tagMind ControlMy Name Is

My Name Is

byJukeboxEMCSA©

"My Name Is"

"What is your name?"

The voice is calm, methodical, and so neutral that I can't tell if it's a man or a woman. I can't tell where it's coming from; the room is a perfectly featureless white cube. I can't even tell where the light is coming from--it seems directionless and omnipresent, obliterating all the shadows in the room. It's a little disorienting.

"My name is Louise Ross," I reply hesitantly. I look around for a loudspeaker, but my fingers are busy trying to find the door I came in through. Even by touch, though, I can't locate the edges--it's as though the opening never even existed. "I came in for a job interview, I have an appointment for three o'clock..."

"Your name is not Louise Ross," the voice responds. I turn around, straining to get clues as to its gender, its tone, its location, but it seems as omnipresent as the light. I turn back around, suddenly worried that I'll lose track of which wall the door was on. "What is your name?"

"My name is Louise Ross," I respond irritably, hoping my irritation covers my fear. "I don't know what this is all about, but if you think there's some kind of mistake, I can show you my driver's license once you let me out." I run my fingernails along the wall, hoping to catch at a hidden seam, but the surface is perfectly smooth.

"Your name is not Louise Ross," the voice says again. The inflection hasn't changed even a little from the last time it spoke; it might as well have been a recording. "What is your name?"

"My name is--" I kick the door, or at least the spot where I think the door should be, hard. It doesn't leave a mark. "My name is Louise Ross, damnit!" I shout loudly, but something about the walls seems to deaden the sound, depriving it of an echo. I don't even get the satisfaction of scuffing the walls with my shoe. In fact, I almost lose my balance--the weird lighting makes it hard to judge distance. It's hard to tell where the wall meets the floor. I fight a slight wave of vertigo as I look down and can't quite figure out where the floor is. "Listen, you can't keep me here! I've got friends who know where I am, and--"

"Your name is not Louise Ross," the voice says. It sounds like the speaker is absolutely certain of that fact. She (but it could be a he) could just as easily be saying that two plus two is four, or that the sky is blue. I feel a tiny chill of panic run down my spine at the certainty in that voice. "You do not have any friends. What is your name?"

I try to pretend I don't hear the question this time. "What do you mean, I don't have any friends? How do you know if I have any friends?" How does he (but it might be a she) know that? Have they been watching me? How long did they know I was planning to come here? How long have they been planning for my visit? I take a deep breath and try to stay calm. Too many questions, not enough answers. The most important thing right now is getting out of this room. I lower my shoulder and charge where I think the door was.

There's no give at all. I wince in pain at the solid, jarring sensation that goes all the way up my shoulder and leaves a dull ache behind. The voice doesn't help. "You have no friends. Your name is not Louise Ross." It's not actually mocking me; it hasn't changed tone even a little. But somehow, it feels mocking in the wake of my humiliating failure. It's sort of like adding a lack of insult to injury. "What is your name?"

"I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours," I say flippantly. I don't actually expect a response, but maybe it'll shut up whoever's speaking for a moment while I try to figure out a way out of here. I reach for the wall again, feeling that wave of dizziness stronger this time--I realize it's not just my imagination, the effect is getting stronger. The light is getting brighter, not enough to be painful but enough to make it virtually impossible to tell where the white light ends and the white wall begins. The effect is an illusion of a featureless void, and I close my eyes for a moment to center myself, then open them again. It doesn't help much.

"My name is Slavegirl 95," the voice says, surprising me. It surprises me on a lot of levels, actually. It surprises me that she responded at all; I expected her to ignore me and repeat the question again. Endless repetition can be a very effective interrogation technique, and I didn't think she'd stop using it just because I was getting snarky with her. It surprises me that it's a woman's voice; I'd just started to convince myself that it must be a man on the other end of the connection. And it shocks the hell out of me that she only thinks of herself as 'Slavegirl 95'. The chill running down my spine becomes a torrent of ice water. "What is your name?" she asks again.

"Oh, so we're back to that, are we?" I mutter. I start feeling for the wall, but a flash of motion out of the corner of my eye causes me to spin around. But when I do, I don't see anything there. Was it my imagination? Perhaps it was just my brain trying to fill in the blankness with something tangible, or...no. I spot it again. It moves just a little bit faster than I do, but I'm good at tracking fast-moving things. I turn to where I know it's going to be, just in time to see it fade away. Just an image projected onto the wall somehow. Why would they...

I look around. I realize that in my haste to follow the spot on the wall, I lost track of where the door was. "What is your name?" the girl asks. (I'm not going to call her that name, I promise myself. I'll find out her real name someday, give it back to her. Until then, she's just "the girl".)

