• Published 13th Feb 2012
  • 13,793 Views, 103 Comments

Project Renaissance - Out of Service

Two men awaken from almost two thousand years of slumber and find the world they once knew radically changed. Together, they will lead a revolution against their alien surroundings in an attempt to remind the world of one thing: humanity is not dead.

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Chapter One: Remnants




Project Renaissance

Chapter One: Remnants

By Lucius Seneca & Stillmatic

One hour and twenty-two minutes. That's how long the prisoner had been sitting in the room. Outside, the left shoulder of a man could barely be seen through the small window embedded in the door. There was a small tuft of lint sneaking out from under his shoulder patch and every so often it would twitch with the movement of the guard. The little details were everything. The prisoner considered this as he looked over the room again. Pristine walls, probably coated cinderblock judging by the patterns. The floor, composed of bare concrete, had a plethora of scratches that shone dimly when the prisoner tilted his head at the proper angle and above, the ceiling tiles had yet to be yellowed by age. Everything about the room screamed silently about itself, its age, its use, its purpose. It screamed about everything, right down to the metal table bolted into the concrete and the man handcuffed to the steel cleat on the tabletop itself.

His name was Ulysses Tennyson Beck and the psychotherapist sitting across from him was Dr. Linda Kirke. From the moment she had stepped into the room, he had looked her over routinely, to see if he had missed anything. He did this every two minutes. Her hair had been dyed a dark auburn, as opposed to the natural hazel that her exposed roots suggested, and the indifferent application of her powder suggested a certain apathy in regards to appearance, but that theoretic was offset by the fact that the suit she wore was that off a designer line. Which designer, Ulysses didn't know, but what he did know was that her watch was a fake Rolex and she had unsteady hands, judging by the thickness of her mascara.

If the room screamed about itself, this woman had a definite shrieking about her. She reminded Ulysses of a vulture. She had the nose of one, at least, and her eyes had a dull, exasperated hue to them, their edges starting to redden. Obviously the decaf coffee, not gourmet and most certainly not anything better than what one would expect to find in the break room of an accounting firm, hadn't worked quite as well as she had hoped, but Ulysses could smell it radiating off of her tongue. She fairly reeked of stagnating professionalism; professionalism that had probably ruined her marriage if the tan line of her left ring finger was of any indication. Wondering, Ulysses watched as Dr. Kirke's mouth moved silently. He tilted his head a degree to impose the idea he was listening.

"Mr. Beck, do you understand what I've been telling you?"

Ulysses looked down at the folds of his orange jumpsuit, "No. Start again, please."

Dr. Kirke let out a shard of a frustrated sigh, but composed herself and forced her thin, grey lips into a toothless smile, "Do you mind if I call you Ulysses, Mr. Beck?"

"That's fine, doctor."

"Fantastic. Be comfortable, please. Now, Ulysses, I am here to evaluate your mental well-being because the state of Colorado has asked me to. I should also inform you that you still have the same rights as anyone else, specifically confidentiality." Dr. Kirke took a breath, "Are you still with me, Ulysses?"

Folding his fingers together, Ulysses ignored his handcuffs, "I am curious, doctor, as to why the state of Colorado has paid you to examine my, 'mental well-being', and why they care."

Dr. Kirke felt her smile falter for a brief instant as she looked at the man in front of her. Ulysses Tennyson Beck sat with a straight back, he did not slouch, nor did he shift anything besides his hands and his head. His hair had been roughly shaved, leaving him looking slightly emaciated, his eyes sunken to a degree with a frightfully alluring quality of lambency. Even his skin had an ascetic look to it; pale and spotless. Dr. Kirke felt a slight stir of nervousness in her stomach. Stay calm, she told herself, he can't hurt you. He can't even move. But as she glanced back at his face which looked as if it had been chiseled from marble, she failed to quell the uneasiness and Ulysses saw.

He grinned disturbingly, "Nervous, doctor?"

Ulysses awoke with a start. His head jerked upwards and there was a dull, vibrating thud as his forehead connected with a hardened sheet of plastic-like material. Disoriented and finding himself claustrophobic, Ulysses felt around with his hands. There was some type of casement around him, a dense plastic, possibly a polymer of sorts. It left a small gap of room between him and it, roughly a foot or two. The encasement wasn't what bothered Ulysses, however, but rather the lack of the presence of a light source. He felt his breath quicken and a trickle of fear crept into his veins. Ulysses lashed out in a blind panic and slammed his open palms against the container, choking back a yell. He couldn't move. He couldn't breathe.

Forcing himself to calm down, Ulysses took several long deep breaths and began to clench and unclench his fists. Letting out a long exhale, he pressed his hands flat against the material above him. He couldn’t see anything. There wasn’t a single spec of light to be found, not even the blinking of some small electronic device; total and complete blackness. Feeling his way along the surface, Ulysses made out a seam cutting across the center of the polymer. He forced his fingers into the tiny line and pulled in opposite directions. At first nothing happened, but Ulysses could feel the first tiny particles of dust settling on his cheeks. He pulled harder and let out a guttural sound as the seam cracked apart a few centimeters.

