Human guinea pig…

by The Floating Face

You enter a room full of computers and complicated wiring reminiscent of an old fashioned telephone exchange. Along two sides are sound proof booths of a space-age nature, a single window set into each and with heavy doors of unbreakable appearance. The room has a clinical and slightly sadistic atmosphere. Do you (a) allow your friend to shut you in one of the coffin-like booths and perform experiments on you for two hours or (b) run screaming for your life?

You choose (a), ‘allow your friend to shut you in one of the coffin-like booths and perform experiments on you for two hours’. She slams the door closed and you settle into the waiting chair. Before you are three buttons, marked ‘1’, ‘2’ and ‘S’. You immediately begin to stab them at random. Your friend tells you to stop messing around and put the headphones on.

You are required to listen to a series of beeps and decide which one sounds higher, pressing either button 1 or 2. Your friend tells you it’s just like playing a computer game. After brief consideration you find this statement both patronising and an insult to your intelligence. You begin to tell her as much but she cuts off your microphone, reducing your diatribe to a comic mime. Instead, you glare fearsomely at her through the window. She seems irritatingly unperturbed.

Proceedings begin with a warm-up, where little flashing lights indicate whether you correctly picked the higher tone. The sounds are a mixture of different pitches and hisses deliberately introduced to mask parts of the note. After a dozen or so attempts you are convinced the machine is messing with you. Your friend assures you there isn’t really a ‘right’ answer, immediately cutting you off before you have opportunity to retaliate. You resume fearsome glaring.

After two hours the incessant bleeps have entirely addled your brain and you begin to lose your grip. Your friend has been sitting happily reading with her feet on the desk, but she now looks concernedly at the results appearing on her screen. She peers quizzically into the booth, and you stare vacantly back, glazed and deranged. She disappears briefly from the room, and returns with her supervisor. They confer briefly, huddled round the monitor, and look through the window as if expecting to see you foaming at the mouth.

“I think that’s probably enough for today.”, says your friend as she opens the door and releases you into the world once more. “I’ll see you back here on Thursday, right?” You presume this is to allow installation in the cell of padding and a straight-jacket before your next session.