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Not just a bad dream

by Tom Mcmulkin about a year ago in humanity
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The sterile room around Anna was silent and tranquil, what she imagined waking from a dream would be like, except this was no dream, Anna was strapped to a vertical table looking into the eyes of the only four people in the world she trusted. Anna’s nightmares were always lucid, inescapable and always the same, as if her friends were reaching beyond the grave reminding her of the past they shared. The screams echoing around the room penetrated Anna’s soul, as if the look in her friend’s eyes wasn’t torture enough. She tried reaching out to them, to comfort them, any way she could, a smile, a look, anything, but this nightmare wouldn’t let her because it was more than just a dream, it was real. Anna and her friends were positioned in a circle facing each other, David was to Anna’s immediate left, Phebe to his left, Asheek next to her, and finally Gannet on Anna’s right. One Doctor and their Assistant tended each of them, standing at their sides, administering and observing their wicked and painful tests. Screams pierced the air, Anna’s jaw clenched reactively to the sound, her teeth grinding against each other, as if the sounds themselves could hurt her, but in reality it was the images of her friends being hurt that felt like knives in her heart. The Doctors had just injected another new serum into the I.V.’s and already it was taking hold of each of their bodies and minds, forcing them to morph, forcing them to change. To Anna’s left David’s body started to turn to metal, creeping from the chest outwards, fusing with the table itself until there was nothing but a mass of chrome in the shape of a human.

A loud thunderous noise woke Anna from the dream, she was thrown into the darkness of the musky smelling room. A train whirring past outside the cheap hotel room rumbled along its tracks, the screeching and whining of metal on metal made Anna grit her teeth. Anna blocked her ears with both hands as a tear ran down her face. The last car of the train finally passed by with a concluding whoosh, as did the memories swarming before Anna’s eyes. She attempted to get out of bed, she was thirsty beyond measure, but the sweaty sheets clung to her equally sweaty body and held her at bay. Anna peeled them away and threw them back onto the bed, she crossed the small room to the bathroom sink and ran the tap, ducking her head low and into the sink to drink straight from the tap. Anna finished hydrating and moved towards the window, drawing back the grotty blinds in a swish and looked around at the busy metropolis of Tech10 outside the tiny squalid room. Convoluted streets and high-rise apartments filled the entire view, hotels and buildings rose and fell in the background, blocking out the sun. The city, Anna had learned recently, was commissioned as a Spaceport, floating just inside the highest point of the troposphere. This city was where all travel in the solar system was governed, although none too efficiently. One Flight left the icy remains of Earth’s atmosphere scarcely every two weeks, this was because of the limited ships in rotation in the solar system. The next shuttle left later that night and Anna intended to be on it. She looked at the Holo-clock on the plain kitchen table, reading just past 3pm, time enough to shower and get ready, Anna figured. Taking one last look out the window, the nose of the docked shuttle, pointing star ward, glistened in the distance the designation on the side read ‘The Argo’. Bigger than most buildings on Tech10, the ship looked like a sleek black Eel next to the dull grey block-like buildings beside it.

Anna gathered her few effects and checked out of the hotel walking briskly down the street in the direction of the meeting point she set up a week ago. Her black boots trudged through shallow puddles, sending droplets of filthy water everywhere, luckily the boots were high cuts that stopped just below the knee. Anna’s dark blue jeans tucked into the boots caught a fleck or two of the grime. Her thick black coat whipping at her dirty heels caught the most shit, the dirty hue already set into the stolen ensemble. Anna arrived at the agreed location slightly early, and leaned against the building towering high behind her. Looking about casually, a homeless man to her right caught her attention, he sat on the squalid street amongst the rubbish and the little set up he undoubtedly called home. He wore shoes that were too big, a big puffy jacket and suit pants that looked fit to burst at the seams. He began talking to his pet rat, lifting it to eye level so that could have a face to face chat, Anna then noticed he was wearing an old locket of some kind, it was heart-shaped, purple in colour, the plastic cheap and hollow, no doubt some little girl loved and cherished it long ago, The homeless man held the rat so gently, lovingly. Anna leaned away as the rat left the man’s hands running along his arm and stopping to perch on his shoulder, the vagabond looked in Anna’s direction, the black pits that were once eyes pierced her and she averted her gaze, sweat bubbling on her forehead and palms.

