"So, why are you here, huh?", the man opposite me asked.
"Non-payment, just like the rest of us, I'll bet," a girl a few seats over muttered almost inaudibly so, hiding her head in her hands. "It's how they got all of us, isn't it? No matter how you try, they always get you. And now it's too late..."
"Oh, boo-hoo!" another guy to my right huffed. "It's like you didn't do any of it yourself! Stop your whining and take some responsibility, bitch! We all got in here ourselves! You should have read the goddamned contract before signing! I should find that agent and strangle him with my own two hands!"
"Calm down, will you?" I asked of him, looking past his moustache at his firey auburn eyes. "There's no use getting mad. What happened happened, and we can't go back in time to change it. The question now is what they're going to do with us."
The man opposite me straightened up and looked around skittishly. "Yeah, that's always the question, isn't it? What's going to happen next? Who are you people? Why am I in this room with you? What was in the water they gave us? Was it spiked? There are so many ways the government can get rid of us, what can we expect, huh? HUH?!"
I shook my head at him. He looked like the penultimate conspiracy theorist; baggy clothes, shaggy hair, rings around his eyes as if he had been up for many nights in a row. And yet his mind was seemingly jumping from one question to the next. There was little use to it, but he did voice some concerns of mine.
"We can't be sure right now what will happen," I surmised. "All they told me was to wait in this room. I don't know what they told the rest of you, but it's better to wait for their next move than to speculate about what's to come."
"There aren't even any goddamned magazines here, or vending machines," the irate moustached man huffed, then got up to walk to the locked door - our only way in-or-out of this room, and banged on it with his fist. "Hey, I am thirsty! Get me a glass of water!"
"They'll keep us here until we die, no doubt," the depressed girl offered, visibly shrinking a bit more into her chair. "We're never going to get out of this again."
I felt the need to slide over on the seats until I was within reach of her and gently patted her shoulder. "There's no way they can kill all of us and get away with it; there would be inquiries made by our families and friends, and I came here in a one-day rental car. The rental car agency will definitely want to know where their car is if it's not brought back after the rental period."
"They got GPS tracking devices in all of their cars these days; they know. They are probably in cahoots with this place anyway. They'll just get rid of it and cash in on the insurance money, want to bet?" the conspiracy theorist in the room sputtered.
"Will you shut your mouth already?" the angry man snapped, walking sternly over to the other man and staring him down. "You're just one of those no-good hippies that never paid their bills anyway and caused taxes to be raised on proper folk like me!"
Behind him, the door opened and a girl bounded in, dressed in a summer dress and initially carrying a bright smile on her face - which dropped as she spotted the two men on the brink of fighting. "Er, hey now! That's no way to talk with one another; what's wrong? Can I help?"
The door closed behind her a little too fast for my liking, and I got up to walk towards it while the two men turned to face the newest member of our group. There were still seats left in the room, and I was wondering if the company was planning to fill them all before we would be told how we would pay off our debts with them.
I stroked a hand over the door as I reached it, and tentatively tested the handle. Locked, of course.
"And who are you anyway?" the angry man wondered, and I turned to face the trio with my eyebrow raising slowly.
"Did any of us share our names?" I had to ask, to which I found all heads turning my way. "I mean, I remember entering this room with just that girl over there sitting in silence, so I did not ask anything myself and just sat down."
The angry man raised his own eyebrow and pointed at the seat he had been sitting on just after joining us; "You two looked deep in thought, so I just sat down myself."
"I don't know, man," the other guy offered. "I mean, I did ask you why you were here, right?"
I nodded at him, then looked at the girl in the yellow sundress. "And you just tried to get between them because they looked ready for a fight, but none of us actually offered our names to one another yet."
"I don't even know how long I've been in here for," the depressed girl muttered to herself. "I'm not sure if it was hours or days... or years..."
"Okay, so there is no clock in here and none of us have anything more on us than our clothes because they took everything from us before entering here, am I right?" I asked of the group, and they nodded in unison.
"There are no windows here, no machines, nothing that can help us detect time except for the door opening and closing whenever someone new joins us," I continued.
"Oh! Like me!", the new girl offered with a bright smile. "Hi everyone, I'm..." her voice stopped too sudden, and her facial expression turned from one of glee to one of worry. "I'm... new! Yes!" she grinned. "I'm new! I'm the latest to join you all, so obviously I'm new!"
The moustached man groaned and shook his head. "Obviously. But what's your name, girl?"
