Chapter Description: Three adults turned teenagers must either uncovering the truth behind the experiments or end up as its latest victims
Losing Weight(Chapter 5)
Three adults turned teenagers must either uncovering the truth behind the experiments or end up as its latest victims
The three teenagers met again at the elevator at their way down to the cafeteria for their lunch.
“Do you know what there is to eat,” Michelle asked.
“I hope french fries!” Anton admitted.
“Pizza!” Michelle said. “What do you want Christine?”
Christine wasn't in the mood for talking, so she let Michelle babble on. Her own test by the doctors had only shown her how the limits of her memory and her brain felt like a mouth where some teeth were missing, which textures she barely could remember to remember, if at all. Having come back to her room she had found Anton and Michelle watching music videos, telling each other stories from school … high-school the two thought they were still visiting. Seeing no cartoons was a relief, still Christine had thrown the two out, had claimed she needed to rest. That wasn't even a lie.
Now she still felt tired, especially watching Anton throw the football like a high-school-football-star and Michelle smiling to it like a lovesick teenager. Watching them made her feel alone and maybe to a point jealous of their peace of mind. Still there was something she had to do, something she had to try out.
“Anton?” Christine asked.
The boy turned around and looked at her in surprise. Christine just smiled and gave him a kiss. Long, deep and sweet. Afterwards she looked in his eyes. One heartbeat, two … Michelle giggled and the elevator arrived.
“Now I'm hungry,” Christine explained and stepped into the elevator, while Anton still stood there speechless. “Do you want to take the stairs?”
The meal – they had been served mac and cheese – had been filled with nonsense talk, about which restaurant was the best, which class the most dreaded and which was the best holiday experience. Michelle had given a dozen examples, Anton two, though they sounded more likely to have happened and Christine one she was sure to be true. Once they had eaten, Anton suggested a round of throwing the ball outside, to which the girls agreed.
“I lied,” Anton admitted once they were outside and had formed a triangle to pass the ball. “I remember being 41.”
“You are not!” Michelle insisted, catching the ball. “You are as old as me!”
“I guessed so,” Christine replied.
Anton starred surprised at her, causing the ball to bump of his breast.
“Not at first, but at the elevator. The way you looked at me when I kissed you,” Christine explained. “It was like you did something forbidden.”
Anton picked up the ball and threw it at her.
“Why should you even lie?” Michelle asked.
“Because I'm pretty sure the company bugged our rooms. Maybe they have a camera installed there,” Anton explained, as Michelle threw the ball to Christine. “Dr. Anderson he … it was pretty obvious he was in on what I and Christine did yesterday.”
“Ooh!” Michelle replied giggling.
Christine tried to ignore the feeling of shame for having been watched by something she only barely remembered.
“Even if,” Christine threw the ball to Anton. “Why?”
“Remember when we stood here this morning?” Anton asked and both girls nodded. “The doctors were surprised, sure, but they weren't surprised about us getting younger, or you not remembering. They were surprised I still remembered being an adult. They checked our memories every day, because they knew we would lose them, but were surprised when I didn't.”
“Why should they want us to become children in body and mind?” Christine asked.
“My best guess: They want us to become sleeper agents,” Anton said, throwing the ball to Michelle. “We forget, they give us false memories and set us up to illegal stuff. No one knows how we look thin, not to speak young. Dr. Robinson admitted this stuff allows for great muscle growth, so the training has more than one reason.”
“Sounds like a tv-show!” Michelle commented laughing, throwing the ball to Christine.
Christine remained silent a moment. After all she had experienced herself and with Michelle, this seemed much too plausible to her taste.
“What if it was a mistake,” she asked after holding the ball a while “Or if they planned to make us young, but return us to our old age at the end of the time and the memories are to return.”
“Could be,” Anton admitted, as Christine threw the ball to him. “Still, I want to find this out.”
“How?” Christine asked.
“Remember the id-card you found and brought us vodka with?” Anton asked Michelle, throwing the ball at her.
Michelle caught the ball scowling, finally shrugging her shoulders and throwing the ball to Christine.
