Stolen waves

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“D’you understand why we have to do this, now?” The Commissar paced in front of her.
He sounded almost reassuring, but the very room she stood in paralysed her mind. Why had she been brought here? The ceiling way above her head, decorated walls; high windows with perfect square panes. And curtains! A generous desk of oak with papers and a globe like the one she remembered from school. Soft, deep carpet beneath her feet.
And was that electric lighting? On the desk, and in crystals over her head? She had only ever heard of such things.
Where was this? They must have had her brought so far south even the accents, the patterns of speech, sounded different.
“I’m sorry. I don’t even know what I’ve to do_”
“Why you’ve to give your account?”
She looked outside: tried not to make it too obvious. A city. Sunshine, but broken in steep, elaborate shadows. Finally she recognised a monument: Smith. She’d been brought all the way to the Capital!
“We like to do things thoroughly here.”
And this they most certainly had. They must have known, even though such things were usually confirmed only on the day, that she had been called in to work, and where. The car - the only one she had seen all week - had picked her up on the one stretch of road she walked home alone: the cliff path over the storm-swept beach where she sometimes gathered kelp.
She had been looking forward to a quiet evening at home - had taken to reading, when not called for work. She had lately been reading long into the pale spring evenings - the Hungry Gap - about hunger and poverty, and their causes.
He followed her gaze out of the window.
“Aye: the Capital.”
He conducted her to a seat.
“Heresy, Morag. That’s why you’re here.”
“They didn’t say! I swear they... didn’t say! I_” she buried her face.
“I suppose you think you’ll be staying in that basement, now?”
It had been two, perhaps three days. She had missed the daylight, the fresh air and the sound of the sea. But she’d not been mistreated, and the food had been better than at home. More reliable, at any rate.
“That we shall, by some unspeakable means, extract a garbled, whimpered, false confession out of you and_”
She didn’t raise her head.
He came and sat next to her.
“That’s not the way we do things now. Not since the Evolution.”
She didn’t want to ask what they did now.
“And you’re only a witness; not the criminal himself. So all we need from you’s an account. Then you can go home. A witness account, given here in this room; live. That way_”
She startled.
“Live, on record. That way, we have the tone of your voice. So we know it’s genuine. D’you understand, now?”
She turned with a jolt as the door opened.
Two gentlemen walked in: one carrying a small wooden box with what looked like a spindle and a mousetrap on top, the other carrying a large brass horn.
The gentleman with the box set it on the table, pulled a crank from his pocket and fitted it into a hole in the box’s side. He wound it up, as if the box were a clock; but it had no dial.
The one with the brass horn put down his burden and produced a cardboard tube about a foot long. He drew a narrower, smooth tube from within, and carefully mounted it on the spindle.
Neither spoke.
Her heart pounded.
It must be some new, ingenious form of torment. She stared at her hands: curled up her fingers to protect them. What would this hideous thing do to them - or perhaps to her ears - if her account were to be found lacking in some way?
She watched as one of the gentlemen lowered the mouse-trap arm into place, adjusting it with a small knurled screw. When this had been done to his apparent satisfaction, he stood back to let his companion slot the horn into place.
She didn’t know whether to cover her ears or sit on her hands.
“Don’t worry yourself. It’s not going to hurt.”
The Commissar patted her on the shoulder before getting up to fetch something from his desk.
A book.
She accepted it, turned it and studied the spine.
Wealth of Nations.
One of the gentlemen took her hand and positioned her near the open end of the horn. He adjusted its height. She didn’t want to stare into its elongated throat – those unnatural, sharp shapes. She didn’t want to have to breathe...
A faint, rhythmic hiss emerged from the box as he flicked a switch.
“Would you read this out? Just as a test?”
He indicated the small note fastened to the front of the book.
A simple sentence.
“There are only two possibilities: yes or no.”
With a second flick of the switch, the machine’s strange heartbeat came to a halt. The gentleman lifted the mousetrap, re-positioned it, and flicked the switch a third time.
She listened: covered her open mouth.
She tried to speak, but no words came.
She’d heard of this – heard, but only terrifying rumours.
The machine that used waves to turn back time: knew what you would say – yes or no - and stole the words.

About the Author: 
C.L. Spillard is a complex interplay of matter and energy in a wave-pattern whose probability cloud is densest in York, U.K. The moon landings influenced the young pattern’s self-awareness mechanisms, igniting lifelong interest in Physics and humanity’s plight on Earth. C.L. Spillard authored the recently-published fantasy ‘The Price of Time’.