When Faced With Barriers As Big As Language, Race And Age What's A Scientist To Do?
Her eyes, cadaverous but vigilant, seemed to stare at nothing. Analyzing the wall, searching for answers where there were none. Silky pale pink skin with a vague tint of blue wrapped in a plain white gown, purple rings under her lapis lazuli
orbs. Her blond hair pooling around her shoulders. I watched, from the monitor, propping my elbow on the escritoire ahead of me and twirling a pencil between my fingers. She drew her legs into her chest and rested her chin on her knees. She looked so vulnerable. I wanted to succor her. That’s why I was here. That’s why I was still here after hours, insisting on observing her. She immersed me. Not like the others. I wanted to assist the others too, of course. It was my job. Her. Her in particular. She kept me absorbed in this field. She was different to the others. Hidden depths that had me tuning in like this every night since we caught her.
Snapping her head towards the gyrating camera on the wall, like a animal caught in headlights. Piercing my soul. My heart leaped, scaring me. It was as if she could see me. My moves. Dropping her feet to the cold floor, slapping dully she approached, I could see every detail of expression on her dainty face. Her mouth moved but I couldn’t hear a word she said. I attempted to lip read. All I picked up on was: Lonely, Bring, Home, Now. Her fangs sparkled under the dim room lighting. I shook my head. She couldn’t go home. Not now. Not when we had so much more research to do. Reading my mind almost, her eyelids drooped, face scrunched in frustration. Her hand shot up to her head and her legs seemed to buckle. I got to my feet.
‘Open the door!’ I called out to my assistant, lying back in his chair sleeping
He jerked awake, instantly springing his hand out onto the bright red emergency button to his right. I rose with speed, holding a concern in my chest for subject four, willing for her to be okay. Willing for her to be alright. I ran, breath coming quick but I didn’t care. I had to get there. I had to check on her. She was my project. My break through. She couldn’t die now. It couldn’t end now. By the time I’d reached the door, it was too late. His attempt to warn me was belated.
‘Patrick! Watch…’ Cut off, as she clawed out for me, holding on to me
I froze, helpless in her grasp. I expected the worst, a bite, forcing me to join her. My eyes fixed on hers, seeing something shine, a hint of who she was. She pulled me nearer until I could feel her breath on my neck. I shivered, inhaling shakily, fear holding me still. I couldn’t push her off. The uncertainty had me paralyzed. Though I braced myself, she made no further move. I couldn’t help but notice that she didn’t look threatening at all. Her features were light and rounded, pretty and feminine. For the first time, she revealed her thick, honey-like voice. Like a serenade from an angel.
‘We… are… not… animals…’ She whispered, my fingers holding on to her fragile forearm, leaving bruises almost
Joe appeared in the doorway as she took a step away from me. I expected to turn away and just leave her there, for she seemed tame enough, but my friend had something else in mind. Seeing her gripping me so tight, seeing her so close to me, assuming she would feed, he overreacted. Pulling his anti-vampir waepen from its holster at his hip, he used his deadly aim to incapacitate her. My creation, only for use on the more dangerous of her kind. At that very moment I almost regretted it’s making at all.
‘Stop!’ I cried, all too late, her body flailing before dropping lifelessly on the inlay, ‘Joe!’
‘She was attacking you!’ He called, waving the gun in my face until I reached out and slapped it away.
‘She was trying to tell me something!’ I growled, dropping to my knees next to her, lightly touching her cheeks, her hair
‘Do you talk to your dinner?’ He mumbled, turning on his heel and retreating
‘Oh, no you don’t!’ I shouted after him, stopping him in the door frame, ‘Get Andy in here, we need to get her to the Medical Room’
‘She’s a vampire Patrick!’ Joe sighed, arms crossed, leaning against the metal vault, ‘I thought we were here to get rid of them, not take them in like some pet’
I looked down on her. She didn’t look dangerous, not at all. She looked innocent. A girl of no more than seventeen. An unhealthy glow to her. Get rid of her. Like she was some scourge of society. Just a little girl.
‘They’re not animals’ I grumbled, brushing stray strands out of her eyes, ‘Get Andy, now.’
‘You’re the boss’ I could hear his eyes roll from the tone of his voice.
