Prologue
| Sun: Libra | Moon: Aries | Mercury: Virgo | Venus: Scorpio | Mars: Scorpio | Jupiter: Pisces Rx | Saturn: Libra | Uranus: Pisces Rx | Neptune: Aquarius Rx | Pluto: Capricorn |
The Professor
Thursday September 23rd, 2010
It was somewhere between the four and the five when the secondhand began to point to the blood-soaked floor. The red line on the clockface notified a man in a lab coat of each passing sliver of time with a cold, indifferent tick that drilled into his ears and slammed at his heart. Before then, it had only been a part of the scenery. Now it mocked him as he huddled below the black and white face, desperate for a moment outside of time to catch his breath. Each tick a reminder that no one would be graced with the opportunity to catch up with the moment, even if they begged. Especially if they begged. So, he stopped begging.
As he cooled, the pounding began to align with his deepened heartbeat. The result of his own negligence was the scene in which he crouched. A small room with white walls surrounded him, and a once-sterile grey cement floor, now glossy in deep crimson, below his knees. From the other side of the one-way window of the observation room, one would only see white walls, giving the illusion of ethereal cleanliness. On this side, however, as the light exposed the perfect, so did it expose the flaws, and very unforgivingly did it do so.
It was a moment of shame, but he was floating over it; he couldn’t live within it. His shoulders slouched as though his head was most of his body. With the weight of his thoughts, it very well could have been. Was it his fault? Was it fair? Was it expected? Could he have done something, anything, differently, to have avoided it?
Yes. Many things.
They were things he had considered and then unconsciously dismissed, bulldozing forward as though the desired outcome was the only thing that mattered. Concerns, red-flags, warnings, and friendly criticisms, he had scoffed at them all, brazen in his vile hubris, which had earned him his reputation. Those around him had distanced themselves as they began to see the madness unfold.
There had to have been a blind spot, a miscommunication, a false report, somewhere in the last twenty-four hours. Somewhere between his last encounter with her and the final beep of the heart monitor that signaled the beginning of the terrifying events that followed. The screeching alarm, the red lights, his rush to the room, him opening the pod, the wave of bloody salt-water spilling onto the floor, the paleness of her skin, the redness of her hair, her slightly open eyes, the fact that she was smiling.
An alarm had sounded at 10:53 PM when the heart monitoring system reported a flatline in Isolation Pod B. It was an unauthorized after-hours use of the pod, and as such, none of the research staff were in the control room monitoring the wayward subject. After a device in his room let out a terrible screech he had never heard it make, the professor collected himself and rushed to the lab one floor below. At 11:04, he entered the dimly lit room and switched on the fluorescent lights that were only ever engaged during maintenance of the large floatation chambers. The silent scene didn’t look out of the ordinary at first; soundproofed walls and the quiet hum of the ventilation system maintained a serene atmosphere. The professor approached the car-sized tank furthest from the entrance and noticed a nightshirt on the bench next to it. He recognized it immediately as one of the standard-issue nightshirts given to the subjects. Unsure how, or why, someone would have accessed the isolation pod afterhours, and more unsure of what he would find, the professor pulled its door open with a clenched jaw and a pause in his breath.
She was not supposed to be there. The water, illuminated by dim LED lights, should not have been bright red. Her skin should not have been that pale. She should not have looked so peaceful. He lunged for her, ripping a crown of cables from her head and throwing them against the wall. He pulled her from the basin, and with his sweeping heave of her body, brought with her several gallons of bloodied saltwater. In a fit of attempted heroism, he tried to breathe life into her again, but his panic made his breath useless. He tried to wrap the wounds on her wrists with the tails of his lab coat. He applied pressure, but there was no blood left for her to bleed. His efforts failed, and his sloppy execution created the hellish mess of grayscale and scarlet the room had become. Pink drips left their tracks down the edge of the tank, parallel and gentle like the hairs of a feather. The threads of his trousers let the mixture of fluids climb closer to the seams as he held her close to him. Her hair, that once reflected sunlight with strawberry brown, was now blackened crimson. In a grotesque way, it suited her. She was a beautiful corpse.
His darkened thoughts drifted to a place where only the deepest denial rests. He had never understood or even bothered to question why, but he had cared for this subject in a way he never let himself notice. She was a girl fueled by instinct and her actions were often ignited by a rage that was beyond her grasp. She seemed out of control to some, but to him, she seemed a worthy candidate for the experiments. She was never afraid. He was never honest with her.
The clock displayed eleven passed eleven when three women in white coats and scrubs ran into the room. With only a glance of eye contact with one another here and there, the team moved around the young woman and gently lifted her from his arms and onto a gurney. Her body left a salty splash across his lab coat that mimicked a remarkable imprint of her form that could have been mistaken as her shadow. The medics were notably taken by the scene, but the professor remained with no expression. He was frozen where he crouched. Somewhere within the chaos, he finally found his breath again.
