Not much ever happened here. We just lived average little lives in our average little way. If it hadn't seemed so perfect, I suppose it probably would've been boring. I went to high school, I had a boyfriend, I had parents who loved each other, I had a younger sister, I had two older brothers, I had... a life worth living.
Our town never changed much. People were too content with living here to move away, and nobody had ever heard of it, so not a lot of new people moved in. We weren't in any disaster areas, people rarely committed crimes...
I'm sorry. I don't know anymore. I could wax eloquent about how my town was this perfect, undeserving little utopia all day, because it was. And that's all you really need to know about it.
So one day I was coming home from school and I noticed a man on the corner. He really didn't stand out in any way, he was just wearing typical clothes, looking around, and smiling. Constantly smiling. The smiling wasn't what made him stick out to me though, a lot of people have reasons to smile. No, he stuck out because he was new. Never saw him before in my life.
And I wasn't the only one noticing. Men, women, and children walking by were all giving him a second glance. Later, I heard a few people had tried to talk to him, but he'd just stared at them, smiling, until they went away.
He was the beginning. After that, it all happened so fast.
The next day, he had a friend.
The day after that, he had three more.
Another day, five more.
Now there's too many to count.
At the end of the week, they covered the corner and were spilling out onto the street. The town had judged them a threat. Police were trying to get them to respond, get them to move, but they weren't budging. Nothing was working. If they were ordered to disperse, they would just smile. If they were hit with a Taser, or sprayed with pepper spray, they would fall down, smiling, and twenty others would gather around them, smiling.
Eventually, the police decided to use tear gas. I was there when they did it, everyone was. This was a big thing, something nobody had ever seen. Riot control? In OUR town? It was an uproar.
So the whole town had gathered up along Mainstreet, staying upwind in case the tear gas blew around, as the police approached the crowd. They fired the canisters at them, and sure enough, they all fell to the ground, choking, their eyes streaming. I couldn't see if they'd stopped smiling. I hoped to God they had. The town was watching with unwavering attention.
None of us ever heard it come up behind us.
Nobody even knew what it was.
We were all scooped into a giant metal... thing. I didn't get to see it, all I know about it was it had a sharp edge about three inches off the ground that cut into my Achilles tendons like a knife through butter before knocking me backwards and pulling me in. After that, I passed out from some sickly sweet smell.
I woke up, I don't know how much later, in a giant cylindrical chamber, like a sewer. Just by looking, I could tell the whole town was here. They were all lying around, sobbing or quiet, some even quietly talking, with cut ankles. Nobody had been spared. There were children here too, with cut lower calves. They were the first to stand up, pleading with their parents for them to do the same. My little sister tugged at my arm, crying for me to get up as I told her I couldn't.
I thought this was terrible. I didn't know what was going on, I didn't know where I was, I was hurt, and it all had something to do with those men, those smiling men.
After an hour or two, some of the smiling men came in from a door somewhere behind me and dragged a few of us away. Before long, I was taken too. The man dug his hands into the cuts in my ankles, and I cried out in pain. I think he chuckled a bit.
I was dragged to a room that looked like a doctors office, full of cots and medical equipment. About twenty other people from my town where there, lying on the cots, surrounded by smiling men. I heard screams, but I couldn't see what they were screaming about. My smiling man picked me up and dropped me on a cot, while some of his buddies came up behind him. They flipped me over so I was on my face, and I felt them probing around in my wounds. I hissed and groaned as they started to tug at the edges of the torn skin, pulling it open wider.
I barely had time to wonder what they were doing it for when my entire mind was shattered by pain. Blinding, screaming pain. I don't know how long it lasted, but when it ended, I was standing and being prodded in the back, pushed towards a door. I took a step forward, and immediately cried out. I could walk, but it hurt. Not as much as before, but still a lot.
They kept pushing me forward, and I walked through, tears streaming down my face. After a moment, I realized I was naked. The air of the room I was entering was cold, and goosebumps raised all over my body.
