When I awoke, I was alone.
The room contained nothing but me and the hospital bed which I lay on, devoured by tubes and wires which were cemented in my legs; my arms; my face; everywhere. If I wasn't so intoxicated by the drugs which were being pumped through my veins, the scorching pain which suffocated me would have made me scream until my lungs gave out. My blurry vision cleared and the room took shape, white walls all around me with the promise of peace but all I could sense was the smell of blood drowning me and the flames which engulfed me from the inside out.
The last thing I can remember, I was home. My family ruffling my hair, saying their goodbyes, telling me how proud they are that I was chosen for this year’s Trainee of Sylvius. But no one cried. Where I lived, children work in the fierce battlefields of war and their parents sit in their dusty shacks - mouths as dry as the black hearts of the poisonous government, bloodshot eyes as stark crimson as the flames which consumed homes- hoping that they will return today, and the day after that. When you exist in this living hell, being nominated and selected for Trainee of Sylvius by the government is a gift. Trained to the highest ranks of authority, fighting for the advantage of your city. "Honourable," they told me. "Successful," they told me. "Powerful." The words bounced around in my brain, crashing in every corner and smashing into a thousand pieces. I don't remember at any point being strapped to a metal bar, victim to a sea of tubes, leeches sucking the blistering life out of me being part of the deal. The icy realisation of the truth slapped me, sending a venomous feeling swirling through my body, shaking in my empty heart and filling it with burning rage.
The government prides itself on its intellectual discoveries. Genetically enhanced soldiers; domestic animals with the life span of a thousand years; mental disorders which can lead a person beyond the brink of insanity, their own minds transforming everything into their living nightmares. This is why when a Trainee was taken away to live this promised luxurious lifestyle, providing for their family, training their way to success, they were never seen again. Along with everybody they ever loved.
I was their next experiment.
They wanted to discover what blood curdling, gut wrenching things they could do to me. How twisted could they make me? I was a toy in the clutches of the devil. A meaningless, throwaway object.
There was only one thought running through my foggy, disorientated mind: I had to get home.
My lungs heaved, my heart raced, sweat streamed down my neck as I pulled each excruciating tube from my body, spilling blood with each inch closer to escape until I was free, standing on my own two feet, held up by my weak legs which offered me the only hold I had on anything and threatened to loose it. I pulled on the inconvenient hospital gown which smelt of death and ran a hand through the dark tufts of my hair, eyes trained on the transparent doors ahead of me. What would happen when I crossed them? A shrieking alarm? Gun fire? The dominating arms of their brainwashed soldiers? I didn't have time to weigh the odds.
I must have looked crazy; eyes wide with terror, hospital gown flailing around me, hair standing on end. I heaved the heavy doors open and froze, waiting for signs of movement, a warning to the demons who held me prisoner. Nothing followed. My footsteps hammered in my ears, shaking my brain and all I could focus on to keep me steady was the heavy beating of my heart and the deep breaths I swallowed. I could have been hyperventilating or having a heart attack, but it didn't seem worth worrying about. I crossed the never ending maze of corridors, careful not to make a sound with each risky step, reminding myself to breathe every now and then when I passed a door. I must have been walking for around five minutes, but it could have been five hours until I finally found the doors which marked the exit of my prison.
The air was blissful. I didn't realise I had started to run before I was sprinting down the middle of the road, my feet aching with each slap to the knives of concrete below me. I crossed the silent main road and was just counting my blessings and trying to ignore the eerie silence as I whimpered at the sea of blood trailing behind me.
That's when I heard the footsteps.
I didn’t have to look back to know that they had found me. There weren’t two footsteps; there was an army of them. The second a single shadow descended from out of the darkness, there was floods of millions more, their footsteps drumming in my ears, threatening everything I lived for. Every atom of my body was burning with sheer terror and the silence still lingered despite the bellowing feet marching in the distance. My courage disintegrated, the world disappearing around me as I gathered my speed and became immersed with adrenaline. I could focus on one thing only: staying alive.
I wondered which one of their twisted creations they had sent after me this time; their soulless soldiers? Bloodthirsty mutated creatures of some kind? The sorts of monsters that children fear are hiding under their beds at night? I could have continued for as far as my imagination could stretch but my mind was absorbed by the desperate need to pass the captivity of the walls of Sylvius.
My heart hammered in my chest, my legs threatening to crumble with each lifesaving leap forward. I lunged my weak, damaged body behind a nearby wall and continued running in a direction which I could only hope led me away from the demons who grasped at my ankles. A blanket of darkness made it almost impossible to see where I was running but I made no effort to slow down.
Moments passed; One minute, two minutes; Silence. The promising silence of peace and surrender hanging in the air only offered me the smothering sensation of sharp pangs tearing in the pit of my stomach, if I knew anything I knew that they wouldn’t give up this easily. I stole a glance behind me and I was almost certain that my heart turned to dust in my chest. My throat was ghostly dry with a scream of terror sitting on my lips, not daring to make a sound.
They had created everything I had ever feared and presented it right before my eyes. They didn’t move. Didn’t make a sound and there I stood, frozen still, miniscule and meaningless standing eye to eye with an army of my nightmares who blinked back at me, their grimacing smiles boring deep into the shuddering pits of my soul.
I was their next experiment, and I had walked straight into their investigation like a puppet to their strings.