Darkness; deep, deep slumber. Sound, and sound again. “I am seeing stimulation in the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus. It appears that she is waking up again. It is time to administer more sedatives.” There was a sharp pain, a heavy feeling, and darkness again.
An icy shiver was followed by the light. “What a shame. It does not seem to be working.” A man roared in the distant distance. “Administer another dose.”
“I can’t do that sir, she will die of an overdose.” A young woman replied, her voice near the edge of slumber.
“Looks like this one is a failure, too.” Remarked a woman whose voice sounded like a timeworn, withered flower. As the shadows grasped hold of my nerves, I was dragged below the eternal nocturne again.
“We don’t have time to wait. The cells are already dying.” He grunted, and once again his voice tugged me towards the surface. But as if I were separated by a thick piece of glass, I was unable to breach it. I was nothing in that abyss.
“We could try cloning again.” the younger woman said.
“No, we already know cloning does not work,” he murmured. “This time it has to work. We have no other options. Get me a dose of epinephrine and adrenochrome. We have to stabilize her.”
I felt it, warmth, traveling down the channels of my veins, pumped along the organ’s path. It expanded upon every corner and a flutter came over me, like wings lifting me out of the maw of this hell; drifting me over past the gates of the arctic black. Suddenly, the entire world trembled as I plunged into the bright light.
The cool, sleek wall of the enclosure had my fingers clawing against it. I felt the chill run into my arm as my body spasmed. Yet, even so, my eyes are blind in the umbra. I tried to let out any noise I could muster, but I seemed to have lost my voice, and she had run far away, hiding deep in my throat. My skin crawled as the world spiraled. Darkness returned and my sense of locality melted into an open space, as I was left suspended in the endless void.
“It’s a failure, just like the last ones. Why waste our efforts? Didn’t the past weeks prove my point? Hellibor, it is time to give up on this dream. This is no way to treat a person.” That woman. Who was she? And now the older man had a name, Hellibor.
“Stop! Remove your hands from her!” Hellibor roared, full of command. “We will not abandon this one. My method will work! We need to extract the needed parts. That is all. I will not waste this donor because of the board’s refusal to use extreme measures.” I had no idea who they were discussing, but I assumed it was me. They wanted my parts. My parts alone. What would that mean? I wondered.
“Sir, I disagree.” the young woman from earlier shouted in opposition.
I heard some rustling before he said, “Why so?”
“If she dies during the process, she will be ruined.” Dies? Ruined? “Let’s allow her to wake up. Treat her well. She doesn’t have to know.” I didn’t have to know what?
“We cannot sustain her here. She would die of starvation. It is better to put her to rest.” a somberly aged woman retorted.
“No, we continue the process regardless of the board’s decision. I purchased it with my own seed reserves. I will decide what to do with it.” Hellibor said.
The passage of time… … … was unknown.
“Damn it!” exclaimed the older man, waking me up from my deep sleep. “The board is terminating her life support! We can’t keep her in stasis much longer. We only have supplies for…”
“Please, I will take care of her myself.” the younger girl begged. “I have started a garden. I even synthesized food for her. Please, Hellibor, please don’t do this.”
There was a long pause. “If you are so insistent on this, then we will make this attempt. She will be entrusted to you and I will be responsible for handling the situation with the board. It is not going to be popular with them at all,” Hellibor explained. “It’s not necessary to wake her from her coma yet, but we need to prepare a place for her first. We will ask the board for permission after everything has been put into motion. We will do this in secret. No one can know until she is awoken.”
I tried so hard to scream, “Wake me up now!” but sadly, either, I never did, or they ignored me.
“Thank you, Doctor Winters. You won’t regret it.”
“I should hope not, dear Vanity. Though the twisting in my stomach suggests this is not the right path. We just need her to pump blood. It should not be too difficult to manage. Sustaining her is going to be the real problem, Vanity.” Hellibor; Doctor Winters grunted. I heard Doctor Winters clearing his throat. “Vanity,” he said. “You’ll lose her trust when she discovers what we’ve done.”
