A surreal dream
James awoke and stood up, sweating, his clothing drenched from his shirt to socks. Dread came over him twisting his stomach into knots but it was not his dream that sickened him; it was the upcoming meeting with the boss. This thought, and the surreal dream made him move slower than any other usual morning, slower than molasses. In his dream his limbs had functioned fully, that was not the case when he awoke, though, off balance he fell toward the ground before stabilizing his self on the door handle and procuring his cane. He couldn’t help but relive his dream as he tried to close the door with one hand while steadying him. The sun rose in the mountains painting the sky a brilliant mix of purple rubicund, auburn, and ginger.
He made his way to the church preparing to face the music. The attendant nervously look away riddled with guilt as James pressed the button for the trap door sliding the altar to the side and entered into the cavernous level below where Byron impatiently waited for him.
“Don’t worry, James, I’ve cooled off Carson. I can forgive you for the blunder; I wanted you to check on So-seti while I was away!” Byron Atkins shrugged off James’s stuttering apology and laughed.
“Curiosity, I get that …” Byron Atkins paused.
“I hear you were almost fooled by the bitch, So-seti...” He slapped a fatty palm to James’ back leaving James unstable, his body off balance until his cane hit the floor helping to stabilize his frail frame, “You have a big sympathetic heart but don’t be fooled by her helpless nature.”
Byron motioned toward the offices coaxing James toward his heavy oak door. James stopped just feet from Byron’s desk to let his aching body rest a bit. Byron continued on to his extravagant and expensive, ornately adorned bureau.
“James,” Byron patted his sweaty forehead with his white handkerchief from his suit coat pocket, “last night there was a situation of sorts; So-seti had a fit when she found out that you were going to be replaced…”
James stood in silence observing massive amount of religious icons. Dr. Byron Atkins thought being surrounded by religious codes in his office sanctuary would protect him from the monstrosities and evil spirits he had been exposed to on the floors below him on an everyday basis. The Muslim prayer mats called sajjāda hanging on either side of his walls, one in maroon and silver mosque and the other one in black, gold and blue in kaba design. In stark contrast to the Muslim mats also on the sides of the walls there hung Jewish adornments and the Star of David. To Byron’s back hung an oil canvas of Lilith from an unknown artist in an unknown period of time and a canvas of Cain cast out into the wilderness. For Christianity an assortment of crosses were tastefully displayed throughout the room. But the Christian crosses were a source of anxiety and sadness for James. For him the cross represented misery, torture, and sorrow instead of resurrection, salvation, redemption, and gratification for all of the Christian church.
“So-seti turned her stretcher onto the floor at feeding time,” Dr. Atkins said in a monotone voice.
Atkins cleared his throat and stood to get James’ attention. “Would you be willing to go and check in with So-seti full time? I will bump up your security level permanently.”
James stood frozen poker-faced but the excitement began building hearing her name. The Dr. had his attention now. Dr. Atkins came between James and the canvas of Cain in which he gazed. But James still could not look Byron in the eyes.
“She calls out for you…” Byron said, waiting until he got James to look him in the eyes, “and you alone, would you be interested in it? The unfettered attention garnered will give us enormous amount of information.”
James smiled inwardly; she called out to me by name he thought, responding as he said, “Yes, uh, uh I would, thank you.”
“Good,” Byron said, shaking his head and opening a globe at the equator revealing several crystal glasses and a lead crystal decanter filled with golden bronzed colored brandy.
Byron took out two glasses and the brandy filling both of the glasses halfway then offering the spirits to James who politely accepted. Only sipping Byron’s favorite full-bodied drink for fear of his blood sugar spiking, Byron told a tale of warning.
“Let me tell you a story as a warning before I took charge of the abomination…before I was even employed by the God’s Light a continent away, So-seti befriended an employee by the name of Olson,” Byron offered James another drink that he accepted and quickly gulped down. Then he gestured for James to sit before continuing.
