*Inspired by Presentable Liberty. This game is truly harrowing and encapsulates the feeling of complete isolation, all through pixalated paper, AND it’s free; who doesn’t love a freebie? I highly recommend checking it out: http://gamejolt.com/games/presentable-liberty/42997
Trigger warning for mentions of suicide.
It’s raining again. I can hear it hitting the roof. They must be big drops. Thud, thud, thud….
It’s bedtime so I can’t see outside. I’m lying in bed, looking at where my lightbulb used to be. Thick black wires that just poke into my cell. I can see their outline. I often think about tugging them out but I never have.
I can map out every inch of this room like the back of my hand. A small cuboid: floor, ceiling and four walls. Grey grey grey grey grey grey. The door is big and dull metal with a little barred grate so I can look outside, and a flap for food and letters. My bed is pressed up against the left hand wall, flat and uncomfortable with just a raggy blanket covering it. It is not quite white. The bed is slightly raised off the ground. The pillows are lumpy and splotched with brown; I never rest my head on those bits. A black and white clock hangs above me, to the right. Directly above the pillows is my only window to the outside world, a small rectangle with no covering. I am not tall enough to look through it. I’ve tried everything. The cold is biting but you get used to it. Sometimes I hope a bird will fly through and I can stroke its head, but I don’t know if the birds still live. Maybe it’s just people in trouble. That’s all that’s in my room. No desk, no pens or paper. Dr Cameron doesn’t see the point of it.
Dr Cameron writes to me a lot. I never see them deliver it. I just look up and there it is waiting for me on the floor. I put the letters under my pillow to give it some cushioning.
I don’t like the doctor. They were the one who locked me up. I don’t like the clock they gave me either. It ticks and tocks so loudly. It was meant to be “comforting”, a way for me to keep track of my life. It was, at first. Now it only reminds me that I don’t know what day it is. All I know is tick, tock.
The rain has stopped. It drowned out the ticks and the tocks. My pillows are wet but I have to sleep. I have to sleep.
I hope this letter finds you well. I can’t believe you’re still locked up in that awful place, but if I know you, you’ll be holding up something marvellous. I’m writing to you from sun-kissed mountains high up in the valleys. The clouds hang low and brush their pointed peaks, it’s stunning. The air up here is sublime, dear friend. How I wish you were here. But yet, you are always with me on my journeys; I often imagine the laughs we would have!
I miss you, friend. I have enclosed a little gift to brighten up that cell of yours. Do not despair – I will be home soon and we can work on breaking you out!
Oh Sal… I miss you.
Sal was always the dreamer, chasing down that next adventure. “Life’s too short to spend sitting around!” they’d yell. The day needed to be seized, a sunset painted or the curve of a river noted down in their Moleskine.
Sal had painted me the mountains they described in their letter, in vivid detail. My eyes watered at the vibrant colours.
This is the longest they’ve ever been away, almost a year. I’m glad they left when they did. It was six months into their excursions that things started to get strange around here. I remember it.
As I’m sure you are aware, a virus has taken hold of our population, with approximately 98% of people infected. The public is dying at an unprecedented rate due to organ failure.
But you are special, citizen.
We have reason to believe that you are part of the 2% who are uninfected. We have prepared a safe location for you so research can be conducted. We will be in contact shortly.
Everything blurs into one after that letter. I remember the black cloth bag they put over my head after breaking down my door, and hands gripping my arm so tightly that I had little fingerprint bruises. I remember the smell of blood and suddenly the smell of sterility. The silence is the only constant.
I have not seen anyone since I have been here. There has only been the letters. Sometimes I wake up and feel like someone is looking through the grate at me, but when I check the hall is empty.
A new letter. It was not Doctor Cameron. Their letters always came monogramed with a perfectly sketched stencil of their outline dead-centre. This was bright yellow, toxic yellow. It hurt my eyes.
HeY hEy hEY!!!!!!
hOW’s IT GoiNG???? I’M UR bRAnD NeW pERSoNAl BUDDY*, MR SMILEY!!!!! J I’M hERe TO MAKE sURE ThAT U R HAPPYYY!!!! TO MAKe SUrE, i BOUGHT U A gift!!!! i HOPE U liKE it!!!!!!!!
*Personal Buddy is a prototype program designed by Cameron Inc. to reduce loneliness and depression amongst our guests. Please report ANY faults to Dr Cameron IMMEDIATELY.
