I emerged a while later successfully showered despite the bombardment of new information, a little red after scrubbing myself with the strange gel, and my hair hanging in a damp tangle, but completely clean and in a pair of jeans with an orange t-shirt emblazoned with some strange symbol. I assumed it was the laboratory's logo, and thought how kind it was of them to give me some of their own special merchandise, but another part of me was uneasy. It would make me stand out a mile; the bright colour and distinctive logo would be child's play to pick out from the blank white environment on the screen of a security camera. And no doubt they would have cameras focused on my every move. Since I was the 'perfect' human being they'd strived so hard to create, they weren't going to let me out of their sights that quickly.
I also noticed that they hadn't provided any shoes. The tiled floor felt cold and unfriendly against my bare soles, a reminder that I wasn't as safe as I hoped. Although if they did decide to kill me, shoes wouldn't make much difference…
After my wash, I felt a lot better. My head wasn't ringing as much, and I could stand without aid even though walking was still a nightmare. And I was starving. Doctor Winter had told me to eat slowly, and however mad he was, I guessed he was still a qualified professional. But his advice went down the drain as soon as I tasted the first delicious mouthful. After that, it was a bit of a blur that ended with a plate literally licked clean and a deep rooted ache in the pit of my stomach. I felt a sudden urge to throw up - somehow I knew it would make me feel a lot better - but I stubbornly held it down.
As soon as I'd finished, Jen patted the bed. "The doctor said you needed some rest," she beamed.
I eyed the leather straps reluctantly. There was no way that I was getting back onto that thing. "If you don't mind, I'd rather not go back to sleep," I said pointedly. "Since I've been asleep for so long." That bit still didn't make much sense, that I'd been asleep for my whole life. A coma, they'd said. That was fourteen years, asleep. My whole childhood just poured down the drain. Maybe I'd spent my entire life in this room, on that very bed. I tried not to think about that part. It just made me aware of the gaping hole in my chest, the memories and experiences that had been ripped away, and would never come back.
She laughed. Was it my imagination, or was that smile becoming a little bit forced? "You need to rest up. You've got tests tomorrow, and you'll feel better." She smiled encouragingly, but she didn't look friendly anymore. Her scarred face looked twisted in the harsh light.
"I'm fine thanks." I backed up a step, wobbling precariously, but I managed to keep my balance. I felt urgency pulsing through my blood, a silent signal that distantly whispered danger. Adrenaline began to leak through my veins, as if in preparation to fight or flee.
She was approaching me now, and the madness was back in her eyes. All of her fluffy smiles and gentle promises were gone now, and she looked angry. A hot metallic smell was coming off of her in waves, one that made my heat throb and my stomach convulse. I clapped a hand over my mouth and nose, but it just kept coming.
As I watched, she produced a remote from her pocket and pressed one of the buttons. "Subject 9 is showing signs of rebellion," she said clearly into the mouthpiece.
I backed up another step. My legs felt like stilts and everything was too long and too heavy. I still didn't have the strength to control myself and I struggled for balance. My mouth was dry in anticipation. The smell had lessened, and I could bear it now without the taste of bile rising on my tongue.
Suddenly, Jen lunged forwards, fingers like talons outstretched to grab me. I had no doubt that once she got hold of me, that would be it. I'd be back on that slab, tethered down and awaiting whatever tortures or experiments they wanted to run on me. I might never get another chance of freedom, not after this act of disobedience. Instinctively I leapt backwards, but that was too much for my shaky balance, and I fell, arms windmilling wildly in an attempt to find some purchase on the wall behind me.
A flailing hand smacked into a trolley of equipment and trays of polished implements spilled to the floor, glittering metal and ruthless blades smashing onto the tiles in a hideous collusion of metal on metal. One caught my hand, a scalpel with a keen blade that winked evilly before slashing my palm open.
The pain was instantaneous. Blood welled from the cut and blossomed out over my fingers until it dripped sickeningly to the floor, black-red against the white, glistening wetly. It wouldn't stop coming. I didn't move, watching with a horrified fascination at that deep colour oozing into the lines of my palm and painting my palm hot and sticky.
My hand was on fire, burning with a feverish heat and pulsing painfully in time with my heart. I knew that my senses had been sharpened, but nothing could've prepared me for this. The metallic smell was gone, this time replaced with the sickly-rich scent of my own blood, clogging my nose and throat, so that I almost couldn't breathe.
Jen had halted. She looked horrified. Well I was a precious experiment, and that I should've gotten injured on her watch… She took out her remote again, pressing that hateful button. She was about to speak. Surely they had cameras in here, but maybe they didn't have sound? That was what the remote was for, and I couldn't let her use it.
That was when it happened.
The remote exploded. Somehow the circuits must have shorted, and the device spat burning-white sparks and chunks of hot plastic. Most of them landed on Jen's face and neck, not to mention scalding her hand so that she had to drop it. Her screams echoed eerily of the shiny walls as she collapsed to the floor.
For a few seconds, I was frozen. What the hell had just happened? It was completely beyond me, and in the end I scrambled to my feet, grabbing a thick roll of bandage from the trolley to wrap around my hand before staggering for the door. I kept my eyes firmly averted from Jen's unconscious body. Part of me felt bad for leaving her, but the other part didn't care. She was evil! it screamed, and I couldn't help but agree.
I could already see a red shadow seeping through my bandage; I'd wrapped it as best as I could but it kept unravelling, and all I could do was to hope it stopped the flow a little.
Cautiously, I peered out into the hallway. It was blissfully empty. Perfect.
