“You’re quite a courageous man to volunteer for this procedure,” Professor Coswell said, fingers clattering over the keyboard of his computer. As he input the last few commands into the program that would commence momentarily, he looked through the glass of the tall capsule mounted on the wall and warned the man inside, “though you must be aware of the possible side effects that may induce—”
Fenix leaned forward from within the capsule and banged his palms against the glass, causing the professor to quiver in his lab coat, “just make it all go away, please!” He was stripped to his boxers, with needles punctured through his skin, from his neck, down to his chest and arms. Needles were connected to tubes slithering around him as they trickled IV and anesthetics through his veins. The 2 millimeter sized needles that pierced his temples slid out of their place as he leaned forward.
“Please, those two needles must remain where they are! I need to be able to implant the electromagnetic compound at the precise section of your hippocampus in order to erase your undesirable memories!” Professor Coswell said.
Heeding Professor Coswell’s words, Fenix cautiously reached around the many tubes entangling him to prick the needles back into what felt like their place. He let his hands down slowly and Coswell took a thorough look through the glass to make sure that the needles in Fenix’s temples were in the correct position. Once he confirmed it so, he walked back to his computer.
“Are you just about done with that computer or did you decide to play a game of solitaire before we start? Because as painful as this is, it hurts me more to spend another second thinking about…” Fenix’s hands slid down the glass with a disturbing squeak, like the sound of a bird flying into a window. He placed his palm on his forehead and closed his eyes tightly. “Will I…at least remember who I am?”
“Most certainly, but any negative preconceptions you have about yourself based on distasteful experiences will become dormant,” Professor Coswell said reassuringly, as he finalized the programming on his computer. “Once the procedure is over, you will be able to go about with your life making decisions on a lighter conscience and clearer mind.” He looked at Fenix with a forced smile that slowly fell away once he noticed the impatient look in his patient’s eyes.
The computer screen prompted: Initiate Hippocampus Purification? To which Professor Coswell hit the Y key and slowly pushed down on Enter, closing his eyes in prayer. Machinery gently purred as the IV and anesthetic containers within the capsule began to fluctuate through their plastic pathways. Coswell sighed heavily and opened his eyes to watch the fluids flicker through the tubes as they rushed into Fenix’s bloodstream. The tubes connecting to Fenix’s temples emitted a spark while the liquid traveled onto the surface of his skull, slowly seeping through its solid casing and into his brain.
The infusion of the electromagnetic substance began as a light shock of static electricity numbing Fenix’s head, but intensified gradually and propelled through his skull like a raging thunder throwing a boat off course in the sea. He felt his consciousness drown even though his body reacted as if it were struck by lightning. Unable to unleash his urge to growl, the rush of anesthetics flowing into his bloodstream fought to nullify his body’s response to the twitch inducing stun. Then his eyes finally fell heavy and a hazy flash of memories raced through his head like a grainy film on fast forward.
A surge of life re-awoke Fenix several hours later, and all he could hear in jet black was a deafening silence. His eyes felt like they were glued shut, for they refused to open due to the drowsiness. At first he could only hear the sound of shuffling paper and his own irregular breathing, but then a voice travelled through his ears like a gust of wind entering and exiting a cave.
(Crap! I knew I should’ve repositioned those needles myself! If these statistics of his brain wave patterns are accurate, the procedure may have done more than erased Fenix’s bad memories.)
“What—,” Fenix felt a force of breath depart from his mouth and the pressure in his throat creating a raspy whisper. “What are you talking about?” He opened his eyes to the sight of bright fluorescent lights shining down on him as he lay on a medical table. He took a quick look around and noticed an estranged man in a lab coat looking over various windows of graphs on his computer screen and scattered graph sheets on his desk.
Frantically clicking the mouse every few seconds to open a new screen of data, the professor pondered. (Did he just speak? Well at least his basic speech and logic remain in tact.)
Taking what seemed like an eternity to sit up; Fenix arose as if he was resisting the pull of gravity and asked, “Where am I? And who are you?”
“You don’t remember me or anything at all? I’m Professor Coswell,” the man in the lab coat said as he turned to face Fenix. “You should lie back down, you haven’t fully recovered.”
“What is there to remember? Recover from wha—,” Fenix looked down in surprise at the dried pinhole sized wounds covering his arms and chest. A rapid succession of staccato breaths escaped Fenix’s lungs and his eyes widened. He noticed the capsule on the wall containing bloody needles hanging off the ends of tubes, and then he looked at Coswell with a cautious curiosity.
(Does he not remember the procedure?) Coswell thought gauging Fenix’s reaction upon realizing the condition of his body.