It’s a painting of a clown. Not a painting like Sal’s. This was… grotesque. The colours had run, reds and oranges spliced over each other. The clown looked like he was crying blood, it was running into his mouth. He was a sad clown.
Another letter. Already?
HEY beST BUd!!!!
dID U LIKE UR PResENT????? I HOPE U DID, IT COsT AN ArM AND A LEG AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA jUSt KIddING!!!!!
sPEaK SOON BUddY STAY haPPy FOR ME!!!!!!!!
I don’t know what’s worse. Looking at the clown or listening to tick tock, tick tock. No. I know. At least tick tock is familiar.
It’s getting dark. I have to sleep.
It is so peaceful in the wilderness. I’m finally learning what it means to be alone. I can go for days without seeing another soul up here. Sometimes I feel like I am the last person on Earth, dear friend; I simply cannot convince myself other people exist. Madness, I know!
As much as I’m enjoying my ramble, I think home is calling my name. My, I’m excited! There is nothing quite like the smell of home, don’t you agree? That feeling of contentment when you step over the threshold into your own home is unbeatable.
But of course, none of that will compare to seeing you, my wonderful friend! Yes, the voice that beckons me home is yours! I’m on my way!
Sal’s finally coming home! Oh, it’s been so long, please hurry. But wait… What are they coming home to? I can only hear silence. The occasional bird sings, and once or twice I’ve heard a scream. Who knows what life is like out there now?
But it’s not my place to worry. It’s not my place to do anything. The doctor says that I’m too important to be left to my own devices, that in time my purpose will “become clear”. They say Cameron Inc. is working around the clock to develop cures, but they haven’t done any ‘research’ on me yet.
I don’t know what to believe anymore. I don’t have to believe anything; I can sit on my bed and count up my letters, or lie down at the foot of the bed and stare out of my window as the sun sets.
I think the days are getting longer because the sun hasn’t set yet. Today the sky is grey, not blue. Sometimes I think my eyes are deceiving me. I don’t know what to believe anymore. One day I’ll wake up and my blanket will be soft to touch and nice to smell and it will be coral blue. That’s my favourite colour in the whole word. That’s why I like to look out of my window during the day; sometimes the sky is so blue you could run your finger through it and write your name in big bold letters across the sky. I’d like that a lot.
A pretty pink envelope is on the floor of my room. The border of the envelope is rimmed with a white band.
I do hope this is reaching someone. I can’t be the only one left, I can’t be…
Please forgive my rudeness; my name is Charlie, I used to run the bakery on the High Street before everything changed. Perhaps you and I met before, over a loaf of bread? Ha. That’s actually how I’ve managed to survive this long. I haven’t had to go outside to find food; I’ve just been using up my ingredients.
But I’m starting to run out of time. I can still see out of my shop window. People’s bodies are just giving up on them. I look out and I can see people with blood crusted around their mouths from vomiting so violently. There are people with jaundiced skin, clumps of hair falling out and rotting teeth. How long before that happens to me? No-one bothers to clear the bodies anymore.
It’s lonely here. The silence is beginning to get to me; how long can one person go without talking to another? I don’t think I want to find out.
I feel awfully silly doing this, but the prison is the only building left in town with its power still working. That must mean something, right? I have to try.
A letter from the outside… How bizarre. Sal is one thing, but this? This is strange. Why is it being delivered to me? Charlie, Charlie, Charlie… I don’t know anyone by that name, and I never went into that bakery either. Maybe Dr Cameron knows what’s happening. Yes, I’m sure they’ll send a letter to explain all this. Any minute now.
Is this really the state of things out there? People dying in the streets like animals. I can’t imagine it. It’s strange, you would think I’d be able to smell that kind of decay. I must be high up. It’s for the best I suppose.
Ah, here’s the letter from Dr Cameron.
Good Day Mr Smiley,
We have noticed that you have not hit your daily quota of letters for your assigned prisoner for several days now.
The Personal Buddy prototype must be a success, Mr Smiley. We cannot afford to lose any more prisoners to depression.
Please remember you will not see your daughters again until you lower the prison’s suicide rates.
Have a pleasant day, Mr Smiley.
