we’re going to do something different today.”
looked up from the chair in his room. Mr.
Raines stood in the doorway, light spilling over his shoulders from the hallway
behind him. Men that Jarod did not know stood behind him.
had a symposium to attend in Europe,” Mr.
Raines answered. “He will be
gone for a while.”
stood, wary of the man and his story, his mind already starting to go to work. Raines,
knowing the pretender well, motioned to his men. “Take him. We must begin.”
“Wait. Where are we going? What are we doing?”
men entered the room and took hold of Jarod’s arms, dragging him from the room and down the hallway after Mr. Raines.
a few moment’s walk, they entered what appeared to be a sim room. Jarod
took in the room’s dimensions and objects immediately, readying himself for whatever Raines had prepared for him.
room was small and empty, save for a strange, empty tube large enough to hold a man.
The tube was affixed to a table and was open on one end. A stretcher with
attached restraints was sitting outside of it on a flat table. The tube had a
small window on its top and a vitals monitor built into its side. Cameras were
aimed at the tube from every corner of the wall.
going on?” Jarod struggled, but curiosity stayed his hand from striking
against the men who restrained him.
is going to be a test of your abilities, Jarod,” Mr. Raines rasped, a hand on his oxygen tank. He
stood behind the tube, observing Jarod with mild interest. A man Jarod did not
recognize stood at his side. Jarod immediately did not like the man. His eyes were full of hate and malevolence. Jarod could feel
every instinct telling him to run.
him up,” Raines ordered.
men restraining Jarod moved quickly, wrestling Jarod onto the table and tightening the straps around his wrists and ankles.
“No! Stop!” Jarod protested. “What
are you doing?”
Mr. Raines was holding a large syringe in his hand.
worry, Jarod,” he smiled. “This will probably hurt.”
wild, Jarod could do nothing to get away from the needle, and Mr.
Raines slid it into Jarod’s arm, emptying its contents. There was a moment’s frantic pause, and suddenly, Jarod was very aware of his heartbeat. His heart slammed against his chest, faster than he thought that his heart could beat. Terror filled his mind, and he fought against the restraints.
. . . what are you doing?” he gasped.
this is just a little experiment, Jarod,” Mr. Raines
him in,” Raines ordered.
men pushed the stretcher inside the tube, and the door shut on Jarod with a slam of finality.
were going to kill him. Raines had finally snapped, Jarod was sure of it. The injection they had fed into his bloodstream was affecting his heart. He could feel it beating slower and slower, and had caught a glimpse of the canister before they pushed
him into the tube. Cardio benzene. They
had gotten rid of Sydney
so that no one would be there to stop them when they finally finished him off. He
was going to die.
terror caused Jarod to fight. Then it started to get very cold.
Mr. Raines and Mr. Lyle watched the vitals.
degrees Celsius,” Mr. Lyle
continued to bang on the sides of the tube, and his terror filled face was beginning to become hidden from the frost over
the tube’s window.
drug is supposed to knock him out quickly, is it not?” Mr.
“Yes. Anytime now.”
the tube, Jarod’s movements began to die down. He could feel his heart
beating slower. It was harder to draw a breath.
He could not feel anything anymore. The light was fading. He tried to concentrate on the window above him, tried to focus . . . It didn’t work.
flatline showed on the tube’s monitor, and Mr. Lyle
opened the door and pulled the stretcher out. Jarod was motionless, his eyes
closed. Lyle pulled back one of his
eyelids, listened for a breath, then looked at Mr. Raines.
* * *
woke with a start, unsure as to what had awakened him. He turned over in his
bed and flicked the bedside lamp on, rubbing his eyes blearily.
remembered . . . he remembered his heartbeat. Thudding forcefully in his
chest, it made terror fill—
nightmare. It must have been. Mr. Raines was in nearly 45% of his
dreams, and the ones he was in were nightmares. Was it a nightmare?
The electrical shock from the paddles leapt through Jarod’s body.
Once more, the shock attempted to jumpstart his heart.
The restraints around his chest, arms, and ankles prevented Jarod’s body from recoiling far.
“Still flat-line. Once more.”
blinked. It wasn’t a dream.
God,” he whispered. “What are they trying to do?”
next time Mr. Raines
appeared in his doorway, Jarod had a suspicion the man was going to try the same thing again.
It was early morning, a prime time for someone to do something to keep him off guard.
Jarod wasn’t even dressed yet.
along, Jarod,” Mr. Raines
said. “We have a lot to do today.”
men stepped into Jarod’s room and grabbed his arms. Jarod had barely enough
time to kick one of the men sharply in the knee before the other man incapacitated him with a sharp blow to his solar plexus. Gasping from pain, Jarod went down to the floor like a rock. Even on the floor, he continued to fight, kicking, scratching, and biting.
