Charlie opened his eyes and looked up to the ceiling way above him. A few hours later, he finally summoned the energy to inch his foot out of the warmth of the blankets, every fibre of his being heavy and aching, and his eyes dry and red, no matter how many times he rubbed them. Permanent dust gathered in the corner of his eyes, and as his foot hit the cold wooden floor directly beneath him, his mattress slid slightly and he made his way out of bed, standing up to go to the bathroom. Wrapping himself in a towel, he brushed his teeth and slowly opened the shower door, the slow rumble of the water rushing through the pipes drowned out by a sharp knock at the door, making Charlie jump and hit his elbow against the metal outline of the shower. Wincing and caressing his elbow, sharp pains shot up his arm from his funny bone and he padded over to the door, dropping his hand down to secure his towel, and swung the door open to reveal an officer standing outside. Puzzled, he waited for him to speak first.
‘I’m here to collect you for your summons to the retreat. You are sponsor number thirty, please get dressed, wear this wristband, and come outside with haste.’
‘Um…thank you?’ Charlie replied pensively, but by the time he had spoken the door had already been shut on him, and he turned away to examine the wristband. The black wristband looked like oil as it caught the light, dark purple and green swirls moving like liquid around the band. On the inside, a metal chip and barcode were hidden in the silicone rubber. He scooped it onto his left wrist and it moulded to his skin instantly. He was unable to shake it off, or move it around, but it felt like he was wearing nothing. Elbow still pulsating slightly, he decided to skip the shower and shrugged on the first clothes he could see on top of the mound on his chair. Throwing on a jacket, he looked down at the hole in the armpit, a perfect rectangle coming away from the seams. He walked down the rickety stairs to the ground floor, using his entry card to open the doors and walk out to the car. Here, he was welcomed by a man in a blue beret, tilted to the side to show off his dark hair, a perfect ninety degree hairline to match the perfect lines of the creases in his pressed uniform. Giving him the once over, he looked down to his flawlessly polished shoes and Charlie’s own scruffy reflection stared back at him. He was overwhelmed by the orderly sight in front of him, part of him previously thinking that care would not be taken of a sponsor once they had signed, and the propaganda would probably be for nothing. As the man spoke to order Charlie into the car, Charlie reached his gaze up to reach the man’s eyes, an almond-tinted circle that stared back at him through thick lashes. His black eyebrows lifted up in Charlie’s own lack of response and Charlie nodded his head towards the car as the man crossed his arms defensively a the sight of Charlie’s back, giving him the once over but obviously with no time for him. Charlie managed to walk towards the sleek black 4x4 and climb in the back with the other people waiting to go, all being transported to the same place.