The Hand That Grasps
Suddenly, I felt a palm touching my wrists as I awoke from my sleep. A wail of terror erupted from my timbrels. A quick hand covered my cry as I gazed up at Vanity’s tense face that suggested trouble. Her iron grip on her face loosened, and she settled upon my lap. “We have to get out now,” she whispered with a stern look.
I groggily sat up, letting the silver blankets slide off me. “What, why?”
“I’ll explain as we go.” I looked down to see that she had thrown a clean change of clothes onto my lap. They were not my usual style, but they were much tougher. Military dregs, or at least I assumed they were. “Put these on fast.”
Fright filled my mind as I placed my legs through the holes of my knickers. “Did something happen?”
Vanity moved to the door. She looked through it as if she was awaiting someone to come through at any moment. She then shifted back to me. “I don’t know Prina, baby. I know one thing, though. We need to get you out of here.” She returned to her watch. In the gloom, I put my head through the shirt, the light from the wide door setting upon me. “I owe you this, Prina. I owe you this.”
“I don’t understand. What is going on?” I said.
Seeing that I was dressed, Vanity walked over and grabbed my arm, lifting me from my bed. “It doesn’t matter anymore.”
Her response was stranger than I had expected. She practically forced me down the hall into the darkness. Only a few lights remained on. The place looked decayed, like a hollowed-out corpse. Vanity kept pace as she marched up the stairs in the vestibule with me being towed behind her. She hurried to the medical bays without saying much of anything at all. “You said you would explain.” I moaned as we ventured deeper.
In such a flat manner, she replied, “I don’t expect you to understand much of this. There is, however, an entity known as Azergile. It has enslaved the entire world. You need to find Azergile and kill it.”
“What!?” I couldn’t help but burst out.
It sounds crazy, but you’re the only person who can do it. There’s a disease in your blood. There is a possibility that it will deactivate it. It’s just a matter of getting to it and deactivating it.” I shook my head. “Do you understand?” There wasn’t much else I could do, but then an unnerving thought occurred to me. Might this be the imposter Hellibor warned me about? Is this the Vanity I knew, or is it something else altogether? “We need to get you out of here. There is no way out through the normal exit, so we need to use the subterranean gate. Before I can begin, however, I need to do something. Trust me, Prina. Prina, you trust me, right?” she asked, standing in front of the door to her station. I nodded as the door opened up. I had little choice in the matter.
“I trust you.” When I looked into Vanity’s eyes, they were watery. Her gaze drifted away as she made her way into the room. Although I was uncertain whether to follow, I did. Suddenly, I had no freedom to run.
“Get on the couch.” Vanity said. The cold steel examination table awaits me, and as I climb over it, I slide onto the metal. Vanity opened a white overhead cabinet and looked inside for something. “Doctor Winters knows the colony will soon shut down. It is more convenient for him to trap you down here. His selfish desire is to keep you a secret.” Vanity picked up a glass of clear-looking liquid and an object-like metal ring from the cabinet. “We can’t let that happen, Prina. There is a way to make this nightmare end!” She exclaimed with all the vigor of a deranged lunatic. “I am sorry.” She places the metal ring next to me. Next, she removes the plastic wrap around the bottle’s cap. “It’s the only way I can think of making it work,” she said, making a sniffling sound.
My eyes are fixed on the object she holds in her hand. That metal circle concerned me. “I don’t understand.” It looked ominous, as though it had sinister secrets hidden inside.
“I know, honey. I know.” She pops off the metal crown and drops the clear liquid on a white rag next to me. “Prina honey, you need to unbutton your… shirt and give me your left arm.”
The only reply I could muster was “Ok.” With every unsnapping silver button, I grew apprehensive. Still, I did as I was told. Eventually, it got to where I had to take my shirt off over my head. As I bent inside the shirt, I half expected Vanity to attack me. She pulled the garment off me. “Ok, Vanity. You scaring me.”
A frozen look crossed her face as she glanced at me. Her eyes welled up with tears. In the next instant, she lunged at me and covered my mouth with a white rag. My weakness returned as I tried to fight her as much as I could. Her fingers clutched hard against my cheeks. As I wailed, I kicked and punched both arms.