“You passed out and when we carried you in your room. I put the id-card into the cabinet by your bed,” Anton explained. “Tonight, I want us to have a look at the part of the building the staff wants to keep a secret from us.”
Christine nodded, but Michelle looked unconvinced.
“It is an adventure,” Christine intervened. “A secret mission.”
Michelle giggled. “I'm in!”
“Good,” Anton sounded relieved. “12:30 pm. Try not to sleep too tight. I will creep into Christine's room, waking her and Christine will do the same to you. Then we will go through the building as silent as we can. If there is something fishy, we call the police, steal a car, or simply run. Best have your wallets with you.”
Michelle looked a bit intimidated by these options, but she nodded.
“As long as our parents don't learn of it,” she said.
“They won't,” Anton promised, catching the ball from Christine.
“Sounds like fun!” Michelle said.
“Could you give us a minute alone?” Christine asked the other girl.
Anton looked at her surprised, but Michelle just smiled knowingly.
“Anton and Christine sit in the tree k.i-s-s-i-n-g!” Michelle teased, hopping away.
“Just say nothing of it inside,” Anton asked the girl as she left.
Michelle sealed her mouth with a gesture before running inside, though probably no one of the three could say to which she had sworn secrecy to.
“She is still not stable,” Anton commented.
“She changes from 15 to 8 and back,” Christine admitted. “I mean cartoon horses … if she doesn't get some of her memories back, it might be best she is regressed to ten. She won't function as adult and if you send her to high-school with this body and mind she either ends up an outcast again or pregnant.”
Anton looked troubled.
“You mentioned she had had a hard time even when growing up. Maybe she is suppressing it and just needs a therapist,” he suggested, obviously not comfortable with her suggestion. “Maybe our memories will return when we are back to our real ages. But … you mentioned she had a hard time when she was young. Maybe. Just maybe. The drug is removing the memories of it the way it healed your leg and removed any scar.”
Unconsciously Christine touched her left leg.
“Would it be good to force her to remember then?” She wondered.
“This is just a theory,” Anton noticed. “Look I had no problems if she drank the waters of Lethe willingly, but these doctors never gave her a choice.”
Christine though about this, but her thoughts became distracted by looking at Anton. How easily he passed as a teenager when he didn't speak. She saw how the sun seemed to glimmer in his brown hair and something else.
“Kiss me,” she asked him.
She moved closer to him before he could step back.
“Someone is watching us out of the window,” she explained. “Kiss me or it is suspicious.”
To this Anton actually lowered her lips to hers and they kissed. It lasted a heartbeat or two, Christine felt the same restrained, the same reluctance from him. Finally, she let go.
“It will do,” she guessed. “But hold me.”
Anton did and Christine knew from them windows of the building they had to look like any high-school-pair.
“I've made a decision,” Christine revealed. “Even if your worries turn out wrong, even if they are willing to help us, I will not go back to 40. I will stop with the drug tomorrow.”
Anton looked visibly concerned.
“If you fear getting overweighed again ...”
“No. I was worried, but this won't happen. I know it. The accident robbed me the future, the life I always dreamed of. This is a second chance for me.”
“You deny yourself your true life,” Anton threw in. “You might think being 40 sounds scary, but ...”
“There might never be another chance,” Christine noticed adamant. “Even if I'm healthy at this age, even if I get my memories back: It would be twenty lost years. If I don't get them back, or only in little pieces or even the way Michelle did, I will spend the rest of my life having to put this mess back together. No. You might think I'm only a scarred teenager – well, I'm scarred – but I know myself well enough and I think I know my future-self well enough to know that I would regret it.”
Anton was silent a long time, then he nodded.
“I can't and won't force you,” he relented. “But if you have a change at heart at twenty, I will help.”
“Thank you, Anton. You are a friend.”
This caused Anton's cheeks to redden slightly.
“What about you?” Christine asked. “Are you not tempted to see what you could do with the body of a twenty-year-old?”
Anton was silent a moment, then he shook his head.
“25, maybe, better 30,” he noticed. “But 20 … It wouldn't right. It wouldn't feel like me. I didn't play football in college, but I came through. This part of my life is behind me. It feels like … like I earned it to be older. I know it doesn't make much sense. Besides, maybe I can start a family and …”
Anton looked into Christine's eyes and then away. The words unspoken, but present.