“How long with no pulse?” one of them asked while pressing her fingers below the limp woman’s ears.
“I don’t know,” the professor was surprised at how much time had not passed when it had felt like an eternity, “she didn’t have one when I found her.”
“We’ll do what we can,” she responded. She avoided eye contact with him while signaling for another medic to help her carry the subject away. The two quickly left the room. The professor was still kneeling on the floor when the last remaining medic placed her hand on his shoulder.
No words were exchanged. The professor slowly turned to face the mirror and wondered if there was anyone behind the window on the other side, watching the moment unfold.
He looked down at the nightshirt he had taken from the bench and stared into the number printed on the bloodied fabric.
“303,” he said to no one.
Chapter I: A PYRAMID OF GLASS
| Sun: Libra | Moon: Leo | Mercury: Libra | Venus: Scorpio | Mars: Scorpio | Jupiter: Pisces Rx | Saturn: Libra | Uranus: Pisces Rx | Neptune: Aquarius Rx | Pluto: Capricorn |
Subject 651
Sunday, October 3, 2010
A spherical device floated above a magnetic base. At precisely sunrise, it began to chime a series of soft notes, signaling for Subject 651 to begin her day. Tightly nestled in the corner bed of a modular room, a young woman awoke to the warm hums. The device continued to chime as her blurry, sleepy world came into focus. Morning light began to creep into the room from the west facing window, where it had bounced from the treetops. Nightlights under the center console cabinets and bed frame reacted to the shift and began to fade slower than the eye could notice.
“Good morning, Subject Six Five One,” said a digitized male voice emitting from the sphere, called a Gecko, that acted as a sort of electronic butler, “the time is now seven hundred hours and ten minutes.”
“Good morning,” the young woman mumbled. She forced herself to acknowledge the mechanical creature as it would continue to hum and state the time until she did so.
“Today is Sunday, October third, two-thousand and ten. The high today is fifty-four degrees Fahrenheit, the low is thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit…” as the Gecko continued to recite additional weather statistics for 651, it let out a velvety light blue intended to help her become energized. It was not terribly effective that morning, “current indoor temperature is seventy-two degrees. You slept for eight hours and fourteen minutes. You had five sleep cycles. Sleep quality was above average. Your current blood pressure is ninety-eight over sixty-four. Heart rate is sixty-five. Please provide blood sample.”
“Another cold day,” said Subject 651 as she drowsily sat up and laid out her arm. She connected a small device to her wrist and flinched when she felt the prick.
“Blood glucose level sixty-four. You should eat soon,” said the Gecko, which was now producing a green glow that filled the room. “Potassium level below average. Please take a supplement this morning.” She heard a pill hit a metal tray in the sterile kitchenette a few feet away.
“A supplement this morning,” she sleepily repeated as she stared at the window. “Gecko, can you let more light in?”
The Gecko made a quick beep and stopped glowing. The window wall, slightly opaque, shifted from a grey tint to fully transparent, allowing the pink light to fill her room and exposing a spectacular view of the secluded North Woods. Once the window had reached satisfactory transparency, the Gecko resumed its standard color-shifting light patterns. Soft yellow spilled from its sides in waves. Subject 651 pulled herself out of bed and clumsily walked towards the kitchenette, feeling a tad light-headed.
The Gecko’s purpose was to take care of the living quarters where she resided, as well as act as her personal self-care assistant during the research. It had taken her some getting used to when she first arrived, but only a week into her stay she couldn’t live without it. The Gecko, along with a device that stayed wrapped around her wrist, monitored her heart rate, body temperature, step count, elevation, breath rate, and kept large amounts of data related to her overall health. The Gecko was, quite literally, aware of her every move. It even knew her location anywhere on the globe, accurate within a ten-meter radius.
“Subject Six Five One, based on your nutrient profile, this morning you should have two eggs, one half cup of blueberries, and one banana.”
“Is that so?” she sometimes attempted light banter with her Gecko.
“Yes.”
“Can we have coffee?” she asked.
“Coffee approved, but none for me, thanks,” it said. It had been programmed by someone with a sense of humor. There was a whirring sound from the coffee maker next to the sink, followed by the sound of grinding beans, then more whirring, and finally the sound of trickling liquid.
“Coffee confirmed. Please note this is decaffeinated,” the talking orb reminded her. Lucky for her, it was not programmed to refuse service. Within a few minutes, she was resting at the kitchenette island drinking warm espresso. She watched the trees become greener as the morning began to brighten.
