KEN

The first line of defense is a receptionist. Blonde. Pretty. Vacant behind the eyes.

“Get out of here. Go home.”

Her smile wavers. Her hand moves toward the phone.

“No. Seriously. Get your bag. Go home.”

She looks at me, her soft civilian brain struggling to comprehend what’s happening. A tall man in a nice suit is telling her to leave her place of work in the middle of the morning and go home. She knows she should stay, but her hand is already reaching for her purse.

She’s conditioned to stay at work until 5 pm, but she’s also programmed with a deeper instinct, and that’s to avoid angering unknown males in their prime. We’re all animals. I’m more animal than most.

“Good girl.”

She gives me a nervous smile as she leaves the building. She’s probably as complicit as the rest of them, but I don’t like killing women if I don’t have to.

They don't have security on the lower floors. Security down here would imply that there’s something to guard. The resistance will come once I get up the first set of stairs.

She is up there. Waiting for me.

The moment they gave me her details, I folded her picture and put it in the pocket closest to my heart. I’m going to get her back from these monsters if it kills me.

I walk through the lobby and into the hospital proper. Down here it feels like a nice place, the perfect spot to come if you want to do a bit of plastic surgery tourism.

“Guten morgen,” a blond man greets me from a desk inside the door. I can see other staff moving around the place. They’re all blonde. If not by genetics, by bleach.

“Hi. I’m here for Mary Brown.”

He frowns ever so slightly and taps the name into the computer. “I’m not sure we have a patient by that name, sir.”

They do a good job of keeping up the facade. Nose and boob jobs on the lower floors, torture on the top. All neatly compartmentalized. These fuckers know precisely what they’re doing, and they know how to hide it in plain sight. Their sick ancestors were never brought to justice, and somehow that twisted entitlement has filtered through to this generation. It’s all I can do to stay calm as he looks at me with those flat blue eyes.

“I’m sure you don’t. I’m sure she’s a serial number to you. Or a bar code. The technology has changed over the past few years, hasn’t it?”

No expression passes over his passive plastic face. “Sir, I’m afraid we do not have a Mary Brown. What is your name, sir?”

I walk past him, down the hall. I know there will be an elevator coming up on my right, and next to it, a set of stairs.

“Sir?”

I reach the elevator, and push the door to the stairwell open, taking the steps three at a time. My source says they keep the projects on the top floor. There’s ten floors to the building. I race upstairs, moving faster than the elevator can.

I’m sure they’ve already sounded the alarm, but there’s not much they can do. Their security is lacking because they’re brazen enough to believe that there are no consequences. They’ve turned this part of South America into their own little personal Eden, bribed all the necessary officials, bought all the souls they needed to buy, and almost nobody knows or cares what goes on here.

Until now.

The door to the tenth floor opens directly into a ward of sorts. There are rows and rows of beds, perfectly starched white curtains hanging between them to make little cubicles. The floors are clean. The walls are pristine. Everything here is perfectly orderly and at a first glance, if this were just a picture in a book, you would think it was a perfectly normal high end hospital room. You wouldn’t know it was hell on earth.

Standing here, despite the silence, I can feel the suffering. There are dozens of people in here. Every bed is occupied. Not a single one of the occupants stirs as I walk past. They are awake, but still.

I walk slowly down the corridor between the beds, feeling the slow, burning anger in me rising with every step. Fire and brimstone have nothing on this silent ward with its white walls and bleach scented floor. This is where the world ends. This is where the semblance of any kind of human passion fades away.

I’ve seen death before. I know the face of war. I would rather listen to shells whistle over my head and sink rounds into the enemy than stand here where not a single one of these people can fight back.

I wish I was here with a team of choppers. I wish I could evacuate them all. But I can only save her. I’ve got to find her. Now.

The ‘patients’ are equal in number and gender. Males on the left, females on the right. I walk down the right hand row, looking into the pale, calm faces of the people who lie there. Most of their eyes don’t move toward me. I don’t know if they’re sedated, or if they’re just absent. The human mind will flee when it has endured enough.

Many of them have fluids going into them and out of them. Needles. Bags. Tubes. Blood. Urine. Bile. All contained in pristine plastic.

My fists clench by my sides. There’s not a one of them that isn’t in dire need of rescue, but I am one man and I have come for one woman.

When I lay eyes on her, I don’t recognize her at first. She’s pale. Her dark eyes are so much wider and larger than they are in the picture that came with her profile. There are two scars, one running beneath each of her eyes. Those are the ones I can see. I am sure there are others running the length of her body. That is what they do here. Cut the living. Cause them pain. This is a laboratory for pure suffering. This is where calculations are made to determine what a person can take. How they can be harmed and yet still remain alive.

The silence is telling. These are people who have learned that screams only feed their tormentors. These are people who have withdrawn so deeply into themselves that they do not feel the world outside their minds.

Cold anger has been brewing inside me. It bursts into full fury as I look at this girl whose eyes see me and yet do not react.

“Mary?” I say her name softly. “I’m Ken. I’m taking you out of here.”

She stares at me. Through me. She doesn’t even blink. Has she heard me? I don’t know if she’s even capable of hearing me anymore. How much have they damaged her?

