Quin and Blair followed closely behind the group, still shaken up by the man on the bus. They craned their necks looking up at the huge building. It was shaped like a triangular prism standing on its end. They approached a triangular doorway. Quin made a mental note that this was not PYKSEL headquarters, this site was built specifically for The Prism, he took in all his surroundings, he knew that he would need to know as much as he could. He feared that his life would depend on it, and more importantly, Blair’s.
As they entered the doorway they were hit with a rush of cool air. The hair on the back of Quin’s neck stood on end. Not because of the cool air, but because it felt… controlled, as if every breath he took was being watched and monitored. Every glare would not go unnoticed. Quin had to be careful. He realized he was holding his breath. He let a slow sigh through his nose and squeezed Blair’s hand.
After walking straight down a long and narrow hallway, the group entered a large foyer area. Three walls surrounded them. Hallways formed in the corners where the walls met each other on each side, one of which kept going directly ahead of them as they entered. Quin looked up and the ceiling seemed to go up forever, but it didn’t appear to go all the way up. Quin assumed there was at least another floor up there. There was nothing in the common area they were in. No furniture, no desks, no plants, just solid white flooring and matching walls. Every shift in step echoed around them.
Aside from the one they came through, there was one other door here. In the center of the left wall was a large white door. It almost went unnoticed until Quin noticed the shadows of its creased outlines. About thirty feet above the door was a balcony. It was also hard to notice since what was behind it was also pure white. It didn’t appear many other people noticed because many were breathing heavily, nervous, while others were tapping their foot to display an echo of frustration.
“Hello,” A man in the group yelled. “We’re here.”
The only response came from the hallway that was directly in front of them when they entered. The sound of loud, slow footsteps silenced the group. It was too dark to see down the hallway to see who it was. Click…. Click…. Click…. It seemed to go on forever, but the sound grew progressively louder until a tall, thin woman emerged from the shadows. She wore a short, tight white dress with a black belt around her mid waist. The sound they heard came from her white heels that covered only her toes. She had straight brown hair and one piercing blue eye. The left eye was pure white, no pupil or color, as if someone took a marble and replaced her eye with it. Her bright red lipstick seemed to be the only distraction from the blinding white that surrounded them. She walked with confidence and poise and she used her femininity as her greatest strength. She stopped in front of the group and laced her fingers together as she rested her hands in front of her before she spoke.
“Hello, and welcome to The Prism,” she said with a rehearsed smile. “I am sure you are all wondering exactly what The Prism is and what your role is in it. Those questions will soon be answered, but first,” she unlaced her fingers and held up her index finger. She continued, “I would like to introduce myself. My name is Karen Ross. I am the senior director here at the Prism. My role is to monitor the successes and failures of this program and lead our teams to make the necessary adjustments to make it as smooth and safe as possible. We have five vital teams here. We have our engineers, who create the programs and machinery we use to run this program. Our accountants, who punch all the numbers for us so that we can provide a fair and accurate simulated economy. Then we have our medical department. They look over not just the physical aspects of this simulation but also the mental effects it has on participants. Our physicists also have a very important role. Our engineers rely on them to provide the physics necessary to make the experience as real as possible. Lastly, we have our historians. They research past wars and outcomes to provide realistic probabilities on what it takes to end a war and how far it can realistically be pushed to. They also will be the one’s recording future history as it happens here in The Prism. Each department has two leads. They are the best in their fields. If you look up to your left, you can see them in the balcony there.” She motioned her hand up and to our left.
The group followed her gesture to see ten individuals standing stiffly in the cramped space. Quin felt Blair grab him tightly on the arm.
“Ouch, why’d you do that for?” He looked down at her. Her mouth was hanging open looking up at the ten leaders. Quin looked back up and finally noticed. On the far right of the group were two people who he hadn’t seen in years, two people who had decided he wasn’t worth it anymore. His parents now stood above him after years of silence. Quin’s first instinct was to look away, to hide. He knew they wouldn’t recognize him in his new body, but he didn’t want to take any chances. They finally walked away as the group was left alone again with Karen. Blair was still squeezing Quin’s hand tightly, or was he squeezing hers? He wasn’t sure anymore.
