Chapter ten- Mask
I opened my eyes, and found myself no longer surrounded by the
crowd. At my feet were over a dozen dead bodies, whose uniforms
were bloody and riddled with holes. I gasped at the sight of the
slaughtered men and women, and stumbled, nearly tripping over one
who had fallen at my heels. I noticed that there were no
duplicates standing, in fact there were no duplicates at all. I
gritted my teeth and checked the reactor in desperation.
It no longer pulsated, simply glowing healthily and consistently
in the back of the room. Its work was done. Mostly.
I knew then that this wasn't an illusion. It was real, and the
subject had played us.
Below the reactor and just a few feet from me were but just a few
left standing. Jacobs, the large guard, subject number one, and
around ten staff and officials. Some of them were wounded,
including the large guard, who was bleeding from the shoulder.
The first subject was white in the face. It was highly unlikely
that she had ever seen so many people killed in such a way. I
also hadn't up until that point, but she was actually in shock
The others were all aiming their weapons at something behind me,
prepared to unload at any second. But for some reason they were
As the ringing in my ears began to subside, I awkwardly rotated
in place. I placed my feet carefully, trying not to step on one
of the bodies in disrespect. When sound returned to my ears, a
single official came into view.
He stood just feet from the outer perimeter of the collection of
bodies, with a G36 in his trembling hands. His finger was frozen,
tightly squeezing the trigger against the grip. He had clearly
just emptied his magazine. The rifle was pointed at nothing in
particular, but regardless of that, the shooter held it in an
aggressive stance. I looked at his pale face and recognized him
as the young official who spoke up earlier. He was stuttering,
and seemed to be confused.
He panned back and forth between the dead bodies and us. As if to
reassure that his action was correct, he proclaimed victory.
"I...I got them! They won't kill me! They thought it would be so
easy, but they were wrong!"
No one responded. We all just looked on awestruck.
"G...Good thing they were going to do me last, n-no one else
caught on. And, they...uh...they couldn't be saved. B-but you're
all fine now, like me. Th-th-thanks to me."
I glanced back at the others, who seemed wary of the unstable
young man. Jacobs, who had his hands behind his back nodded his
head to me to give the explanation.
The official noticed this and tried once again to convince
himself that everything was okay.
"What? W-why aren't you happy? I got it to stop."
"Yes. Yes, you did make it stop," I said in a calm tone. But it
was almost condescending.
The official looked on. He had a faint glimmer of hope in his
"But...that doesn't mean you fixed anything."
Those words echoed for a long time. Their ominous message
"It means...well, it means that the trick worked. And the
subject's illusion can no longer be implemented on us. The key
reason it stopped is because you are out of ammunition."
The official lowered his rifle. "A trick?"
I then started goose stepping over the corpses and began
explaining the scheme.
"Well, you see this whole situation was meant to extinguish as
many lives as possible in one foul swoop. The subject, from what
I understand, saw us as a threat in large numbers. And he needed
to thin us out. He couldn't take us out on his own so he turned
us against ourselves."
I had reached the official and stood mere feet from him. He
stared at the bodies of his colleagues. He was still confused,
but the signs of guilt could be seen on his face.
"The first two killings were meant to establish that there were
murderers among us. There weren't. The bodies and the blood were
all manifested when the room rebuilt itself. The reason you were
never "killed" is because then you wouldn't be cornered
The official was appearing more desperate and looked at each of
us one by one.
"Wh..why me? How did this happen?"
"I would assume this all started with you actually. When you
spoke up to Jacobs in fear of your life you showed that you out
of everyone could be manipulated with fear the most easily. You
showed that you were the weak link."
He looked down in shame and self loathing. I could hear the
others moving behind me. I presumed that they were engaging in
The official looked up at me. "Wait. Then why weren't you and
Jacobs set up? Wouldn't he want you dead here and now?"
I turned to an apathetic Jacobs, who merely shrugged in response
to the official. It was a legitimately good question.
"I don't know. But I bet that it would have been better to be
killed now. I don't know what he has planned next."
He looked at the bodies again, he had a tears forming in his
"I'm sorry. I should be dead too."
"Look, don't give up on yourself. Please. Understand that we
still need you to help us get through this, because we need
people more than ever now. This was a bad move, but you can
retain some honor if you help us survive."
Before the man could finish his sentence, an ear splitting bang
was emitted, and pink mist sprayed from the side of his head. He
stood for a brief moment, before his legs buckled and he fell.
His body made a wet thud on the bloody floor as he collapsed with
his cheek in his own brain matter.
I jumped back, and stood in utter shock at the new corpse on the
floor. But when I saw the placement of the bullet hole, I quickly
turned to the origin of the shot.
To my left, the first thing I had noticed was that the large
official guard was staring at me. He bore no expression on his
face. His eyes were glazed and disinterested, but they were
focused on me as if he expected me to do something. In his hands
he held a smoking assault rifle. I felt a surge of furious anger
come over me.
"WHAT...THE FUCK..WAS THAT???!!!"
The guard laughed softly. But he returned no answer.
"DID YOU HEAR ME??!!" I screamed.
"WHY DID YOU KILL HIM??!!!"
When the echoes of my screams in the colossal room finally
subsided, the much larger man looked down at me and smiled as he
talked in a quiet tone.
"Why don't you ask him?"
He pointed his finger from his good arm at Jacobs, who stood
stone faced next to him.
My eyes went wide.
I yelled, exasperated. My heart rate peaked, as a result of the
new wave of rage and confusion.
"Yes, Allen, I felt it would be the more humane thing to do."
Is this really happening?
"What are you out of your mind?!"