A sudden bout of exhaustion struck Ulysses and he fought to push his right hand through, stopping at the wrist. The container didn’t exert much pressure, but the throbbing, warm feeling in his hand suggested that circulation had been cut off. Normally, that wouldn’t have been much of an issue, especially to Ulysses, a man who maintained his body constantly, but he had never felt so weak before. His lungs felt like they belonged to a fifty year old and the burning in his arms made Ulysses’ face contort with confused pain.

He couldn’t stop. He couldn’t stand another minute in the dark. Ulysses took a deep breath, held it, and thrust upwards with his arm, widening the gap even more, just enough to shove his left arm through as well. His breathing came in ragged, sharp gasps and, summoning his final reserve of strength, Ulysses fought to force his arms to open like a butterfly’s wings. Sweat beaded upon his face and just as he was about to give, there was a loud snap and the polymer case slid open lazily.

Ulysses coughed and sat up, resting his arms on his lap. Every muscle in his body felt as if they had been torn and with the motion of sitting up, Ulysses felt a wave of fire wash over him. Suddenly, an orange light bloomed in the murk and the weakened Ulysses shielded his eyes from the sudden appearance of photons. Something rough brushed against Ulysses’ forearm as he pressed it against his face and he slowly ran his hand down the side of his cheek. A fully grown, untrimmed beard presented itself. Ulysses dropped his hands weakly and felt his stomach do a flip.

He turned his head sideways and vomited a stream of milky liquid onto the floor. He coughed and dry heaved several more times, spittle trickling from his lips, before attempting to step off what he discerned to be some type of sealed sleeping cot. With his newfound light, Ulysses could make out what he had been laying on. It looked similar to a mattress, although cut to form his figure, and seemed composed of a type of layered, thick gel. There was something strange about it, however. It seemed dried out along the edges, cracked like an old air freshener and there were several quarter-sized perforations lining the edges.

Something was very wrong. Ulysses could sense it. It was as if he had fallen asleep and someone had wound the clocks back, moved him to a different room, and changed the furniture. It just felt wrong. The light began to flash and for the first time, Ulysses took a good look at it. It was an emergency light mounted near the top of the wall facing the end of the cot. The cot itself was mounted on the opposite wall via several steel bars underneath. The strange part about it was that the polymer casing that surrounded the top of the cot actually slid down via two metal tracks and disappeared into some type of large metal apparatus attached to the bottom of the cot itself.

It was meant for more than sleeping, obviously, but what purpose it served besides that was unknown to Ulysses. He slowly slid his legs down until he felt the pads of his feet touch the floor. He inhaled sharply at the chilliness of it and raised his feet a little before pressing them down again, like someone testing the temperature of a hot bath. Again, Ulysses was forced to retract his bare foot due to the temperature shock. It was as if he was trying to stand on a block of dry ice. It took several more tries, but eventually he could rest his feet comfortably on the floor.

His skin felt overly sensitive and delicate, reacting to mundane temperatures far more severely than normal. He didn’t feel as he should. It was as if his body had aged a thousand years in a single night. Ulysses stood up slowly, feeling his legs shake with effort, and leaned against the wall for support. It was then that he noticed the three inch steel bars four feet in front of him. He was in a prison cell. Ulysses’ heart dropped like a stone and he felt like he was going to vomit again. He gripped the bars and looked left, then right, seeing nothing; no other light, no person, nothing. Just varying degrees of darkness as the dim orange light dissipated.

Ulysses pressed his face against the metal, “Hello? Hello?”

For whatever reason, supernatural or otherwise, Ulysses stopped yelling. It sent shivers of unease up his spine and he felt nervous trying to disturb the pitch black. There was something uncomfortable about raising his voice, especially when it seemed to echo for an eternity down halls that replied with only distant mockeries of a man alone in the dark. Ulysses began to feel sweat roll down his face, sticking to facial hair that shouldn’t even be there. He felt at the bars until he reach the leftmost section which was obviously designed to slide open, much like the door on a minivan.

Giving it a hard tug to the right, Ulysses slipped backwards and tumbled to the ground in excruciating pain, his fingers clawing at the air as he fought to yell out. If his body had been afire before, it was now being absorbed into the fiery depths of hell. As he lay struggling to control his breathing, his mind raced with adrenaline. Where was everyone? Why were the lights off? Was this some kind of game being played on his mind? Ulysses felt his thoughts begin to wander and then the exhaustion took over. Fabulous colors began to form in the dark canvas above and he saw green fields, stretching for miles, a red barn on a hill, sheep grazing in a pasture with a small lagoon in the distance.

