‹ Prequel: Hurricane Heart
Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

The Surgery


As days wore on, nothing changed. I followed the same routine, shuffling down metal corridors towards the showers and the toilets and Dr Jameson’s sick office and to the rec room. I couldn’t bear to call it free time, because it really was anything but free.

When days first turned into weeks was when I began to realise I was becoming more like a zombie. For the first short while, I had visited Dr Jameson every other day and been electrocuted—apparently it was a ‘healing’ process, and injected, rendering me drugged up and unable to remember anything. The electrocutions were mostly longer than they had been the first day. Now that he didn’t need to interrogate me, he simply strapped me into the chair and left me screaming and begging for mercy for ten minutes or more as fire ravaged my brain.

After that first week, though, the sessions came down to twice a week. I felt I could manage that for the moment. Having two or even three days in a row without having to tread the footsteps of doom made me able to recall some of the memories I had lost.

I began to notice patterns, both in myself and in other Dreamers. You could tell who was new and who was older, and you could also tell who had been to their individual sessions with their doctors on which day. Sian, for instance, had been to her session on the first day I spoke to her—I could only tell that now. On other days when I spoke to her, she wasn’t quite so bad. Well, she was pretty awfully off, but she still laughed once or twice on one of her better days, and she even started off a discussion of her own at one point.

I knew I was falling foul of these patterns too, but I couldn’t help but feel as if, watching the other Dreamers from an almost analysing point of view, it wasn’t affecting me quite so terribly. Of course that was only down to still being quite new, but I felt surprisingly solitary from where I stood in my intellectual viewing platform.

Some days, now, I remembered almost nothing. Wandering off down to the rec room was like wading through murky water. Everything was a little blurry and a little dazed. I could comprehend what people were saying to me, enough to respond, but I couldn’t ever form any of this strange little wonder called imagination inside my mind.

Those were the worst days. On the better days, I could at least have a conversation with a fellow Dreamer, even though most of them barely remembered what the word ‘Dreamer’ meant, and even I struggled in utilising my imagination. There were a few best days, though, about once a week, when I was able to think clearly enough to fight.

Well, they were the best days mentally. I was able to think and talk and even imagine. Not dream; that was simply too much to hope for, but I was better. And it was on those days that I retaliated. I would shout and swear at the guards and at the doctors, and I would struggle against anyone who tried to contain me. I would get the crowds going on occasion, like on the first day.

Why me? Why was it all my job? Were the others really affected by the drugs worse than I was? Was it to do with the fact that they had been here longer than me, and therefore were suffering the drugs more and more as their time went by? Or was it just that they couldn’t be bothered; they just wanted to remain beneath the radar until they got out of here? It was so unlike the Dreamer attitude that I wanted to scream.

On most of those days, I ended up in Isolation or at the very least the straightjacket. To be honest, Isolation was scary at first, but after getting used to it, it became pretty pointless. It was basically just the same as our cells, except it was dark, and they sometimes chained you to the wall in a rather medieval style if they felt like being particularly harsh. And they electrocuted you for about ten minutes at a time. Oh, and we were deprived of food. And toilet breaks. I had never been in there for more than about six hours at a time yet, so I was able to hold on, but the smell suggested that not everyone was so fortunate.

The other thing that I began to realise on my better days was that my happiest time was when I remembered least. When I had just woken up from the amnesia-inducing drugs, I was elated, unable to remember any of the horrors of where I was. After that, though, was the worst part, when you would remember enough to know that you couldn’t remember everything you needed to remember. Confusing, yes, but true. After about an hour of being awake, you would begin to search for something, practically screaming in frustration and destroying every wall in your mind in search of these half-thoughts and half-ideas that you possessed: ideas that you needed something, but couldn’t remember what, and hated this place, but couldn’t remember why.

But the walls inside my mind grew a little more reinforced every day. And sometimes, if I tried to break them down too quickly, desperate to know everything that I had forgotten (though I began to realise that there were some things I simply was not going to remember; unfortunately, dreams, like the dreams we had at night, were one of the first things to go), it was painful. It was fucking excruciating.

I had lost count of the time I’d been here for now, but it was on one of my better days that a guard came and unlocked my sliding door before the daylight filter was properly lit. This was unusual; one thing I had noticed in this place was that things never ever strayed from the deathly routine.

‘Stryder,’ he grunted.