“What procedure?!” Fenix slipped off the medical bed and planted his knees onto the cold stale floor. He began to crawl slowly onto his feet, and with sluggishly numb legs he staggered towards Coswell. Intending to grab him by the collar of his lab coat, Fenix stopped in mid action and fell back onto his knees when he began to hear a crowd of voices amplifying in volume. He covered his ears in attempt to mute them, but that had only increased the indistinguishable voices echoing through his head.
Animalistic footsteps sounded from the hallway and pounded against the door until it swung open. A husky with a red 13 painted on its back stumbled into the laboratory. Coswell and Fenix took a moment to pause and see what the commotion was about.
The voices became clear as Fenix looked at the two men, one holding an electric rod and the other holding two pairs of shackles. The terrified canine was scuttling away from two men in lab coats.
(Finally, I get to send a thousand volts of electricity through this mutt! I’ve been lookin’ for an excuse to.)
(We won’t be able to perfect our intelligence alteration without this pup. Research is almost complete, it is essential that he remains in our custody just a tad longer before we have to put him down.)
“Excuse me, sir, we need this dog.” The professor pointed at 13 with his electric rod.
13 ran toward Fenix and cowered behind his legs wagging his tail, but the rod wielding professor was not hesitant to grab Fenix by the shoulder to shove him aside. Upon hearing their thoughts, Fenix instinctively punched the rod wielding professor in the face flat out cold and took the electric rod from his hands.
The professor with the shackles approached Fenix pleading, “you must be very groggy from whatever experiment Coswell did on you, but you need to step aside because that dog is danger—,” Fenix thoughtlessly jabbed the end of the rod into the professor’s chest sending a rush of electricity that left him twitching on the floor.
Fenix turned to Professor Coswell and pointed the rod at him. “Now you tell me what you did to me!”
“I was trying to give you peace of mind!” Coswell argued leaned his back onto his computer desk. He appeared to be padding the desk behind him in search for something.
“Well it didn’t work!” Fenix approached Coswell with the rod as 13 continued to watch in bewilderment.
(Where’s that cyanide? The subject is unstable; I must put him out of his fury immediately!) As soon as Coswell thought it, he noticed Fenix’s frown tighten. Coswell took hold of a syringe containing an emerald substance, but before he could stab the needle of it into Fenix’s neck, Fenix had already electrocuted him. Coswell landed with a loud thump on the floor, causing the syringe to shatter and spill its acidic contents which sizzled on the gray stone floor.
Fenix looked into 13’s eyes for a moment and the voices ceased to crowd his head. The husky peered back panting with its tongue out. “Let’s get us out of here, pal!” Fenix attempted to pet 13 on the head, but the husky snapped and nearly bit his hand off. After the bark penetrated Fenix’s eardrums, the feint voices returned in his head slowly layering over each other.
13 snarled at Fenix then dashed towards a pouch on the desk that was slightly tied at its opening. On the string was a tag that read “Fenix.”
Fenix struggled to remember how to think while trying to drown out all the voices crowding his mind.13 grabbed the pouch off the desk and carried it in his drooling maw. That’s my name…I think. Could that give me any clue as to who I am? Fenix pondered.
13 dashed out of the door with the pouch dangling in his mouth. Fenix felt a shiver crawl up his spine so he decided to steal Coswell’s lab coat, button it up, and rush after the estranged husky while taking the electric rod with him.
Within a long corridor, 13’s hastened footsteps rattled on the tiled floor like an offbeat tap dancer. Fenix ran after 13 as the assorted voices in his head varied in volumes, pitches and timbres after each door he passed. He could not decipher even one coherent message among the mental noise no matter how hard he tried, so instead he focused on retrieving the pouch of what he assumed contained his possessions.
13 burst head first through a door that lead to a staircase, causing a shiny object to fall out of the small open seam of the pouch and clank onto the floor. When Fenix caught up, he looked at the floor and noticed a diamond ring shimmering on the grainy grey tiles.
Fenix stared at the ring for a moment and noticed that 13 was stumbling down the steps, so he decided to pick up the ring for inspection while he had the time. He kneeled down on one knee and held it between his thumb and forefinger. The cold touch of the unworn ring sent a tremor through Fenix’s head. As he picked the ring up off the floor, everything around him, from the grey tiles and stained walls began to vanish from his peripheral vision. The fluorescent lights dimmed and the cold hum of the laboratory’s air was replaced by classical music.