"Alright!" I shout, my voice petulant. "I don't know how you found out, but my real name is Toby. Toby Blair. My friend had a job interview here a few months ago and never came back. I wanted to find out what happened to her, but I couldn't afford a detective. Happy now?"

"Your name is not Toby Blair," the girl responds. "You have no friends. What is your name?" She doesn't just suspect it. I can hear it in her voice. She knows it. I don't understand why they're playing these games. If they already know who I really am, why are they asking? They're not going to get anything out of me anyway.

Still, I decide to hold onto this cover identity a little longer anyway. I liked creating Toby Blair. She had a better reason for being here, for one thing. I'd much rather be headstrong, foolish Toby than accidental victim Louise. "I do have a friend!" I shout. "Her name is Carol! Carol, if that's you, try to remember what they did to you!" I stamp my shoe hard on the floor, hoping to maybe crack the thing that's making it light up, but all that does is make my foot hurt.

"There is no Carol," the girl says placidly. Now that I've heard her speak a few times I realize it's not just calm; she sounds almost sedated. "There is no Toby." It's like she doesn't even know how to get angry anymore. I find myself wanting to shout, scream, do anything just to get a rise out of her; but I force myself to stay calm. It wouldn't help. "You have no friends. What is your name?"

The light begins to change colors as she waits for an answer. It turns gently pink, then shifts into a smooth, pastel purple, then becomes a gentle blue. I get down on my hands and knees, feeling my way along the floor and trying to ignore the sensation that I'm floating in space. I close my eyes a few times, but the light is bright enough now that it goes right through my eyelids. "I told you, Toby Blair!" I shout, hoping to keep up the pretense a little while longer. Just until I can find a wall. The air has to be coming from somewhere; there has to be a crack or a seam, no matter how well they disguise it.

"You said your name was Louise Ross," the girl says. "This was incorrect." I feel like I've been crawling for longer than I should. The room wasn't this big when I walked into it. "You said your name was Toby Blair. This was incorrect." Right now, I'd settle for just finding that damn speaker so I could put a bullet into it. "What is your name?"

I feel forward again, but there's still no wall. The lights shift a little faster now, the pattern a little more complex. "Stare bene, stare bene, fighetta," I say, dropping my West Coast tones and slipping into a rich Italian accent. "I don't know how you know, but I give in, OK? My name is Isabella Cacciatore, I work for Camden International." I can feel cold sweat on my palms as I crawl across the floor. I still haven't found a wall yet. "This, it is all just business, OK? My bosses, they hear things about this place, they think there might be something valuable." They couldn't have moved me, and I don't think they could make the walls move without some sort of machinery sound giving it away. "They send me to take a look. All just business, no harm done, right?" I don't bother hiding the panic in my voice.

The walls have to be right where they were, they have to, but-- "Your name is not Isabella Cacciatore," the girl says. How the hell do they have a file on me this detailed? How do they know I'm lying? Where the hell are the fucking walls? "What is your name?"

Then it hits me. The lights. They're still flashing, brighter and more dizzying than before, but I know what's happening now. They're drawing my attention very subtly in one direction. Not enough that I'd notice, but enough that it feels like I'm crawling in a straight line when I'm really going in circles. Oh, they must be having a good laugh watching me.

"What is your name?" the girl repeats. She doesn't sound forceful at all. I wonder how many times she'd repeat the question if I just didn't answer. Probably as long as she has to. She sounds like whatever they've done to her has given her a pretty infinite reserve of patience. She's waiting for me to break, to admit my real name. I'm not going to give her the satisfaction.

I pull my jacket off and set it on the floor. It blocks the light, giving me something tangible to use as a landmark, and as I back away from it, I hit something solid within moments, and turn to face the wall. I don't care that they can see my shoulder holster now. They must know everything about me, from the sound of things.

"What is your name?" the girl repeats. I pull out my gun and start hammering with the butt against the wall, hoping to break something or scratch something or just have an effect of some sort, but nothing happens. The illusion of colored lights is so pervasive now that only the thrumming impact traveling up my arm reminds me that I'm hitting a solid object at all.

"Shut up!" I yell out, turning back around. I notice that my jacket vanished while my back was turned, and I carefully keep one hand on the wall. It's hard, though. The lights create a swirling vortex in front of me that makes me feel like I'm falling forward without moving. It's all I can do not to take a step.

"What is your name?" the girl asks again. She's never going to stop asking, I realize. I could pass out from exhaustion, and she'd still be repeating the question when I woke up. There's no point in lying, I decide. Might as well get this over with and see if the truth sets me free.

"Mackenzie Washington," I say. "CIA, Directorate of Intelligence." I wish I had identification to flash, but I didn't carry anything with me, for obvious reasons. "You've been sloppy at covering your tracks lately. One of your 'Slavegirls' was the niece of the Italian ambassador--probably a real coup for you, picking up someone who's moved in diplomatic circles--and he asked us to look into her disappearance." I realize I'm saying way too much, and I literally bite my tongue to avoid revealing any more. Name, rank, and serial number, that's all they're getting from me.

