Chapter 3: Crowded
Philip wasn’t sure what caused the change in the mortality rate of the injections. By his calculations, the chance that someone would survive the shot went from 25% to 75%. The living quarters were getting livelier. He reminisced when a whole day could go by and he wouldn’t hear a single voice. Now there was a constant hum of voices from every crevice in the facility.
“You sure do love that chair.” Daniel piped up, snapping Philip out of his thoughts.
“Hmmmm...” was Philip’s only response.
Having spent so much time alone, it still took him a considerable amount of effort mingling with all these people. But Daniel had been one of the first people to receive the injection and survive so Philip had grown accustomed to his presence and his demeanor. Philip wasn’t quite sure how old Daniel was but he assumed he was much younger than himself from the way he carried himself.
“Have you realized that this place is getting crowded now, just today this lady named Sandy, got her injection and she survived. I thought she was a goner for sure from how much she screamed, but she made it.”
Philip just looked at Daniel, not really sure what to say. While the injections were less deadly, they seemed to be more painful upon being administered.
Suddenly, their cuffs began vibrating and radiating a green color.
“Food time!” Daniel said jumping to his feet. And waiting for Philip to get up, they made their way out of the library area to the main commons for dinner.
“Oh, there’s the new girl, Sandy.” Daniel said pointing towards the staircase. She looked pale and sickly; Philip was wondering if she would remain alive. But Daniel ran over to her and offered her a shoulder to lean on. Philip motioned to him to just lead her to a table and he grabbed two meals and walked over to them. He placed the extra tray of food in front of Sandy.
“Eat, it will help make you feel better,” Philip told her.
She looked up at him and looked like she was about to hurl, but obediently began to pick at her food. As soon as she had started eating, she began to visibly look better, and sunk into her meal like a starved lion.
“Ha, we’ve all been there.” Daniel quipped to make her feel better. “Well except for Subject 1, of course.” She peered up at them both, then realized that Philip was just sitting there eating his food, not minding either one of them.
“Is that really your name?” She asked Philip.
“Hmmm...” was all he said as he chewed his food.
“He’s not much of a talker,” Daniel interjected. “But I, on the other hand, will keep you company any time you ask, just say the word.”
The last sentence solicited a laugh from Sandy who was beginning to feel more at ease in this weird place. She didn’t really know what she was signing up for when she agreed to this place, she definitely didn’t know there would be agonizing pain along with odd injections. But she looked at Philip and Daniel and concluded that at least the company wasn’t too shabby. Philip was just her type, tall, muscular with chiseled features, and Daniel was also easy on the eyes. But as time passed she realized that Philip was a hermit and that Daniel would flirt with any woman, something she didn’t mind.
Philip wasn’t sure how long it had been since the injections were proving more successful maybe a year or so. More people were surviving, and more people were displaying abilities, and they were all too eager to show off what they could do. Some could produce a small flame with their fingers, others could make fiery swords or fiery whips; a few could even produce fire orbs. Philip knew that what they could do was only a fraction of what he could do himself, but he never wanted to show his captors what he was capable of. Yet, the others could care less. So much so, that a new area was furnished behind the gym with padded walls. Everyone, starting with Daniel would line up and practice against Philip. They would attempt to hurl orbs of blue fire at him or hit him with their slithering whips of energy, but nothing would touch him, he would deflect every attack as if it was mere smoke. Philip didn’t mind the inconvenience of standing there for a couple of hours every day, he still felt responsible for everyone’s predicament, so he put up with their antics.
To everyone’s relief, it seemed that they had paused bringing in new recruits and just worked on tweaking the current survivors. Thus, it was dinner as usual, and Philip had grown accustomed to Daniel and Sandy’s company along with whoever came to sit with them that day. he had simply learned to ignore their chatter for the most part. Suddenly, without forewarning, a voice broke through the hum of the large circular room.
“I will not go!” Came the shout of a young girl, who was addressing her two friends. The cuffs on her wrists were glowing an angry red. This meant that she was summoned to the clinical room for another injection. The poor girl was likely trying to resist the impending pain. With the new shots proving their efficacy, it meant that people were getting multiple injections. So far Philip couldn’t figure out how many injections a person gets, or how far apart they’re spacing them. It seemed that they were testing different things on different people to see the outcome.
Suddenly, the girl doubled over in pain. Philip was sure that they were electrocuting her through the cuffs as retribution for her defiance, a sensation he was all too familiar with. He hastily ran to her and channeled his energy at absorbing the electricity himself and sparing her the pain of it. It was something he had learned to do as the people’s numbers began increasing. It burned and seared at his insides, leaving him weakened to where he had to lean on the nearby table for support, just so he wouldn’t double down on the floor as well. As soon as the electricity had stopped, he let go of her arm and gave himself a moment for his rapid healing to kick in. She looked at him apologetically.
“I’m sorry Subject 1, I just...I’m scared.” The girl said.
Philip felt her pain and knew that she was right in her supposition, but it was either that or death and he didn’t want to see another person die, not if he could help it.
“I know.” He answered weakly, “But there’s not much of a choice,”
The girl looked at him, nodded, and began walking towards the clinic with Philip silently escorting her. He hated the role he was stuck playing, it almost felt as if he was an accomplice. But he wasn’t sure how else to help or what else he could do. He stood outside the glass wall separating the clinic from the commons area and watched as they gave the young girl another dose of the injection. To their relief she wasn’t thrashing or screaming her lungs out, it just seemed to feel a bit uncomfortable for a couple of minutes. Every person it seemed reacted differently to the subsequent shots. The first one was always agonizing, but if the person was to survive it, they had a 50/50 chance that the rest might be okay.
She gave Philip a weak smile on her way out.
“I’m sorry again for being a big baby.” Philip gave her a small smile and she walked back to join her friends.
Rutherford proceeded to leave the clinical area with a smirk on his face.
“Ahhhhh subject 1, glad you’re here,” Rutherford said as he stepped out of the clinic.
Philip turned to face him and put his hands in his pockets.
“I don’t usually come for these mundane shots but I was hoping I’d run into you, and it seems to be my lucky day.”
“Well, here I am,” Philip responded.
“Tomorrow morning we have some guest scientists, so we will require your presence at the crack of dawn, be down here and ready,” Rutherford stated, giving Philip a pat on the shoulder, and then leaving through the main door.
Philip knew what Rutherford’s words entailed. He had a day of torture ahead of him. Part of him wondered if Rutherford was simply taunting him at this point.