“What? He’s your father?” Alex says over my shoulder as I am still unable to move. “Aren’t you going to introduce us?” After she finishes speaking, he walks over to her.
I look into his face as he walks away and despite the small streaks of grey hair in his thick black hair, I definitely know that the man literally a couple of feet away from me is my father, but that can’t be possible because, both my father and mother died in a plane crash many, many years ago. I may have forgotten a lot of things but that is something you just can’t forget.
“And who is this beautiful young lady?” he says her with a big grin on his face.
“Thank you,” she says while blushing a bit. “I’m Alexandria Knoster; I’m with him,” she says while pointing to me and he bursts into a huge bout of laughter. Confusion immediately splays across both of our faces.
“You funny girl,” he says as he pinches her cheeks. “Just because I haven’t seen you since you were about ten years old you are talking to me as if I’m a stranger. I guess I should have come over more often, especially before everything went bad but what you gonna do huh? I’m just so glad to see you all again, especially Martina and the boys; how are all of you?”
“I’m fine General,” Martina says and I glance into Alexandria’s face. The perfect picture of confusion is drawn on her face as she stares blankly at a wall trying to process what just happened. He says he hasn’t seen her since she was ten years old but I didn’t even know her until a few months ago!
This is all getting a bit weird. Am I dreaming? This must be some sort of sick nightmare. I expect to soon wake up back in the Underworld after our rescue went perfectly.
“You look even more beautiful from when we last met,” he says to Martina as I pinch myself. Oh my God it’s real. “Ignatius sure picked a winner with you huh?”
“I guess so,” she says coyly as her cheeks redden slightly.
“Father?” I manage to spit out despite my current state of shock.
“Yes, son?” he says as he turns to me.
“How, how are you here, right now?” I say with a visible stutter in my voice.
“What? What do you mean how am I here?” he says with almost an insulted look on his face. “This is my base after all and it has been for the past twenty years. I’ve even brought you here before when you were a kid, remember?”
“Ummm, yeah sure,” I say as I pinch the space between my eyebrows. “But seriously, how are you here?”
“Are you feeling alright son?” he says and places a hand on my forehead. “Wow! You’ve got quite a burn going on there. Let me call...”
“You died eleven years ago Dad,” I say suddenly and he staggers back in shock.
“Oh gosh you’re delusional,” he says. “It must be the fever. Let me call...”
“No Dad, I don’t have a fever!” I shout and they all pause and look at me. That was louder than I thought. “I’m trying to tell you that you DIED eleven years ago and somehow you are standing right here in front of me and I just don’t know what the hell is going on!”
“I’m standing right here in front of you aren’t I son?” he says and chuckles but when he realises I’m dead serious from the expression on my face, he draws in closer and examines my eyes by spreading them with his hands. “Oh no, you are serious aren’t you?”
“Yes!” I say. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!”
“I didn’t think this could happen!” he says as he bangs his hands on a table nearby and sits down with his head in his hands. “I can’t believe that bastard went this far! He will pay for this! I swear he will pay for this!” He gets up and starts pacing about angrily as his face slowly turns cherry-red.
“What? What are you talking about?” I say. “Who will pay?”
“Look son,” he says as he comes to stand right before me with his hands on my shoulders. My dad used to do that too. “There’s no time to explain it right now but all of you need to come with me, quick! There’s no time to waste!” He grabs me by the arm and almost drags me out of the room as the others follow.
We walk quickly to the elevator and he presses the button for it to open while stamping his foot impatiently. When it eventually slides open, we all pile into it. He presses another button and the door slides shut. The elevator, as if tapping into his anxiety, drops so quickly that my stomach leaps into my throat.
We all pile out when the door opens about twelve floors down and he leads us quickly into a very dark room with a man at a table using a blow-torch to weld something. My dad, if he’s who he claims he is, flicks on the light switch on and the guy at the desk shrieks in pain as the bright light enters the photosensitive goggles.
“Oh General, it’s you,” he says as he takes off his goggles and rubs his eyes in pain. He then puts on a regular pair of glasses. “Are these them?” He gets off his seat and comes closer to us.
“Yes, but I have terrible news,” my ‘Dad’ says.
“Why,” the man says. “What happened?”
