Chapter 8A Chapter by Rylan Leif
I got a chicken pox vaccine in the fifth grade. I had chicken pox when I was 4.
I awoke to the sound of birds screaming in the trees. I sat up and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. The sun was shining bright between the leaves of the trees whose spindly branches loomed over me, low enough so that they almost touched my face. Light refracted off the dew and rainbow spectrums clattered against my skin and on the grassy patch where I was sitting. The air was warm and slightly sticky, making small beads of sweat trickle down my spine.
I stood up and listened for the birds again but their yowls had faded and were replaced by a symphony of insects chirping whose songs were comforting. I slipped into a consciousness of bliss as I strolled down a path lined with the hanging trees. The leaves were a spectacle of colour palates, no two were alike. Each tree had its own array of sparkling reds and brilliant blues.
There was no particular direction to my walk, I just trudged along through the thick of bushes and the underbrush of the forest, and I had this urge that I was looking for something even though I had no recollection of having lost anything.
A hollow screech split the air shattering the peaceful serenity of my waltz through the woods. I couldn’t recognize where I’d heard the call before but the screech was hauntingly familiar and it struck fear into my stomach. I ran.
The sky was fading to black and I could barely see the trees and bushes that I was dodging as I ducked and weaved through the forest. The calls kept following me until I came to a clearing and all fell silent.
My heart was doing hurdles and I was sweating bullets. I spun in circles trying to determine a direction to run. I couldn’t decide because the calls were no longer decipherable, I knew I was still being followed but I didn’t know where the creature was.
I started off in one direction and my fears were realized as a low growl emitted from right in front of me. I backed away slowly as two yellow eyes emerged from the darkness. They belonged to the solid black raptor I had seen come through the portal at Cere-Tech. My stomach sank as another growl came from behind me. I turned to see the white raptor’s face that was mere centimeters from mine. Its violet feathers were shaking menacingly at me.
I tried to back away from both of them very slowly to run, but the second I moved they were on me. Their killing claws slashed at my stomach spilling out my entrails and their teeth gnashed at my face, screams erupted from my throat and were bogged out by the sound of blood squirting from my throat. I gasped for air and tried to claw at the animals that were tearing me part but it was useless. The pain was burning through every nerve in my body and I started to pass out. The raptors’ jaws that were drenched in my blood faded away along with the sounds of my flesh tearing and my innards snapping.
Shyloh and I jolted awake, both howling. Our screams surprised Reese and Trix who were startled out of bed, Trix hit the floor and Reese jumped out of her sheets.
“What the hell is going on?” Trix shouted.
I calmed down and let reality sink in once again. I looked at the carnage of sheets on my bed, I clawed through some of them and tore my pillow and everything was drenched in sweat. Shyloh’s looked the same.
“Sorry, it was just a nightmare.” We both said at the same time.
“Of what?” Reese asked. She seemed like a concerned mother trying to console her children. The feeling was strange but oddly comforting.
“Mine involved me getting eaten by raptors.” I said
“There’s no surprise there I guess. Do you both often dream the same thing?” Reese inquired.
We both nodded, “Not all the time but pretty often. Although when it happens there’s usually a lot of details that are slightly different.” Shyloh said.
“Yeah like the colours of things are different or the details of people are altered.” I continued. “Mine for example had trees that were bright blue and green and the raptors were the same as the ones that they brought back a little while ago.” I looked to Shyloh to hear her variations but she just stood there very silent. “Shy? What was different in yours?”
“What do you mean nothing? We couldn’t have had the exact same dream.” I pressed for her to explain every detail of her dream and she did so. She described everything as it was in my dream; the birds screaming, the crickets, the colours of the trees, the temperature, the calls and colours of the raptors--everything was the same.
“That’s pretty creepy.” Trix said, strumming her fingers on her chin inquisitively.
“This is probably a blessing,” Reese advised, “this means that you two might be on a very similar brainwave which will come in handy when you have to control your dinosaurs today. At least, I hope that’s what it means.”
