Third Place – The Escape

THIRD PLACE
The Escape

by
Shannon Taylor

Bell rolled out of the bed and put her feet on the cold, hard tile. With a quiet yawn, she reached for her satchel in the dark. She never liked the dark and her room was cold at night to keep her in her warm bed for as long as she was supposed to sleep. The only light she could see was a bright laser shining from her security camera. Usually, the camera would monitor her movement, but it couldn’t see in the dark. Eleanore Janvier, her supervisor was about to add a night vision camera, which was another good reason to leave tonight. Bell shoved her legs into one of her bodysuits. Her only clothes were white bodysuits made out of a foamy fabric. They also had black rubber stripes running from the neck to the wrists, and from the veins of the wrists, back up her arms and straight down her torso and limbs. Eleanore loved them, Bell felt differently. Besides, Eleanore didn’t have to wear them.

Bell was also given black, ankle-covering boots with golden laces. Every day, a robot would lace up her boots. She tried to watch how it did them to try and copy, but it all happened so fast she couldn’t figure it out. She worked out the laces, even though her boots were loose and started to tie up her long, wavy hair. At that point, she was ready to go. The cold air conditioning gave her goosebumps, the bodysuit wasn’t very helpful in that sense, and she was excited to leave. She flipped the switch to open the door, but it only replied with a loud buzz. Apparently, she wasn’t allowed to leave her room in the middle of the night. Bell didn’t want to let that stop her. She felt her way back around her bed and went to her night stand. She opened one of the drawers and felt around for something, she grabbed a pen. Sticking it in the crack between the door and the wall and trying to pry the door open, the plastic pen casing shattered. Bell felt something wet on her sleeve, but there wasn’t any pain so it clearly couldn’t be blood. The door didn’t budge. She went to get something else, but all she could feel were pens and pencils. Until she felt the ruler. In the past, a Bell would wonder why she had a metal ruler. At least she could be grateful. She followed the same technique as with the pen, but the ruler was very malleable and it turned at a ninety degree angle.

Bell was about to get mad, she was generally smart and this wasn’t working. Until she had an idea. She stuck the short part of the bent ruler all the way into the space, then got her shoulder against the door and pulled on the rest. Now the door was open enough for her to put her fingers in and pull the door just enough to slide through. The light was blinding in the white tiled hallway. A small half-sphere on wheels beeped at her, “Bellamy,” its electronic voice said to her, “Get back to bed.” It sent a signal to the door for it to open, but Bell darted past the tiny bot. She heard little whooshing sounds coming from its speakers calling for reinforcements. The ceilings were low and there were small bumps in the floor in the hallway that you had to step over. She had never run in the hallway before, and when you’re running, the bumps were very easy to forget about. She tripped over one and went flying into the ground.

She could hear the wheels of security bots coming for her and Eleanore’s voice coming through their electronic speakers. She tried to stand up, but before she could, she felt two painful clamps closing over her upper arm and suspending her up to where her feet couldn’t touch the ground. She hung there a few seconds until a smaller bot with Eleanore’s face projected on it came up to greet her. It looked like it was about to speak until the screen froze and a few little letters at the bottom spelled out ‘pending…’. Bell waited a few more seconds until she could hear the loud steps from Eleanore’s metal feet coming behind her. Eleanore was the last person she wanted to see right now, but she didn’t have a choice. She ducked her head when her supervisor walked up. She didn’t like those mechanical eyes that seemed so human because the rest of Eleanore’s face was.

“Bell,” a voice came in from the tall woman above. It had a strange vibrating sound, because her vocal chords were replaced by electronic speakers. Her mouth still moved, though, “I heard you were out of your room and I came to see what all the fuss was about. Sure enough, you are.”

“Yes Eleanore, I am,” Bell choked out. The clamps were causing her more pain as time went on. They could hear it in her voice.

“What’s the matter?”

“This really hurts,” Bell said, answering the wrong question.

“No, Bellamy. Why are you out of your room?”

Bell tried to shrug but the clamps restricted her movement. Eleanore understood.

“You weren’t trying to run away, were you?”

She remained silent. The supervisor tapped on her arm panel and the security bots above tightened their grip. She winced profoundly.

“You see, we have wonderful plans for you Bell. You just wait and see. You can’t leave with such an opportunity ahead of you.”

That made her remember something. Last year, she saw a boy a few years older than her traveling in a bed. In the time he was stopped in the hallway and she was headed to her algebra class, they were able to exchange a few words. His face was damaged, half metal and the rest swollen and red. When Bell had asked what happened, he said it was the transformation. They (she didn’t get a chance to ask more exactly who ‘they’ was) take out some of your human parts and replace them with metal. They call them advancements, all of the supervisors had them. Before that, they call them ‘plans.’ Plans on how to reconstruct a person. Even if the plans are wonderful, Bell thought, I don’t want to be reconstructed.

“Now,” Eleanore continued, “Why did you leave your room?”

“I’ll tell you if you put me down,” When Eleanore tightened the grip of the bots, Bell cried.

“You will tell me now, Bellamy.”

“I don’t know!” she shouted.

“You’d like to tell me that you don’t know why you broke out of your room? You’re admitting you’re deranged?”

“I don’t know Eleanore. Do you think I’m deranged?”

“I will consider it. We can have a therapist do a glance-over. Is that what you want of me?”

“Please, just let go of me,” her voice quivered, “You’re going to break my arms.”