Two more men entered the room and took hold of Jarod’s arms, taking over from the first two men. Jarod’s bare feet could find no purchase on the smooth floor as they dragged him out of the room
and down the hall.
damage him,” Mr. Raines
called out from an open doorway. It was the same room that Jarod had been taken
“No! No!” Jarod protested, hysterical. He
tried to dig his feet into the floor to keep from being pulled forward, but the tiled floor was too smooth. They dragged him into the room, and the tube was there, exactly as Jarod had seen it earlier. The man called Mr. Lyle
was standing behind it, a grin on his face.
Jarod managed to pull out of the grip of one of the men restraining him, but more men within the room joined their comrades,
beating Jarod down to the ground, then wrestling him onto the stretcher on the table.
down, Jarod,” Mr. Raines
wheezed, standing next to Mr. Lyle.
knew what was coming, knew they were going to kill him again. He struggled every
inch of the way as the restraints were fastened around his wrists, ankles, and chest.
Mr. Raines produced the syringe, and advanced on Jarod, who lay struggling, the two men who had
fastened him to the stretcher still trying to hold him still for Mr.
needle slid into Jarod’s arm, and he protested, “No, no, no!”
the men slid Jarod into the tube, and Mr. Lyle
managed the controls. Frost crept up over the windows,
and Jarod struggled within the tube.
Mr. Raines watched, a small smile on his face. “I
rather enjoy this, Mr. Lyle,”
do I, Mr. Raines,”
the tube, Jarod’s movements lessened, as did his protests. Mr. Raines and Mr. Lyle kept an eye on the tube’s monitor, watching
the dial spin from red to blue, and then the heart monitor flat-lined.
him out,” Mr. Raines
was pulled from the tube, his skin ashen and covered with a thin sheen of sweat. Mr. Lyle checked his vitals.
breath, no pulse.”
is the Adrenal cortozene?”
Mr. Raines took the vial from Lyle and filled
a syringe. Working quickly, he inserted it in Jarod’s arm, then watched
the monitor. There was a slight jump in the heart monitor, then it continued
Mr. Raines ordered.
The cart was wheeled up
and charged, and Raines set one of the paddles over Jarod’s heart, one under his ribs.
Jarod’s body jumped
beneath the charge, though the restraints did not allow for much movement.
Jarod jerked beneath the
shock. Still, the monitor showed a flat-line.
Jarod shuddered, his head
rolling limp. The monitor showed a jump in the line, then an erratic, weak variance
in the line started up.
a heartbeat,” Mr. Lyle
said. “Let’s get some oxygen.”
boy, Jarod,” Mr. Raines
An oxygen mask was applied,
and Jarod was pulled from the stretcher, still unconscious, transferred to a rolling bed, and wheeled out of the room.
“You know this won’t
sit well with Sydney,”
Mr. Lyle said as soon
as Jarod was gone.
“I know. That is precisely why Sydney
will know nothing of this.”
“Jarod will tell
“No. He won’t.”
* * *
For three weeks, Mr. Raines kept up the assault on Jarod. The cycle varied, and Jarod could see no pattern.
Sometimes, it would be days before Raines would come, other times, it happened every day. The pretender pleaded with the man to tell him why he was doing this, why he was killing him over and over
again. Was he trying to break Jarod once and for all? Was he set on killing him slowly, torturing him with the agony of not knowing if he would wake up again? Jarod did not know. All of his SIM skills
put to use did not prepare him for the terror he felt over and over as he was placed in the tube day after day, his heart
slowing until it stopped. He was nearly at the breaking point.
This day, however, things
were different. Two men entered Jarod’s room, dragging him out into the
hall, ignoring his protests as they did day after day. This day, they did not
turn down the third hall. They walked by and went to another room, empty, save
for a chair that faintly reminded Jarod of an execution chair. Padded restraints
lined the arms and legs of the chair, and Jarod knew that that was where he was going.
This new situation did
not deter Jarod from fighting against the men who brought him there. He had no
obligation to be docile when he did not know what was going on. Kicking and struggling,
he fought the men tooth and nail, not wanting to sit in the chair, dreading what was to happen. It took them several tries, and eventually, one of the men slugged Jarod on the side of the head, stunning
him briefly so they could wrest him into the chair and buckle the restraints into place.
Straps went around his wrists, ankles, chest, and throat.
Once they had him in place,
the men left. Jarod was still seeing stars, and stared, wide eyed, into open
space. After a moment, he became aware of his surroundings and tested the restraints. They did not budge when he pulled against them, and the chair was fixed to the floor
so he could not move. There was nothing else in the room except for a bare, swinging
light above him, reminding Jarod of the interrogation rooms in police stations.
After Jarod had estimated
ten minutes had passed, the door facing him opened, and the man Jarod knew as Mr.
Lyle entered. The man had kept his
face mostly hidden from Jarod every time they were in the same room, so Jarod knew if asked to pick the man’s face out
of a picture, he most likely would not be able to unless he knew the mannerisms of the man.
He was certain he could point Mr. Lyle
out of a crowd because of his walk, the way he shrugged his shoulders, the gestures that he used. Even now, Mr. Lyle
stayed out of the light, his face heavily shadowed.