“Anton. What happened yesterday. Let's say we were both over 21. Okay?”
Anton nodded. Christine gave him one last short kiss, before making a step out of his embrace.
“You are a good bo … man Anton,” she noticed. “You would be a good father and whoever you might marry can be happy.”
With this she turned and went for the building, leaving Anton in the beginning evening to ponder.
Anton had switched the alarm clock to silence the moment he heard it. Silently he lay in the darkness of his room, trying to listen for steps on the floor outside, trying to calm his heart. Nearly as silent he slipped out of his bed and dressed in darkness after picking up his clothes. He felt the reassuring weight of his wallet in his pocket. All the proof of who he really was. It felt almost like a protective charm.
After checking the floor through a slit of an opened door, Anton crept out and tiptoed to Susanne's room. He entered and found her already awake, turning away while she dressed. Together they went to Michelle's room and fetched her the same way, while Anton took the card.
There was no opening to the locked part of the building on their level, so they went down the staircases, not wanting to risk the elevator. Michelle giggled and made a show of tiptoeing, but she was quite enough. On the second level Anton used the id-card on the door to the right. It needed a second, but to his relieve a green light flashed on and they could rush through the door. Actually, Anton felt more than relieved, he felt excited in a way he hadn't since he had been a child and crept with friends through backyards, they had no business being in. He didn't feel like Michelle obviously did – god no – but the bit of excitement didn't feel bad and even seemed to sharpen his senses, so he didn't fight it, but exchanged a knowing look with Christine.
The part of the building they were on was seemingly an extension of the other test rooms on the other side of the doors. The teenagers could hear voices and slowly moved into this direction, stopping when they recognised them as those of Dr. Robinson and Dr. Anderson. The voices came out of the only room on the floor still lit, so Anton led Christine and Michelle to another room, near enough for them to eavesdrop and dark enough that no one passing it would notice them. Pressed into the shadow they listened.
“Andrea,” Dr. Anderson's voice said. “You are preaching to the wrong one again.”
“They have the recordings. The test results. This is a breakthrough Sam. The breakthrough we hoped for. We didn't see it because we didn't look for it and now, they can't see it,” Dr. Robinson's voice sounded desperate. “If Kathy or Andrew can't see it...”
“They can only verify what they can test. If we knew why Lubowsky could keep his memories things would be different, but now his mind has regressed, too.”
“He is faking,” Dr. Robinson's voice sounded bitter and despite himself, Anton felt a shiver run down his spine. “I would bet all my money on it.”
“I saw him and Gomez share a moment in the yard. It wouldn't surprise me if they make it out again. Seemed pretty genuine for me,” Dr. Anderson's comment made Anton and Christine exchange glances. “It makes no matter. Either he doesn't remember or he doesn't cooperate. We have only two days to get repeatable results and there is nothing in the file or in the blood.”
A moment there was silence.
“Maybe we will find something in a few weeks, when we review the case with the rest of the team,” Dr. Anderson noticed. “For now, we better prepare to see all of them completely regressed the day after tomorrow.”
“I don't want to go to Kindergarten again!” Michelle complained.
She had whispered it, but Anton still ordered her with a gesture to be silent. A quick eye contact with Christine showed that she understood. It wasn't even Kindergarten, the doctors so casually planned for them, but maternity ward. They listened, struck with horror.
“Let us go to sleep,” Dr. Anderson suggested. “Tomorrow is busy again.”
“You are still with me with letting them turn 20?” Dr. Robinson asked.
“Sure, it would at last be interesting if any memories resurface in Mrs. Gomez about her accident, or if Mrs. Carter’s memories stabilize. Maybe even Mr. Lubowsky will remember again … or just trust us enough again to show he remembers. Still, I don’t have too much hope.”
Anton would have loved to beat the man’s last hope out of him with a baseball bat. Never would he believe a word of them again. Never be their guinea-pig again. Before he could think about it further, the doctors walked out of the room, closing the door and switching the light off behind them. The teenagers waited a long time, until they heard the door of the floor closing and then a bit longer just to be sure.