The images continued to blur and change without pattern nor order. Ulysses lay upon the floor for what seemed like decades, his mind rushing through memories, creating sensory illusions in the murk. There was a brilliant blast of colors and mosaics. Faces passed him by, people he perhaps knew, but they were strangers, their features cloaked in the ethereal unknown. They smiled and vanished into the black, some snickering, others crying with grotesque masquerades of grins. Ulysses awoke with a small gasp. His eyes fluttered before locking onto the light. He must have dozed off for a few minutes. Ulysses turned his head and looked at the metal toilet in the corner next to his cot. He stared at it for some time, watching it reflect the orange light.

And then it struck him. He crawled over to the toilet and looked down into the bowl. Whatever liquid had once been there was long dried up, leaving a white crust behind. Ulysses took note of that as he examined the toilet itself. The steel seemed tarnished with age, almost as if it had been bought secondhand. Ulysses felt another clue being stored away in his brain as he felt at the toilet seat, following it back to where it was bolted to pivot up and down.

He quickly unscrewed the nut, which had rusted considerably, and removed the metal seat, weighing it in his hands. Ignoring the throbbing he felt, Ulysses crawled back towards the cell door and felt feverishly at where it met with the wall. His breath quickened excitedly at finding it slightly ajar, though stiff from not being maintained. Ulysses pushed the side of the toilet in between the gap as far as it would go and took a long breath, steeling himself. Then he pushed.

His muscles strained from the exertion. He found himself grunting and cursing, but his job was done and the cell door jumped once and rolled out of the way. A long and painful hour dragged by and still no one came to the cell. No lights came one. No noise could be heard besides Ulysses’ fragmented breaths. When he finally found the will to move, Ulysses took extra care to be gentle with his movements. There was no sense in charging out into the darkness, possibly straight into a guard's stun baton. Another few minutes passed and Ulysses began to slide along the hallway’s wall, but slowed himself as he realized that cell bars made up the majority of the wall itself.

Ulysses squinted into each cell, but found nothing except darkness and the smell of decay. He paused to nurse his aching feet. Where his shoes had gone, he didn’t know, but there was an eerie sense of familiarity to his surroundings despite not being able to see them. It was as if he had walked here before and felt the same surfaces, smelt the same air, but somehow, and this perplexed Ulysses, it seemed as if this was a place from his past, not his present. He felt like time had moved on without him.

The cell bars abruptly stopped and Ulysses felt his hand cross onto a smoother surface, perhaps drywall. He caressed the wall gently and found it to be in disrepair with something peeling away from it. Ulysses continued to slide along until his shoulder pushed tenderly against a door frame. He breathed a sigh of relief. Finally he had broken from the repetitious mediocrity and he made a blind grab, connecting with a doorknob. There was a stiff ‘click’ and the door swung open with a slow, elongated creak.

Ulysses swallowed. He was out of his element here. Ulysses resolved himself. He couldn’t stop. Whatever was going on, whatever had happened, had left him an opportunity. Why he was in a prison cell, he didn't know, but he wasn’t going to stick around to find out, especially when it seemed that no one was around. There was no telling when help would arrive, if it arrived at all. Ulysses took another long breath, pushed aside his bodily pain, and shut his eyes. It was easier to navigate in pitch blackness with his eyes. His other senses would have to make due for now.

With his mind, he tried to gauge the size of the room. It was fairly large as his the sound of his feet sliding slowly responded to the acoustics of the space. Ulysses followed the wall to his left, lifting his arms as high as they would go, looking like a child pretending to be an airplane. He did this for every wall, following them around the entire room, eventually stopping when he bumped into a tall metal structure. Or, rather, several in seriatim. It took a moment of thought and stroking before Ulysses realized they were lockers. Four aligned in a row, pressed against the wall.

He tried to stem his excitement and slowly opened the first one, plunging his hands inside. Cloth greeted him. Someone’s shirt, maybe. Ulysses knelt slowly and touched at the bottom of the locker. More fabric there, too. There was some type of Velcro strap attached to it and he pulled on it gently. Ulysses realized it was some type of satchel and he reached inside. Puzzled, he removed several plastic tubules from what he now discerned to a nylon pouch of sorts. He squeezed the tube and found it unrelenting in its sturdiness. Dejected, Ulysses shifted and sat back against the lockers.

He felt a sudden spurt of anger at the hopelessness of his situation and grabbed the tube with both hands, deciding to bend it. There was a loud crack and an explosion of yellow light followed. Ulysses dropped the tube in surprise and shielded his eyes from the sudden brightness. He had broken a glow-stick. As the chemicals mixed and produced light through the process of chemiluminescence, Ulysses found himself surprised that he remembered that little tidbit from high school chemistry class. He slowly uncovered his eyes and looked around the room.

