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Chapter 24

Friday, March 16th, 2029


I’m bouncing up and down as Micah makes his way to the end of the hall. “You’re more trouble than you’re worth, boy,” he says. I’m speechless. I can’t even get my mouth to cooperate with me. I see a door approaching at the end of the pure white hallway and I can feel the body under me begin to shift. Micah stands up on his hind legs and I can see his human qualities begin to return out of the corner of my eye.

The hair on his skin begins to recede and he is standing stark naked with the exception of a ripped section of his shirt still on his body. I hear the door open and Micah throws me inside. I land hard on my side and audibly whelp. Behind me is total darkness and in front of me is Micah standing proud with it all hanging loose. In the shadows of the light behind him, I can see the jack o’ lantern grin return to his face before the door slams shut.

I can feel movement below me. A mechanical hum roars to life and the room begins shaking. I place my hand on the ground beside me to try and stabilize myself, but the room buckles once and I fall back over. Just what is happening? I put my hand on the ground once again and I make it to my knees. My muscles are aching from being electrocuted and my joints are sore. Everything about me right now is just screaming pain.

I grit my teeth and get a balanced foot down. The room shakes again, but I stay firm. I reach out around me and I find a wall to hold myself against. I slide up against it and get to my feet. My head begins to spin and I feel like I’m going to pass out, but I keep going. Just then, I hear a small sound. It’s barely noticeable, but it was a terse sort of ding sound. The doors that had once opened open again and a blinding white light fills my eyes. I look around me to see that I had been thrown into an elevator. I look back out to the blinding white light and I see that I enter a slightly small somewhat dome-shaped room. There’s a sloped ramp that curves around the back of the room and in the middle I see a large bulky machine. Strapped to the front of the machine is what looks like a human body, only if the body was decrepit and looks like it is a million years old.

Its flesh is a sort of blue-grayish color and all of the hair has completely fallen or receded off of its head. It has a bag valve mask covering its mouth and I can see its chest rising and falling periodically.

I walk up and stand in front of it, just then its eyes open and I see a dull faded blue hue in them. “Jonathan, it’s good you finally came to see me,” I hear in my thoughts. It is the same voice that has been haunting my mind.

“You’re Reinhardt?” I call out.

The body itself barely reacts, only moving to shift his eyes or move his mouth slightly.

“I know I may not look like much, but I can assure you that with your help, I can be in a much better state,” he says.

“I’m not going to help you. I’m getting out of here,” I say. I look behind Reinhardt and I see an array of glass windows on the wall behind him.

“Do not even think on it, John. The jump would surely kill you, I mean, we are pretty high up,” Reinhardt says slowly.

“High up? Where are we?” I ask.

“Why don’t you take a look for yourself?”

I walk around the machine and walk up to the windows. I realize that they aren’t actually windows, but completely open holes. I peek my head out and I see that I’m about a hundred feet in the air and around me I can see I’m on an island in the middle of what looks to be an endless amount of water, in the very far distance I can see a shoreline with a vast city behind it.

“Wh-Where is this?” I ask.

“You are inside the crown of the Statue of Liberty, John.”

“The Statue of Liberty?!” I call out.

“Indeed, John. You’ve nowhere to run and jumping would surely lead to your death. You don’t want that, now, do you?”

I look at the giant machine from the backside and I can just imagine the crippled, decrepit body of Reinhardt in my mind clearly. I feel my body being lifted into the air. I’m unable to move my arms and my legs are just dangling below me.

“Now, John I expect you to answer me when I ask you a question,” Reinhardt says slowly. I’m being pulled around the machine and then I see Reinhardt once more. “Well, I can bet you weren’t expecting this, were you?” Reinhardt says.

“What are you doing to me?” I ask.

“Well, Jonathan. You haven’t completed your physical training yet. You’re not…broken enough for me yet,” Reinhardt calls out in almost a whisper. I can feel my insides turning out and I’m lowered onto the ground.

“What else can you do to me at this point?” I ask, my insides desperately wanting to become my outsides. I can see Reinhardt’s frail body utter a single smile. I feel my body stand upright forcefully, my arms are outstretched and I’m standing on my toes against my will. “I can do many things, Jonathan. Many things you could only…dream of,” he says with a slight laugh.

“But you can’t maintain your power,” I say, looking at him. His smile fades.

“You are right, John. I cannot keep my power stable, or else my body will rot away, of which end you have no doubt noticed.”

I stare at him, my arms are starting to ache once more.

“That’s why I need you, Jonathan. I need you to keep my life going and I cannot do that unless you let me.”

“Like hell I’m ever going to let you do that,” I say, gritting my teeth.

“Oh, you don’t have to want it. That’s what these tests are for, John. I’m going to force your body to let me in,” Reinhardt says, slowly and each word with the precision of a sharpened blade. “Now, I believe that you’re needed back with Micah. He will commence and finish your training.” I feel my body begin to move on its own will. No, on Reinhardt’s will. I begin walking closer to Reinhardt. I’m so close that I can smell his rancid breath as he exhales deeply.

“Now, from me to you, a gift,” he whispers.

He slowly reaches his left arm up and it looks like it is taking nearly all of his energy to manage even that. It’s not like I can do anything about it anyway.

He presses his hand on my chest and I can feel it through my shirt. His hand is warm to the touch and it feels like it is getting warmer. In a matter of moments it burns and I let out a scream. Reinhardt’s eyes seem to go wide and he grins. I can’t move and it feels like he’s burning a hole through my entire chest.

Eventually I stop screaming, how long it took to get to that point? I don’t know. It felt like hours, but it could have easily been minutes, seconds, even. That feels like a running trend, now. Finally, he removes his hand from my chest and I drop my head down, my body still standing tall. I’m sweating and breathing heavily and my chest has become numb.

“Now, go back down to Micah. He shall finish your testing,” Reinhardt says, slowly.

I am walking back to the elevator, none of it actually me, of course. I try to crane my head around, which is about the only thing I actually can do. I catch sight of Reinhardt one last time, still hooked up to the large life support system, lights glowing all around him. My body enters the elevator and the doors swing shut. In that moment my body falls to the ground, all of my muscles in severe pain and I’m just so tired. I don’t even notice the doors open again until a few minutes later and then I see Micah standing in the hallway, re-clothed.

“Now that you’ve had your talk it’s time for my fun to begin,” he smiles, the devil inside of him apparent as ever.

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