“We have to get out of here,” Christine finally said. “Quick.”
“Yes,” Anton agreed. “But let us check the room first.”
“We need evidence of who we are and what they have done with us.”
Reluctantly Christine nodded, while Michelle showed a thoughtful silence, which surprised Anton, but made him hope some memories had returned. Checking the floor first, they crept to the door the doctors had come out of and found it open. They entered as quick as possible.
“Christine, listen if someone is coming,” Anton said.
She did so, while he switched on a small desk-lamp. and went through the heap of papers lying on it. Meanwhile Michelle wandered around, curiously looking for any sign that the doctors were the mad scientists she thought they were.
“Ihh…”, she said when she discovered the rat in the cage.
“Shhh…” Christine whispered.
Michelle rolled her eyes. Her friend overreacted. There weren’t any grown-ups near, so they could talk normally. Then she remembered the mad scientists talking about turning them into small kindergartners – younger, a voice in her whispered – and tried to be silent. This failed only a moment later, though.
“Look!” she said, pointing at a wall.
Despite her better judgment, Christine walked closer, discovering the drawings hanging on the wall. To be exact, they were the outline of a jumpsuit, filled out with colors. The colors got brighter from left to right, until they were downright silly.
“So, they had a group of kids draw this?” Michelle asked confused.
“Not a group,” Christine corrected her. “Look!”
She pointed at the top of the sheets. Each one showed the name Garry Thompson and the last version with the most brightly colors had the age ~3. In it Garry hadn’t been able to stay in the lines and crossed them a few times with what could only be crayons. Even the filling looked rough and like done by a pre-kindergartner.
“I …” Michelle stuttered. “I can draw better than this.”
Christine could have asked her how her driving skills were lately, but decided to turn the sheet with the age 35 around instead. On its back were a set of questions.
How do you feel?
Christine remembered the question they had asked them and felt a sudden kinship with the man. Where was he now? Who was he? How many of them had there been?
Christine knew there was no answer, so she put the sheet back. She wanted to go back to her post by the door, but something at the wall near the moonlit window caught her attention. It was a cane. Drawn to it like hypnotized she inspected it closer, picked it up and touched its surface. At last, she tried it out, propping herself on it.
The pain shot through her left leg like a burning arrow, up from the knee to her hip. Hot and expanding it felt to Christine like the leg burst, splintering to thousand pieces. Along came the shadows of memories. Of screeching brakes and burning rubber, of a … and her own screams. Maybe she had screamed, in reality, too, she couldn’t say, for she only regained clarity, when she noticed Anton and Michelle kneeling besides her, both clearly worried, the latter even holding her hand.
“Christine,” Anton whispered, his voice full of worry. “Can you hear me?”
“Yes, I’m …” Christine looked down her left leg, seeing with relieve that it was healthy. “I’m fine. Just a flashback. Can we go now Anton?”
“Just a minute,” Anton replied to her despair. “Let me help you up.”
She let them help her. Standing Christine still felt the pain – the memory of the pain – but kicking away the cane helped. She would never need it again. No matter what happened.
“What is it?” Christine asked.
“Come to the table,” Anton asked her.
She slowly limped to the lit lamp. The memory of the pain which was only a memory itself was still strong, but she knew it would pass. At the table were various sheets with charts, formulas and some scientific stuff, a bit of which she believed to remember from her chemistry class. What Anton pressed into her hand was something she understood completely. It was a file with her name on it. Christine opened it.
The photo she saw of her old self was no longer a shock. The mass of her body made her uncomfortable, but the way she looked into the camera showed that had never given herself up. This was something she felt she could always be proud of, even if she no longer remembered. There was more than one photo of course. Data and reports about her life she no longer could remember. Reports about friends, online activity and even some information they must have gotten from a private detective.
“They had us watched, got hold medical data, as far down as our birth,” Anton confirmed. “The whole loosing-weight stuff was staged from the beginning.”