“He started to trust So-seti and eventually So-seti persuaded Olson to loosen her shackles so she could get more comfortable, that is when the horror ensued.” Byron sat on the edge of the desk next to James.
On the edge of his seat James asked, “What, um, happened then, sir?”
“She was able to transform and slip her feet out of her chains, her abdomen extended and twisted around, with her freed legs she was able to strike out at Olson, severely injuring his neck and knocking him out for a moment.” Byron stopped to down the last drops of brandy from his glass.
“See, this was before we started to dose So-seti on a week to week basis just to be on the safe side,” Byron continued, rummaging through his desk drawers before emerging with a picture. He handed off the picture to James and refilled his drink by the open global drink station.
He saw in the photograph a half-decapitated Olson sprawled out dead in a room not unlike the room that they were in as Byron explained more, “the surprise attack left Olson dizzy and out of breath on the floor, leaving him exposed to yet another attack.”
Byron pricked his finger, his blood sugar still in range, comforting him; he smiled as he made himself another drink. He observed James as he took in the picture, reassured James had taken the whole situation in, he continued.
“The bitch instinctively went for Olson’s jugular. He didn’t have a chance…” Byron stopped sipping his second glass of brandy. James resumed nursing his own drink. “He bled out in seconds and So-seti escaped her confines.”
Byron snapped his fingers in a motion that told James to give the photograph back, “All said and done, before she got captured, the death toll of our employees were five dead and two injured… Needless to say this brought about an increase in security and the severing of So-seti’s legs permanently by implanting silver screws into the humorous bones so if she ever escaped again, she couldn’t go far.”
“You see?” Byron raised a bushy eyebrow and James urged him to continue,
“You are a brilliant administrator even with your disability and I’m sure you will manage the extra responsibility of babysitting the bitch and reporting back to me.”
James felt like he had finally been validated. He had been employed by God’s Light before Byron had been hired. The management change left James feeling insecure, like he had something to prove to his new boss, as though having to prove that half his body being useless did not affect his mind. He dove into his work, researching incidents and sightings, investigating whether or not the sighting had been legitimate or a fake. Delving into reports of the werewolf of Valadez where the werewolf ate road kill on the side of the street or the hoax of the bat kid of England. Until he had the new boss’s attention organizing notes then producing brilliant and inspiring report after report so his indiscretions were forgiven.
“I showed you the gruesome photograph to remind of the horrors that she is capable of. Ever be complacent, never be fooled! Don’t let her charm you! She is a test subject and nothing more, a lab rat to prick with a needle, study and dispose of when you are done.” Byron sat silent for a second waiting for James to respond.
“I’ll do it!” James stifled a smile; he did not want him to see the unbridled enthusiasm in his demeanor. He swigged back the rest of his drink and set down the empty glass on Byron’s desk.
“Good, you’re my best researcher as long as you do what you’re told; you’re going to have a bright future!” Dr. Atkins slapped James hard on his back, an annoying habit that James despised.
Byron promptly took a coaster from a stack by his desk and put the empty glass on the coaster then checked for any damage done by moisture to the bare wood. He opened the middle desk drawer by his portly legs and rummaged through the top drawer emerging with another ID card, higher up in security; “LEVEL IV special access”.
“Thank you again, Dr. Atkins,” eyeing the card.
Atkins swiped the card through the reader hooked up to his computer then handed the card to James. James tried to clasp this new ID badge onto his white lab coat with his secondary hand until finally feeling sorry for him Byron helped James clip it onto his breast pocket with a suppressed sigh of irritation.
Now a permanent level IV, he definitely had to gloat to Matt when he met up with Matt for their chess match. He stood staring at the buttons I through VII when a thought came to him. At security III they had James’ nose buried in reports and investigations. Matt’s level IV had him studying relics, dissecting organs and corpses. Down at Level V there were empty cells dedicated to interrogating live lycanthropes. Then he turned his attention toward the lit unmarked button he turned to see several unlit buttons he wondered if the special levels were dedicated to such clandestine activities and comatose experimental abominations. He wondered how far down the dungeon goes. Thinking about the cruel experiments perpetrated on their own God’s Light employees made him livid, white knuckling his good hand on his cane as he hobbled to the elevator.
