rating: +12+x

Greg had been given a choice. At the time, he thought the right choice was obvious. Now though, he feared he chose wrong. He'd seen a lot over the last three weeks. He bore witness to horrors so abstract and archaic they threatened to curdle his mind and entities so malevolent and powerful they were a hair’s breadth away from wiping out all life on the planet. But he had yet to feel such a gnawing dread in the pit of his stomach.

Greg sat in a large room with a small circle of chairs gathered in the middle. Balls of yarn were piled at the center of the circle of chairs; their colors spanning the rainbow. Greg even saw a few with flecks of glitter woven into the wool.

There were five other people in the room. Four of them wore an orange jumpsuit similar to Greg’s own. The fifth, though, was different. He wore a simple black suit that seemed to barely contain the bulk of muscle and sinew that lay beneath. His wide brick of a head was clean shaven and so meticulously polished that Greg suspected he could use it to signal aircraft. When he spoke, his deep baritone seemed to reverberate all the way through Greg’s guts. The man introduced himself as Agent Cinders. He seemed nice enough. He was polite, patient while teaching and always followed up criticism or suggestions with a compliment. That didn’t change the fact that he was the most imposing human being Greg had ever met. Even when Agent Cinders was giving you a compliment, a deep frown creased his face and it felt as though he was always just a few seconds away from ripping someone apart with his bare hands. Greg’s time in prison didn’t even come close to preparing him for something like this.

Greg recalled the conversation that landed him here. It took place the day prior in the bleak dormitory that he shared with a couple dozen other ‘volunteers’. The man called Researcher Hemsworth walked into the room an hour before lights out as he did every night to count and make notes on Greg and the others.

“D-54687, D-54677, D-54671, D-54668 and D-54665, please come over and have a word.” Researcher Hemsworth said in a British accent. D-54671, that’s what Greg had been called for the past three weeks. He crossed the room and stood in front of the researcher. Once the 4 others Researcher Hemsworth named had gathered around, he continued. “You five have a rare opportunity for D-class personnel. You will be given a choice of what you will participate in tomorrow. Your first option is to be flown to a nearby forest with some particularly nasty bugs in it. I won’t give you the exact details, but let’s just say that if you don’t have a phobia of insects now, you probably will by the end of this particular test. Your second option is to spend the remainder of your time as D-class knitting.”

“Knitting?” Asked D-54687, an older man with a scraggly white beard.

“Yes, knitting.” Researcher Hemsworth answered. “Normal knitting sitting in a non-anomalous room, using non-anomalous needles, making non-anomalous clothing out of non-anomalous yarn.”

“What if we don’t know how to knit?” Asked D-54665, a younger man with a perpetually pinched facial expression.

“That will not be an issue,” Researcher Hemsworth assured him. “A member of staff will teach you the basics of knitting and help with any problems you may encounter. The projects you will be given will be suitable for beginners such as scarves and hats.”

“What’s the catch?” Asked D-54665.

“I assure you there is no ‘catch’.” Researcher Hemsworth stated. He began to tap his pen on the clipboard, a sure sign he was growing impatient.

“I’ll take the knitting.” Greg said and the four others around him chorused their agreement.

Greg didn’t know if Researcher Hemsworth was lying about there not being a catch or if he didn’t know who would be teaching them how to knit. Greg watched Agent Cinders as he worked. The way the tips of his knitting needles danced and twirled gracefully seemed uncanny once you saw the catcher’s-mitt sized hands that held them. The blue, woolen scarf he was working on seemed to grow as if it were coming out of a printer. Agent Cinders glanced up from his work and saw Greg watching him.

“Is there a problem, D-54671?” Agent Cinders spoke at a normal volume, but his voice still seemed to cause the walls of the room to vibrate.

“Uh, no, no problem.” Greg stammered and looked back down at his own scarf. He tried to focus on the steps Agent Cinders had taught him, but knitting was surprisingly hard. Greg heard the chair Agent Cinders was sitting on creak as he stood up. The big man’s footsteps were unnervingly silent as he circled around the outside of the chairs and stood behind Greg. Greg could feel the man behind him. It was all he could do to keep his hands from shaking. Agent Cinder leaned down to take a closer look at Greg’s knitting.

“Good work,” Agent Cinders said, clapping him on the shoulder. Just the weight of the man’s hand alone was enough to send vibrations down Greg’s spine. “Watch the tension of the yarn though. You don’t want it to get all bunched up on one side.” Agent Cinders walked back around the circle of chairs and sat down once again, the chair creaking under his weight.

Greg kept his eyes fixed on his work. There were six more days of this. Six more days of attempting to knit while a bald behemoth looked over his shoulder. Six more days of sitting in the same room with a man more intimidating than any prisoner he had met during his time at the maximum security prison. He began to think the bugs wouldn’t have been that bad.

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