Authors: Pandora Poikilos
By Pandora Poikilos
Copyright 2011 by Pandora Poikilos
Cover Art Copyright 2011 istefano.com
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
With utmost love and appreciation to
My father, Andrew K (Jr.)
… for the beat in my heart and peace in my mind
… for being a constant through the changing scenes of my life
Datin Dr.Vasantha Kumari Willie
… for asking me the most important question, "Who are you?" and for listening to me as I sort peace from pieces
SL Clark and Sonia
… for giving me the opportunity to find my voice in the ever-changing world of publishing
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
31 October 1997
The last of autumn had come and gone leaving bare tree trunks, roads cluttered with leaves and a blowing chill in the air. Yet as the moonlight shone bright, the scene was eerily captivating. Beyond the trees, a narrow trunk road led to a big concrete building lined with grilled doors and windows, the only hint of life for miles. Inside, the moonlit view of winter's welcome was wasted on its occupants. Cramped in a tiny concrete cell with six other people, a red haired teenager watched as a rat darted across the floor. She thought about how it had made its way into the cell and if only she was that small so she could find a way out with it.
‘What were its concerns? Did it have family to go back to? A colony? Would they be angry if it showed up with no food?’ she wondered.
To the best of her memory it had been two years, maybe a little more since she had seen the outside world. Day and night were recognisable to her by the small grilled, square space above her head. She could tell it was winter with the chill but days and dates were not important to her anymore. Everyday was the same.
A cold bath in a common bathroom with at least five other people watching, the same thick cotton pants and blouse which were changed every two weeks or so, small talk with the others in the cell, food shoved in through the bars, drinking water served in plastic packets, that was life now. Sleep rarely came on a hard wooden board or when howling pain sounded from someone whose mind or body had given up in this hell.
But tonight was different. She heard a loud metal clanging sound as the front grill slid open and her name was shouted out. She took her eyes off the rat and gathered her thoughts. Her heart started racing at what was to come.
Her cell door slid open and she heard loud whispers coming from the other cells. So few people ever left, let alone at this hour. A hand pulled her forward and gripped her shoulders as another placed handcuffs at her wrists and metal leg braces on her ankles. Twice before this had happened and each time, she felt like a cow herded off for slaughter.
"You are always so much trouble," the voice barked at her.
Once the handcuffs and leg braces were locked, she was shoved and made to walk small mincing steps, limited by the chains, down a long dark corridor.
She was taken into a dimly lit smelly room, no smaller than her cell and told to stand in the corner with her head bowed. Long minutes passed before she heard heavy footsteps at the door. As it swung open, a giant-like man approached her.
He stared straight into her eyes and spoke, "Today is your lucky day. If you do what I say, you are free. And if you don't, you'll live here until you die. You'll become ugly, old and nobody will want to look at you. And when you die, still nobody will want you."
His breath smelled foul, a combination of rotten apples and coffee. She felt like throwing up right in his face. Instead, she whimpered and tried to turn away, doing her best not to offend him. He moved in closer and let out a horrible gruff laugh as he jabbed his elbow into her belly. He pushed her shoulders down and motioned for her to sit on the floor. She could see the floor was stained.
Dark pools marred the cement and small pieces of paper were strewn in some corners. This place had probably never seen a wash let alone a good sweep but she knew disobeying her captor at this point was detrimental so she obeyed. This was the kind of hell where you lost your dignity as a human being and received worse treatment than an animal. Slowly she slid down, her back pressed against the wall and sat on the floor, her legs stretched so the metal leg braces cut less into her skin.
"You will have a new name. Your past will be erased. Do not run or poooofff ... I will find you!" He laughed a menacing laugh.
He knew she was terrified of him and what the future held. This gave him cruel pleasure. Power was always the best topping when you could look at a girl like this one and know you held the rest of her life in your hands.
"Are you ready?" he barked.
With a lock of red hair loose on her face, giving her just enough of a shadow to shed an unseen tear or two, she nodded. She felt broken. No longer sure if this was truly a way out of this hell or a ticket to one worse than this, she waited.
He pulled up a chair and sat in front of her, his shoes rested on her legs.
"Your name will be Catherine Dixon ..."
Once awarded the prestigious title of "the most suitable city to live in", Xiamen is located on the southeast coast of the People's Republic of China and enjoys a breezy seaside climate. Previously ruled by the Ming Dynasty, the literal translation of Xiamen is said to be "The Gate of the Grand Mansion". Historically, it had suffered many blows, first at the hands of the Portuguese, the British and then the Japanese during World War II.
In recent years, however, it is not foreigners who have given Xiamen a bad name; instead its own locals have brought it down. In 2002, it was uncovered that Xiamen housed the largest corruption scandal in China's history which included a brothel, bribes to officers in the public sector and smuggling. However, that has not deterred it from strengthening economic ties with more than one hundred countries around the world. It is also ranked as one of the "top twenty ports in the world."
