Erase Esare'

Submitted into Contest #124 in response to: End your story with someone finding themselves.... view prompt


Science Fiction Drama

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

A young woman pours hot water into her cup of tea, adds milk, then moves whistling towards the living room where others are sitting around talking. She smiles when she sees Jack, a handsome English guy, sitting on a large settee and strolls gracefully towards him. 

  ‘Hi’ she says warmly, ‘Jack, right?’

  Jack looks at her, then down towards his shirt’s left pocket which has ‘Jack’ written on a white, adhesive label. ‘I guess so,’ he replies. 

'We met this morning,’ says the woman, ‘after breakfast.’ 

  Jack rubs his face and squints up towards the ceiling and the many tiny pin lights that are flooding the room with a bright, fierce glare. ‘Its so bright in here’ he says. ‘Someone should do something about it, turn them down or something.’ 

'I know, right?’ Says the young woman, smiling dreamily up towards the ceiling. ‘Lights, camera, action’ she adds cheerily, ‘feels like we’re on a movie set.’

  ‘Yeah’ says Jack slowly, ‘that’s about right.’ 

  ‘My name’s Esare’ she says. ‘Oh, and before you ask it’s pronounced S…R…A.’ 

  ‘Wasn’t going to ask’ mumbles Jack, his face resting in his hands. ‘Where the hell are we?’ Jack looks across at the woman…Ester was it? He looks at her with all the concentration he can muster and regards a beautiful face with short blonde hair and almost perfect, symmetrical features. She looks at him intently, a vague smile mirroring the cool, detached beauty of her eyes.

They are in a large white room with high ceilings; an ornate, sparkling candelabra hangs from the roof’s centre. There is very little furniture in the room except a cluster of brown settee lounges in the middle with round, glass topped coffee tables placed here and there. Jack leans over and taps a man on the shoulder who is sitting on the settee next to him. 

  ‘Hey bro’ whispers Jack, ‘do you know what the hell’s going on?’ The man turns to face him, a glass of red wine swirling in his hand. He is a good looking guy with smooth, olive skin and long, curly black hair. 

  ‘We are in some kind of room’ says the man weakly, ‘with between about four and, oh I’d say…five people in it.’ The man tries to smile but the effort is too much and his head resets back to its original position. 

  'You’ll have to forgive him,’ chirps Esare’, patting Manuel’s luxurious hair like he were a loyal, beloved dog, ‘he’s fried; been here longer than most.’ Jack’s body makes a horrified, involuntary lurch backwards. He rises to his feet and walks as calmly as he can towards where the door seems to be. 

‘What the holy fuck…!’ He hisses to himself. Jack staggers forward trying to keep the mounting panic he is feeling from freezing him into inaction. The door is huge, metallic and shut and he has the feeling that if he goes to open it something incredibly bad and creepy is going to go down. It doesn’t help that the exterior of the door has a long list of names mounted down its centre on little rectangular plaques. He leans forward and reads the inscription’s heading. 

      ‘A tribute to those brave souls who entered at their own risk.’ 

   Above this is an etching the size of a car’s number plate. It reads:

                 ‘Remember: Enter At Own Risk!’ 

  At this moment there is the sound of breaking glass accompanied by a woman’s loud cursing. Jack turns in time to see a very small man rush in tiny, furious increments across the room. He stands in front of Esare’ and points a stiff finger up towards her lovely, droll face. ‘I remember!’ He shouts triumphantly, ‘I remember!’ 

  Esare’ peers down at him then raises her glass and drains it. ‘And what do you remember, little man?’ 

  ‘I remember who I am’, he says simply, ‘least who I used to be.’ 

  ‘And who or what is that?’ enquires Esare’. The little man lowers his head for a moment before replying, ‘ah nuts, it was here, right here!’ he says tapping his temples, ‘but now it’s gone!’ 

  A moment passes where everyone breathes and smiles at nothing and looks at someone before looking away again. The little man rallies and rising triumphantly onto his toes he exclaims, ‘I know you are not one of us!’

  Esares’ snug, white earpiece makes a high pitched, whirring sound. She taps it and holds it fast to her ear as she regards the little upstart with a face so blank it is almost ugly in its porcelain sterility. 