Christine looked up from a copy of her high-school diploma. Anton's own file lay open and she could see a photo of a man in his forties. He had been thick like she had been, but behind the mask of fat and years she recognized Anton. Still, despite her knowing they were one and the same, she couldn't bring herself over accepting it in her heart, less the time they had had together would be forever tainted.
“Michelle this is yours,” Anton said, handing another file over to her.
Reluctantly Michelle took it. She didn't want to open it. Everything in her told her it would hurt her, but like in the story about the woman who carried the box with all the woes of the world, she remembered the teacher telling them about once, her curiosity got the better of her. The picture of the thick woman greeting her on the first page was shocking. She had tried to smile, but this didn't reach the eyes. The face showed the signs of years of pain, disappointment and hardship. Loneliness most of all. Who was this poor woman?
You, the sad voice said, the real you.
“No,” she whispered.
Despite her denial she read on.
Michelle Carter. Obese since early childhood. Little social interactions online and in real life. Signs of depression. Parents died early. Low level risk of vanishing being reported.
“This isn't me,” she said, looking up to the others. “It is fake.”
“It is you,” Anton insisted. “It is the part of your life they have stolen.”
“Anton ...” Christine warned, having noticed the tone in the other girl's voice.
“Liar!” Michelle shouted, loud enough for the whole floor to hear, before running away, throwing the file on the floor.
Christine gave Anton an angry look, before dropping her own file on the table and following the other girl. Anton cursed himself, put Michelle's file back on the table and rearranged everything so that no one giving it a passing glance would notice the difference. He then grabbed his own file and ran after the girls, remembering to switch off the lamp only in the last second.
There was no clue on the floor where the others had gone. For a moment Anton feared that he had to look through every room, but then he noticed a slight movement as the door to the staircases fell shut. Knowing he had no better options, Anton crept through the door as fast as he could. To his relieve he heard voices coming from further up. He walked upstairs and found Christine holding Michelle at the top of the stairs.
“Hey,” he began. “I'm sorry. Okay?”
Michelle looked at him, her eyes being teary.
“I already spoke with Christine about it,” Anton continued, sitting down beside her. “I think it would be for the best if we remember everything, but no one will force you. Especially not me.”
“I just ...” Michelle's voice broke. “I just don't want to be alone.”
“You can live with me,” Christine decided. “When all is over.”
The girls hugged for a long moment and Anton was about to urge them to move on, when Christine looked up.
“I hear something,” she told them “It sounds like someone... is crying.”
She turned around and faced the door to the third floor.
“We should go,” Anton insisted. “If we are caught ...”
“The person might need our help,” Christine replied.
Anton saw that Michelle was on her side, so he gave up and followed Christine, as she slowly opened the door. The floor seemed empty, so the three crept through it, nearing the sound of the crying they could now hear clearly. On their way they passed doors leading to rooms looking much like the ones they slept in, making Anton guess it had just been an extension of the area reserved for the patients.
The room the crying came from turned out to be just like that, except it contained three cribs. They needed a moment to realise that it were large cribs. Adult size. Large enough to hold them comfortably and safely, as even the top was enclosed in another piece of bars. And all three were occupied.
Michelle gasped, holding her hands before her mouth. Christine just starred with large eyes and ashen face. Anton, not really knowing why, moved forward to make sure he didn't miss any detail. There were adults in each of the cribs, though Anton had problems calling them such. In the shine of the night-light, their brightly decorated, footed romper suits nearly seemed to glow. The thickness around their waists showed that they wore the fitting underwear, too and the smell in the air proved that at last one had made good use of it.
In a dreamlike state, Anton went nearer and checked the clipboards fixed at the end of the cribs. Carl Brunt, he read at the crib of a man in his twenties, who was seemingly fast asleep, with a thumb in his mouth, original age 45, current age 20, mental age around 9 months. Then Anton went to the next crib. Hillary Dranfurt, he read, looking at the girl with bunches, who seemed a teenager like them, but starred at them over her pacifier with all the innocence of a baby, original age 27, current age 17, mental age around 1 ½ years. Then there was the last crib, the one the smell clearly came from. A man in his twenties stood there, having stopped crying the moment they had entered. Stuart Clover, Anton read, original age 71, current age 21, mental age 2 ½.