Fenix sat at a dining table across from a slender pale woman. Chicken wings and spare ribs were eaten clean off their bones as they scattered over Fenix’s sauce smothered plate. The woman had mixed greens salad barely eaten and the Ceaser dressing made the once crispy lettuce all soggy. She was thinly framed, save for her bloated looking belly barely creasing her tight red dress.
“Your salad’s getting cold,” Fenix teased. “C’mon, Alyssa, you’re eating for two now,” he said smiling at his girlfriend.
“I’m not that hungry, you didn’t need to take me out here tonight.” Alyssa twirled the salad with her fork. (Besides, with the baby on the way, how could you afford to spend so much money on a fancy restaurant? Why did you even take me out here?)
“Yes, I did. You deserve this,” Fenix placed his hand on the back of Alyssa’s hand and gently ran his fingers against the stretched skin over her bones. “We’ve been through a lot, and I know it felt like it was time to let go, but I can’t let you go. When I found out you were pregnant, I realized there was no one else I would want to start a family with. That’s why…”
Fenix got up from his chair and reached down his side pocket. He kneeled on one knee beside Alyssa’s chair and she turned to him hesitantly. He laid the back of his hand on her lap and she stroked his palm with hers while trying to hold back tears.
“That’s why I want you to marry me,” Fenix said presenting a gold diamond ring to her.
“Oh, Fenix, I was starting to think you didn’t love me anymore because—,” Alyssa set the tear free from her eye that was beckoning to roll down her cheek and it smeared a line of mascara down her face. She gently patted her cheek with a napkin with her other hand and looked at her spoon that protruded a widened reflection of her face. (I’m such a fat slob. How can you even make love to me? I bet our kids would be embarrassed to have me as a mother.)
Alyssa looked away from Fenix, but he reached upward to turn her face towards him again. “Don’t ever think that. I wouldn’t have spent my entire last week’s paycheck tonight if I didn’t love you. I could re-accumulate money, but a woman like you only comes once in a lifetime.”
Fenix’s gaze pierced through Alyssa’s soul and she could not help but say, “then my answer is yes. I will marry you,” for Fenix’s undying devotion to her had proven to be impeccable. He took the ring out and slid it over Alyssa’s finger with ease, for it easily looped around her skeletal finger.
Fenix stood up and fell back causing a loud bang onto the metal door behind him.
The ring fell from his hand and rolled down the cracked steps of the laboratory staircase. The high pitched sound of the gold ring rang through his ears as it bounced down the steps.
Fenix panted and looked around him, and the voices began pouring back in briefly to replace the high pitched tone of the falling ring. He frowned and noticed 13 return his glance to him from below the steps. 13 regained his footing after stumbling down the steps and dashed down the next flight of stairs with the pouch still drowning in his saliva.
“Come back here! I saved your life! You could at least remind me of mine!” Fenix screamed his lungs out and the reverb of the staircase thickened his voice further. As he ran down the steps nearly tripping over the lab coat, he questioned mentally where this hostility in his voice was coming from.
13 recklessly barged through another door that lead to an empty narrow hallway. Fenix ran in as the door was still swung open, but fell to his knees. The voices became much more deafening as if he were an old man at a heavy metal concert. He stumbled and passed through doors that each had tiny well enforced glass windows. Each room was padded from the ceiling to the floor and was occupied by patients in straight jackets. Some were pacing around, some lay on the floor shivering, while other asylum patients in their cells were causing themselves bodily harm by banging their heads on the walls or biting themselves.
Fenix looked ahead to see that 13 dug his muzzle into the pouch. Fenix could barely walk towards him on the account of his numbed legs and the voices that ceased his every step. 13 seemed to have bit down on something within the pouch and pulled it out onto the floor. For 8 feet away from where the photo was dropped, Fenix dreaded the staggering that would follow in his effort to reach it.
Fenix continued stumbling forward as 13 retrieved the pouch off the floor. 13 ran past him and headed back to the staircase. Fenix dropped the electric rod so he could hold the sides of his head tightly in attempt to keep it from exploding due to all the noise. He dashed towards the photograph bearing every suicidal and hostile thought emitted from the lunatics that inhabited that floor. Fenix fell face first to the floor next to the photograph to learn that it was facing blank side up. He got up on all fours and crawled to it intending to flip it over, but he feared the unexpected infiltration of his senses from the touch of it. In his hesitance, a rush of maniacal voices began lamenting what they have done or failed to do, and in turn wished either death upon them selves or everyone else in the world.
