The Fifth Severance

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Chapter 1


The Confusion

Where am I? Ouch.

Why is everything so dark? Oh my gosh that stings!

Is it just me or is everything around me spinning uncontrollably?

I have a headache the size of Russia. I cannot see anything even though I am completely sure my eyes are open; I’ve blinked them a couple of times to make sure too. I try moving my body but that too is in vain. It feels as if I’m strapped to a moving car because I can seriously swear that my head is spinning.

I’ve tried calling out for Martina and the kids a number of times but my mouth must be broken too because I can’t hear a thing from it. Come to think of it, I haven’t heard anything at all, except this incessant ringing in my ears.

I just give up and lay there, staring into the dark abyss of my mind. When I realise that the ringing in my ears is starting to dim a bit, I try to listen hard to some faint noises around me until it finally stops. I can now faintly make out two voices speaking above me.

“I don’t know why you insisted on letting me save...” My hearing tails off a bit but then returns again. “He is such a pompous, self-righteous ignoramus who is the very reason we are in this mess in the first place,” the male-sounding voice says.

“I know he can be a bit arrogant at times...” a female voice replies.

“At times? A bit? Ha! The man is the very definition of the word arrogant. I fail to see what he would add to the Underworld except more of an annoyance factor if you ask me.”

Did he just say ‘the Underworld’? Where the heck am I? Am I dead?

“Yes, but, don’t forget he is a genius,” the female voice defends the one they are speaking about, wait, are they talking about me?

“Anyone can be classified as a genius.”

“Please brother, I’m sure he has changed. It’s been a long time you know.”

“Anytime you call me brother it reminds me that at one point we used to be just a few years apart.” They both burst out laughing after the male voice says that but their laughter confuses me so at this point, I feel I must speak up.

“A long time since what? Where am I? Who are you people? Where is my wife? Where are my kids?” I finally muster up the courage to say to the voices around me even though I can’t see anything.

“He’s awake. Turn up his vision, slowly,” I hear the male voice say. I hear feet shuffle across the floor hurriedly then suddenly stop. Soon, my vision begins to return. Initially, it is just a blurry haze, until it graduates into a partially discernible picture.

A really bright light is above me and I immediately wince in pain and turn my neck away when the beams enter my fragile soul-windows. An attractive, red-haired young lady in a white lab coat suddenly appears above me, and thankfully blocks out the bright light from reaching my sensitive pupils.

“Wakey, wakey, sleepy head,” she says to me. “You’ve had quite a long nap, haven’t you?”

A man in a white lab coat just like the lady’s also joins her as they standing over me as they stare into my face like it’s a television.

“Brother, I think he’s confused,” the lady says to the man after looking in my face for a while.

“Brother?” I ask in astonishment. The man pulls the young woman over to the side and whispers something to her. She covers her mouth as if she knows she has said something she shouldn’t.

As they talk in an undertone obviously not wanting me to hear their conversation, I decide to scan my surroundings. The room we’re in right now is medium sized, tiled all white from head to toe. There is also a number of scientific equipment strewn all over the

tables and floors. I had to really strain my neck to see those.

I try to move my arms again but they still won’t budge. I crane my neck again and manage to see that I’m strapped to the table. I begin to struggle with the fastenings. They see me from the other side of the room and rush over to me.

“Dr. Blay please calm down. You just woke up; you need to relax until you regain full energy.” I ignore the lady and still try hard to break the fastenings.

“Wait, how do you know my name?” I ask as I struggle more.

“Alexandria, sedate him.” I hear the man say a familiar name as a sharp needle pierces my right arm and a green liquid is deposited into me.

“Wait, that’s my daughter’s...” I am barely able to finish my sentence as the sedative takes effect and I blackout.

whispering above me. I slowly open my eyes and shake my head repeatedly because my eyes are swimming in my head.

After a few minutes of randomly wiggling my head and watching my vision slowly return to normal, I look immediately in front of me. I vaguely make out the red-haired lady who sedated me sitting before me.

