I sat huddled in the corner, knowing my world was about to fall apart around me, and shook with fear as they pounded on the door about to bust it in. I looked nervously towards it then to the device in my hands. It was my only option now. To activate it could either mean my doom or my salvation.
"FBI! Janet bloom, open this door now!" The shoddy door vibrated with the pounding of fists. I heard yelling come from the balcony next door and knew they were kicking out my neighbors to gain access to my apartment. I was surrounded. I did the only thing I could. I pressed the button.
With a flash a sphere appeared before me. I looked into the glowing mass with amazement. It worked! Well, at least it opened without killing me. The surface reflected in almost mirror like perfection. It wavered only when I touched it. Strange how the face reflected in it wasn't anything like I expected. It was mine but harder, more determined. The sharp features and dark eyes told of a long life of hard times. What had they done to me?
The door cracked now as a battering ram smashed into it and I jumped nearly dropping the device. My heart pounded and I took a deep breath. Who knew what would happen, but I had to try it.
There was a crash at my window. I turned quickly to see a small canister spewing smoke roll towards me. I closed my eyes and held my breath then jumped.
Unknown location immediately after.
I landed with a soft thump in the dirt. The warm air gave me a shock. I had no idea where the thing landed me but at least I was safe.
"Mommy?" I felt a tug at my pants. Pants? I was wearing a skirt a moment ago. This wasn't supposed to happen I was just supposed to transport two blocks away. At least that's what I thought I programmed. I looked down at the cute little black girl with tight curls. She looked up at me expectantly. "Mommy, can I have an ice cream?"
I blinked trying to get a handle on what was happening. Slowly the sounds of a playground came into focus as children laughed and screamed. The hot sun blazed down on me and I knew I was far more than two blocks from the labs. When I put my hand out to pat the child's head and send her away telling her I wasn't her mother, was when I nearly fainted. My hand was about 10 shades darker than it had been, the nails long and painted jungle red. This couldn't be happening.
"Mommy?" The poor small child sounded concerned. I needed to do something quickly about her so I could think. I reached into the pocket of the pants that weren't mine looking for money. I didn't find any, but there was a purse hanging from my shoulder. I quickly found a $20 and handed it to the girl. She could have fun with that for a while. The moment she ran off, I searched for a bathroom. There was only a small portapotty snuggled in the back corner of the park and I ran for it. Inside, a tiny, dingy mirror showed me what I feared most.
I traced my features in the mirror then touched my face. It felt Different. The texture was all wrong, and it was soft, almost pudgy, just like the mirror showed. My body felt heavier, but I had originally thought that was because of the heat. No, now I realized this body weighed at least 30 more pounds than I had previously. How very odd. How did this happen? How could I get back to my body? Where was my body? Did my body transform into this woman? Were all my molecules somehow merged with hers? Or was it gone? Lost in the ether between here and DC? So many questions and I only had one way to answer them. I had to run a diagnosis on the device.
The device! I searched my body and couldn't find it. I feared that I lost it forever during the transport. Then I'd be stuck with this body With that kid! Oh no! I burst out of the latrine and ran back to the spot I had started in. I searched the bushes nearby and even dug in the dirt, but found nothing.
"What is that, Joshy?" A woman asked a golden haired toddler playing in the dirt. He held it up with a giggle as if it was a first place trophy. The silver casing glinted in the hot sun and I rushed to the child thanking the lord he found my salvation. The woman already took it from his hands and began examining it. I didn't have time be polite; I wanted my body back.
I snatched it from the woman's hands and she uttered a cry of surprise. I ran wishing to look for a nearby cybercafe. I didn't get the chance as a large, bald, African American man came running after me.
"Meisha, where you going, baby?" I realized my mistake; this woman's husband had been close by. I had no choice. As my heart raced running from him, knowing he'd reach me soon, I pressed the button on the device hoping it would take me home and I could try again. I didn't even see the bubble I ran so fast I hit it before I knew what happened.
