A flash of light illuminates his still closed eyes. He opens them slowly. Without a single thought in his mind he looks around. When he takes a step forward he suddenly bumps into a piece of glass. Confused, he touches the glass with both hands but realises soon that he is stuck. His mind starts to race, feeling claustrophobic he tries to smash the glass with his shoulder without vail. While banging on the glass he notices his surroundings. He is in the middle of nowhere. The sky is purple and cloudy. The sun is about to set, creating a bright yellow colour at the horizon. The beauty of the scenery calms him a bit. While looking around he notices that the ground is covered by some purple plant. The mountains in the distances are in a reddish colour. While looking into the distance he can see a person approaching, alone. A tall blond women walks up to him with an relaxing smile. She touches the outside of the container and suddenly it opens itself. Unsure if he is suppose to be frightened or relived he greets her with an insecure voice “H…hello?”.
“Welcome number 251, please follow me,” she replies.
Still unsure what to make of all this he decides to leave the container and come with her. After walking behind her for a few minutes he asks. “Why do you call me by number?”
The women stops and looks at him. “So you remember your name?”
“Ye…,” he interrupts himself and starts thinking, but draws a blank. He tries to recall anything prior to the last few minutes. He ends up with nothing. “I don’t remember anything, who am I? where are we?”
The women turns around and continues to walk while explaining to him. “We don’t know much ourselves I am afraid. The reason I call you 251 is because you are the 251st person to appear from the device. Everyone has had the same experience, nobody remembers anything about themselves or where they come from.”
He looks back at the device that he emerged from and says. “A transporter?”
“Most likely,” she replies,“ where we are though, is something I don’t know. My number is 45 by the way, but you can call me Pen if you like. Do you have any preferences to what you would like to be called?” She says while bringing up her note pad, ready to write down his answer.
Suddenly, he experiences a large headache. He puts his hand on his forehead and images starts to appear. He can see a women speaking to him. He can hear the words. “Tom… Tom?”
He regains his composure and says, “Tom?” as a question rather than a statement of his name. However Pen makes note of it and moves on. Tom follows closely behind, quietly listening to what Pen has to say. They arrive at what looks like a small village with a few facilities. They walk up to a greenhouse which Pen explains is where the majority of their food supply comes from. Tom looks curiously into the different kinds of plants that grow there. After a while he realises that Pens voice has gone quite, he looks around and she is not next to him anymore. He can see her walking further down the road. Tom rushes over to her quickly.
“… we eat three times a day, six in the morning, at noon, and six in the after noon.”
Tom thinks to himself. Has she been talking this whole time?
Suddenly, Pen stops in the middle of a hallway and says. “Any questions?”
“Yeah, can you start from the beginning please?”
She sighs heavily ignoring his request. “Tomorrow you will be introduced to the rest of the residents and after that we will try to find your skill so that you can contribute to the welfare of the colony.”
Tom looks confused back at Pen. She roles her eyes and says. “Naturally we will have to find a job for you, we cannot allow people loitering around being useless now can we?”
Tom can feel the pressure already and starts sweating. She notices this and says. “You should not worry however, even though you have lost your memory your profession will be apparent soon. Every single person in this colony is an expert at something, I am sure your case will be no different.”
This comforts Tom a little. She opens the door next to her. “Now get some sleep, we will start the meeting before breakfast at 5.30.”
Tom has to hunker down to be able to fit into the door. The room is small and spartan, with only the basic necessities. There is a bed, a toilet and a sink, but without any windows. This reminds him on how much he loves to look at the view back home. Without realising it, he remembers something about his past and images starts to flash before his eyes again.
He is sitting on a park bench overlooking a playground. Someone puts their hand on his leg and he looks at her. A brown haired women with hazel coloured eyes is looking back at him. The woman turns her head over to the playground and Tom does the same. A little girl comes running towards him, shouting. “Daddy!” With a happy smile on her face.
The image is interrupted when Pen ask. “Do you have any questions?”
Tom looks around is room, confirming that what he sees is real. “Well?” Pen asks again.
Tom looks at her with a confused expression on his face. “N… No, I am fine, thank you.”
Pen shrugs and closes the door. Tom lays down on the bed. Completely exhausted for some reason. He quickly falls asleep. All of a sudden he is at he park again, sitting next to the brown haired women. She moves her lips but no words are coming out of her mouth. Tom stares into the hazel coloured eyes. For some reason he feels happy and safe just by looking at her. At the corner of his eyes he catches glimpse of something. Tom stands up to get a better view. He sees something emerging in the distance. Tom suddenly feels extremely frightened and shouts for the little girl.