The skinny street Anna looked out upon was filled with busy foot traffic that passed less than a metre away from where she stood, the peak hour was nearly in full swing and with it she gambled, the perfect cover for a discreet transaction. A garbage truck was moving slowly down the opposite side of the street, pedestrians dodging the bustling trash men as they threw countless bags into the rusted chassis. Idling momentarily at each stop, the disheveled workers went about their day, oblivious to anything and anyone around them as they deposited their newly acquired wares into the smelly depths of their waiting clunker. Distracted, Anna jumped as a short man stepped out of the bustling crowd and approached her, he leaned against the wall to her left, so close she could smell his heavy handed cologne, disguising an even sicklier smell beneath. Cloaked in a shabby coat with its hood up, leaving only his chin, tip of his nose, and mouth visible in the low light. He pulled out a parcel from his coats deep pockets and discretely passed it to Anna with gloved hands. Taking the package, she quickly exchanged it with her own, the man weighed it in his hands briefly before giving a terse grunt and strolled away back up the street, merging with the crowd, once again just another head in the massive sea of bodies moving to and fro. Pushing off the wall Anna strode down the opposite way, the afternoon heat dissipating slightly as she headed towards the shuttle platforms.

Reaching the shuttle check-in some 20 minutes later, Anna looked around for somewhere private and headed to the nearest bathroom to get changed and open the package she had just acquired. Walking to the furthest stall Anna closed the door and dropped her black bag onto the closed lid of the toilet. Opening the package she up-ended its contents into a waiting hand. Quickly inspecting the shuttle tickets and passport, and happy with the purchases Anna stashed her old I.D’s in the false bottom of her bag, replacing them with the new ones. Exiting the stall she strolled across the room placing her bag next to the sink. Looking up into the mirror she gave a sudden yelp of surprise. Anna’s heart rate jumped through the roof, the hairs on her arms and neck standing on end as she stared down the woman in the mirror. Anna’s fists were up, ready for a fight, the woman staring back at her was none other than Maria Sanchez, Assistant Doctor to Anna in that god forsaken room Anna and her friends were trapped in. Maria’s fists were also up, her movements matching Anna’s own, then it hit Anna, she was looking at herself.

Anna still wasn’t used to seeing that face in the mirror, the face of the woman she hated, the woman she revisited in those nightmarish dreams every night. Anna gripped the sink with white knuckled hands, her heart rate finally slowing to a gallop as she stared into the face that tortured her friends for 3 years, friends who relied on Anna, who trusted her. She couldn’t save them, even when she finally escaped, Anna couldn’t save them. So now she was on her and on her way to Ganymede, the largest of Jupiter’s moons, to seek revenge for what had happened in that room. To find retribution the only way she knew how, by destroying the doctor in charge for ‘researching’ their powers. After searching high and low throughout all the cities records Anna had finally tracked down Madeline Wells 3 weeks ago. After the incident at the lab that led to Anna’s escape, Madeline was the only Doctor that survived. The only one not there the day Anna escaped, she grabbed her bag, taking one last look into the mirror for courage and turned and left the bathroom.

Getting through security and boarding was a cinch with the forged documents, as Anna settled into her seat aboard ‘The Argo’, for some reason the citizens of Tech10 named all of their shuttles after Greek boats and gods, just another titbit of information Anna had picked up recently. The thousands of citizens of the city harkened to the stories of the Greeks and hoped to learn from the past because of all the wrongs the human race had done in the recent years. One being the complete and utter destruction of the Earth’s environment. Humans never learn from our mistakes, Anna thought morbidly. There were those who had left it all behind and moved on to start fresh. The terraforming colonies of Ganymede, Callisto, Titan and Europa were thought of by many as bright beacons of hope amongst the floating cities. Anna questioned these people silently to herself. Some thought they were destined to leave Earth completely and follow our fore-fathers into the black unknown, others were just hopeful that if everyone stayed and waited long enough, eventually the Earth’s ecosystem would balance itself out and the Ice age gripping it would dissipate. Anna wasn’t so naïve, yet deep down she wished it were true, that a miracle would happen and they could start again. A short time later, artificial sleep took her as the journey to Ganymede began, Anna welcomed the dreamless sleep.


About the author

Tom Mcmulkin

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