The poor man. Perhaps he’s locked in this place with me. I look out of my grate. The view from my room has always puzzled me; all the other doors on the block are white and wooden. Dr Cameron said that this was a low-security facility, but with me they had to take ‘certain precautions’. They wouldn’t tell me why.
We believe you have received a letter addressed to a Mr Smiley.
We would like to apologise for this administrative error and assure you that it will be swiftly taken care of.
Doctor Cameron is taking time out of their busy schedule to say EVERYTHING IS FINE. Please continue with your day.
Everything is fine. It’s getting harder and harder to believe.
I look out of my window. The sun is starting to set but my mind is abuzz. I haven’t felt this stimulated in a long time. Even the drab grey walls have started to shimmer a little.
I’ve never woken up to a stack of letters before. I’ve never gotten out of bed so quickly.
HEY BeSt BUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
hOW’S IT GoING???? I HOPe ur hAPPY, EVEN tHo UR IN PrISoN!!!! jUST KNOW THAT I AM AlwAYS THINKING ABOUT U.
stAy HAppY FOR ME BUDDY.
Something strange is happening.
People are flocking to the prison – I daren’t go outside, but from what I can gather, Dr Cameron has started selling an antidote for the virus, but a hugely inflated price.
I don’t trust this. Why would your first instinct be to profit off of a mass illness? I’ve heard the rumours about Cameron, everyone has, but I always hoped they were just that. You don’t think he somehow caused all this, do you?
I hope that you’re receiving these letters. Do they even bother to deliver them in times like this? You could be dead for all I know.
No… I mustn’t think like this…
I hope to hear from you soon. I really do.
My friend… What has happened to our home? I can scarcely believe it. The streets are littered with corpses and the pavement is red; it looked strangely like rust at first, dark and heavy. But then the smell hits you.
I have only seen one other person since I got back. I spotted them from afar. They were limping heavily, clutching their stomach as if their life depended on it. They were a fair distance from me when they collapsed. I immediately ran over.
Their shirt was soaked through with blood. It was fresh and yet a smell of rot hung in the air. I looked at their face. The eyes were glazed over and sweat was pooling on their forehead – they didn’t have long left. I lifted up their shirt. A jaggered scar ran vertically across their stomach, poorly held together by stitches. They were taut and bursting at the seams, blood spilling through the gaps. A piece of pink flesh was caught between the stitches; the smell was the strongest there.
Monstrous things have happened here. We must leave immediately.
I am coming for you, my friend. Godspeed.
I scrabble for the letters stacked under my pillow. None of them are dated. Fragmented words leap out from the blur of ink. This is too much, way too much…
Sal is coming for me. Sal will explain to me. But what if the doctor gets here first? What if what Charlie’s suggesting is true, what does that mean for me?
I sit on my bed. When I need to think I sit straight-backed, legs spread wide apart, hands resting on my knees. I have spent many hours sat like this, thinking about times gone by.
More letters are waiting for me.
I HoPe UR DOING WeLL. REMEMBER THat tOMOrroW IS A neW DAY.
CAN I teLL U A SecRET?
I. Don’t. Care.
I am not your friend. I was never your friend.
The doctor told me that if I complied, my daughters would be kept happy and safe.
But the doctor lied.
My daughters are dead.
I didn’t even get to say goodbye… But to you, I will.
You are one of the few people left uninfected, and Dr Cameron has grand plans for you. “You are worth every penny”, that’s what they say.
You need to escape. Find something to keep fighting for, even if it’s just the idea of seeing one last sunset outside of a cell, or the feeling of fresh air on your skin.
I hope you had better luck than I did.
I’m an idiot. Why did I think there would be anyone left in this hell-hole? God, I feel so stupid. And yet I keep writing…
I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to look out of my window and see another poor soul staggering down the street, trying to hold their stomach stitches together. I can’t stand hearing them cry out, waiting for someone who never comes.
I can’t do this anymore. I really thought someone would reply, you know? How did things get this way? No matter. It’ll be over soon; I found some rope in the basement. I can’t pretend I’m not scared, but I am tired of this place.
Sorrow overwhelms me. Tears fall on the letters, making the ink swim. I let them fall to the floor; how did it come to this?
No. There’s no time for this. Sal is coming. I must be ready. I will be ready. I lie on my bed and wait for the tears to dry.
Footsteps approach. A jingle of keys and my door is open. I don’t remember the faces, just the black cloth bag they put over my head.