Four metal benches stood bolted into the center of the room, arranged in a two-by-two manner, spread several feet apart from one another. Ulysses raised the glow-stick and glanced about, finding the rest of the room unfurnished apart from the set of lockers he currently lay against. The light was bright enough to send slim shadows dancing across the walls, hiding behind peeling paint and fallen ceiling tiles. Ulysses turned his attention to the lockers once again, his heart hammering with excitement. He could do this. He knew he could.

The previously opened locker held nothing more than the satchel of glow-sticks, twelve in all, including the one Ulysses had already broken, and some type of uniform shirt with a crest on the shoulder. Ulysses removed it and peered at the illuminated crest, reading it aloud.

“Catskills Research and Development Institute.”

Ulysses wondered at that, but gave it little thought. He needed to get out of the catacombs he was currently in and find some source of natural light. After all, he only had so many glow-sticks. Moving on, Ulysses opened the next locker, but found it empty besides a few boxes of staples scattered across the top shelf. He left the door opened and searched the next one. It turned out to be far more hopeful than the last. Ulysses removed a pair of sturdy service boots and, after feeling at the material of the pants that hung above them, matching them to the shirt, he discerned that he had the makings of some type of uniform.

There was also a small mirror glued to the inside of the locker door and Ulysses took a look at his reflection. He didn’t recognize himself. A motley beard had grown out of his usually pristine skin and hair, once shaved head now harbored hair long enough to graze the tops of his shoulders. His eyes were bloodshot, the bags beneath them sagged terribly, and his skin seemed paler than usual, almost ghostly in appearance. He couldn't recall the last time he'd experienced sunlight. At that point, Ulysses noticed what he was wearing.

His orange jumpsuit was faded and patchy and as Ulysses went to feel at it, a small plume of dust trickled down from his hair. In fact, every single one of his orifices seemed coated in a fine dust. Ulysses began to itch all over and he shuddered as he stripped off his tattered jumpsuit and pulled on the uniform. It fit well enough and the clothing seemed to have been dipped in some type of chemical which shone in the chemical light. Immediately, Ulysses felt his body begin to warm up and he breathed a sigh of relief as he tucked the shirt into the trousers and knelt to lace his boots, which fit a little too tightly for his liking, though they would have to do for now.

He shrugged the satchel over his shoulder and stepped out into the hallway.

When the hunger struck Ulysses, he doubled over and fought to keep holding onto the glow-stick as the pangs in his stomach exploded. They felt more like atom bombs than the normal pain that came with not eating. This was something else entirely and Ulysses nearly blacked out as he attempted to straighten out his back. He had been walking for over an hour, peering into one room or another. The cell block was long behind him and as far as he could tell, no one had been around for a while. That was made obvious by the lack of overall repair. The floor tiles were coated in layer after layer of dust and every so often, Ulysses would come across a collapsed section of ceiling or wall and was forced to take gentle steps over the debris lest he injury his weakened body even further.

Where he was and why he was there was still a mystery. Ulysses had spent the last hour trying to figure out where he was and he still had no other clue other than the possible name of the building he was in, “Catskills Research and Development Institute” and the fact that there was no natural light whatsoever. That was possibly the most disturbing realization Ulysses had uncovered since his awakening. There was literally no natural light. Not a window, a crack in the wall, even the ceilings, collapsed as they were in sections, offered no relief from the darkness, suggesting to Ulysses that he was underground and there were more floors above him. So, by common logic, if he wanted to escape, he had to go up and so far, his quest for stairs had been unsuccessful.

And now his stomach was tearing itself to shreds trying to find nutrition and protein. Ulysses visibly swallowed and felt, for the first time, the dryness in his throat. It had been kept down by fear and excitement, but now it was out in full force and if he didn't find some sustenance soon, dire consequences would result. Ulysses knew thirst would kill him faster than starvation, but thirst coupled with exhaustion, disorientation, and vicious hunger would kill him in hours, maybe less. To make things worse, Ulysses knew he could only keep walking for so long before he would be forced to rest and he knew that when he did, he wouldn't be able to get up.

Setting out again, Ulysses scanned the many rooms, some offices, others simply empty spaces with faded carpet, trying to find something, anything to help his current situation, but he came up empty handed time and time again. He passed under the slender hanging bodies of fluorescent lights that hung from their wire entrails and watched as a small collection of dust slipped from a ceiling pipe and trickled downwards, caught in the sickly yellow light. Ulysses hurried onwards, his beaten body crying out for a break, but he couldn't stop; not yet, not now. His eyes feverishly examined the walls for any sign of something that would help him.

His mind couldn't make out any sensible layout of the floor he was on. It seemed a mess of scattered offices, janitorial closets, unfurnished rooms, and long, stretching tiled halls that seemingly went on forever. It couldn't be Hell, Ulysses thought, it was much too cold. He hooked a left around a corner and felt something strike him in the face. Ulysses let out a grunt and took a moment to look at what he had run into. It was a large engraved sign, hanging down by its last screw, swinging useless in disrepair. Ulysses cursed and read it.