I sat on my bed in silence and waited for breakfast to arrive. No one made conversation for the entire hour it took for the Blues to come in with the silver trays of gelatinous slop. Reese and Trix had fallen asleep while Shyloh and I stayed awake exchanging nervous and excited looks at each other. It was strange to notice that Shyloh was actually feeling more anxious and excited rather than nervous. Normally I was the chill, worry-free kid but something had changed. The overhanging loom of death draped my thoughts with shadowy creatures and shards of fearful trains of thought that burrowed deep within my brain. When one of the Blues placed my tray on my lap I noticed that I had chewed my nails so much that they were gnawed down to the skin and some of my fingers were bleeding a little.
I heard Shyloh gag from across the room, “Blech! Good to know my taste buds are working again.” She spat out a forkful into a napkin and tried to scrape the taste off her tongue.
Trix laughed at her, “I told you it would be a pain in the a*s. Just hold your breath and swallow it without letting it sit on your tongue too long. That’s how I do it. Eventually it becomes bearable.”
“I don’t see how that is humanly possible.” Shyloh eyed some of the blue mush that was drooping off her fork. “And look at Reese! She’s just shoveling this crud down like it’s god damn cookies!”
“Clearly you’ve never eaten hospital food before.” She said, swallowing another forkful. “As far as I’m concerned, this is practically gourmet.”
It took forever for Shyloh and I to stomach all of the food. Reese and Trix finished there’s in mere minutes and took the opportunity to taunt us with gagging noises until we finally swallowed our last forkfuls. I cursed them with every chance I got but I did enjoy the playfulness, it took the edge off of what was bound to be coming next.
My heart sank as I watched Dr. Priya’s beady eyes burn through the window. Every muscle in my body tensed as the door unlocked and slide open with its all too familiar whoosh.
The Beast walked in with her Blues tight on her heels as usual. She smiled at us before training her eyes on Reese.
“Hello again partner.” She hissed.
“Still exploiting the brain matter of innocent teenagers I see?” Reese retorted. Tension filled the room, threatening to smother all in its path.
“Anything it takes, as ordered by the stars. Right Reese?” Dr. Priya’s words were snide and almost slippery; sounding as though they were being uttered from a forked-tongue. I had no idea what the Beast meant by those words and as I looked around, no one else seemed to know either. That is, except for Reese whose eyes were no longer locked with Dr. Priya’s but were instead glaring at the floor in defeat. There were the faintest traces of guilt in her expression. She remained there, eyes glued to the floor and huffing her breath out in anger--she didn’t say another word.
“Are you excited to meet your dinosaur counterparts?” Dr. Priya asked, turning her attention towards Shyloh and I. She led us out of the room and into the hall before we could answer.
“To be honest we’re both a little bit nervous.” Shyloh muttered.
Dr. Priya let out a surprisingly excited squeal that made me jump. “Oh! There’s no need to be nervous! You two are in very capable hands here.”
“Trix told us about the incident with her brother.” I said flatly.
Dr. Priya’s face dropped ever so slightly, “No one regrets the mistakes leading up to that event more than I,” she didn’t sound too convincing to me, “but those mistakes will never ever be repeated. We will have some soldiers accompany you into the room to ensure that there are no accidents. Don’t fret, these incidents only occur if the animals don’t take kindly to the invasiveness of the Stigchem, but you have Cere-Tech’s full confidence that such a situation will not happen.”
We were making our way through the Menagerie when new waves of nerves washed over me. When we passed the Raptors’ pen, they were missing and the reality of the situation started to really sink in. My sister and I were about to be face to face with two of the most dangerous creatures any human has ever faced. “What exactly is Stigchem?” I asked, trying to rid my mind of the inherent dangers that were biting at the back of my mind.
“All will be explained once everything is set up.” Dr. Priya replied.
She led us to the back of the Menagerie. I expected to be heading through the doors that led to the test room that we’d been in before, but the Beast hit us with a curveball and we took a sharp right that led to a fairly unspectacular wooden door. It looked completely out of place in the lab. It was a solid white door with a gold knob, much like one that you’d find in someone’s home. I was sure that the slight sense of security that the door gave me was false and would dissipate the moment we stepped through it.