“SHUT UP!!!” Fenix screamed finally reaching the photograph. He closed his eyes expecting it to overtake him as he laid his fingers on it. He opened his eyes and continued hearing the voices pouring in, each more violent than the last. Desperate for the clutter of thoughts to end, he flipped the photo over and saw a picture of what appeared to be two teenagers; one male and one female. They were standing in a well decorated living room with a shelf of books and movies behind them, and an urn on top of the fireplace as they were smiling for the camera. Fenix felt as though the photo had a gravitational pull on his eyes sucking him into it.
Fenix knew he was in the living room now, but somehow felt that only his consciousness and not his physical presence, was able to perceive what was transpiring. The urn had rolled to the far side of the wall near the kitchen entrance, and the shelf of books and movies had been pulled down onto the floor, as books and DVDs as well as the ashes from the urn lay scattered around it. The TV screen had been shattered just like the coffee table that had been flipped upside down.
A young adult male with a black eye surveyed the living room. “Alice! I need you to help me clean this shit sty!” He walked over to the hallway and knocked on the washroom door. He heard his twin sister gagging and the expulsion of waste splashing into the toilet. “What the hell are you doing in there?! Are you throwing up right now? You better fuckin’ not be! Dad should have never told you why mom was never healthy enough to—” He choked on his next word then banged his fist against the door.
Panting in rage, he waited until he heard staggered foot steps approach the door. As soon as he heard the door unlock, he pulled it open immediately and Alice dropped to the floor. He kneeled by her side and said, “don’t torture yourself like this!”
“I’m not trying to lose weight, Dallas!” Alice said using all the force her breath can muster. It only caused her head to spin and her red ringed eyes to tear up. Dallas sat her up and rested her back on his knee. “I just can’t believe we did this to dad. It’s very hard to stomach that I had to let it out!”
Dallas helped placed Alice’s arm around his neck and helped her up to get back on her feet. “Gross. Clean yourself up and then give me a hand cleaning up the house.”
(No.) Alice thought. (We killed mom and made dad’s life a living hell since we were born and now this?) Alice shoved him aside and protested, “No! Why didn’t you just pay Stefan?! He wouldn’t have come here and wreck our home like this! Was it all worth it for your stinkin’ nose candy?!”
“Hey!” Dallas grabbed Alice by the shoulders tightly digging his thumbs into her collar bone. His grip formed purple bruises on her pale chest. “How the hell was I supposed to know you were dating my fucking drug dealer?! That’s probably how he knows where we live! So don’t pretend like me and dad didn’t hear you moaning from the basement every night at 3AM! Why we didn’t fucking say anything, I don’t know.”
“Hey fuck you! This is your fault!” Alice slapped Dallas across the face on the same side his black eye was on, and the skeletal solidity of her hand caused Dallas to stagger backward. “Dad owes a shitload of debts for the car, the house…everything! What do you do with your money? You blow it all on blow. Not a single cent from your pockets—”
“I know…I should’ve helped out a little with the finances.” Dallas rubbed his cheek and gave his dear twin sister a sad puppy dog look. “I fucked up big time.”
“So what did dad say to you before he left? I couldn’t hear with all the puking,” Alice mused, attempting to make light of the moment.
“He said he’s leaving and never coming back until we BOTH get our act straight,” Dallas said, “so that means you gotta quit that modeling gig of yours.”
“No! There’s nothing else I’m better at,” Alice argued.
“You’ve got to be better at something than posing in ridiculous clothing that no one will ever wear and starving yourself to death.” Dallas choked on his words struggling to continue. He burst into tears unable to say what he was thinking. (I wish dad had only said something to mom about her bulimia. She wouldn’t have to die giving birth to us. Maybe he’d be less lonely that way.)
“You know what? I’m packing my things.” Alice said stomping up the stairs. “I’m out of here!”
“What? Why?! Where are you going?” Dallas grabbed her by the wrist.
“To follow in dad’s example and leave this sorry excuse of a home!” Alice pulled away to free her arm and continued heading up the stairs. (I’m a murderer at birth and you’re my regrettable accomplice. I need to start fresh, I can’t take this anymore.)
Dallas sighed and shook his head, then grabbed the broomstick from the couch and looked at his mother’s ashes. (I’ll salvage all I can of you, mom. I’m sorry.)
Fenix stood up finally managing to look away from the photo and end his mental travel to what he identified as his home. He ripped it apart and crumpled it. With the rips momentarily muting the voices around him beckoning to pester his mind, a security guard returning for duty approached Fenix to speak to him.
The security guard studied the name tag on Fenix’s stolen lab coat and said, “Professor…Coswell? I don’t think we’ve met, but is everything alright? Have you been disturbed by one of the patients? Hey what’s that in your hand?”