He roamed the glossy marble halls thinking about this for a moment. Just down the hall he stopped and stared at a large statue of the arch angel, Michael, its cold white marble cracking from age, wings spread out in all its glory, stepping on Lucifer’s head. However he was not annoyed with the volunteers. A part of him wanted so desperately the childhood fairytale recipes to work to be validated but trial after trial were all futile.
He stood just a few feet from So-seti’s prison putting his palm to the cold brick by the locked door. Just inside the door laid his validation, his proof in the flesh. Writing report after report and studying the arcane paled in comparison to the day when the helicopter blades spun and Soseti came to stay, not just of a paper and then not just of myths.
He stalled at So-seti’s doorway to get his breath before sliding his ID badge at the door lock watching it turn from red to green and unlatch with a click.
“Jameeeees!” So-seti hissed, wrenching her neck to see him.
Her eyes revivified and brightened from the black lifeless orbs they had been before. He saw her trachea undulate over her frail tautened, thin skin as she spoke, “you follow your heart… come back for me?” “Yes,” James nodding in response.
He tried to imagine So-seti as a young wild animal, a feral wolf but then he saw her aching eyes. So-seti’s eyes still had a milky haze about them; her eyes had been conditioned by torture and hopelessness. But some hopeful light filtered back to the eye, the light of kinship when she saw James, she had been alone for so long.
“Goooooood…” So-seti cooed.
Instead of disgust when he looks upon her decrepit form he feels grief, tears spring forth from his eyes. So-seti looked like an animated puppet shivering with no blanket, chained up by her neck and waist, exposed to the cold, sterile room. Her blackened eye sockets had sunken in even further from yesterday. Her cheeks were almost like wet tissue paper and transparent in appearance. Her diaphragm mechanically raised and lowered with every difficult breath. Her legs like stumps with amputated wounds long ago healed, swaying back and forth. So-seti’s phantom feet resting on the stretcher.
“I have the Wolf inside of me?” James couldn’t stand to look at her as he gazed at the EKG machine.
James tore off the lined paper with a diagram that looked like several valleys and crests that monitored So-seti’s weak heart rate.
“Yesssss, me can smell the wolf musk, powerfully strong in you…” So-seti pointed a boney finger at James’ heart and he did not recoil from her hand.
“Wolf shade wants to come out!” So-seti reached out and patted James’ head, “Me teach you how…”
James felt conflicted, guilty but exhilarated. How could this supposed lycanthrope physically transform? Even her long lean nose had sunken in decay, the bridge of her nose all but gone. She looked like a sickly gray- blue zombie, the crawling dead! He began to doubt everything, but he obsessed about his true potential. He could imagine once again using the left side extremities of his own body.
In fact he stopped fiddling with So-seti’s processed food supplement, glorified wet dog food he thought.
James poured a milk formula high in protein and fat into a baby bottle complete with small nipple, “Tell me your secrets… Please.”
So-seti greedily sucked down the bitter white fluid, formula spilling from her mouth onto the stretcher as she said, “Me tell you my secrets, you do me a favor…”
James hobbled over to the closet and opened it. He emerged with a musky pillow and blanket filled with holes eaten by moths. He slid a pillow under her head and covered her up with the thin blanket which felt more like writing paper that just outlined So-seti’s form.
“Do we have a deal?” So-seti asked, the blanket only warming her a little bit but she did not shiver anymore.
So-seti motioned for him to come closer. Though uneasy, James drew closer while So-seti strained to find his ear. So-seti whispered with a hiss all the precious herbs and supplies for the ritual of the awakening.