Frowning in concentration, Marianne wiped the sweat from her brow, took a deep breath and tried once more. The grain of rice on the table in front of her was her challange, her goal, and she had to conquer it. She had to master it. She couldn’t let her thoughts wander at all. She tried once more to believe, with all her mind and heart, that the grain was rising from the table, that the grain, lighter than a feather, could easily defy gravity. Marianne’s upper lip and forhead began seeping with wetness again as she gazed fiercly at the tiny grain of rice and tried with all her might to make it rise.
She almost had it, she felt, so close – but then her thoughts began to wander again, despite her best efforts, and she thought sullenly Why am I even doing this? Why am I doing what they tell me? In a moment, she collapsed in a heap on the floor, exhausted, and felt as if she had been wrung out like a sponge. She sat there, on the cold, metal floor, and tried to organize her thoughts again. She didn’t know where she was. She didn’t know how long it had been, but she knew it must have been some weeks – it seemed so endless. She fingered the white hospital-type bracelet circling her left wrist. It read “NOVICE #824: MARIANNE” in big block letters, with no more indication than that.
“Again! Try again!” Came the cold voice over the loudspeaker. Marianne didn’t even see where the speaker was in the room, but she’d learned to hate the crackle of it, that little “Ffff…” before the person, who she couldn’t recognize as male or female, spoke. The voice was as present in her current situation as the sweat on her brow. It was the voice that awoke her from her restless sleep, the voice that commanded her to take the food from the odd, metallic dumbwaiter and eat it, the voice that told her relentlessly, over and over “AGAIN!”
As she had nothing else better to do, and she’d almost been convinced that maybe something would come of this, and also because she had learned what happened when she refused, Marianne rose to her feet, walked to the table with the grain of rice on it, and tried again. For a moment, for no reason at all, her mother’s face flashed before her eyes as she was concentrating on the grain. Blinking away the vision, Marianne stared at the reality in front of her. The grain of rice was hovering a full foot off the table. She coughed, and the grain clattered onto the metal table.
“Finally.” Said the voice over the loudspeaker. Marianne looked up at the wall, as metal and unadorned as the rest of the room, and tears filled her eyes.