“Good morning Coty. Today is August 21 2025 and it is seven ’o’clock in the morning. The temperature is twenty-four degrees outside, partly cloudy. Your calendar and reminders for the day have been set. Have a wonderful day.”
Coty groaned murmuring in discomfort as she burrowed her face deeper into the pillow to escape the rude awakening of the rising sun. She was slow in realising that she had slept through the entire day, her parents were probably worried that she had never called them back. She never intended to sleep for so long but as soon as she closed her eyes, exhaustion overtook her and she gave in. Her body was sore like she had been running for hours without ceasing. The horrible ache she felt when she fell asleep was gone but she could still feel some pinpricks at the side of her head. Coty grumbled in frustration, sluggishly reaching over to her side table in search of her phone. Instinctively she searched but came up empty.
Still resistant to wake up, enjoying the illusion of her sleep created peace; she turned away from the window and leisurely blinked her eyes open.
Dark brown eyes from the far end of her bed looked straight into her own, unflinching in their intensity.
Coty cried out in panic. Forgetting her position on the bed, she shuffled back in fear, aiming to put distance between herself and the intruder. Missing the edge, she dropped out of her bed, arms flying above her head just before she crashed into the floor, her head banged against the tile. Pain spread from the back of her head toward her eyes and her eyes glazed as tears pooled behind her eyes.
The words shot through her clustered brain and she immediately remembered that she was not alone. There was a man on her bed. In her home. She had to get up, had to run.
She rolled, trying to crawl as far from the bed as possible. She turned towards the window, gasping in fear when she saw him standing in front of the glass. This could not be happening. She shuffled back, turning towards the door for another escape, but he was there again.
Coty shook her head. Everywhere she turned, he appeared. She was going to die, he, whoever he was, was going to kill her.
“Don’t be afraid.”
He walked towards her and she shot back, scrambling over the bed in fear but keeping her eyes straight at the window. There was a way; maybe she could escape if she could distract him but he seemed to be everywhere she looked. When she turned towards the door, he materialized there as well. There was no escape. Whatever technology he was using, she could not figure a way around it.
Accepting defeat, she chose the only route left. “Please. Please don’t hurt me. Please.”
“I am not going to hurt you,” he replied, with his hands lifted in surrender. Coty looked at him, her eyes taking in his description to give to the police in case she made it that far. “I want to help.”
“I-If that’s true then please leave.” She tried to instil some authority in her tone but it came out as a whimpered plea, rolling out of her breathless lungs. “Leave my house now.”
He looked sad for a moment, his lips tilting as he shook his head at her. “I can’t.”
“You can,” she insisted, pointing a long finger towards the door. “You just leave the way you came.”
The man cocked his head stepping closer to the bed while keeping his eyes on her. Thoughtfully, he reached forward, stretching his hands towards her bedside lamp and her eyes widened when his arm when through the lamp without knocking it over. He repeated the motion then looked up at her with a shrug. “I didn’t come through the door.”
Her fingers pressed against the underside of her eyes as she looked back at him with awe. Her eyes. He was in her eyes. Which meant—she shook with relief—he could not harm her. Sparing one more look at him in disbelief, she turned her gaze towards her bathroom door before bolting towards it. Racing through her tiled floor barefoot, she crashed through the door, scrambling towards the sink to look into the mirror.
“What are you doing?”
“Ending this.” She replied quickly. Twisting the knob of the tap and quickly washing her hands, as the doctor had instructed, she looked defiantly at the man watching her with interest. This was madness and she would not let it go on.
Fortified, she pushed her lids apart and leaned closer to get a better view of what she was about to do. Pushing a few harsh breaths from her lips, she pressed her finger against her lower lid and reached forward to pinch at the contacts.
Pain seized her, tearing through the insides of her brain, so forceful that she could feel the veins pulse behind her eyes. Coty groaned, steeling herself once, she reached for the contacts again but she came out with the same result.
“I think by now you would realise that you can’t remove it.”
“You,” her voice trembled with understanding. Tears, packing up at the sides of her eyes as bitter realization set in. “The pain in my head yesterday wasn’t a migraine or a headache. It was… it was you.”
“Believe me. I am trying to help. I am,”
“No,” she yelled at him. “I never agreed to this when I signed the contract. Having an AI in my eyes was never part of the contract.”
“One, I am not an AI and second, there are a lot of things that are not part of that contract.” He stepped closer and for a second, she forgot he was not really there, she cowered back against the sink. “ORBS is a lie. Everything they told you they are trying to achieve was all lies.”
Coty shook her head fiercely, thinking back to every word she had read on the contract. The whole night she had spent on her bed, her hands feeling every syllable, memorizing every warning, every disclaimer, and every benefit. Of everything she imagined would go wrong, this she never saw coming. It could be a prank, maybe a glitch. Something she could report to the therapist when she went in for her check-up, or right at that moment.
The crudity of her breath crept into her ears, her heartbeat accelerating as the room began to shrink around her. Air. She needed air. Forgetting that he was not really in the room, Coty lashed out, throwing her hands against him to push him away from her but her hands just went right through and she toppled forward.
