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Laboratory: Part 2
His fingertips are cold on the soft flesh of my arm as he inserts the needle. I gasp with pain, but the sting is temporary, and it fades away. I feel myself drift away, into the air, toward the high whitewashed ceiling, a mere particle in space. I wonder what my voice would sound like if I were allowed one. Would it be quiet and rasping like Dr. Ilyas’s, soft with the aura of a gentle caress? Would it be loud and harsh, grating to the ears, like the voice of Dr. Ilyas’s chief surgeon? Or would it be beautiful, a musical yet almost sorrowful tone, as was the voice of the assistant called Mara?
I wish, not for the first time, that I might be gifted with a functioning voice box and the skills of speech. But the experimental subjects of Project Perfection are not allowed to speak, for fear that we may grow to view ourselves as one of the natural society. So I have no voice, and I will never be granted one. I have always relished in the sound of others’ voices, possibly due to my lack of one.
The sharp silver needle is withdrawn from my arm and I gaze at the white gauze pad that my current Counselor is pressing to the injection site. I feel a slight vertigo, but I resist the urge to recline in the plastic chair I am sitting in, because it might cause an inconvenience to the Counselor.
I am suddenly wracked by a series of shivers that travel all the way down my spine. I gasp with fright and surprise, and my Counselor leaps back from his position crouching next to me. Pain courses through my body, pain that quickly molds into pure, unadulterated agony. I double over, clutching my stomach as it folds into knots. Wet tears stream down my cheeks and I find myself shaking violently. A wretched burning substance rises from my stomach into my throat, and I vomit onto the floor in front of me. I feel the substance rising again, and I lean forward so the vomit doesn’t land on my bare feet.
The bitter contents of my stomach burn my tongue and the sensitive tissue of my gums. Disgusted, I summon some saliva and spit onto the neat tiled floor to my right, but nothing will eliminate the terrible taste in my mouth.
“Get up.” This one’s voice is harsh like that of Dr. Ilyas’s chief surgeon, but I have a feeling that his speech is not naturally rough, that he is simply upset with me and it is showing through in his tone. Oh, the miracles of voice. Yet again I am overcome by yearning for my own voice, the ability to express myself through language and tone.
He clenches his fist around my upper arm and yanks me to my feet. I feel woozy and the vertigo returns, but I swallow to refrain from throwing up again, because I sympathize with the Counselor’s anger. He will be disciplined, perhaps by a reduced salary, perhaps by decreased privileges; simply because the medication he injected me with clearly is not functional, and it was his team that happened to produce it. He has a right to be irritable.
“Fryderyk!” barks the Counselor as he slams the door of the experimentation room and shoves me ahead of him. He releases my arm and tells me to wait for him. “This one threw up all over the floor of Room 29. Go tidy it up, will you?”
The janitor, a short dark-skinned man with an unusual mustache, nods matter-of-factly and heads over to clean up my mess, a mop in one hand and powerful disinfectant in the other. The Counselor gets a tight grip on my shoulder and shoves me ahead of him. He strides down the hall beside me, holding my shoulder, his cold fingernails digging into my skin. We pass a familiar intersection and I prepare to turn left and head down another hall to the Data Center, in order for my Counselor to report the defective nature of his creation, but instead he pushes me across the intersection and we continue into another wing of the building. Bewildered, I sneak a glance up at the man, whose olive-skinned face is grim and whose sharp fingernails remain painfully embedded in my shoulder.
“We’re going to a room you’ve never entered before,” he supplies as my only information, and my confusion deepens. I furrow my brow, apprehensive and curious at the same time. I had thought that I’ve been to every wing and room in the Laboratory Headquarters, excepting the labs of course, but it is manifest that I was wrong.
We pass a few nurses, surgeons, and lab technicians in the hall, some of whom peer at me curiously as the Counselor and I hasten by. I only see one lab subject, a tall girl slightly older than me, titled F45 if I remember correctly. Evidently this section of the building is not commonly used for experimental subjects such as myself. Suddenly I feel even more wary before, and chills travel throughout my body. I am reluctant to walk any further, but I must, because the Counselor is pushing me ahead. He senses my resistance and snaps at me gruffly, instructing me to move faster. He tells me he wants to finish this as soon as possible and return home, to his wife.
“I want to get home and see my family,” the Counselor says with a strange air of regret, but I am too focused on his previous words to pay much attention. What is “this”? What does he want to finish? Fear washes over me, overcomes me, weakens me to the extent that I bend at the knees. As we walk I struggle to extract the ConsulJect device from the pocket of my thin laboratory robe, desperate to ask where we’re going, to discover what is going to happen to me. But the Counselor grabs my hand and holds it tightly in his own to prevent me from taking the ConsulJect and communicating with him through his thoughts. Apprehension rises within me like an illness, like the feeling that I experience before vomiting when I’ve ingested a deficient test medication.
And then, finally, the Counselor halts abruptly before a door and turns toward it. Still clenching my hand tightly in his frigid fist, he withdraws an electronic key from his pocket and points the laser toward his face. He scans his eyes with the key, followed by the metallic tag on the door. The key blinks once, neon green light of approval. My heart pounds against the walls of my chest, so loudly that I wonder if the Counselor can hear my fear in every heartbeat.
“Open,” he commands, and the door unlocks with a series of distinct clicks that echo in the empty hall, instilling terror in my very soul. Uneasiness seeps out of the room and into me, but I know I must accept whatever fate the Counselor and his team have in store for me. I swallow, hard. The Counselor places his hand on the doorknob and it swings open. He releases my hand and touches the small of my back, then pushes me into the room.
We have arrived.