The brown haired women looks back and is equally frightened. She rushes out of her seat and starts looking for her. After ferociously searching for her they eventually find her hiding behind the slide. Tom grabs the girl and starts running towards a group of soldiers. Behind him he can hear people shouting. “Murderers! Fascists!”
While running through the group of soldiers, Tom hears several guns being fired. Echoing through the neighbourhood. Followed by screams of anguish. Suddenly, the vision ends and Tom wakes up. He is sweating heavily and his heartbeat is beating rapidly. He gets up and sits down by the side of the bed, trying to make sense of what he saw. Are they visions or memories? How did I lose my memory? Do I have a family? If so, where are they? He recalls the scenery of the vision, the park was beautiful, with green grass and trees, the sky was blue. Suddenly the door opens and Tom is greeted by Pen that says. “Good you are awake.”
Tom grunts irritated and thinks that a simple `good morning´ would have been nice. Regardless, he gets dressed while Pen waits for him. He follows her to the meeting hall. The room is already filled with people. On top of the wall at the far end of the room there is a digital counter. When Tom gets in the counter turns to 251. Pen gives him a short introduction to the residents and states their expectations of him. He can hear the monotony in her voice. He thinks to himself, she must have done this about 200 times by now. Tom notices that the residents don’t look very excited either.
Pen continues. “Before we have breakfast, is there anything else on the agenda today?”
A man stands up and speaks loudly. “I think that I speak for all of us when I say that our food situation needs to be improved. Tom can hear agreeing mumbles among the crowed.
Therefore I propose that we allocate more resources for food production from less… necessary departments.” The man says while glancing at the research team.
The research team gets the hint and a man stands up to defend his department. “I cannot deny that being able to sustain ourselves is important, but don’t forget, we know very little about this planet. It is imperative for our continued survival that we learn more about the environment we live in.”
It seems that most people agrees with him as well, he continues. “However, we could always allocate resources from the engineer department. They don’t seem to do much anyway.”
An outraged member of the engineer team stands up, but Tom has stopped listening.
Tom leans over to Pen and asks if he can leave, she is listening intently on the discussion and just nods at him. Tom exits quietly. Outside, he notices an old man leaning on the wall looking through the small window on the door. “Look at these buffoons,” the old man says. Squabbling amongst themselves. If it weren’t for Pen this whole colony would slip down into anarchy”.
Tom looks through the windows of the door. People are getting rowdy, but Pen gets them under control. The old man starts to walk away but Tom stops him and asks. “Whats your name?”
He turns around and looks at Tom. “You can call me Ben, i don’t care for the numbers”.
The days pass by and Tom is assigned to different working stations, from farming to research, but he is unsuccessfully in any of the professions that he tries his hands on. After a few weeks Tom has become a complete outcast, despised by his follow residents. One day, after another failed attempt to be useful, Tom burst out of the facility. Frustrated, he walks briskly out in to the field. During his walk Tom notices a huge planet right in front of him, it has a red atmosphere, and has a eery beauty surrounding it. The sight makes him forget about his troubles for a little while. He continues to walk and to contemplate without realising that he has been walking towards the transporter. He walks up to it and thinks about his arrival to this world. He touches the glass, stroking the outside with his hand. Then he starts thinking. If I could not exit by myself, how did the first person to arrive get out?
With this realisation he rushes back to the facilities, receiving evil eyes along the way from his fellow residents. Tom meets up with Pen who is discussing something with another resident. Tom abruptly interrupts her, but she ignores him. However Tom, being too existed by his discovery, doesn’t give up. Pen finally gives in and turns around and yells. “WHAT?!”
Tom grabs her by the arm and drags her around the corner where they can talk privately. Tom puts both his hands on Pens shoulders and looks her straight into her eyes. “Who is the first person to be transported here?”
Confused about the question, Pen answers. “What do you mean?”
“Someone has to have built this place for us, am I right?
“Yes but we have theorised that they either sent the facilitates remotely, or they built it here but left before anyone came through the transporter.”
“Then how did the first person leave the transporter?”
She looks back at him. Her eyes becomes bigger. Tom can see that she understand and continues. “Right? and that person MUST know something that we don’t.”