There were townspeople in this room. Some of them I recognized, most I didn't, but it definitely wasn't the whole town. Maybe a thousand people, maximum. My boyfriend and sister were there, and my father. They were all naked as well. Everyone was. A lot of them were crying, and their ankles were all glinting strangely. Looking closer, I realized they had cylinders in their ankles, with spikes sprouting out at all sides. It looked painful. I wondered how they could walk. I looked back at myself, and saw that I had them too, neatly inserted into the gashes that had been there earlier, stabilizing my steps. A red light on the back of each one was blinking. I stared at them for a moment, wondering what they were for. I don't know why, maybe it was blood loss or some drug, but I was feeling strangely calm.
I stared at them for a few seconds more before walking over to where my boyfriend was and leaning against him. He didn't say anything, just looked at me with a curious, blank expression. On the other side of the room, my dad was sitting, staring at the ceiling with my sister next to him.
This was day one.
For the next two days, nothing happened. Then, eventually, I came to my senses, along with everyone else, and started to freak out. We clawed at the concave walls until our fingernails bled and came off, screaming at the top of our lungs all the while.
Some more screaming.
We gave up.
They started taking us away.
On day six, when I woke up, my boyfriend wasn't there. Shakily, I climbed to my feet, and started to look around for him. My legs had started to heal around the spiky rods inserted in them, and I could walk almost painlessly around our circular enclosure. He wasn't there, but I noticed other faces missing, too. I was scared for him, scared for them all. I realized this must be how my father felt for my mom, and I felt a bit of guilt that she hadn't crossed my mind already.
An hour later, they let those they had taken back in. Plugs had been inserted in their backs, the edges of the punctures they made in the skin raw and red. Tubes ran between them, thick red blood pumping through sluggishly. For the first time, I wondered if we'd become experiments. Lab rats to be used for whatever purpose they saw fit.
They took in more, including my father.
They took in me.
The tubes burn.
They have also cut me one time every day. The woulds do not bleed. It seems insignificant, except in that it seems insignificant.
I heard people grunting at night. I think they're making love, and I understand why. Any pleasure in this room of pain and nothingness would be a relief. My boyfriend is still disinterested.
They have cut me four more times, one for each day. I'm using them to tell time, because there is no sun or clock.
The smiling men took in a few more people today, and they all came back with holes in their heads. I can look through into their brains. They're not dead though, just very quiet.
Both my dad and my boyfriend were taken.
Day twenty one.
I didn't realize how much I was depending on those two until they took them away. They don't respond. They don't do anything. They just sit there and stare at me. I feel very alone.
Day twenty five.
I don't feel like I'm me anymore. I don't know if it's something they did or just how bizarre it all is, but I feel detached, separate. I think a lot of other people feel this way too.
One of the girls in our room was pregnant. I'd seen her around school, it was a pretty big scandal when it happened, but she's six months into it now and nobody really cared. But today they took her away, and when she came back, her belly wasn't full anymore, and there were gashes on her inner thighs. We asked her what happened, but she wouldn't tell us.
Day thirty two.
They took in all the girls today, into the rooms with the cots. They pried apart my legs and put something inside me, and for a moment, I was confused. It was buzzing slightly, and I didn't understand why they would give me pleasure. Then it exploded into pain and I felt a thousand small barbs latch onto my insides, and the device was anchored in me. They forced me to get up and walk, with the thing grinding around as I move. I was bleeding for a while, but it's stopped now.
Day thirty three.
The smiling men called in the boys today. When they came back, they all wore bandages that looked like diapers, and none of them had genitals. I think we're going to die in here.
The thing inside of me has started to buzz around, and I'm in pain all the time now. Why are they doing this?
Day forty two.
Everyone looks sick. Those with holes in their heads have lost all their hair. My sister doesn't speak. The pain from inside is getting stronger. I'm amazed she can bear it in silence.
They've taken in the girls again, this time only the ones past puberty.
I used to have B-cups.
Now I have flat bandages.
Day fifty five.
