You can't run and you can't hide...
|Eyes rolling frantically, I fought against my gag as the gloved hand raised a hypodermic needle. Helpless, my muffled screams did nothing to assuage the scientist. Light glinted off his thick eyeglasses, framing an unpleasant smirk.
"Now, now, don't make this any harder than it has to be." Squeezing the plunger, he observed the sickly yellow fluid squirting out of the syringe.
"We've made some... modifications to the drug this time," He continued cheerily. "You were the only subject to survive the previous trial."
What previous trial? I could scarcely remember how I got here. Sifting through fragmented memories, I struggled to understand the severity of my situation.
Rubbing a sterilization swab on the base of my skull, my captor began singing over stifled cries.
"When Irish eyes are smiling..." Crooning, he waited for the alcohol to dry. "... sure they'll steal your heart away..."
Head thrashing against my bindings, I howled as a rubber glove caressed my face. This all happened before, a horrible revelation that my torment was only beginning anew. Everything within me shrieked, dreading the contents of that syringe.
"There's a tear in your eye, and I'm wondering why... that it ever should be there at all..." His voice wavered humorously at my distress.
Leaning closer, the bespectacled man whispered in my ear. "Be a good boy for us, yeah?"
Before I could respond, a sharp pain stabbed my neck. Tears spilled from my eyes as the substance spread through my brain, burning like a powerful acid.
Holes appeared in my vision, dark spots slowly growing. It felt as if a colony of fire ants was swarming inside my skull, biting and stinging as the drug took hold of me. The black shapes swallowed my sight as the scientist sang me to sleep.
"When Irish hearts are happy..."
The throbbing headache made me want to strangle him. "SHUT UP!" I shouted, opening my eyes.
Sunlight filtered through an open window, blue and white checkered curtains swaying softly in the breeze. A radio sat on the bedside table as Bing Crosby serenaded me with dulcet tones.
"... sure it's like a morning Spring..."
I blinked, wincing as my head pounded again.
"I see you are finally awake!" Squinting at the bubbly voice, I expected to see my tormentor. But I couldn't have been more wrong. A young nurse beamed down at me. Inspecting her chart, she shook her head sadly at my medical history.
"Quite a nasty car accident you had. We tried to repair the damage to your spinal cord, but even our best surgeons could only do so much."
Frowning, I tried to rub my face. My arms refused to move, as well as my legs. "What's going on? Nurse, why can't I move?!"
Smiling sympathetically, she rested a hand on my unfeeling shoulder. "You have quadriplegia. In your current state, moving any limb is impossible."
I couldn't process those words, a living death sentence in all but name. The radio softly warbled in the silence.
"... all the world seems briiiight and gay..."
Glaring at the device, I growled my displeasure. "Turn that crap off. I can't stand to hear anymore." She complied, silencing it with a flick.
"Do you have any questions?" The nurse asked quietly.
I sighed, staring out the open window. The familiar sound of sirens grew and faded as I pondered my fate. "What are the chances of recovery? I'll even settle for partial use, just give me some good news."
Pursing her lips, she looked down and grimaced. Miserably, I closed my eyes.
That look told me everything.
"Even with rehabilitation and surgery, the odds are extremely slim." I gritted my teeth at the pity in her voice.
"But there is an experimental treatment available if you are interested." My interest piqued, I asked the nurse for more information.
With great enthusiasm, she explained that there was a new facility that specialized in paraplegics. Apparently they had varying amounts of success.
"It's called Ghostwood," She said, showing me a pamphlet. "One of our physicians can get you in touch with them soon. Maybe even today, if you'd like."
I narrowed my eyes at sunny pictures of cheerful patients, vague recollections gradually forming. The people were too healthy, paid models no doubt. But the rooms they were in...
Electrodes covered a shaved head, currents of high voltage coursing through my scalp. Jaw clenched shut, muscle spasms racking electrified flesh. The hum grew until it seemed the entire world was vibrating...
"... Hello? Are you feeling alright?" Her concern cut through the nightmare, bringing me back to the hospital bed.
Shuddering, I shook my head.
"I don't want to go there. Please, I'd rather be with my family."
Nodding, she put the pamphlet away and marked something on her chart. "Be sure to get lots of rest; we can discuss other treatments later."
When she left, I let out a shaky sigh.
Whatever that place was, it felt like I'd dodged a bullet. Now I could relax and wait for my family to visit, making hollow promises of a rapid recovery and always being there for me.
Feeling drained from the day's revelations, I nestled my head against the pillow as waves of sleep washed concerns away.
I was softly rocking on an ocean of slumber until my boat capsized.
"... another success. Should we terminate?"
Jolting awake, I glimpse a dark shape pressing a mask against my face. Gas hissed onto my nose and mouth, forcing me to inhale the sweet smell. As the chloroform sent me back, I heard a second voice answer.
"No, this subject is too valuable. Prepare him for transfer."
I sank into the drowsy darkness and knew no more.
Echoes bounced around me.
Agonizing sobs, pleading for a final release. Unhinged laughter caused by broken sanity. Bellows of rage, the fury found within caged animals.