Top Secret Project Membrane's Laboratories; holding cells September 18, 2005, time unknown.
"Janet?" A bright light flashed in one of my eyes and then the next. "Can you hear me?" I barely could, as if he were speaking over a wire. I couldn't blink, nod or anything. He spoke softer to someone off to the side. "Patient is non-responsive. Suggest another 2cc's of epinephrine."
"Yes, doctor," a nurse whispered.
The doctor moved away but I could still hear him.
"Well, she's like the others when they first arrived. Give her two day's rest."
"I need the information in her head." The voice was gruff and it scared me slightly.
"And you'll get it, but I can't start the procedure until she's mentally and physically able. You know how tough it was on the others."
"She's the last piece doctor-"
"I realize how important it is, but if I do it now, it will kill her and all information will be lost."
"Fine, two days, no more."
Silverbum, outside Edinburgh, Scotland January 8, 2009 3:55pm GMT
I promptly slammed into a wooden wall. The sensation would have dazed me had I already not been overloaded with sensory information. I spun about trying to get a handle on where I was. The small room brought back bad memories and for a brief second I thought something had gone wrong and I was back in their hands locked in the cell. As my mind righted itself and I felt the humidity around me, smelt the peat and took in my surroundings, I knew I was no where near home. The small shack seemed like a strange place to land, filled with tools I was pretty sure this wasn't the house. I slowly peeked out the door and dropped my jaw at the amazing green hills. This wasn't America. I saw no one in sight, not even houses, so I tentatively took a step out. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, lush land as far as the eye could see, blue sky and white puffy clouds. Maybe I died and went to heaven?
The strangest feeling in my groin drew my attention. Pressure, the good kind, built up. Something wasn't right. I felt Something Rubbing the wrong way. I reached up to my face as I realized what might be happening and felt thick bristly hairs on my chin.
"No!" I said loud enough to send a flock of birds into the air.
Top Secret Project Membrane's Laboratories; holding cells September 20, 2005, time unknown.
I lay strapped to a chair with equipment that looked as if they belonged in an optometrist's office placed in front of my face.
"Now hold still Janet." As if I could move, my head was strapped down more than the rest of me. "I will give you a series of words. I want you to give me the first word that comes to mind. Relax and this will all be over soon."
No one would answer my questions about where I was or why I was there. I doubted this doctor was really a doctor and not some cold war KGB agent looking for spies.
"Apple," he said quietly.
"Core," I replied a bit indignantly. It was a wonder one could even understand me with my chin strapped so tight.
"Cellar." A small probe on the machine slowly neared my eye.
"Door." My heart rate when up as the thing gently seated itself against my pupil.
"Computer" A slight buzzing came from the area of the probe and suddenly my eye felt as if it was melting. My nails dug into the arm rests as a squeal of pain escaped my clenched teeth. When the pain reduced by a few degrees he calmly said, "Answer please."
"Mesoscopic nanoporous nonequilibric transport." I didn't even understand the words coming out of my mouth. He nodded once then continued on to the next seemingly innocuous word. Only the next zap lasted longer. Again I spat out words I didn't know were in my head.
This went on for hours. By the end of the session dried blood crusted my lips; I had bitten my tongue and lips so badly. This was not the last of my torture sessions and at that point I still had no idea what they wanted from me.
Silverbum, outside Edinburgh, Scotland January 10, 2009 5:00pm GMT
I tried to blink the memory away. I didn't want to remember that place. I didn't need those torture filled days driving me insane. It was bad enough that I went through them once. Well, twice really if you count the time I couldn't remember; when they put that information in my head.
I stared blankly at the screen trying to understand it all. At least this place was secluded and I'd have time to think and work. This pub was the only place in the small town with Internet access. I had to find a way back to my own body, that was the bottom line. I couldn't live like a man. I tried to avoid anything but small talk in the pub. Luckily for me, they all seemed to know me as a quiet man anyway.