“You!” I try to lunge forward and attack her but my muscles lack a suitable energy since the sedative she used on me was very strong. It wouldn’t have been of any use since I am bolted into a chair anyways.

“What am I doing here? Where’s my family? What happened?” I ask as I continue my futile struggling but I guess it serves as a way to wake my sleeping arms up.

“Please Dr. Blay, all your many questions will be answered soon but I...” She was about to say even more words to annoy me until the man I remember from the last time I was awake walks into the room with his gaze firmly fixed on me. I really think I know him from somewhere but I can’t quite place my finger on it.

“Dr. Blay,” he chimes in a friendly tone, “how nice that you’ve finally woken up.” He takes a chair, drags it over to the lady’s side and takes a seat. “I see you have met my...assistant, Alexandria.”

Again, I glance at the young, red-haired lady sitting beside him smiling awkwardly toward me and then back to him.

“Why did you pause before saying ‘assistant’?” I say.

“Ummm, you see I’m suffering from a bit of a cold.” He coughs two or three times to prove his innocence, coughs which sounded quite obviously fake but I don’t have the energy to argue further so he just smiles nervously in my direction. I’m just happy that I managed to unnerve him a bit. I intentionally struggle in the restraints to let him know that I don’t really approve of them. “Oh sorry Dr. Blay, it was just a precaution since we thought you might be a bit confused and might lash out at us.” He whispers something to the lady who in turn walks over to a control board of some sort and presses a button.

The restraints on my hands slide off and I rub my wrists where the metal was cutting into them slowly and contemplate my next course of action now that I’m free. “So, shall we introduce ourselves? I am...” I don’t give the fool the time of day.

I immediately leap off my seat, land a blow on his nose and make for the exit. I dodge past the red-haired lady who lunges at me and run out of the partially ajar door.

I enter a hallway of some sort and stop for a while to calculate my bearings. While my head swings around frantically, I spot a door on the far end of the hallway with some glowing buttons beside it. It must be the exit. I race toward it and I think I am completely home-free until I feel a throbbing pain in my side and collapse to the floor as a sharp jolt of electricity rushes through me.

I convulse on the floor for about three seconds until I’m able to slowly turn onto my back and see two giant men in all-white uniforms staring at me on the floor. One of them is holding a small rod with a metal point at the end; that must’ve been what got me.

Suddenly, one of the men bends over and grabs my ankles while the other walks up behind me and grabs my arms as they lift me up and back into the room I just tried to escape from. I just lay there limply as they apprehend me since the shock knocked out every bit of exuberance I had left in me.

“Where should we put him?” I hear the man at my ankles say when we enter the room.

“On that observation table please,” the lady replies. “Thanks for your help boys.”

“No problem Alexandria,” one of the huge men says as he places me on the cold table. I watch him curiously as he places that shock rod back on the belt of his uniform. “Is the boss going to be alright?”

“Yeah he’ll be fine,” the lady says. “He just needs to ice his nose a bit. Again, thanks for your help.”

I hear no more voices so I just relax my stiff muscles. I hear the sound of shoes clicking on tiles then a metal whoosh as metal cuffs secure me tightly onto the table.

“Why are you doing this?” I say to the lady.

She gets off her seat and walks up to me. “Why did you do what you just did?” she shoots back with obvious venom in her voice.

“I’m just doing what I can to survive young lady,” I say. “It’s obvious that I have been abducted by you mad people but please let me go. I have a wife and two kids at home to get back to. Have a heart.” I attempt to plead with the lady since she looks more agreeable.

“Ha!” I hear a spiteful laugh from the seat adjacent to me and I crane my neck to se the man I just cold-cocked smiling as he rubs his bleeding nose with a tissue.

“What’s so funny old man?”

“If only you knew Dr. Blay,” he says in a nasally voice. “If only you knew.” He walks over to a trash can and drops the soaked tissue into it. “Alex, please have Rocky and Andy take Dr. Blay up to the reception.”

She nods and exits the room. Soon, she walks back in with the two men who caught me during my ill-fated escape attempt. She takes her seat and tends to the old mans nose while I watch helplessly as they grab the table on which I am.