Thankful for security guard’s direct speech temporarily muting the voices, Fenix let out his hand for him to shake. “Yes everything is alright, thanks for asking.” He tossed the crumpled photo behind him. “I just…lost track of one of our canine subjects that has been set loose.”
“Is that what that is for?” The security guard asked motioning to the electric rod on the floor. “Because I could help you,” he reached for his own taiser strapped to his belt.
“Oh yes! Precisely…” Fenix let go of his hand and fought to improvise further until a loud voice on the PA echoed through the halls.
“Attention! A human male subject had recently escaped from his assigned lab testing.” Fenix recognized the voice, it was Professor Coswell. “Surveillance has identified him as a man who had stolen a lab coat and was last seen in Sector Y: the Patient Holding Cells.”
The security guard Fenix had just met studied him harder and noticed that he wore nothing else beneath his lab coat except for pin sized holes scabs all over his skin. The sides of his head had crusted with dried blood and chips of it fell away as Fenix scratched them in nervousness.
Fenix dove to the floor and grab the electric rod. He tumbled forward, stood up, and hurled it at the security guard’s head to knock him unconscious. He retrieved the electric rod and looked onward to the staircase.
The lights dimmed and red lights mounted on high up on the walls began flashing as an alarm came blaring through the megaphones surrounding them. Fenix let out a guttural screech that tore his throat apart. The alarms incessant buzz pounded through his head like a battering ram being pounded to eardrums. It caused him to hobble through the hallways as he took cautious, but quick steps constantly surveying his surroundings for possible exits.
As Fenix hurried down the stairs to the bottom floor of the research facility, he looked back to see four security guards jogging down the stairs from above ready to put him in his place. Fenix felt them gaining on him, so he put his hands up in surrender and slowly placed the electric rod onto the floor.
“Okay, you got me. Let’s do this without the violence, alright fellas?” Fenix said jokingly serious without turning around.
“Keep your hands where I can see ‘em! I’m going to cuff you as standard procedure, but I promise I won’t do you any harm,” the guard slowly reached for the taiser at the back of his belt. (Heheh, that always earns their trust.)
Fenix sweated bullets, probably more bullets than the horde of guards’ guns can shoot; lest they need to if he made a daring escape from his present situation. He shook in his knees, and the feeling helped him realize he had regained full control over them, but just a moment too late.
The one guard slowly advanced on Fenix, but before he could lay a hand on his shoulder, Fenix heard a loud bark and a the sound of bone crunching. A guard from atop the staircase yelped in pain and came tumbling down, knocking the 3 others down the stairs like dominos. Fenix swiftly rolled aside to avoid getting piled on like the guard behind him.
13 came pouncing down the stairs, pouch still in maw and looked at Fenix. He started walking away to a door and turned his head to face Fenix, to which he asked, “you want me to follow you?” After Fenix took his first step to trail behind, 13 guided him outside of the facility and out onto a large courtyard. They dashed towards the front gate and they had little time to spare, for a pair of guards patrolling the main door chased them down.
“How are you gonna get out of here?” Fenix asked 13. 13 sniffed at Fenix’s lab coat pocket and pulled out a keychain with numerous keys dangling from it. Fenix picked up the keys off the concrete ground and with all his regained strength, climbed over the gate and leapt down onto the other side. “Don’t worry. I’m not leaving you behind!” Fenix attempted to stick every key he had into the gate lock hoping the next would be the correct one, but the guards had caught up to 13.
13 looked behind him and tossed the pouch of Fenix’s possessions between the gate bars. “No!” Fenix cried out banging on the gate as one of the security guards electrocuted the helpless husky. Seeing the convicted look in their eyes, Fenix grabbed the pouch and ran off into the distance long before they could open the gate. The two guards would chase Fenix down, but it required the both of them to carry the unconscious canine subject back into the facility.
After hours of aimless venturing through the city, Fenix barely survived hearing the thoughts of citizens swarming the crowded streets. Though, every now and again, silence would interrupt the voices pouring into his head and he would try and guess which direction it came from.
Fenix finally found the source of the calming silence as he approached a park by the lakeside, where he saw a man in a white robe and an uncut beard meditating as he sat cross legged on a boulder. At first he expected the silent sanctuary to be devoid of human beings, so he instinctively feared approaching closer, but the guru’s presence seemed to have radiated a peaceful atmosphere for Fenix’s mind to enjoy peace and quiet at last.
The guru’s eyes opened and took a glance at Fenix without a thought or judgment. Fenix sighed in relief and looked at the pouch in his hand. Fenix was anxious to open the pouch and examine the rest of its contents, but instead he threw it over the fence and let the lake consume it in its calming ebb and flow.