Memories continued to plague me, gripping my mind and refusing to let go. Little by little coherent thoughts pushed their way into my mind, despite all the resistance I tried to put up. I finally realised what the puzzles were meant to be doing. I had done them before. Not only had they been piecing me together bit by little bit, they had been making cracks. Little fissures into the person I had been and the thing that ripped them all open and tossed me into the deep end of my life was a necklace. One that had been given to me by Him.
As always it was impossible to say how much time had passed between passing out on the floor and waking up, but I was close to whole when I did.
“Welcome back.” He said, smiling that revolting smile down at me.
“Go to hell.” I hissed. The loss of everyone I ever loved gripping my heart and ripping it out of my chest once more.
He looked dismayed, “You got your memories back? You weren’t supposed to.”
“As if I wouldn’t have gotten them back eventually.” I could hardly look at him. I didn’t want to think about what he might have done to me.
“Well.” He sighed, “I guess this will have to do, you are still the best we’ve got. Maybe we can come to an understanding.”
My blood ran cold. “Understanding” was the word he used right before he wiped my memories the first time.
“I’m not about to make any deal with you.” My voice was cold and harsh, like the blinding glare of the room.
“I was going to let you keep your memories in exchange for your cooperation.” He said amicably. He didn’t show a flicker of regret for taking my memories, for taking my whole self away from me.
“You didn’t think of that before you took them in the first place?” I challenged. I wanted something, anything out of him. Some flicker of emotion to show that he was human, that he care a whit any which way about what might happen to me because of all his – his experiments.
He nodded his head, “I did, but then I figured that it would be easier for you if you let go of everything you once knew. It still would be, I’m sure, but you’ve regained your memories once so it is quite likely that you would be able to do it again, and I don’t have time to try and convince you down this path again.”
My whole body was shaking with rage and disgust. I felt filthy and diseased. Of course looking for humanity in this thing was completely futile. “What have you done to me?”
“I made you special.” He said. “Unique, unlike anything this world has seen before, and now you must learn the limits of what you can do. Work with me, or forget everything you know and we will do it anyway.” His voice never lost the diplomatic and carefree quality, but the threat came across loud and clear regardless.
“Fine.” I spat. “It’s not like I can escape, it’s a bloody maze out there.”
“My dear, you wouldn’t have any place to escape to. Do you think that the bombs were the end of it?” And with that he sauntered away, whistling a jaunty tune. I wished I had something to throw at him.
I was standing next to the wall, having unconsciously retreated from him and I slumped in a pile on the floor, letting loose the sobs that I had held back that first day. How did I end up here? I still didn’t have any answers. “Special” could mean almost anything. For all I knew, “special” could mean having hair that changed colours or metal for blood, or even a reptilian tail. That particular thought flashed up images of Scale Girl, and phantom scents of her charred flesh.
I looked down at my hands as if they would give me the answers. Of course they didn’t and I slammed my head back against the wall, feeling better for the pain. It was too white, too bright and I didn’t want to face it.
He left me alone for what I judged to be a day before coming for the first of my “tests.”
I was taken to a small room that had a strip of floor that was black instead of the normal white.
The floor was criss-crossed with black lines that didn’t reach the black strip. I didn’t like the look of it.
“What am I supposed to do?” I asked.
“Step onto the black strip and run.” He said.
“That’s it?” I said, sure there had to be a catch.
“That’s it.” He confirmed, leaving me alone in the room.
I was barefoot, and the floor was cool on my naked flesh. I nearly fell over when I stepped onto the black strip of floor. It started moving, stopping when I stepped off.
“Okay then.” I muttered, jumping on and running as soon as I did.
The strip forced me to run as fast as I could and then some. I tried to keep up, but soon my lungs felt like they were close to bursting, my heart was beating its way out of my chest and my legs were begging for a reprieve.
I dared to step off the black strip and instantly regretted it as a vicious jolt of electricity rammed through my body, and I was back on that strip and running despite my body’s protests. I had found the catch.
I ran until I couldn’t run anymore and collapsed onto the electrified floor, ignoring the repetitive jolts until they stopped and I was given my break.
Someone came in and carried me to my room where a bottle of water and a single bar of “food” was waiting for me. It was the same stuff they had been giving me for my entire stay. It was tasteless, but it filled me up. I could barely summon up the energy to down the meal before I slumped into a deep, exhausted sleep.
The police cruiser finally stopped moving. We had arrived out the front of a non-descript warehouse that looked like it would be able to survive the apocalypse if it came down to it. I guess that was probably a good thing. It was also as big as a football stadium.
“Go on inside, you will be safe there. We are rounding up people who have been displaced by the latest tragedy and bringing them here.” I couldn’t do anything more than nod numbly and follow orders.
It took every last ounce of willpower I had to make it past the front door and into the blinding white glow of the eerily sci-fi-looking hallways to the warehouse, and even then I had to keep going. I felt sick.
My memories played major parts in my dreams, playing back in my mind in stunning detail. I tried to ignore the throbs of pain that came with each new scene.
Amazingly I didn’t hurt the way I thought I would after my marathon run, but I’m guessing there was more pain in store today.
My answer came in the form of one of those unisex people in their full body suits. Instead of bringing me food like they normally did, the figure gestured for me to follow. They didn’t stop to see if I did, and I thought about staying where I was, but I doubted that I would get away with that. I followed. Like a well-trained puppy.
We went to a different room. This one had an array of different fitness devices. I glanced at the figure curiously. “What’s today’s form of torture?” I tried to keep my voice light, but it came out bitter. On second thought, I might have had a right to the bitterness.
Full-body-suit said nothing and left me to my own devices. I sat down next to the now-closed door and did nothing. I might have agreed to their “tests” but I had never agreed to do them willingly. I was still a prisoner and I would be doing only what I had to in order to survive, kicking and screaming all the way.
The door opened and He walked in, looking amused. “Good morning. I want you on that.” He pointed to a bike that was fused to the floor.
“You want me to get on that and peddle until I pass out, right?” I asked, glaring at the wall and staying exactly where I was. “What’s the point?”
“That’s not your concern.” He said, the door swinging shut behind him.
The room felt very cluttered and dangerous. I knew that He was probably watching from some other room and that if I didn’t get up on the bike and start peddling that I would be punished in some form. Maybe the floor would heat up again, maybe they would starve me, or gas the room with something to choke me, who knew? These sadistic bastards would do whatever they could to get their results. So I hauled myself up and got down to it.
Just like with the moving strip, the bike had a mind of its own and set its own pace. One that would have been break-neck speed had the bike actually been moving.
I tried to think of every way imaginable in which that son of a bitch might die as I ignored the screaming pain in my legs and chest. The slowest, most painful ways physically possible. I imagined strapping him to this bike and leaving him peddling until his heart gave out, or running until he passed out and then having the electricity finish him off. I’m sure I could come up with more creative ones the longer I stayed here.
Soon all coherent thought became impossible and my legs felt like molten lead had been injected into them and had forced its way into my lungs and heart and was squeezing everything out of it. I couldn’t get enough air.
I don’t remember hitting the floor, just everything narrowing to a point and then disappearing.