The only light in the cell pops on. From the ceiling it barely illuminates the tiny, square room, making it even less hospitable than it already is.
Something slams into the door. The metal clang resonates, echoing off the stone walls, signaling the arrival of my escort. Grudgingly, I swing my legs off the side of the bed. They settle onto the ground, shoes still on my feet and I stand between the two things they call beds. Though, the thin mattress isn’t enough to mask the hard metal bars.
The door opens. On the other side of it stands someone, man or woman I can’t tell. Their black uniform covers their entire body from head to toe, revealing only their eyes in the tiniest of slits. In their hands they hold a gun. It jerks towards the hallway, a gesture meaning I’m supposed to move.
Without hesitation I walk. My feet scuff the stone floor, the small noise grates against the unearthly silence of the hallway. Though, nothing compares to the skin-crawling sound made by metal scraping against stone as the door to my cell closes once more. It clangs loudly. Though, I don’t jump. The noise is so familiar, so routine, that I’m numb to it now, just as I am with the poke of the gun between my shoulder blades.
Down the hallway the two of us move. Not a word passes between us. Not a single person appears in the dull glow of the lights. My fascination with the lights died months ago. Most fascination dies when you’re a prisoner, stolen right out of your bed in the middle of the night.
The gun barrel stabs into my left shoulder-blade. It’s a signal to go right. Right? That doesn’t make any sense.
My feet continue forwards, straight down the hallway like every other day, when the gun presses violently into my left arm. It shoves it forwards, physically turning my body to face the foreign hall.
“Right?” I ask, my breaths quickening. Nothing changes here. The routine is always the same. “Why’re we going right? That’s not the way to-”
The butt of the gun slams into my temple, throwing me backwards into the corner of the wall. My hands scrabble on the freezing stone. Shivers ripple down my spine as I try to blink away the pain and the black spots.
One hand touches my head. Warmth sticks to my fingers even as I pull them away. The blood glistens a ghastly red color in the lighting. My eyes struggle to focus. When they do, though, the gun sits against the Warden’s shoulder, the barrel pointed at my face.
Panic clutches me. Air catches in my throat and my eyes bulge, my heartbeat intensifying the pain in my temple. “Okay,” I choke, pushing from the wall to move down the new hallway, my anxiety higher than ever.
The Warden moves silently behind me. Only the pressure of a gun barrel on my back reminds me of their presence, corralling me through the maze of indiscriminate tunnels.
After half a dozen more turns, and having lost all sense of direction, we reach a door. A nondescript door like all the others. The only thing to differentiate it from the door I normally pass through is the sign that sits above it. LABORATORY.
My heart sinks into my stomach. The acid bubbles and eats away at it, disintegrating it as I realize what’s happening. “No,” I breathe, gasping more than speaking. I whip around. The Warden stands with the gun in my face and I clasp my hands around the barrel, pulling it flush with my forehead. “Shoot me! Just shoot me now! Don’t let them do this to me!”
I swallow hard, trying to control myself, to keep the tears back. They burn the corners of my eyes.
The Warden’s eyes narrows, hardening their gaze, but they say nothing.
“Please,” I beg. My hands tremble. I can barely keep the gun against my forehead with the violent shudders rushing through my body.
Wrenching the gun from my grasp, the Warden smacks the side of the barrel against my head, igniting black spots across my vision. I lean heavily on the slit of door frame. My eyes blink rapidly, trying to rid the growing darkness, but the tears slip down my cheeks instead.
A clang resounds, one of metal on metal. The door behind me opens.
“Ah, you’re here-” The voice cuts off beside me. “What happened?”
The Warden doesn’t answer.
Gentle hands grasp my arm, but I yank away, backing away from the door. My head snaps back and forth. A face I’ve never seen before emerges from the haze of my pain and fear, watching me with worried eyes.
“Please, calm down,” they say, hands extended carefully.
“No!” I scream. The anxiety grips me, kicking my heart into a flurry. “Don’t do this! I’m still useful! I can still be useful!” Even to my ears my voice sounds weak as I plead for mercy.
The stranger glances at the Warden as if communicating silently, deciding what to do. I follow their gaze.
“Please!” I beg, dropping to my knees in front of the person in the black uniform. I scrabble across the ground towards them. My hands flail for the gun as tears cloud my vision. “Just kill me! Don’t let them do this!”
A heavy sigh parts the air, filling it with annoyance. “Bring him inside.” The person in the doorway is the one to give the order, worry no longer in their gaze. “Why must I always be the one to get the whiners? I’d almost prefer they fight.” Another exasperated sigh and they move towards me.
Two sets of hands grab my upper arms, hauling me to my feet.
“No!” I holler, my throat sore and parched. “Please! No!” I jerk against their combined force, kick my feet out, try to grasp the door frame, but they drag me through into the brightly lit room.
The door closes. More hands grab me, carrying me now to a metal table in the middle of the room.
Sobs rack my body. “No,” I beg, no longer able to scream. It does me no good.
Chains and leather cuffs secure me to the metal table, stained red from all the blood spilled before mine. Just the sight curls my stomach. My fight vanishes, knowing I’ve been caught, knowing what’ll come next. Only whimpers escape me now as the room falls silent.
“Well, he’s not going to change voluntarily,” the person from the doorway says.
No one answers. Yet, the silence seems to be an answer of itself because the order comes, warning me of the agonizing pain.
“Force him to use his mutation with the first level of electrical shocks. Standby for examination.”
Next Installment: ‘Level Three‘