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Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run

A New Arrival


Days seemed to last a lifetime. I lost track of time completely, falling in and out of consciousness, in great pain for most of the time, until finally it came to an end.

After the ice drug, I had been subject to a heavier dose of Type Two which, whilst ravaging my insides for a couple of minutes and making me throw up so violently afterwards that the doctor actually agreed to untie my hands so I could sit up properly and hold my own sick bag, left me unconscious for the best part of three hours. Those three hours were bleak and dreamless, but at least they were also painless.

And then, after the second dose of Type Two, they took blood samples and told me to walk around a bit, led me to a toilet that was as scary and uninviting as the rest of this basement surgery, and ran a few more tests on my body.

And then after that, it was back to ice.

The next one was a new kind of ice; it made me cold like the first one, but it was less painful. It was a long time before it rendered me unconscious, however, and all the time I was having the most nightmarish hallucinations. The moment the doctors found out about that part, they injected me with a vicious dose of fire, which melted the ice away, and the hallucinations along with it. Then I was unconscious again, waking up with the most violent headache I had ever had in my life, and scarcely able to move my limbs for the next few hours through pain.

And then, just like that, it was over.

I was sat up, and lots of information was typed into a computer. I felt so dazed I knew I would fall over the moment I started walking, and my limbs hurt too much to move anyway. It seemed that the fire drugs and the ice drugs did not mix happily.

They put the bed into an upright position then and hooked me up to a lie detector, asking me questions about the drugs and the procedure. Did I feel any pain? Was I truly unconscious or just asleep? Did I hallucinate? How long did the sick feeling last? I tried to lie at first, but I didn’t have the strength left within me to do it convincingly, and I eventually succumbed to the truth.

‘Well, it seems that you’ll be doing just the one day with us, Simeon,’ said one of the doctors, typing as he spoke. As I looked up, I saw another of the three doctors leading the man, number 38, to one of those tiny capsule cells. I convulsed violently just looking at it. I got claustrophobic at the best of times, and seeing the way there was scarcely enough room to move in those cells; certainly not enough space to sit down; made it seem like the worst kind of nightmare. I would have taken testing ten times over rather than face a night in one of them.

But of course I didn’t mention that. After all, I was a supposed criminal, and the doctors were sadistic bastards. Mentioning how much the cells scared me was only ever going to earn me a night living in one of them.

Number 36 was carted off on a stretcher by two men in black overalls before I left. I didn’t know whether they were taking her back to her cell or to the infirmary—if there was, indeed, even an infirmary in this place—but I could only pray that she would be alright.

‘Unfortunately,’ the doctor continued, his sadistic tone sounding genuinely disappointed, ‘Type Nine, which was the final drug we tested on you today, reacts with most other drugs, therefore testing anything else on you tomorrow would be as good as murder. And we can’t have that, can we?’ The way he said it made me certain that what he was saying came from society’s mouth; not his own. Given his way, the doctor would have murdered me without a second thought, as long as it caused me great pain and torment first.

My head spun as a guard helped me roughly to my feet. I staggered on after him, given a little shove every time I fell or slowed down, and every muscle in my body ached beyond belief. I would kill these people one day. This was not the end. They were going to pay for what they did to people on a daily basis.

No. This was not the end.

As we left the room, a weird sense of ‘freedom’ so tantalisingly close, I took a peek down the rows of tiny cells. I could see people in a couple of them; frozen, their pale zombie eyes staring out at me lifelessly. I didn’t know what happened in there; maybe they were kept in a state of suspended animation; frozen for the night like the bodies of lab rats.

That was all we were in this place. We were lab rats. We were insignificant and disposable.

Well things were going to change when I got out of the Institution.

As I was dropped off in my cell, darkened down for the evening, I realised the one tiny sliver of positivity that had come out of today: I had missed my appointment with Dr Jameson. It meant that my next appointment was not for another two days, and therefore my mind and my...imagination...was going to be more lucid than it had been at any point for the past month.

The following morning, when I awoke lying on the hard floor of the cell, saying that I was stiff and aching didn’t cover it. However, I didn’t feel as sick as I had expected to, and I considered that a bonus.

And then I remembered why I felt stiff and pained in the first place, and it consumed every one of my brain cells with anger. How had anyone ever let them have the right to do this to people?

Because of my uncommonly lucid state, I was not allowed out for rec time—apparently, I might be a ‘danger’ to the other inmates. Because I had missed my appointment with the doctor yesterday, I had far less drugs in me than I should have done, so I could remember more about my past life than I had done since being here. I could even remember what imagination was...not that I was particularly up to using it. The fact that I had tried to lie during my time in the surgery, however, suggested that there had to be something there.

They were reluctant to even let me shower, and I didn’t want to anyway; showering meant moving, and moving meant pain, but seeing my willingness to agree with them, they changed their minds abruptly and forced me off down that metal corridor towards the bathrooms.

Because I missed rec time, I was given a special opportunity where, escorted by a guard, I was taken down to the bathroom. Naturally, not being allowed out all day also meant that I hadn’t had a chance to use the toilet.

