Chapter twelve- Departure
"Allen, are you ready?"
I was taken out of my stupor by the wheezy voice of Jacobs below.
He had the G36 ready to shoot me down, but once he saw my face he
pulled his eye from the iron sights.
"What *cough* happened?"
I could hardly talk. I was too defeated to retain any energy in
my voice. I didn't know what I was even fighting for, I just
wanted to get everything over with.
"Just get me down. Let's finish this..." I muttered.
"As you wish. Hang on tight."
The gunshot shattered the tension in the air as efficiently as it
did the canister of gas above. I wrapped my limbs around the
cable as it went slack. As it unfurled, my section flipped over
and into itself in the process of lowering me down. The cable
jerked too hard though, and I lost my grip.
I felt my back crack against something solid on the way down. The
room spun in circles as I collided with various pieces of
equipment. There was a minuscule moment of peace as I fell
through nothing but air. The floor then greeted my entire body at
I could feel an intense throbbing pain in all of my bones. Dust
had been thrown in my eyes by my own impact with the ground. They
forced themselves wide open, though. I couldn't blind myself, not
then. I could hardly breathe, but the silhouette of a pistol
lingered in my peripheral. Before I even thought about it, my
arms and legs shot back and propelled me towards it. I wasn't
even thinking about the dangers I faced, my instincts were in
control. I was the only one left who could make a difference. The
only one to save myself and finally end the madness.
Everything went into slow motion. I could hear my own heartbeat
and feel the adrenaline course through my veins. I was almost to
the pistol. Closer. Closer.
Then in a shock of instant confusion, my right foot didn't meet
with the floor and I fell forward. As I tumbled on the floor I
felt a wetness on my left leg. It was warm.
On my stomach, I started to crawl for the pistol, which was a lot
further away than I perceived it to be. As I tried to push off
with my right leg, nothing happened. I couldn't feel anything. I
looked over my shoulder.
My leg had been severed below the knee.
I couldn't scream. I couldn't feel any pain either, but that was
it. I thought before that there was a chance at surviving, but it
was now the end of any hope I had to return to the real world. I
watched all of the others get exterminated by the subject one by
one, and it had finally come to me. I sat and just stared at my
stump, knowing that it was the end.
All that I could see of the subject were his eyes. He was a mere
shadow in the intense purple rays of the reactor. They slipped
into black as he bent over and lifted the arcing cable from the
dust beside the body of the first subject. Its white light
illuminated his face. His visage was twitching and flying through
the entire spectrum of emotions. Conflict was raging in his head
The sound of light footsteps echoed off of the machinery, and
Jacobs emerged from between two machines. The subject and I
watched as he limped back into our lives as a haggard and broken
man. His G36 dangled by his side.
Jacobs eyed the subject. His body couldn't support the energy he
had left and it mutinied on him, sending him into a horrible
coughing fit. Blood seeped through his gritted teeth, which he
spit onto the floor. Then he noticed me.
"Jacobs, it's over." I muttered.
Jacobs' face turned even paler. His eyes opened wide at the sight
of my physical state. He oscillated from my leg to my face,
growing angrier each time. He shut his eyes tight and threw the
rifle onto the ground.
The subject swayed in his own shadow while Jacobs hobbled
"I'm not going to fight anymore." he said.
The words reverberated forever in the nearly lifeless power room.
He shook his head.
"I'm not going to try and save myself now. The captain goes down
with the ship, and I'm the captain of this...this atrocity.
You've taken the lives of so many good people. People who will
never know just how great they were."
Jacobs limped across the dusty floor, making his way to the
center of the room. The subject's head slowly pivoted with a
mechanical smoothness, following him on his path. The corpse of
the first subject spurred Jacobs on halfway.
"I still don't get you.*cough* Why are you doing this?" Jacobs
I was starting to feel lightheaded. Blood loss was taking effect.
"What went wrong with you?"
He gestured to the first subject's body with his arm.
"Why were you two so different? You had the same virus," he had
to look away to distract himself from his anger "but you're just
The body of the first subject was at his feet. The glow from her
eyes was gone.
