The guard opened the door for D-766981. The room was empty, save for a speaker, a foam mattress, and the toaster sitting in the center of the floor. D-766981 turned to look at the security guard, but the door was already shut. The cell was totally padded. The speaker buzzed on.
“Hello D-766981! Your job is to make it to the end of the month in this cell with me.” The researcher was all too cheery and glib.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” D-766981 looked at the toaster, “What the hell am I?” It took him a moment to realize what he’d said.
“I am a standard toaster that people can only refer to in the first person,” the researcher replied.
“How the hell do I do that?” The D-Class winced again.
“The Foundation doesn’t know how I do it, but I seem to have some sort of mind-altering effect,” The speaker turned off. A month with a toaster. I got the easy job he thought. His day consisted largely of looking at the the toaster. He tried to concentrate on the fact that he was not a toaster.
He spent all night doing it. He sat there, even as site security brought him his dinner, hyper-fixated on the toaster. On the other side of the wall, Dr. Emily Dagerman and her research assistant watched him, eating their dinner.
“How long has it been?” the research assistant asked, gesturing for Dagerman to pass the hot sauce.
“About six hours,” the doctor said between spoonfuls of soup, “Keep in mind we chose him specifically for his obsessive tendencies.” The research assistant chuckled. The D-Class was sitting and screaming with the toaster in his hands. Dagerman turned down the volume and got back to her dinner. They watched D-766981 writhe in anguish, still clutching the toaster.
D-766981 did not sleep that night. He spent the whole night trying to force himself to refer to the toaster as an “it”.
“I am..No, fuck,” He swore, staring into the bread slot, “I am…Dammit. It is a toaster.” He jumped up, threw the toaster against a wall, and shouted. “It is a toaster! It is a toaster!” He proclaimed joyfully. The commotion woke Dagerman up from the observation room.
“Wha-” She watched as the D-Class jumped around. She turned up the volume and heard him chanting. She realized quickly what had happened. She pressed the button to activate the speaker in the cell and spoke. “Congratulations, D-766981, you’re the first person to ever refer to me in the third person. Would you like to be sent back to the D-class cell block or would you like to serve out the rest of your time in the cell?” The D-class stared at the speaker.
“What about the toaster?” He seemed almost broken that it was now made trivial.
“What about me? I’ll just go back to containment. I’m not really that frightful of a skip.” Dagerman sighed.
“How important was this research in the long run?” D-766981 seemed saddened.
“Not particularly. I am not a particularly dangerous skip, like I said. There’s way scarier things than me.” The D-class seemed broken. The door to the padded cell clicked open, and a guard escorted him out. The rest of D-766981's time was spent moping.