“Intake office, utilities, cafeteria.” He read it again, “Cafeteria.”

Cafeteria. Ulysses let his spirit soar and he adjusted the sign to its original position in order to determine the proper direction to go. Straight ahead, apparently. In a painful light jog now, Ulysses felt his stomach tighten and cramp, his throat rubbing raw inside. But he was nearly there. He could see the swinging double doors just ahead. They flew open and Ulysses pushed his shoulder into them and forced his way inside. Holding his light source above his head, the lone man examined the room. It seemed like any other cafeteria: long tables arranged row by row, a counter with menus attached, sinks, ovens, dishwashers.

Ulysses made his behind the glass-shielded counter and rifled through the cabinets nearby. He spotted the white figure of a Styrofoam container in the far back and he grabbed at it. Microwavable noodles. Normally, Ulysses would have turned his nose up at such a meal, but he was ravenous. He stopped himself as he began to tear the packaging off. Water came first. He needed water first. The noodles could wait.

Ulysses went straight for the sink, finding it built up with lime scale and dust. He turned the cold water knob and watched as a small trickle of cloudy water streamed from the faucet. Ulysses positioned his head under the tap and drank. The water had a bitterly metallic taste as if it had sat too long, but Ulysses couldn’t have cared less and continued to drink for several more minutes before he felt his thirst beginning to be quenched. Fresh sweat dribbled down his forehead and he found it easier to breathe. Even his worn muscles seemed to have receded into the background.

Finally, Ulysses felt satisfied and he stopped the flow of water before turning his attention to his hunger which had only been sharpened by the liquid. The noodles had a yellowish tint to them, but then again, so did everything Ulysses looked at. Tearing the packet of spice, Ulysses sprinkled it heartily over the chunk of solid noodles before crushing them into the Styrofoam cup. He scarfed the meal down and felt the monster in his stomach begin to weaken and then finally disappear. Ulysses knew he would need more food soon and with his water supply secured, he looked around for anything else to eat.

There was a can of long overdue tomato paste, a jar of what might have been pickled eggs, but the growth inside the glass left much up to interpretation, and two packs of freeze-dried plums. Ulysses removed the plums and set them on the counter. He noticed the glow-stick beginning to dim and tossed it into the center of the room, casting some level of light around the entirety of the space, before cracking another and letting a bright blue light wash over the area, too.

With new illumination, Ulysses noticed a large door off left of the counter and he approached it. It was probably the pantry. He gave the door a push and felt it budge, but shut immediately. Something was leaning against it. Ulysses swore in adrenaline-fueled fear and gave the door a mighty shove, ignoring his complaining body. It jumped and swung open, a skeleton clattering sideways, empty eye sockets and toothy grin looking Ulysses directly in the face.

He jumped in visible fear, “Fuck!”

It took a long minute for Ulysses to calm his hammering heart. It felt like it was about to explode out of his chest. He stared at the skeleton for a long moment. There was a small hole just above its temple and on the opposite side, there was a large chunk of skull missing. Ulysses stepped over the corpse and looked it over from the opposite angle. The floor was stained with a rusty color, presumably blood, and what looked like dried worms were stuck to the wall right of the door: brain matter.

Ulysses shivered and reached down to pick up the gun from the floor, wrestling it away from the skeleton’s grasp. It was a semi-automatic Beretta 92FS. Ulysses racked the slide and let a frown cross his face as the exposed barrel revealed a dangerous crack across its surface. It would probably explode if fired and Ulysses unloaded the magazine instead, tucking it away in the satchel before setting the inoperable firearm down. Skeleton aside, the pantry was a good find and he surveyed the sheer amount of dry and canned goods in stock.

Bags of pasta, rice, flour, sugar, salt, corn. There were other staples, too, but what caught Ulysses’ eye was the back shelving unit. It held several large jugs of filtered water and he breathed a long sigh of relief. As far as sustenance went, he would survive for now. His thoughts turned macabrely back to the skeleton behind him. Ulysses turned slowly, half expecting the skeleton to have changed positions, but it lay where it had fallen, limp and shadowy.

Who locked themselves in a pantry and promptly shot themselves in the head? More importantly, why did they do it? Ulysses found himself with more questions and still no answers. There was something desperately wrong with the entire situation, but Ulysses knew he couldn’t do anything unless he got topside. And he needed to fast. First he needed to prepare. There was no telling how long it would take it get up and out and Ulysses couldn’t take the chance of losing his way and not being able to backtrack to where he was now.

Ulysses searched the pantry for another minute, but turned his attention to the counter, looking through the drawers and cabinets at ground level. He found what he was looking for and removed three large plastic bags from a box and went back into the pantry. Ulysses searched around the jugs of water and eventually found a crate filled with bottles of mineral water. He took four and then moved onto the freeze-dried food. After a few minutes, Ulysses tripled bagged his supplies to ensure the bags didn’t rip under the weight of several packs of plums, chicken breasts, buttered asparagus, and the bottles of water.

