undisturbed at the bottom of the bag along with the Geography homework which was due the next day. He dreaded doing it.
Adam left the room, heading downstairs for breakfast. “Sleep well?” His mother asked as he entered the kitchen. She was sat at the table, eating toast and watching TV. Adam walked to a cupboard to get some cereal.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Adam lied, knowing that she would go into her endless amount of suggestions otherwise. She always seemed to have an idea in mind that related to any problem he could think of having. Too much or too little energy? Keep the window open and let the oxygen help you to relax or wake up. Stressed? Try meditation for a few minutes. Got a headache? Have a shower and let the steam you inhale clear your sinuses a little. Sometimes her suggestions helped, but they were useless other times. For the large majority of her advice, the feeling ending up much worse for a few minutes, making any of the solutions undesirable.
Adam made his breakfast, making small talk with his mother and when he arrived, his father. The morning went as usual. He ate, contemplated what he would do after returning from school and paid more attention to the TV in the kitchen than he did to his father’s usual rant about something he’d seen online or in the paper. It wasn’t long before he was leaving the house, petting his pet chihuahua called Brittney just before walking out of the door.
And so began the usual walk to school. Adam lived close to the building, not exceedingly close, within six blocks. While he could have signed up for a bus pass when his school asked who would need one, Adam didn’t want to. Even when he was eleven, he knew that traffic in London would be too horrendous to be consistent. He knew that he’d be better off walking, something which, in retrospect, Adam slightly regretted as having a bus pass wouldn’t mean that he would be forced to go on the bus, just that he’d have had the option. There had been plenty of days where the weather was abysmal or where he had been overwhelmingly exhausted, so much so that walking six blocks drained him enough to make him faint in his first lesson.
The memory made Adam smile a little. He could remember how his friends had made jokes as he woke up. He could remember that he’d stood up to sharpen a pencil, though did so too fast. The blood rush in his head mixed with the exhaustion wasn’t a good combination, knocking him out in the middle of the room. While it hadn’t taken long for him to wake up, maybe a minute or two, his friends had treated it as if he’d risen from the dead. “The second coming of Christ” was what one of his friends had referred to him as, only to be scolded by the teacher as comparing Adam to someone as mythical as Jesus was teetering towards offensiveness, something which Adam agreed with to some extent.
Adam walked past a shop, one of his favourites, in fact. It was a music shop, one of the few which had original vinyl for sale instead of the reproduced ones. Some of Adam’s favourite music artists were from the 1970s and the 1980s, so being able to listen to their music using what everyone used in those days was something which he found both fascinating and, as he regrettably worded it when one of his friends asked him, “ultra-cool.”
The shop was three blocks away from the school and the usual cue to make Adam force himself to think academically. Throughout the mornings, he’d breeze through time with a sluggish mindset, only thinking about the things which he deemed most important. Therefore, whenever he passed the music store, he’d start to think about other things, contemplate the work he’d be doing in lessons, revise one of the hundreds of mathematical formulas he had to remember, anything to get him ready for the day and keep him from rolling through it as if it were something as simple as accidentally rolling off the bed.
It didn’t take long before Adam walked through the gates. He began to wonder when one of his friends would come up to him, seeing him from a distance and heading over, usually in the most unusual of ways just to spite him. It wasn’t uncommon for one of his friends to try to embarrass him somehow, whether by faking sex noises in the background while he talked to his parents on the phone or by outwardly approaching a girl that Adam found attractive and spilling his secrets to her. He found their humour annoying at first but quickly realised that he wouldn’t hesitate to do the same to them, opening the door to a wide variety of entertainment.
Then came Barry, slapping him on the shoulder, jolting Adam enough to make him let out a shocked gasp which was hastily followed by Adam’s best friend of three years doubling over with laughter.
“You’d get scared if a little girl looked at you!” Barry said after he recovered, his amusement remaining as a light chuckle.
“So would you if you’ve seen The Ring,” Adam replied, a smile on his face as well despite just having been scared. “And that isn’t something they want on the battlefield, Barry.”
Barry had an aspiration to be in the army. One day in History, they’d been told in more detail than ever about what Hitler had done in the second world war. Barry, at the time, had been so distressed by the idea of people going through such horrors that he decided on the spot that he wanted to help prevent anything similar. The only logical way that he could see to do so was to join the army.
“At least I’d survive on a battlefield, Adam,” he replied before playfully hitting Adam on the back. For a while when Adam was younger, he had also wanted to be in the army. Not for any particular reason like Barry, he just liked the idea of being thought of as a hero. Though it didn’t take long for his aspiration to dissolve and leave an emptiness in its place.
