I gave up on trying to get more out of him. Maybe I hoped that I would make more sense out of the situation around me if I kept going on. Maybe those rebels would help me find reason in this mess that was constantly swirling in my head. Maybe I could get true allies with real faces and presence among those rebels on the other side of all the rubble, waiting for me to find them.
The thought of finally meeting other people in person filled my mind. I wondered how they’d look like. I couldn’t remember seeing any human being, so I could only picture them as I pictured myself. Then again I’ve only seen my own reflection once and I wasn’t even surely if that was real. I instinctively had an idea about how a human’s appearance, that’s why I was petrified when I first looked into the mirror. But there was no guarantee that my instincts were right. It’s equally possible that what I called a “monster” is what we would consider a “regular look”…
As I was digging my way to freedom with all the strength left in my arms, pushing myself beyond of what I was capable of, almost as if I tapped into forces of inhuman, animalistic nature, a sudden fear came to me and I couldn’t shake it no matter how hard I tried. I realized that I thought of the rebels as my saviours even before I had actually met them. What if they won’t help me at all? What if I really was a monster on the outside and they’d kill me the instant I approached them. And how would I reach out to them even if they wouldn’t find me hostile? I didn’t know if they’d understand my words or they’d just hear gibberish. I didn’t have the ability to connect to them.
Once I reached that conclusion I stopped. I couldn’t continue on. I didn’t have the strength nor the means to proceed. I was nothing. I was not of this world. I did not really exist here. Tears were trying to burst out, but they just kept welling up, not breaking through the dam that was in their way. I was so empty that I couldn’t even cry. My emotions were just as shallow and fake as everything else about me. I could never see others, and they could never feel my presence. I should have just died right then and there. The walls should have finally given in and collapsed on my body. A corpse without name, purpose or reason, crushed in a place that doesn’t exist and there’s no map that would show you this non-existent location. It wasn’t even really there. It was nothing. I am nothing.
“Are you sure we can get there undetected through this place?”
A voice. A young man’s. It was not mine nor Xcell’s. His tone was filled with energy and hope. He was talking silently, but he couldn’t really hold himself back. It was a mix of excitement, uneasiness and curiosity. His voice sounded so warm and bright I couldn’t believe that I was really experiencing it.
“We found a few mentions of this facility in those files we got off their servers last week. Those reports could not determine its exact location after the area completely collapsed decades ago. It hadn’t been in use for so long that they even gave up on trying to find and secure the place. Thankfully Yeffen was scouting the area and found this passage leading all the way to the SysLink hub in this sector, completely unguarded.”
The one answering sounded like a man in his prime. His voice was firm and lacked the youthful energy of the first one. I imagined him as a strong individual both in physique and in personality. There was a certain sadness lying deep in the tone of his voice, but it as if he was consciously hiding it behind his word, not letting it out.
“Relax, kid! We’ll make sure you get home in three pieces tops!”
The third one sounded like an aging man. He was much more relaxed than his companions. He wasn’t energetic like the young man nor disciplined like the one speaking before him. As he jokingly teased the other he gave of a strange vibe. He was aware of his surroundings, but at the same time he wasn’t worried, he was in complete control of himself and of the world he perceived.
While I was listening to their conversation my body unconsciously moved in their direction. I was getting closer and closer by each step I took. I wanted to bathe in the words of the living. I wanted to join them. I wanted to be something.
I almost reached the end of the corridor that lead into the one they were in. The fact that they were near me caused me to feel ecstatic. I would finally get to their world and taste existence. I would be there, with them, alive.
“Did you guys hear that? I heard some movement from over there!” The young man said.
“That can’t be. No one else should be on this passage besides us…” The second one replied.
They heard me. This realization struck me like a rock was thrown into my face. It could not be real. I wasn’t here, they shouldn’t have heard something that was not really there. Was it possible that I was existing just like them? Was I really perceivable to others, just like anyone else?
While I stood there in shock I saw the light of three flashlights coming towards me and soon the ones holding them became visible as well, though I could not see them well as the intense lights were blinding my vision. On the other hand I could hear their voices crystal clear from this distance.
“There’s someone here! I think he’s a civilian!”
“Oh, he’s in a really poor shape!”
They could see me. I really was there in their eyes. And they didn’t see me as a threat, more so it seemed like they were somewhat worried about my well-being…
“Hello! Can you hear us?” The older one asked me.
I was so occupied with my experience inside that I showed no reaction on the outside. I had to reply to them and make a connection.
“Are you alright? How did you get here?” The man with the firm voice probably worried that their route was not as well-hidden as he thought.
“I climbed out.” I couldn’t really answer him properly. I didn’t know how exactly got there and I did not want to make up details, fearing that I would turn them against myself.
“Climbed out? What are you talking about?”
“I-I don’t know…” I getting increasingly confused. I wanted to help, and I wanted them to help me, but I couldn’t put myself together.
“Anyway, you look pretty beaten up. How long have you been here?” The old man interrupted.
“I don’t know.” I felt embarrassed by not being able to answer such simple questions. It was a bit like before I woke up in that room. Getting asked questions and being at a loss of words when it’s time to answer. I really wanted to change that with all my heart.
“Well at least can you tell us your name?”
The ground under my feet suddenly started to give in. All the things I saw started to slide out of my vision as I was standing. I felt as all the muscles in my body relaxed against my will and I fell to the ground. I was at the end of my strength. He asked me the thing that kept on returning to me, and crushing my existence every single time. I gave up. I wanted to let the Void suck me right in and return to the same oblivion I just left.
“Hey! What’s wrong? Jack, check on him!”
Just as everything was fading away I remembered something. Those letters on the door! I tried to understand them, but I couldn’t. Was it because it wasn’t a phrase I did not understand, but instead something that was far more closer to me. Was it beyond my understanding because I wasn’t meant to understand it, but I should’ve incorporated it into my being? Were those letters my name? I tried my hardest to remember them exactly as they were and then form the word with my mouth.
“What did you say? Please hang on!”
“Your name? Hey, stay with us! Try to talk! Tell me! Who are you?”
I was losing my consciousness, but I used all my remaining strength to answer before everything would go black. If I wanted to be something I had to have a name. I had to announce it to the world. I wanted everyone to hear my being shouting at the top of my lungs, declaring my birth.
“I am… Nihil.”