Chapter Ten – Code

Heleer was back on her side of the bed, sleeping soundly, when Dan woke. She was facing him however. That was new.

Dan propped himself up on one elbow and looked around. Nothing had changed. Everything was the way it should be. He, however, felt different. It was as if last night had been some sort of turning point. He glanced at Mother, and saw her completely differently. She was no longer Mother. She wasn’t even a ‘she’. It was just a camera, and nothing more. A camera put there to watch him.

‘I’m going to get out,’ Dan thought to himself. ‘One way or another, I’m going to get out. I’m going to find out what makes that light, I’m going to see what’s past the horizon, and I’m going to find my parents.’ Just thinking about it made him excited.

He glanced over at Heleer and was momentarily surprised when he saw she had opened her eyes, and was watching him. She was frowning, too.

“What?” Dan asked.

She didn’t say anything. Neither did she have any time to. The lights clicked on, and they both automatically got out of bed.

Throughout the day, Dan became more and more convinced that they were prisoners. Now that he was thinking along those lines, he began to notice things, things which when he thought about them, began to appear entirely different.  

For the first time, he realized that instead of offering them several types of food for meals, the soulborgs were actually denying them any choice in the matter. Dan wanted to choose his food. It made no sense, since the only difference was the color (it all tasted exactly the same), but the inability to choose stung Dan. He couldn’t say why.

For the first time he was actually angry that he couldn’t walk further, and that walls enclosed him wherever he went. If this really was a fortress designed to keep them safe, as Heleer suggested, why was he kept in such a small place?

For that matter, why was he isolated? Dan had Heleer now, and she had parents. He knew there were other people. Why would he be kept from them? The only reason Dan could think of was that this was a prison, and they were all prisoners. If one decided to escape, others might follow, unless they were all isolated from each other.

By the time SR was over and Dan stepped out of the Unit, he had realized just how limited his life truly was. Though he couldn’t realize the full extent of it, he was beginning to understand that he had been kept ignorant about a lot of things. The soulborgs had limited his knowledge along with everything else, so that he wouldn’t even know what he didn’t have.

Throughout the day, anger had been boiling in Dan, building up until he saw everything about the soulborgs through a mask of hatred. He glared at the camera, now no longer Mother, as he showered. He glared at the Barrier while he ate. In fact, he glared at everything. It all came from the soulborgs.

It might have been this which Heleer noticed. It might have been the fact that he wasn’t eating. It was probably both. Whichever it was, she put down her food after watching him for a few moments, and asked him what was wrong.

Dan glanced at her. She, at least, wasn’t part of this. She didn’t come from the soulborgs. But she didn’t understand. She thought the soulborgs were protecting them. It was understandable. She hadn’t escaped. She hadn’t seen the horizon. She was ignorant, just as Dan had been. She didn’t know what she didn’t have. Dan would need to convince her, but he didn’t know how. She needed to see what was out there, and he saw no easy way to do that.

“Nothing,” he said. He silently picked up his gray block of food and began eating it.

However, Dan’s reply was not good enough for Heleer. He was surprised when she touched his hand after they had climbed into the bed. He glanced at her. She gave him a meaningful look, and then said something which made no sense: “What is the name of a wrong meal, Dan?”

“The… name… what?”

She repeated herself, but this time Dan realized something else. She was squeezing his hand when she said certain words. He put them together: “What is wrong, Dan?” His eyes widened.

“Where? How?”

She shook her head to silence him. Dan understood. For whatever reason, she didn’t want the camera to hear or see what they were saying. To one who couldn’t see when Heleer squeezed his hand, they would appear to be saying nonsense

“My father taught me,” Heleer said, squeezing at the appropriate words. “He was paranoid soulborgs were watching. Why are you angry?”

Dan had to think for a minute about how to reply. It took a few seconds before he came up with a nonsensical line which used all of the words he needed. “Soulborgs,” he squeezed back. “All this is wrong. They’ve limited everything.” He paused. “I have to get out.” He knew Heleer wouldn’t want to hear that, but she had to sometime.

Heleer’s lips tightened, and she looked down. Dan, however, had just realized something. For whatever reason, he had remembered the first time he saw Heleer, huddled in the Shaft, watching him. The Shaft. Of course! That was a way out!

“Heleer,” he quickly squeezed to her, “can we escape through the Shaft?”

The lights clicked off, plunging them into blackness.

“No,” Heleer squeezed back. “There is a hatch in back, but it is bolted shut. I know; I tried to open it.”

Dan wondered briefly why Heleer had tried to get the hatch open, but the thought fled from his mind. A hatch. A hatch in the Shaft. That had to be it. That had to be the way out. All they had to do was get that hatch open. But if it was bolted shut, how could they open it?

Dan lay down, staring up at the ceiling, thinking. Heleer remained sitting, watching him, but when he didn’t move or say another word, she pulled back her hand, and lay down on her side. She was facing away from him.

Dan however, lost in thought, didn’t even notice.

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