Inky black waves crashed all around, the sound like thunder claps. They pushed and pulled and roared with forceful energy, currents just underneath the surface threatened to pull him down. His arms, his legs, every part of him felt like weights, pulling him down, forcing him down into those darkened depths. Then, the sharp pain of being thrown onto rock, its jagged edges cutting down into his skin, torn like wet tissue paper. Yet it was comforting in its stability, a safety against the waves that moments ago had nearly swallowed him whole. The dark liquid dripped from his face and body, its metallic taste still lingering in his mouth. It seemed to recede away from him, fading to a point where it only just lapped against his feet. But then the stone turned to mud, slipping from out of his grip, and the waves came back in full ferocity, but they had a grip on him, holding him in its oily hands, until he could resist no more.
Then he awoke. He was not, in fact, dead, but lying on a mattress, a couple of moth-eaten blankets lying to the side. The man’s name was Peter Ptetrovitch, but everyone called him by his serial code, 12857, which was etched into the side of his neck. Most people didn't give their children names, because it was a sign of traditionalism. The people who refused to accept advancement, to become more efficient, and, in essence, better people. His family, of course, was exactly this. Dust floated restlessly through the air. It was clear to him that he had been having one of his “night terrors” again. Slowly, with the unwillingness of someone who was removing himself from the warmth of their bed, he got up, and walked some 4 meters to his kitchen, where he started to boil some water. He took out a piece of vacuum sealed plastic which he emptied into the water, creating a murky-brown soup. Peter put on his grey boots and thick vest, coat and cap and looked outside. Grey flakes of snow fell from the sky, which stretched as far as the eye could see like a giant iron curtain. The snow fell on to concrete blocks that resembled apartment complexes and factories, and in the middle a giant monolith of gleaming metal towered over the city, its size and magnificence reaching into the sky. After gulping down the flavourless soup, he walked out into the world, and drove his way to work.
CLANG. CLANG. CLANG. The metal made a almost rhythmic sound as it beat together. It was here that Peter spent his time, pressing a button for 8 hours a day, every day. In front of him were two buttons, one written with ‘continue’ and the other with ‘discard’. In all honesty, Peter found it hard to concentrate. And it showed. From a small speaker at the side of the room, a monotone voice came over: “code 12857 is to come to to the management office now. Rating 4.
This was not good. In fact, it was so not good that Peter yelled in aggravation, his fist finding itself repeatedly smashed into the concrete wall, which unsurprisingly did not give way. Rating 4 meant unemployment. With the manner of a sullen child, Peter trudged to the management office, stumbling and cursing multiple times along the way. When he got there, he was greeted by a man in a grey suit. There were no formalities exchanged. He sat down.
“12857, your performance over the last few months has dropped dramatically. You have an 80% success rate. In this competitive world, this is simply not acceptable. In every other case where we have had to do this, you would have been fired. But today you have a second option. I have with me the opportunity for you to instead join in a performance enhancing surgery, the costs of which will be paid for. From under the desk the man pulled out a contract. Just sign here, here and he-
Peter had already started to sign the document.
“Very well then” the man said, and opened the door for Peter. “You’ll be dismissed for the day.
“I.. Thank you.”
Peter himself was in a haze, barely able to comprehend his good luck. He got home and spent the next few hours pacing around his house, not knowing exactly what to do. He couldn't remember the last time he didn't have something to do. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time he had any spare time at all. Eventually the sun went down, and he found himself drifting off to sleep.
He was running, in a lush forest, thick with roots and leaves. The sky was still a heavy grey, stretching forever. But there was no sound, except for that of his own footsteps on the half made path, which was not much more than dirt and gravel. Behind him, the same darkness that had pulled him down into those oily waters chased him. Suddenly, Peter felt a burst of energy. He sped up, focusing on just him, on just his being and his movement, and soon he was far out of reach of the problem behind him. At some point he must of run out of the forest, for there was none to be found. Instead, there was just miles and miles of field, and nothing else. It felt… empty. There was nothing to be found here. And as he looked back, he saw no trail behind him. But in the distance, a black speck appeared. It grew and grew and pulsated, an infinitely black mass that seemed to draw in the light around it, until it filled in the entire sky. But Peter did not move, for he knew that it would be of no use. Instead he lay down, and looked the other way.