"Do you know yours, old man?" the inquisitive man wondered, pushing up out of his chair and looking around us all. "Or you? Or you? Cause I sure as hell don't! It's the government, I tell you. There's probably something in the air that makes us forget who we are!"
I rubbed a finger at the right side of my head while looking them over. The depressed girl in the corner had started to cry in silence, trying very hard not to be noticed, the angry man with the moustache was turning red as he obviously got more and more frustrated not being able to remember his name, the lanky conspiracy theorist guy seemed to drown in his theories and was ranting about all the things that could have caused our collective identities to disappear, and the new girl just looked around in confusion and shrugged as our eyes met.
"Yeah, I don't know either," I mouthed to her in silence, so as not to break the others' own mental thought patterns. Honestly, this was starting to give me a bit of a headache.
"I could think a lot better with a glass of water; At least it would get rid of this headache that's gotten worse the longer I spent in this room!" the angry man grumbled, and he bounded past me to bang his fist against the door again.
"Wait, you have a headache as well?" the conspiracy theorist asked before I could open my mouth, and the depressed girl lifted her arm in the air.
"I do as well, if anyone cares..."
"Oh, that's what that is?" asked the girl in the sundress. "I was wondering if it was the air pressure."
My mind raced past the potential causes for a group headache, and I nodded towards the girl in the sundress. "Air pressure could cause us all to have headaches, yeah."
"Oh! I got it right for once?" she asked with a little jump. "I almost never get questions right, that's how I got here, you know? I tried to get the questions right on the form but they didn't make sense. I mean why would I need a reason to fill up the meters, right? Pay it forward!"
"Eep!" the depressed girl interjected, jumping up from her chair and brushing her right hand over her left arm as if to try and get something off of it!
"What now?" the moustached man wondered, as we all turned to watch the girl's arm turn blue in front of us.
"What's going on? I don't... I don't... What?" she just stammered, her eyes growing wide from a rising panic as the blue colour spread up across her arms and then disappeared under her sweater. It did not take long for it to return again, this time spreading up along her neck and down her other arm. As we stood staring at her, her whole body turned a blue tone - including her hair which had been either a natural or dyed deep black before.
We stood nailed to the floor, all of us trying to comprehend what we had just seen happen before us, but then the blue girl pointed at me and opened her mouth as if to say something - but just closed it again when she could not formulate the sentence she'd had in mind.
I looked down at myself and noticed my own skin starting to change colour as well. A purple tone spreading up my left arm and quickly disappearing under the fabric of my shirt. I used my right indexfinger to pull my shirt collar forward a little so I could look in under the fabric and saw the color spread over the rest of my body.
"Strange... I don't actually feel anything," I mused. "I would have thought there was some kind of tingle involved as is usually the case with transformations in fiction, isn't it?"
"I don't know, man... I don't.. I..." the lanky man offered, and I followed his gaze to the moustached man behind me who was turning the shade of a prime lobster; his body quickly turning a red hue.
"It's in order of appearance," I noted, and pointed at the other guy. "You will be next."
Fear hit him like a brick wall and he started stammering nonsense while backing up into a chair, then dropped down into it as the first specks of green appeared on his left arm.
"Oh! Am I after him then?" asked the new girl as she leaned in to watch the green tone spread up the man's arm, holding her own left arm next to it and letting out a squee once specks of yellow appeared on it. "Oh, I am! I am!"
Before too long all of us had experienced the strange sensation of having our skins turn a different colour, and I checked under my socks to see that it truly seemed to go all over. My hair had turned purple, the lanky green man's hair was green, even our eyes were the colour our skin had taken!
The green man shook his head and tried to recollect himself. "I didn't know the government had this kind of technology, man... I don't even... Am I the Hulk now? This is no gamma radiation... I don't know what could have caused this. I'm... so lost."
"Welcome to my world," said the meek blue girl, even as the yellow girl bounded over and pulled her into a hug.
"Aww, don't be sad; you look lovely!" the sundress-wearing one squealed. "And look at us together! Your blue and my yellow fit perfectly! We should go shopping for matching outfits!"
The red guy near the door had been quiet for a while now, and I turned to watch him flex his hands into fists and opening them again. "Hey, are you alright?"
He looked up at me with those red eyes in his red face, and his face pulled into one of sheer hatred. "Whomever did this to us will pay. I promise you guys that. I will take this to the supreme court if I have to, but they will pay." His voice was ice cold as he said this - a stark contrast with his new looks.