I attempted to scoop her up, but a smile played on her pinkish lips. She was alive. Well, to some extent. Her arms lifting as I lifted her body, wrapping around my neck but this time causing no panicked reaction from me. She was cold, deathly so. I assumed that would be the case anyway. When we first brought her in, we measured body temperature at a mere five degrees. I would have to put it down to the lack of fresh blood. We had to restrict her intake, opting for the alternatives of concoctions containing iron substitutes. Of course, it was necessary to keep her ‘living’ as such. The research required an able candidate. Some would consider our specimens no more than lab rats. In a way, that would be true.
A tag around her wrist. All vital statistics.
Specimen Name: Unknown
Useful? Not very. Though, she was the only one of our five captives to have come without name or age. She wouldn’t talk when commanded to. In fact, it was only today that I had ever heard her speak beyond grunts of agreeing or disagreeing. I wasn’t ever sure she could talk.
Found: 20th of June 2008 in Eleusis Avenue
That night in June. My return home from the town crisis meeting. I remember it well. The size of the moon was incredible. Like a singular eye protecting the earth. Well wishing perhaps. Lighting my path. I had seen dangers. I was aware of the risks involved in walking down unlit back alleys. I knew all too well. That was why I did not fear. Not with my weapon at my side. Not with protection at hand. That’s why I ventured forward, down Eleusis Avenue, knowing that the creatures of this territory only materialize after Eight P.M.
That was when I spotted her, curled in a ball behind the dumpster, mid way through the corridor. She didn’t notice me. I assumed her to be human. Approaching, quietly and carefully, I placed a hand on her shoulder, attempting to comfort the poor girl. Her gaze drifted, from the floor up to my face then to my firearm. The look of fear. It burned in my memory.
‘Are you okay?’ I asked quietly, arching my back to get better eye contact.
Very slowly, she shook her head.
‘What’s wrong?’ Again, I tried to get a response, she simply look around her
‘Where are your family?’
She shook her head, no.
‘Why do you look so scared?’ I smiled, reaching out and touching her freezing skin for the first time
She pointed towards me. I was confused, naturally. She was scared of me? What had I done? I had been nothing but kind to her so far. What had she to fear?
Why are you scared of me?’ I chuckled, finding it a little absurd that I, of all people, could strike fear in someone
Ever so slowly, she dragged her forefinger in a line below her chin in a cut-throat motion.
‘You think I’m going to kill you?’ I almost outright laughed, me, the boy with glasses and a friendly smile, kill anyone? I don’t think so.
Her finger paused on the end of my gun, shaking slightly.
‘This?’ I looked down at the slightly menacing looking weapon I was sporting, ‘It’s only for vampires. I wouldn’t hurt you’
I thought it wasn’t possible, but her body stiffened further, pushing herself further back against the wall. I cocked my head to look at her.
‘You’re scared of vampires?’ I asked, pushing my holder back out of sight under my jacket.
She nodded. I wouldn’t blame her. Then, she looked up at me, pitifully. Gradually, she let her mouth open the slightest bit and traced her finger over a pointed, glistening tooth. I jumped back in surprise and instantly reached for the anti-vampir waepen. She closed her eyes and held her face in her hands, soon expecting to feel the wrath of my gun. She was proved wrong. I didn’t shoot. How could I have had the heart to? We had spoken, well, I had spoken to her in a civilised manner for the past few minutes, it would have been ridiculous of me to suddenly draw a rifle on her. It would have been unprovoked. She’d made no attempt on my life. Why should I make one on hers?
Offering her my hand, to help her stand, I replaced my weapon. It wouldn’t have done anyone any good for me to have shot her. Still petrified to her very core, she just stared at my outstretched arm.
‘Come with me’ I hushed, a gentle smile on my face, ‘I promise I won’t hurt you’
She shook her head and pointed to the spot where she was sat.
‘You want to stay here?’ I questioned, wondering why on earth she’d prefer this dingy little area to my proposal of food and shelter
Shaking her head once more.
‘You have to stay here?’ That was a more plausible reason, knowing how territorial the beasts were
‘You don’t have to’ I told her, in all honesty, still holding out my hand to her, ‘Come on, I promise I won’t hurt you’
Very slowly, she nodded her head, trying to struggle to her feet but stumbling slightly. Luckily, I managed to catch her in time, propping her up with an arm around her shoulder.
