I stare at the words on the computer terminal, their glow the only thing illuminating my room. I can’t understand. I don’t remember being trapped for years inside this room! How can this be happening? Fingers trembling slightly, I once again reach for the keyboard.
“How many other protected users are there?”
WARNING. LACK OF CONNECTION DATA INDICATES DAMAGE TO EXTERIOR RELAYS. AT TIME ZERO, THIRTY-EIGHT MILLION PROTECTED USERS WERE RECORDED. UNABLE TO ESTABLISH CONNECTION WITH ANY OTHER CONTAINMENT CHAMBERS AT THIS TIME.
“When was last connection established?”
TIME LOGS SHOW LAST CONNECTION WAS ESTABLISHED TO CONTAINMENT CHAMBER #239,581 AT SIX THOUSAND, SEVEN HUNDRED AND FORTY HOURS AFTER TIME ZERO.
Six thousand hours . . . that was a little more than nine months after the chambers had sealed. “Where is that containment chamber located, relative to here?”
CHAMBER #239,581 IS THREE MILES FROM THIS LOCATION IN A SOUTHEAST DIRECTION.
I take a deep breath. “Open the door to this containment chamber,” I type and wait, holding my breath.
ERROR. CHAMBER CONTAINMENT LOCKS CANNOT BE RELEASED UNTIL SENSORS INDICATE A STABLE EXTERIOR ENVIRONMENT.
THIS ERROR HAS BEEN LOGGED ONE THOUSAND AND NINETY SEVEN TIMES.
I let out a yell of frustration. Wait a minute. This error had been logged before? Does that mean that I have asked the computer to do this before? The feeling of dread, still present in my stomach, churns and roils. “Have I asked these questions before?” I type in.
YES. SUBROUTINES INDICATE THAT SIMILAR VARIATIONS OF THESE QUESTIONS HAVE BEEN ASKED BEFORE, FROM NINE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY TO ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY EIGHT TIMES.
My breath is shallow in my throat. “Why?” I manage to get out.
WHEN THE PROTECTED USER ENTERED THE CONTAINMENT CHAMBER, A MOLECULAR SNAPSHOT WAS TAKEN. NANOBOT REJUVENATION RETURNS THE PROTECTED USER TO THE MOLECULAR STATE OF THE SNAPSHOT. ALTHOUGH THIS PROCESS PREVENTS AGING, IT RESULTS IN SHORT TERM MEMORY ERASURE. THIS PROCESS IS REPEATED EVERY TWENTY FOUR HOURS TO PREVENT PERMANENT CELL DAMAGE.
I push the chair back, grabbing at my head. Four and a half years! Four and a half years, I have been trapped in here, reliving the same day, over and over, never able to remember what had happened! “Let me out!” I scream. “Let me out of here!”
Letters continue to appear on the screen. ERROR. CHAMBER CONTAINMENT LOCKS CANNOT BE RELEASED UNTIL SENSORS INDICATE A STABLE EXTERIOR ENVIRONMENT.
THIS ERROR HAS BEEN LOGGED ONE THOUSAND AND NINETY EIGHT TIMES.
INTERNAL SENSORS INDICATE A HIGH LEVEL OF STRESS IN THE PROTECTED USER. FOR SAFETY, NANOBOT REJUVENATION PROCESS IS BEING ACTIVATED. THIS IS THE ONE THOUSAND, SIX HUNDRED, AND SEVENTY-EIGHTH TIME NANOBOT REJUVENATION HAS BEEN TRIGGERED.
I groan as I sit up, gripping my aching head. What happened? I can’t seem to remember anything. Somehow, I know that this is nothing new, that I often wake up groggy and confused. It will all come back to me soon.
Dragging myself up to my feet, I move across the floor and settle down into the only chair in the small room, facing the computer terminal. The screen glows blue in front of me.