‘What?’ I said. This was a good day; I could tell that by the fact that I could remember what the word ‘imagination’ meant, even though I wasn’t really up to utilising it yet, nowhere near to its full potential, anyway. I could have held a decent conversation; a proper conversation, but I couldn’t have written a story. Not even a bad story.

‘You’ve been selected for Testing,’ he said, a smirk on his face. The blank expression I gave him showed that I was still new to this thing.

‘You mean, you don’t know what Testing is?’ he asked spitefully.

‘Does it look like I do?’ I snapped. This ‘good’ day was rapidly turning worse, though the break from routine was nice all the same.

‘Oh, you’ll love Testing,’ he said, thick with unnecessary sarcasm. ‘It’s a new thing, so I don’t suppose many of your fellow terrorists back at your little secret base have been through it yet.’

‘What is it?’ I demanded, impatient to get it over with.

‘All in good time, Stryder,’ the guard said, his eyebrows rising over a patronising tone. ‘Come on.’

‘Fuck no.’

‘Come on.’ He was not messing about, and he had a gun. If it was merely bullets in that thing, then that would be good, almost preferable, to being stuck in Hell, but they were probably stunning capsules or tranquilisers. And that would render me unable to fight as they dragged my unconscious body into whatever torture chamber they were using this time.

Reluctantly, I followed. We walked along the corridor, past all the other still locked metal doors on either side, and down the iron stairs at the far end. For the first time, however, considering the offices were to the right and the rec room was straight on down the grey corridor, we turned left at the bottom of the stairs.

This corridor, though the mere sight of something new filled me with as much intrigue as it did fear, looked much the same as all the others: metal, grey, high-tech but not in a good way, hospital-like, and with the lights down low considering it was still officially ‘night-time,’ even though the daylight filters were showing the sky to be a reasonably pale shade of blue by now.

We went down more steps until we were in the basement, and then there weren’t even any daylight filters down here; just the occasional dim, artificial light along the ceiling. We stopped by some seriously imposing double doors; huge, made of dark metal, which slid open with a rickety clanging sound as the guard pressed his index finger into the fingerprint scanner beside them.

Inside, it opened out into a large room, all metal, and even scarier than all the others. Around the outside were what could only be prison cells, but they looked more like upright coffins, stacked two storeys high and with barely enough room inside of them to sit down, their transparent doors misted with steam.

We walked past the cells, my feet feeling like lead and my heart ready to explode. The other side of them—there were about twenty on each side of the walkway, was another opening, this time with rows of hard slabs of hospital beds; no quilts, no sheets, and the thinnest pillow you could imagine. I could see, as two of them were already like it, that the mechanism in them allowed the bed to be manoeuvred into a chair or something in between the two, like a dentist’s chair.

And the other thing I noticed was that they all had thick, black straps hanging down from them.

There were two people; a man and a woman, already standing in around the beds, and from the fear on their faces I could see that they were Dreamers. Their eyes were large and fairly emotionless—they were undoubtedly beyond the capabilities of imagination right now, but at least they could still feel fear.

‘Stay there,’ the guard muttered. There were already two guards standing like statues at either side of the room, both armed of course, so I shuffled, my feet barely complying, towards the other two.

They both looked up as I arrived.

They were zombies.

The woman’s long, dark hair was matted and greasy, hanging limp in front of her face, which in turn was pale almost to the point of taking on a greenish tint. Her chin was pointed and her cheeks were thin, the paper-like skin hanging saggy over them. Her lips were parted slightly as she gazed unblinkingly ahead, the blue eyes that would once have been shining ocean-coloured crystals now a steel coloured sea on a cloudy winter’s morning.

The man, though he wasn’t quite as drab and dead-looking, had enough fear in his eyes to be able to morph him into the sickest kind of monster. They were practically spilling over with fright, almost to the point of desperation, and he stood, thin and shivering on the spot. I thought he might be about to faint.

‘What is this place?’ I asked, ready to be sick. It didn’t take a genius to work out what being ‘selected for Testing’ meant. Combined with the sinister, sci-fi hospital that surrounded us, all grey and bleak with rows of beds and rows of prison cells and all kinds of machines, it could only be one thing.

About three years ago, the government had announced the end of all animal testing. No drugs, medicines or chemical based products would ever be tested on animals again.

Now I could see why.

The government had a new favourite species to test on.
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I wasn't actually sure if I wanted to include these chapters - I thought they were a bit, well, disturbing. I actually got scared just writing about Testing and the Surgery.