Perhaps, looking back, it seemed quite cruel of me. I offered her safety, I gave her captivity. I offered her shelter, I gave her confinement. Still, I hold, that she would be better off here than among her kind. There was no loyalty among her kind. No sense of family that I had seen. It was every man, or woman, or even child, for themselves out there. Regardless of age or gender, if you were in the way of their next meal, you didn’t last long. Subject four. The girl with blond hair. She provided me with hope. She provided me with the hope that these creatures, were in fact still human. Capable of emotions, having profundity beyond hunting and killing.
Placing her, ever so carefully, upon the white stretcher of our Medical Room, she squirmed slightly in pain. The anti-vampir waepens were not designed to create fatality, rather to stun instead. Our plan was never to wipe out the race by killing them, but by curing them. It would be certain that she was feeling the three side effects of the stun. Headache. She rubbed the palm of her hand on her forehead and inhaled deeply. Nausea. Her body curled forward slightly, tightening the stomach muscles, and she groaned. Dizziness. Her eyes were hazy and unfocused, but she still managed to follow me as I paced around her.
Dragging a chair to her bedside, I leaned over the bed. Andy, my other assistant, and close friend, arrived followed by Joe who stood still pouting in the corner. At least she was awake. The unconsciousness caused usually lasted for hours on end, hence it was unusual for her to be up and functional again within minutes. Shooting slightly angry glares out at my trigger-happy friend, I prompted him to fetch her some water. I do not usually boss him around, as you might have gathered. We three are, usually, a team. We have our disagreements but we, usually, work well together.
However, Joe had to remind me not to get too personally involved. I am a scientist after all, not a care worker. I was not there to baby-sit or indeed nanny them, just to find a cure. Just to fix them. Nothing more. I couldn’t help my empathy. They looked so human. People. They were real people. Though, as our government have told us, they are but beasts, like rats. I didn’t believe that. Neither did the other two. We had been warned, by our higher power, that getting too involved could cost us our ability to think rationally. Like showing compassion could jeopardise our research.
‘I didn’t know that you could talk’ I breathed next to her ear, she shrugged.
‘Why didn’t you say anything before?’ I asked, tracing the identity slip attached to her arm
She shrugged again.
‘Are you going to talk again?’ I questioned, hoping she would
She shrugged a third time.
I beckoned Andy over, feeling defeated. Wishing I could have gotten some information out of her, I rubbed my sleepless eyes. Sighing, as I often did when frustrated, I got to my feet. The two of us stood out of earshot from Subject four, huddled just outside the door, still keeping her in sight.
‘What am I going to do?’ I mumbled, watching her stretch out on the gurney
‘Nothing much you can do’ Andy answered, patting my back comfortingly
‘Should we put her back in holding?’ I questioned, letting Joe pass me with the drink in hand.
‘Suppose’ He picked at his nails, not really interested
‘Alright’ I mumbled to myself, heading back in to where the dainty fallen angel sipped her water
Subject four almost knew what I had to say before I had said it. Her look darted between the three of us, terrified. I reached out for her hand but she pulled away. Quick on the uptake, Joe grabbed her first, holding her, restraining her. Andy held on to her right upper arm as I grabbed on to her left. Joe took my place.
‘We’ll take her back’ Joe smiled at me, trying to stop her from struggling against his hold, ‘Prepare the juices’
I agreed, looking away from her kicking as they had to literally drag her, heels digging into the carpet. I began walking away, hearing her whimpering, trying to ignore it best I could. Snatching the batch bottles from the Medicine Room counter and pulling the vials from the cupboard, I slowly filled each with the appointed amount of liquid. Subject four was putting up quite a fight. Every time they managed to make an inch of ground, she managed to regain two in the opposite direction. Holding the five flasks to my chest, I stared at the three of them. I had to stop myself from laughing. Still, they pull and tugged at her, as she watched me, pleadingly. I was about to return to the control room when she stopped me dead in my tracks.
