Drone 2193 C.R. | Gardner

Who were you before Limbo?

Drone 2193

C.R. Gardner

The Company Mannequin Award


Every morning it was the same, a dreamless sleep shattered by an incessant beeping in her ear and a stabbing pain in her wrist. Before she was fully awake she was standing, naked, on the cold stone floor by her bed, waiting as the infernal device hard wired into her body checked her vital signs.

The stims, injected into her wrist as she woke, took effect. Her body pulsing and buzzing, her skin flushing with heat, taking away the predawn chill while the device manipulated her organs; dilating her pupils, regulating her heartbeat, warming her muscles and opening her airways.

‘You may dress now, 2193,’ said the electronic voice.

She put on the nondescript brown clothes that were on the end of her bed every morning, and silently exited the dorm where all the female Facility Drones slept as if comatose. She recognised some of them from her past life.

After emerging from the time she’d named Limbo, she’d discovered a great many things had changed. In her memories of the before time, she’d been a child. Now she was an adult and hardwired to a machine in a place where questions, thoughts and wonderings spoken aloud were not tolerated. For each one asked or uttered she’d received a painful electric shock. She’d learnt to let her thoughts skip like smooth stones across a still lake and keep them to herself; ripples of thought were not enough to trigger the device’s discipline protocols.

In the Facility’s kitchen she did what she had done every morning since being dragged into this existence; added warm water to the yeast and sugar mixture in the big white ceramic bowl.

It’s been almost a whole… Skip.

She added more water to the massive black cauldron hanging over the fire pit.

It was midwinter when they… Skip.

She coaxed the still warm coals to life by feeding bits of dry grass and small twigs to it.

It’s early winter… Skip.

She added bigger bits of wood as the fire grew. She’d noticed the seasons passing through the kitchen window.

Had anyone else… Skip.

She scrubbed the soot from her hands with rough soap. They were pink and icy by the time she was done. The machine readjusted her body temperature, although not before she shivered. She poured bread flour onto the stainless steel table, creating a small hill, turning it into an albino volcano by adding the frothing yeast to a hole in the centre. The transformation into dough a simple, repetitive pleasure. It was also one of the best times to skip stones.

Drone 2160 had been replaced… Skip.

Drone 2199 was from the time before Limbo… Skip.

I remember my name… Skip.

I must not say it… Skip.

Why am I here? What happened… Skip.

Where are my mum and… Skip.

Everyone here is so young… Skip.

Would the wolf and raven come… Skip.

She divided the dough into portions, leaving it to rise and glanced out the window as she started preparing the vegetables for the soup. A white wolf sat in the snow watching her. A raven sat on the sill, gently tapping the glass with its beak.

‘Come outside, Emmi,’ it tapped. She paused slicing the vegetables, her skin prickling.

My name… Skip.

It’s a restricted zone… Skip.

Entering could kill… Skip.

Maybe death would be better… Skip.

The machine gave her a prod; she’d been motionless too long. Still holding the knife she flung open the door, gasping in pain she fell as the device’s protocols activated. Colourful, magical signatures and symbols erupted around her. The machine stopped.

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