“Very well,” Eleanore tapped on her arm panel, and the security bots set Bell back down. She took a deep breath and looked at her purpled hands, she had never seen purple hands before. “And I know what I’m doing.” She walked up to her apprentice, placing her hand over the massive indent in Bell’s upper arm, “I’m not going to break your arms,” her pause was the most frightening, “Silly girl.”

Eleanore started to lead Bell back to her room. “Hey Eleanore?”

“Yes Bell?”

“About a year ago I saw a boy being wheeled through this hallway. I was on my way to algebra. His face was all messed up. Is that going to happen to me?”

“No. I don’t know why they would bring someone through this hallway. Nobody’s supposed to come in here except you.”

“He said the plans were for this transformation, and we would end up like the supervisors.”

“Some of them will, yes. They will turn out like us elders. Your plans are different, though. You’re a special one.”

“When do I get to see my plans, Eleanore?”

The supervisor paused for a minute, her face went blank until she was able to compute the information, “Your transformation has not been scheduled yet,” She said robotically, then returned to emotion, “However, we do believe it will be in a few years, when you’re old enough.”

At that point, they reached Bell’s room. Eleanore opened the door with her arm panel and Bell went inside, laid down on the bed, and fell asleep.

The next night went the same way, Bell pried the door open with a metal ruler, she alerted the bot just outside her room. This time, she kicked the bot and crushed it, hoping that would slow the signal and keep the other bots from coming. She strode down the hallway, careful to pay attention to the speed bumps. She wasn’t in as big of a hurry this time, there wasn’t anyone coming after her yet. She passed Eleanore’s door and that bot told her to go back to her room. She kicked that one as well and heard little treads coming after her, “Bellamy Arterbury,” they said, “You have been convicted for damage to company property, attempt of escape, and running from authority.”

She only laughed and kept running, hopping gracefully over the floor bumps. She reached a door at the end of the hallway. A door that led to her classrooms. She shoved the door open hoping that maybe the classrooms would have some hiding spaces. The open doorway was quickly filled with a large security robot that clamped her and carried her down the hallway. She expected it to take her back to her room or to face Eleanore, but it took her to a massive dumbwaiter and they cranked it down. The door slid open and inside was a room with a large structure. It consisted of large metal bars completely surrounding an area of tile.

Another security bot opened the gate and the one holding her carried her in and set her down on the floor. The gate closed behind the exiting bot. Bell heard small voices from all around her. One seemed to be Eleanore’s “I understand,” she said in a low whisper, “She could be deranged. However, a mental state can be changed in transformation. I promise you, Bellamy is much too perfect of a specimen to deconstruct and use for access parts.”

“She has broken the law, Ms. Janvier,” said a deep, unrecognizable voice, “Punishment is punishment.”

“Please Dr. Abramo. Her plans are perfect. Do you have any idea how long it will be before we find another to fit them?”

“I can see your point. What do you expect me to do?”

Eleanore’s response was not audible, but the doctor’s was “She’s much too young.”

“Yes, but I feel that it’s the only way of preserving her.”

“You are her supervisor, you know her best. If you think starting immediately would be the perfect solution, then I will follow your advice.”

“I do.”

“Very well, I will begin preparation immediately.”

“Do, I will speak with her for a moment.”

There was silence for a long while until metal footsteps started to echo around her. Eleanore came through the metal gate, which closed behind her, and approached Bell. “You have gotten yourself into much trouble, Bell. Do you know your charges?”

“I think so,” Bell started, trying to look shameful, “A bot said them to me as I was running. Destruction of company property, attempted escape, and running from authority.”

“Yes. Now, the destruction of company property isn’t a big deal anymore, since we can quickly replace our damages. But, the attempted escape, Bell, what was going through your head?”

“I wasn’t trying to run away,” Bell lied quietly, “I don’t know why I ran out again. I just woke up and now I’m here.”

“I see,” Eleanore tried to compute for a moment, but her human brain figured it out faster than her mechanical one, “Well, I have surpassed your punishment, which would be deconstruction, and we have found another solution. In the interim, which will only be a day or so, I have been instructed to provide you with elaborate supervision. You will be sleeping in my room until we evaluate your solutions. I will also be escorting you everywhere you need to go, you will not be out of my sight.”

“I understand,” she replied softly.

Eleanore grasped Bell’s wrist and began to lead her out, “Come along now, Bell. Let’s get you to sleep.” Bell was led to Eleanore’s room, and Eleanore let her lay down on a newly placed cot, “Goodnight, Bellamy.”

The very next night, Bell definitely needed to leave. This ‘solution’ could be anything, and terror filled her more by the fact that it was an alternative punishment.  She pressed on the button to open the door, not thinking that it would buzz and wake her supervisor up. However, it didn’t buzz. The door opened and she left the room. There was no robot to tell her to get back into her room either. She strode down the hallway, noticing that the speed bumps were gone and she could just run. She got to the door and with great force pushed it open.

She was greeted with a large gust of wind and a beautiful hot blue sky. The white sun beamed down on her skin. Surrounding the concrete platform that the facility existed on was lush forest with stunning glisteny leaves and round spherical tops. She found herself staring at the sun, the light likely to ruin her eyes. She stared at it for a long time until the entire world started to fade away.

Bell woke up in a foam bed. The white round light above her was making her hot. The light burned her eyes. For a moment, she felt slightly lightheaded. When her eyelids got heavy, she closed them and everything went black.

“Bellamy Arterbury… the preparation term has ended. You may begin the transformation period.”