B-113 had begun to sweat, and his knuckles were clenched white against the metal table. He had done everything right, but they still hadn’t pressed the Button. It was probably Joey.
B-113 hated Joey.
The voice in his head gave him commands, sure as schizophrenia. “Pick up the blue block. Place it into the square slot.”
113, with trembling hands, grabbed the block as quickly as he could, and dropped– threw it into the slot. But still that bastard wouldn’t push the Button. The mirror glass on the side of the room reflected him thin and pale. The wires running down the back of his shaved head were vibrating as he shook. He hadn’t been fed this morning.
He wanted to run over to the mirror glass and scream and break through it and scream and scream and smash whatever it took and take the Button and push it until he tore a hole in his finger again. But he knew that if he Displayed Aggression then he would not get the Button for several days. Thinking about that made him want to throw up.
He had thrown up last time.
“Pick up the knife, 113, and stab it into your left thigh.”
He seized the knife and raised it high to drive it into-
He remembered pain.
He could feel the muscles in his jaw clenching. His knife arm raised– tensed– held itself back, tensed again-
He plunged the knife into his thigh, and screamed, high and hoarse; his voice was thick, he hadn’t spoken in several weeks. They didn’t like it when he spoke. It was Humanizing The Subject. It was Four Hours No Button. He had not spoken since he heard that rule.
Blood welled up around the knife and dribbled onto the clean white tile. There was also pain. 113 looked up towards the mirror, expectant.
And that bastard Joey still didn’t push the Button.
113 snarled then, hands forming into fists, teeth clenched. And then his eyes flicked down, Showing Submission. He considered stabbing himself again, in case that would help. He seized the knife and-
“No.” Came the voice, soft now. “Leave it alone. I want you to tell me something about yourself. Something very incriminating. You choose.”
113 hesitated, opened his mouth, looked pleadingly at his reflection.
“Oh, right.” A gentle chuckle. “You have permission to talk.”
113 licked his lips, thinking hard. He hadn’t thought about himself for a while now. But.
“I, I was, cheating on my wife, before, you see I, had a mistress, a woman named Tracey, she,” his voice cracked. “She was young, and pretty, and different, and my, my wife, she had been sick for, such a long time. And I never told her about Tracey, because I didn’t want to hurt her, because she was hurting enough. I thought I would tell her when she got out of the hospital, but I never did. I never did.”
He was hit with the Button.
It was orgasm, and more than that, it was happiness, and love, and success, and food. It was food. His body cried out in triumph, a happy wave rolling through his every cell, and his knees gave out, and he shuddered on the floor, shaking, joyous, celebrated, a hero.
No. He was a god.
Then it went. He lay curled, fetal, on the floor. He had ejaculated into his jumpsuit. His muscles had the happily languid feeling that sometimes came after exercise as he panted, shuddering in the wake of the Button.
On unsteady legs, he rose. There was soft, affectionate laughter, and then. “I think we’re through for the day, 113. Well done. Return to your room.”
113 nodded immediately. At night they were sometimes given Button time, on some unpredictable schedule that he didn’t know.
“Oh, and 113?”
113 stiffened to attention, at the doorway out.
“Take the knife out.”