Aside from its flourishing economy, this city is well-known for Gulangyu, known as Piano Island to the locals and the Wushipu Oil Painting Village which houses more than four thousand local painters. They use the facilities in this area to master their fine skills in oil painting. Each artist is given the creative freedom to explore a variety of specifications and styles. They also have the opportunity to sell their goods to at least two hundred different enterprises within the area.
It was on a narrow road in this village that a lone traveller was seen bundled up in a black jacket trying to find shelter from the rain. He seemed lost among the locals who far outnumbered him. Yet as he stood still, he carried a sense of familiarity about the area. It was past 7:00 p.m. and the weather took a turn for the worst. What was usually a lucrative time for the villagers who sold their goods at the bustling night market was now drastically transformed to puddles of water and people hurrying home or into restaurants for dinner to get away from the elements.
Furtively, he glanced around. It was pouring and the street vendors hurriedly packed up their carts. It made the man clutch his paper bag even closer to himself as he observed the people around him bustling about their business. One more day and people would never ignore him in this manner. He would have the world at his feet. He would rule over all creation, man and animal alike. The Creator. That was what they would call him. As he pulled the hood of his jacket closer around his face, Anthony snickered and lost himself in the crowd.
He headed to his hotel suite at the luxurious MoonStar Xiamen. Since he had stayed at the property before and loved the way they welcomed him, it seemed the best choice. At every corner of the hotel, the staff went out of their way to greet him and addressed him as "Mr" or "Sir". It made him feel important like they already knew that he would be the one to one day change the world. And even as he put the final touches to Experiment Creation, he cherished the privacy they offered him. No unwanted interruptions at his door. Wake up calls right on time, not even a minute late. Everyone was at his beck and call. Yes, this was only the beginning to being King.
Even as Anthony stepped into the lobby, Concierge awaited him with a towel.
"No umbrella, Mr. Borda? You must be freezing. Would you like a fresh pot of coffee delivered to your room, Sir?" greeted the Concierge as Anthony stepped into the hotel lobby.
He shook his head and smiled. "No, a hot shower then some food and I will be fine. Thank you."
He handed the towel back to the Concierge and walked to the elevators, his stride a little faster than before. The final few ingredients his experiment needed were in the paper bag. Tomorrow, even this hotel lobby would be transformed. As he was about to step into the elevator, he watched a beautiful redhead step out. Her smile was as bright and cheery as Christmas morning. Her presence was warm and so very inviting.
She acknowledged him with a friendly nod and cheerfully said, "Enjoy your stay with us, Mr. Borda."
"Tomorrow, I'll have her by my side. I'll make her an offer she can't refuse and she'll change the world with me," he muttered as he arrived at his floor.
He opened the door to the suite which had been his home for more than three weeks now. He looked at the table where he had placed his microscope. Next to it stood twelve six-inch canisters. He did not waste time changing into dry clothes.
Instead, he hurriedly opened the brown paper bag he clutched and distributed its contents evenly into the dozen canisters. He carefully stored each one in the mini-bar, undressed and lay naked on the bed. For almost eighteen years he had waited for this moment and now he needed rest. 'Plenty of time to savour royal fame in the morning,' he thought to himself. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to slide into a deep sleep.
By 6:00 a.m. the next morning, Anthony was all dressed and ready to put his plan into action. His thoughts strayed again to the beautiful redhead he had seen by the elevator.
"Today she will be mine," he said to himself.
Anthony deliberately took a long time to open each canister. Of the twelve, he expected at least three would have the correct colouring for his experiment to succeed but all he really needed was one. When he got the perfect mixture at canister number eight, relief washed all over him.
Years and years ago Karl Reichart and Neil Shibun got it right and today, it was his moment.
He replaced the lid and made his way down to the breakfast buffet. A few drops of the light green liquid into the food and beverages at the coffee house and Experiment Creation would be a roaring success. Once and for all, he would prove to the world that human DNA did contain traces of reptile DNA which would enable humans to become reptiles once again.
As he made a hasty approach to the coffee pot, he smirked when he thought of how his former colleagues had laughed at him when they read his thesis. But nothing shut a person’s mouth more than solid proof and today he would provide it.
Only a few of the hotel staff milled around and this made it easy for him to dash around the food counter. Anthony sprinkled the liquid into the food and cereal trays. A traditional Chinese breakfast of Dim Sum, yam cakes, soup noodles was laid out and there was of course, the usual Western corner plus various action stalls serving local delicacies. Seventy dishes, the banner outside boasted, one of the biggest breakfast selections in town and all the more for Anthony to experiment with.
He set about taking portions of the food for himself first then sprinkled the liquid from the canister. He had to be calm and seated to watch them change. The opportunity of a lifetime was upon him and nothing was worth the distraction. Because each human DNA was different, each person who consumed the liquid would react differently to the reptilian DNA. Chances of having two people becoming the same fish were highly unlikely. In some cases, he only expected a half-change.