Sometimes Vanity’s voice would reach out to me. In her words, “… your parents loved you very much.” And many other things about my past. “Your name is Primina.” She told me I had a younger brother and two sisters. Interestingly, I don’t recall being Primina. But perhaps I was, but all I could remember was the blackness and the tide. Thus, I deemed it mine. Whatever truth existed in it did not matter to me. There was nothing else to know about me other than I was Primina. From time to time, Vanity even read me stories. I learned of my sickness and disease from her. “A sickness? Is this all a dream?” I thought to myself.
“It is impossible for her to hear you. I don’t know why you bother.” Hellibor had returned; it seemed as if I hadn’t heard him in a while.
“You don’t know that. I remember stories about people in comas being able to hear things.” Vanity retorted. So, I am comatose. They did mention it before.
It was not clear if I managed to move my lips while mouthing the words, “I can hear you.” Nonetheless, I hoped that they did. Even so, I have no idea who Vanity was on the other side. I was just glad that she was close to me. Whoever this Vanity was.
“Leave her be. She needs to rest,” He said before a door slammed shut, sending me back to that eternal night.
“I won’t feel a thing?” I chirped to a woman dressed in white scrubs. A man stood next to her dressed in a matching pair, although his were burgundy. They might as well have been shadows, as I could not see the features of their faces. Maybe it was that I could not remember then. The room was foggy. At least I remember it that way. I felt like the capsule’s wall contoured to my spine. On the platform, my dainty, uncovered toes rested. Despite the fact that days had passed, a few traces of nail polish remained on my nails. My eyes met the pair’s smile as they nodded. My cheeks were flushed from the white form-fitting bodysuit, which clung tightly to my skin. It felt as if I was wearing nothing at all, and I didn’t like it. The man spoke, but no words left his mouth. “All right, like this?” I said to him, folding my arms to rest on my chest.
In the blink of an eye, the glass shielding of the chamber closed, locking me inside. “No! Let me out!” I yelped with every ounce of energy I had left. Immediately, the temperature dropped. Then wetness covered my feet. I looked down to see clear, fluid-like water rising past my ankles. “No!” I screamed again as the two people just stood there with waving palms, flashing those sinister, uncaring smiles.
It was all routine to them by this point. “What are you doing?” As the water reached my hips, I shrieked. Thrashing for all I could, I finally reached the point where my body could no longer move. As the chamber leveled itself, it forced me into a lying position. My face came into contact with the fluids. Pressing my lips against the glass in vain, I watched the surface rise beyond my cheeks and spill into my mouth. I sucked in a last breath before the liquid completely submerged me. Icy fluid surrounded my body as I struggled. As my lungs burned and every muscle in my body roared for breath, I realized I’d have to take in the fluid. As soon as I did, the worst feeling in the world overtook me. I could feel fluids flooding down my throat, filling my lungs like molten metal. In my agony, I saw the ceiling retreating as the capsule returned to the wall, locking me into darkness. My body tried to cry, “Please help me!”. As a result, I am confronted with a foul smell in my mouth, which caused me to cough bubbles. It wasn’t long before the coughing gave way to a numbing sensation as everything slowed. I gasped to push the fluids out of my lungs before falling into a deep slumber.
“Your family loved you very much. You will be awake soon. Everything will be alright. You can trust me.” Although Vanity’s familiar voice soothed me, I couldn’t shake my unquenchable desire to awaken and soon I would. But not soon enough.
“The brain is becoming active again. Hopefully, she’ll wake up any minute now.” The voice of the young man heralded the fading of the darkness. I saw the dull orange-red glow of light shielded by my eyelids. From my parting lips, a deep breath entered me, my chest rising as the sweet air filled my lungs. Squinting, I slowly lifted the curtains from my eyes. There was a sterile, padded roof hanging above me and a soft pillow rested beneath my head.
