I smell the rich odour of hot coffee, allowing its overwhelming taste to distract me from the horrid place around. Everything in this room is unsettling, whether it’s the cold metal walls or the blood stains that covers most of them. Edward must’ve lost his mind to let Zoey sleep in here, and though he might have had no other choice, I guess he could’ve taken her back to the apartment and called a doctor, if he’s avoiding the hospital for the sake of curious questions and doubts. But here we are in this terrific building, waiting for her to wake up. I wonder what it used to be though, it seems to have people tortured in years ago.
A sob drags me out of my thoughts, and I turn to see Jo spilling out tears in her sleep and sigh exasperatedly, I’m losing my patience in this place. No matter how many times Jo tried to wake her up, she won’t respond, as if caught up in two different dimensions, and the poor girl would give up and check for her pulse instead. The only sign that proves her soul didn’t depart yet, is the quiet tilting of her neck on the pillow underneath her head or the frequent twitching of her brow and fingers and of course, her still active pulse, but then again that happens once on alternate days. I can’t help but try to shake the horrible feeling I have about it all. That wasn’t supposed to happen, the girl never complained about her health.
I keep my eyes fixed at the door; Edward was supposed to be back about half an hour ago, he said that it was just some supplies or something, I can’t quite remember. I wonder what’s happening in Zoey’s mind though, she kind of seems half - conscious. Sighing for the hundredth time today, I fight the instinct not to glance at the blood stained walls, and the brown spots on the floor, it’s too disturbing that it gets hard to look away. And with the scent of dead filling the corridors, I can’t help but sit on this cold floor for days.
The squeaking of the door snaps me out of my thoughts, and I bring my eyes back to focus and see Edward walking slowly inside, looking tired and out of breath.
“Where have you been?” I ask him.
“No where, just looking around. Went back to the apartment, by the way, but found nothing useful to bring here,” another whimper escapes from Jo, and Edward turns in her direction, “How’s she doing?” he asks.
I shake my head. “No, just the twitching of her fingers, the normal, nothing new.”
He sighs, and a look of pure concern crosses his features. Walking closer, he sits down cross- legged on my side.
“Edward?” I start.
“I don’t feel good about this place, I feel like there’s something fishy about it.”
“For the millionth time, Peter, I’m telling you we’re not taking her elsewhere.”
I bang the cup on the spot next to me, losing my control. “And for the last time, I’m asking you why?”
“Because it’s the safest for a condition like hers. You see? She’s blacked out for fourteen days straight, and is still breathing and quite alive despite having no source for nutrients or anything to keep her alive. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this isn’t normal, and I’m guessing it has to do with our kind. Do you want them to find out about us, Peter?” he snaps.
“Of course not, but you don’t get me. Why not the apartment? Why this ugly building?”
“I freaked out, Peter! The moment I saw her losing her balance, I could only think of the fastest way to make her safe, and if this is it, then I have no problem. Better yet, if you think it’s strange, get up and let’s find out how.” He mutters, and in no time, he has risen up again, brushing the dirt off his clothes.
“Are you serious?” I ask in disbelief.
He raises an eyebrow.
Sighing, I get up myself and urge him to go first, and with him in the lead, we step out of the room into the narrow dark corridors, the pungent metallic scent already hitting our noses. The hallway is long and narrow, with a couple of doors on each side. Cautiously, I step further and further into it, and while Edward disappears in the first door on the left, I keep walking forward, stopping at the third door on the right, the last one in the hallway.
‘Temp. Operation Room’, the sign on the door says. I twist the knob, but the moment it opens, I step backward, flinching at the strong scent. Composing myself once again, I hold my breath and get in. A long rectangular metal table lies in the centre of the room, which I assume must be an operational table from the tweezers and other surgical tools scattered on a smaller movable table next to it.
I stop midway when I find the source of the smell, and my eyes widen. There, in the corner of the room is a suspension tank, and although the body is pale and seems to be decaying, I could clearly recognize who it belonged to.
The former king of Xolina, Nicolas Haunton himself, is floating in the huge rounded glass structure, but that’s not the only thing. The long narrow tube that’s supposed to provide oxygen to keep him alive, is connected to a huge tank instead, with the same brown stains all over it from the inside. Looking closer, I realise the same stains stuck in it, making it nearly opaque. Swallowing the lump in my throat, I muster up the courage to feel the tube, a gasp escapes my mouth. It’s not just brown stains, it’s blood, clotted old blood.
Stepping back unconsciously, realisation swirls around in my head and settles down.
They weren’t keeping him alive, they were killing him.
And not just that, they were doing it slowly.
“Edward! We need to get out of here right now!”
After my encounter in that room, I ran out as if my life depended on it, it might as well have been actually. Panting, and breathing heavily, I stare at Edward who hadn’t flinched but there was something wrong about him that I couldn’t tell.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
He shakes his head and extends the file he was holding without a single word. I instinctively grab it from him. ‘Experiment 1156’, the first page reads. Confused, I glance at him for clarification.
“Read page 4, and you’ll understand.”
Frantically, I turn the other two pages and start reading.
Names of test subjects:
Joseph Clark Jackson
I ignore the plenty other names, and read the first ones again and again.
