As soon as I am deemed coherent enough for a long enough period of time, I am moved. I take this as an opportunity of escape. I know the odds of me making any significant progress towards freedom are under five percent. I don't care. I feel compelled to try regardless. As soon as the door opens, I break away from those holding me and sprint. It takes approximately forty-five seconds for it to become clear that this is a mistake.
All of the halls share the same stark whiteness with the room I first awoke in. There are no windows. It is a possibility that we are underground. The possibility that the design omits windows is equally as likely. I had not believed it possible to become more lost when I already had no clue where I was. That notion is swiftly proved incorrect. The white halls give the effect of a labyrinth. I am swiftly caught, and it is apparent that my captors have an effective manner of determining location, as they have no difficulty dragging me off to an indiscernible white cell.
The white door disappears as it closes.
I would like to say solitary confinement lasts for two weeks. Honestly, I am unsure. That in itself is unsettling. I am accustomed to nothing but absolute certainty in my calculations. If my idea of day and night is correct, so are my calculations on the duration of my captivity. However, there is no change in my environment to mark the passage of time. The lights in the cell are kept constantly dim to allow for sleep at any time. I do sleep, as sparingly as possible. Allowing myself to become unaware under the circumstances seems foolish at best.
Finally, the door swings open. It seems I ended up facing away from it in the midst of my earlier pacing. Its outline could not be told apart from the rest of the wall. I jump from where I am currently sitting and whirl to face the source of the noise, effectively backing myself into a corner. In my current position, I find this decision wise. No one will be able to sneak up on me as I currently am. The same woman with the same glasses and the same clipboard enters. I look into her eyes. I would classify the whole of my demeanor as defiant.
Her demeanor, as before, seems condescending. She glances down at whatever is on her clipboard. I assume it pertains to me. Her eyes rise once again to meet mine, and I note that something about them seems cold. "Based on what we've seen, introducing you back into society would be a mistake. That's unlikely to change. Take her away."
The last statement is not directed at me, but it spurs me into action. Despite now knowing that my odds of escape are approximately 0.00000000000000437%, I try to run. They are expecting it this time, and catch me before I have so much as exited the door. I am too busy struggling to take note of my altering surroundings. I calculate the collective strength of the men holding me to be four-point-two-three times that of my own. My continued struggles are therefore illogical. I do not stop.
They throw me into another cell. Momentarily, I panic. Had they simply moved me to a deeper prison? My panic subsides as I see another Number in the cell with me. She is female, and a few inches taller than I. Her hair is black and short, her eyes ice blue. Her age is likely comparable to mine. We stare at each other for a while, analyzing.
Precisely five minutes after my arrival, she speaks. "Hi."
Unsure, I respond. "Hello."
"I was beginning to wonder if I would get a cellmate," she informs me. "I am sure you are wondering where you are."
"I have heard this place referred to as The Asylum. I have inferred that this is where Numbers who show noncompliance end up." That is the extent of the information I have compiled.
"Your inference is correct." Understanding seems to make my situation more bearable. "You will not be released. No one who has entered beyond the White Place ever has."
My blood runs cold. "Someone must have left."
My cellmate shakes her head. "I am sorry. None beyond the White Place."
Before I can respond, our door swings open, seemingly of its own volition. My cellmate leaves our cell, and I follow. We join the hundreds marching down the hall. I notice that the walls are yellow instead of white. I am thankful. I have come to hate white. We all come out in one large room. The walls are blue. There are easels and paper, lined and not. Anything anyone of any interest could ask for. Before I can head to the easels, my cellmate pulls me off to a corner.
She pulls a cloth off of a reflective surface. "This is sort of a right of passage here."
Understanding, I step in front of the reflective surface. This is not something I have experienced prior. For the first time in my seventeen-point-one-eight years, I take in my own appearance. Despite not having an objective standard of beauty, or perhaps because of that, I find my own physical appearance aesthetically pleasing. My hair is long, straight, and burnt orange. My complexion is pale. My eyes are dark, almost black, but perhaps tinted with the barest hint of green. A brighter orange is my favorite color.
In the weeks that follow, I determine that I had negatively judged my situation prematurely. There are security officers around, but we are no longer micromanaged. Comparably, we are practically left alone. I can paint without secrecy now. I have gained friends in my roommate, another female, and a male. They seem to enjoy my work. The bonds are mostly superficial at this juncture, but they are strengthening. I had classified The Asylum as a prison.
It seems it may be freedom.