"She was promising. We thought that maybe the virus wasn't such a
bad thing; that the world could be better with it."
A hint of optimism was carried in his voice as he reminisced, but
it was optimism that had since been crushed.
"Then there was you. You were the example of all that could go
wrong. I was hoping that the experiment might change life for the
better, but you corrupted it. Now my coworkers and friends are
dead. All so we could research the effects and habits of the
virus until the bitter end. In that aspect, the experiment was
Jacobs walked to the center of the room. His back was turned to
the reactor as he spoke with a clear and commanding tone.
"We win, no matter how many you kill or brutalize. Your cruelty
will be your undoing. Humanity will quickly put an end to you and
this virus, and we'll live on."
Somewhere in the shadows surrounding the reactor, I saw the
purple light reflect off of something. Something that was moving.
"And then one day people will look back on us! *cough* The brave
workers at sector twenty-two who died saving the world from the
virus! Eventually...someone will continue our legacy and make the
best of what we learned. They will change the world. I know it!"
You will lead the others to a glorious new age.
Jacobs continued to pour out his passion for our sacrifice as I
watched the movements in the shadows. The thing moved about the
machinery, hiding behind them as it traveled towards the back of
the room; towards Jacobs.
I tried to yell, but I was too weak. There was blood pooling
under me and my mind was starting to fade. I was having trouble
making sense of what Jacobs was saying at that point, but I was
consciously aware of the threat approaching him.
The subject was suspiciously inactive as Jacobs continued on. My
friend didn't hold back as he finally unleashed his emotions. His
fist was in the air as a long snaking object raised itself high
up and in line with the center of the reactor. There was liquid
dripping from its end. Jacobs was aglow with victory. He had
reached the end of his story.
In a state of near unconsciousness I watched as the black streak
flew through Jacobs' torso. He was impaled so quickly and
effortlessly that he only stumbled forward with a step and a
half. His head dipped down to view his mutilated chest, before
raising again to the subject and I. The tendril curved upwards
and lifted him off of his feet. As he ascended I could hear his
voice. His final words exploded throughout the room and my mind.
"Thank you, Allen."
The tendril wrapped tightly around Jacobs' body. Without a sound
his head quickly fell forwards as the air was squeezed from his
lungs. He never looked up again.
A tube of grey haze framed the scene as the tendril released its
grip and allowed Jacobs' body to slide off of itself and collapse
in a heap on the floor. I was fading away with him.
Jacobs' body was swallowed by black. The black of the subjects
silhouette. He was approaching.
As if his stare was an electrode, my mind jolted back into life.
Words started to fly out of my mouth at him but I couldn't focus
on my own voice enough to understand what I was saying. Every
ambient sound of the power room was amplified and piling on top
of one another, and everything I could see was limited to the
subjects immediate area.
My body was supercharged with adrenaline alone, and I had no
ability to organize or understand what my senses were trying to
tell me. My internal monologue was going off on its own accord,
firing out information as if it could do anything to help.
Why?! Why is he coming for you?! You're dying!! Why won't he
leave you alone to die in peace?!
I could see every detail of the subject in the light from the
arcing cable. Every stitch in his straps, every scratch in the
metal rings, and every single black fiber that made up the two on
his chest. His eyes. I had only ever seen them glowing in the
distance as simple rings of neon orange, but up close I could see
them as they really were. They weren't just glowing eyes. They
were new. An entirely new thing. The irises looked as if they
were carved out of pure amber. They were alive, and contained in
their design as many facets and details as any person could amass
in an entire lifetime. They had opaque imperfections as well as
immaculately clear flowing masses. I found that I could stare
into the subject's soul through those enlarged amber portals,
even when the darkness they contained saw me as something that
needed to be destroyed.
The reactor idled in the background, watching the culmination of
its efforts unfold. As the subject drew closer it appeared as a
halo lowering itself behind his head. It dawned on me that I
would not be the last life to be taken by the will of the
machine. It would always be there with the subject, using him
like a puppet to satisfy its demands. As a machine, it would
never give up. Not like its mortal play thing had.
