Floorboards creak, the only sound now that the record player has stopped. Put another album on or grind coffee? Coffee first, no sense in making all that racket when music is playing. Steam rolls off the top of the ceramic mug, a swallow molded into its side. Read or sit outside and watch the sun peak over the hills?
These are the kinds of choices he makes on a daily basis. No one to talk to out here. Books to keep him busy for years, enough canned food to last the whole stay, fire wood, about ten thousand records. The only thing that reminds him he hasn’t slipped back in time a hundred years are the dark lenses in every room. Each one watching him. After a month he found himself talking to them. Knows someone is watching, listening. Knows he’ll be able to see the recording one day—if he cares to. Hard to say what he’ll want when this ends.
The sun’s up and he heads into the study where the records are stacked in piles. When he arrived they were in total disarray. Took him three days to alphabetize them by artist and album title. Didn’t like that method though, decided to order them by genre. But that requires listening to them, most of the artists he’s never heard of.
A pet, even a hamster or a fish, would change things. A dog would be a dream. A cat—not a big fan of them—but a cat would be good too. Better than a fish or hamster. No pets though, not allowed. He’s gone walking out to the edge of the zone, right up to the fence, looking for plants. Even a plant would give him something to take care of.
Today he’s sitting in front of the typewriter. He’s written one line “You won't find a girl in this damn world” and stares at it wondering where to go next. What even is this? What am I trying to write? A story? Is this a journal entry? No, no…That’s right. It’s what’s his colleague told him before this whole thing started. What was it he said after that? Hmm, maybe it’ll come to me. No matter, should listen to another album.
Another day comes around, another few albums put away. He’s been muttering more, shooting glances at the cameras. He can see it happening, the separation. A piece of him on one side, he calls it the Watcher, and on the other what he refers to as the Loner. Loner is falling apart while Watcher sits back, almost amused. You could slow this, Watcher suggests. Find a more productive use of your time. Read more. Talk aloud. But Loner scoffs. Talk to who? You? Talk to the cameras? Why? Isn’t this what we wanted? Watcher shrugs.
He wakes, groans, rolls to his side, tries to fall back asleep. In sleep there are dreams. Nightmares too, yes, but at least he’s never alone in those. They want to see how a mind breaks down, falls apart, or hangs on when left alone. He thought he’d be fine. Said “Hey, no problem, I’m a bit of an introvert anyways” but he could never have anticipated this. Solitude so extreme the mind finds a way to split in two, just to have someone to talk to.
See, Watcher says to Loner, you’re never truly alone. We’ll make it though this—together. Loner smiles, Yeah, okay. Watcher doesn’t tell Loner this is what losing one’s mind looks like. No sense in spoiling the poor guy’s moment of happiness.