"Hey, buddy, got the time?" A redheaded Irishman asked. I looked at my wrist and didn't realize I looked at the wrong one. I was right handed; this man apparently uses his left.
"Yeah," I croaked, still unused to my masculine voice, "It's five."
"Thanks mac." He pounded me on the back. "Still got an hour till me wife will miss me. Me name's Keith." He chugged half his beer.
"Colin," or so that's what all the bills at my house said.
"So ye seem pretty intense on that screen. Tis it work?" He tried to make out the formulas I was calculating. "What bleeding wizardry tis that?"
"It's called physics," I said.
He looked me over in my farmer's garb then at the screen and broke out in a riotous laughter. "Right, and I'm the immaculate son of Mary. Come now, what's a man like you doin' physics fer?"
"You would not understand or believe me."
"Come on, try me."
"Well, do you know anything about physics?" I asked in my husky voice.
"Well, then pull up a seat." He seemed a little hesitant now to get into a boring conversation about math, something these backwater boys no doubt knew nothing about. He began looking around for someone else to annoy. I had other plans. He would be perfect for a test. He seemed new to this town, being an Irishman in a Scottish town and all.
He shifted his weight back and fort as if he was uncomfortable, then stammered; "Well, I've got to be getting back to me wife."
I gripped his arm lightly. "How would you like to be able to travel anywhere in the world in a single instance?"
That caught his attention. "Tis not possible."
"It is," I said, "I've done it."
"Nay, be serious."
"I am." I looked him straight in the eye. "Come to my place. I'll show you."
Top Secret Project Membrane's Laboratories; holding cells October 13, 2005, time unknown.
I gave them whatever information they wanted. Still it wasn't enough. I sat huddled in my cell Well, it wasn't really my cell. It was never the same cell twice. Sometimes there were others with me in it. Today there were two. One of them, a middle aged guy that I thought would be cute if he didn't look so agitated, kept glancing at me.
"What?" I finally snapped at him. He shook his head nervously. "Fine." I stared at the wall trying to forget him. Slowly he scooted over to me.
Looking about as if the walls were listening he said, "What have they done to you?" When I didn't answer, he just kept on going. "They're playing with my mind. Every time I go in there it's as if they put a cloud around my head and drug me up." He imitated the cloud with his hands. "They try to tell me I was a killer but can't remember. I don't believe them, see I can't stand blood. How can I be a murderer if I don't like blood?"
"You could have strangled people." I said softly. I don't know why, but he fascinated me. I even thought his scraggily beard was kind of cute.
"Yeah, yeah I didn't think of that. So did you kill anyone?"
"Hmmm Well can't be as bad as that guy." He pointed to our other cell mate. "I heard them say he wouldn't convert. What do you suppose that means?"
I shrugged and was about to say I didn't know when he stiffened as if listening then shushed me.
Top Secret Project Membrane's Laboratories; holding cells November 28, 2005, time unknown.
"What's that?" the agitated man I've come to know as Frank asked.
I shrugged. It was a drawing; a conceptual representation of what was in my head. I knew it but I didn't know it. Mostly all wavy lines some connecting some going off into the ether.
Over the past month I'd seen Frank more and more often. I'd grown closer to him, confided in him about my fears and what little I knew about our captors. He helped me figure out what was in my head, what they might want. The closest we came was they had already put something there and now they wanted it back making me forget in the meantime. I slowly remembered that I had been a physicist at one time and lost my job to a prolonged illness that I vaguely remembered. There was something about that which seemed off, and so we surmised that was the period when it happened. They saw to it that I could only get menial work after that, something to keep me low profile. Years later they kidnapped me again and brought me here. Hell, it sounded like any other conspiracy coming out of Frank's mouth, but it was the only explanation.
