And that’s how it went. I would wake up, be given something to eat and then taken to a room and given a task. I would pass out from exhaustion or lack of oxygen or something of the sort and then wake up in the white room to do it all over again. It could have happened for days, weeks or months, even years. I felt my body hardening and adjusting to the torment, but I never escaped being pushed to my absolute limit. My new resilience just meant more torture.
I had stopped arguing. There was no point. Instead I took to putting all my emotions into a burning need to not let them break me. I couldn’t let them do to me what that completely black room had, I couldn’t lose myself again. I wouldn’t give them that satisfaction.
I grew used to the silence and the white of the walls, so when loud crashing noises woke me up instead of the odd presence of one of the people in the full body suits I almost jumped out of my skin.
My eyes were trained on the space where the door usually was, and my entire body was rigid with tension. I didn’t know if this was another test or if something was just seriously wrong. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to find out.
The door swung open to reveal a guy who looked fairly young, early twenties maybe? He looked wary and grim, like he wasn’t sure how this was going to go down. “Can you understand me?” He asked.
“Who are you?” I said back, secretly revelling in the sound of another human voice. I didn’t count Him as a human being. I had seen nothing that would tell me that he was anything but a soulless automaton.
“There’s no time for that, if you can understand me then come on, we have to hurry.”
It was the opportunity I had been waiting for, a chance to escape and get away from this hell hole. So why on earth did I hesitate?
“How do I know I can trust you?” I asked, confused at my own reaction.
“Well it’s either me or this.” He gestured impatiently around the room, “Either way you only have a couple of seconds to choose, I’ve got other people to free and I can’t waste time trying to convince you to choose to not be an idiot.”
That was what decided me, that one word – “choose.” I hadn’t heard it in so long that I had begun to forget what it meant, like “freedom.” They had become foreign and distant and now they were here staring me in the face. I didn’t look back.
We flew through the corridors, stopping every now and then to open doors. With each new door opened I had to hold back a wave of disgust. The people behind them were horribly disfigured. Some had half of their face melted away, others had extra limbs – some even had extra heads attached – but the ones that were truly horrible were the ones that looked as if someone had tried to make them into animals. There were people who had scales all over their bodies, or wings that hadn’t developed properly protruding from their backs. Others had tails sprouting from their abdomens or a snake’s head in place of their own. Many of them looked like they only had hours to live and I wondered if that could have been me.
Maybe that was why I was “special.” I hadn’t turned out like them. I had to choke back my rage and disgust so I could keep moving. I wanted to rip apart the people who had been doing this, or better yet I wanted to do to them what they had done to the people struggling to breathe and survive in the blinding cells, or even trap them in a tiny cage that was heating or cooling rapidly and watch them scream.
My guide took me through the maze of corridors seemingly unerringly, his expression becoming darker with every opened door. Eventually we reached a fork in the maze that he wasn’t confident about and he paused, cocking his head like he was listening to something. He started towards the fork that would lead to the rooms that I had been tortured in quite a few times, it was a dead end.
“Unless you want to be electrocuted, we might want to go this way.” I gestured to the other corridor.
“My directions are to go this way, it’s the way out.” He said.
“Then your directions are wrong.” I said back.
“Why what’s down there?” He challenged.
“A dead end, amongst other things.” I headed down the corridor that would lead away from the memories of lots of pain at the hands of machines, water and probes.
He followed, though I don’t think it had anything to do with him trusting me. “What’s down here?”
“I have no idea, but it’s got to be better than the other option.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” He muttered.
He was holding some sort of weapon that I couldn’t identify. It might not even be a weapon, but he held it like one. I thought it could be a taser and decided not to put myself in the way of it.
I had no idea where I was or where I was going, but I felt a pull and it was the best thing I had going for me, so I followed it – right out the front door.
It had been so long since I had felt the heat of the sun on my skin, and it felt oh so good. I just wanted to stay and soak it all up, but my guide tugged at my arm and led me over to a sleek-looking black car.
“Get in.” He said.
I looked for a door handle or something that would allow me access, and came up short. “How?” I asked, glaring at the thing sceptically, “There’s no handle.”
“How long have you been in that place?” He asked, pressing his hand to my door. It swung open soundlessly and I slipped into the black leather seat, trying not to stare at all the different glowing lights I was faced with. The only thing car-like about it was the seats. Even the steering wheel looked like something out of a futuristic movie. Damn, how long have I been in that place?
There was a small mirror on the little shutter-like thing that was – as far as I could tell – a part of the windscreen, but could be pulled down to block out glare. I had to stare at my reflection. I couldn’t remember taking a shower, but was I really that ragged-looking? My hair had grown quite a bit and fell in blonde tangles down my shoulders, nearly to my waist now. The mirror only showed my face, but that was enough to make me question what they had really been doing to me.