Not wasting a second, she raced towards the phone at her bedside; kneeling to type the number of the therapist she was assigned, lifting the receiver to her ears.
“What are you doing?”
“Fixing this stupid prank.” She sneered back at him. Her palm pressing against her sternum, the heel pushing down on the thick bone as she tried to soothe her racing heart.
“You can’t.” he bellowed, scaring her with the intensity in his tone. “Listen to me; I am trying to save your life. The trial is not what you believe it to be, it is not about giving you your sight. They don’t care about you. I am trying to save your life, please.”
“Lies.” She cried back in disbelief, grabbing the phone from the table and pushing awkwardly to her feet. She spun, blonde hair clashing in front of her eyes but when their barrier fell away, she saw him again. In front of her, looming into her space. Frustrated and afraid, her fingers tightened around the receiver and she screamed at him. Her voice raw and peaked with anxiety.
“Hello.” The voice on the other end answered and she moved to speak when she saw the man step closer, worry flooding his expression.
“If you report this they would find out that you are different.” Coty fell silent though she could not understand why. She should be shouting into the telephone line that there was a man in her eye but she did not. She just stared at him, wide-eyed as he ranted on. “You have no reason to trust me and there is no time to explain but the people behind your miracle are not angels. They don’t intend to give you a good life. ORBS is not what they want you to think. They are taking advantage of your blindness to turn you into an experiment.”
“Hello?” the therapist persisted, followed by the low hum of static resounding through the phone. Still, Coty stood quiet. “Please state your name and the purpose of your call.”
“Don’t do this.” He pleaded, reaching out like he wanted to touch her before realising that he couldn’t. “Allow me to explain and I promise you would see that I am trying to help.”
Coty shook her head, her fingers digging into the plastic covering of the receiver but her tongue suddenly felt heavy, no words came out of her mouth. The man took her silence as an opportunity to further his case. He stepped closer to her, looking into her eyes, his eyes as if trying to have her look into his own as well.
“My name is Eight. I was part of the ORBS project until I found out what was really happening. I tried to escape and suffered a lot for that. I managed to break free but now I am living in a prison fashioned from their lies. I am trying to stop them but you are the only hope I have.”
“Coty!” her name broke through her haze and she jumped in panic, looking at her locked door, scared that someone else would break-in. Her nerves were on edge.
“Miss Adesina?” The therapist called in confusion and, shockingly, Coty slammed the receiver down, effectively ending the call.
The man smiled but she shook her head, running towards the door to throw it open.
Maggie stood on the other end, an anxious smile on her face and a bag of what Coty believed to be groceries clutched between her fingers. Unlike yesterday, Maggie had on a striking pair of deep blue jeans, a white odd-looking top with a blue jean jacket. Standing there, at that moment, she represented everything that Coty was not. Composed and poised.
“I am sorry. Did I interrupt something?” Maggie asked eyebrows raised in question as she smiled.
Coty moved to speak when the man shook his head, “Don’t tell her.”
“N-no. No,” she stuttered, pushing the door open for Maggie and stepping back so she could enter. “I-I had a bad night yesterday and um… I kind of woke up in a mess, I still am. Please, come in, make yourself at home.”
Maggie grinned walking past the door but coming to an abrupt stop when she passed by Coty’s room. Probably deciding not to address the mess, Maggie looked over her shoulder at Coty before walking towards the kitchen. While Maggie busied herself with emptying the bags, Coty took the opportunity to climb up on one of the stools. She squeezed her eyes shut; it seemed to be the only way to chase away the man prowling in her brain. Without his presence hovering in front of her, she took in a few breaths, using her fingers to smoothen her hair into a more presentable form before peeling her eyes open again.
“I knew you’d be leaving for your parent’s house soon but I forgot when I went out to buy all this. Only remembered when I got to your door that you would not be home through the weekend. Did you call them?” Coty looked up at Maggie, trying not to pay attention to the man hovering around them. “Your parents Coty, how did the call go?”
Coty blinked, ordering her words from the cluster of her mind. “I felt bad after you dropped me off, headache, and I decided to lie down for a moment. Only to wake up this morning, completely disoriented.”
Maggie’s eyes widened in sympathy, she pushed the groceries aside and propped her arms on the counter. “I am sorry. Do you need anything? Maybe some tea, a pill, some food?”
Coty shivered, shaking from the effort it took to keep her mounting anxiety at bay. Maggie watched her in silence until Coty found the strength to speak. “I don’t feel hungry but thanks for offering. I am sorry to be so disordered, I didn’t even say thank you for bringing all this stuff for me.”
“Don’t sweat it.”
“Thank you all the same.” Coty sighed, wondering in silence if Maggie could hear her clambering heartbeat. “I… I haven’t called my parents. They must be so worried.”
“Would you like to call them?”
“No. I am heading over there anyway. I would just surprise them that way.”
“Adesina?” Coty looked up from her nails, focusing on Maggie’s concerned expression. “Are you sure you are alright? I mean amongst everything else happening, you seem antsier than you should be.”
Coty looked to the man standing by Maggie, quiet but watchful. His eyes not moving from her. With her mind elsewhere, she nodded at Maggie, “I will be fine.”
Right after she fixed the well-dressed problem, slinking in her eye.