I begin to feel myself moving and start to panic. “Wait, if I only knew what? Where are they taking me?” I yell as they wheel me out and the old man just smiles and stares at me.

“Where are you taking me?” I ask the two hulking men as they wheel me on.

“Up to the reception,” one of the men replies bluntly without looking at me.

“Why? What’s up there?”

“It’s the boss’s orders, that’s why,” the other one says.

“Why do you take orders from that man and his daughter?”

“Because he’s the boss, and she’s not his daughter!” the first man says. “Quit asking so many questions.”

I take his warning to heart and remain quiet as we eventually arrive in front of an elevator and one of the men presses a button on the wall to open it. I am wheeled in and the door slides shut behind me. One of the man keys in D3 on the panel.

“What’s on level D3?” I say.

“You’ll see when we get there.” He is obviously dodging my question.

“What floor were we on before?”

“We were on the-”

“Rocky, quit humouring him,” the man with a shaved head says. “He’s simply askin’ for askin’ sake. Don’t waste your time.”

I hear no more voices in the elevator and the silence is finally broken when the elevator whirrs to a sudden halt and the doors slide open. I feel a bump as my table is wheeled out of the elevator and into a hallway. This place resembles a murder hospital like those in the horror movies. Hospitals always make me nervous, which is ironic since I’m a scientist who basically lived his life in a hospital-like building.

“Stay still,” one of the men says. They will be in for you very soon.” Why did he say ‘very soon’ like that? Oh my God, they’re going to kill me.

They stop at the doorway and stare at me for a while and I stare back in silence.

“Down with the Severance!” they both chime and exit the room laughing. What the heck was that about?

I was so lost in my thoughts that I never even realised that we entered a new room. This place is really beginning to freak me out because this room is an exact replica of that other one down to the minutest detail, well except for the lack of madmen who no doubt want to utilise my body for their sick experiments.

After a few minutes of deep thinking, my heart rate suddenly elevates, my neck muscles start cramping up so I relax my body on the table I’m strapped to and close my eyes. Maybe if I close my eyes long and hard enough, this will end up being a horrible dream and I will wake up next to Martina with the sound of the kids playing coming from the next room.

“Dr. Blay, are you sleeping?” I hear a voice near my face, effectively killing my hopes.

“No,” I reply bluntly.

“Okay.” She draws her face back as if she is scared for some reason. If anyone is supposed to be scared it should be me. “I think we should start over. I am Alexandria, Alexandria Knoster.” She extends her hand towards me then realises that I am literally incapable of shaking it.

“Oh sorry,” she quickly drags her hand away. “I hope that you understand that it was only precautionary. We aren’t here to hurt you. We are here to help.”

She has such a huge smile on her face as she stares at me that I’m beginning to get a bit uncomfortable. I stare back at her and realise that she bears an odd resemblance to my wife, Martina, but immediately dismiss the notion as my head starts to ache again.

“Where’s the old man?” I say very bluntly after my head stops pounding in an attempt to wipe the smile off her face. It works just as intended.

“Oh, you mean Alfie?” she says and I simply stare at her. “He is getting his nose dressed in the infirmary.” She walks a few steps away from me to behind a desk. “I hope you know that what you did was completely uncalled for?” I stare into her face and realise that she is even younger than I initially thought.

“How old are you?” I say.

“Huh? What do you mean?” I think I caught her off-guard.

“I mean how old are you, as in how old are you?”

“Why do you want to know?” she says as she comes to stand beside me.

“You speak like a grown up but you are obviously still a child,” I say. “I am way older than you.” She bursts into fits of hysterical laughter at this point that makes me incredibly uncomfortable as I just lie there staring into her face.

“Sorry, sorry,” she says as she wipes her eyes. “If only you knew just how true that statement is.” I choose to ignore that.

“What is this place?” I say after her giggles die down. “Where am I?”