“Mr. Clover,” Anton tried with a calmness he didn't really feel. “Can you understand me? Do you remember being an adult? Do you remember being big?”
The other man's face turned into a scowl. The not yet dried tears were clearly visible on his reddened cheeks. Absent-mindedly he touched the yellow duck sewn on the chest of his rompers. He seemed to think.
“Me big!” he finally declared, but before Anton could even feel the slightest relieve, he added proudly: “Me did big caca!”
Anton felt like someone had kicked him into the stomach. He wanted only to leave this room, but when he turned around, he noticed the baby phone resting on a chair between this crib and the last. His eyes grew wide with horror, but before he could beckon the others to hurry and be silent, Christine turned to the door and listened.
“Someone is coming!” She whispered.
For a moment they were all frozen, then Christine pointed under the cribs and quickly crawled under the one next to her. Anton and Michelle followed her example and had vanished under the other cribs barely a second before the door was opened completely and someone switched on the light.
“Who is crying here?” a male voice asked.
Anton felt a wave of relief wash over him. The man didn't come for them. He had to have been already on his way, when they had talked.
“Me did big caca!” Stuart proclaimed proudly from the crib over Anton.
“I can smell it from here,” the man standing at the entrance noticed. “Oh well.”
With this he opened a cupboard and took things out Anton couldn't see. He then came straight to crib Anton hid under and opened the bars.
“Wanna play with kids!” Stuart complained above, as Anton could feel how he was laid on the mattress.
“It is not play-time, it is sleep-time,” the man said. “And right now, changing-time. Boy how I wish you were little already. You make way less mess then.”
Anton looked through the man's legs to Christine, lying under the next crib. Her eyes reflected his own terror. This terror only grew, when Hillary, the adult baby in the crib aside from him, lowered her head to the mattress and looked straight into his eyes. Her smile seemed to grow over the terror she saw, until the big pacifier dropped out of her mouth, right onto the floor before Christine's wide-eyed face.
Hillary wasn't done, though.
“Biw gids!” She proclaimed loudly to the whole room.
The man turned around and the way Christine's face turned grey Anton believed her close to fainting. Anton himself felt close to the heart-attack he had always feared due to his overweight.
Now I will get one while fifteen and healthy, Anton thought, somewhere god is laughing.
It was Anton though, who felt a mad laughter rising in his throat and bit on his fist to keep it in. Luck was on their side once again, though, since the man didn't bow low or even crouched to pick up the big pacifier, but held his upper body high enough for Anton to not see his head.
“Stupid kid,” the man replied patiently, while giving the pacifier back to Hillary and not even guessing what she had wanted to tell him. “Big stupid kids with big messes. Two more days, then you will be little stupid kids with small messes. Can't tell you how I look forward to it!”
Anton believed to hear something rustle over him.
“You might even have time to play in the sandpit again, once the three others are babies like you,” the man suggested. “Wouldn't you like this?”
Anton didn't, but above him he heard Stuart answering.
“Down the slide?”
“Sure,” the man replied kindly. “And you will even be able to swing. Enjoy it. After this it is all the way down to infancy for you. You will need to wait a year before you are big enough for even walking again.
With this there was silence, as the man above Anton did his work. Even Hillary had begun to be bored by Anton. Instead, she took her clothed feet as close to her face as her adult body allowed it, which wasn't close enough for sucking at them as she had probably intended. Frustrated she looked at them with interest, nearly as if she understood that something was wrong with them. That her body wasn’t as flexible as he should be.
“So, all nice and clean,” the man finally proclaimed and closed the crib above Anton. “Sleep well. I and the staff have a lot of packing to do tomorrow.”
With this he turned away, packed some stuff in the closet and left after throwing a bag with the soiled diaper into the trash-can near the floor and switched out the light again. The three teenagers waited in their hideout. Two minutes, five … In the end Anton couldn't say how long it had been. When he finally crawled out from the crib and beckoned Christine to do so, too, the adult babies were asleep already. Seeing them obviously dreaming peaceful dreams, Anton realized that he, Christine and Michelle had pretty much been like the monsters under the beds of little children and the man hadn't noticed. The irony nearly made him laugh and he had to work hard to control himself, staring at the baby-phone.
