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Aftershock

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Robert walked quickly through the vacant streets of Denver with his head down and hands shoved deep in his pockets. The city was a dangerous place to be lately, what with the disappearing people and all. Rumors were spreading that “evil scientists” had drugged citizens and taken them to a lab to be tested. Robert didn’t believe them of course, the ideas in themselves were completely insane. But there was still the pressing matter of the missing people... Roberts’ shoe scraped against the sidewalk and in his moment of pondering, he stumbled into the gutter.

“Oof,” he huffed and threw his hands out to keep from falling in a puddle. “Aw c’mon.” Wiping the muddy splotches from his hoodie, Robert noticed a plastic bottle peeping out from a dirty baseball cap beside the curb. It wasn’t uncommon to find trash lying around on the ground, but this one had a note written on it in sharpie.

“That’s new,” Robert said. Gingerly, he reached out to pick it up.

Get out of here, it read, I mean it, go! All the fantastical ideas of scientists kidnapping you are true. It’s not just a poke and a prod, it’s much worse than that. They inject- the words smeared due to the dampness of the water- into your body and release you back into the world for observation. These things aren’t tested. You’re the test. You’re the one who gets to- the words smudged again- doesn’t like the sun. Your skin gets to sizzle and pop as your organs wither away in the smoldering acid that is now your blood. Yeah, ouch.

Robert flipped the bottle over, ignoring the feeling of Deja Vu creeping up on him.
“It’s not legal. They shouldn’t be doing this, but they do and it sucks. If you’re still standing there reading this, then run! It’s too late for me, but you, you have a chance. Don’t come back here. This is- the bottle ran out of space.

“This is what?” Robert cried in frustration. “You can’t just leave a note like that and have it end with ‘this is-“ He stared at the street around him, just noticing how empty it really was. The brick apartments with broken shudders suddenly took on a foreboding air and the potted flowers lost their vibrance. The shadows along the walls seemed to grow with every second of the setting sun. Were the scientists here? Was it possible that they had already seen him? Slowly, Robert stood up and took out his cellphone, but what was he supposed to do? Call the police over some stupid note he found on a Sunny-D bottle? They’d laugh in his face.

I’ll call Brian. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll call Brian and get him to pick me up. He dialed the number.

“Hey man, what’s up?” Brian asked, sounding as laid back as ever.

“I need you to pick me up. I found this note telling me to get out of here and the handwriting looks really familiar and like what if it’s one of our friends that went missing? I don’t know man, it’s really freaking me out.”

“Dude, it’s probably nothing,” he sighed. “Okay, where are you?”

“I’m by the corner store at-“ Someone grabbed him from behind and pressed a cloth to face, covering his nose and mouth. Robert gagged; chloroform. He struggled to break free, kicking at the man’s legs and pulling at his hands, but the drug had already taken its effect. Robert’s body slumped and his phone cracked against the concrete. Call ended, it read.


“It’s sad that this keeps happening to him,” a voice sounded. “I mean he’s just so stupid. He crawls back to us every chance he gets.”

Robert opened his eyes, blearily trying to make out his surroundings.

A man laughed, “But at least we always have us a subject.” Robert felt a series of needles puncture his side.

“Hm, indeed.”

Robert groaned. Where was he? All he could see was this blinding light…and his head was pounding. God it hurt. He moaned again. Suddenly the light overhead swiveled in a different direction and a person came into focus. Robert blinked a few times, ridding his vision of haze, and saw that it was a young African American woman. She had sleek black hair and a lighter skin tone. She seemed friendly enough, but Robert knew better; she was wearing a white lab coat.

“Would you like some water, Sweetie?”

Robert shook his head; he wasn’t going to accept anything from these guys.

She put on a mock pouty face, “Aw look at you trying to be brave.” She slammed the cup on a tray beside her. “You’ll want it later.”

An older man carrying some cords shuffled over to them. “Hook him up, Kenisha,” he grunted.

“Yes Sir,” she took the cables and attached them to the tabs on Robert’s already bare chest. He tried rolling off the table, but found he was strapped down with metal clamps on his wrists and ankles.

“Don’t bother trying to escape, you already know you can’t,” the man half-heartedly warned.

“What are you doing to me?”

“Ugh, I’m so tired of having this conversation!” Kenisha groaned. “Can’t you for once just wait and see what happens?” She pressed a button on a machine next to him. It buzzed and squiggly lines appeared on the screen. Robert let out a small gasp when an electrical shock coursed its way through his body.

“What is that?”

“Just the beginning of the process,” Kenisha smirked. “Oh, I suppose you’re wondering what that is too. Well, we insert different chemicals into your body to see how they react to different conditions and if they are successful…or semi-successful with side effects.”

Robert looked shocked, “How can you do this to people?”

“Oh please. You’ve got the nicest of our experiments. At least you aren’t cut open or directly tortured.” She passed a quick glance to the old man. “All’s a go, Sir.”

“Good. Put in the last vile and then fuse them.” Whatever that meant probably wasn’t good. Robert struggled against the clasps as Kenisha stuck an IV in his forearm. Then she brought over another needle and injected some green-tinted formula into his vein.

