“Very good. Now remove all your clothes.”
He sat on a chair in the middle of an empty room. Four blank gray walls surrounded him. No windows. No decorations. No furniture. Just him, the chair he sat on, and a strange video camera positioned on a tripod in directly front of him. The lens reflected an eerie glow.
Despite the apparent privacy and isolation, he wasn’t about to get naked. Especially in front of a video camera.
“Mr. Stevenson, take off your clothes,” said the female voice. It came over an intercom, somewhere above his head from a loud speaker embedded in to the ceiling. Almost like the voice of God. Every word she spoke came through loud and clear — filling the room, surrounding him, engulfing him.
He stared into the camera. The little red light was on. He was being recorded.
“Do I have to?” he finally asked.
Her commands were clear and direct.
“Do it now or you won’t get paid.”
He stood up. No way. This wasn’t what he signed up for. “What the hell kind of racket you got going on here? I’m not taking my damn clothes off for no one!” He approached the camera. Stared directly into the lens. “You hear me? No one.”
“Sit down, Mr. Stevenson.”
He laughed and crossed his arms. “Make me.”
Silence. Nothing happened.
“That’s what I thou–” Suddenly an ear-piercing screech came over the intercom. Loud. Painfully loud. Ear-rupturing loud. He covered his ears hard as he could. “Make it stop! Make it stop!” He crouched to the floor. The piercing sound penetrated his hands, drilled into his ears, cut into into his skull. “STOP IT! TURN IT OFF!”
He quickly returned to his chair and sat down — still holding his ears.
The high-pitch piercing sound stopped.
Slowly, cautiously, he lowered his hands. His ears were throbbing. A minute or two longer and he might’ve gone permanently deaf. But here he was. Sitting back in his chair.
They’d be hearing from his lawyer when he got out of this.
“Now, Mr. Stevenson, will you take off all your clothes?”
“What the hell was that?”
“I don’t want to do that again. It caused brain damage to the last one.”
“The last one?”
“I gave you your instruction, Mr. Stevenson. It’s time for you to take off your clothes. All of them.”
“I want out of this. This isn’t what I signed up for.”
“No. The recruiter said you were looking for paid volunteers for a rejuvenation experiment. Said you guys were working on some kind of weight loss and anti-aging drug or something.”
“Not a drug, Mr. Stevenson.”
“Look, I’m the first to admit I’m not in the best shape of my life. But your recruiter said you had something that’d make me look and feel younger, shed these extra pounds, really tone up my body, all without any diet or exercise…”
“Yes, Mr. Stevenson. That’s exactly what we’re here to do today,” said the god-like female voice over the loud speaker.
He continued, “But she said nothing about stripping naked in front of a camera. How do I even know you guys are legit? Is this being streamed over the Internet? For some sick voyeur website?”
“We just wish to document your changes, Mr. Stevenson. That’s all. Only Tiresias Global employees will ever see this video.”
“I dunno…” he said. He looked toward the only exit in the room. The small metal door he came in through. There were no other windows, no other exits of any kind. Not even a visible air duct anywhere. Just a bright light above, four blank gray walls, and that one small door. “Fuck it, you can keep your money. I’m outta here.”
He got up and walked toward the door.
But then he stopped.
“Where’s the handle?”
“The handle?” asked the female voice.
“Yeah. How do I open this thing?” He tried pushing against the door. It didn’t budge. He pressed his fingers against the seamless edge. No use. Couldn’t get a grip to pull on it. He started banging his fist on the door. “Hey! Lemme outta here! Let me out of here!!”
“Mr. Stevenson, please sit down. If you just cooperate and follow your instructions, this will all be over with before you know it.”
He continued banging. “Is anybody out there?”
“Mr. Stevenson… Don’t make me do this to you again,” said the female voice. “I will motivate you if I have to.”
He stopped banging on the door. He quickly flashed back to that unbearable ear-splitting painful screeching sound she used on him earlier. He did not want to go through that again. “If I lose one ounce of my hearing,” he said, “I will sue your company for every penny you’re worth!”
“I have other methods at my disposal too. Please just cooperate and sit down, Mr. Stevenson.”
He turned back toward door. Started banging on it again. “Anybody!” he shouted. “Let me out of this room!! Now!”