I accepted that I was going to die. Embracing my last moments, I
gazed up at the reactor. Less than an hour before, I was basking
in the violet hue of its plasma. I found it to be so beautiful
and so intriguing that I would happily die in its presence. But
then I came to understand it. It was hunger manifest. It fed from
the other machines, it fed on us, and it would never, ever be
satisfied. It represented such a hideous cause that it was hard
to love it again. But I tried anyway.
I shut out the subject from my mind and stared through him and
right at the reactor. I forced every horrible memory from my
experience into a dark corner of my brain. I went back in time
and reveled in the sweetness of the not so distant past. My
discussion with the voice in the dark was fresh in my head. I was
confused yet euphoric at the same time as I processed my supposed
destiny and found a passion for the mysteries of the realm. I was
there again, and I was happy.
As the subject took his final steps towards me he presented the
deadly end of the sparking cable. My vision started to blur, and
a streak of heavenly light pierced the darkness. Spears of light
penetrated the room one at a time as if the wall had sprung a
leak. Then a sheet of blinding light exploded into the realm,
filling every last inch with white light.
Then all I could see was black.
There was only darkness and noise. I felt myself getting thrown
about only for it to stop in an instant. Flowing water was
accompanied by shattering glass and malfunctioning machinery. It
resembled the ambient noise of the power room, but then I noticed
something. The hum;the drone of the reactor was gone, and it had
been replaced with a distant rumble.
I couldn't tell if I was on my back or on my chest. There was
pressure on me from both sides, and something sharp was digging
into my hip. I felt around with my right arm, with it being the
only limb that I could move, and I groped at the chilly air.
Gravity pulled my arm in the direction I was facing, so deduced
that I was lying on my stomach. I clutched at whatever was on top
of me. It was rough, but it crumbled in my hand.
"Hello? Who is that?"
I recognized the voice and sprung into action. Completely
forgetting about my mortal injury, I clawed at the debris pile
with my only free arm. My lungs fought for deep breaths under the
weight of the rubble. As soon as my shoulder was free, I pushed
myself over and rolled onto the debris pile. A blindingly intense
light assaulted my eyes as I tried to sit up. It knocked me back
down as if I had been punched.
"It's you!" the subject shouted ecstatically. "Yes! You're
While shading my eyes from the wall of light I looked down past
my torso to see the air where my leg used to be. Through the
cascade of dizzying white dots I saw my left foot and a stump
that was coated in grey dust, which, conveniently, appeared to
slow the bleeding.
"Yes, you took it," I muttered.
"Please, come over to me," he pleaded. "You'll die really
soo-*Cough*-soon if you don't let me help you."
The ceiling above was crumbling and falling apart. The only thing
holding the fragments of concrete together was the steel
reinforcement. A stream of fluid flowed from between the cracks.
I didn't acknowledge the subject's request. I just laid there,
"You killed everyone."
The subject didn't reply, allowing the distant rumble to fill in
the silence between us. I wouldn't look at him, wherever he was.
I wanted him out of my life, and especially my death.
"Why should I trust you?"
"Just look at me."
I noticed that the subject's voice was different. It was hoarse
and weak as it echoed from behind me.
"Just...look at me. I can't hurt you. Not anymore."
After a few seconds of silence I reluctantly complied. I rolled
myself over on the rocky pile and looked up. I saw the subject
His feet dangled several feet off of the floor. I traced the
blood that stained the wall behind them up to his right thigh
which had a piece of shrapnel embedded deeply into it. It looked
like it may have been a shard of glass, but in the intense white
light its reflections made it hard to identify. Further up, the
subject was clutching his hands around something in his chest. It
took me a moment to realize that he was pinned to the wall by the
object. His arms were shaking as he tried to lift his weight off
of the rebar that ran through him. He flinched as he allowed his
weight to come back to rest on it. His fingers danced over its
ridges as he calculated where he should place them. He whispered
to himself in forced breaths, building up the courage to free
himself. In one solid tug the bar ground its way out, and with a
thud and a clang the subject collapsed on the floor.
