It was a pain to wake again. To witness scenes and images you couldn’t bypass. To hear the sound of static, the shrill sound of metal colliding, and the lairy sound of waves and frequencies. But he had gotten used to the sounds; he used to let his imagination distort them and change them into beautiful, memorable melodies. But even they took that away from him, his imagination. Now he must ignore the noise, stalling his inevitable insanity. To repeat a painful tune, like a shattered television that would only play classical movies, was not new to him. He would become something many would dread, too.

But this does not stop him from sleeping. Others would call it his only escape, and it meant the same for him. To sleep until death would be a far better fate than what they had for him, a far better experience than to remember their capers. They had taken almost everything from him. He cannot remember if he had a family or an identity, but they call him a series of numbers, perhaps “4826.”

At the end of the hall was a room belonging to a woman. She would wonder when they didn’t watch her and look into other rooms. She would watch him rest, watch how his breathing pattern changed, and how fast his heart would beat. She would clench her fists in anger or anticipation, like something knew would happen. Of course, this wasn’t allowed, and she would get punished accordingly, but it didn’t stop her.

Today, his vision faded, probably due to the substance in the syringe. His eyes would flutter like a butterfly’s wings, except it would not help him learn to fly. He saw things like lines, in 2D. He couldn’t imagine any living, breathing entity but himself; even those who speak, and look like him, the ones that took from him, having dreams and heartbeats of their own. Still, he could not know that. They didn’t allow him to. With all this, he could not feel. The ability to feel skin as goosebumps arise—or silk sheets in the morning—was completely and utterly foreign to him. To feel the happiness of a new life or the sorrow of a lost one. He could not smell the scent of pastries or fresh laundry. Slowly, but surely, they were dehumanizing him. Using him for their own entitlement and greed in exchange for his life. Despite all of this, they did not completely break the deal. They had played with words; they tricked many but did not deceive all. A way to die, a way without doing it yourself, but while you can’t feel, we will control you. Yet all of his thoughts passed like a train, the train was never-ending, and the thoughts would be forgotten.

The woman had watched him rest again. 64742, they’d call her. This time, she thought to herself, this time, it’d be different. As usual, she was wrong. You’d think by now they’d find a way to stop her for good, but they underestimate how much harm she could really cause.

A few weeks had passed and 4826 could no longer see. The empty black darkness brought a feeling close to satisfaction rather than seeing lines, dots, and faint colors. Although he did not have a sense of sight, it did not stop his mind from creating terrifying scenes before him. However, on the second day of the fourth week, he heard a sound. It didn’t kill him to hear any more than it pained him to listen. It was soft and mimicked a melody he had once created. After it faded, he thought nothing of it. He had sworn to forget it, even though it would hang in the back of his mind like a skeleton.

On the last day of the fourth week, he could no longer taste. Not that he’d been given food or anything to taste, but he could no longer feel taste buds reacting to the chemicals he’d take. The sun had begun to set, and the soul-killing sounds of metal and electricity began to cease. Suddenly, the sounds of glass breaking and smoke would fill the air. But he did not panic, he did not tremble. He thought this was their deal, their end of the bargain. He stayed still and silent, patiently waiting for a quick death.

This time, waking up would not pain him. There must have been days or weeks since he had last heard a sound. He awoke to the sound of birds singing sweet songs in harmony. His thoughts and peace would quickly dissolve, bringing him to the pain he had found before. He used to be young, he used to have an identity and dreams, but they took that away from him. He was a James or an Oscar; he was an Ivan. He had once heard the songs of strings in synchronization and felt the feeling of blissful love. He had felt, pain, triumph, and pride. In a rush of emotions, it comes back to him, in his life returns the color he once saw. For he was not in their hands anymore; he would not be dehumanized. Once again, he had heard the humming of the woman. Along with this, he heard ticking of a clock. He heard the sound of her rocking chair and the sound of her picking her nails. But besides the ticking, a short silence came. Soon came flickers and flashes, but not the bad kind. The house he was in wasn’t grand, it wasn’t special, nor was it pretty in the slightest. It was old, it didn’t have many rooms or a proper kitchen, but it was just enough. On the kitchen wall, a screen had displayed 4/8/26, and the number on the mailbox numbered 64742. The static noises that came after the flickers and flashes ended with a soothing sound. A jazz band playing a happy melody that calmed his soul. The woman began to hum along, and it warmed his heart.

If you were to fix up an old telephone and type 4826, you’d get his name: Ivan. It’s an efficient way to identify people in these cases because they say it is impossible to form connections to numbers. The woman down the hall, Miria, was identified as 64742. April 8th, 2026, was Ivan’s birthdate, and his death date. A grand jury had deemed Ivan responsible for the murder of Miria’s son, as well as many beyond him. In the end, 4826 would hear the sound of music, and a gunshot to his head.