Tom lets go of her. He can see from her facial expression that she irritated of herself for not coming up with this conclusion herself. While looking at Pen, Tom notices the man she was talking to before starts to approach them. Pen sees him as well and says angrily. “Look, I don’t have time to investigate this, but since you don’t have anything to do anyway you can spend a lot more time on this.”
She gives him a passcode and says. “This will give you access to the personal files of everyone here.” She says while pointing out the location of the data base on her note pad.
Tom makes a big smile and is about to run off when Pen stops him. “Don’t let anyone see you okay? I was entrusted with the privacy of these people, if the colony loses trust in me there is no telling what could happen.”
Tom is all to aware of the unstable nature in the colony and promises to be careful. He walks down the hallway looking behind his back several times to make sure that he is not followed. Suddenly he bumps into one of the residents. “Well well, if it isn’t mr. waste of space, you are an embarrassment you know that?” The man says while bumping into Toms shoulder when walking past him.
Tom is far too excited to be upset and continues to the data base. In front of the door Tom takes an extra look over his shoulders before successfully entering the room by using the passcode. The room is filled with storage units and cooling fans, luckily, there is only one computer screen. Tom searches through the interface and soon finds the personal data file. He quickly scrolls down the names until he finds the person he was looking for. Tom reads. “No. 1 Benjamin, deceased.”
Tom just stares at the screen, completely dumfounded. The person with all the answers is dead! After 5 minutes he gets up from the chair and walks away, his spirit in shambles. He updates Pen on the situation and decides to never speak of this again. One day, during another morning meeting, yet another heated argument is unfolding. Tom is standing outside looking through the small window, with a stern look on his face. Ben walks up to him from the hallway and says. “I heard that you have been snooping around.”
Tom looks at Ben with a raised eyebrow, Ben continues. “Be careful, you might find more than you bargain for.”
Tom is about to reply when suddenly he hears a loud noise coming from the meeting hall. Tom looks inside and finds that people are fighting and Pen is in the middle of it. Tom rushes in without a moments thought, separating the fighters. After a few minutes the situation calms down. Pen throws herself at Tom, whispering. “Thank you.”
Surprised by the sudden show of emotion, Tom lets it happen and hugs her back. Tom can almost feel the stress being relived from her body. The hug last for a while and people are starting to get uncomfortable. While hugging, Tom notices the the numbers on the digital screen, 251. He asks Pen, ending the hug. “Is everyone resident accounted for in this room right now?”
She looks confused back at him and says. “Yes, why?”
Tom looks through the window at the door. “Ben is gone…”
He thinks for a few seconds and then bursts out. “Benjamin!”
He lets go of Pen and rushes out of the hall. The hallway is empty, Pen catches up with him and asks whats going on.
Tom asks. “Do we have a resident that does not live inside these facilities?”
“Yes one person.”
“Tom grabs Pen at the arm and says, “Show me!”
Tom starts running forcing Pen to keep up until she starts leading the way. They go outside of the main facility and walks for 10 minutes until the reach a very similar structure as the main facility, only a lot smaller. They walk up to the structure and takes a closer look. Tom says. “It has an exhausted pip at the bottom.”
They look at each other, realising that this is a space ship. Suddenly they hear a voice behind them. “Did I not tell you that you will find more than you bargain for if you continue digging?”
Tom and Pen gets startled and turns around towards the voice. They are greeted by Ben´s rugged face. With all the mystery surrounding this man, Tom has to ask. “Who are you?”
Ben sighs and says. “Please come inside and I will tell you what I know.”
Pen and Tom looks at each other, hesitating for a few seconds before accepting his invite. The room is cramped, it does not seem like the design was meant for people to stand up straight. “Is this yours?”, Pen asks.
Ben looks at Pen with a serious face and says. “I think I better start from the beginning.”
He sits down at the other end of the room, waiting for his guests to find a comfortable position. When they do he begins. “As you already know, I am the first person to be transported here, so I am afraid to say that I don’t know anymore than you do regarding where we were transported from and what our purpose are.”
Tom looks a bit disappointed even though he figured as much already, but continues to listen closely. “When I first arrived here there were three people to greet me, they claimed that they were the ones that assembled the main structures in the colony. This here was their landing pod, Ben looks over at Pen and says. “And before you ask, it is not capable of flying anymore, I am sorry.”
