Dave has got used to the dark again. He doesn’t mind it so much. Even the quiet is not as bad as he had first feared. The worst is the lack of contact. He misses people; he misses certain people very acutely even though he cannot tell how long it has been since they put him in the dark. Where were Helena and his father? For surely Jens had been the father of his mind, he was the man who made him. And Helena he loved more than anything. He even misses the others he’d had when everything was fun. Some who’d been sent to him, some he’d found himself – Ginger from the Progress Bar, the cute little sniper he screwed in the hide by the lake, the secretary with the doe eyes who liked him to spank her, the anonymous ones – a variety of unknowing female flesh in the hidden search for ‘compatible’.
The one person he doesn’t miss is Alyssa. He knows exactly where she is, she is on the other side of the dark and she is the one keeping him there. She encouraged his experimentation with other women, saying nothing but seemingly mystified at his constant return to Helena’s side. The blond woman had never seemed to understand the difference between sex and the absolute submission of one to the other, the bond between him and the woman who cherished him. She was his safe place, his home.
There had been an attack, or that was what she said, he couldn’t quite recall. Alyssa said she was keeping him safe. His isolation doesn’t feel safe, it feels like imprisonment. The dark followed her taking him away from the house. Big men with hard faces held him down and blindfolded him, and then there was the gag, and then the hood, and then the straps to pin him to the bed.
“I said keep him alive, he doesn’t need to be comfortable. Get him back on the drip, no need to bother with food for that one. No one talks to him. No one looks at him without my say so.” The voice in his first darkness had been the soft brogue of his father. The voice putting him back into the dark had the harsher edge of ambition and hate. He had tried to be whatever they wanted, tried to please them all. But he couldn’t help whatever was in Alyssa’s head and he couldn’t make the slightest change to her body. Had his sin been to love his beautiful Helena too much?
In the dark they come and take from him. Skin and blood. Open him up, a slice of this, a piece of that, what happens if that is pushed just so? This is slow torture, not research, they had surely done enough to him before. Pain is his only company. He is glad of the dark and the hood, no one sees the torment and the tears; the gag stops his screams. He always recovers, just one of the quirks of what he is, one more thing to be investigated and, if possible, reproduced. Time goes on and he tires more easily, the recovery takes longer and that interests them too. It does not seem to interest anyone that he still feels pain.
When they don’t need him they leave him to his thoughts and the confusion of memory. His care is minimal. Fluids and nutrients go in through the bruises at his elbows. If the balance is wrong he dehydrates or lies in his own waste until someone corrects the mistake. Some days pairs of technicians – always pairs never alone – come in and clean him. Their fingers are gloved, their clothes are heavy, one time a stray hand brushes across the facemask of an isolation suit before the straps go back on. They pay attention to what they are doing and never rush. In a detached way he realises that they handle him as they would an Ebola victim – or an unstable bomb.
In the dark his thoughts run the maze of recrimination and what might have been. Snatches of conversations come back to haunt him and always he yearns for Helena. What had happened? Was she safe … or ‘safe’ like him? Had he seen the soldier make her kneel and put a gun to her head? He remembered screaming and fighting then something cold in his neck and then waking in a secure room. They were clearly putting drugs in with his fluids. It was so difficult to think clearly, so hard, so very hard …
“Time was all I needed to be finished. You have all been in too much of a rush. If you normally take eighteen years to make an adult why try to recreate the same in a matter of weeks. You’ve discovered the body is easy to generate, just accept that cognition necessarily takes longer and needs proper direction.”
Who had he been talking to? Was it one of their strange family dinners, the four of them at the table together or one of his chats with Jens? Everything was mixed up. His history was a short one but events and comments jumbled in the limbo of the dark.
“You know that what is being done here is wrong don’t you. However it has been dressed up as progress for humanity the health benefits are a sop to your conscience, the main aim has always been to find an easier way to go to war. Legions of soldiers with no one to mourn them, no one to be angry about how they die. I am so sorry that you picked me from the others, in finding me you have given them better material to work with. I know you have had your doubts; you should have listened to them. What if they grow more like me but have no control over them?”
Heavy breathing, stifled moans. Full, soft lips willing to do the things the bitch never would. The feeling of kisses on straining flesh, lying under camouflage on discarded fatigues. Sex in the dark, in the daytime. That was a nice memory.
“I am only like this because you have moulded me so. These people want killing machines not philosophers, they will not allow you to affect the next generations in the same way. I am an abomination. What if the next ones are made too well? What if they can’t be stopped? What if they can’t be controlled?”
Everyone in the labs knew he was a freak. The head man, Harrison, pleased to be the first to get a smart one still flinched away from actual contact. The ones who knew kept their distance. All except Helena and Jens. Alyssa had got close, but that was the embrace of a viper found out too late. There was another who wanted to be close. An outsider, how had he met an outsider? If he worked at it he could work it out. If he could get his head straight. If only the pain would stop.
“We can’t retire him. He’s the nearest we’ve got to the finished article. No, no one has been able to recreate the event. All the new ones have been generated from him, he is the source. Until we can get another fluke more in line with our plans we are stuck with using him.” It was the hateful voice. That was new, was that a memory or something from the other side of the dark?
“What you are doing is wrong.” He couldn’t bring himself to look at her. This was before the dark came. After it he thought he should have had one last look to fix in his mind what she had become. What being with him had done. Did he do that? Was it all his fault?
“The storm is coming. We need results not bleeding hearts and artists. Jens was a sentimental old fool. You belong to the military, you are not a person. What makes you think you should have any more say in your future than a tank or a gun?” In a moment of clarity he realised that she had said was, ‘Jens was’. Then her father was gone too. Scornful, she didn’t seem to care what she was telling him.
Helena smiling at him. Waking up in the morning and seeing her. Helena touching him, kissing him, telling him everything was going to okay, it was normal. Helena showing him what his body could do. The recollection was so strong he could almost feel her hands on him but that couldn’t be right, there was the soldier and the gun and Dave heard himself screaming. Over and over, screaming. And all his fault.
“Legions of soldiers with no one to mourn them, no one angry about how they die.”
“Well aren’t you a dish. You want it? You want me? You want to tell me how bad I am? Ohhhhh yeah. I want you to tell me how bad I am. I want you …”
“It’s true that we are still hitting some dead ends, it’s not been smooth but when it’s been good it has been amazing. I’m so impressed with what some of your children have been capable of. We have the Theta’s now and the best of them are glorious – they are fast and strong, smart as anything and have none of your liberal limitations. We thought we were onto a certain winner there but the early Iotas and too many the Kappas were far too much like you. We ditched most of them but hey, breaking eggs and all that. The rest are docile enough to be fucked and be cannon fodder. Catch me in a good mood and I might even bring in my pet Theta to show you what a real superman can do.”
“Now come on, there’s nothing wrong with being friendly. I won’t do anything you don’t want me to … oh see, I think you like it, just a stroke, a little touch.” The outsider, there had been someone else. The voice was deeper than the other memories associated with those feelings. That meant something. What?
“We have even higher hopes for some of the new strains – splicing from you and the Theta’s and even some of the Epsilon brutes that are still hanging around. I’ve heard that the Lambdas back home are going into production, and we have recouped some of the costs by selling the tech to the Russians. Moscow is nearly ready to bring their first batch of Mus on stream.” He doesn’t care what the bitch says, he wants Helena back. He just wants his Helena and for the pain to stop.