All of these sounds created a haunted symphony of suffering, restoring lost memories.
I didn't have to open my eyes to know where I was.
Ghostwood had claimed me, once again.
Face obscured by a surgical mask, the man pushing the gurney said nothing as we traveled the desolate halls of damnation. Eyes devoid of emotion, he grunted when I tried to talk.
I swallowed, holding back the string of heated profanities I intended to spew. Something warned me against it, a cognizance of previous mistakes.
Turning left, we rolled past a room marked 'Reanimation.' A cloying odor of decay and sanitizing chemicals lingered in that passageway.
Wheeling the stretcher around a stacked pile of body bags, he said something into a device on his shoulder.
"We need a disposal team in sector five. Project Lazarus continues to achieve no results."
What kind of place was this? I wondered what sinister intentions they had with me, if I would end up in one of those unmarked bags.
I gazed at one of the white pouches, half imagining that it shifted slightly.
Then we were finally out of the festering hallway and into a new one. Here, a musky aroma of wild animals replaced the previous stench. Behind a pair of steel doors came the faint calls of monkeys whooping and birds screeching.
Above the fingerprint scanner, I saw a name stenciled: 'Project Proteus'.
It sounded like a small zoo inside.
As the surly man moved me away from the room, I heard a bestial yowl from deep within. To me, it seemed as if there were words mixed with the monstrous roar.
A chill ran down my crippled spine.
Thankfully, I wouldn't be discovering what that was. The room marked 'Project Chronos,' opened to the thumbprint of my taciturn companion.
As the doors swung open, a potent apprehension knotted my stomach.
I knew those glasses and that unkempt hair all too well. My nemesis sat before me, grinning broadly.
"Ah, our new guinea pig! But that isn't quite right now, is it? More of a prodigal son, aren't you?"
He nodded to the masked man and waved him away. "Thank you, Dmitri. On your way back could you pop into Sector 2 and tell Dr. Klein the results? Be sure to rub our victory in his smug face."
After the assistant left, his gloating expression turned back to me.
If I wasn't paralyzed, I would have been squirming beneath those maniacal eyes.
"What do you want with me?" I asked fearfully.
Cackling, he spun on his stool and threw his head back in gleeful amusement. Stamping a foot down, the mad scientist ceased whirling. After slicking back his greasy hair, he began pacing around the gurney.
"Why nothing, my precious rat. Your presence means I've succeeded!"
Clapping his hands excitedly, my tormentor leaned over me and winked. "How was it? It must have hurt like the dickens at first, but you seem pretty healthy!"
Seeing my confusion, he dropped the jovial antics and sighed.
"I suppose an explanation is in order."
He crossed over to a whiteboard full of complex equations and erased them with mild annoyance. "I hate explaining theoretical physics to primates..." Muttering under his breath, he finished wiping off the notes and straightened himself.
Drawing a crude stick figure, he gestured to it. "This is you in the present." Below it, he created an identical one. "This is also you, but twenty-four hours in the past."
Making an arrow connecting the two, he pointed at it. "This is the time stream linking your present and past self."
Placing a cap on the marker, he crossed his arms. "Any questions?"
I still didn't quite follow. "You sent me back in time?" Rolling his eyes, the scientist smacked himself on the forehead.
"No shit, Sherlock! It's quite obvious."
Frowning, I asked another question. "But why me? Why not someone more... mobile?"
Grinning wickedly, he tossed the marker aside and pushed his glasses up.
"It's quite simple. Our method of time travel doesn't involve sending a body through time. We project the subject's present memories into the past, a much easier solution."
He raised a vial of fluorescent yellow fluid, inspecting it lovingly.
"The human brain is like a computer. It can store massive amounts of data, but it cannot transmit it without outside influence."
After waving the glass container at me, he placed the vial in front of one eye so that it appeared magnified. Staring intensely, he spoke.
"With my cocktail of secret ingredients, I found a way to bypass those limitations."
Placing the tube back, he leaned against the cluttered desk and yawned.
"Of course, I can't send anyone to a time they don't exist in. For my serum to work, I need two brains in two timelines. The first experiment was a total failure; our subjects convulsed and died upon returning to their previous selves.
The next phase seemed to go well initially, but the patient simply vanished. We found her corpse a few days later. It seemed she used her previous knowledge to escape, but died from brain hemorrhaging. It was a partial success, but not good enough for my liking.
To prevent any further problems, we decided on using more... stationary subjects. The promise of medical wonders at Ghostwood attracted great number of cases like yours. But how could we know if the serum worked? The answer was easy. They refused treatment here! Who else would cast hope aside while it dangles before them?"
A fiendish light glowed in his eyes.
I felt sickened by the sheer evil. Only a monster would delight in shattering the dreams of cripples. But I feigned interest, coaxing more information out of him.
"So how far back can you send someone?"
He shook his head. "Nice try, but I'm afraid your usefulness has run its course."
Heart sinking, I asked what terrible fate lay in store for me.
"It's not so bad, really. The cybernetic division requested you next. They are always on the lookout for functioning brains."