Riverview, Again Series 1 - Episode 04 - Mind Games

I stirred groggily from an indefinite slumber, awaking my brain to the sheering pains that raged at the back of my head. The scalp was delicate there, suggesting a large bruise from some unknown bludgeoning. It wouldn't have surprised me if the Correctors had tried to knock the memories out of my head with a wooden bat. The air was strangely humid and warm, making the minor task of breathing slightly difficult.

"Rise from the chair and move towards the phone," a disembodied voice echoed throughout the room.

The voice sounded most unusual, as it appeared to boom from all directions. There was, however, no Tannoy or speaker in sight. I didn't hesitate. I began to rise immediately, despite my dizzy and disorientated state. I felt the blood surge away from my head, accentuating my light-headedness. Again, the voice hollered, but this time echoed within the confines of my skull.

"With haste, Rebel!" it roared, chillingly.

The room was lit brightly, with the eerily white surroundings glimmering in the lustre. I felt as though I was being watched, but I only had myself for company in this room.

"Answer the phone and listen to the pre-recorded message," the voice bellowed again, seemingly inside my mind.

I gave a quick glance around the small, claustrophobic room. There were several light fittings and the lounge chair that I woke up in, but nothing else apart from a dirty old phone hanging off the wall. As I approached it, it began to ring.

I picked up the receiver.

"Hello?" I managed to whimper, with the pathetically small residue I managed to evacuate from my lungs.
"Listen to the following instructions carefully, as this will be your only chance to redeem yourself," a crackling, husky voice sang down the phone. "At the end of this call, you will proceed into a series of corridors, beset with other criminals like yourself. To prove yourself as a valued member of society, you will be required to kill one of said criminals. No weapons may be used and your actions will be closely analysed. Such a deed will benefit the State greatly. You have five minutes, beginning now."

My heart raced and my mind panicked, upon hearing these sick and twisted instructions. I had to prove myself by murdering a fellow ex-Comrade? I contemplated, doubting that I was motivated enough to commit such a sinister deed.

I had no time to stall, as my five minutes were ticking away. I rushed out into a corridor that was even more intensely lit than the previous room. The bright lights made my head spin frenziedly, but I could not afford to waste time staggering about and regaining my poise.

The corridors were long and straight, but there was not a soul in sight. Further corridors jutted off from the initial one, with heavy wooden doors intervening between the empty spaces. These corridors twisted and turned with multiple ninety-degree angles, veiling what lay beyond them with their sharp corners. They beckoned me to investigate them further, but I could not choose which one to delve into first. With my time slowly ebbing away, I decided to saunter down the last corridor I came to. The anticipation of finding another Comrade terrified me. Was I expected to engage in a fist-fight? I had never used my hands for such a purpose before.

I continued down the desolate corridor until I embarked upon an unusually-located window, which spanned half a wall and was bordered by a sagging curtain. It revealed the shocking event taking place in an adjacent corridor.

"Die, Comrade!" one of the figures yelled, which was barely audible through the thick glass. "I will murder you for my country!"

A masculine figure had a woman's head wrapped under his arm, as he tried to squeeze the very essence of life out from her lungs. It was apparent that this couple had also become caught up in this perverse game. What were the Correctors trying to prove with this? The man persisted in strangulating his victim. I watched and I waited for him to recognise some mercy and let the woman go free. But he persisted without an ounce of compassion in his heart. I questioned myself: would I sacrifice the smallest trace of humanity left in me, just to be allowed a second chance in this depraved society? A small, sickening part of me said "yes".

I couldn't resist the emotions that were welling up inside of me, demanding that I rescued the helpless woman from his grappling arms. So I ran. I galloped as fast as my tired legs could carry me. I traversed the corridors, searching for a way to access the room on the other side of the glass, but I was running in circles through the convoluted passageways.

Finally, I found an area that was illuminated with unnerving, red lighting, similar to the corridor behind the window. The vulnerable dame would surely be behind these hefty doors, and I would be the one to rescue her from the arms of the sinister fiend - the one who had succumbed to the horrors of this murder-fest. Then the Correctors would have to acknowledge my compassion. Would that be enough to pass this test?

I emerged through the door and stumbled into an empty room. There was nothing but an uncanny, lingering presence in the room.

But I soon discovered that I wasn't alone.

"SISTER RACQUEL!" a supernatural figure screamed, appearing from thin air before me.

The apparition stretched out its arms as if to grab me, but I shuffled backwards to distance myself from it. Embers raged within the ghoul's transparent body and its glowing white eyes remained transfixed upon me. There was something familiar about this ghost, but I was reluctant to even believe its existence and dismissed it as part of my imagination.

"SISTER RACQUEL!" it screeched again, with a hoarse, chilling voice.

There was only one person who had ever called me Sister Racquel, and that was the treacherous Mikhail. Was this the ghost of the deceitful brute? The culmination of my hatred and bitterness toward him led me to believe that this was just a phantasm of my deepest, darkest emotions. I was only envisaging this apparition because it was what I wanted to see: a dead Mikhail.

I ran again, swiftly leaving the apparition behind. I turned through countless bends and down multi-coloured corridors, chasing empty air. My racing heart pulsated to the beat of an unsynchronised clock, ticking away the remaining seconds I had left to show some atonement. And then a prime opportunity precipitated amongst the golden light bouncing off the floor.

"Help me..." an obese man pleaded quietly, lying helplessly on the floor.

This was it. This was the opportunity I had to seize. An abundance of adrenaline was circulating through my bloodstream, clouding my thoughts yet sharpening my visual acuity; I was ready to pounce on this man with my naked hands aiming for his neck. His windpipe would be easy to collapse, given the amount of fat that constrained his neck. A mere thumb pressuring below his Adam's apple would do the job...

No! What was I thinking? My conscience finally managed to kick-start and I immediately turned away from such a disgusting thought. I couldn't betray the last remnants of humanity that this world would ever see. The State needed compassion and love, not blind obedience.

"Emotions are burning away into your mind, Rebel," the unsettling voice of the Corrector rang. This time it could only have come from within my own head, "Emotions are the poison that surges through the veins of society. Emotions are the fires that destroy everything in its path, regardless of what stands before them. Emotions will be the death of you, Rebel."

I felt as though my brain was exploding within my skull.

But I wasn't even conscious. I hadn't even woken up. None of the past five minutes had even happened.

"This has all been in your head," the voice echoed. "This was a test to measure your level of obedience to the State, Rebel, and you chose to fail it."

The Correctors were inside my head, as I slept unaware. They had constructed and infiltrated a particularly lucid dream. If I had just imagined committing the dreadful act, I would have saved myself from the foredooming abomination. The blind obedience would have been displayed. But I could never give in to such immorality, whether dreaming or awake.

"By showing that you are still vulnerable to your emotions, you have sentenced yourself to reparative therapy and surgery."

Reparative therapy and surgery?