The Boy in the Window
Nathaniel watched the girl from his window until all he could see was a blur against the stark city skyline. By the time he finally stepped away, the sun was sinking below the horizon, and the once bright autumn day was being replaced by darkness. Sometimes he thought he preferred it that way.
Adjusting the collar of his crisp white shirt, Nathaniel paced the length of his bedroom, if he could call it that. It was more like an apartment, he thought, with an entire kitchen and drawing room through a set of glass doors to his left. Everything he would ever need was right here, and in another life, as another person, maybe Nathaniel would have stayed in his rooms and never left.
But he was not that person.
With a sigh, Nathaniel crossed the room and pushed open the glass doors. He ignored the vastness of the room in front of him and instead turned and drew out a card from his pocket. The card was small, and no bigger than the length of his index finger, and he scanned it in front of the scanner beside the steel plated door in front of him. Security was tight here, and even though his Uncle didn’t want him to notice, didn’t think that he noticed, Nathaniel saw the cameras underneath the kitchen cabinets, and had noticed how the windows were not double glazed but triple.
Nathaniel saw it like this: either they didn’t want something to get in, or they didn’t want Nathaniel to get out.
The door unlocked in front of him, and Nathaniel pushed on the door with all of his strength before it gave way beneath him. Out in the corridor, the florescent light was blinding, and Nathaniel staggered a bit before regaining his balance, and he waited until the door snapped shut behind him before setting off down the hallway. The manor house was huge, and his rooms felt tiny compared to the expanse of the rest of the house. All things considered, Nathaniel rarely spent time in the top half of the house, and he was glad. The hallways were like a maze, and it took him longer than it should have to find the winding staircase that led down to the ground floor. This was when Nathaniel, dazed after trying to navigate his way around, bumped straight into Raj, nearly knocking the stack of folders out of his arms.
“Whoa,” said Raj, “careful there.”
Nathaniel shot him an apologetic smile, “sorry.”
Raj winked, and steered Nathaniel towards the elevator at the end of the hallway, “you could get lost for days in this place,” he said. Nathaniel nodded his agreement, his gut twisting as they descended a short set of stairs and the white elevator came into sight. He supposed that everything looked so white to give the feel of cleanliness, but Nathaniel thought it to be eerie how everything was so...dull.
As they approached the elevator, Raj pulled out his card. It was similar to Nathaniel’s, apart from the fact that it stated his full name, identity code and an awfully bad photograph. Raj’s card let him access any part of the building, whereas Nathaniel’s plain white one gave him access only to his rooms and to the kitchens below. Everywhere else was strictly off limits to him, unless travelling with Raj or anybody with a full-clearance card.
The elevator doors slid open in front of them, and they both stepped inside. The elevator, like everything else in that damned manor house, was white. There were no control panels, no buttons to press, and you could barely see the seam where the door opened and closed.
It was like a cage.
Nathaniel shook off the feeling and tried to divert his mind elsewhere as the elevator dropped. His stomach lurched, and he found himself leaning towards Raj in an attempt to stay upright. Raj looked towards him and smiled.
“You’ll never get used to it,” he said.
Nathaniel grimaced, but before he could reply the lift came to a sudden halt. At the speed that it had been dropping, Nathaniel could only guess that they were about twenty floors below ground level, if not more. He’d never been below the top level of the compound below the enormous manor house, and as the elevator door slid open, Nathaniel didn’t know whether to be excited or terrified.
A long hallway stretched out before them, the walls made of glass and the floor shiny and white. Even in his time in the manor house, Nathaniel had never seen a space so big. Unlike what he’d expected, there were no people. The only sound was from the elevator door shutting behind him and the flicker of fluorescent lights above him.
“Where are we?” Nathaniel asked aloud.
Raj turned towards him, lips curving up in a smile, “we’re in the compound.”
Then he began walking. Nathaniel walked beside him, looking at the glass and then realising it was mirrored, so that the only thing that stared back at him was his own reflection. He supposed there were rooms behind it, and wondered if he would soon be stood in one of them, readying himself for an operation or a dissection or something equally disgusting. His stomach clenched at the thought. Nathaniel didn’t particularly mind dead things, and he didn’t particularly mind cutting them open either. What he didn’t like so much was when it was alive, and the paranoia that came with knowing that one wrong flick of his knife and a life could be on his hands.
When they reached the end of the corridor, Raj turned right. All of the corridors looked the same, and Nathaniel followed Raj’s footsteps, trying to figure out if there was any significant pattern the compound was laid out in. But it was as difficult as trying to count a nest of ants. Raj turned left and right and then left again, until suddenly he stopped. Nathaniel bumped into him. The door in front of them had no sign on it, no numbers or letters indicating towards anything that may be within. The only thing that made this part of the compound different from all of the others was this: there were no windows. All of the other corridors they had walked through contained some kind of window, whether it was mirrored or covered with curtains from the inside.
But here, it was just white and nothing else.
Raj pushed the door open and held it for Nathaniel. He stepped inside, and as soon as he did, somebody was shoving a black cloak into his hands and telling him to put it on. He obeyed, and when it was on he realised that it was a lab coat. But they weren’t in a lab.
The room before him was massive, and it seemed to go on forever. There were rows upon rows of metal tables, all sided with a small box that probably contained equipment. People were gathered around one of the tables closest to the door, and Nathaniel walked over. It must have been a crowd of about fifteen, and they all parted to let him through. There, stood at the head of the table was his Uncle. Abraham Ellsworth. Doctor Ellsworth. He went by so many names, and yet the man stood before him looked nothing more to him than the Uncle his mother had fled from. The Uncle that had found him again and brought him back here.
His Uncle smiled. Nathaniel felt like he was going to vomit, and then he looked down at the table and swallowed the building lump in his throat.
It was a monster. Nathaniel jumped, falling back a few steps until somebody caught him. He was shaking. He was shaking so vigorously that he didn’t think he would ever stop. Its face was sickly, it’s almost transparent skin pulled taut over a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. It was completely bare on the table, and yet Nathaniel could hardly identify a gender. Its nails were long and sharp, capable of slicing human flesh without effort. Nathaniel looked back up at his Uncle. Of course, he had heard rumours about the city across the ocean. Shalom. Rumours of monsters that came out at night to feed on human blood. Rumours of the people that hunted them and collected the bodies of the dead.
His Uncle was talking, but Nathaniel couldn’t hear him. He watched as one of the people beside his Uncle picked up a scalpel and leaned across the table, drawing a line down the monsters neck all the way to its torso. If there was any hope of this thing on the table being remotely human, it was all gone now. As the surgeon pulled the scalpel down the monsters body, a gooey, pale yellow liquid oozed out of the wound. Another surgeon stepped in to wipe away any of the substance away before it dripped onto the table.
That was when Nathaniel, a hand covering his mouth, turned away from the table and began walking towards the door. He could hear his Uncle shouting for him, but all he could focus on was the monster. Nathaniel could hear footsteps behind him, and then suddenly Raj was there, guiding him away from the foulness of the other room and towards the safety of the elevator. Raj pulled out his card and swiped it in front of the elevator, pulling Nathaniel in behind him.
When they arrived back at the manor house, Nathaniel said nothing as he walking back up the winding staircase and into his rooms. He said nothing as he filled up his bathtub with hot steaming water and stepped into it, his clothes discarded on the floor beside it. And then finally, with the water soothing his tense limbs, Nathaniel silently cried until the water stopped steaming and the room was replaced with darkness.