Grabbing my attention with a grunt, Hellibor commented, “Good. She’s moving.” Everything else in the room appeared to be made of white plastic. On the wall were some monitors and switchboards that are managed by a young blond man. Looking around the room, I saw two people standing in the middle of the office, just across from where I was sleeping. I focused my gaze on the gray-blue eyes of an elderly man. His pocket held a pen as he reached towards me, calling out, “Hello.” Upon clicking the pen, bright light illuminated my vision. He glanced briefly at me before turning off the light from behind the encompassing fog. “Fantastic. Her eyes are responsive.”
“Where am I?” I murmured.
“At hospital,” Hellibor said. “In a medical bay.” Standing upright, he stared at a flat chart of neon blue light, a hologram that seemingly emanates from thin air. “This will be your new home, well, until your treatment is finished, that is. There will be a time for questions, but not right now.”
“Hellibor!” My sight snapped to the source of that voice, the voice in my dreams. “You are welcome to ask any questions, honey. We will be happy to answer them.” So that is Vanity.
From my understanding of Hellibor, despite the multitude of questions I had, he wouldn’t appreciate all of them. “Hello, Primina.” She knelt beside me with a warm, bright smile on her face. Her night sky-colored hair was pulled into a long ponytail. “My name is Vanity, and this,” added Vanity, pointing at Hellibor. “Is Doctor Winters.” Her gaze glanced over her shoulder, directing my attention to the man managing the switchboards. “And that man over there is Cody.”
In the next few minutes, Doctor Winters returned to my side and placed a hand-held device against my stomach. As the doctor stared off into space, cold metal sent shivers down my spine. “What is this for?” I asked.
Doctor Winters snapped, “Shhhh, quiet.” With a heavy breath, he manually moved the device against my stomach. As soon as he removes the device, he exhales a long, deep sigh. He stood up without saying a word, moved to the wall, and placed the device in a white plastic compartment.
“He was just checking your vitals, dear. You’ve been asleep for a long time. It is important to make sure that your body is adjusting well. You had woken up several times during the process, and that is very dangerous.” Vanity explained.
Turning away from the computer station, Cody swung his legs around the white bench. “Honestly, I did not have much hope.”
“That’s why the old woman called me a failure?” I asked. My little inquiry ended up turning everyone’s attention in my direction. Their measured glances and slack jaws caused me to pause. “Did I say something wrong?”
Doctor Winters shook his head. “No.” He replied flatly, holding a gun in his hand. Towards the end, a large needle protruded. “This might sting a little.”
“You are going to do it now?” Cody’s down-turned expression gave me concern. As Doctor Winters approached the bedside, Vanity shook her head with the same animosity. Again, he crouched by my bedside, holding the needle’s tip in the air.
His soft fingers gripped my wrist and stretched my arm. “Could you sit up for me?”
A subtle nod signaled my progression past the chamber’s lip. As he turned my wrist toward his face, Doctor Winter’s grip tightened. “Hold still.” Having now placed the gun onto my skin, a stinging pain erupted in the anterior of my left arm. Despite my instinctive jerking, I could not escape from Doctor Winters’ grip. “I said hold still.” Under my skin, you could see the thick needle draining me. My ruby red fluid was filling the glass tube at the end of the gun. “Well done, girl.” With a single click, he released the trigger and the metal rod retreated into the device.
“That hurt!” I groaned, looking down at my arm. A small plastic seal covers the entry point. While Hellibor examined my blood, a slow, deliberate smile crept across his lips. His gaze returns to me with a nod of approval.
“Pain,” Vanity whispered under her breath. “That is the look I am seeing, isn’t it?” She locked her gaze on me with an expression of fascination. “It’s been a while since I heard that. Do you mind describing it?”
“What a weird question.” I thought to myself. My face was covered in a frown as I looked at the small dot left by the gun. “It stings like Doctor Winters said it would.” Something so simple, but telling me everything has changed since I was in slumber.
Vanity retained, or at least recovered, her smile. “It would. That is such a silly question.”
“So, she is the real deal.” Cody straightened his posture. In response to Doctor Winters’ stare, he began to smile. “You were right. Infectio Nervosa is the gift we have all been looking for.”
