Day 1 :: Jen :: in the Blue Room

Image: Fee Plumley

I’m in the blue room. There’s nothing to distinguish it from the others except the colour of the door and the linen, my initials in bold type on an A4 piece of paper tacked to the door. There’s a partition drawn between the waking half of the room – a desk, a table and a comfortable chair – and the sleeping half, where I will go when the lights go dark. All the furniture and fittings are brand new, so at the moment it’s a bit like we’re squatting an office building. We’re all in good spirits, joking and getting to know each other, but I am aware how completely dependent we are on the scientists – for our meals, for all our contact with the outside world, and for any information we might glean about it. The world could end and we wouldn’t know it. As much as an exercise in sleep deprivation, this is an exercise in trust.

We arrived at 9:30am. The last time I saw a clock was at about 11, at the end of our tour, which Scientist Xuan gave with much kindness and good humour. That clock was in the room outside this lab where the scientists sit and watch us on their monitors. I have no idea what time it is now. I won’t know for another week. It will go dark when the scientists flick a switch, and the rest of the time it will remain a dull half-light, good enough to read by but far duller than an Adelaide day. I wonder how they decide this is as much light as you need to stay awake. Surely South Australians are acclimatised to more? This dim calm is like a psychologist’s rooms, or a priest’s. Confessionally darkened, but not criminally so.

When time has no measurement, language has to change to fit. We can’t ask when something will be done, or how long it will take, or how much time we will have to ourselves. I am beginning to realise what a luxury of time I have in my days and nights at home, the luxury of structure.

I’m writing in my ‘free time’ between tests. These are checking my cognitive functions: response time, comprehension, and judgement. The tests are strange and very repetitive. There’s a device called a PVT which looks like it should be part of a 1980s robot. There’s a dinky little driving simulator (I crashed). Another test shows us the word Yellow coloured green, or the word Red coloured blue, and asks us to distinguish between the colour and the word. I already feel an estrangement between words and things. Partly in response to this, I have started to draw the objects in my room.

My ‘free time’ is neither, and soon interrupted for another test. Addition and subtraction. When my screen reads “2+2=” I think of Winston Smith, my imaginary companion in this dim cell. Should I put 5? Only the scientists have the answer.

Jennifer Mills

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Post a new comment