It was morning. He slept and awoke, therefore the morning had come. Sitting upright, he turned to the cylinder bank. With his feet cold upon the floor, he crossed the room slab to greet them. Exactly twelve even steps. A wall of copper tubes, each as wide as he, ran floor to ceiling. They numbered six in all, accounting for one side of the room. The other three walls were bare concrete, just like his floor. A surface with which to sleep upon existed, along with a hole directly in the center of the room. The hole was no wider a child’s hand and extended to a depth he could never fathom.
Above him was a large grid of small holes, each a finger’s diameter. They let off a constant yellow glow. No single hole ever extinguished it’s soft light. It would not have mattered if it had, he had no means to reach or repair them.
The grid stopped a forearm’s distance from the cylinder bank.
The cylinder bank. It needed tending. It spoke to him as it did every morning.
For as long as he had been here, since he awoke that first morning, the bank called to him. Spoke to him. Demanded of him. It did so in ways with which he was first foreign to. Dialogue had once came to him in the form of gesture or words; now it was a summons that found its way in the recess of his mind, a sense not uncovered but introduced.
At first he figured himself insane. Awaking in this place without reason, the calling voice emanating from the back of his skull, the confusion — it was almost too much. Then his responsibilities came through.
Upon each cylinder was a latched door — the door being two spread hands wide, the latch a fist and half long — which he was tasked with opening each time he awoke. With the door hinged up, the contents would shuffle their way through the pipe. They always went up. It was his duty to see to it, the contents would continue upward. There was little he could actually do but the bank called to him near incessantly to perform this check. Not always, but sometimes, he would have to assist the flow.
At times, sinew and viscera would become lodged. The pipes would complain to him and in he would plunge. The contents would touch him back. Fibrous tissues and fluid that somehow retained memory reacted when his hands would interrupt their journey. Their own private dialogues and memories would find his finger tips and knuckles. They would creep through joints to the back of his neck. The bank would allow this and never apologize later.
Each pipe would need inspection and each day began the same. When all six were checked, he was permitted to sit in their copper display. When not calling him, the bank would cajole him, though it never offered reciprocation for his duty. It often wanted more instead.
It never asked for toes or fingers, it was aware he needed them. Teeth were preferred at first. After some time, it asked for an eye.
This first request was made long ago, before he was educated by the bank. When asked, he refused the gift of his eye. The copper bank was displeased.
From behind him and out of the floor’s hole, a band of cables produced itself. They detached by one, winding their way towards him. Each fiber of cable, split upon itself becoming more delicate. A majority of the cables withheld his limbs, while the most frayed netted across his face, slowly withdrawing his left eye.
From then on, he gave freely of whatever the bank requested.
It taught him to love his purpose. It taught him to love it.
When his duty was done six times during the day, the bank allowed him to rest again.
Upon completion, he would take twelve steps back to his bed, avoiding the hole and lay down. The time between closing his remaining eye and when he again opened it would mark a new day.
Fear or concern were emotions that all but faded away from him at this point. Yet as he laid down that night, he began to think. Though he was entirely isolated, he could not think alone. The bank read him freely, something he knew inherently, and tried his best to avoid. Regardless of his autonomy towards it, the last annals of his mind were still his own. Forfeiting them would be something more sacrificial than death.
Still, despite his best efforts, a singular thought plagued him at that day’s end. The bank was aware of his routine. It knew that he knew how many steps it took to reach it. It knew he used his arms to measure and count. It knew what he needed for him to sustain it and of course, what he did not.
What worried him that night and several more to come, was the impending request of another gift.