“I know you are all probably very confused still, so I’m going to let this much sink in for the day. I will show you guys where you will be sleeping. You will be sharing a room with four people. They are not assigned right now. You may choose to stay with a partner or friends but it will be random after that. Once your rooms are assigned, they cannot be changed.” Her tone became much more serious as she continued. “Remember this carefully. Your roommates will be your team. Almost consider them family. You will rely on them throughout your time here. Don’t let each other down. Everyone else is your enemy.” She paused and the silence that followed was deafening. After a few moments someone broke it.
“What does that mean?” A woman asked.
“Your questions on the specifics of The Prism will be answered tomorrow. I kindly suggest you wait until then to hear them.” Karen said sternly. When no one else interjected she said, “Follow me. I will show you first the kitchen and other areas you can access freely during your time here.” She walked past us to their left. They turned and followed her past the white door towards the hallway to the left of where the group entered.
When they entered the hallway, it took Quin a moment to adjust to the color. The blinding white was brighter than he thought. His eyes adjusted to the cool blue walls. It seemed almost welcoming.
“There are a few amenities that you can benefit from during your free time here.” Karen stopped with her hands behind her back outside of a doorway in the center of the hallway. It appeared to be the only doorway there. “This is called The HUE, for Humanity, Utility, and Entertainment. There are three floors to The HUE. The first floor is the dining hall.” She opened the door for us to look inside. It appeared to be a nice cafeteria area with different food options. “We aren’t going to be taking a tour right now, as you will later in smaller groups. However, the second floor is a gym with everything you could imagine for fitness needs. Everyone will be required to go there, but you may access it more on your free time if you wish. The third floor is the arcade where you can use the technology of The PRISM for entertainment value and have a little fun. There is a fourth floor but it’s the medical wing and you will only be there if needed.” She closed the door and walked past up back towards where they had come. “Follow me.”
We entered back into the white room and went right towards the hallway there. This hallway was green, and many doors lined the right-hand side of the hallway. She stopped just inside the hallway. She stared blankly past us, and her right eye went back and forth like she way reading something. Her right eye was hard to figure out as there was no pupil to follow. It appeared to be some sort of lens for her to see and read information on. She cleared her throat and spoke. “Alright, I hope you have figured out who you want to room with. We will be going down the list alphabetically. You will bring whoever you want, up to three, with you, and the rest will be filled in randomly. She turned and walked and stopped in front of the first door. “Michael Aaron.” A short stalky man stepped up with two people behind him.
“That’s me,” he said in a nervous tone.
“Wonderful,” she said, not even looking at him. “And who are these two?”
A tall girl with a dark complexion stepped up beside Michael. She looked tough. “Andromeda Karr.”
A taller man stepped up after her. “Justin Smith.”
“Alright,” Karen said apathetically. “Daren Blake, you will be joining them.” Another man stepped up and joined the other three. She placed her hand on the door and it opened. “Make yourselves at home and unpack. Further instruction will be delivered shortly.” The group of four disappeared into their room while the rest of the group followed her to the second door. “Quincy Adams.” It took Quin a moment to register his name. He knew it was coming but he was stuck where he was. “Quincy Adams,” she said with less patience.
Blair pushed him, and he stepped forward. “Here, I’m here,” he said quickly.
“And I’m Blair. Blair Woods,” she said.
“Jordan Hart, please join.” A heavy-set girl with bleached blonde hair stepped forward. A man with a hood on stepped up behind her. He pulled off his hood as he said his name, “Timothy Derick.” Quin resisted the urge to scream. It was the man from the bus, the man that died. Timothy gave a warm smile and was the first to enter the room when Karen opened it. It took Quin and Blair a moment before they could follow. It took every ounce of consciousness to process what they were seeing. A dead man was now their roommate. How could this be? Quin reached into his pocket and felt the ripped paper that he grasped from that man’s cold dead hands. They followed him inside and closed the door behind them.