“Help!” Robert screamed.

“No one’s going to hear you,” Kenisha typed a code in the machine and again hit some button. “Fusing the chemicals with your blood is painful. Good luck,” she sneered and waggled her fingers at him. Walking through the exit door, she locked it behind her.

Another shock ran through Robert’s body, this one more painful. His skin felt like it was going to peel off, his blood boiling. What was happening? Robert twisted his head and cried out, beads of sweat forming at his temples. His body temperature was rising and the chemical effect increasing. His body felt like it was submerged deep underwater, the pressure enshrouding him. An invisible weight on his chest made it impossible to breathe and he gasped for air. The machine let out a series of beeps and Robert slammed the back of his head against the table.

“Don’t hurt him! Please! Please don’t hurt him,” a panicked voice cried out. Robert wearily looked in the direction it had come from. “Just let him go, I’m begging you,” a woman pleaded. She was a petite lady with curly blonde hair, and she was clinging to a man who looked similar.

“We’ll do anything,” he said.

“Ah,” Kenisha appeared, “so sweet trying to save your boy.”

Robert was horrified, realizing that they were his parents. “Mom,” he croaked, but she didn’t respond. “Dad,” he tried again. No answer. Robert’s body convulsed into spasms and he foamed at the mouth. Arching his back he let out an agonizing scream.

“Aurgh!” He collapsed back onto the metal. Trying to clear his blurry vision, Robert looked back at his parents who were now bound to the wall with elastic cables.

“This should be fun,” Kenisha smiled.

His mom was leaning forward and desperately trying to console a weeping child who sat in front of them.

“It’s okay, honey. Mommy’s going to be fine. See?” She smiled, “Fine.”

The kid anxiously twisted his baseball cap between his hands. The same blue one that Robert used to have a while back. It even had the same stain…with astonishment, Robert realized that the boy was him. Another spasm shook his body and his eyes rolled to the back of his head. When again they focused there were two body bags on the ground near a bloodstained floor.

“No,” Robert breathed, “No!” He found new strength and pulled at his restraints. They wouldn’t budge but Robert was prepared to lose a hand if he had to. The metal claps dug deep into his wrists, but he was beyond pain. Even when the blood formed a crimson pool, he wouldn’t cease. Finally, a current so strong sent his body into temporary paralysis. Robert’s eyes drooped and he collapsed against the table.


The first thing Robert noticed when he awoke was that the blood had been cleared away and his wounds stitched. He was no longer sweaty, but his hair was matted and his body stiff. He grimaced.

“Well well, look who’s up,” Kenisha said as she scribbled something on her clipboard.

“You murdered my family,” Robert accused, his face stony.

“Yeah, but that was years ago,” she waved him off.


“What did you do to them?”

“Do we really have to go through this every time?” she sighed.

“What do you mean?”

“Every time you go through a new phase in the procedure you always remember something different that happened in the past and I have to explain it to you.”

“Every time?”

“Yes, you’ve been here for eleven examinations.”

Robert felt like the wind had been knocked out of him, “Oh my God.” Suddenly very frightened, he struggled to push down a wave of panic.

“Your parents tried to keep you from being of help to our scientific advancements, so we tested some of our theories out on them instead. How much pain would a parent withstand before giving up their child? Quite a lot actually.”

Robert couldn’t breathe. There was no recollection of this event ever happening and he was angry. How long had this woman been toying with his life?

“You, you are a sick, twisted mongrel,” he spat. “You tortured my parents to unimaginable lengths just to get them to give me up. All so you could experiment on me and toy with my life. This- this, this company is evil. I know what you are and I know what you do.” Flashes of memories and terrors started coming back to him. “I remember. I remember what you did. You aren’t going to get away with this! Because I know.”

Kenisha looked at him with disdain. “Yes,” she replied cooly, “and then you forgot.”

She placed a mask on his face and he tried to wriggle away but was still strapped down.

“Hang on, Robert. Hang on to the memories,” he heard his mom whisper.


“Augh,” Robert groaned, lifting his face from the cement. “Aw man, I must have blacked out.” Slowly he sat up and tested his limbs to see if they were okay. Everything seemed fine, but he felt a little sore.

He rubbed his head and muttered, “Dude I gotta stop drinking so many energy drinks. Crashing on the street’s just not okay.” Robert leaned against the building behind him and noticed some trash collecting beside it: a ratty hat and an old juice container.

“Jeez people, the trash can is seriously five steps away.” He picked up the items and dropped them in the bin beside a broken cell phone. “I better get home,” Robert looked up at the sky, “It’s probably way past midnight.”

He zipped up his jacket, meaning to walk to the corner store where he’d phone a ride to his foster family. He gave one last look at himself in a puddle. His brown curls were damp and his once lively blue eyes had dark circles under them. It all seemed so familiar to him, but yet it didn’t. Pushing up his sleeves, he noticed a thick scar running up his wrist. Robert shrugged it off as nothing, probably just an injury from skateboarding, and continued on his way.



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