(If you have not (and even if you have), please read the teaser as it is the prologue)
I stood up. It was a real voice, or it seemed to be. It wasn't like the fake voice. Everything the fake voice was, She was the opposite. Where the voice was flat and dead, She sounded warm and alive. Where the voice had seemed monotone, She sounded kind. Her voice was beautiful. I missed what She said at first because She was new and, well, completely different from the old voice. I finally realized She was speaking to me when She said my name.
"Seven. Look at your table."
I wondered what She meant because I didn't have a table. Oh, they had shown me the number table before, but it wasn't mine. Confused, I obediently looked around. There it was. At the foot of my bed was the number table. I rushed over, but hesitated some feet away. I glanced up at the ceiling. I knew she wasn't there, in fact, I had no idea where the voices ever came from. But looking up at the tiled ceiling was the closest I ever came to acknowledging her. I was almost asking for permission. "It's alright Seven," She seemed to be laughing at me, but I couldn't tell. "You may touch the table." I reached forward eagerly and grasped the edges. Immediately a blue square appeared around the number one. I jumped back. Did I make that happen? She still had laughter in her voice as She said, "That's the selection square Seven. It symbolizes which test is selected. Right now, you're on Test One."
I glanced up, quizzically this time.
"You're being tested."
My face must have asked the question, because She continued.
"I can't tell you why, because it would make no sense to you and even if you did understand, you might try to produce false results."
Her voice was more instructing this time, as if I didn't know what was going on. I didn't. I just nodded and looked at the table again. This time, I noticed five blue dots above the highlighted square. "That is the test initiation countdown, Seven." She had anticipated my look this time. The lights blinked away in succession. I looked around the room. Nothing had changed. "Give it a second Seven, it needs to load." I blinked rapidly, slightly nonplussed. She had anticipated my look again. Moments later I heard a hiss. A section of the wall three panels tall and two wide opened into a corridor. Like the room I had inhabited for as long as I could remember, it too was white. I sat down on the bed. I knew it was a test. That's what She had told me.
I grabbed the fabric of the bed and held it for a moment. It may not have been much, but it was my home.
"It's time to go Seven."
She seemed sorry, as if She really hadn't wanted me to leave, but was doing this out of necessity. I stood and walked towards the hall. As I entered, I heard another hiss behind me. The panels had slid back into place. I panicked and ran back to them, pushing as hard as I could. Nothing happened. I fought tears and sat down with my back to the wall. I looked down the hallway. It wasn't far, but there was no exit. I closed my eyes, wondering what would happen. Would I be here forever? I looked at my hands as I tried to calm myself. I was shaking. "Deep breaths," I thought to myself. My mind started working again. Perhaps this was the first test? I shook my head. Something would have to happen if it was a test. Unless I was supposed to exit this hallway. Maybe that was the test? It was my only idea, so I stood, preparing to once more see if I could get out. Immediately the hallway lights went out and the walls started collapsing all around me, as smooth as liquid until I was left standing in an open room, not much bigger than my old room. I looked down just in time to see the tiles finish sliding into the floor. Once the mechanical noises subsided, it grew dead quiet. I viewed my surroundings. It was white. I sighed. What was I supposed to do?
I jumped. She was everywhere, voice coming from all directions.
"I need you to look behind you Seven. What do you see?"
I turned. Immediately I was overcome with wonder. The wall was bright, not the white it had been, but full of different things. I realized I had been holding my breath and gasped. In the midst of my white world, the wall was full of colors.
Rule number one. Do not become emotionally attached to the subject. She didn't like that rule. For one thing, they were already playing on the emotions of the children, Seven included. She watched the reaction of a boy dressed in a white jumpsuit. His face registered first shock, then wonder, amazement and ultimately, surprise as he looked at the kaleidoscope of colors he faced. He stood, hands against the wall, gazing at them. She smiled sadly and started speaking.
"Seven, memorize the colors."
I nodded dumbly. I barely heard Her, but still, it would have been hard for me to forget those. Despite the amount of color variations, I memorized them. Blue, aqua, amber, green. Each color was given a name by which I was to remember them.
I was in the midst of running through them in my mind again when they started fading. I leaned forward, trying to glimpse the colors before they disappeared. Within moments, the room was bright white once more.
"Seven, turn around and organize the colors in their proper order." She was firm.
I turned as She asked and looked at the wall. There was a small outcropping that hadn't been there before and underneath was a small pad. I moved towards it and noticed letters on the pad. It was jumbled, with no concise order. In the very ordered room, here was disorder. For a moment I stared at them. They were just letters. They weren't words. They most certainly weren't colors. I stopped and though for a moment about the colors. They each had unique names. Excited, I examined the letters once more. They seemed to correspond with the letters I had seen in the colors names. As I organized the letters into their proper color name, the corresponding color appeared on the outcropping. I jerked my head up as the first faded in and gazed at it.
I brought my head back down and organized the rest of the letters. I looked at the outcropping, satisfied with my work.
"Well done Seven, you can leave the room now."
For a moment I stood still. This was it? Still, She had told me I could leave. I turned to view the room, noticing a doorway of the same size as before. I looked at it with a frown. It hadn't been there before. There seemed to be a lot of things I didn't know. I looked up at the ceiling and smiled. My thanks to Her. I walked towards the door and entered into the corridor.