‘Patrick!’ She begged hoarsely, looking down to the floor at my feet, ‘Don’t…’
‘Don’t… What?’ I asked, still astounded by her new uncovered ability of speech
‘Don’t…’ The two stopped trying to get her back in her room, just held her still, ‘Don’t… Wanna be alone…’
‘You won’t be alone’ I cleared my throat, coming closer to her, ‘I’ll be watching’
She shook her head. She didn’t want me to watch her anymore? Sure, it invaded her privacy slightly but whenever she needed the bathroom, she went into a separate, blocked off cubicle. Needless to say, I never saw too much. It was for her own safety that I observed her. I’d known of others of her kind attempt suicide rather than cooperate with us.
‘You don’t want me to watch you?’ I enquired, expecting another shake of the head.
This time, her head bobbed in a yes. I was perplexed as I usually was with her. Considering that all she did in awkward situations was use her head movements to indicate a yes or no answer, it was difficult to determine reason behind her replies.
‘Keep… me safe…’ She whispered, letting all her weight rest in their hands as she tried to drop forward. Unable to hold her any longer, they both let her go, and she dropped to her knees. Leaning back and sitting on her heels, staring at me. Tears sparkled in the corners. I didn’t know they were capable of crying. Human or not, when someone cries I am incapable of ignoring it. Dropping in front of her, down on my own knees, I held eye contact.
‘I will’ I rubbed away the salty clear liquid, trickling painfully down her cold cheek.
My promise, perhaps not the best idea but I was sure it was the nicest decision. I noticed almost instantly the look of disapproval on Joe’s face. Snubbing it, I brought her to sit on the couch arranged in our make-shift lounge area. Since the three of us were the only ones working in this remote underground wing of the Fall Out Science project, it was necessary for us to stay here for long periods at a time. Hence, we all live here, almost. We have a lounge, a kitchen, a bathroom and bedrooms each. The lounge wasn’t extravagant at all. Just a simple couch, a television, two arm chairs and a coffee table.
Andy scuffled his feet awkwardly on the carpet, sending odd looks at my direction, seemingly concerned. Ignoring the pessimism of my colleagues, I was sure that there was more to her than there seemed. She must have had a past. A tale of how she came to be. If even just for the sake of science, maybe talking to her would be of more use than simply testing her all the time. It was worth a shot. I huddled near her, leaving a prominent gap between us because, though I was not afraid of her, I was aware of what she was capable. I offered her a drink, which she refused.
‘You have to drink these, you know’ I sighed, nearing slightly, placing a flask in front of her on the table, ‘From what I’ve gathered, since your heart no longer pumps, and it cannot create it’s own blood flow. You need to sustain the iron levels somehow, whether through drinking the blood of others or through iron substitutes.’
Begrudgingly, she agreed, cupping the container in her long, slender fingers and rolling it between her palms. Hesitantly unscrewing the top, she placed the lid on the table in front of her, she splashed the claret solution around the inside. Personally, I must say it does not look appetising at all. A mixture of wine and tomato juice. A sickly sweet smell and the taste of something vaguely medical combined with chalk. Not nice, but needed. Taking a sip, she grimaced.
‘Pleasant?’ I asked sarcastically, she shook her head and pulled a face of disgust.
‘No…’ She rasped, finishing the bottle and licking her protruding teeth
I smirked, she always seemed able to cheer me up. Whether she’s waltzing around her cell inquisitively or answering questions in a roundabout way. Perhaps it was the youth that she carried, the big blue eyed innocence, ironic considering what she is. Leaving the empty flask on the floor by her feet she leaned back against the cushion. Pulling her knees up in her regular stance, she thanked me silently with a look.
‘So…’ I tried moving the conversation on, making some use of her while she was out here, ‘How are you?’
She shrugged. Great, back to this already. I don’t know why she was always so difficult. It wasn’t as though I was a stranger. She seemed to struggle with words, like she knew what she wanted to say but didn’t know how to word it. She was thinking, wheels in her head turning noiselessly. I could tell by the vacant look she sported. After much deliberation she fell upon a word she felt that fitted.
‘Alone’ She stated plainly, no further explanation, not that it was needed really.
‘Why do you feel alone?’ I questioned, scooting across more, practically having our thighs touching this time
‘Only me…’ She croaked, resting her arms folded above her knees, only now noticing her tag.
Studying it, she read the words written on it. Tracing her finger over the words. Decoding it’s meaning. When it clicked, she turned to me, still pointing at the black ink.