We aren’t, he reminded himself, it are these people who are the monsters.
He and Christine needed some silent begging to get Michelle out from under her crib. Anton couldn't blame her, he would have stayed under his until his limps fell off, if it had helped, but by daybreak latest they would be searched for, so they had to hurry. Finally, Michelle gave in and all three crept to the door, slowly opening it and discovering that the corridor was empty. Christine listened and then nodded. Anton felt clumsy, like his limbs were filled with lead, as they tiptoed on the floor back to the door they had come from. The was nothing about the excitement from earlier in him, it had been wiped out by the realization of the deadly seriousness of their situation. It was only back in the staircase, that the three of them felt secure enough to even breath normally again.
“Not like them,” Michelle begged with tears in her eyes. “Please. Let them make me old, or thick, or lonely, but let me not end like them.”
“No one of us will,” Christine assured her, sharing a look with Anton. “But why did they do this to them? Why regress their minds?”
“Memories,” Anton noticed. “They first made them very young and then back to adults to see if any memories return. They didn't.”
“We have to get out,” Christine said after a moment.
Anton nodded. He respected her coolness, but guessed she mainly stayed level-headed for Michelle, much like he did for them.
“Out of the main gate,” he told them. “I know no other way.”
There wasn't anything more to say. As silent as possible, they crept down the stairs, until they reached ground level. There they checked the floor and crept into the direction of the exit. Again, it was Christine, who stopped first, a heartbeat before Anton heard the sound of steps. Silently he urged them into the next open room and closed the door behind them. Still, they could hear the voices clearly.
“Good stuff,” a slightly drunken voice said.
“Don't let the doctors find you while smelling of it.”
“They have other worries right now. Besides they can be happy that we haven't flipped out after all this stuff going on here.”
For a moment the men remained silent. Then they continued to talk directly in front of the door.
“Do you sometimes fear they will get rid of us when this is over?” The more sober voice asked.
“Nah. You see too many movies. No one would believe us, even if someone talked and as soon as the product is out, we are rich thanks to the stocks. You know how cautionary they are with the test-subjects. Do you think they want more missing persons to cover up? We ...”
They walked out of range and Anton was thankful for it. The way these two simply didn't care what they did to other people was sickening. More than that, the way their talk of stocks reminded him of the same topic he had breached once when talking to Dr. Anderson. How the man must have laughed inside!
When he turned around to see if Michelle and Christine were fine, he noticed for the first time that they had fled into a store room. It clearly wasn't the one Michelle had had the vodka from, though, since this was filled with supplies for younger persons. Much younger. There were strollers standing in the corner, along with high-chairs, much to Anton's relief normal sized ones and not for large babies. In the shelves were mostly packages of formulas and other baby or toddler food, along with sippy cups and bottles. Most prevalent though were diaper-packages. Someone in the company responsible for this had either believed this operation would run for years or believed it in bulk-buying. There were dozens of diaper-packages of many brands in sizes from 1 to 7. Among them were training-pants, swim-diapers, and even GoodNites for children with bed-wetting problems.
Dozens of babies seemed to look straight at them. They happy faces normally used to advertise the diapers to parents, advertised something else.
See how happy we are, they seemed to say. You can be so happy, too! No more worries, or need to creep around at night. Just go back to your rooms and tomorrow everything will be a dream. Soon you will think only of games, toys and nursery songs. Let mommy and daddy take care of your bum-bum and they will make everything all right!
Anton pressed his file closer to himself, needing a moment to realize he still held it. If felt good. A proof of his adult life, but at the same time it seemed close to become some sort of plush he needed for security. He let go of it a bit and looked around to Michelle and Christine, who looked as tired as he felt.
“It isn't long anymore,” he promised. “We go out off the main gate and run into the countryside. We are far off any city, but there should be enough places to hide off the road even if they come after us.”
The three teenagers crept cautiously forward, ready to jump into the next open door, should there even be the hint of more footsteps. There weren't, and when they very slowly opened the security door, they found the floor on the other side empty, too. Their hearts beating hard, they passed the deserted cafeteria and finally reached the empty reception with the door leading to the driveway.