“I don’t think I can answer any of those questions, Dr. Blay,” she says and I let out an audible sigh of frustration. “Sorry but I think Alfie would want to be the one to explain everything to you.” She walks behind my head so I can’t see her anymore. “There actually is something that I need to show you. I’m only going to release the cuffs if you promise to behave.”

“Sure.” I have been patiently waiting for the opportune moment when she loses all her common sense and decides releases me because I’ve already planned to subdue her in any form necessary which shouldn’t be too difficult since she’s quite thin.

The cuffs and ankle restraints that held me in place slide off with a whoosh and I immediately sit up on the table. The hospital gown I am in is a bit exposed at the back so an unfortunate cold feeling spreads in my backside. I make sure that I’m covered up properly before getting off the bed.

“Don’t be shy.” She presses a button on the wall and the door slides open, revealing another tiny room. “Please step in here.” I pause for a bit to analyse the situation but the look on her face seems genuine enough so I walk in. My plan to escape will have to wait for now; let’s see where she’s going with this.

I stand in the dark room for a few seconds and yelp as the door behind me slides shut with no obvious way out. This must be a gas chamber! I begin to panic and start banging on the walls.

“Calm down Dr. Blay,” Alexandria’s voice emanates from some speakers I can’t see as bright lights flick on around me. “You are currently standing in the camera dead zone. This is the only place in the entire Underworld which is completely free from camera observation.

“What am I doing in here?” I say to her voice.

“All I want you to do is to observe yourself carefully,” she says. “Don’t worry, I can’t see you. You can take off your gown if you want to.”

I pause for a few seconds to think then look all around me and all I see is, well, me. All the walls of this tiny, square-shaped room are mirrors. I draw closer to one of the mirrors and notice that my formerly normal skin has changed colour markedly, no, more like drastically. My formerly light skin has now taken on a light yellowish tint, not Simpsons yellow but like a pale yellow. I look up slowly and exhale a huge sigh of relief when I see that my prized possession, my full head of thick black hair, is still intact, even though it clashes a bit with my new skin colour. I feel my hair and notice that it has become really thick, almost spine-like and I even get pricked by one of my hairs, causing me to shriek and rub my finger in pain.

I must admit that at this point I’m a bit scared to take off my robe to see what has been done to the rest of my body but I muster up the courage and slowly untie the knot holding my flimsy outfit together.

My mouth drops as the robe drops to the floor, almost in perfect unison. I stare at selective parts of my body, which were formerly covered by light patches of black hair are now scoured with thick spine-like black hairs. I try to touch them but they are ridiculously sharp and get pricked again. I frantically pick my robe up off the floor and put it on. What in the world have these madmen turned me into? I’m certain that they’ve experimented on me and turned me into some sort of half-human half-porcupine hybrid. Once my robe is securely back on, I pound frantically on the door for her to let me out.

“Hold on, lemme get it,” I hear her voice then the door slides open. Once it does, I stomp in her direction. “What did you observe Dr. Blay?”

I walk toward her and she starts to back away from me when she sees the fury on my face. She stops moving when her back hits a wall in the corner of the room.

“What I observed is that you crazy people have turned me into some sort of human-porcupine hybrid!” I feel my anger rise sharply then fall almost instantly. She’s too delicate to stay mad at. “Explain yourselves now before I do something unruly.”

“Dr. Blay, please calm down,” she says. “I assure you, we aren’t responsible for any of this.”

“Then who is? Huh? Huh!” I raise my voice to intimidate her.

“I can’t...” She was about to lie to me and incur more of my wrath when I hear a voice from behind me that draws my attention.

“This is your doing Dr. Blay! Now put my sister down before I use this thing on you!” The old man is back with a huge bandage on his nose, and is this time wielding one of those shock rods that man used on me earlier.

“What do you mean it’s my doing?” I leave her and stomp toward him.

“If you would just listen instead of being a pompous, self-righteous egomaniac all the time, things would move along a lot smoother than they currently are!”

This statement softens my anger a bit so I concede defeat and take a seat, crossing my arms and legs in the process to convey my dismay and say, “Fine, I’m listening.”

