Riverview, Again Series 1 - Episode 03 - Incarceration

The moist smell of mildew infiltrated my nose and attacked my heightened senses. I began to open my eyes to observe the chilling surroundings, but even the dim light burned my retina. As I raised my heavy eyelids, a large web of mesh precipitated out of the darkness. As I adjusted my eyes to focus, the lattice evolved into a series of brown mesh fences.

My thoughts were sluggish and hazy. I had no recollection of the past few hours, and I wasn't aware of how long it was since I blacked out. My muscles were lax and an awful wearing sensation grated on my bones with every movement my arms made. All life has been drained out of me, I thought. I wasn't too far from the truth with such a notion.

The realisation came. Horror flooded over me, constricting around my neck like a Boa constrictor and fought with my windpipe to render my breathing to a subtle rasp. This must have been the Institute of Correction, as the last company I remembered keeping was with Mikhail and two Correctors.

Mikhail, the pitiless traitor! His remorseless betrayal had spelt my doom. I was now in the hands of the State's most callous inhabitants.

The room was poorly lit, so I struggled to make out the figures in the distance. I could only presume that they were Correctors. The fences formed an incarcerating network of unoccupied cells, contained within a grimy, eerie room with only two exits. Ah, but there were no exits in the Institute of Correction. They were merely openings to more agony.

I lifted a cold hand towards my scalp. There were no locks of long blonde hair to roll between my frigid fingers. I caressed what remained of my severed hair, and wept silently as the last remnants of beauty evaded me. They had cut my hair as a means of humiliation, to demarcate one from "normal" Comrades in society. I was now seen as nothing more than a miscreant and a pest to society. I had to be eliminated. Or altered.

"Ah, you're awake," a voice muttered from the veiling shroud of darkness.
"Who is that?" I hissed in an indiscriminate direction, without an aim for my voice.
"Lower your tone or a guard will hear you and discipline you!" the anonymous voice answered. "I am to your right, madam."

I glanced over my right shoulder to inspect the face that the voice emerged from. An old, decrepit man stood in the corner of an adjacent cell, wearing a bland grey jumpsuit similar to mine. His age was really shown upon his face, and the creases upon his forehead also seemed to have their own embedded wrinkles. He looked as though he hadn't encountered much in the way of energy over the past years.

"What is your name, Comrade?" I asked, cautious that he might be an imposter waiting for me to slip up with my words and give the Correctors a real reason to persecute me.
"I am no longer a Comrade in this world, miss," he announced under his breath, "and neither are you, since you have already entered this facility."
"Are we in the Institute?" I questioned, expecting him to know what I was referring to.
"Indeed it is the Institute of our demise, and one that I have known for over a decade now," he replied.
"You've been here for ten years, sir?" I asked, surprised that someone could endure such anguish without dying from the mental torture first.

"I have been here for more than ten years," he said. He seemed to doubt that he had managed to accurately keep date of his prolonged demise.
"May I ask why they are keeping you here? Surely they aim to destroy everyone at the first possible instance, to rid the State of impurity as quickly as they can?"
"I instigated the formation of the Resistance," he murmured proudly. "They keep me here to draw out my suffering. They torture me until my peril, and then they resuscitate me just to do it all over again."
"For over ten years?" I asked, shocked at one man's struggle.
"I have grown immune to their torturing now, yet they are eager to invent new ways to torment me."

My stomach turned at the sheer disgust that came with what the veteran was saying.

"What is your name, sir?" I asked again, persistent to construct a persona out of him, for me to identify with. It was my only solace in this darkness.
"I - I can't seem to remember my name," he stated blankly. "But you can call me Joey. That was the name of the last rebel I spoke to in that cell you're in."
"In that case, you can call yourself Racquel with the next company you share," I retorted, and he wheezed a faint laugh.

The light in the background became ever so brighter, illuminating the guard that stood by a door at the end of the desolate corridor. It also highlighted a few haystacks that lay within the odd cell, including my own cell, as I glanced backwards for the first time. The piercing red eyes of the Corrector glared amongst the twilight of the dismal room.

We proceeded to whisper between ourselves, despite knowing that the Corrector was gazing at us.

"How can a Corrector seek out an emotion-criminal if he experiences no emotion himself?" I postulated.
"That would not be possible, had it require a rebel to catch a rebel," Joey spoke.
"What are you saying?" I enquired, my curiosity clutching onto such an intriguing notion. "Are Correctors previous rebels themselves?"
"Not quite," Joey clarified, "but they can experience emotion and they thrive on hidden, concealed feelings. They might display no sentiment on the outside, but their consciousness is drowning in emotion."