Broken and weary, the subject propped himself up on a jagged pile
of shattered concrete and burst pipes. His dark grey garb was
devoid of the black number two on his chest, and instead
displayed a dark, prominent blood stain.
He bobbed his head in my direction. His pupils constricted in the
intense light, and despite his crippled state, the amber glow
"Please come here."
I still felt suspicious. The subject had used illusions before
and to very good effect.
"But you have nothing to lose. You're dying...I'm dying."
The subject spoke clear and concise.
"I know that I have done horrible, unspeakable things, but I need
you to trust me."
He was right. I would soon bleed to death anyway. After intense
consideration I dragged myself through the rocky debris, enduring
cuts and bruises along the way. I didn't bother using my other
leg because it was extremely difficult to overcome the reflex to
use both legs in succession. As I cleared the rough terrain the
subject cracked a subtle smile. With my arms aching from
exhaustion, I crawled up onto the subject's debris pile,
collapsed, and rolled onto my back. I felt nauseated. My body was
demanding blood that I simply did not have in me. I only retained
enough to be alive.
The subject stared at my leg, not breaking eye contact from it.
His body was battered, punctured and covered in blood but he
somehow managed to keep it completely still.
"Why are you so calm?"
The subject blinked back to alertness.
"Be quiet for a moment. I want you to see something."
He turned to me bearing a very straight face.
"And don't be scared."
My eyes shot open wide as the subject's hands vanished into thick
plumes of black smoke.
"Wait, what are you doing?!"
"Don't worry. Watch," the subject retorted as he rolled over
His hands hovered in the air over my right knee. In the dark
smoke his blackened fingers appeared to tap out some kind of code
as he fluidically manipulated each digit to an indecipherable
rhythm. Soon the black smoke trickled down into seemingly aimless
The subject's eyes ran perfectly parallel as he carried out his
procedure. He spoke quickly as if not to break his concentration.
"This is the first time I've done this, so bear with me."
On the last word the smoke branched off of its obscure path and
into longer smoother routes. Some began to collect in a dense
protrusion at the base of the stump. As it expanded it rose to a
shade of white.
I watched incredulously as the black vapor manifested into flesh
and bone in a matter of seconds. Feeling quickly returned to my
new leg, and before I could take in what happened, skin had
already sealed everything back up.
I burst into joyous laughter. I had witnessed a beautiful thing.
A miracle of sorts. Humanity had been studying for ages to treat
people half as effectively as the black smoke did. And it took
mere seconds to do it.
During my celebration the subject swayed with a very familiar
small smile. His elbows shook and then collapsed under his
weight, followed by the chunks of concrete below him. The rocky
slope pummeled him as he limply rolled down the rubble pile and
onto the concrete floor.
My happiness waned as the subject laid lifelessly on the floor.
His breaths were shallow and nearly inaudible.
"Heh...Are you okay?" I asked.
"You *Cough* can get out of here now." he replied.
"I...I've done all I can do."
I felt a twinge of sadness as the subject spoke. The idea of
leaving him to die alone was painful. Even though he had almost
taken it before, he had saved my life, seemingly at the cost of
I carefully lowered myself down the slope. At the bottom was a
decent sized concrete boulder which I scooted onto as a makeshift
chair. From there I took a long deep breath. As I exhaled I
watched as the condensation evaporated into thin air. I
remembered the extent of our experiment. A month had passed since
we started, and winter was just around the bend.
The subject had curled up for warmth in the frigid November air.
His family should have been looking for him. It was almost
Thanksgiving. But I had a vile and lingering hunch as to why we
never heard about the families with the missing son and daughter.
I decided to be family for him then.
"I'm not leaving you yet."
The only visual hint that the subject spoke was a puff of
"Because...you've been through a lot, and I think you deserve
some company for a few minutes."
I couldn't resist the urge.
"And...I have a question for you. Or...maybe a few."
The subject rolled over. His eyes were dim and the amber tint was
aged and dark. It was as if they were unlit bulbs. A sense of
guilt pained me as I stared at those tarnished rings.
"Okay. *Cough* Square one again, huh?"
I chuckled. "You still remember that?"