“He did it Joshua, he crossed the line!” my ‘Dad’ yells. “He crossed the freaking line Joshua!” The General slams his hands on the table in frustration once more. The Joshua man also puts his head in his hands and looks very distraught for some reason.
“I knew James was broken but honestly, I never knew he could go this far,” the Joshua man says. “This is just, inhumane.”
“He will pay Joshua, I swear he’ll pay!” he says as he starts pacing about in anger again. I wonder what all this fuss is about. This goes on for a couple of minutes until he looks at us and our confused faces. “Oh sorry, ummm, this is Dr. Joshua, Joshua Whitford.” Whitford? I feel like strangling him just for bearing that name but I restrain myself. “I doubt you’ll remember him,” he says and we all shake our heads as Joshua goes round and gives us all handshakes. “No surprise there.”
“So what do we do now?” the Joshua man asks my father as he retakes his seat.
“I think we should scan the extent of the damage first just to see what we need to do before doing anything drastic,” the General says. I don’t like where this is going.
“Yes, good idea,” he replies as he gets up from the swivel chair he was sitting on. He walks to the back of the big room with numerous gadgets scattered there and brings back some sort of helmet with lights all over it.
“Who wants a go?” he says as he waves the helmet in the air.
“I think Ignatius should do it,” my dad, ummm, the General, volunteers me even before I have a chance to say something.
“Don’t I have a say in this?” I say but they just ignore me.
Joshua pulls his swivel chair over to me and asks me to sit. He then puts the helmet on my head and turns it on as an eerie blue light fills the inside.
“Okay,” he says. “You’re going to feel a slight pinch as we scan your brain with the helmet.” I feel a bit tense all of a sudden. “Please try to relax; it’ll be over very soon.”
He rushes back to his desk and connects a wire from the helmet to his computer. The General joins him at the screen as they stare into it.
“Okay, here we go Iggy,” the Joshua man says my name and I almost jump up in shock. “In three, two, one.” He presses a button on the cord and immediately my eyes go blank even though they are wide open but I feel no pain.
This is actually quite pleasant, I think to myself.
Just when I was beginning to think that I’m too macho for this pain to affect me, the pinching he was speaking of suddenly rushes into my head as all my memories flash past my eyes in quick succession. After about five minutes of what felt like crab claws pinching at my medulla oblongata and me digging my fingernails into my knees, my final memory of us in this very room flashes past and the pain subsides slowly as the blue light dims and the helmet whirrs to a stop. I sit there silently as my vision slowly returns.
“Okay, you can take it off now,” the Joshua man says me and I do.
“So, how bad is it?” the General asks the Joshua man.
“It’s bad,” he says to the General. “It appears as if about 96.5% of them are distorted! The only ones intact are a few, but the rest have been tampered with.”
“Oh God,” the General says with a distraught look on his face as he paces around. “Can’t you do anything about it?”
“And by ‘do anything’ you mean?”
“I mean fix him Joshua.” Wait, what? They want to ‘fix’ me? I know I’m not the most considerate or kindest guy but I’m not that bad.
“Yes of course,” the Joshua man says and I start contemplating an easy escape route. “I still know most of James’ technology but still, this is going to be a very risky procedure.”
“How risky?” the General says.
“So risky that even if I make just one false move,” he says, “They could lose their other memories, permanently.”
“I trust you Joshua.”
“Thank you General,” Joshua says. “That means a lot.”
“So when will you be able to so it?” the General asks. “Soon I hope.”
“Probably tomorrow morning.”
“Tomorrow morning?” the General says. “Why not now?”
“I could have done it sooner but I left my virtual transmogrification helmet and suit in my lab at home.”
“Okay, then tomorrow it is,” the General says as he turns to us.
“Wait!” Joshua calls out. “I need you to take these.” He removes some pills from the desk drawer and hands them to the General.
“What are these?”
“They’ll slow down the effects of the radiation and will keep the effects from being permanent,” he says to him. “At least long enough for me to perform the procedure.”
“Okay good,” the General says and slips them in his breast pocket. “So how many do I give them?”
“Just let them chew as many as they can until tomorrow.”
“Okay, thank you Joshua,” the General says as we all get up to leave.
