My sleep consists of nightmares filled with shapeless sounds, colorless memories of violence and blood. Sometimes the drugs they inject me with cause horrible side effects. My body rejects these drugs and purges them from my system with violent, explosive fits of vomiting and diarrhea. As bad as those moments are, I relish them. The nights following those horrible fits of purging are the only nights my dreams are calm. Those are the only moments of escape from a tortured existence.
Unfortunately, yesterday’s drugs were, in my captor’s eyes, a success — my body didn’t reject them and my dreams were more vivid than usual. I wake with a start as the orderly pushes open the door and gruffly tells us to form a line.
I’m groggy and I have trouble getting to my feet. After my brush with the brute last night, I fell asleep with crossed legs in the corner and my legs aren’t responding to my desires. It may be a side-effect of the drugs. It’s hard to tell. Luckily Jones is the orderly this morning and he treats us better than most.
He yells at me to move faster but doesn’t hit me or threaten to take away today’s food rations. He looks nervously at the brute as he saunters out. I grudgingly admire the brute for his determination — he’s been pushed and punished more than most of us but he still swaggers.
Breakfast is the usual swill. It looks sterile and smells medicinal. If penicillin had a baby with oatmeal it would taste something like this. But, I assume it’s a supercharged concoction of vitamins, minerals and protein. I always feel better after eating and my wounds heal quickly.
“We’re lucky — we’ve got Jones today,” a creature to my right says softly.
It’s Carlos. His face is misshapen this morning–both eyes nearly swollen shut. It’s an improvement.
“You look good this morning, Carlos.”
Carlos grimaces and covertly raises his middle finger to me.
Carlos is a freak. He looks like a ninety-nine percenter from the waist up. He speaks well and is incredibly intelligent. When his face isn’t swollen and disfigured from testing, he looks vaguely Hispanic — I think that’s why he goes by the name Carlos. Of course, that’s only true when he’s sitting down. He doesn’t look Hispanic, or even human when he stands up. He’s short–really short. And his legs are thick with muscle and knotted with sinew. Unfortunately, those muscles and sinews aren’t correctly attached to his bones. He can walk but not well. Whatever genetic mutation they tested when creating him caused deformities unlike any I’ve seen.
“I hear they’re transferring a ninety-five percenter today. They say she’s an escape artist–five times in two years,” he says out of the side of his mouth.
Jones is pretty lenient but some of the orderlies will punish us severely for talking. We’ve all figured out how to communicate without getting caught. Except for Dan — when Dan’s on duty, it’s not worth the risk.
“That must be why they’re transferring her here,” I say.
“No one has ever successfully escaped from Beta.”
The Beta Jensen Center for Genetic Research doesn’t look kindly on escape. Those who try are guaranteed two things. First, they will be punished with extraordinarily innovative forms of physical and psychological punishment. Second, the only time that punishment stops is when your heart stops. It ‘s a very effective disincentive — very few have ever attempted escape.
It’s brilliant really — suicide is a common wish for most of us here. But, the scientists at Beta learned early on that even suicide could be avoided if attempted suicide was punished severely enough. Escape, whether by suicide or otherwise, just isn’t worth the risk.
A loud metallic clang reverberates through the cafeteria and I look towards the door. I suppress a shudder as I see Dan pass through the doorway and step to the side. He slowly glares around the room with a smirk, looking for a victim.
“Hello freaks, did you miss me?” His voice is high-pitched and nasal. A small man with glasses and a scar-pocked face, I shiver in fear and disgust. I glance around the room and see others physically reacting to the site of the hated orderly–small comfort to know I share some bond with the others in the room.
Another orderly walks through the doorway and pulls roughly on a large leash, half dragging the new subject behind him. I hear a female scream and the subject begins to thrash violently. Her rage is evident and the orderly shrinks away in fear.
With surprising alacrity, Dan jumps to the side, pulls out a thick wooden dowel and begins beating the subject. A prod-like implement rests in his other hand. I think they’re supposed to use the taser-like prods to subdue us but Dan prefers the old-fashioned way.
There’s a collective gasp in the room as the subject jumps high in the air and swings her right leg around swiftly from right to left. With a straitjacket constraining her arms and her head completely restricted by a leather strap, she catches Dan by surprise.
With surprising force, her right shin connects with Dan’s left orbital socket, the dowel flies from his hand and his head snaps back and to the right. The force from the kick causes him to pivot and, for a moment, I see his face. The eyeball is obviously ruptured and a gash above his brow has left rivulets of blood trailing down his cheek. He hits the wall and slumps unconscious to the floor.
With exceptional agility, the subject continues her spin and lands on both feet with knees bent, poised to run. The second orderly is still skittering backwards like a frightened crab when she leaps toward the open door that now stands in front of her.
She’s too late. The watchman in the Plexiglas control room to my right has observed the entire event and activates the magnetic fire-door. If she’d been lucky, and a second faster she’d have been crushed by the door and killed instantly. Instead we hear a crunch as her nose impacts the door with all her force behind it.
The watchman activates an alarm and, moments later, we’re all being tasered back into our cells. From the corner of my eye I see them place the new subject on a stretcher, lock her in and carry her towards the wing where they keep dangerous subjects in solitary confinement.
“That was the most fun we’ve had all week,” Carlos says, and I nod in agreement.
Chapter 3 (coming soon…)