‘Unknown’ She said, poking at the label, she grinned, ‘Not unknown’
‘What are you then?’ I nodded slowly, Joe joining us on the armchair opposite as Andy still stood sheepishly behind me
‘Alcestis’ She bit her lip
I had a name. A name beyond Subject Four. An actual name. Alcestis. A Greek name. Named after the wife of the King of Pherae. It was a beautiful name. Rather suitable. Though I would not have considered her name to be that before finding out, it seemed to suit her. She looked like an Alcestis. Cutting through my pondering, she seemed more talkative now.
‘Sixteen’ She mumbled, still pulling at her tab
‘You’re sixteen?’ I was slightly take aback, she looked older than that
‘Was’ She replied, eyes closing by the weight of her choice of tense.
She analyzed the last line answered with the word ‘unknown’. She frowned. This one must have been harder for her. It took her on average about a minute and a half to reply but now she didn’t even attempt an answer. Scratching her head, willing the answer from her brain she found nothing.
‘Where are you from?’ I query, thinking that perhaps it was the wording that had her lost.
Head shake, no.
‘No?’ I probed, not knowing how she could use a yes/no answer in this instance
‘Don’t… Remember’ She rattled, rubbing her hand over her face
Joe’s expression lightened. She must have hit a nerve. It was often not the creature’s fault that they were that way. Most victims were chosen when the numbers in the pack were decreasing. That was how many were turned, through the mixture of blood, human and vampire. Others, who weren’t so lucky, were just feeding vessels. Civilians that were happened upon during the feeding hour. Tragic, often reported by the news networks. Barbaric attack. Brutal murder. Like Joe’s parents. Both killed on their way home. One of the reasons he became a Fall Out Boy. A government project, not much unlike the army, recruiting the brighter among those in their late teens and early twenties. Being the only ones actually interested in their area, it’s not like there was much choice.
‘Guess we’ll have to update your file’ Andy snorted, disappearing to our archive in the control room no doubt.
‘Do you have a surname?’ Joe questioned, holding a notepad in his lap, taking down the conversation
Typical enthusiast. Always thinking about the job. Always. Even when apparently relaxing he would be half listening to the TV and half concentrating on the file open in his lap. Sleep had almost become obsolete for him, for all of us for that matter. Since our work mostly revolved around the happenings at night, we slept in intervals during the day. If we were to study vampires, we had to have similar sleep patterns. Becoming nocturnal was a surprisingly easy task.
‘Luf…ian’ She replied after a small pause, looking rather proud of herself for remembering
It would seem that on her turning her memory had been erased, though it was not usually the case. I had spoken to vampires before, mostly through glass barriers, and they could tell me all about their families, well, the ones who cooperated anyway.
‘Lufian?’ I beamed, hearing of it before, she nodded, ‘Old English for love?’
She shrugged. Of course she wouldn’t know. She had amnesic polymorphic haemophilia. Okay, so not an actual medical term, but that was the best label for it. Her name, Old English and Greek, had me intrigued. Where had she come from and why was she all the way out here? Questions for another day, I thought, as she stretched and yawned. Checking my watch, I discovered it to be early in the morning, after day break. If it were her usual schedule, she would have long retired to her bed. I too felt the strain of the particularly long evening shift.
‘Bed?’ I asked her, she nodded hopefully and shifted in her spot, preparing to get up
‘Coming?’ She solicited me, a single tug on my sleeve, ‘Please?’
Joe shook his head disapprovingly. I knew he was thinking that it was a bad idea. I, on the other hand, saw it as an opportunity for closer observation. Trying my best to avoid glancing at Joe’s countenance, I got to my feet. Holding onto the hand tugging at my sleeve, I urged her to go towards her room. She was tentative
, thinking that my answer was a no. Not even breaking my stride, I lifted the remaining four bottles from the table, before paying attention to her spying from the doorway.