The General turns to give a salute to Mr. Joshua which he reciprocates then we walk out of the room.
“Ummm, General?” I say once we step into the elevator.
“Yes, son?” he says. “And please call me Dad, not General.”
“Okay, Dad.” Wow, that left a really bad taste on my tongue. “What exactly were the two of you talking about back there because I didn’t understand anything that was going on? What procedure is going to happen tomorrow and what are those pills? What is going on here?”
“Oh yes, that reminds me,” he dips his hand in his pocket and hands us one pill each. “Go ahead, chew it.” They all chew it but I don’t.
“I’m not chewing this until you tell me what’s going on.” The elevator reaches the floor we want to go to and we step out but he pauses and turns to me.
“Look son, I want to tell you everything, I really do, but if I do I’m almost certain that you won’t believe me.”
“Chew the pill.”
“Try me then I’ll chew the pill.”
He chuckles and says, “Just like your mother. Okay, don’t chew it, but I still won’t tell you anything.” I pop the pill in my mouth and chew when he says this. It tastes like flavoured chalk.
“There, done,” I say. “Now start talking...and where is mom by the way if you are alive?”
“Please, let’s step into my office,” he says once we reach the end of the carpeted hallway. “I think this would be better if we were all sitting.”
He unlocks the door to his office with his key and we all step inside. It is a large room with a large brown hardwood desk in the middle with many stacks of papers on it. The walls are lined with many paintings and weapons, some of which I can recognise and some which look foreign to me.
“Please take a seat,” he says and we all cram ourselves into the four-seater couch before his desk. He wheels his swivel chair to before us and takes a seat. “Okay, where were we?”
“You were going to tell us what the hell is going on here,” I say.
“Language, son,” he says.
“No problem,” he says and then crosses his legs. “But, as I said before, you won’t believe any of it.” We all pause to think if we really want to ask anything. “So what do you want to know first?”
“I think we would all like to know what exactly happened to us,” I say and look around me. When they all nod in agreement, we look back at the General, ummm, my Dad.
“Okay.” He pauses a bit then uncrosses his legs. “Now, from looking through Ignatius’s memories, I know that you all think there was some kind of giant explosion that caused the world to end and the rest of humanity are now existing in some underground city and blah blah blah right?”
“Yes,” Alex and I say but Martina and the boys remain silent.
“Well, sorry to tell you this,” he says, “and I know you won’t believe me but...”
“Out with it Dad,” I say sternly as he leaves us in suspense.
“That didn’t happen quite as you think it did.”
“Huh?” Alex interjects. “You mean the explosion never happened?”
“Well, not necessarily.”
“What do you mean by ‘not necessarily’?” I say.
“I mean that it...okay, no, let me ask this first,” he says. “Do you know of a certain Dr. James Whitford?”
“Yes,” I and Alex say.
“So how do you remember him, like what is his, rapport in your minds?”
“Oh, well, he was the one who ran the cryogenics lab at the hospital and he helped us a lot on our mission,” Alex says. “He also saved my brother from a post-humanoid attack and sacrificed himself.” the General keeps looking in the direction of the boys when she says ‘my brother’ for some odd reason.
He suddenly bursts out laughing and says, “Just like that bastard to give himself a good name in your eyes huh? Making himself look like some saviour superhero. Well,” he leans forward in his chair. “Let me tell you the truth about Dr. James Byrin Whitford.”
“Look,” the General begins. “I know you won’t remember any of this but, Whitford and you, Ignatius, used to be partners in a research institute in New York, at the Harlem Reef Research Centre. Do you by chance remember that?” he says hopefully to me.
“No, but please continue,” I say. I remember the institute but I don’t remember any James Whitford.
“Okay,” he says. “The two of you were partners in some top secret research on how to make humans immune to radiation or something. It was so that when the ozone inevitably failed on us, humans won’t be badly affected by the radiation from the sun. Do you remember telling me these very words with your own mouth?” he says hopefully but I just shake my head. “Alright. Well apparently some breakthroughs were made with some lab monkeys or something that you exposed to a specific amount of radiation combined with some chemicals, and this made them have a high resistance to radiation. The problem was that when they got exposed to it too much, they sort of mutated into vicious bloodthirsty creatures.”
