Consciousness was returning, they opened their eyes to blinding lights and thumping heads. Questions were all swimming in their minds, barely formed but still there, as their vision adjusted to the brightly lit room, and the dull thump in their heads subdued.
There were four in total. All were gagged, so they couldn’t cry for help, two had their legs bound together, they occupied opposite corners of the room, one of them was still stirring from their enforced snooze; I could only watch once more as these four proverbial lambs to the slaughter blinked themselves awake, unaware of what was to come, my stomach turned in a familiar way, this wasn’t my first rodeo.
The two whose legs weren’t bound instead had their arms tied together, rendering each one of the four as theoretically as inhibited as the rest. I say theoretically because they were always the ones who came out best in these… I don’t even know what to call them, experiments, maybe? Punishments? Well, that remained to be seen.
I was merely an observer, a junior member of the House of Justice, working directly under the man in charge of what was about to happen, Dr Steven Fields. During my studies I admired Dr Fields, maybe even idolised him to a degree, now I wasn’t so sure.
There exists a side of everyone’s personality that only emerges once they gain power. It warps even the finest minds from reason to tyranny, and that was the case for Dr Fields. He had been revered in his field (no pun intended) for years for his cutting-edge research into criminology, but one study, in particular, landed him here, at this very moment, about to speak over an intercom to four very confused, and very frightened, men.
‘Good afternoon. You have all been selected as subjects in a House of Justice procedure. Three of you were chosen at random from our international database, however, one of you has been chosen deliberately. This is because that person is guilty of the following crimes: murder, sexual assault, attempted murder, and torture. Only the guilty party in that room knows who they are, and you are all at an equal disadvantage. Unfortunately, only one of you will be allowed to walk free. You will receive no help, and no supplies, the only way you leave here, is as the last man alive in that chamber, good luck.’
There’s always a look of pure fear in the few seconds following this announcement as they struggle to comprehend what’s going on, a momentary glance of hopelessness before the human survival instinct kicks in. Every time Dr Fields finished his speech, he always wears a wry smile, and I hope in my heart of hearts, that he isn’t smiling at their hopelessness, but alas, my brain cannot allow me to draw any other conclusion.
Some of the other observers occasionally had bets on which subject would survive, which is as barbaric as it sounds, but quite frankly, we need the distraction to get us through, and this time, there was no second-guessing who would be the first to go.
In the far corner of the room from the observation window was a scrawny looking man, squinting into the light, almost in the foetal position. I don’t know if this made him look weak or guilty, but his physical shortcomings were noted by the staff, who unanimously had him down as the first to die, and what’s worse, he had his legs tied together.
Despite his arms being free, something told us all that they wouldn’t be any use either defensively or offensively, they had the thickness and definition of pipe cleaners, and his hands were more bone than skin; in fact, he was generally a bag of bones, his skin almost translucent, he resembled someone who had already died of hunger, rather than someone who was about to die from major trauma.
As soon as the hopelessness left the other three men’s eyes, they also clocked the weakling in the room, and no sooner had the pathetic withering looks subsided that they had been replaced by desperate rage.
A flurry of limbs swarmed towards his corner, the last image I had of his face was a silent scream of horror (we can see them, but we can’t hear them. Apparently, this is to stop us hearing their pleas for help) as he disappeared beneath a blur of arms and legs. An intense concentration of energy dedicated to stamping and punching this defenceless man’s life away.
After a few moments of this frenzied attack, the remaining three peeled away, revealing what was left of the first victim, to my horror I saw that there wasn’t much left at all.
His head was split open and resembled a watermelon dropped from a five-story building; his arms bent away from his face at strange angles, the only evidence that he had put up any sort of defence. One of his hands hung by a mere few threads of skin to his hopelessly broken arm. He hadn’t stood a chance.
After the remaining three had regrouped briefly, sucking in great lungsful of air they had just used before meeting in a fresh clump of limbs in the middle of the room. It was a horrifying sight, seeing the fear in their eyes as they swung away with whatever limbs they had free. A horrible sight yes, but also darkly intriguing, as these ‘procedures’ were designed to be.
The chief aim of these brutal shows of the very worst human behaviour is apparently of science, to: ‘observe the survival instincts, and righteous sense of justice in humans’ to quote directly from the manual we were given to read upon induction.
Dr Fields had theorised that humans as a race were getting too dependant on technology, and were losing their will and need to survive, upon being promoted to head of the House of Justice, he proposed the basis for what would become what I was now witnessing.
His proposal had started out as being taking four criminals and granting the survivor freedom, but this was seen as unfair, as it would potentially release a dangerous offender back onto the streets, so the idea was changed to just include one criminal, and three potentially innocent men, that way there’s significantly less chance that a criminal would need to be released.
Of course, this forgets that at least two innocent lives would be lost, but at this point, that was barely a concern to Dr Fields, or the powers under whom he served, who viewed a ‘pruning’ of their population to be a good idea, given the overpopulation we are currently facing.
My mind tends to drift during the actual ‘procedures’ as a way to distract my brain from what it has to process, and I was trying very hard to distract myself from the images I had already seen, by the time my focus was back in the room, we were down to two.
One of the ‘subjects’, a heavier-set man who had his hands bound had strangled another with his bindings, before laying in a few stamps, just to make sure the job was done. As this was happening, the other remaining man had retreated to a corner and has successfully managed to free himself from his leg restraints while his one remaining competitor was occupied with finishing off his victim.
Now completely unrestrained, he went on the attack, aiming directly for the legs of his foe, his quite considerable weight came crashing down, right in front of our observation window, and like a hungry hyena stalking their prey on the Serengeti, he pounced.
Jumping on the last remaining body standing in his way of freedom with both feet with a maniacal look in his eye, he went in for the kill, with each jump, a new splatter of blood would shoot from underneath him, covering himself, and our window. Deep red streams of blood obscured our view, trickling down painfully slowly, the more it slid down, the more it revealed the crimson-soaked face of our victor, wiping the thick plasma from his eyes he finally stopped. I could swear I saw a smile emerge on his face as he dropped to his knees, his arms stretched out in thanks, we had our last man standing.
Soon, the man was being led out of the room, and through the observation suite. The cleanup team started their work, manoeuvring empty broken shells that were once bodies onto a trolley, ready for disposal. The victor was sat, exhausted, and still coated in three other people’s blood with a towel draped over his shoulders also turning red.
He looked up, directly at me, right into my eyes, into my soul. A shiver ran down my spine. Through a face of pure red, a twisted smile began to form, looking at me with piercing eyes, bright blue islands in the middle of a crimson sea, he chuckled darkly to himself, and in the pit of my stomach, I knew the wrong man had won. No justice had been done that day.