Unauthorized To Connect
The headlights are the last thing I remember. I also remember my family, my childhood in Detroit, that my name is Alex, but I don’t remember much other than the distant past and the headlights. There is a large chunk of my memory missing, including how I got here. I am standing on a circular platform, maybe 100 yards in diameter, in what appears to be a run-down warehouse. In contrast with its dust-covered surroundings, my platform is a brilliant gold, and polished to the point that it is practically glowing. There is a path leading to the outer edge, so I follow it. At the end of the path I see a small object sticking up right at the threshold, which is tipped with a small blinking red light. The red lights triggers something, and all of a sudden my memories come flooding back.
I remember driving home. I remember a bit before that, at the custody hearing. I remember the magistrate, and the decision. I remember driving myself to that bar, and I remember leaving. Then I remember the four-way stop, or at least what I thought was a four-way stop. I remember being in the intersection, and thinking that those headlights seemed to be moving rather quickly. A least, if the driver was intending on stopping. What I don’t remember is feeling the least bit of fear. No, what I remember feeling just before waking up in the warehouse was an overwhelming sense of relief.
My knees go weak and I find myself weeping, kneeling on the floor of the brilliant golden platform. I don’t spare a single thought for the luster of the material underneath me as I pour out my sorrow. Not that it would have mattered if I had, I realize. As my mourning starts to subside and I start thinking rationally again, I see that all my tears seem to have beaded up, not affecting the brilliance of the metal one bit. I wipe the tears from my cheeks, remembering with a grimace that, at the hearing, he had promised me that he would make sure I never saw them again. I guess he was right.
I stand up and start to make my way to the edge of the platform. When I first saw it, I had perceived the blinking light to be a lazy, sputtering thing, as if it would fail at any moment. The closer I get to the object, however, the more the light fills me with foreboding. As the object gets closer, I see that it is, in fact, some kind of control panel. It is not coming out of the platform, but out of the warehouse, and has the same dust-covered-grey look to it. A metal plate is attached to the top, which reads “Waystation #3.” Below the name plate, on the left side of the panel, is the red light. I can now see that it is not just a light, but a large button. To its right is what looks to be a screen, but I can only tell that by the faint glow that comes up out of the dust. I drag a cautious hand over it and reveal the glowing letters: “Press Button to Continue.”
I stare at the screen for a few seconds while I attempt to process the meaning of the message. As if it had a mind of it’s own, my now-dust-covered hand reaches over and pushes the blinking red button. The message on the screen changes to “Waiting for Connection,” with a blinking cursor at the end. The juxtaposition of the brilliant platform with the industrial machine I seem to be operating gives the whole experience a surreal quality. After a few seconds the machine seems to connect, and the screen blanks out again. The next message that appears makes my blood run cold. There is no ceremony, no dramatic moment, or great reveal. Just another message popping up on a screen that was made for messages to pop up on. The light on the button that my shaking hand is still holding down winks out, so that all I see is the message displayed on the screen.
I stare at the screen, dumbfounded, until I notice a change in the quality of the light around me. I look down and see that the platform, which had glowed with that unearthly glow, has faded. It is now just as drab and grey as the rest of the warehouse. I look around and feel a sudden apprehension. I realize how much I had been subconsciously counting on that glorious light, and it feels as if that fading glow took my hope with it. I feel my hands shaking as I turn back to the console and read the words again:
“Unauthorized to Connect”