He liked sitting shoulder to shoulder with me. I noticed the moment he touched me he calmed down to a certain degree. He could be quite sweet. He liked telling me stories about his kids back home. Mostly though, the few times he actually did look at me I saw a pleading in his eyes, as if he were asking me permission for something. I thought it might be a side effect of the torture, but today, he looked at me longer than normal and a chill ran down my spine. Slowly he slipped his hand into mine.
"I know it seems awkward ," he didn't seem to know what he wanted to say and had to concentrate hard, yet his eyes never left mine, "I think I like you."
He shook his head emphatically. "No, we got a divorce, but I had custody, well I guess she does now." He sighed, but never let go as if it were the only thing keeping him sane. "My life never has given me a chance for love, strange to find it here."
"Frank, I "
"No, please don't say anything." He squeezed my hand and I remained silent. I wasn't sure if he didn't want to hear that I thought I was falling in love with him too, or if he thought I would reject him. After a few intense moments of looking deep into his eyes, they began to unfocus again and he became edgy. "Can I see your drawings?" He took the pad from my loose grip without my consent and started looking through them. "You know this formula is wrong?" He wrote the correct one underneath, "There, now the numbers look right. Yeah, look at this one-" He started to show me but the door burst open.
"Don't move!" They commanded and two large orderlies grabbed Frank by either side and dragged him away notebook and all. I never saw him again.
Top Secret Project Membrane's Laboratories; holding cells December 3, 2005, 8:15am.
I was alone that day when the door opened slowly. I'd been lying and staring at the wall. There wasn't much better to do. A gray haired man peeked through the crack.
"It is time. Will you come with me please?" I stood as I had no reason not to, I figured I was going to my death anyway. There were no orderlies on the other side of the door and I followed the strange man dressed in a blue lab coat down a hall I'd never been to before. He took me through several secure doors until we reached a hall with people milling about. Some looked at me oddly while others greeted me in a friendly way. He stopped at a door and waved me inside.
"These will be your quarters. There is a washroom and clothes for you. Why don't you get cleaned up and rested? I will be back shortly."
I wondered at the turn of events. Why was I suddenly being treated like a guest in a nice hotel? It was a small studio room but it was private. No TV by the look of it, but there was a computer desk with a computer. The bed looked soft enough and I had an urge to fall into it, but the thought of soaking in warm water overrode all else.
I avoided looking in the mirror. Still the glance I got I didn't like. My face was bruised, swollen and bloody. My skin looked gray and my hair thin. I shivered and ran the bath to get my mind off it.
Silverbum, outside Edinburgh, Scotland January 10, 2009 6:08pm GMT
I took a deep breath wanting to forget everything except the future, the possibilities this device could bring me. First, I needed to get back in my own body and before that I needed to test it.
I pressed the button. There was the bubble in all its glory; seven feet tall, the same wide and reflecting the room as if it was made out of a perfectly round room. I watched Keith Gowan but he didn't seem overly impressed.
"There now step through it. I assure you it's perfectly safe."
"Step through what?" He looked at me obviously dumbfounded.
"There tis no bubble." Was I crazy? Was I just seeing things? No, this male body told me it wasn't just in my head.
"Just take three steps forward," I said as I motioned towards the bubble. He shrugged and did so walking through the bubble as if it wasn't there, and perhaps it wasn't for him. He stood right in the middle of it creating a strange double reflection on the surface of the sphere. "All right, come back." I flipped a switch and the bubble faded away. "Now I want you to hold this," I handed him the device, "and press this button here." He did and I watched astounded as nothing happened.
"Blimey! What's that?" I looked at him, then looked at the center of the room. There was nothing there but he apparently saw something as he made faces at it and tried to see it from different angles. He reached out to it but I pushed his hand away.
"Not yet. Let me see the device." He reluctantly handed it over.
"Where'd it go?" He said as the controller weighted itself in my hands. However, the bubble didn't appear to me until I flipped it off and back on.