“I’m so sorry it has to be this way! It’ll be alright. I promise it’ll be fine. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” Vanity begs. That grasp brought back memories. The beach. This had happened before…
Sedation crept its way into my veins, its weighty effect multiplying by the minute. I fell limp, and Vanity cradled me like a child against her. She softly laid me on the table. “Why?” I wearily asked.
“I am so sorry.” Taking no time at all, Vanity slides the chilly metal ring up my left arm. The device released a loud hiss at that moment, and I experienced the most intense pain of my life. I felt a burning sensation over my arm. While gazing down, I saw blood dripping from my left arm, which was lying on the table next to me. The corners of my mouth were agape. As I looked at Vanity, she was crying. My silent scream escapes my lips before the world falls back into that icy night.
The cold made me feel like I was freezing. Upon waking, my left arm was throbbing with burning pain. As I lift my limp body up, I place the injured limb in my arms. The room seemed as if it was enveloped in gray and nothing else could be seen. My mouth snapped open as a long dreadful cry lashed my lungs. My eyes are drawn to the circle around the arm as I let go of my limb. My eyes caught sight of it at that moment. The color of my skin on one side of the ring was different from the color on the other. Faced with a hand that wasn’t mine, I raised the limb to my face in shock. There were long, painted, crimson fingernails, and the hand was mature, but not the one I knew. This hand, this hand was different.
“A mighty peculiar exchange, to be honest.” I glance at Helibore, perched across from me on a chair, with both legs crossed over each other. He gripped his mouth with one hand while his other lay lazily nearby. A physician’s coat adorned his body, which was nothing special. On the other hand, the extensive slash of blood on his jacket was a concern.
It wasn’t easy to summon the courage to ask him, “What happened?”
Having uncrossed his legs, he sat up straight. “Well, I suppose you deserve an explanation about what’s been going on.” The doctor got up and casually approached me. As he inspected the arm I was offered, his hand rested on my shoulder. Blue glazed eyes swept over me; I sensed their soft intent. By slipping his hand into his pocket, he retrieved the needle gun. “For the last time, I will draw blood from you, Primina.” It was at that moment that I understood him. The blood. All of this is because of my blood. He needs it for something. “Do I have your permission?”
What more could I have said? “Yeah,” I replied. “Go ahead.” Again, the familiar sting fell over my arm as Helibore stuck me with the needle. There was almost a feeling of it sucking the blood out of my veins, sucking out my precious rubies. Like the arteries of the world, and like the gold that men mine from dangerous vaults. In other words, that was my blood. “So, are you finally willing to explain things to me? Vanity tried to tell me, but she wasn’t making sense.”
“She panicked. I told her the truth of the situation earlier.” Hellibor admitted, biting his lower lip after. This piece of information wasn’t something he was looking forward to. “She left. She ran away. It’s just you and me now.”
Suddenly I became disoriented, swinging my feet off the table and kicking imaginary ghosts away. “So,” I replied. A moment of silence passes between the two of us. “What did she do to me?”
Doctor Winters took a step away from me. “I ah,” he replied after a long pause while contemplating what to say. “That arm. I could tell you recognized it. It turns my stomach.”
It isn’t. That could not possibly be. “What do you mean?”
“It’s her arm. As I raised my arm again, I heard him say, “She gave you her arm.” As I stared at it, I began to cry. It, it could not be. My admission would come from the paint on my nails, no matter what. So let me explain. You are suffering from a disease, as you know. In the wake of the emergence of nanomachines, we started using them to treat illnesses. The structure of your disease, however, is strange. By deactivating nanomachines, it prevents their operation. Due to the fact that drugs cannot treat the underlying cause of your disease, treatment is impossible. This will ultimately lead to your death. You carry the disease within your blood.” He explained, securing my attention. “Primina I am over five hundred years old. The entire colony is over four hundred years old. As for you, well, you have existed in stasis for longer than any of us know.”
My mouth opens slightly and I let out a slight gasp. This was beyond my comprehension. Clearly, this is a lie. There is no doubt about it. When I heard that I further inquired, “How is that possible?”