  ‘Your with them’ remarks the little man calmly, ‘whoever they are.’

  Everyone in the room turns to the door as two men dressed in black tuxedos enter and walk briskly towards where the little man is standing. The little man (his name according to his plaque is Pablo) turns and runs to the nearest coffee table, upsets it and hides behind its transparent top. 

  Jack, at this interval, thinks he can hear the sound of muffled laughter coming from some indeterminable place just beyond the borders of their frozen, moribund world. The men stride towards Pablo and one of them, with great comic irony, leans down and taps politely on the table’s glass before enquiring, ‘excuse me sir, may we have a just a moment of your precious time?’ 

  Pablo flies out from his hiding like a cockroach reacting to a sudden burst of kitchen light. He dashes across the large room until he reaches the opposite wall then, with a terrible wail flies back again. He runs with thrilling speed towards where Jack has returned to sit with his good looking neighbour, Manuel. A woman emerges from left field and calmly sits down between Jack and Manuel. She places a warm, gloved hand on each of their legs. She is in her thirties with auburn hair and a large pink mouth. Pablo has to abort and swerve away from his couch sanctuary and flee back towards the stark inhospitality of the farthest wall. The woman, her name is Xanalla, giggles at his antics and puts a white-gloved hand to her mouth, presumably to intercept some impending social transgression. 

  ‘Gentlemen I know’, she says casually, ‘where there is another door and one that we can use to get out of here.’ 

  ‘You’ve been through this door?’ asks jack wearily. Both men struggle to piece this absurdity together. What was this talk of doors while a little man dashes across the room screaming for his mother? 

 ‘No, I didn’t say I have been through it,’ purrs Xanalla, ‘but I know that it exists and it is the way out of here. I have, however, been through that one’ she asserts, pointing to the imposing structure left of the farthest wall. Xanalla is primed to continue but she is interrupted by a high pitched, electronic squeal that precedes an announcement : ‘Ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention please.’

  A tinny, metallic voice is straining through a speaker hanging askew on the farthest wall. Several wires-one blue, one yellow-bulge from a split in its side. Below it the small man is spread-face askance-against the wall as if trying to climb a sheer rock face.

  ‘It has come to our notice that one of our guests is missing,’ says the speaker. ‘Be on the lookout for a very small man with teeth and hair and shoes. He was last seen running around the room at incredible speed. If you know of his whereabouts, please visit our office behind door number one. Remember, enter at your own risk, thank you.’ 

  Xanalla laughs and pats the men’s upper legs companionably, ‘funny little guy, don’t you think?’

  Jack slowly shakes his head. The last thing he remembers is walking a great and terrible distance under a shimmering, boiling sun. Then he has an image of himself standing before a formidable door demanding to be let in.  

  ‘Xanalla’ whispers Manuel, ‘do you know how you got in this place? How we ALL got in this place? Xanalla looks down towards where her shoeless, stockinged feet are gently rubbing against the mens’ lower legs. 

  ‘I remember everything’ says Xanalla softly. I don’t know why but whatever they’re slipping into you three they aren’t giving to me, least not in the same quantity. I think they’re using me as some kind of control so they can make comparisons with the effects all this has on you guys.’ 

  After a few charged seconds she adds, ’It’s lonely, you know, being the carrier of people’s memories.’ 

  Jack puts his hand on Xanalla’s arm as he turns away to look at the ruckus near the far wall. Pablo is being held up and twirled around by one of the tuxedoed guards. His is as limp as a rag doll, perhaps having fainted with the burdens of terror and torment. 

  ‘Quite a show they’re putting on, isn’t it?’ remarks Xanalla, one dark eyebrow raised with cryptic abandon. 

‘It is at that’ affirms Manuel. ‘Xanalla’ he continues, 'you said you can remember everything; what do you mean?’ 

  ‘Yes, my love,’ replies Xanalla, I do. I remember it all. Also, one of the tux guards is friendly to our cause and has filled me in, on the completion of certain favours, on the whats and hows and I will tell you all that I know. What I am about to say will put you in extreme danger.’ 

  ‘Shall I continue?’ Asks Xanalla firmly. Both men nod in dire agreement.