There was nothing left to do except continue on. Ulysses was in the midst of a mystery, one that would prove to shake the very foundations of his reality, but, as with all mysteries, it was one that he would not solve alone.

Elsewhere in the facility, an old rail system which ran through separate tunnels, creaked unsteadily. Certain rodents, rats and mice alike, had taken a liking to using the tunnels as dens, and passageways, and over the long course of time, the facility had been out of operation, heavy damage had been done to the metal rails holding captivity shells that stored test subjects, men and women who, because of certain traits, had been detained and imprisoned, if not already prior to their detainment. One rail in particular had been hit the hardest, and it screeched from the constant pressure of a swarm of rats lying upon it generation after generation, further creating a nest composed of wires, feces, and insulation.

Suddenly, the rod snapped, and the remaining pod groaned as its rusted wheels turned and turned, rolling down the snapped rail. It eventually ran against the break and fell to the tiles below. With a loud clanging and crash, the pod hit the floor with enough force it to break apart the hardened glass shell, sending shards flying away into the dark. The rough jostling and explosion of the shell threw the occupant out, followed by a flow of unknown fluid. Everything, other than the massive family of rats above, settled and silence reigned once more.

Fourteen minutes had passed before the person on the ground finally came to. It was possibly the chilly air that brought him back to a long-awaited consciousness, or perhaps the slimy liquid that had been containing him for who knew how long. The sharp biting of glass in his face might have been another form of a wake-up call as well, given the case. Regardless, the dark skinned man was starting to stir from his place on the cold floor.

The first thing he did with his new-found wakefulness was to vomit. A mix of his own fluids, milky and foul smelling, and that of which had kept his body preserved for so long were discharged with loud retching. After it had died down, the man groaned loudly and attempted to force his heavy eyes open. It was dark, but not so dark that he couldn't see himself lying face first in the dimly sparkling form of shattered glass. His arms jerkily resumed normal functions and attempted to push himself away. Of course, given that he had been asleep for so long, he was unable to do much past slide his hands along the floor and getting shards in them.

The growing pain was just barely enough to stimulate his body. The prisoner let out a groan as he forced himself over and onto his back. Between labored breaths and intense feeling of nausea, he was in no mood to move. His thoughts were foggy, and memories were hard to remember so far. So he lied there as long as he could tolerate. Feeling returned to only parts of his body, but most importantly, he was now able to open his eyes.

The first thing he noticed was that he wasn't in his cell anymore. Looking up, all he could see were the endless rails and enormous nests of rats bustling about. Disgust didn't register yet. One happened to fall, landing right on his chest. It attempted to squirm away quickly but readily slapped into a wall. Regaining his senses slowly, he focused on the fact that he was now in the dreaded Temporary Volunteer Storage, a place where the most rowdy subjects were forcefully kept until they simmered down. He rarely left this place. Now that he realized he was actually free and alone, the man whose jumpsuit featured a "W. Fairbanks" tag took a grip on his opportunity to escape and pushed himself upwards.

Said man fell onto his back after his legs refused to respond to his commands. "W" growled in frustration and pressed his right arm against the floor once again. His left arm remained numb as well, but the prospect of freedom was too much for him to simply let himself lie there. Grunting loudly, the dark-skinned research subject reached for his container and pushed up. The exertion caused his tired body to pant as he raised a foot over the floor. Higher and higher he went until his balance gave out and brought him onto the floor.

"... God damn this bullshit..."

Though his voice was as hoarse as a chain-smoker on his deathbed, exercising his vocal muscles was soothing. The feeling that he hadn't heard his own voice in quite some time nagged at his mind temporarily. How long was he in captivity for? Couldn't have been longer than maybe a few weeks, though the decayed storage space he was given seemed to disagree with that theory. No other pods seemed to be around, the room was both dusty and empty, and worst of all, he was damn hungry. "W" felt his stomach screaming out at his lack of movement towards a food source and resolved to continue his escape.

Using what little control there was over his body, "W" extended his right arm out and dragged himself away from the debris. His orange jumpsuit thankfully protected him from the shards of glass while he crawled towards the door. The growing taste of metal on his tongue didn't so much as make him second guess what he was doing. With an agitated stubbornness and nothing in his way, "W" reached up and opened the door into the facility he had come to dread.

The cheap office door was shoved open, letting the few vestiges of dim light outside in. Yet, for his weakened eyes, the lights were painfully bright. The man hissed and covered his face with his right hand. A few seconds later, his left arm seemed to catch up and sluggishly copy its twin. The prisoner let out a sigh before grabbing the door frame and easing his way through and into a dirty hallway. Despite the sparse lightning, he could see through the darkness easily, for whatever reason. "W" glanced up and saw a sign pointing towards the cafeteria. Putting one hand in front of the other, he made a slow trek in the direction of the one place he could sate his hunger.