“We perfected machines in order to maintain our existence. Our blemishes would be repaired. In other words, we are trapped in our own bodies.” Immortality. In our minds, we thought we were so clever. Our battle against death was successful. Our foolishness was so obvious. It would take us years to discover that nano machines would restructure our bodies and minds if we suffered anything even slightly dangerous. In the case of a scratch, our bodies would be twisted and distorted. Consequently, it would lead to insanity by disrupting our neural networks. We did not overcome our mental struggles with insanity, though. That would have been too kind. Pain is the first sensation we experience. All the twists and turns of our organs and everything that made us. But blemishes and changes lead to that. In general, as long as we maintained our human form, we were okay.”
“So what do I have to do with this?” I asked, dreading the answer.
Hellibor removes the needle from my arm and smiles at me, “You are the transmigration of our original sin. Originally, we could die. We played god… and we lost. Our godchild, however, deemed us unworthy. The paradise we once had in perfect bodies turned out to be our eternal cage in hell.”
When Hellibor inserted the needle into his arm, he grinned as the blood drained into him. “What are you doing!” I yell at him. I tried to wrestle the gun, but alas I was not strong enough. A snap of his arm sent me plunging into another bed.
“Sacred blood, untainted by the soul of man’s iniquities. It is through you that we cross over to the afterlife. That veritable paradise of eternal slumber that was stolen from us. Through you, the world shall die and be given everlasting peace, whatever that may be. At least I will have peace.” My only choice was to watch Hellibor fail. I stared up at him with tears streaming down my cheeks. “It has finally arrived. My angel of death, Primina. You are not suited for suffering. My heart longs for a different outcome. It would have been better if you had stayed in bed. Nevertheless, I was convinced. My emotions overrode my logic.”
Jumping to my feet, I embraced him with a hug, and he folded his arms around me. “Hellibor, please do not abandon me.” I pleaded with him.
It’s okay. As he reached for a surgical knife, he said, “You need not fear.” I felt my stomach sink as I observed his hands clasping around the blade. I wanted that moment to last. Embraced in the warmth of his caring arms. I truly did.
In a split second, I shoved him onto a bed. Out of my mouth like fire, “Get away from me!” I shouted.
Hellibor twisted back towards me with his knife in hand and declared, “Allow me to clip your wings to give you this precious gift of death you have given me.” I kept watching him as he walked toward me like a mad man. “You don’t comprehend how bad it has become. You would be better off dying now and never knowing what happened to the world. Please don’t mistake me Primina. As an act of love, this is what I am doing. Vanity begged me to release you to the world. Apparently, she believes you can deactivate the central computer. The hell you’d have to endure is unimaginable. You would die an awful death, if not worse. Please don’t resist.”
With a shake of my head, I said, “You’re insane.”
“I can feel the blood pumping through my body. It burns, and it feels so good to know. Just knowing your blood is killing these horrible machines; it will pump through my body soon, and I will be able to leave this wretched world. Don’t be afraid, Primina. I will make sure it does not hurt for long.” He stepped toward me.
In an impressive display of strength, I thrust the metal table covered in medical tools at him. Hellibor lifts his arm to shield himself from the sharp objects and diverse metal parts that fly into the air. In an effort to take advantage of this opportunity, I swiftly leave the room through the hall. “You can’t run Primina. Everything is shutting down.” He screeched out the door.
There were flickers and flashes of light in the building as they coughed up their last packets of power. When I glanced at Vanity’s arm, I wondered why she would do such a thing. My eyes widened as I realized what she wanted. The black door was her request for me to leave. She wanted me to go through it.
My eyes were fixed on the stairwell leading up to my liberation. I would slip out of this ghastly hospital and leave this hell and these crazy people behind. Approaching the large black door, I climbed the steps. Peering into my reflection once I had reached the top, I caught a glimpse of myself. As I stared at it, I could not find anything right. My clothing was torn and I was bloodied. There was a terrible look about the whole thing. The scene was bizarre. I felt as if someone else was looking back at me, not me. My left-hand touches the slate with a crisp touch. It split into two slabs, allowing me to enter, and leaving behind a bloodied hand print.