‘Go ahead,’ I insisted, waving my head towards her, ‘I’ll be in in a second after I give these out’
Joe’s jaw practically dropped, Alcestis though smiled more widely than I’d even seen. Incredibly relieved at the company I assumed. Venturing back to her cell, I worked my way around the other three. Cell one, the boy with the piercing, laying on his back with his arms crossed in the middle of the floor. A bottle for him. Cell two, the girl who hisses and spits and awful lot, sat on her bed, hissing as usual. A bottle for her. Cell three, the boy with limitless energy, bouncing off the walls, clawing at the ceiling. Bottle for him. Cell five, our last cell, vacant. The usual occupant of this cell made a habit of pulling a Houdini on us. No matter how we tried, he always escaped. I always ended up pouring too many medicine bottles. Going back towards the Medical Room to store the extra fluid, I was stopped as Joe held me still.
‘What the fuck, Patrick?’ Joe growled, pulling me over
‘What the fuck what?’ I sighed, wriggling out of his clammy hands to return to my work.
‘You can’t stay in there with her.’ Andy piped in, rubbing his tattooed forearm
‘Yes, I can’ I put the bottle away in the fridge before returning to the firing line.
‘You are insane.’ Joe laughed harshly, ‘You cannot stay in there with her. Do you know what she is? Do you know what she’s capable of? She could kill you Patrick. Or worse. She could take you for her kind.’
‘There is no ‘her kind’!’ I shot back, arms crossed, ‘How many of her race are civil? How many wouldn’t even look at us like we were dinner? Alcestis is one of a kind. Alcestis is not like those others’
‘Subject Four is just like the rest of them’ Joe shook his head, ‘Don’t get involved Patrick. Don’t. Tell her that you can’t, end of argument’
‘Her name is Alcestis, Joe. Not Subject Four. Don’t make her a damn statistic! She’s hu…’ I was about to finish before he interrupted me
‘But she’s not Patrick. She’s one of them’ Joe grumbled in anger, running a hand through his hair, ‘Fine, if you have to, go. I’m watching the monitors all the morning though.’
‘Thank you’ I exhaled with relief.
‘Don’t think it’s me doing you a favour’ He growled, calling behind him as he joined Andy in the control room ‘It’s my job’
Joe was only looking out for me. I know. That didn’t stop me from being a little pissed off with his attitude though. Not human. She once was. It’s not like she is an animal. Just a girl in an unfortunate position. I didn’t see what was wrong with staying in with her. We didn’t make the subjects themselves aware of it but in the liquids provided there was a light sedative. Since they contained no blood and was merely a imitation, it was not enough to keep them at full strength.
I saw her figure, upright on the edge of the bed. Sighing, I took a spot opposite her on the floor. She tilted her head to the side, viewing me shuffling around to get comfortable. I heard her snigger.
‘What?’ I asked, pulling my body around until I was sat up against the wall
‘You…’ She scrunched her eyes tight, face screwed up, thinking hard, concentrating, ‘Want… Bed?’
‘No, oh, no’ I replied quickly, signalling with my hands for her to stay where she was, ‘I’ll be fine’
She nodded, shuffling down under her covers. Leaning her head down on her arms, raised above her, resting on her pillow. She didn’t look away from me though. Still facing me, her eyelids fluttering from the weight of her exhaustion. I smirked, seeing her child-like snuffling of her nose into the materials. This was one of the reasons that I thought she was different. She was child-like. Even the younger vampires I’d seen, as young as six, had become carnivorous with the change. Not her. I looked up at the camera, focused on me, I swear I could see Joe’s frown from here. Nodding, give Joe the signal to close the door, almost instantly it creaked and pulled closed with a screech. Alcestis flinched, as she always did when we locked her in. She kept her eyes on me, making sure I was still there. Her eyebrows dipped in the middle, scowling.
‘One… of them…’ She repeated, rolling the sentence around, pondering.
‘You heard that?’ I asked, slightly embarrassed by Joe’s brutality. Not that I could say that much about it. It was only an hour ago that I was myself talking about her as if she was inanimate almost, an experiment. She nodded, still glowering. ‘I don’t think you’re one of them. If that counts for anything’
Her eyes closed, verging on sleep.
‘Gratias tibi ago’ She replied, no pause this time, like her words flowed easier.
‘Pardon?’ I asked, confused. That wasn’t English. She spoke some other language. Spanish? No, not Spanish. Portuguese? No, not that either. Gratias. Thank?
She didn’t answer, already asleep. I guess it was a question for tomorrow.
‘Goodnight Alcestis’ I whispered, laughing lightly, ‘Or rather, Good morning..’