The fact that there were only skeletons and decrepit surroundings in this part of the facility didn't seem so important once you've realized you're close to starving to death. Even later, he couldn't find a single reason to blame himself for that.

The elevator shaft was silent. Even the cables, hung limply, some snapped, others frayed, did not creak or sway. Far, far above, a thin sliver of light could be seen, barely visible past the silhouette of the elevator jammed between floors. Ulysses took another long sip of mineral water as he leaned heavily against the door frame and looked up. A rusted yellow set of ladder rungs trailed up the wall and behind the elevator, presumably leading up to the very top of the shaft for the purpose of maintenance.

From the floor Ulysses was on, to the very top, it was probably a length of two hundred feet or more. Below, there were several more floors, and Ulysses took a long moment to decide whether or not it was in his interest to drop a glow-stick down into the depths. After a moment of deliberation, he cracked a green one and let it fall.

“One, two, three, four, five…”

The small object of illumination spun and spun before striking the end of the elevator shaft, barely visible so far below. There must have been another twenty or so floors below, not considering the fact that there were several more above where Ulysses stood. He let out an audible sigh and judged the distance between the elevator doorway and the rungs on the opposite side. Just then, a small scraping noise could be heard, echoing down the hallway to the right.

Ulysses jerked his head in the direction of the sound and felt his stomach knot in fear. It’s a rat, he told himself, just a rat. Quiet returned until another faint brushing sound could be heard. It was as if something was being dragged along the corridor. Ulysses felt his throat tighten slightly and he raised his glow-stick.


"Are you a fucking ghost."

Ulysses' eyes widened, "Who's there?"

"No, who the hell are you? Answer before I shoot your face off!"

"Shit!" Ulysses hissed and pressed himself against the half open elevator door, "Don't shoot!"

The scraping slowly became closer, "I won't ask again, nigga!"

A sudden memory hit Ulysses; he knew that voice, "Westin is that you? Westin Fairbanks?"

"... Shit. You're Beck. Not the singer, the creep."

Ulysses peeked down the hall and spotted a dark mass lying against the opposing wall, "Why are you pointing a gun at me?"

Westin tossed a gnarled bone towards the other prisoner, "Watch out, it might go off on its own!"

"Jesus Christ, Fairbanks." Ulysses said as he stepped out from the doorway, "What the hell are you doing? Why are you laying on the floor?"

"Let me put it this way," he began, "I fell ten feet from the floor, landed in glass, am bleeding, and can't feel the lower half of my body."

Cautiously, Ulysses approached Westin, who was slumped against the wall, supported by his shoulder, face bloodied, "Good God, man." He knelt down next to the ebony man, "Let me help you."

Ulysses managed to get Westin into a sitting position, his back against the wall. Even from the pale blue light of the glow-stick, Ulysses could see the damage was bad. Westin's face had been lacerated severely, even with some small pieces of glass embedded in his cheek and forehead. To make matters worse, Westin restated the fact that he couldn't move his legs and Ulysses wondered if he was paralyzed by the apparent fall he had been in. There was a thick sheet of blood covering Westin's face, causing him to blink rapidly to clear away the dribbles that trickled from his cut forehead.

Reaching into the bags of food, Ulysses removed an opened bottle of water and managed to rip a strip of cloth from Westin's jumpsuit to use as a bandage. He tried to clear away as much of the dirt and blood as he could from Westin's face and was glad to see several of the cuts had clotted, but it was still a mess. Ulysses turned his attention to the pieces of glass protruding from Westin's face.

"Do you want me to pull those out? Or do you want to do it yourself?"

"Toss me a mirror. I'll take care of this shit myself."

Westin got to work and carefully began pulling out the pieces of glass. It was a painful and grueling process, but each bit was eventually removed and discarded in a paper cup. A clean, wet rag provided by Ulysses was used to wipe away the excess blood, and another strip of his clothing on his forehead for preventing more from blocking his view.

"Fresh and clean. Now we just need to fix whatever's wrong with these broken ass legs."

Sitting down himself, Ulysses thought back, "I saw a sign for an infirmary a way back. Are you paralyzed? I mean, if you are, it won't do much good to go to an infirmary other than to fix your face."

"You got any better ideas?" Westin replied irritably. "I don't know what went wrong in this crusty fuckin' place, but there's probably something to wake up my legs."

‎"Something to wake up your legs? You realize if you damaged your spine, you're fucked, right?" When Westin glared, Ulysses raised his hands in surrender, "Alright, fine. I suppose you'll need some help to get there."

"Just get me there."