Vicious, bloodthirsty creatures? The post-humanoids? I think to myself.
“Wait,” I say.
“Did I ever happen to mention how this procedure was done, you know, with the monkeys?”
“Yes, you did once mention that you stuck them in giant cryogenic freezers while the procedure was in action since it sped up the process, or something like that.”
“Interesting,” I say to myself as I nod reflectively. “Please go on, Dad.”
“Okay,” he says. “So it was going well until that Whitford started to get very obsessed with the procedure and he started experimenting on dogs, cats and once I remember on actual people,” he says with a look of disgust on his face. “You tried to warn him about the danger of doing that but he refused to listen so you decided to report him to the institute’s authorities. He managed to convince you to hold on and begged for help which you obliged to since you are a good guy. He told you that he would just experiment on himself from then on, which wasn’t inherently illegal, so you agreed and this went on for a couple of months. Everything went bad when all of you suddenly disappeared.” He pauses for a bit to catch his breath. “Initially, we had no idea what had happened to you until we saw this.”
He walks over to his desk and presses a button underneath it which causes a flat screen TV to slide down from a hatch in the ceiling. He uses a remote to turn it on and when he settles on a channel, he gets out of the way so that we can see it well. The channel seems to be broadcasting some kind of survivor challenge so I guess this may well be a welcome distraction from our troubles.
Welcome to tonight’s episode of Under the Dome, the TV broadcast begins. We were supposed to be broadcasting the season finale where we see what happens to our survivors but due to unexpected circumstances, we will instead air a rerun of the penultimate episode. We rejoin our survivors Dr. Ignatius Blay, they pan to a picture of me talking to Alex and my heart skips a beat; and Alexandria Blay as they explore the Osamanpa tribe and prepare to leave to find the other three survivors Martina Blay, Jason Blay and Ricardo Blay.
As the episode goes on, we watch with rapt attention as they show in incredible detail how we went back to the cave and found Martina and the boys and our journey back and when the episode ends with all of us on the hillside, I just sit back in the couch and stare straight ahead, unable to speak or think as my brain processes exactly what my eyes just fed it.
“What kind of sick twisted joke is this?” Alex says as she gets to her feet. “You were watching us all this time, spying on us, and you didn’t help us?”
“It isn’t what you think girl,” my Dad says as he gets to his feet and turns off the TV. He then comes to sit before us again. My head is pounding like crazy; this all seems like a sick nightmare. “Whitford lost his mind. He experimented with radiation so much that he completely lost his sanity. Initially, he tried to make himself more intelligent, but it got out of hand. He became mad, and mad for power.”
“I’m confused,” Martina says after a long period of reflective silence. “What are these Whitfordite people after anyways?”
“Trust me Martina,” he says, “the story of the Whitfordites goes much much deeper than you all realise but,” he gets off his chair and walks over to his desk, “For very good reasons, I won’t elaborate about that for now. Trust me; it’ll all make sense eventually.”
We all just sit there in reflective silence as the new information goes through our brains to try to be processed. It’s just refusing to click in mine.
“I have a question,” Alex says.
“What exactly is that show?”
“How to explain this,” he says softly under his breath. “Okay,” he says to us. “So after he abducted you people and many others, he had top scientists design a giant dome which broadcasted very realistic holograms.”
“Holograms?” I say.
“So everything we saw was a holographic projection?” Alex says.
“Not necessarily,” he says. “The whole place was more of a set for a show and the outside locations and people were real but everything else, the sky, the foliage, everything you weren’t likely to touch, was a hologram.”
“I am completely lost so can you please go over again,” Alex says. “From the start and tell me exactly what this Whitfordite thing is.”
“Yes,” I say as the others nod in agreement. “Also, I would like to know what this place is.”
“Which place?” he says.
“This whole place,” I say while gesturing to all around me. “I know that you’re an army general and all but this isn’t a normal army base is it? And why do you people seem to be connected with those Whitfordite people?”
“Look,” he says. “As I said, the history of this place and our war with the Whitfordites runs much deeper than you realise. I suggest you wait until your memories are restored and the effects of the radiation are wiped.”
“But if we get our real memories back, won’t we just remember everything?” I ask.