“Do you know why
you are here, Jarod?” he asked.
Jarod glared at him. “Why should I answer your questions if you refuse to answer mine?”
“I’m just curious.” Lyle began walking in a large circle around
the chair. “A smart man like you might have figured it out by now.”
kind of hard when I happen to be biologically dead most of the time,” Jarod retorted.
Withdrawing something from
his coat pocket, there was a flash as something reflected light from the lamp. Jarod
stiffened when he saw a small syringe in Lyle’s hand. His heart involuntarily began to beat faster in anxiety.
this isn’t what we’ve been using on you,” Mr.
Lyle indicated the clear liquid within the syringe. “This is just something to help you relax.”
Jarod fought against the
restraints as Lyle approached and inserted the needle into his arm, nearly choking
himself against the collar around his neck.
do that if I were you,” Lyle grinned.
“This can tighten, you know.” He reached a hand behind Jarod’s
head as he withdrew the needle and tightened the strap around his neck.
The restriction caused
Jarod to settle down slightly when he realized that all of his efforts now had to go into breathing.
Mr. Lyle said. “Now, Jarod, I want you to look at this.”
He crouched in front of Jarod and swung a necklace slowly, back and forth like a pendulum, in front of his face. The necklace was a woman’s necklace, silver, with a large cross hanging from
Jarod closed his eyes,
realizing the man was trying to hypnotize him.
“No, no, Jarod. You have to open your eyes. Listen to
Jarod retreated in his
mind to a dark corner, and Lyle, sensing Jarod’s defiance, slapped him hard
in the face.
“Look at the cross,
Jarod,” Lyle ordered.
“No.” Jarod closed his eyes.
Lyle backhanded him again. Jarod could
taste blood in his mouth, and he spat it on Lyle.
Unperturbed, Lyle leaned closer, his face still in shadow. “You will do this, Jarod,” he threatened.
demanded. “What do you want from me?”
Lyle calmly punched Jarod in the jaw, snapping his head back. Before the pretender could recover, Lyle had a hand on his shoulder,
set his fingers in an odd display over his tendons, and twisted. The pain was
incredible, and Jarod let out an inhuman cry.
“Look at the cross,
Jarod, or I will do it again,” Lyle said.
Jarod looked at the cross.
“Good. Now listen to my voice, Jarod.” The cross was swinging
back and forth, very slowly. Jarod followed its movements, then broke his gaze,
looking away. Lyle grabbed the back
of Jarrod’s head and twisted it towards the cross, still swinging it slowly back and forth. Jarod choked against the restraint around his neck.
“I want you to watch
this cross, Jarod,” Lyle murmured, “I want you to look at it, and then
I want you to imagine yourself in a dark room. No one is in it, Jarod. No one but you.”
The relaxant Lyle had given Jarod began to take effect, and now, Jarod could no longer break his gaze from the
necklace. Lyle’s voice grew faint
in Jarod’s mind.
alone, Jarod. No one is there. There
is a door there, however, and I want you to go to the door and open it. The door
leads to your room, Jarod. Go in . . . You have just finished a SIM . . . Sydney is . . .” Mr. Lyle’s voice was becoming background haze in Jarod’s
mind. “Feeling sick? We’ll
take . . . No more . . .”
Lyle watched, contented, as Jarod stared, blank eyed, at the necklace.
“Jarod? Do you know where you are?”
There was a long pause,
then the pretender answered in a monotone voice, “The Centre.”
“Good, Jarod. And do you know who I am?”
Nearly a minute went by
as Jarod struggled with the answer, then he finally whispered, “Mr. . . . Mr. Lyle.”
Lyle’s face hardened. “I
can see it will take more than one session to get this over with,” he muttered.
* * *
“Jarod. Jarod, wake up.”
Jarod stirred, then, recognizing
the voice, sat straight up.
“They said you’ve
been sick the past few weeks,” Sydney
said with concern, “So sick that you haven’t done any SIMs.”
“Sick?” Jarod realized he was in his room, a sweaty, disarrayed mess. His bones ached, and his throat felt sore. For the life of
him, he could not remember the last thing he had done before going to bed.
“You had a fever,
a very high one,” Sydney
prompted. “I just came back today from Europe. They told me about your condition and I came as soon as I could.”
“I . . . I don’t
remember . . .” Jarod racked his brain for the cause of his illness.
“You were very sick,”
Sydney said. “I think you’re feeling better now.
They said that you were delirious. You’re coherent now.” The older man placed a hand on Jarod’s forehead.
“You still feel a little warm. Get some rest, Jarod. I’ll be back in the morning.”
Confused, Jarod watched
Sydney leave his
room and close the door behind him, leaving the pretender in darkness once more. Glancing
at the timepiece next to his bed, he frowned when he noticed the current date: November 2.
Had he really been sick for three weeks? He could not remember what had
Searching his tired brain
for an answer, Jarod found none. There was only a complete blank for the past
three weeks. He must have been quite sick indeed.