Ulysses nodded and, after a little jostling, managed to get Westin's arms around his shoulders, dragging him slowly back the way he had come. Westin's hands were locked together near the base of Ulysses' throat, restricting the pale man's airflow a small bit, but Ulysses was more concerned about getting Westin to the infirmary than anything else. They were in this together now and Ulysses knew that Westin may very well die if he was left without aid, especially considering the fact he might be paralyzed.

It was a long several minutes as Ulysses' body sweated and cried out for relief, Westin cursing quietly as his face bumped accidentally against Ulysses' back, his own legs trailing limp behind him, deadweight for the long walk. Examination rooms, accounting offices, computers, door after door after door. It all blurred into a blue-tinged mosaic as Ulysses trudged onward, leaning forward to accommodate for Westin's added weight.

The two-man team ended its trek as they entered through a pair of double doors. The rusty, decayed sign above was barely legible, but a few key letters from "Infirmary" could be made out. Inside, there were dozens upon dozens of beds with advanced medical equipment nearby. Operating tables were in separated rooms to the far back, with a large closet of medical and pharmaceutical supplies a few meters away. Ulysses persevered a little while longer, just enough so that Westin could be placed in a bed.

Wiping the sweat from his face, Ulysses hobbled slowly over towards what looked like a file cabinet. His only medical background was what he had learned during school and that wasn’t much. So, if he was to help Westin, he would first need to figure exactly what, “help” meant in his current predicament. Opening the large metal cabinet, Ulysses was greeted by sheaf after sheaf of yellowed, wilted paper, lined row after row. He groaned silently and pressed his forehead against the cabinet door, finding it like ice.

After a few brief seconds, Ulysses pulled himself together and sorted through several file folders, each with a different subject. Mutagens, experiments, genotypic enhancements. Finally, many papers later, he pulled out a thick binder entitled, “Chemical-Induced Experimental Sleep Patterns” Ulysses read as fast as he could, beads of sweat getting caught in the partitions of his eyelashes. Paragraphs detailing chemical formulas, aqueous and gas, flew over Ulysses’ head and he skipped past them, desperately trying to find some type of explanation for the physical hindrances he and Westin were experiencing.

A sudden thought hit Ulysses and he scolded himself, setting the folder down on a nearby table. He looked around the room before walking back to Westin and setting the glow-stick on his chest, telling him to hold it. Ulysses cracked and shook another one, reaching deep into the satchel, and orange light filled the room alongside the blue. A medical kit could be seen attached to the side of yet another gunmetal gray cabinet and Ulysses snatched it up before returning to Westin and placing the kit at the end of the gurney, opening it up and rifling through the supplies.

“This is going to hurt.” Ulysses said.

Westin didn’t reply. He simply nodded and clasped the glow-stick harder. Ulysses once again ran the cool water over Westin’s face before grabbing a small jar of antiseptic cream and smearing it over the cuts. Westin inhaled sharply as it was applied and Ulysses hurried to spread it evenly over the open wounds. Most would heal by themselves, but they were open cuts and there was no telling what type of bacteria was already festering below the skin. Finished with the cream, Ulysses applied several patches of gauze according to the severity of the cuts and then bandaged Westin’s face tightly. In the end, only Westin’s eyes, a portion of his left cheek, and his mouth and chin were visible.

Drinking the last of the water in the bottle, Ulysses made sure Westin was still conscious before going back to the file he had previously been reading. Focused now, Ulysses soon found what he was looking for and read aloud:

“Subjects in chemically enhanced sleep are, theoretically, in no danger of immediate physical ailments. However, it should be noted that subjects who were exposed to extended periods of chemically induced sleep suffered from minor to severe side effects. These effects and symptoms can range from enhanced enamel growth, hair growth or hair loss, bleeding of the gums, muscle atrophy, temporary paralysis of extremities, increased sensitivity to temperature, pain, or touch and several others. To clarify, these symptoms became only readily apparent after a subject had been asleep for over forty years (See S. Bridger file).”

Ulysses slowly set the file down. Both he and Westin exhibited the symptoms described in the file. That meant they had been in some type of stasis for forty-some years. But why had no one awaken them? What had happened to their surroundings? Where was everyone? There was no answer in the dark. They had to get outside, but with Westin’s legs and Ulysses’ physical state, they stood no chance without recuperation. Flipping through the last few pages, Ulysses’ eyes widened and he glanced quickly at the back of the room, towards a refrigerated door, presumably for medicine.

He made his way over and hurriedly rummaged through, heart pounding with newfound hope. Finding it still refrigerated, Ulysses felt the bite of the cold, but ignored it, taking pleasure in the knowledge that some electricity still existed, although sparse. From the other side of the room, Westin watched with lidded eyes. He felt exhausted and wonder at how his newly acquired partner was still standing.

With great difficulty, Ulysses stumbled to the gurney Westin lay on and held up two small glass bottles and two syringes.

“Let’s hope this works.”

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