My bare feet made no noise, and I was silently grateful for being given no shoes. Although it would be troublesome later on if I was to make my escape. I pushed this thought away, and continued to warily slink down the corridor. It was all just as blank as my room, with clean white walls sloping into the floor. Doors with thick glass windows broke the endless walls at regular intervals. I looked down, and cursed. My hand was dripping a little, and the small spots of blood were striking against the floor. It would be obvious which way I'd gone. Even then, I was hopelessly lost and had no idea which way I was supposed to go.
And that was when my tiny reservoir of luck ran out.
Several scientists rounded the corner, and my sudden and rather dishevelled appearance caused them to leap back in shock.
"W-w-who are you? W-w-what do you want here?" one stammered angrily. A poor impression of authority. But they didn't know about me, which was a gloriously shiny little nugget of knowledge that I tucked into my pocket for safe keeping. That meant I would only be recognised by a select few, and as long as I was fast and silent, I would have the element of surprise.
A hasty plan formed in my mind, and I gave a pretend sniff, letting my face crumple into a shockingly realistic sob. "I was with my school group, but then I got lost and I don't know where I am!" I collapsed into a fit of tears, which wasn't actually that hard. I merely let the truth of my entire existence fill me up until it spilled out.
If I wasn't running for my life, the looks on the scientists' faces would've been hysterical. They looked confused and suspicious (I didn't exactly look like a kid on a school trip), as well as embarrassed with a side helping of helplessness, as in What the heck am I supposed to do with a crying child? Do I pat it on the back or what?
"You'd better come with us." He attempted a sympathetic smile but it came out as more of a pained grimace. And this was the last thing I wanted to do. If they started looking into my seriously cliché story and discovered that it was a pack of tearstained lies, they'd have me exactly where they wanted.
"Um…" I inched back, trying a scared little girl act. "But I don't know you."
"We'll find your, uh, school group, and get you back safely," he promised. The emphasis on school group set alarm bells ringing in my head. He didn't believe my cover story. Neither did the others.
I backed up and they followed. Smiles were gone; they meant business.
A multitude of options ran through my brain, all tangled together in multi-coloured strands like a ball of wool after a cat has finished with it, until I couldn't make out one from another. But they all ended up forking off into two different choices that were hardwired into every living creature's DNA: fight or flight. I chose the first one.
Lashing out caught them by surprise - they hadn't expected me to put up any sort of resistance (at least my 'cowardy custard' performance had been taken seriously). My one good hand curled into a fist, I aimed a solid punch at the nearest guy's stomach. He crumpled like paper, his face a nasty shade of powdery white.
Another scientist launched himself in my direction, white lab-coat flapping like a superhero cape, and impulsively I swung round and pushed him back firmly. He was propelled back, slamming into the wall with a resounding crack before sliding to the floor limply.
They'd said I was stronger than an average human. They hadn't specified how strong. I gazed in astonishment, but a cold feeling was creeping over my skin. Guilt? Two men were on the floor unconscious at my hands. But was it fear? Fear at the extent of my power and the things I could do?
One of the scientists was stood there. He watched me with terror, shrinking back against he wall under my gaze. One hand surreptitiously crept towards a small red button fixed to the wall under a glass case.
Any cover I'd had was now smashed in glassy shards across the floor. There was only one thing left I could do. I fled.
I skidded to a halt as a siren blared out from every direction. For a moment I was deafened. I was used to the sterile silence broken perhaps by the clipped tone of a doctor, or the hushed whispers of scientists who knew too much. But the noise that met me was an inhuman scream, a harsh screech that bored into my skull and pulsed through my head until I couldn't think. I cursed silently, my teeth gritted in a grimace of pain. Great. Clearly the word was out about my escape, and getting out of here would be three times harder than originally foreseen. They wouldn't let their precious experiment go willingly. I tightened my bandage and pressed both palms to my ears in a futile attempt to block out the tumultuous yowl. Then I broke back into a run.
It felt better, running. My bare soles slapped the chilly tiles and adrenaline surged through me like an electrical current. Even the noise lessened as if it were unable to keep up with me. Even though I was running for what felt like my life, I wondered how come I could run when half an hour ago I could barely stand. A sentence popped into my mind: sometimes you've got to run before you can walk. I wasn't sure where it came from but it was damn appropriate at that moment. Gone were the wobbles, the jelly-legs, the feeling of being on stilts and everything being just too long and too heavy. Instead, I actually felt good. My legs ate up the corridors with a powerful ease, and I skidded around corners like a professional ice-skater. And all the while my heart pounded with a feverish excitement, and my blood tingled with an energy that made the hairs on my arms and neck stand bolt upright. Surely they couldn't catch me. They'd never keep up. I could make it out of this hellhole.
Corridor after corridor flashed by. At each fork, I randomly picked a hallway, hoping that it might actually lead somewhere, but each one was as blank and white as the next, routinely dotted with shiny silver doors with thick glass windows. At one point I slinked up to a random window and peered through into one room, barely able to contain my curiosity for what these strange people were doing, and saw a woman enveloped in a lab coat several sizes too big for her, weighing a pot plant. It seemed that I was the most interesting experiment on the premises, which gave me a slight sense of smugness which I hastily smothered before I could start feeling ashamed of myself.
I'd finally reached somewhere different after tossing a mental coin at yet another fork (don't ask why, it just seemed like a logical thing to do at the time), that branched off in two, three different directions and ended with a large set of glass-fronted double doors. Outside, I could see colour, proper colour rather than the whites and metallic greys that surrounded me. A wondrously blue sky, creased with wisps of pearly cloud, seemed to beckon me forwards. It looked warm, inviting, and most importantly, safe. It was big; I could lose myself out there. Lose this place, and then they would lose me.
The siren finally stopped. I sighed with relief, took a hopeful step forwards my freedom. That was when it all went pear-shaped.