"It must have a sensor to detect its user." I said to myself pondering the device. I didn't know what anyone else in the lab was working on, so I still didn't know the full functionality. This was a new feature I wasn't aware of. It couldn't be a security feature otherwise it would only work for one person's DNA. No, there was no reason for it to work the way it did Unless A bug? That would explain why they didn't want to let the technology out.
Top Secret Project Membrane's Laboratories; Employee Quarters December 3, 2005, 9:30am.
An hour later the man returned and told me to follow him again. Apparently he was just a courier. Through more security doors, this time he told me to try my hand print to make sure they programmed it correctly. The door opened for me.
The equipment lining the walls blew me away. I really didn't know what to think. It all seemed familiar and yet so alien. Like coming home again after years at war.
"You will be working here. Everything you should need is provided. Hours are 8am to 8pm. You will return to your quarters afterwards. Food will be provided at your will. The menu and ordering system are in the computer. If you have any questions, there is also a support desk you can either call or e-mail." He began to leave without even looking at me.
"I do have a question."
"Yes," he said with some annoyance.
"What am I doing here?"
"There is a packet in your inbox. It will explain your duties in full." With that he left and closed the door behind him. I followed to check my suspicions. Yep, locked.
Sighing, I walked over to the desk and picked up the heavy packet that had confidential and my name on it. Once opened, I leafed through the papers. There was a note explaining the stuff the unnamed man just told me, some equipment instructions and a letter thanking me for my cooperation. The letter explained that I was to put certain theories to the test and that the components I had specific knowledge of was to play a key role in finalizing "Project Membrane." Nothing explained what Project Membrane was, but everything made it sound very important. The bulk of the packet was the most interesting part: theory after thesis on theories, after hypothesis and research on theories.
I spent hours sifting through the theories trying to wrap my head around them. None of them made any sense. I had been an expert in quantum physics, but even this stuff was beyond what I thought possible. There were only bits and pieces; some were about lasers, and others about formulas. It all was just enough to get my mind spinning and thinking about the possibilities. I even remembered some of the formulas I worked on in the past. Was that it? Did my mind hold some secret information they needed?
It made me wonder just how important my little brain was to them and what would happen to me once they had that information.
Top Secret Project Membrane's Laboratories; February 27, 2006, 5:50pm.
I pounded my head again. The information was in there somewhere. That's what those torture sessions, or "Abrupt Cognition Enhancement and Recovery Sessions" as the scientists here like to call it, had been about. So why couldn't I get to those memories? Apparently years before I had worked for these people and they wanted to protect my knowledge, made me suppress it, gave me a new life, etc. Now it was time to put my knowledge to use. So they "helped" me recover my memory so I could assist in the final stages of Project Membrane, which I had no idea what the heck Project Membrane was. No one did. We all only had small parts of the knowledge and weren't allowed to talk to each other about it; more of their knowledge protection precautions.
I tired of it all. I wanted to go home, to my original home or my more recent made up one. I didn't have a family yet, but at least I could go start one. Here I was isolated. Well, except for Frank, the nervous man from the holding cells. Nervous as always he walked into the lab towards me. He searched the area as always before approaching me. He was the one who told me most of what was going on here. He was kind of like my boss, but other than handing me paperwork with assignments, didn't act like it. He now handed me a sealed folder full of confidential material, didn't say a word about it, and then slid up onto the metal worktable.
"So, heard any gossip about 'them?'" he asked quietly averting his eyes.
"How can I get any gossip when I don't talk to anyone?" I shrugged, then rubbed my temple as I dropped the big folder into my inbox.
"Having more headaches?"
"They won't even let you have drugs. They say it's because it would have bad interactions with the other drugs that they are using to help you recover your memory. They're supposedly only looking out for us. I think it's because they like to keep us edgy. They want us to work under pressure thinking we'd work better that way."
"Yeah, maybe for some people." I muttered.
"Need help with something?" He genuinely looked concerned.