It was so relieving to speak to a similar-minded Comrade, despite my impending doom in this cesspit. I spied a quick glance at the corridor beyond my cell confines.

"The act so robotic though," I muttered, turning my head back to Joey. "Their very nature is deceptive."
"They are far from being robots. That is what makes them so efficient at sleuthing out rebels. They are experts in Comrade Psychology and have the perfect picture of how society works, amidst the fear and suspicion of the Rebellion," Joey explained. "The only way to cheat them is to leave the State altogether. Hiding is impossible."

"What will happen to me?" I asked Joey, praying that his answer would not suggest torture for any sadistic purposes.
"They will punish you as they see fit," he replied unhelpfully, failing to realise that I had no genuine reason to be "Corrected".

If he had been within this building for over ten years, then he must have heard about some of their means of persecution.

"What methods are you aware of?" I persevered in questioning him.
"Racquel, my child, you are so eager to discover in which way your existence will be terminated," began Joey, talking down to me from his position of experience. "The truth is that the Correctors will thrive off your fear and guilt, whatever your crime, and will withhold your punishment for as long as you're apprehending it."

He was trying to tell me that the more I feared my penalty, the longer that they would keep me in waiting for my end to come.

"It is likely that you probably won't see your end here, Racquel," said Joey. "The State is dwindling in its population figures, as I have overheard from a conversation between the guards once, and they will try to inject you back into the veins of their idyllic society first. Murder will only come with a second offence."

With this morsel of hope instilled in me, a feeling of great relief came over me.

"But first, they must kill any emotions or residues of rebellion from you," he exclaimed shrilly.
"How do they achieve that?" I enquired.
"I have heard that they totally destroy your long-term memory," he started, "in order to annihilate any capacity for you to remember the ways of rebellion."
"But what kind of life will that leave me with?" I asked, shocked at such a disturbing concept.
"An obedient, robotic life, my friend," he answered.

"They may perform surgery on your brain, to remove the areas capable of storing memories. Whilst there, they will probably burn out the regions concerned with emotions, thus removing any chances of you experiencing them during your "renewed life"," he said, with his words sending a sickening chill down my spine.
"You're frightening me, Comrade," I declared, giving him a cue to stop.

But no, he continued in his own unprecedented fashion.

"That is, if the surgery doesn't leave you brain-damaged or even dead!" he roared, revealing his psychotic tendencies. The years spent locked up in the institute must have driven him insane.
"Please, stop it!" I pleaded.
"But your memory might be the least of your worries if they decide to gouge out your eyes to stop you from seeing their beautiful State first!" he bellowed, manically.

His rage of sinister laughter aroused the attention of the guard, who began to lift himself from his seat to investigate the situation.

"Once they've finished, the only activity you'll be able to commit to is drooling in your mindless state, whilst children use you as a beating post to remind you of your treacherous rebellion!" he cackled ominously.

I screamed in avid fear; this panic was new to me, as terror of such magnitude was not a recognised feeling between regular, emotionless Comrades. It felt as though I had woken up from a never-ending nightmare for the first time, with a wave of terror washing over me.

"What is going on?" the Corrector boomed.
"This man was-" I began, but my sentence was truncated by another loud bellow of his voice.
"SILENCE!"

The Corrector stared into my eyes, hypnotising me into a light sleep, yet leaving me half-awake.

"The Correctors can deduce what is going on without you having to explain," Joey revealed in a whisper, with his speech appearing to go unnoticed by the Corrector. "He is reading your innermost emotions."

The Corrector squinted to break his gaze, and then turned his head slowly towards Joey.

"Why must you taint all those who co-exist around you?" the Corrector asked in a rhetorical fashion.
"No-!" Joey moaned, as though he knew what was going to come next.
"Your existence in this State must come to an end," the menace announced to Joey. "You shall be taken to The Chamber when Seneschal Rene returns."

What was The Chamber, and in what way had Joey tainted his fellow inmates? Was he there just to instil fear in the prisoners before they faced their end?

Suddenly, the world turned black. My head felt too heavy for my neck and shoulders to support it, and it hit the bale of hay sitting behind me. Although I was oblivious as to what was coming next, I knew that the next time I woke up could be the last time I did so with any recollection of who I was, why I existed, and any memories of what had happened in the previous five minutes of my life.