“Only one of you will have the chance to win $1,000,000.00. All you have to do is make it through a cabin in the woods for 2 DAYS and 3 NIGHTS … ALONE.”
The advertisement caught Cheryl’s attention. It was a lifetime opportunity. She needed the amount. And Cheryl was no weakling. She promptly registered. It was after a few days that she got the call. She was shortlisted for the event.
It was late afternoon when the organizers left her at the cabin, after a long journey through the forest, away from the city. They dropped her and cleared out in no time.
The two-roomed cabin was small, but cosy, with all the necessary items neatly stacked inside. The tour around the place took less than five minutes. Cheryl tried to locate if there was any camera. But, she could find none.
“It wouldn’t be hard. Just a matter of two days. But, if they are not recording my stay, what is their plan?” Cheryl thought to herself while unpacking the few clothes and the books she was carrying.
Outside the window, the woodland seemed ominously quiet. The evening arrived in no time. The woods seemed to accelerate the twilight, shrinking what would normally take an hour into just a few minutes. Soon the gaiety of the woodland was replaced with a sense of isolation, melting into complete blackness. Cheryl looked into the trees. Except for a few shreds of moonlight, the woods were as dark as a shut closet. She fixed a quick dinner and soon she was blissfully off to the dreamland. The hectic journey had made her terribly tired.
Streaks of sunlight poured through the glass pane and awaited entrance into Cheryl’s eyes. The sight still, in the clutches of the night’s glue, she hesitantly shed herself of the remaining glimpses of the dream that bothered her the whole night. Thoughts of the visions in sleep were unclear, but, she remembered there were whispers. Clear, loud, murmurs. And a strange sound she could not identify. She knew they were nothing but, the susurration of the leaves in the gusty wind. Yet, she felt she heard words like, “Leave this place. This is dangerous.”
The mind does play a lot of tricks when one is alone, she consoled herself, drinking in the feedback of all her senses.
The daytime went uneventful. The book was interesting and it kept her occupied. As the evening arrived, the chirps of the birds bade goodbye and the place became malevolently silent. That was when it came back. Today she could identify the sound. It was rattling sound of metal. As if someone was struggling to free from a fetter. Slowly more and more such noise joined in. Cheryl looked outside the window pane. Not a single leaf fluttered. An owl hooted in the dark. As she paid more attention, she was sure the sound was coming from the adjacent room. No, not from inside the room but beneath it!
Cheryl tarried a while, hoping the sound would stop. But it didn’t. So she embarked on the mission to discover the source of the sound. It wasn’t long before she spotted a trap door that led to some basement.
Tiptoed she climbed down the iron stairs. Well, she was in for a surprise. The place looked like a gigantic laboratory. Giant computer monitors, complex models, and various machines filled the room. The clatter was, however, coming from the furthest corner and as she proceeded to inspect the sight disgusted her.
Cages that keep the guinea pigs in labs were lined up. The only difference was that the cages were larger and instead of rats or guinea pigs had human beings inside them. Men and women alike, tied and left to suffer. Naked, manacles around their wrists and ankles. Signs of torture were prominent on each body. Some still struggling to break free, others unconscious.
“Humans and their curious mind. In the last one year we never had to drag anyone inside. All of you are same. You sniff something is fishy and try to be the detective. But, that makes our life easier. ”
Startled, Cheryl turned around to find a well-dressed scientist, looking at her, nonchalant.
“What is all this about?” Cheryl asked in a trembling voice.
“A project that you are a part of.”
“What kind of project?” Cheryl tried to move back.
“The project you signed up for. Did you really think someone will be giving you such a huge sum of money just to sit and watch the birds? Stupid humans.”
“What are you going to do?” Cheryl was shaking with fear. She half wondered if she was still dreaming. But, the scenes around her were too ghastly and real.
“Nothing much. We will just replace you with your clone. A robot to be specific. You will be kept here as your duplicate will take your place in the human world. We will keep you under observation for some days or weeks perhaps, till the clone is perfected. And then…”
The stranger did not need to explain further.
Cheryl looked at the chained fellows and tried to rush towards the stairs when two strong hands seized her from behind.
As she struggled to break free, she chanced upon her captor. The face was familiar. The same face which greeted her every day in the mirror.
“Cheryl, meet Cheryl.” The stranger announced in a cheerful voice and pushed a needle inside her. Slowly everything went black around her. The stranger was still speaking.
“Welcome to the Land of Robots. Soon we will rule the world removing all you dimwits.”
The computer ran a search through the registered names.
“Hello Alan, you registered yourself for the event 3 nights in the cabin. Are you still interested to join in?”