Robin de Voh
there's never enough stories

Nanoprep 2021 Day 17: Callan's Hill

By Robin de Voh on 2021-10-26

I didn't have a name. So I chose one. I am Callan. You might wonder why I'm standing on this hill, looking out over a world I despise, or you may not be wondering much at all. Perhaps you were part of why I'm here, and you're mostly intrigued as to what the next part will bring.

Statistically, however, it's more likely you're not part of all of this, and you're more likely to end up a victim of it.

Either way, I'll explain.

Powerful people with powerful friends have always thought they could get away with anything. And whereas most people know that at least somewhere deep down -- that the world is unfair -- I got to experience that first-hand. And it wasn't in a positive way, as you might have hoped. But I think by now it should be rather obvious I'm not a fan of these powerful people and the games they play with the rest of us.

I wasn't powerful. I was just a kid. I don't know who my parents are, and I'm not even sure where I came from originally, but my first memories were already in the Bath.

They say if you lose a sense, like eyesight, the other senses compensate. There's some evidence to bear that out, but usually the effect is limited, just enough to get around a little bit better. But then there's the blind people who develop echolocation skills and truly overstep their limitations in an unexpected way.

I was part of a group of children chosen to experiment on. From what I can gather now, the hypothesis was that if pushed far enough, not only would other senses compensate for missing ones, but the brain would unlock new pathways to try and regain as much functionality as possible. Do this on someone who hasn't actually lost any senses, and there might be new powers to be unlocked.

That was what the Bath was for. It was light-proof, sound-proof, and somehow gravity-less. I'm not sure how it worked exactly. I was in some fluid, but I wouldn't sink or float, and it didn't hinder my movement much, but I couldn't feel anything while I was in there. No smells, and no tastes. My mouth was bound with cloth so I couldn't scream. I could hear the muffled sounds I would make myself, but even that felt dead somehow due to the Bath's design.

There was nothing in there. Just me. All of my thoughts, and nothing to feed them.

For hours on end, I'd float in nothingness. Pulled out only for sleep, alone in a room that was only half as bad as the Bath.

I never met anyone else my age, but I could sometimes hear them through walls or around corners while I was being taken to or from the Bath.

Then, years in, they changed things. They would sometimes leave the light on. Or they would play music. But never more than one sense active at a time, and never for long. And when you've just spent 4 hours in darkness, any kind of light was blinding. Sound was deafening.

After a few years -- I was 10 by this time -- my senses started to do odd things. I would smell light, or taste sound. Something in my brain wasn't right, and it scared me. But the few scientists I saw seemed enthusiastic.

"Good job," one said to me at some point, before being told never to speak to me as if I'm a person.

I took that hint.

Over the years, the sense confusion grew, but I learned how to shut it out. I could ignore the sound, light, flavor they'd add to the fluid in the Bath. I had gotten used to the nothingness, it was preferable to the experiments they were doing on me now, so I longed for it.

One day, however, things changed yet again. They turned the sound on -- Debussy's Nocturnes, I knew it well by now, composition, taste, smell and imagery alike -- and I was not in the mood for it.

So I blocked it out. Hard.

I could hear a loud clunk, a fizzle, and then shouting. The Bath door opened suddenly and they pulled me out. As they hauled me out of there by my arms, I could see fire.

"Put it out!"
"How the HELL did he do that?"

They dragged me from that room straight to my sleeping room. Then they turned around and locked the door.

I was in there for days, I think. I didn't have ways of keeping time, but it felt like it was that long.

The door suddenly opened and a man I'd never seen before came in. He looked older than most of the scientists I'd seen throughout my life here.

"How did you do that?" the man said immediately after the door closed behind him.
"Do what?" I said, really not knowing.
"You blew up the Bath," he said, pushing his glasses back onto his nose, "when we played Debussy. Do you hate Debussy?"
"No, but I hate this place. I hate what you do to me, us."
"It's for a good cause, believe me. Now, how did you do that?"
"I don't know. I wanted the music to stop, so I made it stop. That's all."

I shrugged. I really wasn't sure what was happening either, but I wasn't as concerned about it as this man seemed to be. Didn't feel like music, music stopped, all good to me.

"Look, son, what we're trying to do here is something special. And we think you might actually be our first success. Please, help me figure out what happened, and I'm sure we can get you into a better place than this."

I thought about the offer. I didn't care why they were doing what they were doing, but getting out of here sounded good. Especially because obviously I was going to try to get out even more than this asshole thought.

"Okay, I'll cooperate, but get me out of here first."
"Alright," the man smiled a little, "I'll see what I can do."

It took another few days -- I think -- and the man came back. He'd arranged things, I was getting out of here, and they were taking me right away.

I'd been practicing in the days in between though. Now that I know what I did was special, I wanted to try and see what else I could do. And I figured that out. And it was as special as the man had said.

When I was escorted out of the building by the man and a few security guards, I saw the outside for what I somehow thought wasn't the first time in my life. I'd definitely been outside before. And I saw a van -- I knew what that was too -- and a fence a bit further on. The fence was blocking the road out, but we seemed to be in a forested area.

So I closed my eyes tightly and focused as hard as I could.

I could hear the pops. And the screams. But then both of those stopped in an instant.

When I opened my eyes again, I saw that none of the people who had been outside were moving anymore. Which, to be honest, made sense, since I focused real hard on exploding their heads. I saw I was covered in blood, and wiped off some of it that was on my face.

I smiled and ran towards the fence. The guard who had been there ready to open the lock had a key in his hand, which I took and unlocked the fence with.

Then I ran.

Remember how I asked if you were wondering about why I was standing on a hill overlooking a world I despise?

Maybe now you understand.

I was given powers I never wanted. Through means I never consented to. I didn't have a life.

Now I have a score to settle with the world.

And I'm sorry all of you are a part of that.

This is based on a very early story of mine, at least 15 years old, which really didn't go into depth on just how fucked up this process was. The older version was called "Thax" because I was in a 'weird name' phase, I guess. But I was thinking of what old story of mine deserved a rewrite, and it was either "Thax" or "The Gift". But that last one deserves a lot more time than I have during nanoprep, so here you go!