“We shall see,” Hellibor grumbled as he lifted the vial of blood from the gun. “I have a meeting with the board. I am expected to present a demonstration to decide how things should go forward.” He moved towards the threshold of the room. But before leaving, he turned to Vanity for a final word. “You agreed, make her comfortable and show Primina to her quarters. I will be back later.”
It was easier to feel at ease after the scary man left. Still, I found myself left with so many questions to ask Hellibor. “Vanity, why am I here?”
She has dark brown milk chocolate eyes that are illuminated by the light. In some ways, her manner became quite unwelcoming. “Well, as I said. For a long time, you’ve been sleeping. There have been many changes since you went to sleep. It was necessary for us to move you from one facility to this one.”
“Why did I have to be moved?”
She bit her lip in frustration. I saw it just for that moment, but she did. An uncomfortably odd look came out of her eyes as she glanced over at Cody, who responded with a gentle nod. Putting her hand on top of mine, she reached out toward me. Despite being new, the sensation felt comfortable.
“No physical contact.” Cody barked. “You know the rules.”
Vanity let out a long sigh before letting in. “I know Cody.” She chastised. “It’s just,” she pauses as she removes her hand. “You are right. I don’t want to encourage inappropriate behavior.” As she stared directly at me, she continued. “Your treatment was failing you in the other facility. We have more advanced tools at our disposal here.”
“Oh, alright, I understand.” My stomach drooped as a lump grew inside my stomach. A response so vague only led me to think that something was amiss. “What about my Mom and Dad, and my brother and sisters? Where are they?”
“They are alright, however, this hospital is a bit of a distance away.” With a sigh, Vanity stood up and walked away from me. “We plan on getting you better and back home as soon as possible.”
“Won’t they visit me?” I asked.
“I suppose they might. Though we highly frown upon visitors at this facility. Your treatment is specialized. We don’t want anyone to interfere with it.” Vanity explained. She failed utterly to comfort me if she was trying to do so.
“Ok, but I remember things from when I woke up… strange things.”
Cody slashed his arms to the sides, then said, “Enough!”.
I didn’t listen. “I remember monsters,” I replied, looking down at my feet. “I remember a lot of things. I never thought I would get out of the darkness.”
Neither of them spoke. My suspicion was confirmed when Cody shook his head, assured the fact that they were hiding something from me. “I think it is time we ended this conversation. Vanity, take Primina to her room.” As Vanity stood frozen, nothing seemed to register with her. Her attention was focused on the wall beyond my sight. As she walked to the side of the wall nearest the door, she stopped at a metal box. In the center of the box, she pressed a button that unlocked a box of folded clothes.
An array of military-style clothing was unfolded, including blue pants with a white stripe down the right leg, a white undershirt, and a blue jacket with a high collar that buttons to the far left side of her body. Likewise, the jacket had a white stripe running up the left side, which extended to the collar. Black boots and white clip-on socks with a pair of brief underwear. “Are these mine?” I asked.
It was Vanity’s turn to smile as she placed the clothes beside me. “I know they aren’t very fashionable, but they will do for now.” My body moved back into the capsule. I pulled out the pinned zipper from the white form-fitting suit I wore before I went to sleep. My skin had begun to attach to the inner lining of the suit. Upon pulling the flaps apart, I could feel the fabric pulling away from my skin like removing an adhesive bandage. As it clung to my skin in patches, I noticed pink rips on the edges. It hurt to finish peeling the thing from my body. Once I was released from the cacoon, I changed into my new clothes.
“I think you will like it here, Primina. There are so many things to see. There is even a beautiful garden park here. The whole facility was designed to resemble nature. We feel it makes the patients feel more comfortable.” Vanity chirped, as if I was concerned about that. I appreciated wearing my new clothes despite their ill-fittingness. “All changed? Well then, come with me Primina.” Extending my legs from the capsule, I placed my feet on the floor for the first time in ages. The moment I lifted myself forward, I felt heavy in my chest, already winded. As I struggled to maintain balance, my body burned. My lips twitched with a groan as I took my first step. “Are you all right?”