Jacobs walked up to me with his hands behind his back. He looked
at his feet every step of the way before raising his head to talk
"We aren't going to survive. I need you to understand that,
He pointed at the young man's body. The cuff of his neatly
pressed shirt was the most orderly thing visible in the grisly
scene he presented.
"HE wasn't going to survive. He was damaged too much anyway, as
even if we did have a chance to make it out alive, he didn't.
You're a scientist, can't you work out some simple probability
"Are you really going to talk probability statistics of our
survival?! Now we're down another able bodied man!"
"Able bodied being the key term in that sentence. Able minded is
something that we would need, and he wasn't. He was weak minded
to start with, and then degenerated further. Even still, it
wouldn't matter. We won't survive."
I couldn't believe that the person I was talking to was my
age-old friend. Who was now discussing the disposal of human life
as if it were a simple math problem. And on top of that, he was
comfortable accepting that we would all die by the hand of the
"Why are you so quick to assume that? You don't know what will
Jacobs smirked, and small wrinkles formed around his eyes. It was
disturbing that this was the happiest I had ever seen him. It
brought a sickness to my stomach that only the loss of a friend
could create. The Jacobs I knew was dead, but at the same time I
found that he never actually existed in the first place.
"I don't see a way out of here. This is the subject's realm. He
is in complete control of it, yes? And he has already used the
dimmest minds in our group to kill most of us. The only way to
get out would be to kill the subject."
My friend shrugged casually, as he put his hands in his pockets.
"At least that's the only logical solution I can think of."
"And why are you able to just smile and accept death like this?
You seemed so nervous weeks ago, and that was over keeping the
dangers of the experiment a secret. I don't get it. It's like the
experiment was worth more than your life. All of our lives for
Jacobs smile faded.
"That's because it is. I thought I explained that well enough.
"UNIVERSAL IMPORTANCE", remember? Our lives mean nothing in the
grand scale of this operation. The world is counting on us
whether they know it or not. And the reason I was afraid before,
was because the experiment was in danger of being terminated by
you. If you spoke out about your dissent and suspicions, which
were quite rational, the others might have woken up to the
dangers of the operation. Fortunately, those who were involved
were not what we'd call intuitive. At least, not by our
standards. We fired all the weak links before the experiment
began as a precaution to prevent a leak. I saw you as a potential
chink in the armor, but I couldn't confirm your suspicions and
let you go off and tell the world. I can't blame you for wanting
to though. You saw what was really going on. Not them. You could
have convinced everyone to abandon their position. Then the
operation would have failed. But that won't happen now. You and I
did our jobs, and because of that, many people will continue to
live happy lives. The infected will be contained, the feds will
quarantine the area, and everything will continue as it should.
That is why I will die happy, and you should too."
I squinted at Jacobs.
"Stop telling me how I should feel and how I should think. Well,
you know what I think? I think that you're a sociopath, Adam.
Anyone who can decide when to sacrifice human life as easily as
you must have a substantial moral deficit. Whether it's for a
good cause or not."
My "friend" returned the look.
"People often confuse rational thinking with mental conditions."
He paused. "I am not a sociopath. That would entail that I act
without feeling empathy for others who are affected by my
decisions. That I'm a narcissist. Not true. Just because my
decision to have Roger shoot that man was calculated quickly
doesn't mean it's painless to see it happen."
The freshly slaughtered official laid completely still on the
floor. The puddle of blood from his head had spread much further
since I last saw it. Despite the cluster of bodies next to him,
his story disturbed me on a much more personal level. I saw him
die mere feet from me, and I saw his last miserable emotions.
"I think you'd understand Allen, if you were put in the same
position as me. If you knew of the stakes beforehand, you would
have let this continue."
I shook my head while still staring at the corpse.
"I don't know what I would do. Maybe you're right. But I will
never understand how I could do it myself."
Jacobs put his hand on my shoulder and looked in my eyes. But I
couldn't look back at him due to the lingering uncomfortability I
had found with his true personality.
"You would need proper motivation. Something you have never shown
since you started working here. Not to say your work over the
years wasn't brilliant. It's just that this wasn't your calling.
I'm sorry that you of all people were involved with this. You are
a brilliant man and you could have been better put to work for a
He then patted my shoulder, "It's a shame."
Feeling satisfied with the delivery of his message, Jacobs began
the stroll back to his resting spot. The spot where he would sit
calmly again and await the coming slaughter. But I wasn't done
with him yet.
"You never answered my question Adam."
I could hear Jacobs stop in place. We were back to back, and no
one in the power room dared to let out even a small breath in
fear of insulting the gravity of our confrontation. He talked
over his shoulder.
"He had no will to live. And we're dead anyway. I spared him from
the rest of our fates, and I think it was the better way to go."
"I didn't want to do it. I had Roger shoot him because I
couldn't. And he made it quick. We did him a favor."
"The amount of detachment..."
Jacobs showed frustration towards that statement and cut me off.
"...It takes to do the right thing? It's a lot. But I do things
that are correct, not things that are pretty. I've labored over
agonizing decisions my whole life, and I've learned through it
all that emotions are a hindrance, and not a blessing. People
refuse to let go of them when the time comes to act. It's
He's right you know.
"I saw you earlier, I could see it on your face. It disgusts you
too. The fact that they are so helpless without people like us."
I felt intimidated, yet empowered. I didn't want to think of
myself as being above anyone else, but it was true, and while I
considered it the frightened eyes of the others looked on. They
knew I silently agreed as they defiantly endured the criticism in
The world will need a mind like yours to make sure everything
goes as it should.
I zoned out for a moment and muttered inaudibly,
Somewhere in that blurry moment the reactor began to whine again.