Writing samples

Maybe you’re wondering what the Grey Rooms are, and that’s another question I won’t be able to answer. See, we all know about the Grey Rooms, but you only ever know them from the outside, although we’ve all been in. Sounds confusing? Let me start again.

The Grey Rooms are what separates Whitelight from Darklight Rest. Whitelight, as far as I’ve been able to reconstruct from the shambles, is where you spend your last hours of your old life. You come to Whitelight with your suitcase neatly packed (if they let you have one — I’m guessing the clothes and things we acquire inside DLR aren’t the ones we brought), they sit you down in this quaint little room and ‘go over the details’. That’s the phrasing I found in a shredded report that I pieced together — ‘go over the details’. Like you’re signing a contract for a new car or perhaps a house. Not for your memories.

The following is purely my imagination:

You come to the door of this cozy little office. It’s a glass door with a white inscription, all very neat and professional. There are other offices down the corridor, but it’s one of those clean places with a very high ceiling, it’s silent and full of echoes, and you feel alone. You’re coming to that door full of dread because you know what happens behind it, but you’re also coming with a sense of relief because whatever drove you to this step will finally be over now.

There’s a neat woman in a proper blouse and business trousers behind a desk inside — I can’t for the life of me imagine it being a man. She’s all smiles and warm handshakes and she’s full of understanding. For you, for your terrible situation. For the longing that brought you here. This isn’t the first time you hear about what’s going to happen, so while your heart beats loudly, you’re okay. You’ve done your share of crying, you’ve decided this is the way to go, so you’re okay. You sit in front of that desk and discuss the loss of your memories and all the life you ever had in a matter-of-fact way. Perhaps you have a couple of final questions. The nice woman and you ‘go over the details’ and you sign roughly two million papers. Every time you write your name, you try to imprint it into your memory, into some deeper level of it, somewhere they won’t find it… because while you’re here by your own free will, and while you’re leaving behind a life that’s causing you only suffering, there’s a screaming part of you that’s kicking up a tantrum and trying to tear down the walls so you’ll listen to it, but you don’t.

Then they take you to the Grey Rooms. As I said, no one remembers them. There’s been some footage on it recently, making the nearly dead fire of public interest flare up one more time, but it’s over twenty years now, and it didn’t last long. At the time back then, there were demonstrations and uproars and protests, but they went the way all protests go unless they—once in a lifetime—turn into a revolution. No one cares about Darklight Rest now, and the ones who lived there have been scattered by the wind. Most of them are dead by now.

But from the few pictures that were released and from the bits and pieces I’ve collected both in- and outside, this is what the Grey Rooms look like in my mind:

Your friendly guide (not your Guardian; you’ll meet her on the inside) leads you up to a steel door that looks like it belongs to the National Treasury. It makes you feel small, that door, and you hold on to your suitcase until a gentle hand takes it from you and says you won’t be needing it right now. (Or ever again, you think, but that thought scares you so you try to push it aside.) The door opens into a larger steel-and-tiles room that looks about like the Dentist Office of Nightmares, but you’ve known it would look something like this, so you breathe and control yourself. That’s what you’ll do every day of your life from now on, though you don’t know it yet: control yourself.

Maybe there are men in here. Maybe there are women. It’s hard to tell because they all look like doctors, white and foreign and distant. You follow their instructions, let them put cold instruments on your chest and down your nose, allow them to shine bright lights into your eyes. Your heart beats and beats and you’re torn between dread that they’ll say you’re unsuitable and will have to go, and dread that they’ll let you stay.

They let you stay.

The process isn’t painful. In fact, you won’t remember any of it. What you think about during those final moments is that the lights are so bright they’re hurting your eyes, that the thing you’re lying on is hard and very cold, and that you’re scared. That, too, is a feeling that will always linger with you from now on, but of course they haven’t told you that.

The rest is very easy. You close your eyes and the fear goes away.

You open your eyes on the other side, and you’re in a place you’ve never seen, with a Guardian you’ve never met, and they’re trying to give you a name that isn’t yours.

What’s there to complain about? They never lied to you, and you agreed to every step of the way.

The theory is you go into the Grey Rooms once on your way in, and once on your way out, if ever you decide to leave. The way out, by the way, works exactly like the way in: Reintegration into modern society, no more Guardians, no Commandments and Consequences, and not a shred of memory about anything that happened inside. In fact, you may hear about Darklight Rest at some point in your life beyond and mildly wonder if that’s why you can’t seem to remember who you were — but no, what a silly idea. You make a joke about it and go on with your new life. You never had that kind of money anyway.

For every theory, there’s a practical application, and you know how it goes: Nothing is ever perfect. So it’s no wonder that, once in a blue moon, someone tumbles out the other side of the Grey Rooms and comes out imperfect. I’ve no doubt Liya was one of those people, though until the very end, I was the only one who knew. With Maggy, we all knew, and this is what happened to her.