“Thank you.” He was about to drop the weapon on a table but after looking into my face, he decides to place it in his pocket instead. That is definitely the smarter choice.

He walks over to the wall, slides his hand over a round, white panel and the lights dim instantly. A projection from the roof suddenly appears on the wall beside him and he scrolls through the menu to choose the one he wants to show me. That must be why all the walls are white.

“I am pretty sure you don’t remember anything that led to your being here right?”

“No.” I was thinking of saying ‘duh’ but chose not to. “If I did, your nose would still be symmetrical to your face.”

“Yes, indeed.” He pauses to feel the bandages on his face then after being satisfied, he continues. “What you have observed on your body are not some wild, crazy mad-scientist experiments as you think Dr. Blay, but rather mutations-”

“Mutations?” I say in surprise.

“Yes, mutations, as a result of exposure to high levels of radiation. If you don’t remember, and I’m pretty sure you don’t, you managed to destroy the ENTIRE planet a while back.”

“What do you mean?” I uncross my legs and sit leaning forward.

“What I mean is that you built a probe that was supposed to save the earth but instead, thanks to...something,” I can tell he was about to throw an insult at me but decided to hold his tongue, “you ended up destroying the planet instead.”

“Wait, that actually happened?” He nods slowly. “I thought that it was just a really bad dream I had before waking up here.”

“No Dr. Blay, it’s very real,” Alex says after a short period of silence. I just place my head in my hands and shake it in disbelief.

“So, how many are left?” I say after a period of reflective silence.

“How many what?” he asks.

“Humans,” I say. “How many humans are left on the earth?”

“Well, I can’t put a specific number on it but those who survived the initial explosion were about three hundred and fifty-three, including Alexandria and myself. Now we are well over two thousand.”

“Wow that’s, incredible.” I look at the floor and feel some tears that I have to force back. “I almost ended the human race?”

“You did,” he says in a way that makes me feel worse.

I feel like crying, screaming and yelling all at the same time in a wacky mix of suppressed emotions that I just don’t know how to express.

“So what is this place? Are we still on earth at all? How did you people manage to survive the blast anyways?” I just spit out all the questions racing in my head.

“You know what Dr. Blay, instead of me just telling you the answer which will no doubt confuse you even more, let me show you something instead.” He gets off his seat. “Follow me please.”

“Yes mister, doctor...”

“I’m Dr. Alfred Knoster,” he says as we exit the room. “Alexandria, I told you to tell him my name.”

“It must have slipped my mind Alfie,” she says as we approach the elevator at the end of the hallway.

That name, Alfred Knoster, sounds extremely familiar, even though I can’t pinpoint the exact reason why that name keeps ringing loud bells inside my head.

He slides his hand over a white panel and the elevator door slides open. We all step inside and a set of buttons appear on a screen. He touches the ‘G’ button and the elevator begins to rise swiftly.

“Where are we going?” I say.

“You’ll see.”

I hate answers like those, answers deliberately meant to keep you in suspense. If you’re going to murder a person and harvest his organs at least warn him first. These people have no class whatsoever.

As I stand there between them, with my hospital gown fluttering everywhere due to the incredible speed this thing is travelling at, I am secretly hoping that they don’t decide to suddenly look down for any reason whatsoever since they will be greeted with the unholy sight of my hairy posterior and let’s be honest, no one wants to see that. I let out a sigh of relief when the elevator comes to an abrupt stop. They keep their feet superbly well when it stops so suddenly but I fall over and end up on my knees.

The door slides open slowly and Alex quickly steps out before we do. “Welcome, Dr. Blay, to the Underworld!” She has her hands spread out like an announcer so I step out to see what all this fuss is about.

I push past Dr. Alfred who is beside me and look up, only for my mouth to drop simultaneously in astonishment.

Many floating, ball-like structures pepper the night sky and they’re illuminated by giant LED lamps hanging precariously above them. I see people also walking into and out off those things. Are those the houses they have here?

To say that this place is futuristic is a complete disservice. It looks like something right out of a sci-fi movie! This is exactly how I always envisaged an alien planet would be like.