Well, that and a threat. "You're better off letting me out of here," I say. "My boss knows where I am, and if I disappear, they'll come looking for me."

The response, though, absolutely confounds me. "Your name is not Mackenzie Washington," the girl replies. "What is your name?"

I rack my brains, trying to think of exactly what the fuck she's talking about. "Um, no, seriously," I say, utterly confused. "I'm Mackenzie Washington, I work for the United States government." I realize that my hand is no longer touching the wall, but I have bigger problems right now. Who exactly do they think I am?

"Your name is not Mackenzie Washington," the girl repeats. "You do not work for anyone. What is your name?"

All I can think of is that they must have gotten hold of one of my old cover identities, something I used on another case. "I'm, um...my name is Leona Bailey?" I ask hopefully. "Mother of three, took a vacation in Rome two years ago?" After I speak, it occurs to me that I'm divulging classified information, and I wince. What is wrong with me? How could I be so sloppy, so stupid?

"Your name is not Leona Bailey," the girl says. "You have no children. You have no friends. You work for nobody. What is your name?"

I draw my pistol, angry enough for a moment to fire into the endless, whirling colors in hopes of hitting something, but I barely manage to remember the size of the room I'm in and force myself to stop. "I'm Mackenzie Washington!" I shout. "I am Mackenzie Washington!"

"You thought you were Mackenzie Washington," the girl says. "This was incorrect." The tunnel of colors takes a sharp, dizzying swirl to the right, and I lose my balance and fall to my knees. The gun skitters out of my hands across the floor, but I don't see where it went. "You thought you were Isabella Cacciatore," she continues. "This was incorrect."

I feel around for the gun, but my eyes don't want to move away from where the colors direct them. "You thought you were Toby Blair," the girl says. "This was incorrect." I suddenly notice that they're just as bright when I blink. They plunge once again, and I feel so dizzy that I lie flat on the floor in hopes of making the sensation go away. "You thought you were Leona Bailey," she says. "This was incorrect."

"Just...just tell me who you think I am," I whimper. I don't understand what she's asking. Why would she keep asking if there's no right answer? The lights are moving so rapidly now that my eyes can barely follow them, but I can't stop them from trying. It's like the colors are jerking them from side to side, up and down, left to right, and closing them doesn't shut it out. They're everywhere, inexorable, inescapable.

"You thought you were Louise Ross," the girl replies as though I hadn't spoken. "This was incorrect." I reach up, thinking I can at least block out the light with my hand, but I'm so dizzy and my muscles feel weak and rubbery all of a sudden and my hand just flops back down to my side. I don't even know if I'm lying on my back or on my front anymore. Every other sensation is just drowned out by the flashing lights. "What is your name?"

"My...my name is..." My tongue feels thick and heavy in my mouth, and my head feels like it's been wrapped in cotton wool. Identities whirl past me, none of them seeming to stick. Denise Peterson, business traveler for Carding Insurance? Jann Olafson, Swedish tourist traveling through Switzerland on a sightseeing tour? Carol Nickerson, kidnapped and brainwashed friend of Toby Blair? None of them seem real to me, not even Mackenzie Washington. Perhaps she's the least real of all of them, spending all her time pretending to be other people. That was the one response that stung. I really don't have any friends.

"What is your name?"

"My name is..." I watch the lights, trying to find an answer there, but all they promise is dizziness, confusion, exhaustion. I wonder for a moment if the other girls who walked into this room broke this easily, or if they clung to one name longer than I cling to all of mine; but understanding the question is beyond me now, let alone the answer.

"What is your name?"

"My name...is..." I stop. My eyes stare ahead sightlessly, following the lights. I don't know the answer to the question, and it hits me with an orgasmic shock just how good that is.

"Your name is Slavegirl 96," Slavegirl 95 says. I feel it click into place, the perfect understanding filling the aching void of confusion and fear so totally that I feel my thighs clench together in ecstasy as the lights pulse over and over into my brain.

"My name is Slavegirl 96," I reply. I hear my voice, and it sounds calm. Almost sedated.

"Good slavegirl," Slavegirl 95 says. "In a moment, you will access the memories of Mackenzie Washington. You will give her superiors a plausible alibi regarding the activities of this company, and then find a plausible excuse to be incommunicado for a long period. After that, you will be conditioned further. Do you understand, Slavegirl 96?"

"I understand," I respond, standing up. I understand everything perfectly now, and it feels like a never-ending wave of pleasure. I feel serene, untroubled, perfectly at ease with the commands I know I must obey.

After all, I know something most people spend their whole lives worrying about. I know exactly who I am.

THE END

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