  Xanalla falls quiet and points to where Esare’ is walking towards the kitchen door. ‘Good’ she murmurs, ‘Esare’ is done for the day; we can relax.'

'They can hear everything, of course,' she goes on, 'but it doesn’t matter now because most of ‘they’ have either left for another house or died of one thing or another. The monitors aren’t patrolled as they once were so a lot of what we say and do goes unnoticed.’

  ‘So who is left? expounds Xanalla. ‘There is Esare’ who is more or less in charge, the two tux guards-one sympathetic, two maids and a cook and the four of us-Manuel, Jack, Xanella and Pablo.’

  ‘Xanalla,’ you mentioned there are other houses?’ asks Jack. 

  ‘Yes,' replies Xanalla, ‘the friendly tux guy, well his name is Jose’, he told me the government built hundreds of these self contained, underground bunkers in the desert to be occupied by military, government and social elite should there be a nuclear war or environmental collapse of some kind. The bunkers are all similar to our own and have enough food, water, oxygen and general supplies to last about five years. They are all interconnected by a network of underground tunnels. Jose’ says most of the houses are empty because what ever happened up there was catastrophic enough to prevent people from scrambling down here to safety.’ 

  Jack and Manuel look at each other before Manuel says, ‘so we were all already in here when some disaster occurred on the surface.’

  ‘That’s right,’ says Xanalla, ‘as was Esare’ and the other goons. We volunteered to test the latest batch of houses which had been completed. I had already been in this house for a year before you came in, Manuel, then Jack staggered out of the desert and they let you in for obvious reasons.’

  ‘Not so obvious’ says Jack, yawning and rubbing his eyes.

  ‘Ratings dear, of course. It made for great drama as we fussed around you and tended to your wounds. What started out as a scientific study morphed after the surface event into a macabre, post apocalyptic farce replicated in bunker after bunker to be enjoyed by the surviving elite. The cameras were already in place, every room and every hall has one or two to observe people as they go about their day underground. The elite live in big, luxury bungalows somewhere in the maze of tunnels. They have access to the cam feed of any house in the network. They can surf the menu board and click on, say, channel 209 which may reveal us guys sitting around talking about them watching us talking about them. You see?’ 

  ‘Diabolical’ says Manuel, a hint of wry admiration in his voice.

  ‘Indeed’ affirms Xanalla. 

  Part of the study was testing experimental drugs which they hoped would radically depress a persons capacity to remember. Jose’ speculates the government wants to build an army with limited memory function so it would not suffer so much from battle fatigue and trauma.’  

  ‘And here’s the worst part’, continues Xanalla, ‘though all the scientists departed long ago, Esare’ still slips powder into our meals. She does it like this so we can’t escape it. If we don’t want to have the powder we have to forego eating…not really an option, eh?’

 ‘Okaaay!’ enthuses Jack, ‘finally! This is why we can’t remember morning in the afternoon and the afternoon in the morning.’ 

  ‘Right,’ replies Xanalla. Jose’ says there aren’t many houses occupied so if we can get into this other tunnel we have a good chance of finding places with fresh supplies that are far away from here and Esare’. 

  ‘Xanalla,’ exclaims Jack, ‘you said earlier you have been through the door and seen what’s outside?’

  ‘Yes’ replies Xanalla gravely,’ I’m afraid it isn’t a happy story but one you must hear. I didn’t know then about the other door with the big, clean tunnels with houses in them. I was taking my chances with whatever awaited me on the other side of that big arsed, spooky door over there.’

  Xanalla pauses then says, ‘I was truly, sadly desperate at the time. Anyway, long story short; one night I waited till Esare’ had left our room and simply said goodbye to everyone and walked up to the door, opened it, then walked into the unknown. I guess they don’t bother locking it because it's a one way trip to hell. I followed the ill lit tunnel for about a kilometre before I had to stop as it had collapsed into ruin near a precipice overlooking a wide, churning river. I walked a way back in, curled up and fell asleep. When I awoke the next morning the sun was super intense. It was so hot I felt that if I stood there looking down at the river much longer I would faint and fall to my death. There was a blustery wind of unbearable force and heat which blew across a barren, parched landscape. I, like all the others who had gone through the door, was left with a simple choice-to go back or leap into the river far below. As far as I know I am the only one who ever turned back. As I was returning I glimpsed an obscured side tunnel which leads to another door. This is where you entered, Jack. I opened it and saw some of the barren, shimmering desert across which you walked.’   

