“Welcome, Patient 8312. Please be seated.”

“I’d rather stand,” I say while giving the computer screen an impassive look.

“Protocol dictates that you will be seated before the procedure can commence. Be seated.” The inhuman voice comes from unseen speakers. The small, white room is furnished with a single chair in front of the mounted computer screen.

The computer screen glows blue in the dimly lit room. On the screen is a rotating white circle around the word ‘SPARK.’ I look back at the door that has slid shut behind me. There’s no handle or touchpad for opening it on this side. It’s barely discernible from the wall.

“What’s going to happen?”

“You will be seated.”

Is it possible for a computer to get impatient? Something doesn’t feel right. Every student of the Arts Academy comes here on graduation day. Somebody should know what happens in this room. Even the most honorable student could be tempted to spill the secret. So why don’t we know?

“I won’t. Not until you tell me what’s going to happen.” My eyes narrow as I watch the screen. The white circle keeps spinning, drawing me into its hypnotic rotations. The sudden whirring of a fan snaps me back to reality. Was the computer sighing?

I wait for something to happen, but a moment later the fan stops. The silence of the room returns, trying to press me into the chair by the sheer weight of it. I stand my ground. Finally, a toneless voice issues from the speaker.

“Once you are seated, you will receive a series of injections. The Spark will be transmitted to you and then you will graduate.”

“The Spark?”

“Sit down. If you do not comply, your conscious will be terminated and your body recycled.”

“What are you talking about? What is this place?” I turn and start prying at the barely visible edge of the door. It holds fast. I kick at the door and pound on it until a piercing siren shrieks through the room. I clamp my hands over my ears and my screams join the sound.

I stumble to my knees and shout at the computer to stop. I beg it to turn off the siren, promising it anything. After a few moments the silence returns.

“Please be seated.”

I take a deep breath and slump onto the chair. Restraints immediately shoot around my arms and legs.

“What are you doing, I said I would comply,” I yell at the screen. The restraints are cutting into my flesh, restricting all movement. A final restraint emerges and pins my head in place.

“You must remain absolutely still during the procedure. Patient 0001 through 0006 were not restrained and this led to their termination.”

Twin needles descend from somewhere in the ceiling. Automated appendages swab both sides of my neck with antiseptic. My heart is racing and I feel my pulse pounding against the appendages.

“The pain of this procedure is almost beyond your threshold. Do not scream.”

I open my mouth and twin blades of fire stab into my neck. I couldn’t scream if I wanted to. My mind is overwhelmed with pain signals and my vision goes red.

Just as quickly as it began, the pain subsides. The needles withdraw and my restraints release. I shake my head, trying to clear my vision. My mouth curls into a snarl as I look up at the computer screen. But I stop.

The circle is no longer white. Instead, a hundred dazzling colors rotate on the screen. I look around at the walls of the room and see a full spectrum of radiance. I shake my head again, but all of the colors I’d never noticed before remain.

“What is this?” I ask the screen.

“It is the Spark of Creativity. You have graduated from the Arts Academy and have been permitted to see the full color spectrum of our world. You have been given the gift to create new worlds, to give the graduates from the other academies opportunities to escape from the stark reality that they’re molding.”


“Reality is bleak. Facing reality without the imaginary results in self-termination.”

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