The door at the far end of the room opens. Heavy feet land on the floor. These people stamp when they walk, heel first like ducks. She flinches. It’s the tiniest reaction, so small that I’d barely notice it under normal circumstances. Right now, it’s as heart wrenching as if she’d screamed out loud.

She is so small. So helpless.

I turn around, put my body between her and the people who are coming. How many times has she needed me before this? How many times has she cried out for help that wouldn’t, couldn’t come?

As their steps draw closer, I grit my teeth and I smile. It’s not a pleasant smile. It’s a grin of pure feral fury. I’m not afraid of being caught. I could have come into this place secretly. I could have avoided the potential for violence and their attempt at counter capture. I chose not to for a reason. They’re going to pay for what they’ve done. They’re going to pay a thousand times over.

“Hands up, bitteschon.”

I turn to see five men. Two armed guards and what look like three doctors. Two of them hold needles and the others hold guns likely loaded with ammunition more dangerous than bullets - tranquilizer which will turn me into one of their subjects.

These sick fuckers are so arrogant even now. They see me as a potential captive, because they live in a world where they dominate absolutely everything and everyone. The notion of someone being a threat to them doesn’t even occur.

I can’t afford to give them the chance to lift the barrel of their guns. Violence explodes. My body becomes a chassis of death hurtling across the small space they have foolishly put themselves in with me.

I have a dozen weapons at my disposal. I choose the knife. Thirteen inches of folded tempered steel makes short work of these men who are used to victims too sedated to move and too frightened to fight back.

Bones snap. Blood flowers on the pristine white floors and walls, arterial spatters and shrieks of horror. Their victims don’t scream, but they do. They scream perfectly, outrage and pain and the rattle of death.

None of the bodies in the beds nearby move as the monsters are slain. I wipe my knife off on one of their all too white coats and return it to the sheath underneath my coat.

It was over too quickly to be truly satisfying. I’m almost disappointed, but I have a feeling I’ll kill again before this is over.

 

 

MARY

Someone cries out for help in the distance. In the fog of my despair I sense motion nearby. A pair of feet flies by upside down at the end of my bed. Beautiful crimson is painted across the walls. It has been so long since I have seen color. I feel my dry lips curl with delight at the sight.

“Mary?”

The first time he looked at me I thought he was one of the frequent figments of imagination which have plagued me almost as long as I’ve been captive, but for a second time the man enters my field of vision. It takes some effort to focus my mind. My thoughts have become increasingly fractured as the days pass by, one day very much like the next except for the fact that every time I wake there’s a little less of me. I am shrinking into nothing in this bed.

His eyes are a slate gray, but the left one is half tinted with green. They’re the strangest eyes I’ve ever seen, and they’re set in a face which is pure masculinity. Hard jaw, low cheekbones. Thin slash of a mouth set below a rugged nose.

“Can you hear me, Mary?”

I nod. The motion feels strange. Nobody has spoken to me directly in months.

A knife cuts the bonds holding me. They fall away as if they were never there at all. He helps me to stand, takes one second to note how wobbly I am on feet which haven’t been used in weeks. He shakes his head and grabs my arm, lowering his shoulder. With a practiced move, he chucks me up and over his back and pulls me snug up around his shoulders, wearing me like a cape.

I wonder how he got here, how he got past all the doctors and all the scientists. Then I see how. They’re littered around the place like discarded trash. They’re dead, purposefully, definitely, utterly dead.

Months ago a sight like this would have made me scream. Now it makes me angry - not because they’re dead, but because those deaths came too easily. This man is clearly a professional. He killed like one. Too cleanly. They should have suffered longer, harder, felt more pain.

He carries me into the stairwell and down the stairs. I hold on tightly to him, my arms wrapped around his neck like a child’s, my head spinning.

Round and round and down and down we go. Is this really happening? I can feel him, but even the motion of his muscular body supporting mine isn’t enough to convince me that this isn’t a vivid hallucination. I squeeze him tight, lean in and breathe to smell his sweat. My tongue creeps out a fraction so I can taste him too. Male sweat and exertion, slightly salty, a hint of musk. He tastes incredible.

My greatest fear is that I might wake up, as I have so many times before, still in that bed, still unable to move, still at the mercy of the descendants of monsters.

He cranes his neck to look at me. He’s wondering if I really just licked him. In that moment of perplexed connection, I know this is real. No hallucination wonders if you’re going to take a bite out of them.

We leave the building. Step out into the sun. I feel wind. I feel heat. I feel the world rush back around me, color and sensation, wind and heat assaulting my senses. It is a gorgeous cacophony which I can barely make sense of. I close my eyes against the light and huddle into him. I have been absent for so long, and now I am riding with my head propped on the shoulder of a beast of a man who came from nowhere.

How is he doing this? Nobody stops him. Do they know of the dead lying upstairs? Wide eyes follow us, but nobody questions him. I catch a glimpse of him in a reflective surface and see his expression. His face is a mask of death in potentia. Nobody wants to ask the reaper why he carries a woman from this facility.

There’s a car waiting outside. He puts me into the back of it, shuts and locks the door, gets into the driver’s seat, and we leave. That’s how simple escape is. For now.