"I remember everything about you."
I rubbed my hands together, partly because they were cold and
partly because I was planning out what to say.
"Yeah...That's related to one of the things I want to talk to you
about. Why did you spare me out of all the others?"
The subject turned his head confusedly.
"Well, because you where the only one left. There's no one else
"No. That's not what I mean. What I mean is why did you actively
manipulate my situation to protect me?"
"How do you know about that?"
I watched the dust blow across the ground, unsure how to answer
"I don't really know how to explain how I ended up with that
information...I wouldn't say it's a credible story...But...but
why me? I didn't do anything nice for you. You should hate me."
"Do you remember when I told you about the darkness? How my
consciousness left me?"
"Well...it seemed that way at first, but it didn't actually leave
me. As time went on the darkness got worse, and eventually it
consumed me completely one night.*Cough* Then I consciously heard
voices in my head when I was consumed. I didn't tell you about
them because I thought that if I acted normal I could be let go.
But I got concerned about what they were saying. They said things
that made no sense at the start. Eventually the most powerful one
told me to forget about my past and the people I knew. Once I
learned how I was supposed to ensure that I never thought about
those people again, I warned everyone about it."
The subject squinted as if his own words confused him.
"...But then there was another. When I was being hounded to kill
a kind voice would speak to me. It would talk to me about you."
I stopped breathing.
"It told me to protect you at all costs...That if I let you die I
would be lost forever."
The subject trailed his fingers over his blood stained chest and
examined the deep rose ichor as it trickled down his index
"I guess I traded my life to..escape the imprisonment," he
muttered. His breaths were becoming labored.
"...But I think there was a lot more at stake...I heard the voice
mention a plan."
"What was the plan? Did the voice say that I have anything to do
The subject shook his head. He appeared to be disappointed in
"I don't know."
I sighed and looked around. The power room was absolutely
trashed. The heavy emergency generators at the end of the room
had been thrown through the adjacent wall and deeper into the
building. The chemical pumps had seized and over pressurized.
Fine mists sprayed from between the chunky steel components and
onto vulnerable machinery nearby. The acid ate away ate the grime
on the metal leaving it appearing polished and new.
What were once neighboring rooms had been smashed up against the
power room's wall and knocked it out of place. It was only
supporting itself with a sturdy netting of cables and plumbing.
The metal groaned in protest. The wall was bound to come down at
some point. Its enormous mass threatened to take the entire
section of the building down with it.
The only light in our area came from the lopsided entrance on
that same wall. The dimensions of the doorway had been smashed to
twice their original size. One of the doors was reduced to a
crumpled piece of orange painted metal at the base of the
opposite wall. "WER" from "POWER ROOM" was all that was left of
the sandblasted writing on it.
My eyes were starting to adjust, but I still couldn't make out
what was outside in the intense sunlight. I noticed that the
rumble outside had faded away. I could hear birds chirping
overhead and distant car alarms blaring.
I looked around, but found no signs that anyone else was ever in
the room with us. The subject knew what I was looking for.
"I'm sorry," the subject muttered weakly.
"It's not your fault."
"I can't...help but feel like...I ruined your life."
I stood up. The sunlight was beckoning me now. I could faintly
see the silhouettes of tree branches swaying in the breeze.
"I don't think it's ruined. My family is far from here. They're
The horizon appeared in the light. It was merely a faint line
between two shades of white.
"I think...that life may have become worth living. I now have a
The subject didn't respond.
"I have an idea of what lies in the future. Just an idea. But
when I walk out there I will know my destiny. And it's because
you saved me."
As I stood on the border between my past and future I waited for
the voice of the subject. I wanted a sign of his company, but it
never came. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I was alone
There I was, staring into the light of my future. It was harsh
but there was no avoiding it. I walked towards the light of the
outside world. Every other step reminded me of the subject's
sacrifice. I would never forget what happened that day and what
he did to me. But a part of me knew that his favor would greatly
outlast my wounds.
While both driven and burdened by the legacy of our sacrifices,
the darkness of the facility shrank into my peripheral, and I saw
the true colors of my destiny.