Then he was gone.
This time when he woke up, Peter was gasping for air. His entire body was drenched in a cold sweat, and his blankets had been thrown to the other side of the room. He was shivering, partly from the cold. Soon Peter got up, and went around doing his daily routine, the movements of his dream reverberating in his head. He felt less.. Certain about the surgery he was to undertake today. It only makes sense, he chided himself. I should be thankful for such an incredible opportunity. And yet, Peter couldn't shake the feeling that there was something so wrong about what was going to happen to him.
At 10:30 A.M, Peter Petrovich drove to the citadel. As he got there, he looked up and saw that there was still no visible end to the tower. He walked in, through its colossal grinding steel doors, past 3 stage security and booked himself in at the receptionist. The place looked generations ahead of the rest of the city. Every door, light and ornament was completely seamless, part of the building, and moved nearly silently. “12857?” The receptionist called out. Peter stepped up. “Thats me”. she looked at him with an expressionless face. “right. second door on your left, take the main elevator up to the top floor. The surgeon will be waiting for you there. and that's what peter did. When he got to the elevator, he noted that there were no outlooking windows. That's odd, he thought to himself. Surely there would be an incredible view from the top of this place. I wonder why they didn’t include windows here. so peter tried to imagine what it would be like, to look at the view outside. in reality, what he imagined could only grasp a sliver of what the actual view was like. Ding.
peter had arrived. Upon exiting the lift, the fear and uncertainty that he had before returned to him. butterflies swelled in his chest. But even still he stepped forward where he was met by a man in surgical equipment. Peter was lead into the room, an set down on a angled chair. His arms were strapped in, and a gas mask administered to his face. Not a word had been said between him and the surgeon. But very soon, peter drifted off to sleep.
Peter was floating. More specifically, peter was floating in the oily, inky dark substance that had followed him through his dreams. his first reaction was that he couldn’t breath, but then he realised that he didn't seem to need to. There was no movement, no fear, nothing, except for peter, and the darkness. It was peaceful. A small white dot, barely perceptible, appeared. Slowly, ever so slowly, it grew, still small and yet infinitely bright against the void around him. For a moment, it stopped. All of it, himself, the nothingness, the white spot, so, so bright. Then it ripped, light tearing, absolutely slicing through the dark, wide gashes that filled peter with light until there was nothing of him left. Peter was gone.
For the last time in his short life, he woke up. Being unstrapped by the doctor, he got up, giving a curt nod and leaving. As he got home, he immediately set to work cleaning his house, throwing out everything unnecessary, pointless murals and antique plates, all useless intricacies put upon him by his parents. His work life drastically improved: his effectiveness rate was up to 100%. He never remarked on his new achievement, never asked for more than what he was given, and did exactly as he was told. He came to realise that his social connections were limiting him, so he cut them off, friends and family alike. This was the way he lived his life, doing what he was told to until his last day. On his 21,686 day of his job, his legs gave out from under him. As he lay there on that stone floor, no thoughts came to him. His heart beat in his chest laboriously, the blood cells that ran through his arteries splitting for the last time. His body reached a critical mass, where it could no longer support itself. His vital organs stopped altogether, and his brain, with the last of its energy, thought nothing. It simply rendered the conscious world around him, until even that stopped. Higher up, a manager saw this and ordered in response: “cleanup on section 348”, turning seconds later back to the task at hand. Two men walked in, wrapping up his body in a black bag. Outside, a 5 foot grave was dug. At his burial, no one came. He was dead, but Peter Petrovitch had died years ago.