“Wake up, wake up.” The voice kept repeating in my head. I didn’t want to open my eyes. Something was terribly wrong. I remembered some sort of experiment, but that’s all – I couldn’t remember what kind of experiment – and I couldn’t remember who I was. I floated in an abstract limbo punctuated with flashing images and disembodied voices. TV commercials chased me in the dark. I was assaulted by ads for toilet-bowl cleaner and frozen food. A well-known news commentator kept appearing and disappearing. Crime was increasing, soldiers were committing suicide, and a serial killer ripped apart a movie theater. Was I somehow responsible? I didn’t want to know. The visions in my head grew darker and more violent … like black pools of blood … forcing me out of my limbo and into a waking world of uncertainty.
“Wake Up,” the Inspector nudged the man in the street with his foot. Inspector Adamine Krator knew something was peculiar about the apparently homeless man who refused to open his eyes. The Inspector was following-up on several reports about a man who appeared to emerge from the granite wall of the downtown repository. He was dressed in a peculiar rubber suit that was frayed and scorched. According to reports, the man emerged from the wall and fell to the ground – he was trembling and mumbling strange words. Krator was reluctant to believe the reports until he saw the man for himself. There was no doubt that something unusual occurred and it was his job to make the incident disappear or, at least, explain it as a commonplace experience. Krator knew nothing was commonplace anymore, but everything had to be “contained” and reframed. He worked for the Bureau of Incidence, a new bureaucracy set up to enforce the “Rules of Reality.” Krator was fifty-six, he was old enough to know the rules changed according to the whims of the City. Krator had to keep abreast of the changes. He was paid well to do his job – paid so well that changes in the rules could not upset his equalibrium. He enforced the changes. Coming across a man who emerged from granite was a larger than average shift in reality, but Krator was used to arcane (even supernatural) occurrences; after all, Red City was a place where strings of reality often got tangled. Red City was his home. The fate of the man lying before him was already determined. Krator would make him vanish — he would be deposited in a black-ops site to be interrogated — then, the man would be redacted. A smile creased the Inspector’s lips as he determined the techniques he would use in the interrogation — torture most likely. Krator did not especially enjoy torturing suspects, but information had to be retrieved. It was well documented that information garnered from torture was unrelieable, but the Rules specified torture and Krator followed the Rules.
All I could see was a pulsing red light that stung like a knife. I could feel hands pawing my body, almost seductively — searching. I was awake. Guards were tearing off my clothes, looking for concealed weapons. It felt like a violation — like I was a piece of meat. I had something in the palm of my hand and instinctively knew I had to conceal it from the guards. It wasn’t difficult — the guards seemed more interested in molesting me than in retrieving any items on my person. One man stood above me and the guards. He toyed with a large knife while he commandeered the situation. He spoke in a quiet, stern voice, “Enough. Play time is over.” The three guards obediently stopped, stood, and repaired their disheveled uniforms. They stood at the side of the concrete cell and the man who spoke stood over me like an executioner. “My name is Inspector Krator and you are my prisoner. You stepped out of a granite wall. I want to know how.”
“I don’t know,” I replied, ” I don’t even know my name. I can’t…” Krator spoke over me as if he had a prepared speech and really wasn’t interested in what I had to say, “All I need is a story that will satisfy the authorities, then we can get on with the business of eliminating your unorthodox appearance from our fair city.” The whole time, Krator was shifting the large knife from hand to hand, then he stopped and opened a briefcase a guard placed on a table by the wall. There were bottles and chrome-plated instruments in the briefcase. “Acid, drugs, and dental tools are very effective in helping a subject find the words he needs to resolve a situation.” I was shaking. I desperately needed to escape. Adrenalin flowed into my body like water from a collapsed damn. It shot through my brain and triggered a memory — I was Petronius Bix and I invented a Time Machine. I still had the remote device in my hand — it was wired into my body. As the Inspector came toward me I pressed the button. When I awoke … I was staring down at myself. Instead of moving through time, my consciousness moved through space. I was caught in the Inspector’s body — and the Inspector was in my body, a prisoner on the floor of a black concrete cell. (to be continued)