Authors: Stacy H. Pan
Stacy H. Pan
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright: © 2016 by Stacy H. Pan
Edited by Sue Toth, Editing and More by Sue
Cover Art: Reese Dante
Licensed material is being used for illustrative purposes only and any person depicted in the licensed material is a model.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles or reviews.
To my husband,
for all your love and support.
About the Author
I wake. There is pain; so much pain. Intense pain that originates from the base of my neck and spreads through my entire body like a poison. I feel paralyzed by the searing heat on my skin. A scream pierces my ears and the smell of burning flesh assaults my nostrils as the scorching sensation continues. All I see of my surroundings is the white marble floor staring back at me. It doesn’t matter though, as I can’t focus. I can’t focus on anything except the agony. My stomach feels sick and, involuntarily, I retch, but nothing comes out. I try to move my body, to somehow stop the intensive ache, but I can’t. My body is restrained. Grogginess fills my head and my eyes grow weak. I try hard to keep them open. I want to find out what is causing me to feel such torment. The fatigue comes over me like a wave and although I try to fight it, I can’t. Everything goes black.
I do not know how much time has passed when I open my eyes again. I am blinded by a bright light. My eyes shut, squinting tightly. Slowly, I open them again and let my eyes adjust. I feel a shiver travel all over my body. I am cold. So very cold. A slick, piece of metal jabs into my body, creating a numbing sensation as though I have been on this table for a very long time. Then I realize I'm naked. Oh my gosh! Why am I naked? I have a sense of urgency to cover myself. I look around to see if there is anything I can use to shelter my nakedness. My mission is quickly forgotten when I see a boy on a table next to me. He is also naked and doesn’t appear to be awake. I try to sit up, but straps around my chest, waist, and legs hold me in place. I look around as much as I am able and in my limited visibility, I see people, male and female alike, lying naked on metal tables.
As I look around, I try to recall where I am and how I got here, but come up with nothing. I try to remember something, anything that can help me discover what happened to me, but my mind is blank. I decide to test my knowledge and start peering at the things I can see in my view. I name off items in my head: computers, tables, people, ceiling, walls, lights, doors. This tells me that I have basic knowledge of my surroundings, so why can I not remember anything about me?
I hear the sound of high heels clacking on the hard floor. A woman in a white lab coat takes her place at a computer a few feet away me. I start to call out to her when a man appears in the room, in the form of a hologram. I can see right through him and could probably walk through him too. From what I can see, he is an older man with graying hair. He doesn’t wear a white lab coat, but is dressed in all black. The garment he wears gives me the impression he is wearing a uniform, possibly military in origin.
"How are things progressing?" he asks the woman.
"Right on track, Killian,” she replies. "Twenty have already been prepped for tomorrow and we are waiting on ten more to wake up."
"Excellent. Tracking device installed?" asks Killian.
"Yes,!" the woman responds.
"Failsafe activated?" he asks.
"Yes. I know how to do my job, Killian. Why don’t you concentrate on your job and let me do mine," she snaps.
"Sounds like we are going to have some exceptional products. Keep me updated on the progress throughout the day,” Killian orders. “Oh, and Dr. Kendall, do not test my patience.” The man called Killian disappears before he gives Dr. Kendall a chance to respond.
Dr. Kendall grabs a tablet and walks over to me.
"Oh good. You're awake,” she says, rather dryly.
"Wh...wh...where... am….. I?" I gasp, choke, struggle….. my throat feels dry.
She grabs a blood pressure cuff and wraps it around my arm. She pumps it so that it tightens, feeling as though my circulation is being severed. The sensation is familiar, but also disturbing, sending a new wave of chills down my body.
"You're in the hospital," says Dr. Kendall casually.
"Why? Wh...what happened?" I shudder.
She reads my blood pressure and records it on her tablet, ignoring my question. Before I can press further, she haphazardly shoves a thermometer in my mouth. As the thermometer comes closer, I see that a brown bird, its wings tucked to the side with big round eyes, is perched on the bottom of her wrist. An owl maybe? If she were to lay her hand flat on a table, it would not be noticeable. However, with her wrist tilted to the side, I have a clear view of the mark. With the thermometer safely placed in my mouth, Dr. Kendall turns her attention to the heart monitor standing beside the bed. The constant beeping is reassuring. She taps busily on her tablet again and then takes the thermometer out of my mouth. Putting her tablet and thermometer on the table beside her, she begins working on the side of the hard metal slab I lie on. Undoing the straps that bind me, she commands me to sit up. Weakly, I place my hands on the side of the cold slab and struggle to push myself up. Dr. Kendall takes out a contraption that looks almost like some kind of small gun.
“What’s that?” I ask, as I give myself one last push to put my body in a sitting position.
“Push your hair aside,” she orders, ignoring my question again. I comply and swipe my long strands to one side over my shoulder. She takes the small gun and holds it over the back of my neck. I wince, not sure what to expect. The gun makes a noise like it is scanning something. She pulls it back and I see a hologram appear in the air protruding from the red laser inside the gun. I stare at a picture of a girl with long blond hair and green eyes. Words I don’t comprehend are written to the side of the picture. I look down at my strands of hair and see they are the same color as the girl in front of me. A sense of familiarity invades my senses and I just know the girl in the picture is me.
"Great! Looks like you are good to go!" she says.