"Can't discuss it." I said pointing at the camera in the corner. His paranoia wasn't unfounded.
"Come on, I know it's not all work related that's bothering you. I mean you've been through a lot."
"We both have." I crossed my arms and watched him watching me with a strange expression I wasn't used to. "What?"
He grinned a little. "Nothing, just that stance reminds me of my girl Well I guess it doesn't matter anymore."
I moved closer to him so we were shoulder to shoulder again like we used to sit. It made me feel a little bit of comfort in this cold laboratory.
"You know, I don't know much about this stuff I do know a second set of eyes is sometimes helpful. It's a bit against protocol, but I can look at your formula if you like."
"I don't want you to get in trouble." Or myself, I thought with a chill remembering the torture I went through.
"Well, now that you put it that way " He glanced at the camera. "It's just I want to help."
"You're helping just by being here."
He smiled. "Glad to help, But your data points are floating."
He pointed at the computer screen. "Your third formula, it's some sort of transfer protocol, right?"
"Yes You know quantum physics?" It shocked me to learn he knew more than how to deliver papers, though when I've reported to him before, he hasn't seemed overwhelmed by the technical explanations. I knew he was smart, but he never showed this much aptitude before.
"Who doesn't around here?"
I chuckled. "True."
"Well, double-check the velocity ratio."
"I can't believe I didn't notice that before." I bent over the computer for a few seconds then started typing in new numbers. There was something about this, something that I've seen Before. "Wait This looks familiar " Yes, I certainly have dealt with this before. "If I rewrite the velocity formula to reflect the light at a tighter angle, we'll be able to use it to calculate the transfer rate." Everything came together in my mind. This was the key. We could move forward to the experimentation stage.
"That's right," he said and kissed me on the cheek.
"Of course, it's all so clear!" I said. No matter how cliché it sounded, it was true. "Thank you, Frank!" I turned to him wanting to give him a big hug, but he wasn't there anymore. I smiled. He was more mysterious than the infamous "them" in control of the project. And I think he liked me.
Silverbum, outside Edinburgh, Scotland January 12, 2009 10:16pm GMT
"Where'd he go?" I said looking around for Keith. I was expecting to land in his house, not necessarily his bedroom though. I said it aloud not realizing quite what my situation was. I feared my calculations were wrong again.
"He's ready dear. Don't stop." A woman underneath me said.
I jumped up in shock. That was just wrong! I looked around and saw a mirror on the opposite wall. A handsome Irishman reflected my moves in it. "No! I thought I had it fixed."
"If it's not broke, don't fix it love, now come back to bed," the beautiful redhead said in a sultry Irish accent. Her husbands strange actions obviously confused her. Can't blame her really, but she hid it well. She patted the bed with a look of lust in her eye, until something knocked against her hand. "What's this?" She picked up the device.
"It's nothing love." I rushed to grab it from her hands.
"Nothing my arse, ye wouldn't be acting like that if it t'were nothing." Her accent became thicker as her anger and confusion grew.
"Tis not mine Tis that Scotsman's I told ye about." I tried to lay it on thick so she wouldn't grow any more suspicious.
"That strange man ye've been hanging about?"
"Yes, well "
"And this?" She held the device up to my nose but didn't let me grab it. "I suppose ye've told him about your little problem and he gave ye this as some aid?"
"Well Tis not quite like that-"
"Right! How many times do I need to tell ye; it's all in your head." She tossed the controller across the room and I grabbed for it but missed. Luckily, it didn't smash to pieces but it hit the wall hard enough. I ran for it but her voice stopped me. "Keith Ryan Gowan, ye come to bed now or ye won't see the sun rise." I believed her and sulkily went to bed. Keith's little problem returned to her dismay, or mine as I got a good talking to the rest of the night.
To be continued
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please send me any comments you might have, good or bad. Copyrighted 2009 by Christine Schnell. Go ahead and share it with others just keep my name with it.