It was a few weeks, maybe a month ago when I was approached outside my own home by an official looking man. He seemed at the time a perfectly reasonable person. He had an ID badge clipped to the jacket of the suit he was wearing. He walked up and introduced himself as Dr Lionel and proceeded to tell me about some PHD in human psychology. It felt re-assuring the way he acted so confidently, I honestly felt as though I was in safe hands with him. He asked me if I would participate in an experiment to test the limitations of the memory of normal everyday people.
He said this was purely in the name of science, which I found out later was at least partly true. I agreed to help him out at the time, after all not many people get chances to do things like that. There were no further instructions other than to meet him at a warehouse in the industrial area of the city the next day at 7am. I thought this was a little unorthodox at the time, but of course I am no scientist. I went back inside feeling enthusiastic about what was to come so I made an announcement about my involvement in a scientific experiment to my family. They were almost as enthusiastic as I was.
The night was long and I barely got any sleep, I had just drifted off when my alarm clock let out a bone chilling trill. I awoke testy and exhausted but soon remembered what I had forgotten in order to sleep; today was the day that I did something exiting for a change. I was prompt to get dressed and descend the stairs to the kitchen for breakfast. My watch read 6:30 and if I didn’t hurry up I was going to be late. I searched the cupboard for something quick to eat but found nothing. I left home on an empty stomach at 6:40, got in my car and headed for town.
I arrived at the abandoned storage warehouse and met some official looking people discreetly unloading sophisticated looking equipment from a truck. I was about to approach them when another car pulled in behind me. A man got out of the car looking just as puzzled as I was. I walked up to him instead; he told me his name was Donald. The man seemed friendly enough and told me that he too was taking part in this experiment. We got chatting and it felt as thought I had made a new friend already, something about this made the whole thing seem less clinical.
But at the time I felt very unsettled still. It was five minutes to 7 o’clock when he walked into the building telling me that he had been told to go in sooner. I was left all alone with my thought for five minutes wondering if I should have gone in with him and what would happen to me inside. Would it be difficult? Would there be rewards or sanctions maybe? My main concern was if they found something wrong with me or maybe that I could be something unique. Unlike when “Donald” went into the building I was joined by the man who greeted me at my house, he guided me into the building.
As I walked down a corridor thoughts began to stream though my brain and my heart accelerated. I was considering turning around and going home. As I walked past vacant rooms where the paint had been half stripped from the walls I grew more and more concerned about what was going to happen to me. The man or “Dr Lionel” as he referred to himself escorted me to a room. He opened the do to reveal something I thought sickening. It was dark where only one of the two lights was working. In the middle of the tiny, square floor there was an old looking dentist’s type chair. Donald was ling back in the chair.
He looked utterly horrified. As he lay there, several men in white coats began to stick pads to his body. Then they started to connect wires to different parts of him. I assumed they were simply new machines that check your heart rate and brain waves. I was bewildered as to why he was so frightened. One of the other men in the room took me from the place Donald was in just down the corridor to another room. It was filled with wires and flashing bulbs on space-aged looking equipment. The first thing I considered was that I was also going to be hooked up to the machine.
The man with me never introduced himself at all; he just sat me at a chair with a microphone and some sinister looking dials and switches in front of me. Something seemed disturbing about the whole set up. The man left the room. I looked closer at the dial that was fixed before me, I noticed labels around it. They had captions such as “20 volts – Mild shock” right up to “450 volts -Instant Death” written on them. There was also a large red illuminated button labelled “ADMINISTER SHOCK” Written in capital letters. In retrospect I think I was in denial about what I was going to do at this point.
The door opened suddenly behind me and I almost jumped up out of the chair. The man who I met the day before walked in and knelt down beside me. He slowly explained that in the test I played the roll of a teacher. I was to ask questions after giving the answers to the previous question. It was about relating items to other items. He told me that I’d have to punish the “Student” The person I knew as Donald. I was to be told the answer to the question as it was happening and that if it were wrong I was to turn the dial one notch and press the red button. There were strict instructions not to communicate with Donald other than instructed.
I was still in denial I suppose, I was sure they wouldn’t make me turn the dial all the way around. The “Dr” went to the back of the room and picked up a clip board, he told me to ask the first question, then the next one. The first time he answered, he got the question wrong. I pressed the button and a light sigh sounded though the loud speaker in the control board. The next question was answered wrongly, and the one after that, and the next one. By then as a pressed the button I became more and more apprehensive. By the 10th question the dial was at 150 volts. I never said a thing.
I turned to the “dr” behind me and he just nodded. The answer was again, according to the screen, wrong. Slowly I raised my hand. It was trembling like the rest of my body. I pressed the button. A wretched shriek followed by an out of breath sounding voice shouting “stop” sounded through the speakers. The test went on. The screams grew louder and more terrifying. Donald pleaded more and more for things to stop. I turned the dial on to 360 volts. I pressed the button. Nothing more than something that sounded like Donald sharply breathing in sounded through the speakers. I persisted.
Dr Lionel said he’d take responsibility. I turned the dial again. After asking the question, there was no answer. I still had to continue, shocking him again and again. No answer. I asked if he was dead. I was told to keep going. I had turned the dial all the way, pressed the button once more and still nothing but silence, a deafening silence. I sat back in my chair, I pushed it away from the desk that was stood there and looked vacantly at the dial. I was unfazed by dr lionel leaving the room. There I was left. Sat in the chair, my mind was bustling with dark thoughts.
Maybe something was wrong. Was he meant to die? Did he die? I must have killed him. All the men who were in the other room and “Dr Lionel” walked back in, I didn’t turn around, I was too scared, and nothing was as it should have been. One of the voices piped up saying that they had all the results they needed. All that I thought of was how revolting the idea that me killing this poor innocent man was what they wanted. The voice piped up again, but I was sure I recognized the voice this time. I stood up and span around to face the people in the room as fast as I could.
I turned to face someone in the middle who was holing his hand out as if I should shake it. I looked up at his face. It was Donald. My heart literally skipped a beat. I grabbed his hand and I was so grateful to as well. I thought he was dead. I had to check with him again. I asked if his name was Donald. He told me that at least I thought it was. He explained that the whole experiment was not a test of memory. It was a test of how far I would keep on shocking the subject. He said that his name was Richard O’brian and that he was just an actor. The sounds I heard were recordings.
The button I pressed just started the recoding. It didn’t hurt anybody. I had never been more relived in my entire life, but then soon my happiness turned to disgust. What if the test was real? I’d have killed him. I was capable of killing an innocent human being, I was a monster, and I would have to live the rest of my life knowing that I’d have willingly painfully murdered a perfectly innocent human being. This was the biggest, most shocking, bewildering, and mind boggling thing that would ever happen to me. I was a killer, a stone cold killer.