Pen turns her eyes away, a bit ashamed that she was so transparent.
Ben continues. “For some reason they would not tell me about where they came from. The very mention of their home made them extremely depressed. Apparently knowing the people you left behind is far worse than forgetting about them when knowing that you can never see them again.”
Ben looks at Tom as if he is hinting at something, when he gets no reaction from Tom, he continues. “Anyway, for a whole year not a single person arrived through the transporter, and the three astronauts mental health started to deteriorate. One of them could not stand living without his friends and family anymore. It did not help that he didn’t get along well with the rest of us either. In the end he decided to commit suicide. That is what I think happened anyway, but the other two astronauts thought otherwise, they started blaming each other. For some reason they did not think that I was capable of murder. I was not corrupted by the societies past mistakes or something. I still don’t understand what they were talking about, maybe they were crazy from the start.”
Ben pauses for a second, looking into the distance. Eventually he continues. “They started fighting and they killed each other, leaving me alone. Luckily the frequency of the transports started to increase and new people arrived almost weekly. And that is all I know. Sorry to disappoint.”
Nobody says anything. Ben’s sad story did not give them any worthwhile clues. However, Tom is still curious and ask. “Why did you fake your own death and live outside of the colony?”
“Well its quite simple actually. After what happened with the astronauts and the attitudes of the residents here, I started to lose faith in people. Pen should know more than anyone Why she keeps working her ass of for these people is beyond me.”
Both of them turn their eyes towards Pen. She stays silent for a few seconds but eventually says. “I could tell you that it is all a noble sacrifice to keep the colony a float. But, there is not such thing as unselfish incentives.”
She pauses, uncomfortable of being vulnerable to other people. “In reality, I was not suited for any of the the professions available here. Just like you Tom, I was an outcast, but eventually I found that I had a knack for administrative work. Even though they drive me crazy with their petty squabbles, at least they respect me. Nothing is more terrifying than being alone, especially in our small world.”
Everyone is quite for a while, reflecting on what has been said. Ben breaks the silence and says. “Good answer.” And then looks at Tom. “What she says is true, being an outcast among 250 people is terrible lonely. For a while we did not believe that anymore people would come through that thing, but then you came along Tom, number 251. Maybe we will receive people weekly like before.”
Suddenly, Toms head starts to hurt immensely, and his mind is send somewhere else. Tom finds himself in the transporter again, but the location is different. He is in a closed of room with a lot people sitting behind computers. He recognises his wife and baby girl standing in front of him. She touches the glass from the outside and Tom does the same , meeting hers from the inside. Suddenly people are dying all around them and one of the bullet goes through his wives stomach. She looks at him with frightened and sad eyes, Tom starts screaming but no sound is going through the glass. He continuously bangs at the glass and can see her slowly falling to the ground still holding their daughter.
A flash of light blinds him and Tom is back in the small room with Pen and Ben. Tom is lying down on the floor with Pen leaning over him. He sits up and touches his head that is still hurting. Pen says. “Thank god, I though we lost you.”
Tom ignores her words and suddenly says. “I remember everything.”
Pen laughs a little, unsure if she heard him right. “Ha ha…what?”
He looks her, directly into her eyes and repeats. “I remember everything.”
Tom stands up and leaves the pod, briskly walking in a random direction. So many thoughts is appearing at the same time that he just want to be alone. Regardless, Ben and Pen follows him a few meters from behind. On the way, Tom stops and looks up at the red planet that he saw the other day. “Its earth… my family… they are dead…”
He falls on his knees and continues to stare at the planet. Ben and Pen catches up to him. “We destroyed it you know, we could have done something but we didn’t… this colony is humanities last hope, and my entire family was supposed to be here with me.”
Ben and Pen looks at each other not sure what to make of this, Tom continues. “We decided that human society was too corrupt, so the only solution was to start from the beginning.”
“Is that why our memories was erased?”, Pen asks.
Ben dries his tears, “Yes, we send the worlds best and brightest to restart everything, and to make sure that there was no lose ends (…)”
Suddenly, the earth starts imploding, swallowing everything around it until there is nothing left. Ben and Pen looks in shock as the planet right in front of them disappears, being completely erased from existence.
Tom continues. “(…) the earth had to be destroyed. With all its past mistakes with it.”
While staring into the now emptiness of space, he is reminded of a quote. “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important lesson that history has to teach”, Aldous Huxley.