I try to find the value in it. Surely, if such a feature persists through the millennia of humanity, it must have value. Is it the fight-or-flight response? No, because that is a poor description. Panicked people do not often fight. Often, they do not even flee. They mostly collapse in on themselves in a babbling, dazed, unthinking, unfeeling, incapable ghost of a person. They stop being a person. They stop being, at all. Is it the reversion to a primal instinct that preserves, if no one else’s, then at least their own life?
As I read the lines I don’t always remember writing, lines I put away for days and weeks and sometimes months between work sessions, I see things that I didn’t know snuck their way in. I see hitchhikers. I see viruses. I see ideas unremembered for 18 years. I see memories I would have sworn were my own vibrant original content. Oh, no, that’s a converted memory from middle school. There’s something I remembered cooking up during college. Here’s something, no I swear to you that’s brand new and I made it up right here in this moment I remember so clearly, but no, wait, it’s a version, made writ, of a familiar where and when. I know that smell. I know that feeling. Dammit. There it is. Something new.
I thought it silly the first time I read it. Why wouldn’t they turn? In what possible world would prisoners stare only at the dull gray features cast ahead of them and never wonder about the wider details beyond? How could any reader believe that a group of humans would simply accept the world in front of them and wonder no more? Humans are inquisitive, intelligent creatures almost wholly unique in our capacity to compound and share knowledge. Why should we accept this story where people behave just the opposite of humankind, at their own terrible expense?