My eyes were darker than I remembered, taking on a smoky green quality as opposed to the clear emerald that I was used to seeing. I could see my cheekbones clearly, and I almost looked gaunt. Muscle stacked onto a skeleton, and nothing else.
There were sounds of a fight outside the car, and I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew that if it came down to it that I could run for hours. The problem was, I didn’t have anywhere to run to.
I held my breath until the opposite door opened and my bloodied-up guide slipped in and gunned the engine. Within minutes, we were flying through the countryside and the warehouse was nothing but a distant speck.
“What’s going on?” I asked when I was sure that there was no way that we could possibly have been followed.
“You just got rescued.” He said, not even glancing at me.
“I know that, but why? I didn’t think anyone knew about that place except for the police officer that took me there and the staff.” I was still staring at my reflection, waiting for it to look like me again.
“Not many people do. There’s a whole company front thing. Even my information is sketchy.” He was staring determinedly at the road in front of him, which was probably for the best since we were going faster than I had ever been in a car before, sending he world into a disorienting blur.
“Sketchy. Like your tour-guide telling you to go the wrong way.” I said dryly.
“Yeah. By the way, how did you know it was the wrong way? Do you secretly work for them and see this as an opportunity to make my death look like an accident?” His tone was light, but I could hear the note of apprehension behind it, like I might actually pull a gun out of my non-existent pocket and demand that he pull over and let me out of the car.
“The other corridor led to rooms that held machines for testing.” I said, making it clear that I didn’t want to talk about it.
“Oh.” It was all he said, but I could tell that he got it, at least partially. He dropped the subject.
“Who are you?” I asked, “And not to sound ungrateful or anything, but why did you bust in there? And how? There had to be guards all over that place.” I had more questions, but he had that look that said Slow Down in capital letters.
He looked uncomfortable, and I thought that he wasn’t going to answer, but he did, slowly. “There weren’t as many guards as you would think. It would have raised red flags to have guards swarming the place. And I had backup – they’re in another car.
“We were tipped off to what was going on by an insider informant who also gave us building schematics, and as to why we saved you, well we weren’t going for you specifically. I was instructed to get anyone out that looked like they could handle it. As it turns out that would be you, and only you.” He fell quiet and the only thing that I could hear was the soft whirring of the engine.
“You didn’t tell me who you are.” I said softly.
“And I’m not going to.” He said, “For all I know you could very well be a plant, someone meant to infiltrate our ranks and bring us down from the inside, I’ll keep my identity to myself thank you. Who are you?”
“Well, despite the fact that this could all very well be another ‘test’ and you could be either a figment of my imagination or working for whoever the hell had me captive and about to drag my ass back to that godforsaken pit of despair, I see no reason why I shouldn’t tell you that I am Skye Lismore and I haven’t got a single place left on this planet that I can run to if you ditch me in the middle of nowhere.” I didn’t look at him once while I said it. I wasn’t sure what to make of him, or any of this.
“Skye Lismore? She died in the bombings three years ago.” He said, “Unless you are a different Skye.”
“No, my family died, I saw the house burn down and was taken away by a police officer. Wait, three years? Damn.” I knew I had been there for a while but... “Hold on, how on earth would you know about my death? Nobody listens to any of the names except for the ones that matter to them.” Judgemental and cruel, maybe, but it was the truth.
“I knew her – your – sister.” He said.
“I’ve got something to tell you.” Holly giggled excitedly and I rolled my eyes.
“Did Nathan ask you out on another date?” That was what usually got this sort of reaction from her.
“Oh, come on, don’t use that voice.” She sulked.
“The one that says that you’re so not interested when really you are.” She smiled and bounced down on my bed. “So do you wanna take another guess or do I have to tell you?”
“It’s not Nathan?” I asked slowly, sure that he was the only one who could make her giggle like a five-year-old playing a prank.
“No!” She shook her head at me in exasperation. “I got over him ages ago. Come on, you get one more guess.”
“Someone else?” I asked, my interest peaked. “Anyone I know?”
“No, I don’t think so, but you will. Meet me at the park at six tonight and I’ll take you to meet him.” She could barely sit still and I hoped that whoever it was would treat her better than Nathan ever had.
“Are you trying to fix me up with one of his friends? You know that won’t work.” I warned.
“A hot friend?” She wheedled. “You don’t have to pretend to like him if you don’t want to, just talk and be civilized.”
“Civilized?” I demanded, outraged.
“Yes, you know, talk, eat without spilling stuff, refrain from hitting – civilized.” She ducked out of the way before I could hit her.
“Were you...?” I didn’t know how to finish. This wasn’t the kind of thing you asked a stranger.
His gaze flicked over me and returned to the road. He wasn’t going to make it any easier for me.
“Were you the person Holly was taking me to meet?” I tried again, watching his eyes widen.
The breath left him, like I had hit him square in the gut. “So you are her.” He said. That was it.
We travelled the rest of the way in silence.