Before I could say anything in return, the room shook and we had to grab hold of something to not fall over. There was a definite feeling of us being lifted up somehow.
"An elevator?" the green guy wondered, looking directly at me.
"How would I know?" I asked in return.
"I get the feeling you're the more clear-headed of us, is all," he returned, shivering in his chair. "I'm mortally afraid myself, to be honest."
"Exhausted your hippy library of conspiracy theories, did you?" the red guy huffed.
The green guy flailed his arms at that and almost launched himself out of his chair to stand uneasily in the moving room. "Have you looked at this all? Not even ALIENS could explain this!"
I motioned for him to sit back down, and looked at where the girls were huddled in the corner, both of them looking concerned in our direction. "I'm not sure I am the right person to say this; but I'm sure we are going to be fine. The colors we now wear did not harm us in any way, did they?" the yellow girl shook her head at that. "And non-payment rarely leads to killings. They'd try to extort money from us first, right?"
The green guy opened his mouth. "I don't know, man... the mafia..."
"You shut your yap right now!" the red guy shouted at that. "You can't convince me the mob is behind this any more than you can convince me I'm red now because I ate too many carrots!"
I felt the need to suggest to him that carrots are orange, rather than red, but instead just motioned to him with my right hand in a calming manner. "Whatever is causing this... I am sure we will find out eventually. That door will open and we will be led out to... whatever fate awaits us."
The others nodded, all with their own unique facial expressions. I could almost read their minds. The red guy was obviously thinking of wanting to give the first person he'd see a piece of his mind, the green guy was looking for ways to escape this unharmed (and probably with enough evidence that could corroborate his story to make him a hero among his peers), the blue girl was trying not to cry and was most likely thinking it would all end in tears - probably hers, and the yellow girl... was staring at me intently.
I raised an eyebrow at her and she smirked and hugged the blue girl to her defensively. I gave her a gentle nod and she dared smile back.
"Whatever is going to happen, guys, we've been in this together since the moment we stepped through that door," I reiterated, looking back towards the guys who seemed to need my attention more than the girls. They were their own islands, on opposite sides of the room, while the girls had sought solace in one another's closeness.
"I for one am not going to let them split us up. We'll go through that door as a group, or not at all," I finished and again I saw a nodding of heads.
"When you can remember your names again, let me know," the red guy offered. "I'm going to make this into the lawsuit of the century once we're out."
I just smiled in his direction and tried to stay in my chair as the room shook once again. And then the motion stopped.
We looked between one another for a moment, and I was about to suggest we'd try the door, when we felt a great big push that made us all fall out of our chairs or against the back wall where the girls were sitting a moment before!
Struggling against the fierce shove of kinetic energy pushing us against the back wall, I noticed the ceiling light - which had been shining brightly without interruption - started to flicker, and then suddenly died, leaving us in pitch blackness!
One of us started to cry - most likely the blue girl - and another grumbled in desperation to try and turn himself the right way up - most likely the red guy - and there was a struggle of arms and legs for a moment before the gravitation slowly started to let up and we felt like the room had come to a standstill.
"Is everyone okay?" I asked of the darkness, and they answered mostly in the positive, with just the blue girl crying still. "I think we stopped. I'm going to make my way to the..."
As I spoke, there was an audible click, and the door slowly fell open, light pouring in from the room beyond. I looked around me at the others, still in a disorganized heap, and then pushed myself up from the ground.
The men were at my side before I could say anything, and I could hear the girls helping each other up as well, and I carefully set in motion past the rows of chairs on either side, towards the light.
The door had not fallen open fully yet, but the light streaming in looked to be slightly blue in tone, with flashes of a red or pink hue through it like the flashes of a computer light as the drive is being accessed. I tried to peer around the door without opening it further, but my sight was obscured by something and I was forced to grab a hold of the handle to open the door with.
I looked to my left and right before doing so, saw the determination in both guys' eyes, and took a deep breath before finally pulling the door open fully.
The lit rectangle of the doorframe was covered by some kind of hollow membrane on the other side, a sort of dome pushing out from our position into a fleshy substance.
"No..." the green guy to my left gasped, taking a step away from it.
"What is this nonsense?!" decried the red man, before launching himself at the membrane - fists first.
The second his fist hit the dome, it shattered around him, and he fell through into the fleshy area beyond, tumbling over the floor while fresh air washed into the room we were still standing in. The man bounced a little as he rolled, coming to a stop a few feet away from us. I could sense the girls pulling up behind me on my right, the green man to my left frozen in place as he tried to comprehend what we were seeing.