“No,” he says. “This is all top secret information so you all have no idea about any of this.”
“Alright,” I say. “I guess we should wait.”
“Good,” he says. “Anything else bothering you?”
“Yes actually,” I say. “You called the creatures he placed there with us as his ‘failed experiments’.”
“So does that mean that they were previously HUMAN?” The moment I ask this, he immediately gets a look on his face that suggests that he knows what I’m getting at.
He doesn’t have to answer me; the look on his face says it all. I immediately stare down at my hands and all I can see is the stain of the blood of all those innocent people I murdered. I think I’m going to be sick.
“Look son,” he walks over and places his hand on my shoulder. “You didn’t know, and there was no way you could have known. He used you all to do his dirty work for him. He needed to get rid of them since there was no real hope for them anyways. Death was maybe the kindest option for them.”
I knew that they were previously human but I thought there was no hope for them. Even though that is technically true, I still feel, dirty.
I feel everything that I’ve eaten recently rise into my throat and it seems Alex is feeling the same. Before I realise, she is doubled over and screaming at the carpet. Martina gets up and helps her to the bathroom to clean her up.
“I’m sure it’s really hard to process all that I just said but I assure you, it’s the truth,” he says. “That Whitford is the Devil himself.”
“Look Dad,” I say. “Even though I remember nothing of what you said, for some odd reason, I believe you.”
“You do?” he says in surprise.
“Yes, it’s the way you said it,” I say. “There was just so much realness in it that it couldn’t have been lies. I just wish we remembered.”
“Don’t stress yourself out son,” he says as he walks over and places his hand on my shoulder again. “You will remember everything after tomorrow’s procedure.”
“So is there anything else you want to know?” he says and we all shake our heads. “Really?” We all stare at each other and shake our heads once more. “Odd. I actually thought you’d be wondering about this.” He walks over to his desk, turns the TV on again and rewinds the show. He stops at some part and let’s it play.
...and Alexandria Blay... the TV says then he turns it off. He then stares into our faces as we contemplate that.
“I didn’t even notice that,” I say softly and think deeply. No way.
“Did that Dr. James make me and Dr. Blay a married couple on the show or some other twisted joke?” Alexandria bursts out. “He is making me so mad that I, I...I love my name ‘Knoster’ as it is!”
“Knoster?” my Dad says in a mocking tone.
“Yes, I’m Alexandria Knoster,” she says. “That’s my name, always has, always will be.”
“I beg to differ,” my Dad says.
“Huh?” Alex says. “It is. That’s the surname I share with my brother, Alfred Knoster. He is the only family I have left since our parents died when I was a little kid.”
My Dad thinks for a bit before speaking. “Listen Alexandria, I know that this would be very hard for you to understand but, your parents aren’t dead.”
“What? Are you sure?” she asks with bewilderment written all across her face. “No that’s not possible. I’m pretty sure I remember them getting shot by robbers when I was two, and Alfie was the one who has taken care of me for as long as I can remember. Do you know my parents?”
“As a matter of fact I do,” my Dad says.
“Really?” she says excitedly. “Do you know where I can find them?” My Dad doesn’t reply but he instead picks up the remote and presses play.
...and Alexandria Blay... That sound resonates through the room like a bad smell.
He looks back at her and she only has a perplexed look on her face. He intentionally plays it a few times to ram the point home and I watch her as her face graduates slowly from puzzlement to disbelief.
“No, it can’t be,” she says as she looks over at me and Martina. She just sits there for about two minutes without blinking and just staring at the screen, right at the subtitle that states her name. I can’t imagine what’s going on in her mind right now. “Wait,” she finally says and gets to her feet. “So you mean to tell me that Dr. Ignatius Blay, him,” she says while pointing to me and for some reason I feel a bit hurt by that. “He, is my father? And her, Martina Blay, is my mother?”
My Dad just stares at her without giving an answer but I think that’s all the answer she needs.
“No way, no way, no way.” She looks like she’s about to faint so I get up and catch her as she falls backwards and set her down on the couch.
“I was there on the day you were born Alexandria,” my Dad finally says. “They are your parents.”