Reaching under the table, she pulls out some fabric and hands it to me.
"Here. Put this on."
I reach for the garment and Dr. Kendall lets it fall to the floor before I have a chance to grab it. Her stony eyes bear into me and she makes no move to pick the garment off the floor. I scoot to the edge of my metal bed and slowly move my legs over the side so that they dangle off the edge. Cautiously, I extend one leg until I feel the cold marble floor beneath my toes. I inch my other leg down until those toes get the same rush of cold as the others. I ease off the table and attempt to bear all of my weight on my gelatin legs. My legs begin to buckle and I grab hold of the side of the metal slab to keep myself from hitting the floor. Tapping her foot, Dr. Kendall impatiently waits while I try to regain my composure.
Once I am steady, I slowly bend down to pick up the garment while one hand holds onto the table. After inspecting the garment, I see that it is a paper gown. I decide that I would put it on with the open part in front so that I can hold it together. It feels like it takes longer than it should to put on the gown, since I am so weak. While I dress, I have a chance to really look at Dr. Kendall. She is an attractive, short, petite woman who looks to be in her thirties. Her black hair is cut short and her long bangs cover her forehead. She has lines in between her eyebrows that don’t seem to disappear even though she is not furrowing them.
"Ready?" she asks flatly. She doesn’t smile or have much of an expression at all. Her businesslike demeanor causes her to appear detached, like this is just another tedious task she must complete before she can go home.
"Yes,” I reply.
With one hand, I clutch the open part of the gown closed and use the other hand to hold onto the metal table that I have become so acquainted with in order to balance myself. I test my right foot as I bear my weight onto it. I look down at my foot willing it to work. I place my left foot in front of the right and I am forced to let go of my aid. My legs wobble as I try them out. Slowly, but surely, she leads me to the door of the room. I take notice of the large room and all the bodies on tables that fill it up. All of them appear to be sleeping. Or dead. I try to be optimistic and believe the former. No one wants to think they were just lying in a room with a bunch of dead people.
We go out of the room and I follow her down a long empty hallway. The walls are white and bare, not even giving me some clue as to where I am. The few people we pass on the way to our destination do not acknowledge our presence. To them, we are invisible. The hard floor is cold on my bare feet. I clutch the hospital gown tighter around me, wishing I were wearing more clothes to keep warm. The only sound we hear is that of Dr. Kendall’s high heels clicking and clacking on the stone surface. I think about adding to the noise by asking more questions, but my instincts tell me Dr. Kendall doesn’t like questions. Thankfully, our journey is not a long one. My legs are still weak and I do not think I can walk any further.
Dr. Kendall stops in front of a light brown door with no window, no way to see what is inside. Beside the door, on the wall, is a computerized screen that reads “Enforcer-656.” I ponder the meaning of the words and numbers. Perhaps it is the name of the room. I look around and see other doors like the one in front of me. They all have screens with different names and numbers. Dr. Kendall opens the door and walks into the room. It is small, with a twin bed on one wall and a desk on the other. There are no windows. In the corner on the same wall as the bed are a toilet, sink, and mirror. There is no door and no shower. Everything is out in the open. Again the walls are white and bare, with no visible markings. Red clothes and shoes occupy the bed.
"Dinner will be served to you at six. There are clothes for you on the bed. I suggest you get some rest. You have a big day tomorrow," Dr. Kendall says with a strange grin on her face.
"What's tomorrow?" I ask, wondering if she is going to evade my question again.
"Training Day," she says so matter-of-factly, as if she was surprised I didn’t already know.
She turns around abruptly, strides out of the room, and closes the door behind her.
I walk over to the clothes on the bed. A red shirt, red pants, and red shoes. Luckily, the clothes fit. At least I don’t have to wear that uncomfortable gown anymore. I walk over to the mirror and look at my reflection. This is the first time I remember looking at myself, although it seems like I am seeing someone I know...or remember. My instincts were correct. I am the girl I saw in the hologram. My features, though not striking or superior, remind me of someone I can’t yet seem to remember, someone I wonder if I should try to forget. I have bright long blonde hair that flows past my shoulders. My eyes are green with specks of blue. A small straight nose sits in the middle of my face, above full lips. Some people might think I am pretty. I would think myself to look average, although I have no basis on which to compare. I am a little pale, making me question the last time I ate. Then I remember the intense pain I felt earlier. I move my hair out of the way, touch the base of my neck and feel tender puffed skin. I wince at the pain my touch causes. What is that on the back of my neck? It all comes back to me: the paralyzing pain, the smell of burning flesh, blacking out. I search for memories and all I find is the memory of intense pain. For the first time since I woke, I have time to think. There are so many questions that I need answered. Where am I? How did I get here? How long have I been here? Why can I not remember anything before now? What is my name? Something must have happened to me. I must have been in some kind of accident. What other reason would there be for me not remembering anything? Who are the other people I saw? But most importantly, who am I?
I walk to the door. I am going to find someone. Someone will give me the answers I need. I grab the brass doorknob and turn it. A clicking sound resonates as I unsuccessfully try to open the door. It is locked. In the wave of confusion I awoke to, one thing is perfectly clear: I am locked in, but why? The locked door and all the confusion makes me feel overwhelmed. All of a sudden, my body feels like lead and I am so tired. I go over to the bed and lay on it. The heaviness of my eyes causes warm sleep to find me before I can try to fight it.