“Don’t you find it odd to have all our last names next to other people in this list?” he starts.
“It is, but it might have been a coincidence. We don’t belong here.”
He smiles sadly, “It could’ve been, if my dad hadn’t told me how his grand father, Henry, always talked about Earth, and especially the beauties and wonders of London.”
“What are you trying to say, Edward?”
“Our formers were the test subjects of that experiment.”
“What? What kind of experiment is that?”
“I don’t know, but on page two, it mentioned something about ‘injection of foreign complex blood sample’. It doesn’t make sense though, what kind of foreign blood? Blood from the US?”
“Or blood from Xolina...” I find myself saying.
That’s it, they needed his blood for the experiment. And if these are really our grand fathers, then we have his blood running in our veins.
“What do you mean?”
“Edward, I think I figured it out. Come on, let me show you something.” I mutter, heading as fast as I can to the room, feeling as if the atmosphere is choking me.
“After that, my dear, things changed. We woke up to an important announcement, and we thought we’d get back home to our kids and families, but this didn’t happen. They boarded us on a spaceship, and before we could argue or fight it, we were already flying in space.”
“Why would they do this to you?” I ask, trying to find a possible reason.
To hide their crime, maybe?
“Apparently, we were a danger to society with our distinctive abilities, and as much as I despise them, I think they were right.”
“But it’s their mistake! They did this, they should’ve thought like grown ups and took the responsibility.”
“I know you’re right, Zoey, but they were cowards.”
“Where did they send you, anyway?”
“Haven’t you figured it out already?”
“Polina...” I murmur and sigh, rubbing my eyes in disbelief.
“There is something else you should know, my dear.”
“Something more or less traumatising?”
“I think it’s less.” He says, flashing a smile.
I nod, reassuring him to go on.
“I just wrote this letter to my future daughter. It holds all the truth I just told you, and I’m hoping your father finds it, too.”
“I wish he could.”
His eyebrows furrow. “What do you mean, my dear?”
“He’s dead, my mom too.” I reply, feeling the same heaviness on my chest again.
“Good lord! When did that happen?”
“The day before we landed here, Ms. Zendaya came over and delivered the news.”
“Ms. Zendaya, you say? I bet it’s her doing.”
“I’d like to believe it’s an accident.” I say, desperately pushing away the possibility of something more complicated.
He smiles bitterly. “Don’t push away hard truths for soft lies, soft might as well be deceitful.”
I return the smile. “Is that all?”
“Get back to your time, my dear, and do what’s right.”
“Wait, what makes you sure I can correct this mess?”
“You’re a mind reader,” he pauses, “and you don’t know how powerful that could be.”
The whole world swirls around, and I find myself gasping and panting for breath. Sitting straight, I look around, confusion all over me. This room looks really similar to the one I was just in, in another time, I mean, but how? I woke up, didn’t I?
I feel something on my thigh and turn to it, just to find Jo extending her arms on me, sleeping on the floor by my side. I must be back then.
I get on my numb feet and head out of the room, walking slowly in the corridors. The sound of footsteps coming closer makes me freeze in my spot.
“Zoey? Zoey! It’s you!”
He comes closer, and I spot Peter right behind him.
“When did you wake up?” Peter asks.
“Just now. Come on, we need to talk.”
“Wait, we need to show you something first.” He says, urgency in his tone.
I look back and forth between him and Edward.
“What is it?”
“Come on,” He beckons me to follow him, and I do, not ignoring the fear in the pit of my stomach. I don’t feel good about this.
He opens the door of the last room in the hallway and walks inside. I follow him, my curiosity winning over my fear.
“Here, come closer, Zoey.” He says.
I move a little closer, and gasp at the sight before my eyes.
“Is that Nicolas as in Nicolas Haunton?” I ask, terrified at his lifeless image in a tank.
“The very one.” He assures.
I step closer to it, squinting harder at the tubes and where they lead, feeling the pieces click together.
“That’s how they got the blood.” I murmur to myself.
“Wait, how do you know that? You were in a coma.” Edward asks.
“I wasn’t, I time travelled.”
“What?” Peter exclaims.
“Long story. The man claimed he’s my grand father, said his name was Grey Anderson. He told me about an experiment using Xoliner blood.”
“Need any more proof that this isn’t a coincidence, Peter?” Edward says.
I glare at them with a questioning look before Edward sighs.
“His name was on the list.” He explains.
“Here, take this.” He extends the file that was folded in the pocket of his leather jacket.
I read the title, ’Experiment 1156’; exactly what the old man told me. Turning through the pages, I stop at the one with the list of test subjects.
And there is it.
“So, it’s true then.” I murmur.
“What are you guys talking about?” I hear Jo’s voice behind me, and turn around instantly.
“We were sayin-” Peter cuts me off with his gesture to keep it quiet. Confused, I try listening to anything that might’ve posed a threat, and there it is; the sound of distant voices.
Hide, I mouth to them, frantically searching for a place myself. Peter runs and shuts the door first.
It was closed, he mouths.
Great move, Peter.
Opening one of the low cabinets, I squeeze myself in and shut it. Footsteps come closer, and I can only hope they’ve already hidden. The door squeaks open, and I hold my breath.