A furrow formed between my brows as my face fell. As I looked at Vanity hunched over on the floor, I reached out to touch her. “It hurts.”
Her grimace was pleading as she gazed at Cody. A sigh escaped his throat as he shook his head. “Help her, just don’t let the others see you.” Getting up, he stood a bit higher than Vanity. A minimum of six and a half feet tall. Instead of helping, he stood at arm’s distance from me and studied me intently. “It is to be expected. Your muscles were pretty much dormant for,” he said before continuing. “A long time. It would make sense, you would experience a little fatigue. That will pass with time. I would imagine moving around will be a little difficult for the next few weeks.”
“This will be awful if it lasts for weeks,” I thought, struggling to stand. It is doubtful that I could have made it to the other end of the room without Vanity tucking herself next to my waist. She also wrapped her arms behind my back. “Why can’t you touch me?”
“It’s not just you, honey. The hospital does not allow us to touch each other to prevent the spread of germs. If we get a scratch, we have to leave the grounds for the safety of others. To minimize the risk, we have a no contact policy at all times.” Vanity’s help was a godsend. A large wall of ivy hung along the walls, and my legs felt like they were encased in concrete. Outside the room, dirt-covered the floor. I could see grass lining the walls, as well as ivy and some other flowers. It was truly beautiful.
Through the hall, there was a large parkway. The path is made of polished stones, trees line the route, and a blue sky floats above. Luminous clouds passed over the open room, casting shadows on its surface. An expansive fountain is positioned in the middle of the nexus ring. It seemed that several people wore clothes that looked like the ones given to me. Is everyone one of them a patient? To cover up the thoughts running through my mind, I comment aloud, “This is pretty.”
“I imagine the people who designed it worked very hard trying to make it feel like being outside. I don’t remember it myself.” Vanity said.
“Why can’t you remember?”
Vanity chuckled nervously between her teeth. “Working too many hours. I mean, I mostly treat patients and when I am off duty I sleep in my room here.”
The artificial expression I used to hide my concern was as good as I could do. As Vanity used the same trick I employed to see through her rouse, she could do the same with mine. There was something strange about the whole place.
Our path led to a white wall with an electronic door, where Vanity stopped us. With a touch of her hand on the screen, the door unfastens and opens automatically. “This will be your room.”
Despite its size, the room looked cramped. Approximately a quarter of the space was taken up by a wall-mounted screen. Black tripod stools with a desk inset into the wall. On the opposite end of the desk, there was a bed with white blankets and sheets. An upright refrigerator and microwave were placed at the foot of the bed. Over that was a shelf with a coffeemaker and something tall I don’t recognize. The floor was made up of metal tiles, but it was smooth as glass. A glass-enclosed shower was located next to the fridge. An adjacent hand sink and toilet are located beside the shower. The space was just right for moving around. “Everything you need should be here. Be careful not to eat too often. The fridge has a few snacks but they will be rare, so ration them.”
After entering the apartment, I nodded. Rations are for times of scarcity, I thought to myself. Is there a war going on? “So, this is all mine? Like I can do what I want in here?” Vanity replied with a gentle bow. “Then, can I have paper and some pencils? I want to draw, and make posters. Liven up the place.”
“Yeah, sure, I will see if I can find something for you like that.” When she had surveyed my room and determined that I had been comfortable, Vanity headed for the door. “If you need anything, come see me. I work in the medical bay, so you will always know where to find me.”
As I took in the surroundings, I commented, “Will do.” I honestly didn’t notice that Vanity shut the door. Having jumped onto my bed, I lay down for quite some time. There was an ache in my bones and a burning sensation in my muscles. However, I was free of all the darkness that covered me. As I thought to myself, I realized that I had been given a new chance at life. I wouldn’t let an opportunity like this pass me by. As the troubled thoughts weighed on my mind, my lids still became heavy, and I went back to sleep.
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