After the meeting they put me in a room, a suite actually. It was pretty nice but basically I was a prisoner. The door was locked. I had a great dinner. Grilled steak with mushrooms, gravy, potatoes. God, I was starved. But then after they took my tray, I was all alone. They told me to get some sleep. After I had rested they would come to get me. They would know when I fell asleep and when I woke up and when I was ready to do the work. Every dumb thing I did was monitored. I couldn't cough without them knowing about it. The suite had a comfy couch, a TV, dozens of channels, movies, music, a fridge full of all kinds of drinks, none of which were alcoholic. Alcohol would compromise my mission. Great. The one thing I counted on getting me through this was gone. I put half a dozen movies in the player and didn't finish any of them. I just wasn't in the mood. I wasn't in the mood for anything.
I didn't want to sleep because that meant going to that strange place they had showed me. The image of the man being torn apart in the passage made me want to get out of this whole thing entirely. In spite of myself I fell asleep on the couch, sitting up. Over thirty hours without sleep will do that. Strange dreams kept waking me. Whoever that girl was seemed to have hit a nerve. I couldn't get her out of my mind. Once my whole body jerked awake and I felt terrified. I had a feeling this whole experiment was going to kill me, just like it did the guy before. Out of all of the billions of men on the planet how could these guys be sure I was the one that strange babe was talking about? The prospect seemed unlikely and therefore I was going to get shredded as soon as I stepped into that passage.
I had to figure a way out of this.
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The Dark Room Conundrum (excerpt)
"So you've been to the dark room?" Ed said, leaning across the wooden table and pushing his pint of beer to one side. The golden liquid sloshed a bit and the foam rose a little higher.
"Sure I have," Garek said and took a long draught of his dark beer. He wiped his mouth with the side of his forearm.
"Well, tell me about it. I'd like to go."
"I'm not sure I should. You might get tempted and then regret it."
"No, I won't. It's on the other side of town. Right?"
"Yeah. Everyone knows where it is. Fowler St. and 1st. Sits on a whole city block."
"Six stories high."
"Plus whatever is underneath."
"Plus whatever is underneath."
"How much does it cost to get in?"
"That's hard to say."
"How can that be hard to say?"
"Because it is. You walk in and put your credit card in a manchine. The machine pops it out and then the door opens and you enter."
"Can't you ask the person there?"
"There is no person there to ask. Just a dark glass and the slot."
"Anyone can go in."
"Anyone can't go in. You have to be eighteen or older. If you aren't eighteen or older the machine spits your card out and the door doesn't open."
"Well, suppose you go with someone else and they try to sneak in with you."
"Can't be done."
"Why not? There's no one there."
"I never said there was no one there. No one you can see or talk to. Just a dark glass. There could be anything or anyone behind that glass. In any case there's a red line. Only one person at a time is allowed past the red line. More than one person crosses and the door shuts. No one gets in."