A thundering noise echoes through the dim, metallic room; the cacophonous sound of crumbling walls and bending steel. The room shakes like there's a mini-earthquake, deliberately waking up its inhabitants faster than a cat in ice-water. Many people's senses urge them to claw their way to standing up, where they strain their eyes to look at each other through the darkness. Hearts are pounding, minds are racing and confusion is evidently plastered in these strangers' faces.
All at once, there is a sudden storm of questions among them.
"Where the heck are we?"
"Who are you guys?"
"Where's my family!?"
"How did I get here?"
A pale girl, no older than five, is crying in fear. It feels like a moment ago that she had been shopping with her mother. Now here she is, in a sea of unfamiliar faces, and she feels isolated. A mid-thirties Asian woman notices the crying girl.
"Don't worry, sweetie. We'll get out of here," she says reassuringly. "I'm Seiko, by the way. What's your name?"
"D-Daisy," the tiny voice replies, while she trembles like a leaf on a windy day. A cool breeze flutters across the room and the woman notices Daisy's bare arms, which are trailing with goosebumps. Seiko removes her jacket and she wraps it delicately around the little shaking girl.
Suddenly, a burst of brilliant, blue light shines down onto everyone, illuminating their confused expressions. The light sears into people's vision. An elderly woman, Rosa, begins tearing up from the intensity of the blinding light, which is coming straight from the computer screen. The screen is huge, at least 110 inches, and the quality is excellent and sharp. It definitely looks like a high-tech, expensive equipment.
There is clear text written across the screen in big, bold, black letters: 'Welcome to the game, Would You Rather? Everyone will participate. Each individual must answer the following questions that we present within a minute, and they must act upon their decisions or watch their decisions come to life. If you do not comply, the consequences will be dire.'
"What the heck is this!?" A mixed-race teenage boy, Ashton demands. His green eyes are gleaming with disbelief while he's already scanning for an escape.
"Guys, the text says 'we'. That pronoun means there's more than one person behind this scheme," a mid-twenties white man, Matthew, points out.
"Who are you? What are you?" Seiko asks the screen, as she comfortingly places an arm around the terrified little girl.
Three dots appear on the screen. The ellipses are flashing, signaling that a message is being typed. Then a new text appears.
'I am the Test of Humanity volume 2.8734.'
"Now it says 'I'! I'm so bloody confused," Timothy, a forty-year-old black man says, shaking his head. His eight-year-old daughter steps closer to him and she cuddles her father's legs.
"Who cares what it says!? Let's find a way outta here! I ain't got no time for this shit," Ashton commands, raising his voice among the low murmurings.
Everyone looks around in a hopeless manner. They are trapped in a completely sealed room with no traces of windows nor doors. There are no light sources anywhere, apart from the intense light that is emanating from the humongous screen. The walls, floors and ceiling are metallic, firmly concealed and held together by burning fire. No amount of human punches nor kicks could dent these incredibly expensive, top-quality metal surfaces. The room is specifically designed so that no one can leave from the inside, unless it is broken down by outside forces.
"I don't think we can escape," a soft voice declares morbidly. The voice belongs to an eleven-year-old boy in a wheelchair.
There is a ticking noise, like the sound of a clock or a bomb, that catches people's attention. A timer is on the screen. The new message reads: 'Your game will start in five minutes. Tip: do not get to know each other.'
Of course, the strangers ignore the tip and they continue to talk frantically among themselves about how bizarre the situation is, what they were doing before they found themselves here, wondering who is behind this, and how they can escape.
A young Muslim woman, wearing a headscarf, asks to no one in particular, "What is this game? I've never heard of it before."
"It's basically a preference game," a Polish teenage girl, Kat explains. "For instance, I ask you 'would you rather kiss me or slap me'? And you tell me which one you prefer, but I think here it's going to be different. Like, say if you chose to slap me in your answer, then you would actually have to slap me. Does that make sense?"
"But what if I don't want to slap or kiss you?" The woman, Ayesha, questions as her hazel-brown eyes are widening in worry. Kat shrugs in an unmindful manner.
"Dunno. The consequences will be 'dire', whatever that's supposed to mean," the girl replies, her tone lacking any real emotion. She doesn't think the consequences will be too severe. In fact, she believes the entire situation is merely an innocent social experiment and everyone will eventually escape, safe and sound.
If only she knew.
Thanks for reading. Want Part 2? Leave a comment.