She just sits there staring into blank space for what seems like forever and I’m almost beginning to fear that she’s gone into shock paralysis. “I need a minute,” she says as she gets off the couch and moves over to sit on the floor in the corner. She has her head in her hands. I make a movement to get up and go to her but my Dad stops me.
“Let her be,” he says. “This is really big stuff. She needs to process all this new information herself.” I sit back down on the couch.
“Wait Dad,” I say.
“Wow, you’ve had me doing so much waiting today that you might as well open up a restaurant and hire me as a waiter,” he says.
“How is it possible that I am her father?” I whisper the last part. “I am only thirty two and she’s nineteen. Now I’m no expert on human biology but giving birth at thirteen seems pretty impossible.”
“Thirty two? You?” he says in flabbergast. “You haven’t been thirty two since your thirty second birthday...EIGHT years ago!”
“What! I’m forty?” I say as I’m completely knocked for six.
“I think that’s enough new information for now,” Martina says to him as she closes my gaping mouth.
I sit there and just stare at my Dad’s stuff for a minute to calm my racing brain down. Me, forty? Wow! I cant believe it. I knew I was getting old but forty, wow.
“Okay,” my Dad says after realising that none of us is going to speak again. “So what else would you like to know before I show you to your rooms?” He has a smile on his face.
“Yes actually,” I say after thinking for a while. “I want to know what happened to mom.”
“Hmmm, sadly my son,” my Dad starts and I know where he’s going with this already. “That is one thing he didn’t distort completely. Your mother did pass away when you were fourteen, but she died because of cancer, not in a plane crash.”
“Alright.” I stare to the floor at hearing this new news and Martina places her hand through mine.
“Are you okay?” my Dad asks me.
“Yes, I am actually,” I say as I look up. “I knew that she had passed but now knowing how she really died is very comforting. Besides, you’re still alive Dad.”
“It’s good that you are taking this so well son,” he says and I smile back to him.
We all stare eagerly as Alexandria finally gets off the floor and rejoins us on the couch.
“Hey, how are you feeling honey?” Martina says to her and I try placing my arm around her. It feels so weird that I immediately drag my hand away.
I can’t believe it; she is my daughter. I always noticed so many similarities between her and Martina but to be honest, this just sunk in and my head starts to turn. I think back to all the times in the Underworld, the crush she had on me, the almost kisses... Oh God I think I’m going to vomit. Whitford wanted me to do something unholy with MY OWN daughter! If I ever find out that he ever did something to her, I’ll remove his ovaries and stuff them into his nose hole.
“I’m doing a bit better Martina, I mean mom, I guess.” Alexandria’s voice beside me snaps me out of my trance.
“That’s good,” she says.
“Hey Dad,” I say to break the small bit of awkward silence that has encapsulated the room. “Can you please show us to those rooms now?”
“Yes, very good,” he says as she gets off his chair and walks toward the door. “This way please.”
“Before that,” Martina says when we get off the couch. I help Alex up since she was still sitting there looking sick. Can’t believe she’s my daughter; it’s just, unbelievable. I believe it. “I need to clean up a bit.”
“There are bathrooms in all the rooms as well as clean clothes,” my Dad says and waves us out of his office.
“Great,” she says.
We get two rooms which we divide between the five of us, with Alex, Martina and I getting one while the boys take the other.
As I lie on my bed that night, with Martina back by my side asleep and Alex on the other bed also asleep after complaining of a headache, I try to recall all what has happened.
I was partners with Dr. James Whitford in a radiation research at the Harlem Reef research Institute. He started getting out of hand with his experiments and I threatened to report him. He convinced me to give him a chance to change and he started experimenting on himself. He lost his mind and became mad for power. He kidnapped me and my family, distorted our memories and placed us in the desert in what apparently was a set of a show the whole time for his sick amusement. In order to do that without repercussions from the authorities, he must have a substantial amount of control so I guess he must have seized power a while ago so he must have a very large following. Okay, I guess it does make sense when I think about it in that order.
What I don’t really get is how those other people in the Underworld fit in with this. Are they with the Whitfordites? Are they victims? What about Dr. Alfred? Or Dr. Alice and Dr. Randy? Not to mention my Aunt Rachel. I wonder how they all fit in with this.After the procedure tomorrow, my Dad will tell us the rest and it’ll all finally click. I hope.