You’re Not the Only One – Interlude 7

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Everything was hot and blinding white. It was overwhelming, so dazzling 59 hardly noticed the hot, gritty ground as it scraped his skin.

Was it always like this out here? How did people see?

For a frightening moment, 59 wondered if his eyes weren’t designed for the outside world. Then, his vision began to adjust, faint outlines fading into view.

He’d lost track of how long he’d been in the back of that truck, in near complete darkness. His eyes just needed time to adapt.

He could make out his surroundings now, though his vision was cluttered with black splotches that danced each time he moved his eyes. The ground was pale yellow with patches of rusty red, unevenly covered in something fine and granular. He remembered the things sticking out of the ground from one of 98’s books; they were plants–scratchy looking ones dotted with tiny, yellow blossoms.

Perched on one of the branches was a small, gray bird.

59 stepped toward it. It fluttered away, disappearing into the branches of another, larger plant.

Until now, his world had been made of sharp angles and straight lines, everything locked into boxes and cages. But the outside world–the real world–was so vast and complex, so bright and open. Plants branched from the ground with wild abandon, continuing as far as he could see. The sky was bright blue, filled with wisps of gray and white, and it went on and on forever so impossibly high above him.

He took a step, then another. There were no walls here. No cages or chambers. Nothing but endless space.

For the first time in his life, he ran.


A pulsating sensation thumped inside his head as he lay on the strange, gritty ground. His skin was red, his throat burned, and most perplexingly of all, water dripped down his face and arms even though the landscape around him was so dry.

He tried to push himself to his feet, but a wave of dizziness racked his body, and his arms slid out from beneath him.

Something was very wrong.

The ground under him vibrated, and something large moved in front of the impossibly bright light in the sky, casting a shadow over him and showering him with grains of debris. He couldn’t quite lift himself enough to see what was in front of him.

Two strange looking people–a man and a woman–leaned over him, concern etched into their faces. They were young–much younger than Mr. Gibson, and maybe even younger than the guard who’d helped him escape.

The man was strikingly attractive–possibly the most attractive person 59 had ever seen, though he hadn’t seen many people. The man had the darkest hair 59 had ever seen, so black it was nearly blue and long enough to nearly obscure his blue-gray eyes. He wore a metal bar through his lower lip, and his skin was decorated, covered in intricate pictures of flowers, fish, dragons.

The woman was tan and blonde, with fluffy, voluminous hair, a metal ring in her septum, and thick, dark paint smeared around her eyes. Her skin was decorated too, but her images weren’t as artful or intricate as the man’s. They looked more like an afterthought, like things she’d scrawled onto herself on a whim.

They were speaking to him–probably asking if he was okay, if he was reading their lips correctly.

The man slid an arm around 59, helping him to his feet. He could see the shadow’s source now–a large vehicle. It looked like a van, but it was unlike any of the few vans he’d seen at the data center. It was far more worn out, with chips of rust and paint flaking off the sides, and it was plastered with dozens of stickers.

A petite woman emerged from the van. Like the man, her hair was so black it tinted blue where the sun hit it, but while his skin was pale, hers was a tawny brown.

She extended a hand to 59. He took her hand, and she tugged him a bit abruptly into the van with one arm.

Icy air blasted from vents on the van’s ceiling, sending a wave of relief cascading over his body. The black-haired woman grabbed 59 by his upper arms, steering him toward the back of the van and into a bench seat with a cover that was so cracked, pieces of padding were spilling out in several places.

The woman turned to her two companions, moving her hands rapidly. The man moved his hands in response, then crouched down, opening a blue and white plastic box with the name ‘Coleman’ embossed on the side.

Their hand signals were far more complex and fluid than anything 59 had developed with his brothers, but what they were doing was unmistakable.

They were talking with their hands!

They moved their lips as they conversed, but 59 was too tired to try to read their lips. The blonde woman leaned over to fish through an over-sized handbag patterned with some kind of logo, retrieved a notepad and pen, and wrote something on the paper. She handed it to 59.

What’s your name?

His name?

He wasn’t sure what to write in response. 59 was his designation, but it wasn’t exactly a name. Still, he felt he had to write something.

He looked around at the inside of the van, as though he’d find an answer in the wild assortment of posters tacked to the upholstery. They were like nothing he’d seen before, emblazoned with words and graphics that didn’t make much sense to him.

A familiar word caught his eye in the sea of loud red and black, on a poster featuring a white and gold object with a wide body and long, thin neck, with six strings running from its top to its bottom.

White Falcon 1957, said the poster.

Falcon wrote down his name, and passed the notepad to the woman.

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