They took me out half an hour after rec time had ended for everyone else, and took me down to the main, grey toilet block off of the recreation room. That meant walking past the end of the short, still metal corridor that led to the entrance of the building.

And that was why I saw him.

A man with artificially white-blonde hair was struggling violently under the grasp of two guards. No doubt he was new; not only was he wearing his own clothes, but he possessed more life and more resistance than every other Dreamer in this Institution put together.

Except for me.

My anti-imagination drugs had all but worn off by now. I wasn’t nearly as good as I should be with my imagination, but I was still better than every other Dreamer in the Institution. They had all been to see their doctors in the last three days; I hadn’t been to see mine for four.

‘Get off me!’ the man was yelling, wrenching his cuffed hands out of the grasp of one of the guards, only for them to be grasped by another. He was shoved face-first into the wall, and Tasered without a second thought, right in the base of the neck. He cried out and crumpled down, but was still conscious as they heaved him up under the arms and shoved him down the corridor in my direction.

I already liked this man. I assumed there had to have been new people in since I’d been here over a month, but they had either kept themselves under the radar, or had had the dreams sucked out of their brains before I’d even seen them.

I had hopes that this man was different.

Of course he was going to succumb to the drugs like everyone else; like even me. But I would have my better days, and he would have his better days, and if our better days happened to fall on the same day, then who knew what may happen?

‘Move it,’ my guard grunted. I only realised then that I had stopped, and was watching the fight this blonde man was putting up almost in a trance. A harsh shove down the clanging, metal corridor shocked me out of that reverie.

When I got back to my cell that evening, enough of my mind was intact for me to think about this man; even ask questions about him. He looked a little younger than me; early twenties for sure, and the small amount I had heard him say suggested that he was likely to be from somewhere along the west coast.

Although the Institution was made up of three similarly sized blocks, by sheer luck he happened to be in my block. Therefore, I saw him when walking down to the bathrooms the following morning. I didn’t know which cell row he came from, but as we all headed down the stairs I caught sight of his white hair bobbing just a few people ahead of me.

Getting into the shower room, I saw him looking around just as confused and fearful as I had been on my first day. He looked around at the lifeless people standing in a silent crowd around him, watching as the first group got into the showers.

I moved through the crowd so that I could stand as close to him as I could without looking conspicuous to the guards. He was looking at one man; a tall man, seemingly of African descent, whose eyes were milky and unfocused as he gazed straight ahead. I knew that was how we all looked on our worse days.

Glancing round at the guards, most of who were preoccupied with starting up the first round of showers, I took my opportunity, knowing that I didn’t have much time.

‘We’re not all like that,’ I murmured, so quietly I doubted even the other guy could hear me, let alone the numerous guards standing on patrol. ‘That’s only when you’re on your worst days.’

The man glanced up, making eye contact with me, and trying to force a smile. My mind may have been far from complete at this point, but I could still tell when someone was lying, and that smile was definitely not natural.

‘It’s...’ the man began unsurely. ‘It’s sick.’

I nodded. ‘I know.’

‘So how come you’re so...you know, normal. Are you new too?’ he asked.

‘I’ve been here about a month,’ I said, rubbing at my stiff joints. A set of eagle eyes looked over in our direction, and I casually averted my eyes and lowered my voice. The African man that had been standing next to the newcomer watched us with mild interest, but didn’t say or do anything.

‘But basically,’ I continued, ‘I missed my routine injections yesterday—it’s a long story—but it means I’m more together in the head today than I have been since I got here.’

‘I see,’ said the man, not exactly reassured. He looked pale and sick, true fear in his eyes. To be honest, it was probably in mine too. It had never left me. Seeing an empty-eyed Dreamer was not something that ever left you. No matter how many times you saw them, you couldn’t get over the horror of it. It was especially sickening to know that, on my bad days, I looked just like them, and there would be another man staring at me with a terrified expression, and I would be too drugged up to even comprehend it.

‘I’m Simeon,’ I announced briefly, realising that the conversation was going to have to be quick; more guards were glancing in our direction now. Over the hissing of the numerous showers, a certain amount of whispering could go unnoticed, but we were probably pushing the boundaries by now.

‘Tim,’ the blonde man replied. He held out a hand, but that was way too conspicuous for my liking.

What the hell had happened to me? A month ago, I wouldn’t have cared less about being conspicuous. Now, I was terrified of setting so much as a toe out of line.

‘Good to meet you,’ I said dully, wincing as I moved my hand and the muscle ached.

Tim didn’t look so impressive now. His hair was still dyed that unnatural white-blonde colour, but it wasn’t as straight as it had been yesterday, and hadn’t been brushed, therefore he looked much more raggedy. He had also been forced to remove his piercings—I was pretty sure that he’d had a lip piercing and possibly an earring or two when I saw him yesterday—and now he was wearing the same grey clothes as the rest of us instead of his jeans and loud, printed t-shirt.

‘Next,’ one of the guards commanded. I shrugged in way of saying ‘see you later’ to Tim, and stepped into one of the cubicles as I had been doing every day for the last month.