Excuse me, sir, do you know how long this line is?
It would be so easy. Just spit it out. Ask the question.
If only I could move my lips.
If I concentrate, I can get my fingers to twitch. I still haven’t been able to move my head, though, so all I can see is the man standing in front of me.
The back of his head anyway. And when I lean to the side, I can see the backs of so many other heads. All in line. All waiting.
I wonder how long I’ve been standing here. I think I fell asleep waiting, and now everything is sore and tired and I can’t remember what it is we’re waiting for.
Maybe we’re waiting for food. Maybe I’m hungry.
Weird thing is, I can’t seem to remember the last time I ate. Or left this line at all.
I test out my knees, and I can bend them now. My joints are slowly coming back to life. I want to move, but I feel like I have to stay in line. Everybody else is.
It’s so quiet. I can see all their heads in front of me, but it’s so quiet it’s like there’s nobody else here. We must be in the middle of nowhere. It’s too…
Excuse me, sir, but what am I doing here?
I try to talk to the guy in front of me but I still can’t feel my lips, so instead I reach out and touch his shoulder.
I poke him a couple times.
He seems out of it. Hasn’t moved a bit. Maybe he’s sleeping.
Still, I poke him again for good measure.
It’s a lost cause.
A humming has started in my ears and head. I think that means I’m getting my hearing back.
But along with the hum comes the thunder. Up ahead, the endless line of heads disappears into the foggy whiteness and dull roar. There is no sun, only the bright pale light on the horizon, and all the people in line are quiet.
I’ve decided that we’re all dead. I almost laughed out loud it’s so obvious, except I still can’t move my lips. I’ve never been a religious person, but I know. I must be dead.
It makes sense! That’s why I can’t leave the line.
Because there’s nowhere else to go.
Time passes and nothing changes. The humming gets louder and doesn’t stop. Neither does the the booming on the horizon. There is no other sound. Nobody moves.
Except, then he does.
The guy in front of me, he moves. Everyone does. At the same time. Like a little shiver moving down the line as if everyone got hit by a blast of cold air. Except there wasn’t any cold air. There was no reason to shiver but they all did at the exact same time.
And I shivered too.
Something is wrong. Something is very wrong and I don’t know what to do. The line is moving steadily forward as we all take automated synchronized marching steps towards the light and the thunder. And for some reason, nobody else seems the least bit unnerved.
I can’t control my legs as the humming calls us forward. The line is moving and I can hear the footfalls of everyone behind me and the countless ahead.
I can’t remember where I am or how I got here, or why there’s suddenly a gun in my hand, why there’s suddenly a gun in everyone’s hands, why we’re raising them up into our arms like we’re preparing to shoot.
I can’t do this.
I break all the rules as I try to tear myself from the line, but I’m pushed back by the same invisible programming in my head. The hum is deafening.
Deep breath. With enormous effort, I wrench my torso around and look backwards. Time stops as I catch a glimpse of the marching line behind me.
Identical cold shiny metal faces going back as far as I can see. And in the reflective goggles of the soldier behind me is my own shiny metal robotic face. One of thousands of shiny metal robotic faces. All in line. No longer waiting. Called by the hum to march into the light and the thunder with nothing but our guns and our cold metal armor to protect us from whatever lies ahead.
The hum tells me to face forward, rejoin the line, but I can’t. I am frozen by the sight of an infinite line of robot faces and my own impossible robot face. I fight the hum and manage to trip myself. The marching spell broken, relief fills me as I fall onto my knees and my gun drops to the ground. For a moment, I am free. But the line behind me doesn’t want to stop. Cannot stop for anything.
Trampled. Kicked. I stagger away and stare at the the identical machines following me, and they start to brush past me, thrusting me backwards. The line stops being a line and I’m bewildered as countless robots surround me in a crowd, a mob, pushing and trying to force me to turn around. Either turn around or be swallowed by their ceaseless marching feet.
I try to get out. I try and fail to squeeze past the wave forever pressing forward with guns at the ready. There are so many of them, and I am alone. I see my gun on the ground and pick it up. After taking a last longing look to where the crowd of robot faces disappears in the distance, I do it. I turn around. I face forward and take my place with the rest of them. I can see the backs of a million heads as I join their crowd, stepping in time with the others as we, the marching dead, march to the rhythm of our guns in our endless line towards hell.