Locked

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"You criminal." O’Brien spat in my face, leaving a pool of saliva that smelled like decay on my left cheek. The methods of punishment were ironically medieval despite miles of technological advancement. I felt an urge to retch but I knew that would only extend my misery. My teeth clamped the sides of my cheek in an attempt to withhold my disgust and defiance. The spit ran slickly down my face, leaving a trail of stickiness in place of dirt and dried blood.

O’Brien, old but unbent, continued in his low, threatening growl, "The only love you can have,” he continued louder, “is for your country!" "I love Eugene." I muttered absentmindedly, regretting my words instantly. He paced around the room, confused as to why I couldn't understand this one simple rule. He drew his gloved hand, sinking me further into my chair in anticipation of another slap that would cruelly reopen the wounds that took so long to heal. I held my breath and grimaced, fists clenched across my abdomen, preparing myself for the worst, but instead he gestured for two guards to enter.

The guards were of medium height and build, but were strong as machines. Their muscles were reinforced with metal to facilitate the detainment of difficult prisoners, but there wasn't that need for me; I was only a 17-year-old girl. My only offence was loving another. Was that really deserving of a life sentence? Their tightened claws induced a sharp pain beneath my biceps; they were sure to leave burst veins and purple bruises in their wake. I closed my eyes and gave in. They could take me wherever they wanted. This was too much. I was beaten down, tired, tired of life. I slumped into their hold, feet dragging across the floor.

After a seemingly never-ending haul through a maze of dimly lit hallways and elevators, they finally halted and threw me into a room. I collapsed onto the ground, alone at last. An invisible hand closed around my throat, curling it into a ball, and I started to bawl, tears involuntarily streaming out in rivers that gathered on my chin, like vapor in a cloud, eventually raining onto the tiled white floor. Everything was white, pure, a treasure of the State. I was not. I rested my raw scabbed skin against the bleached floor that smelled of chlorine. I was numb, cold, confused. I wanted everything and nothing. I wanted to be dead and alive.

"Where am I? What are you doing?" a familiar voice rose me from my debilitated state. Eugene! My heart beat faster, and my senses heightened in search of him. There were sounds of struggle, a few seconds of muffled thuds. My heart ached desperately for him. He must be hurt, but at least he was alive. A wave of warmth washed over me, and I felt strength coursing through my veins again. "Eugene!" I called out fiercely, with newly ignited faith; if I could hear him, he could hear me too. My feeble knees brought me to the wall that separated us. I pressed onto the smooth white surface, wishing I could tunnel through. "Bianca, my love, are you alright?" Eugene's voice was closer now. I could almost feel the warmth of his embrace through the wall. I was sure he was up against it too.

"You smug little creatures, still thinking you love each other." O’Brien was amused, excited. I imagined his greasy lips tangled up in a gruesome smirk. "Take a good look at your doors." My eyes settled on the single non-white metal knob at the opposite end of the room. "The locks on your doors are in a state of superposition; they are both locked and unlocked at the same time." His tone turned cynical, mocking. "Unfortunately, like you, their states are entangled. If one door is unlocked, the others’ state will collapse and shall remain locked forever.” This was crazy. “Of course,” he added with a laugh, “anyone can leave anytime. There will be no consequences." He let a moment pass to let this settle in. "I shall leave you lovebirds to your singing." With that, the sound of his footsteps softened with each step.

Panic rose like a thermometer in the desert. The only difference was, it was getting colder with each minute. "Eugene?" I pulled whatever sheet-like fabric I had closer to myself, wrapping it tightly around my abdomen, but it was no use. The sleeves only reached my elbow, and my hands were freezing into clumsy spiders that I was rapidly losing control of. "My love, Bianca, don't worry, we'll find a way." I couldn't stop shivering. My eyes shifted nervously around the room, looking anything that could be of use. "Bianca? My love?" He sounded worried, panicked, yet reassuring. "I love you." I took a deep breath. "I love you too. We'll find a way through this. Together." We will. We will, together. I imagined his sturdy hands encircling mine. Fumbling around the white box, I felt the walls and floors for any other possibility of escape. "Why don't we try opening the door at the same time?" I suggested, hopefully, curiously, foolishly. We knew, deep down, that with quantum technology, there was only one possibility: yes or no. There was only one escapee: me or him.

Time passed. The mutters of reassurance waned, getting fewer, softer, weaker. “I give up.” His words encased a sense of finality. “No, Eugene. There has to be a way.” I was pleading, my confidence crumbling with each breath. If he gave up, I would too. And I couldn’t, because, because I- The door clicked.

Time stopped. I felt like I was plunged into the arctic ocean. I couldn’t breathe. There was no reason for me to live, to try living, anymore. I would perish, together with my unborn. We would be swept away by the cold, and wither in this winter coffin.

Just then, there was a gunshot.

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