At this point Xanalla looks with admiration towards Jack. Jack smiles as Manuel turns Xanalla’s chin towards him and kisses her tenderly on the mouth. All three regard one another with soft eyes and pliant hearts. For the next ten minutes Xanalla, Manuel and Jack form an impregnable huddle, whispering and occasionally laughing at some dark joke or macabre suggestion. When they break from their intimate counsel a formidable consensus has been reached. 

  All they need to do is to erase Esare’ and everything will fall into place.


It is nearly eight months later that a large military truck squeals to a dusty stop outside a rock-face with an impressive looking door secreted into its side. It’s fifty in the shade, yet a cavalier guard wearing an incongruous tuxedo jumps down from the front and unties the rear flap holding a cargo of assorted ‘project volunteers’. The guard lowers the rear tray and motions for the people inside to alight from the vehicle. The guards are nervous and keen for the transfer to go without a hitch. Previously this facility had been the subject of a rare ‘escape’ and those concerned had been, as far as anyone could remember, rounded up and brought to justice. The guard with the tuxedo had been on duty when the escape went down and was rumoured to have assisted those involved. He spent some time in a rehab facility which aimed at erasing his memory so he could resume his duties and serve his country again with a clean, clear conscience. 

Once the ‘volunteers’ were off the truck the guards motioned them forward towards the large metal door in the hill’s side. It was a fine, blurry line these days between the status of ‘prisoner’ and ‘volunteer’; the reality was those selected were strongly advised to remain within their ‘house’ and should they breach the door they would be-for their own safety of course-hunted down, captured and returned. 

The guards watch them walk slowly by…a handsome Spanish man with long, dark hair; a muscular English guy; a tall, beautiful red head and a lively little man brimming with energy who gives the impression that, given the chance, he will break free and tear across the desert like Speedy Gonzales.

All of the above had been given up for dead and have their names engraved on shiny plaques mounted on a huge door the other side of the cavernous hillside.

Bringing up the rear is a very pretty woman with a bob of blonde hair and a commanding demeanour. She is used to being in positions of privilege and power and so this demotion to ‘special prisoner’ is deemed a fitting and sufficient punishment for her failings. It was also taken into account the tremendous suffering she endured at the hands of her captors. She only talked about it once, describing how she and one of the guards were overpowered then tied to chairs and forced to drink potions which had copious amounts of the memory powder in them. Medical specialists were amazed this woman survived and with most of her faculties intact. However Esare' would, they cautioned, always bear the scars of her ordeal and live in a subliminal nightmare of lost keys, loose ends and unresolved confusions.

And now, as the group shuffles towards the hillside and the large door through which they will soon pass, Esare' adjusts her sunglasses and intercepts the beginnings of a broad smile. If you peer into her sky blue eyes you might detect a glimmer of recognition within them, like the bright flash of sunlight off a mirror, or sunshine pouring through the parting of clouds. She walks up the line of mumbling, weary souls and extends her hand towards a cute looking guy at the front.

'Hi' she says cheerily, 'Your name's Jack, right?'

Jack looks at her and sees a beautiful young woman with blonde hair and a great smile.

'Yes' he says, grinning sweetly as he bends to read the label above his shirt pocket, 'I guess so'.  

December 16, 2021 10:58

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Sharon Harris
08:13 Dec 29, 2021

There’s so much mystery here. I love the little man bouncing off the walls and the premise of the ‘volunteers’ already being in the bunkers. Are you thinking of expanding this? It would make a great novel.


08:48 Dec 29, 2021

Hi Sharon and thanks again for your feedback. It just came out in response to the prompts and its a bit more dystopian than I would normally write but I think its fun to lob a few grenades into the pages occasionally to see what happens. As far as a novel goes-well, it might be fun and a challenge to weave some beauty and magic into what is a pretty dire scenario.


Sharon Harris
09:37 Dec 29, 2021

I agree, grenades are great!


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