“Why?” All I could do was sob when the weight of my situation became clear. My vision was sparked by the sight of enormous vats filled with floating people in the shadowy room. Every one of them was at a distinctive developmental stage. Many of them are young, and some of them are older. Each of them had black hair and was a female. In the rear of the room, the situation was even uglier. As I witnessed lasers zapping body parts as they swung from meat hooks my stomach turned. As if they were vegetation, they regrew themselves rapidly on the hangers. I entered this room of horrors, this market of slaughter, where I saw an array of organs curtailed to the walls. With life, it squirmed.
“Adrenochrome.” I heard that voice and spun around. Hellibor was standing behind me, but it wasn’t him. In violent turmoil, his face teetered on the edge of collapse. “To think that we made everything here from you. You’ve been cloned many times. As I said earlier, it didn’t work. Your blood never came back the same, so we had no choice but to wake you up and use you. You’re older than me, Primina, did you know that? Let me put you to rest.”
A scream escaped his lips as he slashed with a tremendous amount of force. In the midst of his attack, I managed to escape while he grabbed the organs with a bone saw. An abundance of brown fluid surges around the area. My back was cooled by the balmy glass vat as I sprung against it. He rushed at me again, shedding bits of skin as he charged me. By sidestepping the raking invasion, I was able to get around the vat. As splintered glass clashes with chemical fluids, Hellibor is engulfed. When Hellibor was captured in the flood, he was face to face with my reproduction, whooping as it breathed its last and last gasp. “Primina don’t run! I was only joking! It’s a game!” Doctor Winters shrieks as he was forcing the body off of him. His mind had also begun to deteriorate. The old Hellibor I knew would never fall into such behavior.
It’s madness. I have no choice but to run. All I can think about is running. Bypassing the many experiments, I go deeper into the corridor. I slipped through another set of double gates and vanished. Although I regret walking through there, I wish I hadn’t. Throughout the hallway, tumors were growing everywhere and meaty muscles developed on the walls. Staring at the hideous sight, I paused. As I was leaving, I heard Hellibor behind me saying, “Primina, don’t step in there. There is no chance of you surviving.”
I didn’t even glance back. I flew through the foyer so quickly, I must not have even touched the ground. Fate has a funny way of ridiculing people, though. The exit gate had rusted shut; stained with juice and alien fluids. “Open!” I screamed.
Using both my fists to rattle it, I yelped as I caught an off-side switch. My hands pressed the hydraulic switch, and the doors grumbled ajar. By turning my head, I only confirmed the dire nature of my situation. In his limping manner, Hellibor approached me like a cripple. It was taking too long for the door to open as it slowly lifted. Then I pressed against it, hitting it in vain. His legs were covered with boils and his arms looked like a bloodied corpse, and his face was all but missing. “Primina. Don’t be afraid. Just give up and die, die, die!” Hellibor said as he lurched toward me.
“Get away from me!” With my back against the opening doorway, I screamed. A bone poking out of his leg snapped. The wound oozed red, and he sank to the ground on his face. When his body struck the ground, it shattered into pieces. My hands trembled and I turned away from the gory scene.
By this time, the passage had opened, but the mass of flesh moved to my utter horror. From the pulpy wad grew two arms or legs… or something else. As I hustled through the doors, I was met with thick webs of muscle. As I peered backward, I discovered the thing was crawling after me. The tissue got thicker as I ran through that nightmare, forcing me to crawl on my belly. Despite this, Hellibor marched on nubs still on my track.
As I wriggled through the flesh, it pulsated and turned about, shifting and spasming and squeezing my frame. Trying to move my head was impossible; it was like passing through some carcass like a maggot. My ankle was clasped by the Doctor’s skeletal hand, and I shrieked in pain. “Riaoh riah gowah!” Hellibor yelled as his mind slowly decayed into nothing. Thunder erupted as I pushed through the rigid muscle. Although I cannot see anything, I kicked anyway. As hard as I could, I kicked. As I battled against the flesh, I squealed as the flesh went into another seizure. Instead of being crushed, I force myself to move forward.
The blood that had gotten on my clothes was brushed off and I relaxed by the flesh wall. As I gazed at the home they provided me, the sky was lavender and gleaming. My vision was dominated by ruins for as far as the eye could see. The few rocks I sat upon and the all-encompassing flesh I sat upon that enclosed my home, that was dead as well.
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