The Essence of Nothing

Chapter Three: The Revelation and the Rebellion

The room was unbearably silent, with only the scratching of my pencil on the page to break it up. That and the shuffling of the bed sheets as I moved – trying to get comfortable. But then even those two sounds stopped as I leaned back to glance down at the paper. I had written the word charon three times. But my writing of the word looked vastly different than the Holder's. His was so precise and clean that it almost seemed unnatural, while mine were hideously ungainly in comparison.

Should I just scribble it out or put a line through it and try again?

The problem with that was that the Holder told me to fill up the entire page with the word, but if I were to cross it out then that space wouldn't be used. Wouldn't that be cheating, somehow? On the other hand, if I keep writing like this and he did want my words to mirror his then I might have to do it all over again. Then I'd have to wait even more before I get to eat.

Slowly, as if the Holder was still in the room watching me, I stole a glance at the cloth-covered tray.

You know, I could just eat it anywa –

Suddenly, a stabbing pain pierced through my head, causing a hoarse scream to come out of e as the pencil tumbled out of my limp fingers. My hands flew up to my head, cradling it. It was hot. It hurt. Distantly, as if listening through some sort of filter, or eavesdropping from far away, I heard myself groggily ask, "What on earth?"

But no answer came.

Just as swiftly as the migraine came, it fled, leaving me blinking at the flickering lights that filled my vision. Odd things, those lights. I had never seen their like before, yet somehow I knew that they weren't truly lights, just a trick of my mind, there to emphasis the aching of my head. And when that ache faded so too did the lights. All I had left now was fear – deep fear.

Something … something was wrong with me.

It was then that the sight of the tray filled my eyes and simultaneously I remembered both my hunger and the task the Holder wanted me to do. Both grounded me, allowing me to push the fear away and steady myself. I'll ask the Holder when I see him. I reassured myself. It was the only thing to do. Obviously, he would know what was going on and how to fix it.

Scooting closer to the paper and picking up the pencil, I got to work again. I started with the first of the six shapes, the one that looked like the left side of a circle if cut in half. I had to keep glancing up at the words above, especially the one that the Holder had written, to try to make them all the same. It was when I was looking back down that I realized my mistake. One of the words, instead of being straight on one of the many lines that ran through the page, dipped down diagonally. That's definitely not good. But what –

"Use the eraser."

I nearly jerked up at the sound of the voice. Nearly, that is. While I didn't, I still glanced around wildly. There was no one there. The room was empty. So then where did the voice come from? Also, who was it? Was it the Holder? How was he speaking to me like this? Why –

The Holder's, I was certain this time, voice spoke up again. It came across the room, from a white box that was mounted onto the metal door. How had I not noticed that before? "The pink cube on the end of the pencil," He stated calmly, though there was a hint of something else to it. Derision maybe. As if what he was saying should have been obvious to me. "It's called an eraser, rub it on the mistake and it'll vanish."

So, that's what it was. All the pencils I've seen before didn't have erasers, they were also a lot more burnt. Wait. What? When had I ever seen a pencil before? Or a lab coat for that matter? Or a stool? I couldn't remember ever seeing one before, so how –

You've apparently never had a brother before either, remember?

The next thing I knew the covers were off and I was standing.

The pain I felt before was nothing compared to this. This was excruciating. But my mind was spinning, thoughts storming. The Holder's voice came out of the white box – the intercom. It was an intercom! "What are you doing, charon? I told you to rest. Stay in bed."

But even the Holder's biting words could not stop me now.

"No!" I shouted, and, oh, damn, the pain. The pain. Stay in bed. Stay in bed. Stay in bed. Struck my mind in tune to the pounding in my forehead, each beat making my knees weak and my world spin. I felt like was going to cave in and either collapse there, on the spot, or leap onto the bed and curl up into a tight ball.

But, amazingly, I preserved.

"Why do I know what a intercom is, or a paper, or a tray, when I've never seen any of them before?" I demanded, glaring over at the said intercom as rivulets of sweat poured down my brow, crawling down to my chin. "Why does my head hurt so much?" And as I said it, the pain flared up, as if in answer. I grunted, choked down a scream, and continued. "Who are you really? Just what is this place? I really do have a brother, don't – "

"I am sorry it had to come to this," The Holder interrupted, and then, to another said,"Activate Shock Level 2."


But then I felt my neck heat up as a hum buzzed into my ears. I looked down. I could literally feel my eyes widen; my jaw go slack. There was a metal ring around my neck. Big, heavy, bulky. How had I missed that? I felt a deep fear, out of nowhere, leap up and swarm me. It was like a slave collar! A fu – Wait. A what? What's a –

Then it came.

Fire and pain. Intense fire and pain that erupted at my neck and then coursed through me in waves. It felt like every particle of my being was being stabbed and then burnt, simultaneously. Everything swirled about, soaked in black and red and white, while all the while I screamed. I howled. I howled like the rabid dogs did out it the Wastes, slavering jaws coated with spit. The white and the red burried each other, leaving only black.

Only black.

The floor was cold.