The two of them walked into the building and separated to head to their registration classes.
The day seemed to be going as usual, boring throughout registration, mainly due to waiting for each student to arrive. Adam had a habit of getting to school too late to have a chance to talk to his friends properly before the day started, but too early for him to only have to wait for a minute or two for the day to officially start. It was an accident that he’d managed to get into the habit, and it was something that he didn’t care too much about to try to alter. To some extent, he was fine with sitting in a more or less empty room for five minutes without being allowed to do anything. It gave him some time to psyche himself up for the upcoming day, something which was necessary to a sickening extent.
Registration passed by as normal and the first lesson came. History. Adam didn’t mind the lesson. He’d mainly chosen the subject as he expected it to be interesting and fairly simple as he would only be remembering dates and other facts for the exam, though he despised his seating. He was sat next to a girl, one of the bratty, cliché, popular girls.
The girl, Tiffany, didn’t seem to have much of a problem with Adam specifically, but she did make it ten times harder for him to concentrate. There would be times, way more than expected, that he would see her balancing her phone against her pencil case to look at the camera feed and alter her makeup. Anything other than that was the traditional, distracting type of behaviour: listening to music which was barely loud enough for Adam to hear when the room was quiet, tapping her nails on the desk constantly, turning around to talk to her friend every moment that the teacher wasn’t looking. The list went on.
This day, however, there was a pleasant surprise. Tiffany was absent, leaving Adam to have a peaceful lesson, something which he knew that he would need lest he’d end up strangling her due to his annoyingly slow-dwindling crankiness. Even though he felt much more awake than he had no more than an hour before, Adam was still close to the end of his tether.
History passed, then so did French. Then was their first of two breaks of the day where Adam, Barry and their two other close friends met up to joke around. No more than ten minutes later, Adam was entering Physics with his stomach begging for the lesson to end quickly so he could retrieve some food.
By the time that Physics had ended, the end of a lesson where they were revising the workings of basic electronic circuits, Adam was dying for something to eat. The school-provided lunch of a sandwich with an apple which Adam bought was eaten quickly, though the taste of the ham sandwich and the juiciness of the apple brought back a vague memory. He tried to pin where it was from, failed, and continued through the break.
As soon as the break ended, the final stretch of the school day began. Adam sat through Maths, the lesson going satisfyingly quickly as he was too preoccupied with trying to figure out how algebra worked to notice time. Then came English, the last lesson, and after dissecting a poem to the extent that Adam almost expected a heart to come out of the paper, the school day was over.
The day had been average. The very definition of average. Thinking of the day like that brought back another strange, hazy memory to Adam’s mind. He tried to think about what it was from. Maybe it was from a joke that one of his friends had made not too long ago, possibly joking about life being the same thing for almost everyone. He put it down to that. Even though they were silly, and they sometimes acted like the biggest idiots on the planet, they did occasionally joke about the inevitability of death and the crushing loneliness that would come with the void of darkness upon dying, so it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility for one of the group to have said something similar.
Adam began the walk home. Six blocks between him and his house. Adam thought about what he’d do upon arriving. Head straight to his room to sleep? Maybe listen to a vinyl?
Footsteps came from behind him, getting harder and louder as time progressed. By the time that Adam was three blocks from home, he glanced over his shoulder and saw a man wearing dark clothes, a hood covering his face with a shadow. Adam was slightly confused as to why he was wearing a hood, but, of course, Britain’s never been known for the best weather, as proven by the cluster of grey clouds in the sky. He was probably preparing for the inevitable downpour. Nothing out of the ordinary.
“Walk down that alleyway.”
Adam stopped. He could feel the cold metal pressing through his shirt, the force of which it was being pressed into his lower back making his spine jolt slightly.
“Walk down that alleyway,” the man repeated, shoving his arm over Adam’s shoulder and jerking his thumb to the left, gesturing to the nearest opening into a dark, shadowy path.
Adam walked with the gun pressing into him. What else could he do? He could already feel the sweat forming on his palms. He clenched his hands into fists. For years, he’d been positive that anything like this happening would end up with him fighting until death or victory. But now, in the situation for real, the nerves flowing through his veins alongside the pure terror, he could only comply.
Into the darkness they went. Deeper, deeper. There was a van at the end of the alley. Great Adam thought. He has friends with him.
But Adam never found out as a sack was thrown over his head.
When the sack came off, Adam was slapped across the face until he woke up. As soon as he did, his eyes slowly adjusting, he saw the office. The same one from the dream. Memories came flooding back, memories of what happened in the dream. But now that he was here, Adam didn’t know if it was a dream. He couldn’t have had a dream about a real place without having been there. Unless he was still dreaming, and it was obvious that he wasn’t.
