Something was different. Marianne knew it the moment she woke up, because she woke up naturally, for once. There was no rattle of the dumbwaiter; there was no muffled crackle of the speaker. She sat up on her mattress, crossed her legs, and rubbed her eyes. She looked around the room, and immediately saw a difference. A difference so staggering that she felt her stomach clench – whether with fear or excitement, she didn’t know.There was someone in the room with her. Someone was sitting on a simple, steel chair that was right against the opposite wall. Marianne gaped. She took the person sitting there in, inch by inch, while they scrutinized her right back.
The person sitting in the chair was a woman. She had very high cheekbones that were prominently displayed over the black doctor’s mask that was hiding the rest of her lower face. A pair of eyes, the iris’s so darkly brown they appeared black from afar, were above the cheekbones, perfectly framing a slightly long, very straight nose. The woman’s hair was rather surprising – she was a redhead. Though her hair was swept back in a tight bun, it seemed like it wanted to break out and spring back into its normal state of bouncy curliness.
The woman crossed her legs and placed her white hands upon her knee. She then spoke, and Marianne knew instantly that it was this woman’s voice that pierced her through every day, the voice that emerged from the crackly speaker. It was deep, for a woman, and slightly rough, but there was a musical tone to it as well, as if this woman could sing jazz easily.
“Well,” she said. “It’s nice to finally be able to greet you in person, Marianne.”
Marianne didn’t know what to say, so she continued to stare at the woman. She wondered if the woman expected her to be pleased to see a human face, perhaps even be grateful for it. She got her answer in a moment though, when the woman spoke again.
“I’m sure you hate me, Marianne. That’s alright, I don’t really care one way or another,” the woman’s eyes crinkled as she spoke, as if she were smiling beneath the mask. “I am glad, however, of how obedient you’ve been since those first few days when things were… shall we say, difficult. You’ve become a model subject. Your progress is impressive, I must say. It is time, therefore, to get you out of this room and into the next stage of our facilities. I think you will find them more comfortable than these rooms.”
The woman stood up, and moved the chair to one side. The panel of steel wall behind her instantly slid open. She beckoned to Marianne, and gestured toward the open doorway, which seemed to lead into a hallway made of some more steel.
“Well…?” she said. “I hope you’re not going to make this difficult.” A threatening note was evident in her voice as she continued with “You know what happens then, don’t you, Marianne?”
Marianne got to her feet. She strode through the door, shivering slightly at the thought of what would happen if she struggled now. She really, truly didn’t want to know.