As I stand there in awe, a man on a flying skateboard-ish looking device comes whizzing by. He yells out, “Down with the Severance!” while pumping his fist in the air and Dr. Alfred replies same. That must be their greeting down here; interesting.

I look behind me and see Alexandria staring blankly at the floor with a horrified look on her face. I just realised that as the man whizzed by on his flying skateboard, I ducked instinctively and she might have seen, something.

“Sorry Alexandria,” I say. “I was just duck...”

“No, please don’t talk about it,” she says while shielding her eyes. “I’m trying to erase that horrible image from my head as quickly as possible.”

Well anyways, back to this place. This definitely must not be the earth; it cannot be, it just can’t.

“What is this place?” I ask still looking upwards in awe as many flying skateboards zoom by with perfect precision as not to hit each other.

“Like she said Dr. Blay,” Dr. Alfred says, “This is the Underworld.” They both walk past me and step up onto a small raised platform at the end of the walkway. Alex waves me onto it.

I apprehensively step up onto it and the floor glows with an eerie blue light. Almost immediately, a hologram of a keypad suddenly shoots out from the podium and I almost knocked backwards. I hear Alexandria snickering as she helps me to my feet.

“State your destination please,” the computerized female voice says.

“Sector twelve. Room eighteen,” he replies to the voice.

“Destination registered. Welcome creator.”

The podium, which I realise isn’t a podium at all but rather one of those awesome flying skateboards or hoverboards, if you will, floats off the ground and I try to steady myself, which is incredibly difficult. Before I get my balance right, we are flying rapidly through the air, past other people on hoverboards. I feel Alexandria’s hand slip into mine and she looks at me with large green eyes that look just like Martina’s eyes.

“There is a locker to keep you from falling off, just relax,” she says and tightens her grip. “These things do get a bit rough, especially for a first-timer.”

I was about to defend my ruggedness but when the thing does a triple loop-ti-loop, my stomach enters my throat and swallows up the words that almost escaped my lips. The hoverboard suddenly stops in front of one of those floating balls I saw as my stomach silently passes out.

“This is your room Dr. Blay, room eighteen in sector twelve.”

He swirls his hand on a clear panel beside the door and it slides open. A luxurious, fully-furnished room opens up to me and beckons me to come inside due to its cosy ambience.

“You mean this is all for me?” I ask in flabbergast.

“You need some sleep,” Alexandria says while she untangles her fingers from mine. “You must be exhausted.”

“I guess I am a bit tired.” I carefully step off the hoverboard and enter into the room. A fresh wave of tiredness hits me and I let out a yawn; the adrenaline must finally be depleted in my system. I turn back to them before they leave.

“I need some clothes,” I say. “Where can I get some?”

“Don’t worry about that,” Dr. Alfred says. “All your clothes are in the drawers.” Alexandria begins to wave as they prepare to leave me.

“Wait! I’m also a bit hungry, where can I get some food?”

“Just ask for it,” he says. “And when you are done, come back to the hospital.”

That was a very ambiguous answer but before I can ask him to elaborate further, he is gone with that Alexandria lady waving frantically at me. That young lady is very odd. She reminds me of Martina so honestly, I can’t complain. I would give anything to have her around right now, Martina not Alexandria. She was always so good in testy situations.

I quickly change out of the hospital gown, throw it into a corner of the room and put on a chequered, blue, short-sleeved, button-down shirt and a pair of jeans. Thank heavens everything fits perfectly.

I feel my stomach rumble violently to remind me of my hunger but I’m also very tired, quite a dilemma. Honestly the bed seems easier to figure out than the food system so I plop down on it, hoping to get some well-deserved rest.

The moment my body hits the mattress, another hologram appears before my face with the options to adjust mattress density, turn on a vibration massage, adjust the temperature and other unnecessary features. I click to turn up the heat since it’s very cold in here and close my eyes as I slowly drift off to sleep.

First order of business when I wake up: Find my family in this mess that it seems that I caused.

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