It was when they finally stood outside, that they realized that they were still trapped. The gate was closed and locked, as Anton learned when he shook it. The cyclone fence wasn't unscalable, but the barbwire at the top made it rather likely they would be hurt, if they tried to get over it. A quick look back at the building showed Anton, that some of the windows were still lit, so he crept back to the entrance door.
“What can we do?” Michelle asked worried.
Anton got an idea. He walked back inside the reception. There was a phone, with a post-it-note, remembering the receptionist to dial the 0 to phone outside.
“Whom will you call?” Christine asked, while they kneeled behind the counter.
“The police,” Anton answered, dialling 0-999.
There was a long silence and Anton was starting to believe the police had no one on the phone, so they had to try crossing the barbwire. Finally, someone took up.
“Driar County Police,” a sleepy sounding voice started. “How may we help you?”
“This is Anton Lubowsky. I have … “ Anton hesitated a heartbeat. “I have been kidnapped. I and two girls. Michelle Carter and Christine Lopez. We are held in an old hospital building. 1 ½ hours from Laketon. Please you must help us.”
The man at the end of the line was silent and Anton feared he wouldn't believe him. He surely wouldn't if he had told him half of the actual truth. There were silent whispers in the background Anton couldn't quite understand.
“My colleagues are tracing your call to make sure this isn't a prank,” the man at the end of the line explained. “You know you will be in trouble if this is a prank call, boy.”
“Yes, I do,” Anton said, taking no offence in the term boy. “It is no prank. Please hurry! They might stumble on us.”
“Okay. We have traced your call. We know the building and have a patrol nearby. Twenty minutes and they are there. Where are you hiding?”
“The reception,” Anton explained. “Make them drive to the driveway. The building is surrounded by cyclone fences. Tell us and we will come out. Please no sirens, or they might come down too early and find us.”
“Sure, son,” the man at the end of the line promised. “We are no amateurs. Just wait and be silent. I will tell you when you can come out.”
Anton felt a wave of pure relief wash over him. He would have embraced the police officer had he been there and most likely would do with the first one he saw, no matter what it did to his chances of explaining his true age. A look at Michelle and Christine showed him they felt the same. Together they waited under the table for what seemed to be an eternity.
“Still there, kid?” The voice came out of the telephone again.
“Yes,” Anton replied. “Is it save?”
“It is,” the man assured him. “Just go out – the three of you – and everything will be fine.”
Anton gave Michelle and Christine a sign. As silently and quick as they could at the same time, they rushed to the door. Half on the way, Anton believed to hear footsteps. It made no matter, not any more. Without looking back, they walked through the door … and were greeted by five men of the staff, including Dr. Anderson, waiting for them in the driveway. No police car was in sight, nor would there ever be one, as Anton realized with horrifying clarity.
“It is over,” the doctor said. “Just come with us. Don't make this hard for you.”
Anton intended to make it at last hard for them. While Michelle and Christine froze, he made a step backwards to flee inside, only to discover another five man of the staff, led by Dr. Robinson, who gave him a nearly apologetic look. Desperation let one last hope bloom in Anton. He turned around and ran, his file still close to his breast, straight to the line of the men waiting outside. In the last second, he made a dash for the left. He could make it and once past them, maybe he could evade them long enough to find a weakness in the fence, to find a way out, run away, get help.
This hope came crushing down, when someone tackled him from behind, making him fall down and loose his file in the process. Anton struggled to get free, but the grip was too strong. A look back revealed his captor to be James Allwood, the same man he had played football before, now looking at him with regret in his eyes. More were coming, holding him down while Dr. Anderson pulled out a syringe.
“It won't hurt,” he promised.
Anton didn't believe him anything. With all the strength his frustration, anger and fear gave him, he managed to rise one last time, forcing the grown mark to work hard to hold him down. A second later he felt the sting of the syringe in his arm. The last thing he saw before his vision grew dark, was the picture of his older self, ripped free of the file, lying in front of him on the grit.
To be continued…