The red man in front of us, our pioneer so to speak, tried to gather his thoughts, looked around himself, tried to gather his thoughts again, then looked back at us with a look that said it all; he had no way to explain where he had ended up at.
"Follow me, guys?" I offered in a soft and calm tone, hoping to get them to overcome their fear and do as I asked, then set in motion through the open door.
My right foot touched the fleshy floor before my left, and sank in a little before it caught proper support, and I half-bounced my way over towards the red man in the supposed center of the room. While walking, I let my eyes travel over the walls and ceiling, the items placed around the room, and the huge windows on one side in particular. I did not like what I saw.
"Are you okay, Red?" I asked, and the man nodded in disbelief, taking my hand as I offered to help pull him up.
"This is unreal..." Green gasped, walking past us as he looked around himself.
"I told you we were doomed?" Blue whined, clinging heavily to Yellow's side.
"I'm not usually the smartest here," Yellow started, "but does anyone else agree this kinda looks like the inside of someone's head?"
I sighed and noticed the rest doing the same. The word was out. That was exactly what it looked like. "It does look like that, I agree."
Around us was a dome-shaped room made up out of flesh, with two large round holes in one wall, through which visions of a more normal room outside of this one were projected inward. A hospital room from the looks of it, and in particular the ceiling of it. We were looking up at the ceiling while standing firmly on the fleshy ground perpendicular to it. If you looked at it for too long, a sense of vertigo would overtake you.
On the ground we were standing on were a number of seats behind control panels, all made of flesh. There were buttons and lights on each of these control panels, and there were more lights embedded in the walls around us, but it was all made of flesh.
Looking back the way we came, we saw a broken cylindrical pill, most likely made out of some kind of sugarcompound, one end of it broken as Red had punched straight through. The room we had been in still stuck inside the pill's housing which was slowly dissolving before our eyes.
Green piped up as I was looking over the room we were in; "Hey, there's another door here. There's a bedroom behind it? It looks like a bedroom... it could be a bedroom? I'm pretty sure this is a bedroom, you guys!"
I looked in his direction just in time to see him disappear through an opening in the wall he was at and marked its location in my memory.
"So..." Red started, his voice trembling a bit.
"Yeah, I know," I sighed. "I have no idea."
"I wanna go home," Blue whined, burying her face in Yellow's side.
I took another look at the room we left, and noticed it was slowly dissolving as moist from the area around us started to drip on it. "I don't know what to tell you, Blue... I think we're going to be stuck here for a while."
"Why do you call her Blue?" Yellow asked, and I pointed at all of us, including the location Green disappeared to, naming the colours of our skin as I did. "Red, Green, Yellow, Blue, and me; Purple."
Yellow looked unsure, and I smirked at her. "In lieu of whatever we were called before. Do you remember much from before you were led into the room we just left? I don't. I have been grasping at memories since we first realized we had not introduced ourselves, and I think I've just been slowly losing more and more of them. I honestly don't know. I don't remember what I forgot."
Yellow giggled a bit awkwardly at my last sentence, but nodded after. "I know we arrived here in that... oh, there it goes."
I turned back to the room to see it sliding backwards and disappearing into the darkness, the fleshy wall that had been separated by the pill it had come in slowly closing up as if the room itself had caused a wound which could now heal up.
"Purple?" Red started, "I want to know what you think we should do."
I looked back at him and motioned around us. "I would first ask you to explore. Find out where we are, what we have, and what everything does. Once we know this, we can do a lot more than speculate as to how we arrived here. And maybe we can then take a nap in the bedroom Green found. We can start getting organised tomorrow, after a good night's rest."
"You're the boss," Red muttered with a shrug, sticking his hands in the pockets of his red pants and sauntering away.
Yellow stood staring at me a moment longer, but as I looked in her direction, she just smiled and started guiding Blue away from me, softly speaking to the other girl to calm her down.
I was left standing in the center of what looked to be a representation of someone's brain, and looked over at what appeared to be the body's eyes. "I didn't ask to be the boss," I sighed to myself, "but such is life."
I wandered over to the central console out of the five present, slipped into the chair behind it, and looked over the various buttons. One of which stood out, and I tentatively pressed down on it. The eyes blinked, blinked again for a bit longer, and then slowly closed altogether as the lighting in the room took on a softer glow to it.
"We'll do better after a night's rest, I'm sure," I told myself, then wandered over to the bedroom.