The man was there, leaning against a wall, the one whose face Adam hadn’t clearly seen, but the height and body shape gave it away. A little shorter than Adam himself, but not by much. Besides, the muscle made up for that. It was clear that the man exercised, probably religiously, every day for at least an hour with varying activities. He looked intimidating.
Adam looked down, expecting to see handcuffs either holding his hands together or holding them to the chair that he was sat on. But neither were true. His hands were free, resting on his lap. Adam tried to move his foot, remembering how he’d been incapable of movement the night before but found that his foot moved from left to right, left to right as he commanded it to.
Not only was he now able to move, not restrained in any way, but he wasn’t wearing his uniform anymore. He felt the change as soon as he’d woken up, not feeling the tug of the trousers on his knees. Adam was wearing what was widely considered casual clothing: blue jeans and a black t-shirt. He had trainers on, black socks under those, the same socks that he’d put on that morning, he realised. Adam wondered if the man in front of him had changed his clothes for him, a wave of disgust shaking his body.
As he looked up, he realised that the woman looked at him, stared at him as opposed to how she looked the night before. Before, she seemed to look behind him, through him. Now, her eyes were locked on him and nothing else. Not the corner behind him, not the back of the chair, him.
The man who’d brought him there, or at least put the sack on and removed it from Adam’s head, occasionally glanced at Adam, though he seemed more interested in his watch. Every few seconds, he’d look at it and absorb the information. Sometimes there was a sigh, sometimes there wasn’t a reaction at all. The only consistent things were the time-checking and the slightly annoyed look on his face.
Adam took a deep breath, still unsure, still scared, still worried. But now, a thought came that made him panic. His family. What would his parents think when they realised that their son was inexplicably late? What would his dad think after having cooked his family-famous steak only to realise that his own flesh and blood wouldn’t be there to taste the juiciness again?
The thoughts were interrupted by the door opening. The three of them in the room instinctively turned to look. Adam didn’t have a very good view with the chair being in the corner of the room, facing almost the same way as the door, but he could see the girl and the man enter. Then the girl was left there, the man, maybe a guard of some sorts, leaving and closing the door.
She looked around the room, looking ten times more annoyed than Adam’s kidnapper, though her expression softened a little with the glance at him. In the few milliseconds that he had to see her face, Adam thought that she almost seemed to pity him. No. Sympathise with him. She looked too young, too angry to be with whoever his- their- captors were.
“I was told that this is the boy you wanted to wait for,” she said. A thick English accent like Adam’s. Was it possible that they knew each other? She sounded slightly familiar, looked slightly familiar, but, then again, Adam could only see the bicep-length slightly dark blonde hair. The microsecond that he had to look at her face wasn’t enough to determine if the features were familiar, either.
“Yes,” the woman said, gesturing at Adam’s kidnapper to get a chair for the girl. He did so and then followed orders to leave. His compliance gave Adam the idea that this woman, the one who had spoken to him the night before, was the boss. The leader. It was unsettling, especially due to the stern look plastered on her face at all times.
The girl took the seat and dragged it to the wall furthest from the desk before sitting down. She was definitely in a similar situation to Adam. She looked too angry, scared, confused, worried and upset to work for this woman.
“Well,” the woman started, looking between Adam and the girl. She paused, then gestured for Adam to slide his chair closer to the girl’s, most likely so that she could look at them both while talking. Or observe them both while talking.
Adam obliged, placing it no more than an inch from the edge of the girl’s chair. If something happened, at least they’d be able to help each other, whether in a fight or running away.
“My name is Linda,” the woman said, looking between them. “You are currently in the headquarters of The Secrecy.”
Adam stared at her, the girl most likely doing the same from beside him. The Secrecy? What kind of company was that? An organisation that would gather secrets from other companies and sell those secrets to their rivals, maybe? The name was so vague that Adam had no clue what the next sentence from Linda would be. But when it came, it was the last thing that he expected.
“We are a non-governmental Secret Service, independently run by me and a large crew of administrators, workers and, of course, agents.”
They gawked. Adam could see from his peripheral vision that the girl was just as bewildered as him. If what Linda was saying was true, why were they there? Why had he been kidnapped and brought there? The whole purpose of spies is to keep major crime at a reasonable level, like an evolved version of the police as they dealt with bigger things. So why would they actively partake in kidnapping?
“Here at The Secrecy, we’re running low on agents,” Linda explained. “That’s where you and a handful of others come in. We have searched databases for the most forgettable people in England, Wales and Scotland so we can employ you as spies.”