When Dr. Priya opened the door we were greeted with gut-wrenching roars and hollow shrieks. My mind flashed back to the nightmare, images of shredding skin and blood-curdling screams bounced back and forth inside my skull. God I hate being right all the time.
I didn’t want to see what was lying in wait for us but I had to look and there they were. The very essence of my nightmares. The raptors stood before us in chains, trying to leap at us so they could tear our limbs off.
“Don’t be afraid,” the Beast assured, “they cannot reach us. Their chains aren’t long enough for them to get a claw near you and the chains themselves are made of a blend between titanium and Kevlar. The combination makes them out to be unbreakable.”
This fact was a little comforting, so I allowed my body to relax and my heart to slow down, just a smidge. But there was no way in hell that I was going to turn my back on the raptors. They’re sneaky, crafty and clever by nature; I was in no condition to be letting my guard down. I enjoy all my limbs to be firmly attached, thank you very much.
“Follow me through here so we can do some preliminary tests and then the fun will start.” Dr. Priya pushed us through yet another door. We sat in the chairs that faced the window into the room where the raptors were currently residing that, now that I had focused a bit more, resembled an old arena like the Coliseum in Rome. The room was monolithic; it looked larger than the entire hospital and lab combined. There were kilometers of sand-covered floor, stands that could seat more people than Rexall Place and a series of lights that resembled the magnitude and brilliance of the Sun. I had no idea how Cere-Tech found room for all of their crap, but I had to admit it was breath-taking.
“Alright,” Dr. Priya declared, “so this all has to start off with an injection of Stigchem into your brain stems.” Our eyes widened in shock and fear as Dr. Priya pulled two massive needles out from behind her back. They looked bigger than my arm, although don’t quote me on that because I was hysterical at the time, and the black chemical inside them was looked like it was boiling menacingly.
“You are not getting that god damn thing anywhere near me!” Shyloh yelled.
“Relax; we’ll apply some numbing gel to the injection area so you won’t even feel the prick.” Beast’s plastic smile remained just as unconvincing as ever while Shyloh remained uneasy, “It’s either that way or we can get the soldiers to shoot you and knock you out.” The malice in Dr. Priya’s tone was blatant and unnerving. She had never spat out her words at us with such distaste before.
“Okay, fine. Hook me up with some of that numbing gel and let’s get this crap over with!” Shyloh clenched my arm so hard that her knuckles were turning white and my blood vessels were popping.
“Very well,” Dr. Priya said, her smile widened and her eyes flared with excitement. She snapped her fingers at one of the Blues behind her. “Fetch the numbing gel and swab them.” The Blue nodded and disappeared into a storage closet for a few moments before returning with a bottle filled with sparkling red gel. He forced our heads down, with incredible force I might add, exposing the napes of our necks.
I felt the cool sensation of the gel pouring over my skin as the Blue squirted it from the bottle, then all the feeling went away. The numbing effects of the gel were almost instantaneous. He finished with a grunt and tossed the empty bottle into a trashcan.
I couldn’t move my neck very much, the sensation was too weird, but that probably wasn’t a bad thing considering I had to watch Dr. Priya slip the insanely large needle into Shyloh’s neck. I was quite surprised to see that the needle didn’t poke clear through Shyloh’s face.
When all the black liquid had seeped into Shyloh’s head she winced. I felt a slight burn in the back of my head when the needle was pulled out. She waivered for a moment as Dr. Priya stepped in front of her; Shyloh passed out a few seconds later and collapsed into the Beast’s arms.
She looked at me and noticed my look of panic, “Don’t worry this is normal. You’ll pass out for a few minutes and regain consciousness when the Stigchem has bonded to all of the neurons in your brain.” She slumped Shyloh’s unconscious body back against her chair and made her way to my neck with the second needle.
My head was still hanging low, leaving my fleshy nape vulnerable for an attack by needle. Dr. Priya slid the needle in; it felt like someone was pushing hard on my neck. At least she was right about not feeling the prick. The next thing I felt was the rushing of fluid in my head as the Stigchem rushed into my brain making me dizzy. My eyes were crossing and the floor kept shifting. I saw a rush of white lab coat in front of me and then I passed out.
© 2012 Rylan Leif
A Grand Unraveling