The men now. They've cut off their hands and removed the forearm bones, and put spiked rods inside the holes.
They took all the children and cut off their ears, now only holes remain.
My sister she told me she wants to die.
She's only five.
Day seventy four.
They've started taking people's limbs now. My father only has one leg, my boyfriend is missing an arm, I am missing my hands. My sister has only arms.
In the place of the limbs are bloodless wounds that do not heal.
Someone tried to kill themselves. They smashed their head into the walls, but they could not hurt themselves enough, so they tried to cut their inner thigh with the spikes on the back of their ankles. The ankle rods' lights flashed quickly, and the man fell to the ground screaming. He did not try again.
Day eighty two.
My father tried to kill himself. He was just as unsuccessful.
There's a pillar in the middle of the room that came down from the ceiling.
Nobody has touched it.
They fear for more pain.
Day ninety one.
They took everyone in today and cut off our cheeks. We look like walking skeletons now.
Now we're smiling too.
Day ninety five.
The pillar is still there.
Nobody sees any reason to touch it.
Day one hundred.
The pillar kills people.
My father was the first, then four more.
They all died willingly.
Their bodies lie around it.
The pillar did not kill any more after that.
Day one hundred and one.
Everyone massed to touch the pillar, but only the first five to touch it died.
All who survived had more pain-giving rods put in their legs.
We don't even look human anymore.
Day one hundred and fifty.
The mound of bodies around the pillar does not rot.
Every fifth day it disappears altogether.
Day one hundred and seventy seven.
My boyfriend got to touch the pillar today.
Day two hundred and five.
We also can't kill each other.
Two lovers tried.
Day three hundred.
Nobody else is left. My sister was the last to die, pressing herself to the pillar like a lover before slumping to the ground.
I've been staring at her body for a while now, wondering why I don't do the same.
Day three hundred and one.
The smiling men came and took me today. I fell asleep.
Day three hundred and fifty.
When I woke up, all my pain was gone.
I am in a white room with a locked door, a bed, and an unlocked door.
I have not opened the unlocked door.
I use marks on the wall to tell time now.
Day three hundred and fifty three.
The unlocked door leads to a bathroom.
I hadn't realized I didn't need one until now.
My body is whole again. There are stitch marks around my chest, on my face, around the base of my wrists, and on my legs. There are also scars all over my body from the many cuts I had been given.
I have not checked my insides, and do not know if I can.
Thick anklets have taken the place of my rods.
Day four hundred.
My anklets fell off. The skin beneath is good as new.
Day four hundred and one.
A pretty young lady came in today and gave me some food. She left before I could ask who she was. I got breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I ate it and threw up.
Day four hundred and five.
I managed to keep my food down today.
Day four hundred and ten.
I cried for my sister, my father, my boyfriend, and my town.
Day four hundred and twenty four.
A man came in today. He wasn't smiling. At least, not all the time.
He asked me why I hadn't killed myself in the end.
He said it was something they hadn't expected.
I was supposed to have died.
I told him, "If I'd killed myself, there would never be a chance for anything better."
He seemed to accept this, and left.
Day four hundred and fifty five.
It's my birthday today. My second since it all started. I am now eighteen.
They told me I could go if I wanted. There's a credit card on the nightstand next to the bed.
But I need to ask the man something else, so I wait another day.
Day four hundred and fifty six.
"Do I still work?" I ask. "You cut me all apart, and I want to know if I'm still human."
He nods and says, "You work. You work better than anyone else in your entire town."
I'm walking through hallways, going down on stairs, when I pass a man. It's the smiling man, the very first one, who was on that street corner so long ago.
He's not smiling anymore.
I keep walking and leave.
The air of the outside feels like life.
I had a dream to this effect this morning, and this story occurred to me as I woke up. The parts of it that were actually in my dream were the spiked rods, though in less anatomically viable places like the torso, the Death Pillar, the Little Sister, the Chamber, and the Smiling Men. It wasn't a nightmare.
I'm sorry that it's so terribly written, I may edit it later.