“And what if we don’t want to be spies, agents, whatever?” Adam couldn’t stop the question from tumbling out of his mouth. Of course, he had to ask. He had to know. The girl beside him nodded vigorously, the question obviously on her mind as well.
“You don’t have a choice, I’m afraid,” Linda replied. “The Secrecy, as the name may suggest, is secret. There haven’t been novels written or films released that have publicised and popularised the idea and existence of our organisation, unlike MI6 or MI5. Now that you know who we are and that we exist, you can’t go home. You’d have to die.”
Adam processed the information, barely taking it in before the girl ejected a question with a condescending tone. “Then how are you given missions if no-one knows you exist?” It was a valid question, something which made Adam believe for a second that what was going on was a joke. Maybe his friends had decided to prank him, make him really think that he’d been kidnapped. If not, which was likely to be the truth due to the dream, maybe the girl had found a hole that they could wriggle out of? But no.
“We’re… given missions by the British Secret Service, usually requests sent to MI6 as they’re the branch which aids with international trouble,” she said. “They forward some requests to us, usually the ones that aren’t as important as a large-scale terrorist threat.”
Adam hated to admit it, but that explanation made sense. He hadn’t thought about it before, but it didn’t seem reasonable for any Secret Service to be expected to deal with every request, especially when the majority of those requests came from other countries looking for help. So, who would deal with those missions? The Secrecy seemed like the perfect answer.
“But you gather employees by committing a crime?” The girl interjected again. Her anger was very clear now. Before it was evident on her face, now it was laced in her words. Like she knew that they wouldn’t be able to get out of it and was fuming at that fact. “You kidnap people, knowing that they’d have to die if they don’t want to cooperate with you!”
“It’s the only way we can gather agents. No-one is supposed to know about us, providing us with perfect security when it comes to attacks. We can only be attacked via the agents being harmed in the missions. Tarnishing that would make us no safer than any other Secret Service.”
The girl looked defeated. Adam felt defeated. Linda must have seen it because she almost sounded as if she were trying to cheer them up.
“We won’t throw you in blind,” she said, her voice becoming slightly softer though not enough to convince Adam that she was being empathetic. “You’ll have some training, though the mission that you’re assigned to do together isn’t one that can be postponed much.”
“Together?” Adam asked, looking at the girl. She looked back at him, tears in her eyes. Adam couldn’t blame her. He already felt them stinging his eyes, as well.
“Yes, Adam,” Linda said. “You and Emma are to do this mission together. And, who knows? If you work well together, you can be partners in future.”
Partners. That felt like the silver lining. What they were going through already was tough, the shock still keeping most of Adam’s emotions at bay, though what they would face? From what he knew of Secret Service organisations from films was that every mission was dangerous. There’s a reason why it’s the Secret Service that’s called over the police. If he could go through the terror with someone there to help him get through it, Adam would be as grateful as he could be given the circumstances.
“You’ll be given the debriefing on the mission the day before you’re set to leave for it,” Linda said after a moment. “Now, I suggest that you two get to know each other properly. You’ll be sharing a living space, just the two of you, so you’ll have plenty of time over the next week or so.”
“I have one more question,” Emma said quietly, clearly fearing the answer. “What about our families and friends?”
Linda took a second to process the question. She looked as if she were contemplating what to say, the truth or a lie. “They’ll know that you’re missing by now,” she said, pausing. “But they’ll never find you, only be told that you’re dead and only be allowed to attend a closed-casket funeral.”
The shock that Adam felt was horrible and it was clear that it was too much for Emma. Tears started to freely cascade down her cheeks. It was one thing to be told that someone you loved, a family member or a friend, had died. But to be told that you were believed to be dead by them? It felt as if Adam had lost everyone at once, because, in a way, he had. They weren’t dead. They were alive. They hadn’t abandoned him. They loved him. But he would never see them again. Never. Never.
Then the tears fell from his eyes as well. Linda took notice, a sad smile appearing on her face for a fraction of a second. At least, Adam hoped that it was sad. He clung to hope that it was a strange prank, one gone too far, a test, an experiment, maybe that both Linda, Emma and everyone else he’d seen had been actors. But no matter how much he yearned for that to be revealed, it steadily became increasingly clear that it wouldn’t be.
“Your bodies will be found tomorrow,” Linda said. Tomorrow. Why did everything have to be tomorrow? “Your funerals will be on Saturday. You’ll be given the chance to watch the service and hear what your loved ones have to say regarding your death. A final goodbye, of sorts.”
That didn’t help. Adam and Emma still cried, wept nearly.
Then a guard walked in, stood them up, and walked them out of the door.