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Stan awoke to darkness, an unfamiliar darkness. He had been uncomfortable, wanted to adjust positions in the bed, and couldn’t move. It was more than a dream. His arms and legs had been strapped to the bed, and no shadows in the darkness were familiar to him.
His last memories had been of going to bed with Charlotte. It had been a few hours after she had come home. They had slipped into their familiar routine, like the past few days hadn’t happened. He counted himself thankful that she didn’t bring any of it up. A weight had lifted and he returned to the routine without much thought.
That isn’t quite true.
A few times during the night, the nagging truth of the world outside his apartment walls had snuck into his thoughts. He suppressed the thoughts, suppressed the feelings, the way his parents had taught. But it didn’t last, couldn’t last. He had known that what he had seen, what he had done had been something outside what normal people saw in their lives.
He had even made a decision that night, before he cuddled into the bed next to Charlotte. In the morning he would go back. He would find the tunnels and find Jack again. And do what? That had been the question he couldn’t answer. It all seemed so easy until that question.
He fought against his arm restraint as he attempted to reach an itch on his nose, to no avail. He had been secured but remembered nothing of the capture or the room he found himself in.
A soft click and the door to the room opened and an overhead light flicked on a moment later. The bright light blistered his eyes with light spots. As Stan blinked to clear his vision he could hear soft soled shoes brush across the floor beside him.
The visitor wore a white coat that reflected the light into Stan’s eyes. The assault fractured what little vision he had regained. He closed his eyes tight to help ease the pain though the damage had been done.
“It appears I judged your stupor well.” The voice had been feminine, though not a voice that he recognized. “We have gotten much better at judging how much sedative to apply to your kind.”
My kind? Stan thought. He risked the light and opened his eyes again. Still bright but he could see past the light spots now. The woman had her back to him as she stood at a counter beside the bed. Her brown hair had been tied in a low ponytail and she wore a lab coat over tan trousers. She appeared to be just as human as Stan.
“Who are you?” is what he meant to say. But the words didn’t come. A hoarse gasp had been the best he could muster.
She raised an eyebrow as she studied him. “Sorry, the drug has an effect on the vocal cords,” she said. “Your voice will return in time.” The woman held a black box, no bigger than a deck of cards, over his body. It beeped several times as she tapped the side facing her. She turned back to the counter and set the device down.
“I imagine at this moment you are a bit… upset with the situation,” she said. “Don’t worry too much about that. You won’t remember any of this by the time we have finished.” She left the room without another word, without a glance back at Stan still strapped to the bed.
He searched around the room. White walls and neutral colored accents gave him no clue to what lay behind cupboard doors. He was in a lab of some kind but nothing like the doctor’s office he went to with Charlotte for his yearly check up. The place defied his memories of what he would expect to find in a doctor’s office. There were no monitors or equipment for examination anywhere to be seen. Nothing but blank walls, and the cupboards and counter beside the bed.
He fought against the restraints, struggled to win his freedom and escape but the metal clasps around his wrists and ankles allowed no wiggle room. The clasps were made of a slim metal that extended the length of his forearms and his calves, his flesh sandwiched between a soft material on the inside. His soundless scream echoed in his head.
A few times he thought he might have dozed off, lost in dreams of a freedom he no longer expected to find. Each time he woke to the woman standing over him with the strange device in her hands. His voice hadn’t returned during the entire ordeal. It had been just as well, she only bothered to speak with him that first time.
Through it all he lost track of time. With no view outside the room he lacked the sun’s position to give him a marker of the day’s progression, and the walls lacked any kind of clock. He lay there, strapped to the bed, lost in thought of what he should have done, how he might have escaped his current position. But it always came back to the same thing, Charlotte. He needed to know that she was ok. Had they taken her too?
The third time the woman had come into the room she didn’t use the black device. This time she had pulled a needle from the cupboard and filled it with a dark amber liquid. “This is for your protection,” she said as she jammed it into his left thigh.
Liquid fire exploded and burned through his thigh. It coursed from his leg and into his chest, knocking the wind from his lungs. He wanted to scream, fought to scream but nothing came from his vocal cords. And within moments after the fire reached his brain the world around him turned black.
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