Her peace was soon interrupted, “It’s seven hundred hours and thirty minutes, Subject Six Five One, time to shower,” said her Gecko. Then, from a small room behind the bedding area began the sound of running water and the humming of an exhaust fan.
“Water temperature is one hundred- and six-degrees Fahrenheit.”
She entered the dimly lit, tiled room where a stream of lightly pressured water sprayed from the ceiling. Cool lights painted the walls with fluctuating patterns.
“Please disrobe and step on the scale,” the Gecko’s robotic voice was heard through speakers in the ceiling. She removed a black nightshirt, printed with the number 651 between the shoulder blades, and a matching pair of shorts. A digital scale in the corner of the bathroom displayed her weight on a small screen.
“One hundred and sixty-two point two pounds,” said the Gecko’s voice, “Body Mass Index is twenty-three point two four. You are within healthy weight limits. You have gained point zero two pounds since yesterday.”
Subject 651 didn’t love that remark, “You know,” she said, “I did just drink coffee.”
“Coffee not approved,” the Gecko misunderstood. 651 shrugged. She was not prepared to argue with a robot that morning. She entered the shower and cleaned herself using a lavender and peppermint soap she had been gifted from Subject 036 at the garden market the previous day.
The rushing water knocked the curls out of her dirty-blond hair that ended at her waist. The routine was to wash, condition, and comb it each day, but she never bothered to style it beyond that. Nevertheless, she had the sort of beauty one would expect of a woman approaching thirty who had an imposed routine of intense self-care and a curated diet. Curvy everywhere it looked good and taller than most of the subjects, she likely would have turned heads in her life before her arrival. Her feline eyes hid green inside a bronze wrap that revealed just a hint of violet when she happened to look directly into a bright light. Her cheekbones rested high on her face like women of Eastern-European influence.
Once appropriately bathed, she pulled herself from under the water and stood before a set of large blow dryers built into the wall. She lifted her arms and twirled a bit as they blasted her skin with warmth: she was dry within seconds. She grabbed a heated towel from the bar behind the door and hid her feminine figure behind the cloth as she combed through her dampened tresses.
She wondered aloud how her conversation with the head of research, Dr. Johnston LeNoir, might go that morning as she pulled a white jumpsuit with black trim over her shoulders. She tugged the zipper closed, tightening the garment so the number 651 displayed just above her heart. The other subjects often joked that their uniforms made them look prepped for a tennis match. Subject 651 didn’t get the joke since tennis was something she knew nothing of. On the back, a black emblem resembling the glyph of Jupiter encased within a circle rested below her neck. The symbol, unbeknownst to her, was globally recognized as the LeNoir Foundation logo.
Footwear was always required on the facility grounds, and the subjects were given long over-the-knee boots with cushioned pads designed to make gardening more comfortable. They were also issued gloves that were recommended, but it wasn’t entirely clear what they were for. She decided to skip the gloves that day, but when she did wear them, they stretched all the way to the top of her elbows and wrapped over a few times just underneath her underdeveloped biceps. She secured her damp, messy curls in a tight headband and pulled her boots up over her knees.
After some fussing around the kitchenette with instructions from her Gecko and searches around unfamiliar cupboard spaces, she successfully assembled a plate of hard-boiled eggs and mixed fruit, which included bananas, of course, as the Gecko had insisted.
It was 8:50 when she finally left the comfort of her room behind. She walked down a long hallway lined with several doors on either side. Behind each were rooms occupied by other subjects; their numbers displayed on the front of the doors. There must have been hundreds of other subjects at the facility. She knew for certain there were many before her, and perhaps several more appeared after her arrival. She could only imagine.
The story of how she arrived at the facility was foggy, but she didn’t dwell on it. Trying to recall anything before the first day of autumn was wasted energy. Subject 651, along with the others involved in the research, suffered from severe amnesia. Where there should have been memories was only blank space. She didn't have a solid understanding of for what she was a research subject, but even still, the comfort of her new life made the confusion and uncertainty more bearable.
She made her way down the hall to the southern staircase where she would descend to the garden. Along the way, she passed Subjects 171 and 249, who smiled and waved politely. 171 carried a basket of berries, which 651 assumed she was intending to trade at the market that day.
The subjects lived peacefully together in a meticulously cared-for seven-story pyramid hidden among the trees of the dense North Woods. The mirrors that covered the outside windows reflected the trees and sky, rendering the building somewhat invisible if viewed from the ground. The reflection of the sunlight off the mirrors on a clear day would often make the shining building a brilliant spectacle for those that hiked far enough into the woods or happened to fly overhead. The building was well-known among psychology enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists alike, the latter of whom were rumored to camp near the pyramid with the hopes of catching something scandalous.
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